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: Eastern Market Metro


I kicked off my quest to visit every DC Metro station by heading over to the area around the Eastern Market Metro station. As someone who lives in North Arlington, even though Eastern Market sits on the same line as my home stop, I’ve only visited the area a handful of times. Here’s what I discovered:

For places to eat…

Boxcar Tavern

My friend and I started the day off for a quick and cheap lunch here. Located on 7th St. SE, this place is relatively affordable compared to the other brunch restaurants in the Eastern Market area along 8th St. SE.  I had an omelette with potatoes and fruit. With tax and tip, breakfast came out to about $15 per person.

My bacon and cheese omelette.

My bacon and cheese omelette.

Check out their menu here.

Hours of operation:

  • Monday – Wednesday: 11:00 am – 12:00 am
  • Thursday: 11:00 am – 1:00 am
  • Friday: 11:00 am – 2:00 am
  • Saturday: 9:30 am – 2:00 am
  • Sunday: 9:30 am – 12:00 am

Other restaurants to check out:

My friend and I only made it to Boxcar, but the Eastern Market area, particularly along 8th St. SE., has a lot of restaurants to choose from. Here are my suggestions:

Medium RareKnown for their steak frites. You’ll be surprised at what happens to your plate when you’ve finished: the waiters will give you another helping. The first time I went here, I had no idea they did this. Boom!

Belga Cafe – One of my favorite brunch spots in DC. It gets packed on weekends, so make sure to book a reservation ahead of time. They’re a little small, but regardless, I highly recommend ordering their Belgian waffles!

Ambar – This restaurant opened relatively recently, and offers excellent Balkan cuisine! Definitely a place I’d recommend checking out if you’re looking to broaden your palate!

A must-visit (at least once!)

Eastern Market

After lunch, my friend and I headed over to Eastern Market. The Market is arranged like one big hallway, with vendors selling a wide selection of products: mostly pastas, meats, seafood and pastries. On Saturdays, the area around Eastern Market hosts a Flea Market, with vendors selling mostly arts and crafts.

Inside Eastern Market

Inside Eastern Market

Vendors at Eastern Market

Vendors at Eastern Market

If it’s your first time to the area, you should absolutely stop by Eastern Market, if only to briefly check the place out. Not coming to Eastern Market would be like visiting DC for the first time without walking around The Mall; it’s simply wrong! After living in the DC area for 5 years, Eastern Market at this point feels more touristy than local. For a true local market experience, I’d suggest visiting Union Market.

Hours of Operation:

  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday – Friday: 7:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Saturday: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
  • Sunday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

For a delicious cup of coffee (or hot chocolate!)…

Peregrine Espresso

I’d heard a lot about Peregrine Espresso from friends, so decided to check out this neighborhood coffee shop. Although I’m a former Starbucks barista, I rarely drink coffee — hot chocolate and tea is my jam! However, my friend absolutely loved this place! This cafe gets really packed on weekends, so I’d suggest getting your drink to go.

Peregrine Espresso, Eastern Market

Peregrine Espresso, Eastern Market

Hot chocolate at Peregrine Espresso.

Hot chocolate at Peregrine Espresso.

View their website for more info. 

Hours of operation:

  • Monday – Saturday: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

An interesting neighborhood gem…

Capitol Hill Books

Located in a converted row home, this bookstore, which sells used books, was without a doubt the most interesting find of the day. Unlike at your typical Barnes and Noble, books here are crammed literally into every corner imaginable. Walking around the bookstore, I wondered if the staff had any way of knowing which books they currently have in stock, or where to locate the book.

Capitol Hill Books

Endless stacks of books at Capitol Hill Books.

Books even in the bathroom!

Books even in the bathroom!

Capitol Hill Books

Capitol Hill Books

Check out their website for more info

Hours of Operation

  • Open daily, 11:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on weekdays,
  • 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on weekends.

For some dessert…

District Doughnut

After the bookstore, we walked over to District Doughnut. Located directly across from the Marine Barracks entrance (hence the nickname for this street, Barracks Row), this no-frills shop is known for its variety of donuts. I love apples, and after the lady behind the counter showed us the six donuts currently available, I unhesitatingly chose the one with the apples. I was so excited, but after taking my first bite had realized the donut was actually a type of cake shaped like a donut. I was bummed!! Next time you come here, make sure to ask if it’s a cake versus a donut!

District Doughnut

District Doughnut

Apple Cinammon Doughnut

Apple Cinammon Doughnut

View their menu here

Hours of Operation:

  • Wednesday – Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 p.m.
  • Saturday – Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Other dessert places to check out:

Sweet Lobby – Take note: this place is only open on weekdays. However, if you can make it there, you’ll be rewarded with amazingly delicious macarons. In my opinion, they’re the best in DC!


You could well easily spend a whole day eating along Barracks Row, located directly south of the Eastern Market Metro station. To take a break from all the eating, head towards Eastern Market to check out what’s on sale, Capitol Hill Books for a new book, or Peregrine Espresso for a nice cup of coffee or tea.


Eastern Market Metro Station

Eastern Market Metro Station

Eastern Market Metro is located in Southeast DC, and is served by the Orange, Silver and Blue lines.

  • Parking: None
  • Bikes: 20 bike lockers are available
  • Carsharing: several zip cars are available
  • Buses: The following bus routes serve this station: