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Six Ideas for Skipping NECC Sessions

So, NECC in DC is about three weeks away and if you’re planning to attend, here are six ideas for stuff to distract you from the conference sessions and exhibit floor.

The International Spy Museum – Whoever is running the tours for NECC will charge you $65 for the full package here. Buy tickets online for $25 (plus $2 service charge) and ride the Metro two stops from the convention center. Or walk. Many exhibits are interactive and the whole place is a lot of fun.

The Smithsonian Folk Life Festival – This annual celebration on the National Mall is presented in two parts, one just before NECC begins (June 24-28) and one just after (July 1-5). I have no idea why they split it that way but if you’re going to be here early or late, it’s worth attending. Lots of great music, food and exhibitions. And it’s free (except the food, of course).

The Newseum – Again, the NECC tour will cost you $55 but you could walk or take a short ride on the Metro and buy a regular $20 ticket. The 3D theater is pretty good and don’t miss the view from the 6th floor terrace.

The US Capitol – I haven’t been to the new visitor center yet but I’ll probably sneak off to see it during the conference. If you want someone to show you around, contact the office of your Senator and arrange for it as far ahead of time as possible. You can do the same for the White House but that tour is not really worth the effort (IMHO).

The National Zoo – Certainly not the biggest zoo in the country but a very nice experience that can be seen in half a day. And it’s free. Go first thing in the morning before the crowds show up and don’t miss the Asia Trail (right, Karen? :-). Take the Metro to the Cleveland Park station and walk down hill to the entrance. Then walk down hill to the Woodley Park/Zoo station to get back to Metro.

The National Cathedral – Sitting on a hill above the National Mall, you can get a good view of the city from up here. If you can, take the Behind The Scenes tour (weekdays at 10:30) which usually include a climb to the bell tower from which the view is even better. Unfortunately, there’s no easy and direct way to get here on public transportation.

Anyone have other suggestions?


  1. Andrew B. Watt

    All of the Smithsonian museums are, of course, free. I enjoy the Native American museum because it’s such a refreshing change from the idea of museum in general.

    Check out the calendar of the Kennedy Center, and see if there’s someting in town that week you want to go see.

    The Smithsonian Libraries have a great research department. So do the National Archives. BUT, in both cases, you have to make your application in advance of your visit, and arrange ahead of time about what you want to see, and in which museum. So plan ahead.

  2. Doug Johnson

    Hi Tim,

    I’d add that the boat trip to Mt Vernon is a great way to spend a morning. A favorite of mine, anyway.


  3. Doug Johnson

    Oh, not that I would ever skip any sessions.


  4. Dean Shareski

    Thanks Tim,

    I’m bringing my wife and inlaws who plan to do much of this while I’m at the conference. I know my father-in-law has a day at the Holocaust museum. He’s a former history teacher who specialized in WWII. Maybe consider a second post with some more inside baseball tips.

  5. Andrew Pass

    I personally think that the Roosevelt Memorial is a must see attraction. But, this year I’ll be at my exhibit booth: 3744. We will be showing our Google Earth history – English/language arts units. So, hopefully you’ll make sure to stop by NECC, if only long enough to visit our booth.

  6. Paula

    How about the newly opened Am. History Museum? I am headed there tomorrow before all the other schools in the country are out.

  7. Carolyn Foote

    I would add the Phillips collection, the Library of Congress for the ornate building inside, and the little known Asian collection (forget the name) which is down by the old Smithsonian building for the cool multistory hanging monkey sculpture.

    Oh and also the Hirschhorn Sculpture garden!

  8. Kelly in Kansas

    The Public Vaults exhibit at the National Archives is not to be missed. It’s a quite different experience than just going into the Rotunda to see the Constitution and the Declaration!

  9. Ernie Easter

    I plan on stealing away from NECC to go over to the Holocaust museum myself.

  10. Tim

    Carolyn is referring to the Freer and Sackler Galleries which is a wonderful space behind the building commonly called The Castle.

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