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Four Fantastic Places visited on my Vacation

18 December, 2017

On my most recent vacation, taken with my lovely wife, we headed up to the Washington DC area and then down to Williamsburg, VA, for a brief stay.  These are the places we went that were both new to me and a worthwhile visit for just about anyone.  In the order we visited them:

Unusual WeaponsThe National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.  An amazing collection of weaponry and organized to tell how the firearm intertwines with the history of the United States, primarily through wars but also hunting, exploration, law enforcement and sports.  There is even a room with weapons that have shown up in movies and other media.  If you have any interest in guns, you will find things to interest you here, from Gatling guns to flintlocks, six-shooters to automatics, they are all in the collection.  Usual and unusual weapons, common and unique ones, a brilliant and fascinating collection.  Full disclosure, this museum is located in the NRA HQ but it is free, so visiting it is not a political statement (unless you want it to be).

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall which is impressive and still, a year after its opening, amazingly popular requiring reserved passes to get in (so check before you go, we only got in because someone else in line had spare passes).  We only had time to make it through the extensive history section (3+ floors!) before it was time to go, so we will be back.  The history section starts with the transport of enslaved Africans to the Americas and that is not a cheerful journey.  Then through the slave-holding era and the vast cruelty of that system and its end in the fires of the Civil War.  One ascends through the Jim Crow years to the triumphs (if still incomplete) of the Civil Rights era.  As mentioned, we did not even really even get to explore the culture section at all but we will.  The Restaurant here is quite excellent as well.

Filipino WeaponsThe National Museum of the Marine Corps covers the history of the US Marines from their founding during the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War (later periods are in process).  A short movie introduces the Marines through the people who have served, we arrived at a quiet time, so it was just Laura and I in the theater  The earlier periods have lots of good historical artifacts and interesting history, naturally with a pro-American, pro-Marine basis, but that is expected.  Once you get to the Great War, they start really using technology to give you a feel of some of the major events; A mock clearing and a video loop of advancing across the field into German gunfire for the Great War.  The Korean War area has a literal cold room to step into when they are discussing the Chosin Reservoir and the retreat from there during the bitter winter.  In the Vietnam section, you get to exit from a “helicopter” into a fire base.  All very effective for helping to imagine what being there must have been like.  Their are a few pieces on display for the -in process- modern galleries for Iraq and Afghanistan and the number of fascinating artifacts from buttons to tanks, backpacks to aircraft is overwhelming.  The onsite restaurant (and bar) is the Tun Tavern, styled after the birthplace of the corps, and serves excellent food.

Old CapitalOur last stop was Colonial Williamsburg where we did not have nearly enough time but we still managed to visit quite a bit.  The idea behind Colonial Williamsburg is to recreate the past through restoring the historic building and having people, well, roleplay as people from the colonial period many of whom have mastered skills of the time: wig-maker, silversmith, weaver, tailor and in all cases are well versed in what role their persona would have played in the colonial period.  So much to learn and experience from Colonial-era hot chocolate to watching a cannon drill, meeting flocks of heritage sheep and seeing a wig being made, just fabulous.  The College of William and Mary works with Colonial Williamsburg to build and maintain the skills, history and physical structure of the place.  For anyone interested in history, well worth the journey but try to have more time than we did, two days is probably sufficient, one is not.

So, a wonderful history filled trip.  All photos by me unfortunately the ones I took in the Smithsonian did not come out well.

Have you visited any of the places above?  What were your impressions?

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