Hits and Misses

Since moving to Washington, DC, we’ve made it a habit of using national holidays to go visit various museums and monuments. Most are open everyday except Christmas, traffic is light and parking is plentiful. Once you get past Labor Day, the museums are less crowded, too.

We’ve enjoyed all of our adventures in and around town. Except yesterday. Yesterday we chose the National Museum of the American Indian. We were looking forward to seeing it. We haven’t gotten to American history yet, but I thought it would be fun.

Boy, were we disappointed. The museum is really cool looking from the outside. They’ve got a small wetlands display, complete with ducks. Bip really liked those. “Daddy! Quack! More Quack!” Add a really great view of the Capitol dome through the autumn foilage and we were all revved up for a good time.

The atrium was awsome and soared four stories high. However, the rest of that level had very, very little in the way of displays.

We tried the second level. Nothing to see there either.

On the third level we found a display of beadwork. That was pretty cool, but the only way to tell what you were looking at was by using the interactive computers, one per display case. There were some pull out drawers with additional items, but again, you needed to be using the computer to be able to read about the items. The children became completely distracted by the computers and the drawers. They didn’t so much care about what was in the drawers as they like yanking them open. Plus, they started bickering over who got to control the computers.

The fourth floor had a little bit more to see. Most memorable was a big display of the weapons used against the native peoples – swords, rifles and bibles.

An hour after getting started, we were Done. The children had lost interest and the grown ups were disappointed.

We tried eating at the cafeteria, which we’d heard was excellent. It might have been, if you were interested in trying buffalo or frogs legs.

What we had hoped, no expected to see at the National Museum of the American Indian were signifcant displays on the various tribes of North America. I wanted the children to see how the various tribes lived – the kinds of houses they constructed, the kind of art they specialized in, how they made clothing. I wanted to see exhibits on their spiritual beliefs (admittedly, there was an spirituality exhibit, but by that time we were more than ready to leave) and on their rich tradition of story telling. We got none of that. Only a few tribes were represented in the “history” displays and those exhibits were very small. Sadly, I’m not sure what the point of the museum is. If you’re town, this is one museum to skip.

Fortunately, we were across the Mall from the National Gallery of Art. We enjoy eating at the Cascade Cafe there, watching the indoor waterfall. If you’re going to spend a small fortune on food, it might as well be something you’re not afraid to eat. As a bonus, we could go visit the Mary Cassatt paintings which were part of last month’s artist studies.

On the way we took this fun picture next to what looks like a free standing wall. How does it stay standing? I don’t know, it just does. It’s a mystery.



After lunch and visiting the Cassatts, we headed home. Not before hitting the children’s book store, of course. Once outside, we stopped to peer down at the people in the cafe through these triangle things.


Bip liked seeing the “awa-fall” from the outside.


A day of hits and misses. Not too thrilled with the American Indian museum, but we got some fun books. And that’s always a good thing.

More Mac and Cheese, please!


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  • Lorri,

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the Native American Museum. Did they have the tour guides available with the presentation in the circle room? We toured this museum back in February 2006, and my kiddos enjoyed it. We had a tour guide who shared with us many of the things you were hoping for. They even were able to try a few games that Native American children played. Maybe the trick is to schedule a field trip visit. We went with our friends, but we did have a scheduled time to meet with our tour guide.

    I know the food was expensive, but it was really good. I enjoyed trying the authentic Native American foods, but then again when I was a little girl I attended Indian Summer School. The buffalo burgers at the end of the term Pow-Wow were always considered a special treat.

    Thanks for the tips about your hits, we’ll have to check them out next time we go downtown.

    :) Tami

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