Mini tourist sites DC

So I did two new things this week in DC itself.  The first consisted of going to the tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion.  For DC residents, this is the beautiful, grand federal office building that Trump recently began leasing from the US government for 60 years, to turn into a luxury hotel called the Trump International Hotel Washington (egad).  When I worked at the Smithsonian, friends and I went there at least a couple times a week to the food court.  Unfortunately in the process of restoring the building, the food court businesses have been kicked out, including the bagel lady from whom we used to get the evil butter-fried spinach sandwiches.  I miss her.

One view of the inside of the Pavilion.  See the Wikipedia reference for more.

One view of the inside of the Pavilion. See the Wikipedia reference for more.

But I had never gone up in the tower, though it is the third highest view of DC, is run by the National Park Service and is free (and will remain so even when the hotel opens).  It was one of those things that was always there, and rated a ‘next time.’  This week, I decided it was about time.  Although I no longer work for the Smithsonian, I still am within walking distance, so a colleague and I took a break on a glorious Friday afternoon, and walked in.   Pretty much literally.  I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to wait in line for a tourist attraction in DC (Oh yeah, the National Aquarium in the basement of the Commerce building.).  Still, it was great.  Go through security, up one elevator, up a second one, and walla:  a great view of DC.

A nice, laid-back view.  Not packed with tourists!

A nice, laid-back view. Not packed with tourists!

No, this place is not open during the inaugural parade.

No, this place is not open during the inaugural parade.


My former employer - the National Museum of Natural History (with dome). .

My former employer – the National Museum of Natural History (with dome).

We then went down three flights to view the bells in the tower.  One of my friends, Andy, used to (still does?) ring the bells in the tower, and I always thought they were much smaller!  Good job Andy.

The bells - these were given in 1976.

The bells – these were given in 1976.

And that was basically it, except the Park Ranger there told us that the Old Pavilion was the first modern building built in DC – as it was the first built on a steel frame in 1899.   Today, most of us Washingtonians think it’s absolutely beautiful – though it appears from the Wikipedia article that it was considered poorly built (the marble floor had issues, for instance), and was outdated soon after it opened because of so many advances in building construction at the time.  It has been threatened with demolition many times in the 1900s but now is considered a DC historic treasure (I agree).  It has also been mismanaged, and hasn’t made a profit in decades.  So I guess it is good it is being renovated into a hotel, but we shall see.

So speaking of hotels, to celebrate a friend’s birthday (from back in November, because I am that good of a friend) we also went to the relatively brand new National Harbor still being built just south of DC in Maryland.  First opening about six years ago, the harbor is one of those planned destinations – conference center, hotel, restaurants, shops, and soon to be casino, all in a compact, walkable area on the water.  I’ve been curious about the water part, but not so much the former.   And now that I’ve gone – yes, the water is nice, and it is lovely to walk on the piers.  As for the rest of it – eh – it’s just an open air shopping mall.


The only store really different was the Peeps store.


(Peeps are a Washington tradition thanks to the annual Peeps diorama competition.)

So, though I wasn’t a great fan of the National Harbor, it is good to try new things.  I just wish I had waited until later!  A giant Ferris wheel being built – but it’s not ready.  Darn.  Maybe later this summer, I’ll go over – this time on the water taxi, ride on the Ferris wheel, and hang out on the boardwalk.

Future Ferris Wheel

So, coming up – seeing a ballet, and roller derby.

4 thoughts on “Mini tourist sites DC

  1. I’m so glad you documented those details of the POP before they get decimated by Trump. Its atrium and others like Union Station’s, American Art Gallery’s, Building Museum, Air and Space, National Art are one of my favorite aspects of DC. I agree that taking out the ‘people’s level” venders of POP sucks–they were one of the POP’s unspoken treasures.

    • Thanks Tim! It is a gorgeous atrium and building compared to so many federal buildings built in the 1970s and 80s. This one lifts you up mentally (though I’m sure the managers of the HVAC system have issues with it. I so hope that there are limits on what Trump can do to it… It is on the National Historic Register.

  2. Pingback: The Year 2014 in Adventures | adventuresacross2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s