When you live in a city for years, it is easy to fall in to the trap of seeing the same sights over and over again. That is how it was for me. I moved to D.C. as a junior in college after my parents emigrated from England to the DC Metro area. From about the mid-80s through the mid-2000s (is this even a word?), I visited the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the Washington Monument, the Kennedy Center, and the National mall more times than I can count.

With relatives, friends, and even friends of friends visiting D.C., my parents’ home was a big draw as it was a short Metro ride from practically everything in D.C. While I was dating my husband, a native Washingtonian, we regularly visited the three Ms in D.C: memorials, monuments, and museums. As a young mom, naturally I wanted to show my children the wonder of our nation’s capitol. With a 5-year span in between the youngest and the middle, we did Washington D.C. sights and sounds twice and sometimes three times.

Newseum Great Hall of News

Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC.

When my youngest was 4 or 5, we started branching out in our explorations in D.C. The oldest was too old for the zoo and the youngest was anxious to be the “big” kid, so it wasn’t long before we started exploring the off-the-beaten path sightseeing spots.

Our first stop was the Newseum. I had first heard of the museum when it was located in northern Virginia. The “new” location is a modern structure located in the heart of Washington, D.C. The Newseum is a 250,000-square-foot museum of news. The exhibits blend together five centuries of news history through the use of high tech and hands-on exhibits.
The Newseum is a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Gallery of Art, and the Verizon Center. If you want to feel the grandeur and majesty of our nation’s capitol go to Level 6, the Pennsylvania Avenue Terrace.

The top level of the Newseum offers a spectacular view of the U.S. Capitol to your left and the museums on the National Mall to your right. On our family’s visit to the Newseum, we began at the top and worked our way down.

From the Pennsylvania Avenue Terrace, we moved in to the display of Today’s Front Pages on the top level of the Newseum. Newspapers from almost all 50 states and a large number of countries are changed each day. My teen who studies French was intrigued by the French language newspapers. The tween wanted to read a few Spanish languages papers. My son and his dad loved any and all newspapers with stories about football and sports. I was interested in the way a news story was reported throughout the country. A big event in Chicago was not of interest to the residents of Dallas.

The Newseum has exhibits ranging from the 9/11 Gallery to an Elvis exhibit, the latter of which shows how the rock n’ roll star was portrayed in the media. A movie shows how Elvis was depicted in news clips, newspaper headlines, and TV shows, including his hip-shaking appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Our family spent a fairly long time in the 9/11 Gallery. We walked somberly past pieces of debris from Ground Zero before watching a short movie chronicling what happened on that fateful day. The movie was told in the voices of the reporters, photographers, firefighters, and bystanders who were there when 9/11 happened. The documentary was poignant, heartbreaking, and powerful to watch. I teared up as I remembered how the world changed on 9/11 for my children and the world.

After the solemnity of the 9/11 Gallery, we stopped for a bite to eat in the Food Section. Located in the basement, the food court serves dishes created and executed by Wolfgang Puck Catering. Word of advice: while the food was very good, the prices are…well pricey. A meal for 5 of us, where Mom and Dad ordered a drink and a snack, was well over $60. If I visited again, I would eat before visiting the Newseum.

From the food court, we moved to the NBC News Interactive Newsroom on the second level. The exhibit area features about 30 monitors in booths. We let the children loose in this area. All the monitors are in booths with low walls. It was easy to keep track of all three children.

My son played a game where he had to be the reporter for a whodunnit on “Who let the animals out at the zoo?” Was it the clown? The ringmaster? Or the animal trainer? I watched as he solved the mystery. In this area, children over the age of 5/6 can have a relatively independent viewing experience.

Younger kids or newer readers might need some help with the captions shown in the video news montages in the NBC News Interactive Newsroom. In other areas of the Newseum, the exhibits required some explanation from my husband and me, so that our younger kids “got” the connection between the artifacts, photos, and explanatory captions. A case in point involved an exhibit that featured artifacts and the news story surrounding the Unabomber. The kids couldn’t understand why anyone would set of bombs for reasons that are hard to quantify. I had a hard time explaining why he did what he did. Do any of us really understand the mastermind behind cruel and callous acts of violence?

The 411 on the Newseum
If you’re visiting with kids, you’ll love the movie shown at the Newseum. I-Witness: A 4-D Time Travel Adventure, is a quick paced interactive movie with special effects including shaking seats and gunfire. The kids had a blast learning about history from news accounts of the time.

The Newseum is located at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, at 6th Street NW, Washington, D.C.; 888-NEWSEUM (888-639-7386).

The Newseum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Follow @Newseum on Twitter.

Like the Newseum on Facebook.

To get there via Metro:

  • Take the Green or Yellow Line to the Archives/Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro Station.
  • Take the Red Line to the Judiciary Square Metro Station.
  • Take the Blue or Orange Line to the Smithsonian Metro Station.

I was given a press pass to tour the Newseum. My husband paid the teacher’s discounted admission rate. My children were all free due to a free summer special for kids at the Newseum.