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Exploring: National Building Museum
& Chinatown

2012 August 27
by Becky

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Since we woke to a rainy, cloudy Saturday, we decided it was time to cross an “indoor activity” off our list. Don’t get me wrong, we are thrilled to have a cool day…it’s been unbearable all summer so grey skies and some raindrops are kind of a welcome thing around here. But it means parks, pools, and walks are pretty much off the table. Good thing we have a city full of museums to visit!

We’ve heard great things about the National Building Museum, so we headed over to DC  to check it out. I was thrilled to see a LEGO exhibit on the website…we are a big LEGO family.

Our first glimpse of the museum from G Street was pretty incredible.

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Impressive all on it’s own, the immaculate brick exterior towers over its surroundings. The rich red brick is a sharp contrast to the white and grey buildings nearby. I guess if you are going to be a museum all about buildings, you need to be contained in something pretty darn awesome.

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It was originally the U.S. Pension Bureau’s headquarters, but designed specifically to hold elegant social and political events. I’m sure you can see, the Great Hall is spectacular. The columns and archways straight out of Rome—no really, the architect took inspiration from the Palazzo Farnese, Palazzo della Cancelleria, and church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

The Great Hall was set up for a function to be held the night of our visit. All I could think was “How do I get invited to this?!”

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See the row of tiny busts just under the roof line? Each with it’s own archway? I just loved walking through this place.

Ethan was not too impressed. He’s really into walking, not riding in his stroller, wherever we go. So our building gazing was cut short by The Peanut’s whining and requests to get “up”. So our first stop after the ticket counter ($8 for adults) was the LEGO® Architecture: Towering Ambition exhibit, (AKA Stop Whining Please).

As LEGO lovers, we were not disappointed!!

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They even had a LEGO Gateway Arch! The Burj Dubai tower was the most impressive though. Also on display were Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water house, Two World Trade Center (see it through the Arch), Empire State Building, Transamerica Pyramid (behind the Arch), and the John Hancock Building. One dude, a “LEGO Certified Professional” built them all. He is like Zack all grown up. You remember Zack, the “LEGO Maniac?”.

We merely glanced at the structures before Ethan heard the sound of little hands digging through millions of LEGOs (an unmistakable sound). So we headed straight for the kids section where he could be entertained while Stu and I took turns checking out the exhibit.

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There were TONS of LEGOs. The picture above is just one of the many HUGE toughs of the colorful little blocks. We are so used to playing with Ethan’s Duplo LEGOs that the regular sized ones felt minuscule in our hands. There were some serious builders in the room…like kids that visit the exhibit once a week and build amazing stuff that the rest of us are in total awe of. Show-offs.

There was a lot more to the Building Museum, which we explored after satiating Ethan’s walking and playing desires. We plopped him (kicking and yelling) into his stroller and handed him his milk and snack. Though every door in the place had huge “No Food, No Drinks” on them, we decided to risk it.

Thank our lucky stars, none of the docents said a word. Good thing, because we would have had one fussy Peanut on our hands without those snacks.

We did, however, follow the “No Photography” signs as we checked out the “Kevin Roche”, “Investigating Where We Live”, and “House & Home” exhibits. So to see more, you’ll just have to visit yourself!

A great thing about taking toddlers to this museum is there is very little to break. Little guys and gals can walk around without destroying any precious artifacts or climbing under a rope to access exhibits. A weight of any parent’s shoulders.

Added Note: While the museum does offer a “Building Zone” activity room for kids, we did not buy tickets for it during our visit (extra $3 per person). It has a limited capacity and was full during the time we were there. I wasn’t too disappointed since it’s just some trucks, big building blocks, and a little play house. Looked kind of like our living room. 

After two hours in the spectacularness, The Peanut was done and we all needed food. Good thing just two blocks from the National Building Museum is the heart of DC’s Chinatown.

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Doesn’t look like much, right?

Just my type of place. The best restaurants in these types of areas are so often the ones you’d never suspect. Nothing fancy, lots of words I can’t read on the menu, and low-key-but-quality customer service. I always say, the divey-er the better.

In all honesty, I didn’t just randomly pick this place…when trying something new with a toddler and a husband, some planning needs to take place. And while Stu is adventurous, he’s not quite as crazy about the “unknown” as me so I planned ahead by doing a quick google search of area recommendations before we headed out that morning. Full Kee seemed to be non-touristy, authentic, and yummy. Perfect.

Ethan immediately grabbed the chopsticks and got to banging on his plate. We had lunch stuff for him, so we weren’t too concerned about ordering kid-friendly food. All we needed was a high-chair for The Peanut, which our waitress happily provided after stowing our stroller. We ordered roasted duck, panfried noodles with beef and veggies, egg rolls, and some fresh dumplings. It was all really good. And came to a total of $20.

Ethan, never one to pass up food, liked the “ice” (rice), dumpling, and the noodles. He would hold his head back so I could guide the long, chewy, noodly goodness into his open mouth. He wasn’t the only one who thought it was hilarious—some of the waitresses enjoyed the show and couldn’t stop waving at him and requesting high fives.

We headed back to the car, which was parked at a meter right in front of the museum, in the misty rain while trading off carrying Ethan—he was, again, not feelin’ the stroller. I see this stroller stand-off becoming a problem in the very near future.

On that note, he’s also not loving the grocery store/target shopping cart. Huge problem since I feel like we grocery shop every other day, no matter how much meal planning I do.

What is your favorite rainy day activity? Do you have a trick for keeping that baby butt in the stroller or shopping cart? 

on a side note: 
HAPPY 35TH ANNIVERSARY SANDY & JOE!
can’t wait to celebrate it in October when you’re here 

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Lara permalink
    August 27, 2012

    Looks so fun! We’ll have to check the Building museum out soon.

  2. Grandpa Joe permalink
    August 27, 2012

    Wonderful Blog……………as usual.
    And thanks for the Anniversary greetings.
    Sandy and I are heading to the Emporium for lunch today.
    Joe

  3. Sandy Schon permalink
    August 27, 2012

    I want to live there!!!! So many interesting things to do. Glad you’re taking advantage of them while you can. Dad and I will head into DC and polish off a few ourselves in October.

    Thanks for the Anniversary Congrats!

  4. Kristan permalink
    August 27, 2012

    Wow, the Chinese place does look kind of sketchy! Way to go for trying it out!! The food looked pretty darn yummy to me!

    • Becky permalink*
      August 29, 2012

      It was exactly what we wanted. We’ll have to take the boys there sometime soon!

  5. August 27, 2012

    Steve is jealous of the lego mania and we’re both a little jealous of how much there is to do in DC regardless of the weather! :-) Looks like a fun weekend!

    • Becky permalink*
      August 29, 2012

      Don’t be jealous, just come visit! PS your baby bump is the cutest!!! Can’t wait to see you at Thanksgiving!

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