An Intellectual Playground
by Michael Rhode
For me, Washington is not the political city featured in the Post, or the city of neighborhoods in George Pelecanos' novels. Washington's small town feel was quite a shock when I arrived for college in 1983, but I quickly grew to love the abundance of free cultural sites. On weekends I would walk down from George Washington University to roam the Smithsonian museums. I acquired a reputation as a hard tour master, as there was always just one more thing that we had to see before going back.
This remains true twenty-five years later. My free time has shrunk as my responsibilities and family have grown, but I still make the time for several favorite haunts: the National Zoo, the Smithsonian museums and National Archives, Arlington's Bon Air Rose Garden, the Botanic Garden and the National Arboretum, Shakespeare's birthday celebrations at the Folger Library, and going to hear authors, especially at Politics and Prose bookstore and the Library of Congress and see plays by Synetic Theater. I still love to take visitors to the National Cathedral or Mount Vernon. This year I toured sites that had escaped me over the years - the Franciscan Monastery, George Mason's Gunston Hall, Brookside Gardens... and there's always more to see...
Many places need repeated viewings - the new Oceans exhibit at Natural History was excellent, the Pompeii exhibit currently at the National Gallery of Art is absolutely stunning, and American History just reopened of course. The National Gallery of Art tempts me every month with its great gelato in the basement (which aids in luring my ten-year old daughter along) and surprise exhibits such as "George de Forest Brush: The Indian Paintings" that one ends up loving. For the intellectually curious traveler, Washington provides too much to do and see, and that's something to treasure.
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