I’ve lived in this city for going on fourteen years now. I often brag to out-of-town friends and family about all my city has to offer. Museums, exhibitions, concerts, and other programs, many of which are FREE. But in reality, I rarely take advantage of this. I would say I make it to one of these free offerings once or twice a year, usually when someone from out of town is visiting. In 1998, shortly after moving to DC, the Van Gogh museum’s entire collection of Van Goghs was at the National Gallery of Art for about three months while the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam underwent renovation. This exhibit was called “Van Gogh’s Van Goghs, and I took home a poster of The Bedroom, which hung appropriately for years in my efficiency apartment.
In 2005, we went to the Toulouse-Lautrec and Monmartre exhibit, also at the National Gallery of Art. And in 2007, we enjoed the Edward Hopper exhibit, where I was first captivated by the melancholy Nighthawks.
But like I said, I generally get to the museums of DC only a couple of times a year. Then about a month ago, I thought that with J being five now, we should start taking more advantage of what this city has to offer, especially since so much of it is free. So I hopped online and looked to see what we could do.
The National Museum of Natural History — Tarantula Feeding, IMAX movie, and lunch
The National Museum of Natural History was having a tarantula feeding, which J thought sounded pretty cool, so we decided to go see that. And while we’re at it, why not see an IMAX movie. They were showing “Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia” in 3D — awesome! And heck, might as well stop in the museum cafe for some lunch.
By the time our wonderful day in the city was complete, our “free” day out totaled forty dollars – $20 for the movie and about $20 for lunch!!!
The National Gallery of Art – Monster Mash
So last weekend, we decided to do it again, but this time try to really take advantage of what was free. The National Gallery of Art was having a kids program called “Monster Mash”. It was an hour-long program showing five animated shorts followed by a 30-minute film called The Gruffalo. The five shorts included Mike’s New Car, starring the loveable Mike and Sully of Monsters, Inc.
Another of the shorts was called Le Silence Sous L’Ecorce (The Silence Beneath the Bark). I think Kath will love this one, in particular.
The feature film of the program was called The Gruffalo. From the nga.gov site, The Gruffalo is ”based on the children’s picture book by Julia Donaldson, a magical story of a forest mouse who outwits several dangerous predators, one by one, with his made-up tales of a fearsome beast called the Gruffalo. Of course, such a bizarre creature could never exist—or could it…?” It was a very cute film, starring some famous voices such as Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid from the Harry Potter series) as the gruffalo.
This time we made it home after spending less than $5 — I had to get J a little something from the gift shop.
National Museum of the American Indian – The Power of Chocolate
We had so much fun at the film program, I thought we should try to find another activity in the city this weekend. Lucky for me, the National Museum of the American Indian had an event called The Power of Chocolate, presenting “a rare opportunity for visitors to explore chocolate’s culture, history, and place in contemporary society.” Here was our view as we approached the museum.
|The U.S. Capitol Building
When we arrived at the museum, we waited in a short line to learn about the cacao tree, cacao pods, and how the cacao pod eventually becomes chocolate.
|The man on the left is explaining how the cacao seeds are fermented then crushed to remove the cacao nibs.
|This man was crushing the nibs to make pure chocolate. Native Americans didn’t eat chocolate. They only used it to make a beverage.
|Turning the chocolate into a yummy drink.
At the end of that, we got a small taste of Mexican hot chocolate, which is spiced with chili powder and mmm mmm good. After that, we had lunch at the museum cafe, which serves Native American cuisine. I had wild rice with cranberries, nuts, and watercress.
It was delicious! J had barbacoa beef tacos. And we split a fry bread, which seemed to be halfway between bread and donut (well, more bready than donutty). I remembered seeing an episode of Jillian Michaels’ Losing It With Jillian show where she went to a reservation to show the Native Americans how to eat healthier. She freaked out when she saw the fry bread (and not the same way I freaked out when I saw it).
Have you ever had fry bread? It was sinfully good.
After lunch, we watched a Bolivian dance performance in the atrium. I have a friend who is a Bolivian dancer, so I’ve grown to be quite a fan over the years! The first performance was slow and rhythmic, and the dancers had huge feathered headdresses.
The second was faster-paced and had some exciting costumes with scary masks.
This little girl was so cute, wearing her blue sequined shoes that blinked. Soemthing tells me they didn’t have shoes like that in ancient Bolivia.
The last performance was my favorite — a couples dance. It had clapping and foot stomping, and I could totally see peasants doing this dance at an evening gathering after a long days’ work.
After the Bolivian dancing, we went up to the interactive children’s area of the museum, called imagiNATIONS, where J was able to do a craft project.
We had such a great time at the Power of Chocolate event at the American Indian museum. Grand total was about $20 for the food and bottled waters (and a giant Mexican hot chocolate for me!!!).
So now, I am totally obsessed with everything this city has to offer. I feel like I live here, I should visit once in a while!
Next week is President’s weekend, and there are lots of family-friendly events. Can’t wait!