Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.

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National Natural History Museum, Washington, D.C.

I loved the National Museum of Natural History! We had so much fun visiting it on a recent Friday evening.

Inside the National Natural History Museum.

Inside the National Natural History Museum. After walking the Mall, we moved our car to Madison Avenue so we could spend as much time as we wanted in the museum. We arrived at 5, so had until 7:30 p.m. to browse the museum before it closed.

After walking the Mall, we moved our car to Madison Avenue so we could spend as much time as we wanted in the museum. We arrived at 5, so had until 7:30 p.m. to browse the museum before it closed.

The coolest exhibit was the Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code. Chris was surprised to learn that the amoeba had 670,000,000,000 base pairs (bp) but humans only have 3,200,000,000 bp. There were really cool interactive exhibits For example, on exhibit allowed you to click on various body parts and it would tell you the genes associated with that organ or body part. If you clicked on a woman’s breast, it showed the BRCA1 BRCA2 genes that are linked to inherited breast cancer. The pancreas showed genes linked to Type II Diabetes. Very cool.

Chris wanted to go into the Butterfly Pavilion on the second floor, but he didn’t think $6 was a good value for such a small exhibit. The museum seemed to have a nice selection of moths and butterflies, though.

Instead of the Pavilion, we went to see the Insect Zoo, hosted by Orkin Pest Control. Ha! There were lots of tarantulas, beetles, ants and other insects. I really liked the stick and leaf bugs.

Green leaf bug

Brown leaf bug

We also saw the Korea Gallery and Mummies exhibits.

The museum also has the Hope Diamond in the Gem and Minerals section. We didn’t go to see it, but I wish we had. It’s 45.5 carats and blue. It sounds gorgeous!

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National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Our first night in D.C., we headed to Constitutional Avenue to check out the National Mall.

It was hard to take photos of the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial in the dark. I did like how there wasn’t a crowd on the Mall or at either monument. I think nighttime is a good time to check out those sights if you’re not too worried about getting great photos.

We were tired from our stop at Harpers Ferry, so we didn’t visit anymore monuments the first night.

The distance between each memorial was surprising to me. I thought they would be so much closer. It would definitely take a few hours to walk to each monument to see them. Chris and I wanted to make it by the WWII, the MLK, Iwo Jima and Lincoln monuments sometime before we left, but we didn’t make it, at least not on foot. We did drive by most of them.

The next day, we visited the Mall during the day. We parked, for free with a limit of 3 hours, at the Jefferson Memorial and walked the length of the Mall, all the way to the Capitol Building. There is also 3 hour, free parking along Madison and Jefferson Avenues, which run along either side of the Mall. If you’re luck to find parking, I’d park there. There is a Metro station at the Mall and at nearby Independence Avenue.

The Capitol Building

The Capitol Building

A flower garden along a road near Jefferson Memorial.

A flower garden along a road near Jefferson Memorial.

Info on the visitor’s map says the National Mall is 2 1/4 miles long from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building. It’s a nice way to spend an afternoon. I didn’t realize how long it was!

Many of the capital’s museums line the Mall. All of the museums are very large, so you can spend a few days just visiting them!

Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.

After visiting the National Arboretum, we headed to Dupont Circle, which is in the NW quadrant of D.C., for lunch.

A side street in Dupont Circle.

A side street in Dupont Circle.

We parked on Massachusetts Avenue NW and walked over to Connecticut Avenue NW for Kababji Grill, a Lebanese restaurant.

Chris got chicken and rice served with khyar bi laban (cucumber yogurt). He seemed to really like his dish, especially with the yogurt on top of the chicken and rice.

Not a great picture, I know.

Not a great picture of the chicken and rice, I know.

Cucumber yogurt

I got feter kabab sandwich (portobello mushroom wrap with lettuce, tomato, garlic paste and pickles) and shorbit al Addas (lentil soup). I really loved the soup, which was thin and light. The portabello is the best I’ve ever had.

Lentil soup and a portabella wrap.

Lentil soup and a portabella wrap.

Next we stopped up the street at hello cupcake for dessert. I had the Heart of Darkness cupcake, which is chocolate with chocolate ganache on top, and Chris got the Tiramisu cupcake. The store is really cute and the staff is friendly. You can grab a cupcake to go for $3.25. Well worth the visit!

Some yummy cupcakes from hello cupcake in Dupont Circle.

Some yummy cupcakes from hello cupcake in Dupont Circle.

After scarfing down the cupcakes, we took a short walk around Dupont Circle in the drizzling rain.

Corner in Dupont Circle

Rain in Dupont Circle

Fountain in the middle of Dupont Circle

Fountain in the middle of Dupont Circle

One thing that will probably always come to mind about this neighborhood — honking. There are some really angry drivers in this area. I swear one driver laid on his horn for a minimum of 1.5 minutes!

I think this is in large part due to the craziness that is Dupont Circle, which is by far the craziest and most confusing traffic circle I’ve ever seen. It could be more accurately described as a traffic corkscrew. Walking around the National Mall later, I couldn’t help but notice how much quieter it was, despite the emergency sirens and other noise.

Other than the stressful honking, Dupont Circle is a really interesting and beautiful neighborhood. However, instead of driving, consider taking the Metro.

National Herb Garden, National Arboretum

The National Herb Garden is wonderful! Of all the gardens we visited at the National Arboretum, this one is my favorite. I loved the medicinal herb gardens, especially the Native American Herb Garden. We learned how different tribes used plants we are very familiar with, such as cardinal flower, large-flowered trillium and purple cone flower.

National Herb Garden

This is an example of the signs found in the Native American herb garden. The signs tell how the herbs were used by differen tribes.

This is an example of the signs found in the Native American herb garden. The signs tell how the herbs were used by different tribes.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower

There were also gardens featuring plants for dying, brewing and perfuming. Colonial gardens featured herbs and vegetables. I took pictures of lots of peppers. The park’s website says it has 50 varieties!


More peppers!

And more peppers!

Conifer Collection, National Arboretum

On our way back toward the parking area at the National Arboretum, we swung by a portion of the Conifer Collection. We spent most of the time in the Gotelli Collection of Dwarf and Slow Growing Conifers. This is about where the rain started drizzling and it drizzled off and on for the rest of the day.

Conifer Collection

Dwarf conifer collection


Asian Collection, National Arboretum

We briefly walked through the Asian Collections at the National Arboretum. I wanted to see the Chinese Pagoda and the camellias. The camellias weren’t in bloom, but we got to see the pretty shrubs anyway.


The collection is divided into regions, such as China Valley and Korean Hillside. Each of the sections featured plants from those countries.

Asian Collection

In all, there wasn’t much in bloom, but it was a nice area to walk through.

Washington Youth Garden

If you have kids, you definitely want to check out this garden in the National Arboretum. Besides various plants, there is a cute area where kids can dig, climb and play in a sandbox. The area also has a stage and a sitting area for programs.

Entrance to Washington Youth Garden

(Just a note of warning — take along the bug spray! As we were leaving the garden five mosquitos shared a meal on my leg. I itched for a few days after that!)

The Washington Youth Garden is full of color and a variety of plants. There were tons of bees and butterflies flying around. Sunflowers, coneflowers, rose mallow, apple trees, strawberries, figs, crepe myrtle, canna lilies, sedum, carnations, hydrangeas, spirea and more filled the beds.

Washington Youth Garden

The coolest thing we saw was a passionfruit vine. According to this source, the plant is naturalized and is not native to the U.S. A woman working at the garden said the fruit is ripe when it feels hollow when you squeeze it. She described it as feeling like “cardboard.” Doesn’t sound too appetizing, but I understood what she meant after testing a couple of fruit that were nearly ripe.

Passionfruit vine

Passionfruit vine