Patapsco Valley State Park
Ellicot City, MD
We learned our lesson last time, don't try and drive all the way into Washington DC. We got up a little bit earlier today, but still didn't manage to get on the road until just before 7:00AM. Today plans are to visit a few of the Smithsonian Museums, The Castle (the original Smithsonian Institution Building), The American History Museum (where they display the 200+ year old Star Spangled Banner) and The National Museum of Natural History (where they display The Hope Diamond). Later tonight at 8:00PM we have reservations on the Old Town Trolley's Monuments by Moonlight Tour. It's going to be an even longer day than our last one in Washington DC.
Knowing in advance that we were taking The Metro into town I found that if we took the Red Line from the Shady Grove stop we wouldn't have to drive quite as far and with a short transfer over to the Blue Line it would drop us off right on the doorstep of The Smithsonian Castle. This is the only museum open at 8:30AM, all the rest open at 10:00AM. Unfortunately they had previously canceled the 9:00AM guided tour of The Castle so we did our own self guided tour. Inside The Castle you'll find the Smithson Crypt, the final resting place of John Smithson, the original benefactor of The Smithsonian Institute. Here they have on display a small sampling of all the other museum's exhibits. Time spent here: 1.5 hours.
Next on our itinerary for today is The American History Museum. Three floors of exhibits to explore, but for us the highlight of this museum had to be The Star Spangled Banner display room. Having just visited Fort McHenry National Monument earlier this week, where this flag was raised over the fort after The Battle of Baltimore victory in 1814, it kind of brought us full circle, a complete then and now feeling. Time spent here: 3.5 hours.
Our last museum today is The National Museum of Natural History's three floors of exhibits. Here they display a whole lot of collections, from insects to dinosaurs, all kinds of geological displays and skeletons of all different species of animals. Everything was very well displayed but for me, the 45.52 carat Hope Diamond display and 300 year history of the gem stole the show. Time spent here: 4 hours.
We ate lunch in the downstairs Cafe at The American History Museum around 1:30PM (very tasty, but very expensive), but now it's time for dinner and we are on a budget. So a Metro ride over to Union Station's Food Court is in order and that is where the Monuments by Moonlight tour starts from. At 7:45PM we board the trolley and begin the tour. All of the National Monuments and Memorials are open 24/7 except Christmas Day. The monuments all look entirely different at night, all lit up in dramatic fashion. Some are bright and cheery and some are subdued and solemn, but all are worth this second look, after the sun goes down.
The trolley tour finishes around 10:30PM and by the time we ride the Metro back to the truck and drive the rest of the way home it is well after midnight, and we thought our first visit to Washington DC was a long day!
STATS FOR TODAY - 25,256 steps or 8.1 miles
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