Smithsonian and Williamsburg Holiday

Lines, hikers and wares, oh my! A Fourth of July holiday tour of Washington D.C. and Williamsburg was absolutely fantastic, except the day when all the toilets were on lockdown!

Woman sits beside statue of Thomas Jefferson, who is depicted sitting on bench while writing the Declaration of Independence
Who? Eyeballs are getting old, I didn’t recognize Jefferson nor the declaration.

For a change, we planned ahead and made reservations in January at Bull Run Regional Park. We chose this over the better-rated Cherry Hill, thinking it would be quieter away from the expressways. Bull Run features a huge water park and a shooting range, so pops, bangs and happy screams of children are the background noises there.

Unfortunately, upon our arrival, we were directed down a road to our site that was torn up for culvert replacement, and the construction crew would not be done for two hours or more. We asked the desk clerk to send a ranger to help us get turned around. It took a while, and we approached our site from the other way to find white powdery substance all over the ground. No one seemed to know what it was, although one assumed it was lime due to a sewage spill. It was a holiday weekend, and all other sites were taken. It took some arguing, but they finally asked their workampers to clean it up for us. That couple was so nice, and they were only ones who apologized for all of the trouble instead of bombarding us with a barrage of excuses. Earlier, I had to interrupt the front desk clerk’s litany of excuses and tell her it wasn’t my problem. They were the employees, and they need to take of the situation. Gads! If we return to tour the area again, we might try Cherry Hill instead, but Bull Run was sure dark and quiet at night…

View down a colonial era street with cobblestone sidewalks, hitching posts and wine barrel trash can
Williamsburg is an interesting town to walk through. Lots of parking spaces open up after 4 p.m., and several shops are still open, as well as restaurants.

The thought of spending the holiday on the Capitol Mall was rather intimidating, especially because the ranks of port-a-potties were all locked up tight for some reason the day before. So we opted to tour the colonial areas closer to Bull Run that day.

We drove around Yorktown then parked and did a late-afternoon

brown sandwich bag and glass of red wine
The Cheese Shop is an excellent place to share sandwiches and a bottle of wine. Tip: Go to the wine cellar downstairs first, then order sandwiches at the deli, and splurge on the special fresh-baked breads! They have glasses, but you will have to leave a deposit of $3 each.

walking tour of Williamsburg. What a treat that was! Shopkeepers and residents work to keep the colonial feel intact, and if one walks slowly back through town at sunset, one can hear snippets of ghost stories and other hysterical lore being delivered bard-style to small groups of tourists.

The shops are fun to explore as well, with a variety of wares, including candles, soaps, pottery, ales and other colonial-era items. Spark up a conversation with a costumed shopkeeper and enjoy the old-fashioned language. A red-letter day indeed! Here is a map of colonial Williamsburg with pins to show where we parked and enjoyed wine and scrumptious sandwiches.

Museum crawl at the Mall!

We spent several days touring the National Mall and Museums, and we saw only a small piece of the whole. For as much as we enjoy museums, a full day per museum is usually the plan. But we are not getting any younger, and our poor old bodies just cannot take that furious pace, even with leisurely walks around a couple monuments each day or two.

a corner of Julia Child's kitchen which is crammed with utensils on every counter and wall space
Where in the world did Julia Child have room for food prep? Her kitchen is now housed at the National Museum of American History.

Entry is absolutely free, and carried lunches via a daypack are great, but be prepared for X-ray security searches at some locations. Combine foods into large, clear plastic bags so they are easy to remove and hand-carry through the metal detectors. Water bottles may also be hand carried.

Food trucks galore line the streets just one block from mall center, and there is an international array of restaurants nearby, so there are lots of foodie options. We left feeling happy to have seen so much, but our bodies were totally worn out, used up and sore as heck! We needed a vacay from our vacay!

sidewalk scene with a line of food trucks stretching for a block or more
An international and eclectic variety of food trucks are available for the multitudes walking the National Mall.
Soldier statues perpetually march in a ghostly and solemn reminder of the Korean War
A ghostly and solemn reminder of the Korean War.
an elderly woman atop a ladder makes rubbings over the etched names of Vietnam veterans killed in action
Up and down the ladder multiple times, this volunteer rubs over the etched names of Vietnam veterans killed in action.
man searches for name on vietnam memorial wall
Looking for a familiar name on the Vietnam Memorial can be overwhelming due to the sheer number of troops killed in action.
snoopy cartoon on fighter jet
Snoopy was almost hidden on the fighter jet, but we found him.
Space Shuttle Discovery sits majestically in a huge museum
Space Shuttle Discovery majestically holds court at the Udvar-Hazy Center, which adjoins the Dulles International Airport.
Sleek spy car with wide-screen chase scenes from a movie behind it
A cool car and wide-screen scenes from the movie equals entertainment for the long wait in line at the International Spy Museum, which was definitely NOT free admission. But, oh what fun it was!
Big chrome dentures
Bite me! LOL

The Air and Space Museum was one of our must-see places, but it has been divided up into two locations, one on The Mall, and one adjoining Dulles International Airport, which is called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Among the staggering displays there are the Enola Gay and the Space Shuttle Discovery. If going, take lunch or deal with McDonalds as the only option. We had to special-order a salad to be made without chicken, but the dressing packets were sadly lacking in quality, healthful choices.

Our best travel tip for DC: Metro is the way to go! Buy a pass for the week, or however long you will stay. Senior passes are available only at select locations, so go to one of those first. Bull Run was closer to one station, but the next nearest Dulles was the one with the senior passes, which saved more than $20 compared to the cost of a regular pass. The pass works on the Metro and the red Circulator bus that loops around the National Mall and the memorials. Sadly, there are no bus stops on Roosevelt Island, so we didn’t experience Teddy’s memorial.

Good Eats: If you love an eclectic dining experience, try Busboys and Poets @ 5th and K, a delightful vegan-friendly restaurant within walking distance of The Mall. We went after touring part of the Museum of Natural History.

Pay to play!

Numerous museums with admission fees surround the National Mall, and we decided to try the International Spy Museum. What a hoot!



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