Arrived in Boston on Sunday. Super tired and have been typing away at the book for many hours this week. It has been an amazing incredible trip and we are so blessed. And now to complete and compile and type away!
The Mutter Museum of medical oddities is full of the grotesque and fascinating bodies and viscera and skeletons of those with bizarre medical conditions. At the back is an accessible entrance with an intercom camera, where a security guard will escort wheelchair users through an accessible elevator that can reach both floors of exhibits.
The Rodin Museum is similarly only accessible through the back entrance in which one needs to ring a bell for a worker to come and guide you through the accessible pathway.
The Franklin institute is built specifically with young kids in mind. There are a lot of hands on exhibits one can try that will teach some key scientific principles. However, keep in mind that while you can go to all exhibits, some hands on activities may not be accessible.
The National Constitution Center sits across from the historic sights of independence national park, and showcases the history of the Constitution of the United States. The facility was entirely accessible by wheelchair. Upon entering, there is a brief show detailing the Constitution’s history. This room was accessible through an elevator that the staff will operate.
Birthplace of the nation
Today we arrived in the birthplace of the United States: Philadelphia!
The massive Philadelphia city hall hosts a statue of William Penn overlooking his city. One side is completely inaccessible, while the accessible side has a sign that lets people know that the city hall building, which is quite old, is not completely accessible.
A bit of a distance from the city hall is the independence national park that holds historical buildings. Around 80 people are taken inside the actual independence hall building every 15 minutes for a tour and explanation of the historic events that took place inside. The tour guides were very nice. It is a standard procedure to let those in wheelchairs enter the building first so they are able to see the room.
There is a also a long line to see the liberty bell, which is now housed in a separate building with a slight incline. This symbol of American freedom is a lot smaller in person than we imagined.
“There is nothing to do in baltimore.”
Arrived in Baltimore today! How time flies. There is a story about Baltimore that goes like this: “there is nothing to do in Baltimore.” While we will not say whether or not we agree with this statement, we can tell you about the things we did find to do in Baltimore that day. First, we spent close to an hour and a half trying to find parking. There are a few reserved handicap parking spots, but the city of Baltimore no longer extends free parking to those with a handicap placard (at least in the downtown business district), and we kept trying to find a free parking space. After a long time we stopped in Little Italy for a bite to eat. Afterward we walked around downtown Baltimore and saw the kiddie Science Center and the National Aquarium. The Science Center is a cute, if pricy, museum for little budding scientists, with some great dinosaur skeletons and other exhibits. All floors are accessible by elevator. The Aquarium is very proactive regarding accessibility information. Wheelchair users are immediately led to a shorter line for tickets upon arrival and given access to an elevator that leads immediately to the main floor. They are also right away given a very detailed map of accessibility for the aquarium. Accessible seating is also offered at the dolphin show near the top of the arena.
DC – the smithsonians
Today we saw more of the Smithsonian Museums, most notably the American History museum and the Natural History museum. One of the best things about the Smithsonian museums—they’re free! We enjoyed being able to make use of these fantastic DC resources free of charge.
The American History museum is accessible to all floors by elevator. Normally, every exhibit is accessible. However, there is one exhibit on the third floor, a historical gunship, only accessible by stairs or lift, and today the lift was broken! It was a bummer but just our bad luck, and hopefully the lift will be working again soon.
The Natural History museum has one inaccessible main entrance and one accessible side entrance. Follow signs to find the accessible entrance, which will lead you to lower level one. From there you can take an elevator to the main floor of the museum. Inside the museum, accessibility is clearly marked with big colorful signs, which we appreciated. We particularly enjoyed the elephant in the center hall, as well as the marine exhibit featuring a desiccated giant squid, a life-size right whale model, and exhibit on deep sea thermal vents, among other strange, vivid creatures.
DC – the memorials
Today we went to see the memorials downtown. We stood below the monolithic figure of Abraham Lincoln and stared upward. The Gettysburg Address is inscribed in biblical capital letters in the left marble wall of the monument, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address to the right. The monument is accessible through the museum below the statue; follow signs to the accessible entrance and it will lead you through a museum on the man himself, on emancipation, and on the civil rights movement. An elevator leads up to the monument itself.
Of equal interest in the area are, within ten minutes’ walk, the Washington Memorial, and the Vietnam and Korean War Veterans Memorials. The Washington and Korean War Memorials are particularly accessible, as they are simple ground level memorials with flat paved walkways. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is, while accessible, slightly more annoying, as to see it there is a downward incline which begins on both ends with a rather bumpy path. The memorials themselves are austere and powerful. I definitely recommend a visit if you have never seen them before.
Today we arrived in the capital of the United States! Finally we have crossed from sea to shining sea—it’s been a crazy, wonderful trip and we aren’t even finished yet. We were eager to see the city and started with a tour of the Smithsonian Museums. The Visitors’ Center is a red castle at the center of the museum area, and it’s worth a visit to orient yourself and grab some maps. Finding street parking can be a nightmare, but there are some paid parking spots at various locations and the visitors center staff can assist you in your search.
The Smithsonian Museums take accessibility seriously. Today we saw the Air and Space Museum. Though there are a couple model spacecraft that are not accessible as they are only reachable by stairs, for the most part the museum is thoughtfully crafted and is almost entirely reachable by wheelchair. We particularly enjoyed the exhibits on Mars and space travel, and felt staring at pictures of alien worlds that we were once again children.
Afterwards we drove to George Town, a historic DC district about 20 minutes from downtown, to do some exploring. The streets are a little bumpy, but the district is largely accessible and there are many shops and cafes to make for an enjoyable afternoon.
On the road, again
Today was a driving day. We started driving at 12pm, stopped by a drive-through burger place for lunch and arrived in DC at 7pm.
Just as we thought we were leaving the Buffalo wings behind us, we met up with Daniel (Kunho and You’s friend) for dinner. All of the other places we wanted to go to were closed so we had Buffalo wings again.
We arrived in Pittsburgh very late at night. Kunho’s tailbone was hurting him, so he had a good rest in the hotel while the rest of the team explored Pittsburgh. We went to the Cathedral of Learning and found their 24 cultural rooms very interesting. We also learnt that some parts of the lower floor were not accessible as there was an area only reachable by steps, which could not have a ramp added due to renovation restrictions on historical buildings. We took the elevator to the 32rd floor and enjoyed a nice view from the top. We then found a smaller elevator which took us to the 37th floor where there were less people but smaller windows.
Afterward we walked to the museum of Art and Natural History. These two museums are housed in the same building. We also passed by the library before heading back to the car.
We ordered Chinese take out to bring back to the hotel and had lunch with Kunho. After a nice rest, we headed out again for the Andy Warhol Museum. It was a seven story building full of fascinating masterpieces by Warhol. I particularly liked the floating silver pillows exhibit.
After we left the museum, we went to the Duquesne inline for a nice early evening view over the city. We found out that the cable car was not accessible, though the viewing deck was. We Yelp-ed for dinner and found an exquisite French restaurant. Their food was delicious and very affordable, but be sure to reserve early in advance as they sell out quickly.