Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Stamps

The National Postal Museum was another one of those museums that was right under my nose and I never knew it. I practically walk past it every day and decided I needed to finally take a look inside. What I found was a massive museum with dozens of intriguing exhibits.

There's a lot to learn and might be hard to see everything in one visit (unless you stay all day). Obviously there is a lot of detail due to stamps being small but there are also some bigger exhibits that you could get lost in.

Overall it's a really well done museum with a lot to take in and in my opinion, it's worth checking out the architecture alone.

Museum Entrance

Mailboxes from around the world.




Exhibit Map

Obviously tons of stamps.

'Boring' Details:

Distance from office: 0.1 miles
Door to door time: 5 minutes
Tour time: 50 minutes
Transportation used: Walked
Cost: Free

- Metal detectors (allot a few extra minutes) so leave your knife at home.

But wait, there's more...
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A view of the District from the Old Post Office Tower

The Old Post Office Tower seemed to be the perfect lunch time tour spot. It was far enough away from the office that I felt like I was in a completely new place yet also perfectly accessible from the Metro which should minimize transportation time. I've heard it is the third highest building in the area and offers quite the view from it's 270 foot observation deck. I wanted to check things out for myself. 

There are [at least] two different exits from the Metro station and I took the one that was farther away; not by choice. Still, getting to the front door of the Old Post Office was only a couple of blocks away.

Once inside, I had to snake my way through the first floor and the food court to reach the series of elevators that would take me to the top. You have to change elevators because there isn't just one that goes straight up and you also have the option to seeing the Congress Bells. 

Once at the top, you have a very good view of the city in all directions. There are metal cables in place (and plexiglass) but that doesn't really hinder your photos of you're careful. Just don't drop your phone over te edge, it probably won't survive the fall. 

If you haven't had a chance to check out the Old Post Office Tower, I highly recommend it. If anything, it's a chance to grab some cool photos of an often overlooked landmark.   

Interesting Facts:
  • The Congress Bells have their own level.
    • Replicas of the bells in Westminster Abbey
    • The bells ring in honor of the opening and closing of Congress and on state occasions, including all national holidays.
  • Was the largest government building in the District of Columbia at the turn of the century and the first with a clock tower.
  • One of the city's first steel frame buildings with a granite skin covering the steel to fireproof it.
  • The electric power plant, capable of driving 3,900 lights, was the first to be installed in a district building.
  • Construction began 1892 and completed 1899.

'Boring' Details:

Distance from office: 1.5 miles
Door to door time: 55 minutes
Tour time: 10 minutes
Transportation used: Metro
Cost: Free

- Metal detectors (allot a few extra minutes) so leave your pocket knife at home.
- Total height is 315 feet with the observation level at 270 feet. 

But wait, there's more...
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Find Your Inner Artist at The Phillips Collection

To say that I knew nothing about The Phillips Collection before visiting would be an understatement. I didn't even know it existed. So after looking around online for some fun free things to do in DC, The Phillips Collection popped up. 

While my wife is an artist and I do appreciate art, I'm not really the kind of guy to visit a gallery without being forced. But hey, this series is supposed to be on exploring new and unfamiliar territory, so off I went.

Getting around DC [efficiently] can be difficult. The gallery is only 2.5 - 3 miles away from my office but I knew getting there wouldn't be an easy or quick task. A taxi might have been the simplest solution but I wanted to keep costs at a minimum so the solution was clearly going to be the Metro.

The closest Metro stop is the DuPont Circle station and depending on where you exit the station, it could be a 2-5 block walk. 

A quick note: The downside to finding a good place to tour on your lunch break that depends on the Metro is that the Metro has crappy off peak service. Sometimes you have to wait 20 minutes for a train and if that's the case, you end up losing a lot of valuable time. Just something to keep in mind.

Luckily the Metro moved pretty quick and my walking pace can border on running for some and I got to the lobby of the gallery in no time. The permanent display is free but if you want to see the special exhibit it's $12. Also, they strongly encourage a donation of any amount and only after a few back-and-forths of 'I don't have any cash on me' will they let you in for free. 

There's a lot to the gallery that I missed because I was practically running through it (worried about getting back to the office on time) and would certainly like to go back and [try to] truly appreciate the art. If I had to guess, I probably saw about 73% in total. 

I forced myself to slow down and made sure to spend a few minutes reflecting on what I liked. Out of what I saw, here are some of my favorites:

  • Pantone on Vellum (Jorge Pardo)
  • Black Tiles (Kate Shepherd)
  • Rothko Room
  • Joseph Marioni
  • Liberation - Tack
  • Rocks at Mouthier (Gustave Courbet)
  • Woodland Rocks (Julian Alden Weir)

If you don't mind being rushed and have at least 30 minutes, I say go for it. But the only way to enjoy art is to enjoy it and while I don't really know what that means, I assume it means something like 'slow down and take your time.'

'Boring' Details:

The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009

  • Distance from office: 2.5 - 3 miles
  • Door to door time: 1 hour 4 minutes
  • Tour time: 25 minutes
  • Transportation used: Metro
  • Cost: Free for permanent exhibit but donation recommended. $12 for special exhibit.


  • No metal detectors but you are under constant watch.
  • You are allowed to take photos and they even have audio tours you can do through your phone, but no talking on your phone.