|My goal for a two-night "Mom's weekend off" in our nation's
capital was to take advantage of the chance to preview the Holocaust Museum
that has intrigued me for so long. Having heard repeatedly that this important
museum was graphic enough to cause nightmares, I certainly wanted a chance
to see it for myself before escorting my 13, 12, and 11 year old children.
I learned that navigating through a four-story historical explanation
of one of our darkest periods in history is not easy when crowds are heavy.
In truth, it ruined the experience for me. On a beautiful August Saturday,
one should not have a popular museum (that lines up two hours early for
the free admission tickets) as the destination. One should go to the National
Arboretum, which we did. What a treasure I found!
My college friend who had offered me a place to stay is a native of Northern
Virginia. She had never been to this incredible creation. Thank goodness
for the 1927 Act of Congress establishing that 446 acres of green space
along the Anacostia River was a good idea. Add to that the foresight in
establishing an aboristry research center within the same space. All kinds
of good things are happening in this easy-to-get-around arboretum. Activities
are concerned primarily with educating the public and conducting research
on trees and shrubs. The National Arboretum maintains 67,000 plant accessions.
Photograph by Judy Lewis
In the middle of August, my treat was the blooming and huge water lilies.
I was reminded of some of my favorite storybooks we had read when the
kids were younger that had riders on floating leaves. This incredible
sight was right near the parking lot, circling the administration building.
A camera is a must at the Bonsai Museum; once again I had to respect and
appreciate the arborists, gardeners, and scientists for doing their jobs
so well. Simply amazing. Additionally, the Youth, Herb (largest in world),
and Native Plant/Wildflower gardens are worth a close up view - as all
are currently in full bloom.
We took the tram ride that spent 45 minutes orienting us to the Arboretum,
telling the fun history and explaining the sections. Absolutely worth
the $3/adult, $1/child admission, this tour was clean, educational, and
pleasant. And, there was no crowd. The tram runs weekends only mid-April
Taking along the free map allows you to mark everything you don't want
to miss. Then you can go back to the parking lot, get your car or bikes
and drive around the entire place. Since there are no food vendors, take
a grand picnic and plan to spend the day exploring. You can skip the tram
and go with the free map if you prefer. There is no charge to just explore
on your own. Not even a parking fee.
And as for the Holocaust Museum, I went back with my 3:00 PM ticket and
learned it is indeed a graphic portrayal of the horrors of the time. My
kids can wait on this one. Yes, I will take them...perhaps when they are
15, 16, and 17. There is no hurry. Note, I refer to the "permanent" exhibit.
That's the one you have to wait in line for free tickets. At ground level,
they have "Daniel's Story" which is more appropriate for the ages of my
kids. It is free, has no lines, and is a journey through one child's situation
that tells enough of the sad nightmare to meet our current needs. I'd
take any kid capable of reading cursive that isn't highly sensitive. Any
child who already suffers from nightmares should wait. The visitor needs
to read one-sentence cursive diary entries throughout the exhibit.
The last location I want to mention is the Korean War Memorial. Located
near the Lincoln Memorial, it is more powerful than the Vietnam Memorial.
Parking is tough and you have to go after dark to experience it at its
best, but I think it is worth it. The area is well lit, guards are on
duty until midnight and I felt completely safe.
Directions to the National Arboretum: Located in the northeast section
of Washington, D.C. Take Maryland Ave. from the Capitol to Bladensburg
Road, then to New York Avenue. Visitor entrance is located on New York
The grounds are open daily, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
The Bonsai Museum hours are 10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. daily.
Click here for more information about the U. S. National Arboretum
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