Friday, April 17, 2009

Hippo's Secret Tour of Washington, D.C.

This is the time of year when tourists begin flocking to Washington, D.C. to enjoy the sights and history of the nation's capital. Everybody knows the famous places to see: the Capitol, the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Smithsonian Museums. But not everybody knows the quieter museums, buildings, monuments, and parks. So here is Hippo's guided tour of some of his favorite, secret places in Washington:

National Portrait Gallery
This museum houses a great collection of history as art. They have educational portraits of famous Americans from colonial days to modern times, including a gallery of all the American presidents. They also show temporary exhibits of great American artists and different formats of art like graffiti and commercial posters. It's located in the old Patent Office near Chinatown and stays open later than most other museums.

Udvar-Hazy Center
This extension of the Air and Space Museum is a large hangar near Dulles Airport. It contains a fantastic collection of aircraft and spacecraft from the entire history of flight. Everything from balloons to biplanes, war planes, research jets, satellites, and the first Space Shuttle.

FDR Memorial
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is a low, quiet series of plazas along the Tidal Basin. It depicts the four terms of his presidency from the Great Depression to the New Deal to World War II. Statues, engravings, and waterfalls convey a sense of how the man, the country, and the world changed during those years. In the springtime the memorial is especially beautiful with blossoming cherry trees.

World War II Memorial
This is one of Hippo's favorite spots to rest during a long day exploring the Mall. It's sunk below street level, a pretty fountain circled by majestic pillars and twin waterfalls. If you visit at sunset then you can sit on the warm granite benches and watch the sky fade behind the Lincoln Memorial.

National Zoo
Of course, Hippo's favorite place in Washington is no secret at all: the zoo! He loves to visit the bears, cheetahs, apes, pandas, lions, tigers, flamingos, horses, zebras, goats, cows, chickens, pigs, orangutans, tamarinds, anteaters, otters, seals, beavers, wolves, elephants, his great uncle Happy, and everyone else whose name he can't always remember. But his secret is that if you want to really see the furry, scaly, and feathered animals – rather than a bunch of hairless apes in clothes – you should visit when it's cold or rainy. The animals don't mind the weather, so if you dress warm you can keep them company on a quiet day.

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