Friday, November 19, 2004


Originally written for the now defunct I bring it back to life on this blog... because while I am proud to be Pinoy, I continue to hold very fond memories of the time I lived a stone's throw away from Washington DC.

The Mall

Only in D.C. can you say you spent your day ON the mall and not be grammatically incorrect. Only in Washington D.C. can you spend the entire day at a mall and not see a single store. But it is a mall definitely worth exploring.

The nation’s Mall is actually a long oblong stretch of green with the Lincoln Memorial on one end, the dome of the U.S. Capitol at the other and the many museums of the Smithsonian Institution surrounding it. To wander around this Mall is to soak up diverse cultures and history.

Start your tour Lincoln Memorial (at 23rd Street, NW) which was completed in 1992 and modeled after the Greek Parthenon. Inscribed in the walls are the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. The Emancipation is depicted on the ceiling murals. Martin Luther King’s world-changing “I Have A Dream” speech was one of the many civil events held here.

For more emotion-evoking sights, don’t pass up the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Constitution Gardens at Constitution Ave). A grim black granite wall etched with the names of the men and women who died in that war. It is never without flowers and remembrances left by veterans and families who leave with rubbings taken from the etchings. Nearby, the companion statue of three infantrymen makes the experience complete.

Next stop is the Washington Monument (at 15th Street, NW). The simple obelisk you will see is the last – and final – depiction of the monument which has gone through numerous designs. At 556 feet, it is the height limit for the tallest building in the city.

There are several other memorials and monuments of interest near and around the Mall that you should look into while you’re in the area. But we’re talking about the Mall now and after those memorials, it’s time to hit the museums.

Washington D.C. has the most impressive museums thanks, in no small part, to the Smithsonian Institution. As a kid growing up near the city, I looked forward to going to the Smithsonian on weekends. They never seemed to run out things for me to see and become enchanted by.

The Castle (1000 Jefferson Drive, SW), the first of the Smithsonian Buildings was built in the mid-19th century. It now houses a Visitor Information Center where you can find out about the events for the day and a video that gives visitors an overview of all the museums.

The museums are open every day of the year except December 25th. The museums are open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except the Anacostia Museum which closes at 5 p.m. There is no admission fee to get into the Smithsonian museums.

Located on the Mall itself are:
The National Air and Space Museum, called the most popular museum in the world, clocking more than eight million visitors annually. Everything from the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer, Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Lois to missiles and rockets that have revolutionized our world can be found here.

The Arts and Industries Building, the second oldest of the Smithsonian buildings. The south hall is the most interesting part – the Experimental Gallery which explores innovative exhibition techniques.

The National Museum of American History looks at, well, American history beginning at the Industrial Revolution all the way up to present day events. Most interesting are the displays of Americana memorabilia like Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Fonzie’s leather jacket.
My favorite of these buildings both as a child and as a working adult is the Museum of Natural History. It is the official repository for specimens collected on scientific expeditions of the 19th century. Inside, over 120 million animal, plant fossil, rock and cultural artifacts call this building home. A favorite among the kiddies are the life-sized dinosaurs and the hands-on Discovery Room and Insect Zoo. (Years after we moved back to Manila, I can still remember the excitement the 9 year-old me felt every time we took trip to the Insect Room... home of my favorite Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches)

Other museums on the Mall include the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden contemporary and modern art), the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Asian and Near Asian Art), the National Museum of African Art, and the Freer Gallery (Asian Art).

Not on the Mall but definitely worth a mention are the Anacostia Museum (dedicated entirely to African American history) and the National Postal Museum (opened in 1993, it houses the world’s biggest collection of postal documents, and artifacts).

Do some exploring of your own while you’re there. Who knows what other interesting sights and things you’ll discover.

See, while in D.C. it isn’t an insult to be called a “mall rat.”

For more information on the Smithsonian buildings: go to


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