Family Weekend: Sites to see

Students looking to entertain their families in town for the weekend can see new exhibits at traditional tourist attractions while taking advantage of a special offer making all Metro trips free Saturday and Sunday.

The Smithsonian Institution offers 16 museums varying from include art to aviation to history. All museums are free to the public and open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Visitors can check out a colonial-style home from Ipswich, Mass., that recently became part of a new permanent collection as the National Museum of American History, located on 14th and Constitution streets.

The exhibit, “Within These Walls,” describes the lives of five families who lived in the house throughout its 200-year history and how historical events impacted them.

At the National Museum of American History, “The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden” explores who the presidents were and the impacts of the job on their lives. Viewers can take a picture in front of a big-screen TV with an audience to make it appear that they are president.

Also at the museum, “Paint-by-Number: Accounting for Taste in the 1950s,” tells about the history of painting using number codes and how it became a popular hobby in the 1950s. Parents may find artwork from their childhood, and students can enjoy the wide range of amusing pictures.

Other museums on the National Mall worth a visit include the National Museum of Natural History, Freer Gallery of Art and the National Air and Space Museum.

The Smithsonian Institution has other museums around the city, including the National Postal Museum, which is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., by the Union Station Metro stop. A new exhibit, “Forwarding Address Required,” tells the story of Miss Clara Breed, a children’s librarian from San Diego, Calif., who used the mail to help keep in touch with Japanese children in internment camps during World War II. Breed went to the train station where the children were and sent more than 200 postcards with stamps to the children to write back to her. The exhibit shows their correspondences.

The Newseum, run by the Freedom Foundation, offers a glimpse in journalism history. It is a block away from the Rosslyn Metro stop on the Orange and Blue lines.

The National Zoo is another popular tourist destination that is part of the Smithsonian Institute. Panda bears that arrived last year from China have attracted large numbers recently. The panda exhibit is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. daily. The zoo is accessible by the Metro at the Woodley Park/Zoo stop and admission to the zoo is free.

For parents burnt out on museum and zoo visits, Georgetown, Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan are popular eating and shopping destinations.

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