Tag Archives: National Geographic Museum

“Real Pirates” Coming to the National Geographic Museum!


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

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.

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Enter to Win Tickets to “Sea Monsters 3D” at Nat Geo


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.



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Exhibits to Experience at the National Geographic Museum

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.

And I am happy to report that Nat Geo’s two current exhibits, Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution and 1001 Inventions: Discover the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization follow suit.  We experienced them this past Monday when the kids were off from school, and everyone — the kids and I, along with friends who joined us — had a great time exploring both.

Incredible images of birds-of-paradise

“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.

1001 Inventions runs through February 3, and Birds of Paradise through May 12, 2013.


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The Weekend Round-Up: May 25-28

Get the weekend and "summer" started with a Friday evening concert at the Yards


Memorial Day weekend.  A time to honor those who have served and sacrificed for our country, the unofficial start to summer, an annual getaway for us.  But if you’re sticking around town — or visiting DC for the holiday weekend — you’ve got your pick of things to do. Whether you seek events to observe the holiday, are ready to embrace that summer feeling, or just want to enjoy some quality time with the kids over the long weekend, these ideas for family recreation should have you covered. Happy Weekend!

Summer in the City
Where: Throughout the area
When: All weekend long
Admission: Varies by activity

Celebrate the unofficial start of summer with an activity exclusive to this time of year. Jazz in the Garden begins this evening and other free concert series have already started; outdoor public pools, spraygrounds, and water parks open Saturday; the strawberry picking season is  underway; and blue crabs are making many a feaster very happy. This post has specifics on all of the special events and series that come with the warm months.

Sunset Celebration
Where: Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens
When: Friday – Sunday, 6-9pm
Admission: $18/adults, $12/ages 6-11, free for children 5 and under

Visit Mount Vernon after the daytime crowds have departed for a special Memorial Day weekend celebration. Guests can take evening tours of the Mansion, relax and enjoy wine and desserts available for purchase, and delight in 18th-century music, dancing, games, and wagon rides. Stroll the lantern-lit grounds and immerse yourself in the 18th century as the sun sets on the plantation and costumed residents like the charming Lady Washington and her granddaughter Nelly interact with visitors. This family-friendly event celebrates the beginning of summer on the plantation

National Memorial Day Parade
Where: Constitution Avenue NW, 7th to 17th Streets
When: Monday, 2pm
Admission: Free
The annual National Memorial Day Parade celebrates and honors American veterans with a grand procession through the city. Get a curbside view of military units and vehicles, marching bands, flag teams, and hundreds of veterans as they travel up Constitution Avenue. This year’s parade will feature a tribute to the generation that served and sacrificed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, following the formal end of the war last December.

National Memorial Day Concert
Where: West lawn of the Capitol
When: Sunday, 8-9:30pm, gates open at 5pm (or Saturday for the dress rehearsal)
Admission: Free
Why watch on TV when you can be there in person? The 2012 National Memorial Day Concert will take place on the west lawn of the Capitol on Sunday from 8 – 9:30pm. Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna are hosting the event once again, and an all-star line-up of artists will join the National Symphony Orchestra in honoring those who have served and sacrificed for the U.S.  If you’re planning to go, this FAQ page on the concert website is worth a read. If you can’t make Sunday’s show or don’t want to deal with the crowds, Saturday’s dress rehearsal is also open to the public — gates open at 5pm, and the show begins at 7:30pm.

Memorials on the Mall
Where: National Mall
When: All Weekend
Admission: Free
Tributes to those who have served our country will take place at the many memorials and monuments on the National Mall throughout the weekend. Times vary, but you can look for schedules on the National Park Service website. The Mall is guaranteed to be crowded, so plan accordingly.

DC United Kids Day
Where: RFK Stadium
When: Saturday, 6:30pm
Admission: Free with admission to match
Kick it DC United-style before Saturday’s match against the New England Revolution! This family-friendly event is designed specifically with the smallest fans in mind. The fun begins at 6:30pm when gates open in the VW Garage. Kids get a passport upon entry that gets stamped as they complete a variety of fun, interactive stations, including a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center astronaut photo booth, soccer obstacle cours, Memorial Day Thank You cards for the troops, a cheer card station, and a National Air & Space Museum interactive motion exhibit. When they have 8-10 stamps, they can redeem their passport for an exclusive Kids’ Day goody bag.

Titanic: 100 Year Obsession
Where: National Geographic Museum
When: Daily
Admission: $6/adult, $4/ages 5-12, free for 4 and under
This is a must-experience for anyone with even a mild interest in the Titanic. Covering the ship’s complete history, from construction to completion, its demise to the search for remains, its discovery to continued exploration, the exhibit is presented through a variety of fascinating and many interactive displays. Read the KFDC review for more info.

Savage Gardens
Where: U.S. Botanic Garden
When: All Weekend (runs May 26 – October 8th)
Admission: Free
This exhibit all about carnivorous plants is opening at the Botanic Garden on Saturday. Savage Gardens tells the story of their astounding adaptations to inhospitable habitats. Through displays in the Conservatory Terrace, East Gallery, and National Garden, feed your senses with the captivating, the bizarre, the larger-than-life, real and imaginary world of these unique plants.

Say Aloha!
Where: National Museum of the American Indian
When: Saturday & Sunday, 10:30am – 5pm
Admission: Free
In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the museum welcomes Hawaiian artists, performers, and practitioners of traditional Hawaiian healing and culture. Visitors can learn about living a life of “aloha” by watching and learning about hula, watching films and presentations, and meeting and greeting Hawaiian guests.

Reap the Fruits
Where: Farms throughout the area
When: All weekend
Admission: Varies by location
The strawberry season is in full swing, and the pickings are still good at area farms. You can get in on the pick-your-own action; this post has all the info you need to get started.

Best in Shows
Where: Theatres around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

Five Little Monkeys is at Adventure Theatre. Tiny Tots and Pinocchio are on The Puppet Co. stage. Shine and the Moonbeams is performing at Jammin’ Java. Find details on all of these shows in this post about live entertainment in late spring.

For even more ideas for fun with the kids, outside and in, check out these popular KFDC posts:

The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids

The Great Indoors


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Fascination of Titantic Proportions at the National Geographic Museum

An 18-foot model of the fated ship


With all of the hoopla over the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic a few weeks ago, Owen became one of the obsessed. The intrigue began when he saw promos for some of the Titanic shows airing on Nat Geo Wild (his favorite channel these days), so we recorded Rebuilding Titanic and have watched it at least 10 times since.

Needless to say, it’s been on my to-do list for awhile to take Owen to the Titanic: 100 Year Obsession exhibit at the National Geographic Museum. So, when he had a day off from school earlier this week, we headed over to feed his fascination (mine, too, actually… and not just because of my unremitting Leo crush).

It was apparent as we walked in that it was going to be one dynamic exhibit.  Covering the ship’s complete history, from construction to completion, its demise to the search for remains, its discovery to continued exploration, Titanic is presented in a variety of interesting displays. Some are as simple as tacked up documents — a letter confirming a voyage on the fated ship or a first-class dinner menu — while others use modern technology to tell her story, making for an engaging and interactive experience.

Past meets present as an iPad displays old images

What’s especially interesting is how it’s all integrated throughout the exhibit.You can view old video footage of the ship and photos on an iPad with a timeline of Titanic’s history.  Old photographs of the ship’s interiors and a wall adorned to emulate the first-class decor are displayed in the same area as a video of Titanic director James Cameron discussing the ship.

Details of the Titanic model

A model of the bow as it looks now

Larger displays include an 18-foot model of Titanic, complete with tiny lounge chairs on deck; replicas of a lifeboat and life jackets that were used in the movie; a reconstructed Marconi Room, where the ship’s communications took place; and a model of the bow discovered on the ocean floor. All were designed with remarkable detail.

Sending messages

Owen particularly enjoyed the interactive displays. A Morse Code station, back-to-back desks set up with systems to transmit signals included a list of codes that we could actually send for the other person to decipher.  We also spent a good amount of time at a digital interactive table searching for the ships ruins, then walking along an image of the ship’s bow projected onto the floor, each step highlighting 3-D images of an area.

Searching for artifacts

There are some eerie parts to the exhibit, too (not that a whole exposition dedicated to 100 years of obsession over a sunken ship and thousands of lost lives isn’t kind of eerie in itself).  To learn about how the communications officer ignored messages about icebergs from other ships because he was sending telegrams for first-class passengers was disturbing, as was the timeline of distress calls after disaster struck.

A short video featuring Bob Ballard, an oceanographer who was part of the team that found the ship’s remains, chronicles the search and discovery of the sunken vessel.  And later, James Cameron, who has continued to conduct his own explorations, walks viewers through a digital depiction of the ship’s final moments in another video at the end of the exhibit.

A video about the ship's final moments

On the way out, a wall is lined with movie posters of all the films about the Titanic.  And the “parting shot” is a ship’s bow, where guest could climb aboard for their own “King of the World” moment. Owen and I decided to skip it; somehow, it seemed more apropos for Leo and Kate.

Titanic: 100 Year Obsession is on exhibit at the National Geographic Museum through September 9.  The exhibition is included in museum admission: $8/adults, $6/members & military, $4/ages 5-12, free for children under 5. The museum is open 10am – 6pm daily.



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