History Museums & The National Mall
Continue your exploration of the Smithsonian museums with visits to the Museum of American History. The gift shop has unique gifts and there is a separate music shop with American folks, roots, blues, and rare recordings that have been collected and restored by the Smithsonian. If you love music, set aside an hour to browse that shop! This museum also houses Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Indiana Jones’s hat. Next, visit the Museum of Natural History and explore its treasures, including the Hope Diamond. If it’s cold or hot/humid outside, stay a while and enjoy an IMAX movie or proceed to the Air & Space Museum to see a showing at their IMAX. Air & Space is one of the most popular museums on the National Mall for good reason. You can see the Spirit of St. Louis and other planes actually used in the early exploration of air travel. Have lunch in one of the museum cafeterias, but realize that they are geared toward school groups and family visitors so the menu selection is limited. The newest museum on the Mall is the Museum of the American Indian and their cafeteria is an improvement. Enjoy touring the museum during the afternoon. Consider walking up to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial (west of the museums).
For an early dinner, return to Penn Quarter to get Potbelly sandwiches ordered to go. You’ve just made yourself a picnic. Walk down to the National Mall and settle in for dinner. If you are dining on a Monday night, you may be able to enjoy Screen on the Green. Every Monday night between mid-July and mid-August, a film is shown on the National Mall between 4th and 7th Streets. Admission is free and seating is first-come on blankets on the grass. No alcohol is permitted since it is National Park Service property, but picnics are encouraged. When I lived here, I went every week for a few years.