Monday, August 26, 2013

Hometown Tourist

It’s good to play the tourist in your hometown from time to time. This past weekend we had a close friend from college come in for a visit, and so my husband and I took the weekend off from stress and chores and home maintenance and went out to play with our daughter and our friend. On Saturday we went up to the Maryland Renaissance Faire, which is a longstanding tradition for my husband and I, and something that our friend loves too. Our focus has shifted now that we are attending with an almost three year old and so this time around instead of browsing the market stalls we focused on playgrounds and elephant rides (yes, we rode a real elephant – which is cool no matter how old you are!) and flower crowns. On Sunday we went into downtown D.C. and discovered two new places.

The first find was a restaurant, Hill Country Barbecue, located in downtown D.C. 
Hill Country BBQ 410 7th St NW DC
( My husband and I have been looking for a barbecue restaurant that we think is good after moving from San Antonio, TX a few years ago. As you can imagine our standards are pretty high, but Hill Country Barbecue did a great job. Their brisket was just right and served with white bread which is the classic way to do it. The german potato salad was cool and tangy and the pinto beans had just the right amount of heat. Their sausage wasn’t quite to my taste (a little too greasy, but I will definitely try the jalapeno cheddar sausage next time) and the tea was way too sweet but overall it felt almost like being back in San Antonio (minus the friends we miss…) The restaurant d├ęcor felt very “cowboy” and the service was friendly and prompt. We will definitely be heading back there, particularly on an evening when there is live music. Which, from their schedule, looks like almost every evening during the week!

Our second find was The National Building Museum (, which is not new at all
Central Hall, National
Building Museum
but which somehow has just never made our agenda. I’ve been there before attending the Smithsonian Craft Show with my stepmother, but we’ve never gone just to experience the exhibits. Boy, were we missing out. It’s not part of the Smithsonian but the $8 admission fee was well worth it. First of all, they have an awesome indoor play area for kids ages 2-6 called The Building Zone. It’s included with museum admission but they also sell tickets for only this part of the museum. They had more kinds of blocks than I knew existed, plus a play house, toy tools and construction vehicles, train sets and a dress up area. Our friend and I spent a delighted 45 minutes with my daughter building towers and knocking them down while my husband played the indoor mini golf course (which is sadly a temporary exhibit). Their main area, for which admission is not required, features an enormous open space supported by pillars with a central fountain. The museum was not at all crowded and so my daughter, who has recently discovered the delights of running as fast as possible, had a blast racing us from one end of the hall to the other. The other exhibit we particularly enjoyed was a model of a green classroom that explained how green building techniques in school can support learning and save money in addition to protecting the environment.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “busy-ness” of life. Many times our weekends are filled with errands and chores with a little fun crammed in around the edges. Which is not a terrible thing; life requires a certain amount of maintenance and part of living well is learning to enjoy the daily routines and duties as well as the fun. It’s lovely, though, to step back for a weekend and focus on enjoying time with people I love. Whether it’s riding an elephant with my friend, sharing barbecue with my husband or getting lost in blocks with my daughter, sometimes it’s great to just be a tourist at home.