It was Smithsonian Museum day. For our last full day in Washington, DC I had schedule us to try to do the unthinkable, visit all the major Smithsonian Museums in one day. To be honest we had planned our trip during the week to try to avoid the crazy weekend crowds at these places and for the most part it had worked but ever so often you would run into huge crowds which I guess are just unavoidable.
I had found a parking garage only a few blocks away from the museums. We parked the car, strapped Hanna into her stroller and we were off. It only took a few minutes for us to arrive at the National Mall. We did pass a few of the museums that we would eventually come back to but our first stop was The Castle.
This is really just an information / visitors center but there was a gift shop and what do most gift shops have? A Penny machine you are absolutely correct. My daughter stood with her face right up against the penny machine watching as I pressed the coins. She loves the clink, clink, clink noise the machine makes as I turned the handle.
Our popped the four new pennies with the following designs: The Castle, Smithsonian Institution, Abraham Lincoln, and a Carousel Animal. Each of the Smithsonian museums had their own pressed penny booklet for temporary storage. Before we left the castle we checked out the gift shop and they had all 4 of the booklets for the museums we were visiting. Hoping to save time I bought one of each for my collection (yes I collect these penny booklets as well).
Leaving the castle we walked back out to the National Mall. Hanna thought this was the perfect place to start running around and get the stored up energy out. It was a beautiful day and she had a lot of fun, although we did have to watch out for the occasional bicyclist zooming by but we avoided any incidents.
Next up was the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. When we arrived the museum had just recently opened, however we got stuck behind a school tour. There was a massive amount of elementary school kids making it impossible to enter the museum. We just waiting at the end of the line and eventually made it inside. Unfortunately due to the massive amount of kids running around this museum we didn’t spend as much time here as we would have liked, but it was very impressive and had some really cool exhibits. My wife really liked the Julia Child’s kitchen and even had her picture taken in front of it. There was also an industrial revolution exhibit which some amazing machinery on display which Hanna seemed overwhelmed with how big everything was. As we roamed around the museum we did come across the two penny machines that were available. One was on the first floor outside the gift shop, and the second was on the lower level outside the cafeteria.
The first machine had 4 designs: The American History Museum, A Buffalo, Sparklab, and The First Ladies at the Smithsonian. Second machine also had 4 designs: American on the move, Within these walls, The American Presidency, and a Steam Locomotive.
By this time we had spent enough time surrounded by rowdy children in a confined area that we needed some fresh air. We headed back outside and walked a couple blocks down to the National Museum of Natural History. As a dinosaur loving kid this was always my favorite type of museum growing up.
As soon as we walked inside we were met by a huge stuffed elephant in the middle of the main lobby. Hanna started calling out to the elephant and we had to try to work our way closer to get her picture taken with it in the background. This museum was also pretty busy not luckily the school kids hadn’t arrived yet. We started with the primate exhibit, then eventually made it to the dinosaurs and fossil section (my favorite). Hanna wasn’t too impressed but I was immediately transported back to my childhood and could have spent the entire afternoon reading about all the different dinosaurs. We slowly made our way up through the different floors and found the Hope Diamond which is 45.52 carats in size. Not sure if you know the history of this diamond but it is a very interesting story. Search online for it if you have some time.
It was early afternoon by the time we headed down to the museums cafeteria. We had our lunch and just as we left the cafeteria there were 3 machines. There was a group of people standing and looking at the machines but not using them. I asked if I could sneak through to use the machines and they watched in fascination as I pressed the coins. I don’t think they spoke very much English but after I had pressed all the pennies one of them held out a hand of coins and I helped gather the correct number of quarters and pennies so they could press their own design. They started taking pictures and laughing while using the machine. Once they were done I said goodbye and headed back to my family who were waiting by the elevators.
Each machine had 4 designs that all pressed perfectly. They consisted of different animals or creatures found within the museum. I knew there was one more machine somewhere in the museum so we headed back upstairs towards the gift shop which always the best place to look. Right outside the gift shop we found the machine which I pressed quickly as there was a line forming behind me. This machine also had 4 designs. A Tarantula, Elephant, Butterfly and T-Rex.
With the pennies safely stored away we headed outside and walked across the national mall to our last stop the National Air and Space Museum. By this time Hanna was pretty much done for the day. My wife and I were also tired and had done a lot of walking this entire trip. We maneuvered around the museum fairly quickly checking out the different air and space crafts on display. It’s really amazing to see these things up close and in person. There were three machines in this museum. Unfortunately I was only able to find the one by the cafeteria, and another outside the gift shop.
I pressed the coins for these machines and wanted to try to find the last machine but Hanna was really ready to go. We packed up and headed out of the museum and back towards the parking garage.
Eventually I did get the coins from the third machine. If you are new to pressed penny collecting please check out PennyCollector.com. This is a great company that actually supply a lot of the machines listed above. They have a huge list of penny machine locations you can use to see what is around where you live. This is where I go to prep for my penny collecting trips. They also have a store where you can purchase retired or limited quantity pressed coins, however they also offer a concierge service which is what I used to get the pennies from this last machine.
We spent the night at our hotel just outside of Washington and headed home the following morning. We had seen a lot of places and collected a lot of pennies. I met some interesting people and hopefully helped start some of their own pressed penny collections. It had been a fun few days in Washington and we will definitely be back.
Did you keep up on this trip? Sometimes at the end of these trips I think to myself “Maybe I should schedule fewer places to visit so we can spend more time at each location?” But then once I’m at home in my basement putting all the new pennies away into storage I think “Nah” I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every so often I take these pennies out and go look at each and every one of them and just remember the trips we and things we did. It’s something I wouldn’t change for anything in the world and I’m just very great full my wife doesn’t mind this little vise.
Wow I need a vacation.