Tag Archives: U.S. Navy Museum

The National Museum of the U.S. Navy: A True Hidden DC Gem

A replica of the USS Constitution fighting top, the centerpiece of the Navy Museum


Sometimes the best things are right under your nose. Or, to be more literal, about nine blocks from my house. This was the case with the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, anyway. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of it before — I’ve even posted about some of their special events — but I had no idea just how cool it was until Owen and I toured it last week.

The funny thing was, it was my poor planning that prompted the visit. We had intended to go ice skating at Canal Park on his day off from school, but upon our arrival at the rink realized it didn’t open until noon on weekdays, and it was not quite 11am.  So, I did some quick thinking about what else was in the Navy Yard area in southeast, and the light bulb went off: The Navy Museum.

The museum is located on the Navy base, so we drove down that way and found metered street parking nearby 9th & M Streets SE.  However, it wasn’t until after we were out of the car that I read on my phone how to get on base.  The visitor entrance is at 11th & O SE, so we walked there, and a guard at the front gate let us know we needed to go to the Visitor Center, located immediately to the left of the gate, to get a pass for base access. Once inside, I filled out a short form and showed ID, then was given a pass and a map.  The friendly gentleman at the desk highlighted the way to the museum on the map, just a few minutes’ walk away.

Big anchors out front hint at the great collection inside

En route, we passed the Navy Art Gallery, saw a few cannons outside, and caught a glimpse of the USS Barry moored nearby before arriving at the entrance, a stark white brick facade with two large anchors on either side of the doorway. And then we walked inside. (2016 Update: The USS Barry is no longer berthed at the Navy Yard.)

The lofty, hangar-like space

The Navy Museum is one of those places that makes an immediate “WOW!” impression.  Large ship models encased in glass, a tall replica of the USS Constitution fighting top, striking nautical displays, big guns, and an airplane hanging from the rafters are among the spectacles on view in the long, lofty, hangar-like space.

Something to gawk at in every direction

Model ships, from various eras, on display everywhere

It gets even better when you start touring the exhibits. For the most part, they go in chronological order from the front to the back of the museum, covering the American Revolution, Civil War, Forgotten Wars  of the 19th Century (actual name of the exhibit) like the War of 1812 and Mexican-American War, Artic Exploration, and World Wars I and II. There are also exhibits dedicated to specific topics like submarines, navigation, and underwater exploration.

Art and artifacts from the “forgotten” 19th-century wars

Checking out the WWII exhibit

The best part is that there are interactive elements everywhere. In the submarine exhibit, one of the first we visited, you can look through periscopes for a view of the USS Barry outside; steer, push buttons, and flip switches on a real sub control panel; and learn how a sub operates through a few electronic displays.  You can sit in the gun seats in the World War II area, and test your knowledge of Navy trivia on various touch screen displays around the museum.  A few movies about sea battles are playing within the exhibits, including Master and Commander in the Gun Deck, which is made to look like one with low ceilings and wooden beams.

Operating the periscope to get a view outside

Taking a quiz on one of many digital interactives

All ages can enjoy this museum — young children will love the big installations, older kids (with an interest in this kind of thing) will appreciate the history as well as the smaller displays. Owen’s favorite parts were the submarines and Arctic Explorations, where he learned about some of the first expeditions to the North Pole and viewed the actual equipment that had been used there.

Relics from an early arctic expedition

What started as a way to kill time before ice skating turned out to be a pretty fantastic outing.  And did I mention we practically had the place to ourselves?  Yep, a true hidden gem. I know that there are some people who’d love to keep it that way, but this one is just too good not to share.

Guests are welcome to sit in the gunseats

The National Museum of the U.S. Navy is located on the Navy base just off M Street in southeast. Non-military visitors must enter at 11th & O Streets SE. There is visitor parking in a garage inside the base. Be sure to bring ID with you to gain access. The museum is open daily with the exceptions of Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Hours are 9am – 5pm Monday – Friday, and 10am – 5pm Saturday – Sunday. Admission is free, but there is a donation box near the entrance/exit with a suggested contribution of $2.



Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Museums, Weekdays, Weekend

Summer Weekend

Friday evening concert at The Yards

School’s out, the solstice occurred, kids are in camp… summer has officially begun.  Seize the first weekend of the season with these ideas for family fun.  Happy Weekend!

Music Al Fresco – Start off your weekend with free music in the fresh air at one of many outdoor concerts. Jazz vocalist Shelia Ross will entertain at Jazz in the Garden at 5:30pm, Jimi Smooth will bring Motown sounds to The Yards Park at 6pm, and the United States Air Force Band performs at the Air Force Memorial at 8pm with the theme ‘The Singing Sergeants Present…”

Girls Make History Day  – The U.S. Navy Museum will host the third annual “Girls Make History Day” to encourage children, especially young ladies, to take an interest in American naval and maritime history and science.  On Saturday from 10am – 5pm, children ages 5-13, can enjoy all kinds of activities inspired by the historic characters of the American Girl book series. Jacqueline Dembar Greene, author of the Rebecca series, will also be on hand to sign books and talk with program participants. All kids attending the event wil be eligible for a raffle for an American Girl Doll. And any child who chooses to dress as their favorite character will receive an additional raffle ticket for an American Girl mini-doll. More information about the event is available on the U.S. Navy Museum website.

Montgomery County Heritage Days – Celebrate the history, culture, and natural beauty of Montgomery County, MD, as more than 30 historic sites welcome visitors for guided tours, recreations of historic events, children’s activities, and more — all free of charge.  This will take place on Saturday and Sunday from 12 – 4pm, but be sure to check the list of places, as some are only participating for one day.

National Capital Barbeque Battle – Nothing says summer like a good barbeque, and you can experience the area’s biggest one at the annual Safeway National Barbeque Battle on Saturday from 11am – 9pm and Sunday from 11am – 7:3opm.  Top BBQ-ers from all over the country will cook for grilling glory (and $40,000 in prizes), and the public is invited to watch it all go down.  There will also be cooking demos, children’s activities, interactive cooking displays, and lots of food samples.  This all takes places on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, between 9th and 14th Streets. Admission is $10/adults, $5/ages 6-12, free for kids 5 and under.

Take Your PickThe pick-your-own strawberry season has ended, but you can still have a “berry” (couldn’t resist!) good time at local farms, as the fields are yielding a whole new crop of fruits. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and more fresh produce are ripe for the picking for at least the next few weeks.  This post has more details on where you can reap the fruits of your labor.

CycleFest 2011Kids can bring their bikes and trikes to the National Harbor on Saturday from 11am – 4pm for an afternoon of cycle-related fun with the National Children’s Museum, the Alexander Lance Booker Child Safety Foundation, Calleva, Wheels to Africa, and Trails for Youth. Activities will include creating bicycle nameplates; a bicycle rodeo featuring a safety obstacle course with the Prince George’s County Park Police; an obstacle course and a bicycle race with Trails for Youth; bicycle maintenance workshops; and much more. There will also be a raffle to win a $50 gift card to Revolution Cycles, bicycle-inspired jewelry from Phoenix Bikes, and many more bike-themed giveaways. CycleFest will be held on American Way, between St. George’s Blvd. and Fleet Street. Additional activities will also take place at the National Children’s Museum Launch Zone.

Georgetown Waterfront Celebration – Join the Georgetown BID and Washington Harbour as they celebratethe start of summer on Sunday from 12 – 3pm. Washington Harbour restaurants will be firing up their grills and serving summertime staples including gourmet burgers, crab cake sandwiches, and fresh seafood, giving attendees the ultimate backyard BBQ on the Potomac. The family-friendly event will include a steel drum band, face painting, a balloon artist, and lots of fun and games for all ages. The event will culminate in The Great Georgetown Water Balloon Toss at 2pm, inviting Washingtonians to recapture their summer camp days and compete for prizes from Georgetown businesses.  The event will take place at Washington Harbour Condominium.

DC Caribbean Carnival – The 19th Annual DC Caribbean Carnival will liven up the town on Saturday from 11am – 5pm with a spectacular parade through the city, then an international marketplace—De Savannah— at Howard University Campus. The parade begins at 11am on Saturday, proceeding down Georgia Avenue to the marketplace. The rest of the festival runs from 12 – 8pm. Festival admission is $10, free for seniors and children under 12See the website for the parade route and more marketplace/festival details.

Happy Birthday, Shenandoah! – One of our nearby national parks is turning 75 and there will be a Rededication Celebration to mark the occasion on Saturday starting at 9:30am.  Live entertainment, the rededication ceremony, a Family Fun Tent, ranger-led walks and talks, and more outdoor fun will be part of the day’s activities.  This will all take place in the Shenandoah National Park’s Big Meadows area at Milepost 51 on Skyline Drive.

Swing into Summer Family DayCelebrate the start of summer at the Nation Portrait Gallery on Saturday from 11:30am – 3pm.  Enjoy a fun-filled day of hands-on art activities, special performances, and tours of the related exhibitions, Calder’s Portraits: A New Language and Capital Portraits: Treasures from Washington Private Collections, 1730-2010.  This is a free event.

The Wind in the WillowsImagination Stage’s latest production just opened, and seats are still available for this weekend’s shows.  Several times are available, with ticket prices starting at $12. Read more about the show on the Imagination Stage website.

These go-to posts have even more ideas:

Joys of SummerSwimming and spray ground fun, outdoor concerts and movies, special play time and shows, and more.

The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids  – According to the weekend forecast, this one deserves a good look.

Rainy Day Recreation (ie, Indoor Fun) – Use this if you need a break from the sun.

Family Entertainment – See what’s on local stages this weekend.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Farm, Free, Live Entertainment, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Summer, Theatre, Virginia, Weekend

She Was… An American Girl

Childhood obsessions. Those toys, books, shows, movies, and teen idols that can keep kids immersed in their own contented worlds for hours. I fondly remember some of mine: jacks, Nancy Drew, Smurfs, Judy Blume, Grease, Uno, Ms. Pac-Man, Rick Springfield. And, every now and then, I still get an itch to bounce that tiny rubber ball, school someone on the Baby board, or hear Dr. Noah Drake sing “Don’t Talk to Strangers.”

So, when I hear about the crazes that absorb kids these days, I totally get it. And there’s one in particular that I hear about all the time, but because of my kids’ preferences and ages (as mentioned previously in this post), I am not very familiar with it: American Girl.

From what I understand, little girls looove American Girl. And I have to be honest: until I did some research for this post, I thought it was just about dolls. Now I have the full scoop—there are books, clothes (kids apparel to match their dolls!), furniture, accessories, even a magazine. For someone with an AG obsession, it must be nirvana. None of my adolescent passions offered that much to indulge. (I had some Rick Springfield stickers and a few posters on my wall, but that was about it.)

Anyway, for those who have embraced American Girl, whether it be the dolls, books, fashion, or the whole shebang, there’s a not-to-be-missed event happening this weekend: On Saturday, 6/26, from 10am – 4pm, the National Museum of the U.S. Navy at the Washington Navy Yard will be hosting “Girls Make History Day” featuring…(drumroll)…the beloved American Girl dolls and books, AND two American Girl authors, Valerie Tripp and Jackie Greene. Intended to raise interest in history, heritage, and science, the event will feature 11 activity stations that link the lives of the fictional American Girl characters to maritime history, practical science, and technology applications.

The event is recommended for girls ages 5 – 13.  Guests can enter to win an American Girl doll, and prizes will be given to those who dress up like their favorite character. And, of course, dolls are invited to join the fun, too.

The event is free and open to the public. An RSVP is requested: 202.433.6826.

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Filed under Educational, Gradeschoolers, Museums, Preteens, Weekend