Museum Minute Vol. 4 – Alternative Museum Activities

Freer Courtyard
Freer Courtyard

Museum Minute is written by Elle O’Flaherty. Elle lives in Mt. Pleasant and previously wrote about the Smithsonian Associates.

Sometimes I forget that, in addition to the typical walk-through museum experience, the Smithsonian provides tons of free space for quiet reflection, working, and socializing if you find the right spot.  I hadn’t been to the Freer in years, but recently a colleague suggested we have a meeting in the museum’s courtyard.  As you can see from the picture above, the courtyard is centered on a gorgeous fountain with chairs and benches surrounding it.  The sound of the water was incredibly soothing and it made a nice change from the typical depressing conference room.  It’d also make a great lunch spot if you work nearby.

Hirshhorn room
Hirshhorn room

Although the Freer courtyard is quiet and shady, it’s probably a bit hot for this time of year. While looking for cooler options I came upon a room in the Hirshhorn with panoramic views of the Mall, a bank of comfy chairs, and two big conference tables.  In fact, there was someone working on his laptop at one of the tables.  It seemed like an ideal location if you’re the type who needs some noise to do work (although you’d probably have to provide your own hotspot if you need an internet connection).  A couple of other interesting spaces came to mind (specifically, the National Portrait Gallery’s enclosed courtyard, which is a great spot for a date and they serve wine).  I’d love to hear about any others I should check out in the comments.

6 Comment

  • Forget the meeting. I could work all day from the Hirshhorn room. Most of the mall and surrounding buildings have public wifi now.

  • andy

    I love several spots right around the Smithsonian Castle, near Freer/Sackler.

    The small path between the Freer and Sackler that they fill with tropical plants in the summer has several benches that are tucked underneath huge, often blooming, tropical plants of all kinds. It is a great place for a private lunch or just a moment away.

    It used to be that you could picnic on the grass in the wonderful gardens at the Smithsonian castle (Enid Haupt garden). A while back, they fenced off once side so that access was clearly barred, but not the other. If I were still in the dating game, I would certainly try a picnic blanket in the grass back there.

    The Ripley Garden has several quiet spots surrounded by a ton of very nice plants, and the little entryway between the Ripley and the Hirshhorn is a private enclave most don’t pass through.

    Also, a little further away, the Museum of American History has gardens that ring it on the outside. Most people come at the building from the Mall side, but the opposite side has some very nice garden nooks that are pretty private.

  • ledroittiger

    The courtyard at the Textile Museum is very nice if you’re up in the Embassy Row area.

  • The Hirshhorn room is (was) one of my favorite secret spots. Squint your eyes at the view and you almost feel as if you’re transformed to ancient greece.

  • Leslie Knope

    Highlighting two of my favorite places ever. Great job!

  • I also love the Kogod courtyard in the middle of the Portrait Gallery & SAAM. It’s a lovely place to take your lunch on a wintery day and still get some sunshine.

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