International Spy Museum and National Zoo

April 6, 2014 – Sunday was another gorgeous, slightly chilly Spring time day in DC.  We decided that a walk into the city might be a bit more than we were interested in, so we hopped on the Metro instead.  As a side note, prices of the all-day Metro passes seemed to have risen a bit; unless you’re going to ride five or more times in one day you probably won’t break even, let alone save money.  We just did single fare cards and that seemed to work out well.

Crystal City
We started the day with a walk to the Metro station at Crystal City.

First up was the International Spy Museum.  The museum is a bit off the beaten tourist path, and does charge a relatively high entrance fee.  However, it’s also a neat place to visit if you’ve been to most of the other museums in DC and are looking for something a bit different.  We decided to play along and pick our identity to remember throughout the day; while Louisa was concerned that museum members would do the quizzing, you check your understanding of your “cover” via computers.  Make sure to look around the initial waiting room, too – they had artifacts from the Argo mission.  (And yes, that movie is still on my “to watch” list.)

China Town
You can get to the International Spy Museum via the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop.

Other highlights were the James Bond car, the Russian room, old US cartoons from WWII complete with warnings to not talk about troop movements, and crawling around inside a small stretch of ductwork.  We also tried our hand at finding the disguised spy; I must have clicked on almost every person in the video except for the one I was trying to find.

No, you don't have to climb through an air duct to get to Shake Shack.
No, you don’t have to climb through an air duct to get to Shake Shack.

We took a few hours to go through the museum, and were ready for lunch once we exited.  We’ve never been to Shake Shack in NYC, but we noticed one on the corner and thought a burger, hot dog (Dogmeister), cheese fries and beer sounded perfect.  They were crowded but we lucked out and found a seat at the counter along the window.  Let’s just say “ale roasted shallots”; they are as good as they sound.  Next time (and there will be a next time) I’m definitely ordering something with those shallots.

American Art Museum
The American Art Museum had quite a few interesting exhibits.

Next up on the “let’s do some new things in DC” portion of the trip was the Smithsonian American Art Museum, conveniently located across the street.  We weren’t as interested in the portraits as we were in the interesting architecture inside the building.  As a side note, if you’re carrying a water bottle into any art gallery it’s easier to just hide the bottle in a purse/bag before going through security; as long as the guards can’t see it in the open they tend to be okay with it.  This museum also has a few famous paintings of presidents, and a small but very nice landscape painting section.

Bau Bau
Bau Bau was a crowd favorite.

Next up, the Smithsonian National Zoo.  We took a metro ride and then enjoyed the walk to the zoo; the weather was perfect.  We immediately got in line to see Bau Bau the baby panda; one of the larger pandas was also out.  Bau Bau is very cute, and very small.  There was quite a crowd, but we both managed to get a nice view.  We also enjoyed the bird enclosure, heard the flamingos trumpeting, and stopped to look at 4 or 5 dozen black crowned night herons sitting in the trees.  Our final stop at the zoo was the rain forest section, to look at the birds and small monkeys.  As a PSA, don’t try to give a monkey your phone… eventually they’ll figure out how to grab it (although no phones were lost this trip, we just have a feeling that this type of behavior is not a good idea). And no, we weren’t the ones trying to loan our phone out… there was another group that had that honor.

Primate
“Who you gonna call?” Nobody, if this primate takes your phone.

We walked through Rock Creek Park to get back to the metro.  The path along the water is very pretty, although the hill at the end is a bit of a climb. Dinner tonight was at Hill Country BBQ, where we enjoyed corn pudding, brisket and sausage.  The food is good for DC BBQ, but we were definitely spoiled by the great BBQ that we had on our last trip to Texas.

Red-Crested Cardinal
We’d love to see this Red-Crested Cardinal in the wild.

Since the night was perfect we walked across the bridge to Arlington before catching the metro back to the hotel.  If you choose to do this make sure the metro is still running from Arlington Cemetery, otherwise you’ll have to walk back across the bridge towards the Lincoln Memorial.

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