Saturday, September 7, 2013

DC Days: Tourist is not a dirty word

I have a reoccurring dream that I'm starting a new job as a museum tour guide. The dream revolves around my first day of work and my tour guide uniform. The uniform resembles the Royalty Airlines uniforms in the movie View from the Top.

In the dream, I stress over the uniform mostly because of the hat. I look ridiculous in hats always. Apparently, the hat is a focal point of the uniform and I have to wear it all the time. This bothers me and I spend a considerable amount of time trying it on in different ways and trying to look less like a flight attendant or 1940s cigarette girl (although both looks seem legit). However, the most important part of the dream is the fact that I'm so excited about being a tour guide. I am getting ready for work and reciting my tour to myself in the mirror as I dry my hair, brush my teeth, and put on makeup (I don't really wear makeup in real life so maybe my dream is telling me to learn how to apply eyeliner). I usually wake up before I get to give my first tour but I do recite a portion of the tour so I know it's an art museum of some type and I seem to know my stuff. Clearly, my dream is telling me that I have missed my calling in life and need to become a professional tour or museum guide.

I have actually been a tour guide in a museum before but it was a completely volunteer gig. Three years ago, I was a guide at the Newseum here in DC and gave tours of the museum's permanent exhibits. I loved it. I had some great personal stories about the exhibits and knew a ton of random facts that I could throw into the script as needed or depending on my audience. Sometimes being a history nerd totally pays off. Had I not moved to California, I probably would still be a guide. Alas, they didn't need me when I came back (sad face). I've also worked at the Smithsonian at the Freer and Sackler Galleries (info desk) and now do something similar at the National Museum for Women in the Arts. I like to talk to people and give them helpful advice on what they should do and see in our fair city. Tour guiding allows me to be bossy while still being helpful.

One of my biggest pet peeves with people who live in the DC metro area is that the vast majority don't take advantage of all the wonderful things there are to do and see in the region. I get that it's hard to get all jazzed up about driving or Metro-ing into DC after you've spent your work week commuting and generally being grumpy, but it's totally worth it. Between the historical monuments and spaces, museums, concerts, and parks you could literally never have an empty space on your calendar. And what's even better? The vast majority of it is free. So because I like you and want to help you enjoy DC more, I've decided to devote several posts over the next few weeks to being a DC tourist. I'll spend the next several weekends visiting interesting and fun places and tell you all about it so you can plan your own DC Day.

Here's the part of this that I'm most excited about: I'm not doing the planning for any of these days. I've asked my friends to do that for me. Their directions were simple:
  • Plan a half or full day of activities that can be done on a weekend (either Saturday or Sunday)
  • The itinerary should be Metro accessible (start/end point) and easily walkable
  • The day can include DC, Maryland, and/or Virginia
  • Include restaurants, bars, and/or cafes
  • Provide a list items (like appropriate clothes or shoes) that I might need to make the day more enjoyable - especially important if we're going to multiple places throughout the day
  • Provide some details about why they selected the places on their day - they can pick a theme if they want and I'll even let them pick the title of the blog post
  • Agree to be featured on the Island (including photos and quotes)
  • Decide if they want to join me on the day or if I go by myself
I'll complete the trip over the weekend and share the day on the Island during the week so that you can plan your next weekend accordingly (including Metro information and any costs associated with the day and lots of photos). If you've randomly stumbled across this blog by searching for "Andrew McCarthy bobblehead" or "Michael Beck shirtless" (by the way, we should probably be friends) and don't live in DC, hopefully this will give you some ideas if you ever make it to our lovely city.

This weekend I kick off DC Days with one of my oldest friends, Anita (she's visited the Island before). Anita and I have known each other since the 7th grade and I know she has fun day planned. I will give you a hint: one of the places (if she has stuck to her original plan) has something to do with the Pony Express. I am very excited about this.

Remember, being a tourist in your own city or one you're visiting is never a bad thing. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

View From the Top image

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