Destination: National Museum of the American Indian


Today’s post caps off my visit to the Federal Center SW / Capitol South Metro station area a few weeks ago.

Earlier last month, I spent a Saturday afternoon exploring the Capitol South / Federal Center SW Metro station area. After grabbing some pizza at We The Pizza, I headed over to the Library of Congress and then the U.S. Botanic Garden. Before heading home, I stopped at one last place: the National Museum of the American Indian.

National Museum of the American Indian

Like most of the other buildings on The Mall, entry is free at the NMAI. From an architectural perspective, the NMAI is a stunning building to look at from the outside. To get a really good perspective of the building, you’ll have to look at it from afar. Here’s the building, viewed just off of the Independence Ave.

NMAI Entrance

The building’s north-facing facade reminds me of waves.

 NMAI Facade 

Based just off of viewing the building from outside, I thought the NMAI was going to be a massive building on the inside. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. When you enter the museum, you enter a massive atrium / performance area. During my visit, there was a demonstration going on which seemed to be related to sports and competition.

View the NMAI Calendar of Events

While other visitors were taking pictures of the demonstration, my eyes just couldn’t get over at how amazing the ceiling looked.

 Ceiling above the performance / demonstration area.

NMAI Ceiling 

The ceiling itself is supposed to be a representation of the sun and its rays, which for many Native American cultures, is an important symbol.

After watching the demonstrations for a bit, I decided to check out the rest of the museum. For some reason, I had thought that the museum was going to feature Native Americans from just the United States. However, the exhibits at the museum cover cultures throughout North and South America, including the Caribbean and Central America. 

It took me about an hour to explore the museum. For the most part, it was pretty underwhelming. Although some of the exhibits were interesting and taught me something new (i.e., that some Arctic cultures believe there are 8 seasons), I felt like the storytelling could’ve been done better. Rather than focusing on telling the stories of dozens of groups across the Americas, I think the museum would’ve probably been able to do a better job if they had chosen to focus on perhaps just the native cultures that belonged to just the United States.

That being said, there were some interesting exhibits such as the exhibit on Central America, which included some really cool artifacts, as well as clips of students explaining what archaeology means to them, and why they’re so interested in understanding the cultures and history of their country.

A painting in front of one of the exhibit rooms.

NMAI - Painting 

One of the statutes in the exhibit on Central America.

 NMAI - Statue from Central America

Flags of Native American nations in the United States.

 NMAI - Flags

Hours of Operation

Open Daily: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Tips & Conclusion

  • Although an impressive building from an architectural perspective, the exhibits at the NMAI seemed underwhelming.
  • If you’re short on time in DC, I would recommend skipping this museum.
  • If you’re hungry, check out Mitsitam Cafe, located on the ground level. While I didn’t eat anything here, friends have mentioned the cafe serves up some of the best food compared to the other food options available at museums on The Mall.

Getting to the National Museum of the American Indian

The entrance to the NMAI is a short five-minute walk from Federal Center SW Metro, which is located in Southeast DC, and is served by the Orange, Silver and Blue lines.

Destination: United States Botanic Garden


Last Saturday I spent exploring the Capitol Hill area. You can see that here: Library of Congress.

United States Botanic Garden

After the Library of Congress, I headed over to the U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG). Having grown up in Hawaii, where as a child I remember spending time with my grandpa working on his Macadamia Nut farm, or growing banana trees and corn in my parent’s backyard, I was eager to see what the USBG had to offer.

The USBG is composed of three parts: The Conservatory, The National Garden and Bartholdi Park (see map here). Given that it’s currently winter, there wasn’t much growing in both the Garden and the Park, both of which are outdoors. So, I spent most of my visit at The Conservatory. Here’s what I found:

The Conservatory, as seen from Independence Ave.

US Botanic Garden - Entrance

The Conservatory itself is divided into several rooms, but only a handful stand out. You’ll first enter the Garden Room.

Entrance Room - 1

Of the various rooms in The Conservatory, the Orchid Room was probably my favorite of them all.

Orchid Room - 1

Orchid Room - 2

This giant papaya tree was located in the Medicinal Plants room. Although I ate this all the time while in Hawaii, I’ve rarely had it since moving to the mainland, nor did I realize it’s a medicinal plant!

Papaya tree

There was also a room dedicated specifically for Hawaii! I had no idea that roughly a third of all endemic plants in the States are found in Hawaii.

Hawaii Room - 1

The Jungle Room, located in the center of the Conservatory, contains something pretty cool: a canopy walk. It’s pretty hot and humid in the Jungle Room, but not to the point that being inside felt unbearable.

Jungle Room - 1

Jungle Room - 2

Overall, I thought the USBG was a nice oasis from the winter. With that said, for some reason I imagined the Conservatory to be much larger. Additionally, maybe this is me just being overly detail-oriented, but the accompanying descriptions of the plants and rooms seemed really dated, which made me get a sense that the Conservatory hadn’t been updated in a while. Interestingly, they

Check out more reviews of the USBG on Yelp!

Hours of Operation

  • Conservatory: Open Daily, 10 am – 5pm
  • National Garden: Open Daily, 10 am – 5pm
  • Bartholdi Park: Open Daily, dawn to dusk

Getting There:

The U.S. Botanic Garden’s is a short 5-minute walk from the Federal Center SW Metro Station, located on the Blue, Orange and Silver Lines. The main entrance to The Conservatory at the U.S. Botanic Garden is located along Maryland Ave SW, across the Capitol Reflecting Pool. The National Garden is located adjacent to the Conservatory along Maryland Ave SW, and Bartholdi Park is located behind the Conservatory along Independence Ave SW.

Destination: The Library of Congress


This past weekend I continued my quest to visit every DC Metro Station with a trip to the Capitol Hill area. I’ll cover each place I visited in separate posts over the next few weeks.

The Library of Congress

This was the very first time ever that I’ve set foot in the Library of Congress. I sometimes forget that places such as this, the largest library in the world, is just a few Metro stops away. The LOC is free to visit, so if you haven’t gone, I encourage you to do so! Below are my top tips to get the most out of your visit.

Tips and Suggestions:

  1. Entering the Library of Congress is a lot like traveling through airport security. Keep these things in mind for your next visit:
    • You’ll need to remove outerwear such as winter jackets;
    • You might be asked to remove your shoes;
    • If you’re carrying a laptop, you’ll need to remove it from your case.
  2. For the best pictures, plan to visit the building during the afternoon. The majority of the natural light into the Library of Congress comes from the West side of the building.
  3. If you are interested in gaining access to browse the stacks and have access to the reading rooms, it is possible to request a Reader Identification Card. These are valid for two years.
  4. Tours happen throughout the day. Don’t feel like you need to stick with them throughout your visit.
  5. For more information, check out the visitors guide.

Photos of the Library of Congress

The facade of the Library of Congress. Front entrance of the Library of Congress

Statues in front of the Library of Congress.

Statues outside the Library of Congress 

The Giant Bible of Mainz.

 The Giant Bible of Mainz

The Gutenberg Bible

Gutenberg Bible 

Abel Buell’s Map of the United States. As a lover of maps, I spent a good 20 minutes in this exhibit reading all the different place names on these old maps!

 Abel Buell's Map of the United States

The view of the main reading room.

Library of Congress Reading Room

Shots of the stunning architecture and interior design of the Main Hall.

Statues in the Main Hall

LOC Architecture #3

LOC Architecture #1

LOC Architecture #2

 LOC Architecture #4

How much time to visit the Library of Congress?

Minimum 30-45 min., more if you’d like to stay for a guided tour, register for a Reader Identification Card, and browse the various exhibits.

Hours of Operation

  • Open: Monday – Saturday: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
  • Guided Tours:
    • Monday – Friday, every hour, from 10:30 am – 3:30 pm.
    • Saturdays, every hour, from 10:30 am – 2:30 pm.

How to Get There

The entrance to the Library of Congress is located on 1st. St. SE & Independence Ave SE., right across the U.S. Capitol Building. The Capitol South Metro Station is the closest station, located just two blocks away from the main entrance to the LOC.

Filipino Food in DC


When I first moved to the DC area, I never expected to be able to get Filipino cuisine here at all. Lately however, there’s been a lot of interest in Filipino cuisine, at least in the DC area. Most recently, a Filipino restaurant sold out in just hours for their most recent weekend pop-up. As someone who grew up on Filipino food and never considered it haute or refined, the thought of paying $60 for a five-course Filipino meal, like what the pop-up was offering, seems absolutely ridiculous!

Where to get Filipino Food in DC that’s metro-accessible?

If you’re looking for authentic Filipino food that’s metro accessible, I’d highly recommend checking out the following places when you get the chance:

Pampanguena Cafe

I stumbled upon this place a few months ago. Located about a 10 minute walk from the Shady Grove Metro, Pampanguena Cafe operates like most “turo-turo” (pronounced TWO-roh TWO-roh) places, that is, a bunch of dishes are laid out cafeteria style, and the diner points to which dish they’d like.

For those that aren’t familiar with Filipino food, it’s a mixed-type of cuisine that’s heavily influenced by Spanish, Malay and Chinese cuisines.  The cuisine is heavy on meat (specifically pork), and can be pretty fatty and greasy depending on what type of dish you get. As a side note, the Philippines is broken up into a several regions, and Pampanga is one of them.

The front entrance. Note the name change (this place used to be called Kapampangan Cuisine, but recently changed their name to Pampanguena Cafe).

Kapampangan Cuisine

My meal at Pampanguena Cafe: bistek, pork and rice. A pretty typical Filipino meal.

Pampanguena Cafe

Check out their yelp review here.

Hours of Operation

  • Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday: 11:00 am – 8:30 pm
  • Thursday: 11:00 am – 5:30pm

Getting Here

  • Take the red line to Shady Grove Metro
  • Exit the station, walking past the Carmax, which will be on your left.
  • Turn right onto Frederick Road and walk for about 5 min. Kapampangan Cuisine will be located on your right in a strip mall.


Bistro 7107
Whereas Kapampangan Cuisine is a totally no-frills experience, Bistro 7107 serves up an actual restaurant experience. Located less than a 5-minute walk from the Crystal City Metro, Bistro 7107 offers a more refined dining experience that’s located much closer to downtown DC. I’ve been here several times for both breakfast and dinner, and while the restaurant can be a little pricey, my guess is the restaurant will still be cheaper than some of the more newer Filipino restaurants that will be opening in DC over the coming months. Some dishes I’ve had at Bistro 7107:

Pinakbet – pork, bitter melon and other vegetables

Bistro 7107 - Pinakbet

Filipino vegetable fritters

Bistro 7107 - Fried Fritters

Sisig – chopped pork, onions and garlic

Bistro 7107 - Sisig

Crispy pata – fried pork

Bistro 7107 - Crispy Pata

Check out their Yelp Review here.

Hours of Operation

  • Sunday – Thursday: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
  • Friday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

Getting Here

  • Take the Blue or Yellow Line to Crystal City station.
  • Walk south towards 23rd St.
  • Bistro 7107 is located near the corner of 23rd St. and South Eads St.