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Posted at 5:04 PM ET, 11/28/2006

Send Them to the Other Mall

By Julia Beizer

Ah the holidays. The season of love, giving ... and hard-to-entertain relatives. If your aunt and uncle are taking up too much room in your apartment, send them to the National Mall for a day of good, old-fashioned culture. The permanent collections in town are all worth seeing in the take-advantage-of-these-free-museums-sometime sense, but the season's best exhibits also offer something for everybody. A-la-carte exhibit menu follows after the jump.

The Big Ones: The Phillips Collection's "Societe Anonyme" is a must for any lover of modernist art. Joseph Stella's "Brooklyn Bridge" is worth the $12 admission just by itself. (If you don't believe me, check out this gallery for a preview of the works on view.)

The National Gallery's photography exhibit "The Streets of New York" gives a fleeting celluoid glimpse into the soul of Manhattan during the mid-20th century.

Joseph Cornell's intricate boxes should be enough of a draw to lure your relatives into the recently reopened American Art Museum. If they haven't been in a while, the new light-filled spaces will be a welcome surprise.

Old School: More traditional art lovers on your hands? They might appreciate other National Gallery exhibits like "Constable's Great Landscapes" or "Prayers and Portraits."

Taste of D.C.: The best and brightest in the Washington art world now are represented in the Wilson Building's new City Hall Art Collection.

Galleries: The gallery scene is as busy as ever this season. My top picks include Kelly Towles's urban-inspried prints, Leo Villareal's light display at Conner Contemporary, intimate photographs of Elvis at Govinda gallery and Amy Lin's bubbly dot paintings at D.C. Arts Center.

With the Kids: The Zoo is a go-to activity for any family with kids, but this year's new Asia Trail is an added incentive. Glass enclosures mean that kids can get up close and personal with the otters, sloth bears and fishing cats on display.

The Air and Space Museum is another hot museum for the 8-year-old-boy set. The museum's "Earth From Space" exhibit shows off 40 photographs of our planet taken from space; even an adult could get into those.

History Buffs: The American History Museum may be closed for renovations, but the best of its collection can still be seen in a special exhibit, "Treasures of American History," at Air and Space.

The National Archives "Eyewitness" exhibit, which shows off primary sources, photographs and letters from throughout the course of American history, closes next month and it's certainly worth a visit before it's gone.

"Listening to Our Ancestors" is another exhibit that's out the door in January. Hundreds of artifacts on view -- including absolutely stunning masks -- tell the story of Native peoples from the Pacific Northwest.

Though not *technically* history exhibits, the Corcoran's "Joan of Arc" and the Portrait Gallery's "Josephine Baker: Image and Icon" both take long looks at these two amazing women.

Now that should keep them busy for a while.


By Julia Beizer  | November 28, 2006; 5:04 PM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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Great holiday list.

A couple more free things to do in DC for the holidays:
- the National Christmas tree at the Ellipse lighting ceremony on 12/7
- the Capitol tree lighting on 12/6
- the kid-friendly model railroad set at Union Station.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by: Jon | December 3, 2006 8:27 PM | Report abuse

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