Some dear Latvian friends were in the DC area on a recent weekend. While Roberts had "Latvian business" to take care of, Liene invited me to play tour guide to her and their three children. Given that the kids are quite young and the forecast called for rain, I chose the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia as our destination. The Center, opened in 2003, is a part of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, and - in my opinion - is more impressive than the museum on the Mall with which most people are familiar. The Udvar-Hazy Center is an enormous building comprised of two hangars which contain an incredible amount of flight-related artifacts, most notably many airplanes, including a Concorde, and the space shuttle Discovery.
|Photo credit: Liene|
It so happened that the Saturday on which we visited was Family Day, and a variety of tables throughout the center offered activities and information geared towards young visitors. Our visit lasted longer than I had anticipated because the oldest two children had enough to keep them interested for quite a while. Given the weather and time of year, the Center was full of people, but the size of the building makes it seem less crowded than many of the popular museums on the Mall. That being said, as the afternoon progressed at times it did become more difficult to navigate with a baby stroller and keep an eye on the older two boys, although they behaved very well!
Other than its location far from the city and the toll road which leads one there, two other slight drawbacks to the Center are paid parking and the on-site restaurant. As at all Smithsonian museums, entrance to the Center is free of charge, but there is a $15 fee for parking in the large lot adjacent to the museum, which - honestly - does not bother me because few other museums in the world are free, and typically one's car contains more than just one person. The only dining option at the Udvar-Hazy Center is a McDonald's, which - other than being horrible fast food - becomes very crowded on weekends. However, due to its wealth of exhibits, the Udvar-Hazy Center is certainly worth a visit! I do think the visitors enjoyed it, as did I, particularly seeing that this was only my second visit.
On another Saturday, after sitting behind a Tibetan monk (in his long saffron robe and interestingly wearing a fluorescent orange knit hat on his head) on the Metro and running into a Latvian friend and his mother in the theater's lobby, I met friends at the National Theatre for a performance of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit." The star, playing the medium and clairvoyant Madame Arcati, was Angela Lansbury. She originally starred in the role on Broadway in 2009, and won a Tony for it. Seeing her perform, one would never guess that Lansbury is 89 years old! The entire cast was wonderful, and the play itself entertaining and amusing.
Afterwards my friends and I ate dinner and drank tea (bubble tea for me, thanks!) at Teasim, which is a DC institution, with three locations in the city, and one in Alexandria, Virginia. If you are playing tourist in Washington, I highly recommend it: the Penn Quarter restaurant on 8th Street NW is conveniently close to the Mall, while the Lafayette Park locations is practically next to the White House. Not only does the restaurant serve all manners of tea, but it has a full menu and their Salty Oat Cookies are legendary.