Mr. Non-believer goes to Washington


Thanks again to those who have kicked in to help me this year! I’m maybe 20% of where I need to be. A snail-mail address is linked above for those who don’t use Paypal. In unrelated news, I’ll be visiting Washington, DC this month, for a few days beginning around the 15th, and could use any suggestions on things to see or places to go (The Air & Space Museum is at the top of my list). It’s part of a science-y engineering side project I’m working on, nothing to do with skepticism or evolution or anything like that, but it’s a trip I don’t have to pay for and might result in some paid work. Which is great, because it’s not just me who’s broke, blogs all over are hitting their readers up this season. In large part because advertising pays much less than it once did. A LOT less. And our side just doesn’t have the kind of financial infrastructure, i.e., a zillionaire donor network, paid fellowships and cushy consulting jobs, cross-site lead generation, commissions from book and CD sales, all that stuff means my ideological counterparts don’t have to practice a hobby: they enjoy a career.


  1. johnb says

    I never miss (and never tire of) the Lincoln Memorial as a reminder that progressive politics eventually triumphs. Local friends tell me there is a great view from the old Central Post Office. This is an alternative to the Washington Monument which was closed by the earthquake the last time I heard.

  2. nora says

    The Naural History Museum is near Air and Space and is also a great place to visit. And like all the Smithsonian facilities, it’s free. You could spend days wandering from building to building.

  3. TxSkeptic says

    I would make more recommendations, but when I was in DC recently, everything was shut down!

    Air & Space definitely would have been top of the list, but I’m speaking of the one in Chantilly, Virginia where they have the BIG exhibits in a couple of big hangers. Displays include an SR-71 Blackbird, the infamous Enola Gay, and the shuttle Discovery.

    2nd on the list was Montecello – quite a trek, and it was open, but the spouse didn’t want to go that far astray.

  4. catbutler says

    I used to like sitting on Einstein’s lap when I lived in DC too many years ago. Very peaceful, especially at night.
    It’s basically across the street from the Vietnam Memorial right near the Lincoln Memorial. It’s basically just old Al sitting and looking out over the universe, but I got a lot of musing in at that spot.

    Not sure if it’s worth a side trip or not (they don’t always have a lot open to the public), but the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, MD does a lot with Chesapeake Bay Preservation, etc.

  5. johnhodges says

    The National Zoo in Washington D.C. is world-class, on a par with London and San Diego.
    Nearby is Baltimore, where they have the National Aquarium. There is an all-indoor aquarium in Washington, I don’t remember what it is called….
    If you like Art museums, there is one next door to the Smithsonian, (may be part of the complex of buildings known as the Smithsonian.)
    I second the suggestion of the Natural History Museum.
    Find the website of Constitution Hall, (IIRC), a huge performance hall, privately-owned venue (I think by the DAR) where music and lectures happen often. See what’s playing when you’re there, might be interesting.

  6. Nomad says

    I’ll add the National Museum of the American Indian as a suggestion. But in particular get a guided tour. You don’t really get to pick your guide and I don’t know if the one I had is even still working there, this was a few years ago, but I got a great guide who had this skill at navigating through giving us things to think about and challenging our preconceptions without getting too far into the whole white guilt thing. And that’s not sarcasm, I respect the way he was able to do that without putting us on the defensive.

    For instance, you know that one historical event we’ve all been taught in school about how a Native American woman organised a food drive to deliver food to the encamped troops at Valley Forge? Yeah, neither did I. I think the point was to get us thinking about why we never hear of it, not just that it’s a good story.

    The guided tour of the Air and Space Museum can be good too. The guides know stuff that isn’t there in the displays, they can tell you stories and put things in a context that you don’t necessarily get just by exploring on your own. They do take up time, and as others have mentioned it’s a huge museum and if your time is limited you might want to make the most of it by wandering on your own, but I’ve gotten something out of the tours just by following them for a bit and eventually drifting away.

    Do check out the drone exhibit at the Air and Space Museum. All I’ll say its it’s sobering. Maybe it’s just that it’s the most immediate change in the way wars are fought in this generation, but I found it more troubling than the Enola Gay, which to me feels more like a historical footnote. Drones are happening now, we’re using them to reshape the world in ways that I’m not sure are always even to our benefit.

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