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“The tower of books about Abraham Lincoln, symbolizing that the last word about this great man will never be written.” – Ford’s Theatre

Last month we were in Washington, D.C. and we visited the Ford’s Theatre Museum and Center for Education and Leadership.  One of the most amazing sites was the 34-foot tower of books about Abraham Lincoln.  Fifteen thousand books about our most honored and reveled president in history proves that it is unlikely that the fascination and desire to learn about Lincoln will never end.  My son and I are definitely intrigued to learn every detail about Abraham Lincoln’s life just like all the authors of those books and the millions that have read them.

Of course I have read some great books on Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln on Leadership, Killing Lincoln, and Presidential Courage which highlights Lincoln’s presidency in three chapters) and my son has read Chasing Lincoln’s Killer in school.  Learning about Lincoln from the written page combined with our love of historical travel has put us on a “Lincoln Expedition” over the last couple of years.  Below is a picture gallery of the places we visited to learn about one of our country’s greatest presidents who had the character and courage to preserve our country and abolish slavery.  I wish I could tell you that I had a favorite place, but seeing his humble home in Springfield, Illinois, going to Gettysburg, following his second inaugural ball dance steps in what is now the National Portrait Gallery, or seeing where he lost his life at the Ford’s Theatre makes it too difficult because each place had their own historical significance and I felt a connective pull to history at each visit.  One place I will never get tired of seeing is the Lincoln Memorial and I can’t help but stand in awe each time I visit.  I love it so much I want to go to Chesterwood in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to learn about Daniel Chester, the sculptor of the memorial.  In addition to visiting Chester’s home, believe it or not, there are numerous other places we want to visit to increase our knowledge about Lincoln and making our way to Kentucky is on our list of places to see.

Until our next trip, we have countless memories of a president that I sometimes feel like I personally met.  We are also counting down the days to two new movies. On November 16th Daniel Day-Lewis will star in the new movie LincolnKilling Lincoln which is based on O’Reilly’s book is set to air on Nat Geo Channel in early 2013 with Tom Hanks.

 Lincoln’s legacy will forever live.

Abraham Lincoln’s Home in Springfield, Illinois

2009 – Celebrating the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth by visiting his home in Springfield, Illinois.

Great Western Depot

After a short speech to his friends and family who came to see him off, Abraham Lincoln left the Great Western Depot on his inaugural journey to Washington with his oldest son Robert.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

David Wills House 

Abraham Lincoln crafted the Gettysburg Address at the David Wills House.

Lincoln at Gettysburg

This monument marks where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.

National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery used to be the U.S. patent office…it is one Washington’s oldest public buildings, being built only after the white house and capitol. When we visited, we were lucky enough to enjoy “The Honor of Your Company Is Requested:  President Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball” Exhibit.

Ford’s Theatre 

2012 – In front of Ford’s Theatre

The Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre

Petersen House

The bed in the Petersen House where President Lincoln took his last breath.

National Museum of American History

The hat that Lincoln wore the last night of his life is on view at the National Museum of American History.

Lincoln’s Tomb

The final resting place for Abraham Lincoln and all of his family except his eldest son. Robert Lincoln rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Lincoln’s Memorial

One of the most beautiful places in Washington, D.C.

What books have you read about Abraham Lincoln?  After I read Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, I had to see the Ford Theater and the Petersen house for myself!   Have you ever read a book that lead you to a historic site?   

The quote says it all.

At the Gettysburg Visitor Center

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The family at the Air and Space Museum in March 2012.

Washington, D.C.  is one of my favorite places to visit and I love the Smithsonian.  Seriously, with so many museums and exhibits to choose from there always is a reason to visit! Another great perk is that the Smithsonian museums are FREE! Okay, well I know the FREE part has your attention, but maybe you are concerned that your kids and museums might not mix and you don’t want to hear the dreaded “this is boring” whine; NO WORRIES, museums today are filled with interactive exhibits, live demonstrations, and fun family events. To see for yourself, check out my three exhibit picks for the National Air and Space Museum when you plan on visiting Washington, D.C.

The Wright Brothers & Invention of the Aerial Age– Seeing the original 1903 Wright Flyer is pretty cool in itself.  There is also 150 artifacts and 250 photographs to view, but the kids will gravitate to the hands-on stations and the computer stations which will help them understand how the Wright brothers took flight 109 years ago.

The original 1903 Wright Flyer.

How Things Fly– Hands-on activities guide visitors through the interactive gallery which explains the principles of air and space flight.  This exhibit is divided into seven sections and has more than 50 interactive activities for kids.  Highlights are the model of the International Space Station and a section of the Boeing 757 fuselage. In addition there is an area where “Explainers” perform demonstrations kids can enter a paper airplane contest!

How Things Fly – Control and Stability Interactive

America by Air– This exhibit focuses on the early years, airline expansion and innovation, propeller airlines and the jet age.  Kids will have a great time checking out the cockpit of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

The boys with my Dad.

Outside of the exhibits, kids also will love the flight simulators, the space show at the planetarium and the IMAX shows.  As I mentioned earlier the museum is FREE, but these add-ons come with an admission price.

The other part of the Air and Space Museum is at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.  Here you will find two gigantic hangers.  One is for aviation artifacts and one is for space artifacts – where the Space Shuttle Discovery now calls home.  This place is a dream for air and space fans!  Parents will have just as much fun as their kids marveling at the Enola Gay (the WWII plane that dropped the first atomic bomb) and checking out rocket boosters and spacewalk capsules.  To cap off the day, make sure you visit the control tower and watch planes land and takeoff at Dulles Airport.

Space Shuttle Discovery passes the Washington Monument on April 17, 2012 on its way to its new home at the Air & Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. (Photo posted on Facebook by The American History Museum)

Have you been to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum?  What was your favorite thing your family enjoyed?  Let me know!  

Also, please comment and share your experience if you check out the Space Shuttle Discovery!

National Air and Space Museum. National Mall at Independence Avenue at 6th Street, SW. Tel. 202-633-1000. Open every day except Dec. 25. Regular hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Extended summer hours apply to certain days from late March to early Sept.; call for details.  www.nasm.si.edu

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly. Tel. 202-633-1000. Open every day except Dec. 25. Regular hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Extended summer hours apply to certain days from late May to early Sept.; call for details.  www.nasm.si.edu/udvarhazy

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March 18, 2012 . . . Enjoying the Cherry Blossoms

Wearing Green for St. Patrick's Day at the Tidal Basin.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ceremonial planting of the Japanese flowering cherry trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.   My family was fortunate to take in the beauty of the Cherry Blossoms this past weekend thanks to spring arriving a little early.  In addition to their beauty, we learned that the trees are also a historic and diplomatic landmark.

In 1912 the Mayor of Tokyo gave 3,020 cherry trees to the city of Washington, DC as a gift to honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan.  On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin.  The first “festival” occurred in 1927 when a group of school children reenacted the initial planting.

The Cherry Blossom Festival has grown since then and this year it is March 24th through April 15th.  There are  ranger-led programs like “Cherry Talks” and “Lantern Walks” scheduled to celebrate the 100th anniversary.  Bike Tours on the weekends and 3.5 mile Cherry Chit-Chat Run on Saturdays are also scheduled through the National Park Service.  Kids can also join in on the fun at the Bloomin’ Jr. Ranger Tent at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial by earning Jr. Ranger Badges with hands on activities between 10:30 am and 4 pm on the weekends.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Families might also enjoy viewing the “Sea of Cherries” while enjoying a picnic lunch or from the water on a paddle boat.  It is recommended to reserve a paddle boat in advance on-line through Tidal Basin Paddle Boats.   A two passenger boat is $12 an hour and a four passenger boat is $19 hour.

Paddle Boats on the Tidal Basin with the Washington Monument in the background.

Two other events not to be missed is the Blossom Kite Festival on March 31st and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 14th.  For more information about other events check out the official site of the National Cherry Blossom Festival or download the 2012 Festival app to your phone.

Taking a break from sightseeing.

According to the people of Japan, the cherry blossom trees, also known as Sakura, bear a deep important symbolism that has drawn people together for generations. This past weekend these magnificent trees brought three generations of my family together.  I hope your family will also be able to enjoy the same experience over the next two weeks by celebrating 100 years of the gift of trees.

100th Anniversary of the Cherry Blossoms.

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