I originally planned to celebrate my 30th birthday in Aruba, but those plans changed after my cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman Islands, and Cozumel. I was beached out. I was past the point of feeling sand under my toes, didn’t want to lay out by the water and knew that I needed to change my birthday plans before people booked their flights for Aruba. Thank God my friends know me well and hadn’t booked their flights because I was able to easily cancel the house I booked and sent out an email letting them know that we’re doing DC instead.
I had a lot of people ask “why DC”? I know that it’s not a place where people typically celebrate monumental birthdays like a 30th, but I wanted to do something different. It’s no secret that I like to visit museums when I travel, I can seriously spend an entire day wandering around taking it all in. What better place than DC? Dozens of museums and monuments in one area and close enough to other cities for a quick day trip.
I left work on Thursday and headed straight to the airport, breezing through TSA thanks to CLEAR and Pre-Check. I had my fingers crossed, wishing that the flight wouldn’t be full but it was. That was okay because I came prepared with a ton of Spotify playlists that I’d synced offline and a copy of Franchesca Ramsey’s ‘Well That Escalated Quickly’ on my iPad. I was able to get through quite a bit of the book on that 3-hour flight and finished it on the flight back, but I’ll save that review for later.
There was a bit of a mix-up with the hotels and I ended up staying at a different hotel than my girls, but all was well. They’d gotten the party started a bit before I arrived so we all decided that we’d start fresh in the morning. I ordered UberEats that night since I hadn’t eaten since lunch and tucked in with Netflix. I have to give it to Marriott, the upgrades to the TVs were really nice! I was able to login to my Netflix and Hulu accounts right on the TV in my room instead of having to pull them up on my iPad.
Like I said earlier, my main reason for choosing DC was because of all the museums and history so I made sure to set an alarm so that I could wake up in the morning and try and score us day passes to the NHMAAC and I did! It took me 15 minutes and constant clicking on my iPad and iPhone, but I was able to get us 3 passes for that afternoon. I was still pretty tired so I got another hour of shut-eye before getting dressed and linking up with my girls for breakfast. I have to say that I’m SUPER grateful for the grid layout that downtown Houston has, because those DC streets had me all kinds of confused.
We went to the Bulletin for brunch and it was so cute! The restaurant has a retro feel to it and the food and drinks were pretty good! I got honey butter chicken minis and started my day with a mimosa, in fact, I think I drank at every meal we had in the city. I was there celebrating my birthday and we wanted to keep the celebration drinks coming. We had a bit of time to kill after brunch before our scheduled time for the NHMAAC so we hit up the Smithsonian American Art Museum and visited President Obama and First Lady Michelle (or as we so lovingly call them ‘Forever 44’ and ‘Forever FLOTUS’) as well as the other presidential portraits. Funny story, so we walked in and tried to find Obama’s portrait but couldn’t so we ended up asking a museum employee. I tried to be as proper as possible and said: “Do you know where President Obama and First Lady Obama’s portraits are?” She looked at us and smiled before saying “Barack is with the other presidents on level (I forgot) and Michelle is on level (I forgot as well)”. I loved it!! It was a bonding moment for us all and we laughed before heading up to see their portraits along with some others. This was the day after Aretha died so they were in the process of putting up her In Memoriam portrait so we saw that as well as portraits of LL Cool J, Beyoncé, JFK, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Toni Morrison, Robert Johnson, the four badass women of the Supreme Court and even this really neat piece that was the preamble of the US Constitution made up entirely of license plates! I was truly blown away by that piece.
I had this big plan of hitting up 5 or 6 museums that day, especially when I saw that they were only a few miles apart, but when we got there that all changed. The hills, wonky streets and entire fields between quite a few of the museums and monuments turned what should have been a 12-15 minute walk into a 40 minute one and I was not about that life. We ended up catching an Uber to the NHMAAC and got lost in the history and beauty of it all.
We all knew that we wanted to visit the Oprah exhibit. I don’t care what anyone says, but this woman is a big part of Black History. She’s broken ceilings, made her own rules and has shown not just Black women, but all women that you can have it all and be a badass too. Tears were shed as we walked down memory lane in her exhibit, reading about how she had to fight for equal pay at one of her first gigs, looked at some of her famous gowns, awards and even her old desk. We watched the clip that they had and there was even a wall there with every guest she’d ever had on the show!
We also went up to a media room and learned more about Black history in media as well as the ‘Negro Motorist Green Book‘. There was an interactive wall that had at least a hundred different Black History Facts that were linked and grouped by topic. It was really neat! As well as the interactive step show that I didn’t have the guts to participate in.
We left the museum and grabbed a few bottles of water and a case of La Croix for the hotel before getting ready for my big birthday dinner. It was actually Restaurant Week while we were there and one of my girls found this amazing Italian restaurant. We got full and called it a night early that night and before long I was back at my hotel tucked in bed and gearing up for the next full day. Call me an old lady if you want, but that’s one of the nice things about being on vacation, I get to go to bed when I want!
We had plans to link up with another friend in the area the next day and go on more tours and the day turned out to be that and so much more! We went to brunch and then got to explore the DMV area! We got to see more monuments, drove through the infamous dead area and lost all cell signals, spent some time in Potomac at the National Harbor and were even involved in a surprise engagement. We were truly worn out by the time we made it back to DC, so we hung out in their hotel room and watched a trashy Netflix movie before venturing over to the MLK monument to see it at night. It was breathtaking and everything I expected and more! Seeing it all lit up and taking in his famous words were surreal and I was so happy we decided to go at night. It made it that much better. We weren’t starving but were kind of hungry so we ventured over to the pizza joint the girls went to the first night and grabbed the most delicious pizza and beer for dinner before we called it a night for our final night there.
It might not have seemed like a big birthday celebration for most, especially since it was for a milestone, but it was perfect for me and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!