Play Ball!: An All American Day In Washington D.C.

We’ve explored so many wonderful places in and around our nation’s capital, but opening this week is one that is as “All American” as mom, and apple pie, the exhibition Baseball: America’s Home Run at the National Postal Museum. After several pandemic-related delays, we’re thrilled to incorporate this collection of unique, rare, and intriguing artifacts into our full-day “All American” itinerary.

Start the day off with breakfast at Busboys & Poets, 450 K Street. They are known for their fantastic breakfast menu that features traditional American classics alongside vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free specialties. The Florentine benedict and sweet potato pancakes were among our favorites, although the omelets and French toast looked terrific. Busboys & Poets is more than a fantastic breakfast place; they have a wonderful bookstore that highlights authors who have contributed to the past and present great conversations. Their name refers to poet Langston Hughes, a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel before becoming a prominent literary figure. His quote, “Let America be America, where equality is the air we breathe,” is imbibed throughout the restaurant and bookshop.

Smithsonian National Postal Museum

Baseball: America’s Home Run

A quick 15-minute walk down Massachusetts Ave. N.W., and we arrive at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, home to the new Baseball: America’s Home Run exhibition. The crack of the bat, the taste of hotdogs and peanuts, and seeing the ball flying over the outfield wall to the roar of cheering fans are the sights, sounds, and tastes that define summertime. Through an astounding collection of artifacts and with the relatively novel lens of the sport as portrayed in postage stamps; explore the origins of the game, how the passion of American G.I.s playing baseball spread the sport, baseball’s role in ending segregation, and the legendary moments and stadiums.

Legendary Players, Jackie Robinson & Roberto Clemente Artifacts. Photo Courtesy of the National Postal Museum

Exploring the exhibit, we were drawn into how much of our understanding of baseball as America’s pastime has been shaped through visual images, in particular postage stamps. Seeing how players, historical moments, and stadiums have been portrayed highlighted the importance of the sport in the U.S. and around the world. The personal artifacts from Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, and Satchel Paige brought us closer to these legends in a way we hadn’t expected. Seeing the small paper ticket from April 15, 1947, just 75 years ago, and realizing that was the first time a Black man ever played in a major league baseball game, the seminal event of Jackie Robinson raising his bat was a catalyst for change in American society.

Through partnerships with other Smithsonian Institution museums, private collectors, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and the United States Postal Service’s esteemed Postmaster General’s Collection, this exhibit brings together hundreds of artifacts that document the richness that baseball has added to American life over the past century and a half, as well as its impacts in communities around the world. They say good things come to those who wait, and after the pandemic-induced delays, they are undoubtedly correct, as this exhibition was well worth the wait.

Washington Union Station

Around the corner from the Postal Museum is one of America’s most iconic train stations, Washington’s Union Station. Designed by renowned architect Daniel Burnham, this soaring neoclassical masterpiece was a critical element in the remaking of the capital at the turn of the 20th century. A central transportation hub, Union Station sees more than 100,000 passengers a day; however, we’re not here to board Amtrak’s Acela to Boston; we’re here to take in the station’s grandeur. The 96-foot high, gold leaf ceiling in the main hall, and the soaring vaulted entryway, lined with statuary, will transport us to the golden age of travel. While Union Station offers many dining options, we have something special planned for lunch, a rooftop picnic.

Washington Union Station

Rooftop Picnic Lunch

About a mile and a half from Union Station, atop the similarly, named Union Market is Hi-Lawn; an expansive rooftop green space with spectacular views, a picnic-style atmosphere, and a fun seasonal menu. What is more summertime than grabbing a hotdog, bag of chips, and juice box cocktail while hanging out in the backyard, or in this case, hanging out on a rooftop lawn. Hi-Lawn is a genuinely unique experience in D.C., one that we loved and think you will too.

The United States Capitol, Supreme Court, & Library of Congress

About half an hour’s walk from Hi-Lawn are the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress; these foundational institutions are at the heart of the American experience and should not be missed. Due to precautions related to the coronavirus, guided tours of these buildings are extremely limited and require planning; please visit the links below to each site for the most up-to-date information.

The U.S. Capitol building, with its distinctive architecture and magnificent dome, is easily the most recognizable American building globally, an icon of the nation and its government. First-time visitors are often in awe of the size and enormity of the building. With more than 600 rooms, 1.5 million square feet, across five levels, built atop an 88-foot plateau, the capitol is a monumental structure. Touring the capitol begins at the Capitol Visitor Center, before entering the public spaces in the main building. Inside the capitol building, you’ll be able to explore the Hall of Columns, Old Supreme Court Chamber, Crypt, Statuary Hall, the Old Senate Chamber, and the Rotunda. The House and Senate chamber galleries are also open to the public when in session.

The Capitol of the United States

The Library of Congress is our next stop, housed in the Thomas Jefferson building since 1897; this collection of American and international works is one of the world’s most significant collections of the written word. The connections to every aspect of American intellectual life are seen throughout the library, from the exceptionally rare Gutenberg Bible, the twelve zodiac constellations incircle the compass on the floor of the great hall,  the mosaic of Minerva (the Roman goddess of wisdom and defensive war), the fields of study in the ceilings of the second floor, and quotations throughout the building. The library’s new digital pathways, and self-guided tours, bring the magnificent building and its astounding collections to life.

The Supreme Court is adjacent to the Library of Congress. This building is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 precautions, but please check their website for news on accessibility; the outside of the building and grounds are open and are remarkable.

After touring these foundational institutions with their incredible art collections, history, and iconic structures, we’re heading south to the Anacostia River. The Judiciary Square Metrorail station is the closest to the Supreme Court; take the red line to Gallery Place, where you’ll switch to the green line heading south to the Navy Yard/Ballpark station. Head south along First St. SE from the Metrorail station towards the river and Nationals Park.

Riverside Dining

Along the riverfront of the Anacostia is The Salt Line Oyster + Ale, with sensational riverfront outside seating and some of the freshest seafood in the city. While many don’t think of D.C. as a seafood destination, the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay will quickly prove them wrong. To create an award-winning menu, Chef Kyle Bailey brings together New England and Chesapeake-inspired traditions. We loved the oysters on the half shell, they offer a rotating selection, and the Campanelle Al Polo was incredible. The seafood towers looked amazing, as did the Waterman’s platter. The 19 or so local beers on tap were also a treat.

Washington Nationals Baseball

After dinner, take in the ultimate summertime experience, a major league baseball game. The Washington Nationals will host 81 home games this year at Nationals Park; visit the team’s website for dates and times.  Nationals Park is a superior ballpark, with more than half the seats at ground level, all with excellent sightlines of the field and enthusiastic hometown fans; this is baseball at its best. New this season is online concession ordering, which we recommend as the lines can be a bit long; also new this season are expanded locations for District Drafts, which we also recommend for the fantastic selection of local brews.

Game-Winning Walk-Off Homerun. Photo Courtesy of Adam Fagen

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