Other area sites provide relief from the same D.C. tourist traps

Remember freshman year when your parents came for Parents Weekend?

You were a wide-eyed freshman who thought you would be branded as a geek for your entire college career if you were seen with your parents. Or perhaps you were ahead of your time and realized they were people too. Whether you saw your parents as aliens or people, you had to take them to all the Washington, D.C. tourist traps. Who knew how long you would last in the city?

Well, you lasted four years – or maybe even a few more – and now your parents are coming for Commencement. Without a doubt, they will show up teary-eyed, grinning proudly and thankful they have finished paying tuition.

And, most likely, they will want to return to D.C.’s tourist traps one last time.

As a college graduate, you want to be drinking. But they are your parents and they want to hit the sites. So as a mature college graduate, you will take them. Just think – it’s the last time you’ll have to do it. And besides that, they are your parents, and they do go to bed early.

If you’ve been here for four years, you’ve seen the Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR and Vietnam War memorials. The Smithsonian museums always are alluring, but you’ve undoubtedly been to them a few times too. Fortunately, D.C. has museums and other landmarks scattered throughout the city that qualify as tourist sites but don’t fall into the category of tourist traps.

The Phillips Collection

Near Dupont Circle, the Phillips Collection sits nestled among rows of quaint houses. The building was the home of Duncan Phillips, an avid art lover. In 1921 he opened two rooms of his home to the public so others could enjoy his art collection. Since then, other rooms have been opened and annexes have been built to house the extensive collection of modern art. The permanent collection of the museum contains the brilliant works of Monet, Picasso, Matisse and other well-known artists. Currently, Georgia O’Keeffe: The Poetry of Things is on display at the Phillips. The exhibit contains 68 works, dating from 1906-1963.

During the week admission is free, but a contribution is encouraged. Admission on the weekend is $6.50 for adults, $3.25 for seniors and students and free for those 18 and under. The O’Keeffe exhibition requires tickets for a specified half-hour time slot. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $7 for seniors and students.

National Building Museum

If the mid-May heat and humidity are sweltering, you might be longing for a little air conditioning. If so, then travel to the National Building Museum and visit the exhibition Stay Cool! Air Conditioning America.. It focuses on the impact the air conditioner has had on America. The exhibition features photo murals, artifacts, television commercials and advertisements, air-conditioning equipment and interactive displays to tell the history of air conditioning. While the concept of the exhibition may seem a bit bizarre, it definitely is unlike any other exhibition in D.C. Admission to the museum is free.

The Kennedy Center

A short walk from campus, you can head to The Kennedy Center to catch a show or just to walk around. Volunteers for The Kennedy Center lead tours throughout the day. Unlike many boring tours where the guides tell you a bunch of worthless tidbits, these tours are intriguing. The tour leader takes you into rooms that are otherwise inaccessible to visitors and they point out The Kennedy Center’s little nuances that make it unique.

Another noteworthy point about The Kennedy Center is the Millennium Stage. The Kennedy Center offers a free performance on the Millennium Stage each night at 6 p.m. The atmosphere is more casual than typical Kennedy Center shows, but the quality of the shows is the same. Members of the National Symphony Orchestra will play chamber music Friday. Percussionist Leon Parker takes the stage Saturday, presenting a concert that combines vocals and body rhythm.

Other unique exhibitions can be found in the museums throughout the city, and a plethora of theaters offer daily performances. If nothing else, take your parents to Georgetown to do some shopping.

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