I had a birthday last week and spent it in Washington, DC with Mr. Right. We flew there to stay with our son Cory and our daughter-in-law Josie for a few days. Then Mr. Right flew to Europe for business, and I headed to New York City for a few days. This birthday was very special because the family made it all about me. None of them worked that day so that together we could do anything that I wanted to do. That meant so much to me. I wanted to do certain things, but I also wanted to make sure that we did things that all of us would enjoy. I thought that visiting the African American Museum would be a good start to the day, and it was. We spent five hours there and could have stayed many hours more. Than we saw “La La Land“, which I loved. We ended the day with dinner at my favorite DC restaurant, Le Diplomate. I learned it is owned by the same company that owns Parc, the restaurant I mentioned in this post.
Josie was able to get us five (her sister joined us) special passes to the museum which meant we didn’t have to wait in line. (See below to learn more about that.) The exterior reminded me of the crown of an African king.
One of the special treats of the day was a visit to the kitchen of the Sweet Home Cafe which showcases the rich culture and history of the African American people with traditional, authentic foods as well as present-day food traditions. (These photos were taken with my iphone, and there was not a lot of light. Sorry.)
We had a one-on-one with executive chef Jerome Grant. He talked to us about 15 minutes and gave us some fascinating statistics. For instance, they serve 1,200 pounds of chicken every two days. On their busiest day, they served 6,000 people. They take great pride in the food, and the selections are served based on regions of the country – the Creole Coast, the North States, the Agricultural South, and the Western Range. For instance, the selections in the southern section included fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese and more.
The restaurant serves so many catfish that their supplier in the Chesapeake Bay actually ran out and couldn’t catch any more fish. The kitchen now buys their catfish from a catfish farm. Statistics like this were just a small amount of the info he provided us. I want to add that he is only 34 years old.
The beginning of our tour was quite sobering. On the bottom floor we took an elevator down several stories and emerged into a dark, confining room with low ceilings. They wanted to give us the claustrophobic feeling that we would have gotten in the bowels of a slave ship bringing African Americans to the US. We then followed a walkway that took us up, up.
As we walked along studying the incredible displays, photos, and captions, the rooms became bigger and brighter. That walk represented their journey to freedom. It was very emotional.
When we returned to the bottom floor, we entered a room with a waterfall coming out of the ceiling. This provided a place to reflect on the experience we just had.
Ninety per cent of the visitors to the museum are African American, but it is for everyone.
Before we went upstairs to the rest of the museum, we ate lunch. We each made a selection so we could share and taste the different foods. We shared fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, oxtail soup (this is what the chef recommended), corn bread, salad, and apple pie.
Then we visited the remaining floors which were divided into categories like sports, entertainment, politics, daily life, etc. This lady was a hat maker, and they had many of her beautiful hats on display.
They featured the accomplishments of ordinary and extraordinary people. The dress on the left belonged to Dionne Warwick, and the one on the right belonged to her niece, Whitney Houston.
We all agreed that there was a lot of information to take in, and we each could have spent more time reading about the displays and artifacts. Five hours just weren’t enough.
Here are some tips to make your visit easier if you go:
– Plan your trip months in advance.
– There is no charge to visit any of the Smithsonian museums.
– You must have a timed pass in order to get in. Advance timed passes are released monthly. As of today, they are now providing advanced timed passes for May, 2017 will be available on Feb. 1.
– A limited number of walk-up passes are available after 1 p.m. weekdays.
– Wear proper clothing and walking shoes.
– Treat yourself to a meal at the cafe.
– Plan to spend the day in order to have enough time to see all of the exhibits.
We hope that each of you gets the opportunity to visit this outstanding museum.