Happy 4th of July! Today I am sharing some photos of our visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History along with a recipe for Berry Rice Krispies Treats.
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The National Museum of American History is located in Washington DC on the corner of 14th Street and Constitution Avenue. It is open daily (except Christmas) from 10 am to 5:30 pm with occasional extended hours to 7:30 pm. Admission is free.
This museum was originally opened in January 1964 as the Museum of History and Technology before switching to the current name in 1980. It has undergone a few major renovations over the years including the latest with some sections of the west wings closed during our visit in February. It looks like a few of those exhibits have just opened such as American Democracy: The Great Leap of Faith, Many Voices, One Nation, and the temporary exhibit called Religion in Early America. Here is more information on the current exhibits.
The museum is home to over three million objects (5-8% are on display at any given time) that focus on American history and culture including the original 34 ft long Star-Spangled Banner, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers (currently out on loan), Declaration of Independence Desk, Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, Muhammad Ali’s Boxing Gloves, the Greensboro Lunch Counter, and C-3PO from Return of the Jedi. We generally spend about two hours here, but that is not nearly enough time to see everything. It usually works out best to look through the list of exhibits ahead of time and pick out your favorites before visiting.
This museum is a particular favorite for Evan and Claire. While some sections have been created just for children, many of the other exhibits have hands-on activities and displays at a height that is easy for them to explore.
The doll house on the first floor always catches their eye. They love to look through the details in each of the 23 rooms and make up stories about the scenes.
Evan especially enjoyed the Places of Invention. This exhibit is split into six communities with each focusing on ideas from different parts of the country like the rise of the personal computer in Silicon Valley, California and hip-hop’s birth in the Bronx, New York.
One of my favorites was FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000. This area explores the changes in food and eating due to technological advances and shifts in social and cultural life.
It also includes a section devoted to Julia Child with her Cambridge, Massachusetts kitchen (photo above)
Photos above from The First Ladies exhibit. Gowns from Martha Washington and Michelle Obama along with White House china. I loved walking through and seeing how fashion and tastes have changed over the years.
We always end up spending a good portion of our time in Wegmans Wonderland. Everything here is hands-on for 0-6 year olds. Children can play, build, and explore. Evan enjoyed grocery shopping while Claire’s favorite area was the Julia Child kitchen made just for her size. It is open 10-4 and closed on Tuesdays. On busy days, there may be a line to enter and it is first come first serve with timed tickets on weekends and federal holidays. This section also has stroller parking, family restrooms, and an area to nurse.
For those who have outgrown Wegmans Wonderland, the Spark!Lab next door is available for children 6-12 years of age. Themes change often and focus on inventions that combine STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) with art and creativity. The lab is also open 10-4 and closed on Tuesdays.
There are two lunch options to choose from. We stopped for a snack at the Stars and Stripes Cafe in the lower level. It is open from 11-3 and has a variety of options cafeteria-style. Choices include all-American barbeques, soups, salad bar, burgers, pizza and desserts. The seating area holds 600.
It wasn’t available during our visit, but the LeRoy Neiman Jazz Cafe is newly renovated and now open to the public. This cafe is located on the first floor and open from 10-5. The food is inspired by New Orleans with gumbo, muffuletta, po-boy sandwiches, and more.
In celebration of the 4th of July, I added a bit of holiday spirit to an American favorite, Rice Krispies Treats. For added color, I tossed the rice krispies with finely chopped freeze-dried berries before coating in browned butter and melted marshmallows. After forming the mixture into a square, I used a cookie cutter to cut out individual stars. Top the rice krispies stars with ground freeze-dried berries or a drizzling of melted white chocolate for some added flair.
Freeze-dried berries can be found in the snack section of many larger grocery stores. They are also available on Amazon: Trader Joe’s Freeze Dried Fruit Variety Pack.
I cut the rice krispies treats into stars. If you decide to do squares, let them cool for a little before slicing into individual squares.
Berry Rice Krispies Treats
Adapted from Runaway Chef
5 cups rice krispies
1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries, finely chopped
1/2 cup freeze-dried raspberries, finely chopped
1/2 cup freeze-dried blueberries, finely chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 1/2 ounces mini marshmallows
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melted white chocolate for drizzling
Ground freeze-dried strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries
Cover a work surface with parchment.
In a large bowl, toss together the rice krispies, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it foams and brown specks begin to form, reduce heat to low and immediately stir in the salt, mini marshmallows, and vanilla extract until the marshmallows are melted and smooth.
Remove from heat and immediately stir in the rice krispies and berries until well-coated. Pour the mixture onto the piece of parchment and pat down gently (form into a square, but don’t press down too hard), using gloves or another piece of parchment if too hot to handle, into a square about 1 inch thick. If cutting out shapes, use the star or other desired cutter to cut shapes out of the square, oiling the cookie cutter as needed to prevent the marshmallows from sticking. Work quickly and press the excess back into a square and cut out 2-3 more.
Allow to rest at room temperature until set. If desired, sprinkle ground freeze-dried berries over the top of the rice krispies or drizzle melted white chocolate. Serve once the chocolate has set or store in an air-tight container for up to a couple of days.