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Day 8, Saturday, June 23, 2012: Today was such a fun day. Alaina and I met up with Karon early this morning and headed to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, which I must say, is absolutely awesome! We saw more species of animals thatthe museum had preserved than I think I have ever seen in my life. It was absolutely fascinating! There were animals from every continent on display.

One of the most interesting parts of the museum was the dinosaurs and other large mammal/sea creature skeletons. There were sloths that were 20-feet tall when standing fully upright, there was a snake (replica) called the Titanoboa that was 48-feet long! (The longest found snake in the world. It was 60 million years old, from Peru in the Amazon, and was longer than a school bus. It ate alligators for lunch…if the Lochness Monster tale didn’t come from a creature similar to this one, I don’t know where they came up with the idea for Nessie. It was unbelievable!)

Of course one of the crowd favorites was the Hope Diamond and other gems (the quartz and rock collections were unbelievable also). One of my personal favorites in this area were the rock/gems that were turquoise with other blues and greens mixed in. They were absolutely breathtaking. One of the most interesting pieces (besides the Hope Diamond) that the gem collection housed was a pair of earrings worn by Marie Antoinette. They were dangle teardrop diamonds surrounded by more diamonds (and it was just cool to see something that she wore in real life). There was also a stunning necklace that Napoleon gave to his wife, along with many other pieces.

One of the most amazing rooms (and my personal favorite) in the Museum of Natural History was the photography showcase with 48 prints of outstanding wildlife photographs from the contest that the Smithsonian holds annually. 48 of the 138 photographs that were selected by judges as the best (chosen out of 20,000) were displayed. That rooms beauty was unexplainable (basically, GO SEE IT).

Another fun room was the Ocean Hall, where they had a replica of one of the whales that they track in the ocean, named Phoenix, (she is currently 25 years old, and is 25-feet long at least). One of the most interesting things that was housed in this part of the exhibit was the Giant Squid (yes, they are real). It was caught in a fisherman’s net, and prior to being preserved, it was 36-feet long (now it’s about 25 feet). It was so cool
to see it! They also had an aquarium tank in that exhibit with a live coral reef (and fish that were all in Nemo…minus the sharks). (There were even skeletons and replicas of that fish in Nemo with the light bulb thing on this head…it was so cool to actually see one!)

After a while, naturally lunch time rolled around, and we were all starving, so we left the Museum of Natural History for a bit and ventured to the Museum of the American Indian to eat lunch in their cafe. It was absolutely delicious! We all highly recommend it to anyone who is hungry and near National Mall.

We returned to the Museum of Natural History and explored the rest of the museum, which included more skeletons of amazing and large animals, an Amazon exhibit, an Egyptian exhibit, the exhibit of history through bones and the origin and evolution of humans (HIGHLY recommend this one…we even saw a replica of Lucy! If you don’t know who she is…look her up. Awesome!), a butterfly/insect exhibit, and of course, all of the gift shops.

After we explored the rest of the museum, Alaina and I ran home to drop off things and get our cameras before we headed to the ZOO! (even though we only got to go for about an hour and a half before they closed–totally worth it!). We got to see the pandas, which were absolutely adorable, lions, tigers, gorillas, and orangutans. One of
the orangutans even walked up to the glass where we were standing and sat there (eating a bamboo shoot) and basically hung out/modeled for the cameras for about 10 minutes! It was such a fun experience! The lions and tigers were also up and moving around! We then headed

back on the Metro to our dorm where we spent a lovely evening sampling our neighbors’ cooking (one of them made fried okra…yum!) and chatting with them while we waited on our laundry to finish up. We then settled in after a long day on our feet and are currently resting up before our adventures begin tomorrow.