For thousands of years, humans believed that flying monsters existed. They became mythologized, with stories about them shared around the world. Could they have really existed? Millions of years ago dinosaurs were on their rise to dominate Earth. But another group of reptiles was set to make an extraordinary leap: Pterosaurs were about to take control of the skies. The story of how and why these mysterious creatures took to the air is more fantastic than any fiction.
Flying Monsters 3D plays on Saturdays and Sundays at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm. Running time is approximately 40 minutes. Tickets are $7. The National Geographic Museum is located at 1145 17th Street NW. Hours are 10am – 6pm daily.
Giveaway: For a chance to win a family four-pack of tickets to see Flying Monsters 3D, leave a comment below telling me your favorite holiday film. To be eligible to enter, you must also like KidFriendly DC on Facebook. The giveaway will run through this weekend, and a winner will be drawn at random. Good luck!
“Real Pirates” will be at the National Geographic Museum through September 2
I got my first look at the National Geographic Museum’s Real Pirates exhibit several weeks ago, at a sneak preview the day before it opened to the public. And while I’ve listed it among weekend and weekday picks, I waited to do a full write-up until my kids (well, at least one of them) had a chance to see it, too.
There were a couple of reasons for this: 1) Generally, I just like to get their reactions, so I can relay the kid perspective along with mine when I post about activities 2) This exhibit isn’t super heavy on the interactives like most at Nat Geo; rather, it’s mostly reading and viewing without touching. I found it incredibly interesting and took my time to peruse the displays, but I wasn’t sure if my kids would have the patience, especially without a bunch of hands-on installations to enjoy along with the rest of it.
Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship illustrates the history of a notorious slave-turned-pirate ship and the world of the diverse people whose lives converged on the vessel. Owen was excited to check it out — I’d brought him a book about it after my first tour, and now he’d get to see its pages “come to life” at the museum.
And from the moment we entered the exhibit, he was not disappointed. It begins with a five-minute film that gives visitors background about the Whydah and the pirates who commandeered it. After that, large wooden doors open and lead into the rest of the galleries, from the Whydah’s origins as a slave ship to the infamous boat that was eventually lost to the sea.
Its wreckage was discovered in 1984, so much of what is seen throughout the exhibit are either real artifacts recovered from the ship or replicas of prominent features. Cannons, the anchor, coins, tools used to repair the ship, pistols, and small items like buttons are some of the real relics on display. The bell and sections of the ship — the captian’s quarters and below deck — have been reproduced to give a sense of what it was like to be on board, complete with audio of waves crashing and boards creaking, along with projections of the ocean through windows (Owen actually asked why the room seemed like it was moving).
The exhibit also includes background on the West African slave trade and piracy during the 18th century. Owen loved seeing some names he recognized like Blackbeard and Calico Jack, and he was particularly interested in the “Pirate Family Tree,” which depicted the connection between many famous pirates. As for interactives, there is a knot-tying station, a display where you can hoist a digital Jolly Roger, and opportunities to touch real booty (silver coins) recovered from the ship. Towards the end of the exhibit, we find out the fate of those aboard the ship — who survived and who was lost at sea. And beyond that, we learn what happened to those who made it out alive.
The final area focuses on the ship’s discovery and recovery. There is a video about underwater explorer Barry Clifford and his search for and discovery of the ship and the continued process of excavating the wreckage.
There is a lot to take in, and Owen was engrossed in a good portion of it. I’d venture to say many kids would be, even those who are too young to read all of the displays. The hands-on features may be minimal, but there are enough cool parts to view to keep any pirate fiend interested.
The National Geographic Museum is located at 1145 17th Street NW. Street parking can be tough in that area. If you drive, your best bet is one of the nearby garages. Metro’s Farragut North (red line) and Farragut West (blue/orange lines) stops are fairly convenient. *Photography is not permitted on the exhibit. My photos were taken during the media preview.
You all probably know by now how much I love the exhibits at the National Geographic Museum. They are always a perfect mix of entertaining and educational, with intriguing displays, fun interactives, engaging multimedia, and, of course, stunning photography that is practically their signature.
This is much of the reason why I am so excited about the new exhibit coming to Nat Geo in a couple of weeks. Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship will be on display from March 8 through September 2. I have a feeling it’s going to a popular one — with kids and adults alike.
The exhibit tells the story of a slave ship turned pirate ship and the diverse people whose lives converged on the vessel. Sunk in a fierce storm off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in April 1717, the Whydah wreckage was found by underwater explorer Barry Clifford in 1984, becoming the first pirate ship discovered in North American waters to be authenticated and fully excavated. Here’s more background on the ship:
The three-masted, 300-ton galley was built as a slave ship in London in 1715 and represented the most advanced technology at that time. She was easy to maneuver, unusually fast and — to protect her human cargo — heavily armed. The Whydah’s purpose was to transport human captives from the west coast of Africa to the Caribbean, but it was fated to make only one such voyage. In February 1717, after the slaves were sold in the Caribbean, the Whydah was captured off the Bahamas by Sam Bellamy, one of the most successful pirates of his day. Bellamy and his crew hoisted the Jolly Roger, and the slave ship became a pirate ship.
Just two months later, on April 26, 1717, in one of the worst nor’easters ever recorded, the Whydah, packed with plunder from more than 50 captured ships, sank off the Massachusetts coast. All but two of the 146 people on board drowned. Some 270 years later, Clifford found the first remains of the ship. In a recovery operation that has spanned more than two decades, Clifford and his team have brought up hundreds of artifacts, not only gold and silver, but everyday objects that shed light on this tumultuous period of American and world history.
Many of the artifacts will be on display in the exhibit, including weapons such as swords, cannons, muskets and pistols as well as daily necessities such as tools, kitchen utensils, buttons, coins and personal belongings from the captain’s quarters. In addition, visitors can climb aboard a replica of the ship and experience what it was like in the captain’s quarters and below deck.
Pirate booty will be part of the display, of course
If you want to mark your calendar way ahead, there will be a free Pirates Family Festival featuring re-enactors, a treasure hunt, and more on June 22. Plus, the Museum will be offering Pirate Birthday Parties starting in March for kids ages 5-12.
The National Geographic Museum is located at 1145 17th Street NW. It’s open daily from 10am – 6pm. Photography exhibitions in the museum’s M Street gallery and outdoors are free, but exhibitions in the 17th Street galleries are ticketed. Admission is $11/adults, $9/members, military, students, seniors, $7/ages 5-12, and free for ages 4 and under and for local school, student, and youth groups (18 and under; advance reservation required). Tickets can be purchased online or at the National Geographic ticket booth.
Street parking can be tough in that area. If you drive, your best bet is one of the nearby garages. Metro’s Farragut North (red line) and Farragut West (blue/orange lines) stops are fairly convenient.
Last week I posted about a couple of the wonderful exhibits currently on display at the National Geographic Museum. What I didn’t mention is that the experiences there go beyond the rooms full of fascinating installations, fun interactives, and stunning imagery.
One of those experiences in “Sea Monsters 3D,” Nat Geo’s giant-screen film that takes audiences on a remarkable journey into the relatively unexplored world of the “other dinosaurs” — those reptiles that lived beneath the water.
The film plays in the Grosvenor Auditorium every Sunday at 1pm and 3pm, as well as on Saturdays during holiday weekends (that includes this coming weekend!). Tickets are $5 for just the film or $10 for the film and admission to the exhibits.
Giveaway: I have a couple of sets of vouchers to see the film — a pair and a three-pack — up for grabs that must be redeemed THIS WEEKEND. To enter for a chance to win them, simply leave a comment below. To be eligible, you must like KidFriendly DC on Facebook and follow on Twitter (let me know you did). A winner will be drawn at random TONIGHT, so I can get the tickets out in time to use this Saturday or Sunday.
A model of an elephant clock in the “1001 Inventions” exhibit
The National Geographic Museum is easily among my favorite museums in DC. They truly know how to present an exhibit to intrigue and engage visitors of all ages. Owen still talks about all of the cool exhibitions he’s seen there over the years, from the geckos in 2010 to Animal Grossology last year to the recent Titanic display.
What makes them so appealing, especially to kids, is that they aren’t just rooms full of pictures and displays to view. They are full-on experiences that utilize multimedia and a variety of interactive installations to educate, enrich, amuse, and wow guests.
“Birds of Paradise” is all about the avian creatures for which its titled. Found only in New Guinea and Australia, there are only 39 known species of the birds that are a case study in the evolutionary power of sexual selection, and all are featured in the exhibit. Their brilliant plumes and funny mating rituals are documented in stunning imagery and amazing footage captured by scientist Edwin Scholes and photographer Tim Laman over eight years and 18 expeditions to the isolated places the birds inhabit.
Jungle scenes projected in screens greet guests
A library area is filled with lots of nooks and crannies containing images, neat facts, and taxidermied birds
But it was the interactives that really drew in the kids. Sasha loved spinning a dial that let her view a male bird’s changing feathers that seemed to reveal a smiley face pattern as he flirted with a female. Both kids had fun pushing buttons on a display to hear all of the different bird calls. Owen and his friend Dylan spent a good amount of time pretending to snap photos of birds, a display that showed the difficulty in getting shots of the birds in the wild. They also enjoyed a digital touch game where they had to match females with males to make a love connection. And perhaps the most fun of all was Dance Dance Evolution, where participants mimic the mating dance of males while other guests spectating can vote by pushing button for their favorite contestant. These are just a few of the fun and fascinating things there.
Bird calls of the wild
A wildlife photog at work
Owen and my friend, Torey, boogie like birds playing Dance Dance Evolution
Since our tickets were good for the whole day and for all of the exhibits, we lunched down the street at Potbelly, then headed back to the museum to tour “1001 Inventions,” a showcase of some of the great discoveries of early Muslim civilization. That experience began with a short film that has kid appeal and Ben Kingsley as a main character. From there, we headed into the main area of the exhibit, where large installations, many with interactive games and cool displays immediately attracted the kids.
So many fascinating displays and interactives
An overhead view
Sasha takes flight
Through these we learned about the many ways Muslims laid the foundations for many principles of science and technology centuries ago. A motion-sensing video game has guests flapping their arms to keep an early flying machine aloft. Number and word games demonstrate early connections to modern mathematics and language. A giant elephant clock and associated displays explain how, 800 years ago, it was one of the first clocks. A kind of mini-planetarium welcomes guests to explore the stars and learn star names derived from Arabic words.
Having a stellar time
Learning about the earliest rocket launch
Crunching the numbers
There are many, many more interesting facts to discover and displays to explore throughout. And just about all of them are accompanied by videos of the inventors (well, actors playing them) talking about their creations and influence on the modern world. And I had to stifle a laugh when Owen asked me why all them were looking at and talking to him while he was walking around. “How can they see me if they’re inside the TV’s?” Ah, that was one the Muslims missed, so I had to do a little explaining myself.
Needless to say, I highly recommend the exhibits. And you can view them in one visit, as admission to the museum gets you access to both. Entry is $8/adults, $6/seniors and students, $4/ages 5-12, free for 4 and under.