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Posted at 3:04 PM ET, 01/19/2009

The Scene on the Mall

By Stephanie Merry

The National Mall -- The biggest show in town is currently on display on the Mall and it stars a group of teenagers from Long Island wearing matching orange scarves, a perturbed teacher reprimanding a gaggle of students and one very frustrated Metro employee trying to get people to step away from the escalators once they've reached the top. The Mall hasn't seen this much action since spring break when high schoolers from around the country descend on D.C. for a taste of our nation's capital.

Admittedly, the tourist show is an acquired taste, but it's hard not to smile at a kid marveling at "that huge beluga" in Ocean Hall at the Natural History Museum. (Yes, it's actually a North Atlantic right whale, but who's counting?)

And of course getting around isn't easy. I'm not talking about the Metro, which seems to be doing just fine even though it's running on a weekend schedule for the MLK holiday. What I mean is it's literally difficult to take a step in any direction without walking right into someone's carefully constructed photo op.

While the endearingly excited tourists are enough of a reason for me to visit the D.C. museums, there are other draws. For one, the Museum of the American Indian is hosting the third and final day of its multicultural festival, "Out of Many." There were more people in the museum today than I have ever seen before. At noon, visitors were enraptured by the Hawaiian music of the Aloha boys (including the soothing sounds of a ukelele and conch shell) and dancing by Halau O 'Aulani, who with bare feet, garlands in their hair and Hawaiian printed red dresses brought a little slice of island life to this freezing city.

Meanwhile, the sweet familiar sounds of Bettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi were blaring near the National Gallery where jumbotrons are re-broadcasting yesterday's concert (this time with volume high enough to actually hear the performances). Closer to the Natural History Museum, a huge crowd has encircled Soledad O'Brien and her live afternoon broadcast.

While there are lines snaking out of the front doors of most museums as people crawl through security, the National Gallery is still its usual serene self. No need to elbow your way to the Monets or the Rodins.

In fact, I might suggest this destination for a certain Orange Line Metro driver, who would like everyone to know that an eight-car train has 24 doors, and can everyone please utilize all of them? I guess all the crowds can be a bit daunting for some, but when there are so many excited people in one small area, it's hard not to want to join in on the fun.

-- Stephanie

By Stephanie Merry  | January 19, 2009; 3:04 PM ET
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