by Nancy Bestor
In Washington, D.C. this summer our family spent a hot Saturday afternoon inside the insanely crowded but extremely cool (in both temperature and attitude) Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The museum has truly amazing exhibits that include the Wright Brothers’ first airplane, and the rocket that launched Alan Shepard into space in 1961, to name just a couple. Housing over 60,000 objects, there’s a reason that more than 8 million people pass through its turnstiles every year, and make it the most visited museum in the United States. Although they weren’t ALL there on the day we visited, a great number were, and as I wandered throughout its two levels, either patiently waiting my turn or elbowing my way to the front of exhibits to read about them, I couldn’t help but observe (and hear) my fellow museum visitors.
A large portion of the conversations I could hear were not happy conversations. I’ll come clean here, I was eavesdropping—it’s one of my greatest pleasures vices. Parents were trying to explain to their very bored teenage children why a particular exhibit was important. Men were talking about historic space related events to women who were surfing Facebook on their smart phones. Families were bickering and children were crying. I could go on and on.
Now I know, there were plenty of people at the Air and Space Museum that day having a perfectly delightful time (thousands and thousands and thousands of them), us included. But of course my eavesdropping ears didn’t hear the good comments in the air, only the bad ones. And I couldn’t help but wonder why people who are not at a museum because they want to be, go to museums at all. If you’re on vacation, shouldn’t you do the things you WANT to do, the things that make you happy? Just because a guidebook or friend tells you that you HAVE to visit the Air and Space Museum when you are in Washington, D.C. it doesn’t mean you MUST visit, right?
There have been plenty of cities that Bob and I have visited where we skipped one of its “best” museums, either because the line was too long, or we simply didn’t want to go. I can only take so much museum time in my life (I feel the same way about golf, sacrilege to my husband, I know). When my internal museum timer goes off, I’m ready to hit the road, usually to eat something delicious. My skipping a museum here or there doesn’t mean I have missed out on a city’s best offerings. It just means I am choosing the best offerings of a city FOR ME. Now I’ll see as many of a city’s best food stalls as I can, because that’s how I choose to spend my vacation time.
So next time you’re in Washington, D.C., if you want to skip the Air and Space Museum, you go right ahead and skip the Air and Space Museum. You have my permission.