Revenge of LocalYokel DC: National Museum of the American Indian

Told you she’d be back — our SHC delves deeper into an oft-overlooked gem in DC, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Curvilinear architecture of the NMAI recalls American wonders like Antelope Canyon. image via

I know that I have recommended visiting the Smithsonian institutions generally as one of those very touristy things that are worth their praise, but I want to take a moment to talk about one which I think is worthy of particular notice. In addition to all of the things listed above and DC’s iconic monuments and buildings, I want to talk about a very cool museum which is frankly one of my favorite places in DC. The National Museum of the American Indian is really one of the most interestingly curated museums that I have ever visited. Far from the days of stiff feathered costumes on lifeless mannequins, this museum really brings its subjects to life using an array of technologies and psychological approaches. There are indeed intricate costumes and handicrafts from a variety of native cultures, but there is also an overlap of multimedia tools that allow for sensory immersion into the world of the Native Americans.


Artifact of a DC culture vulture: rad coasters available in the gift shop.

From the moment that you approach the museum with its unconventional architecture and garden of indigenous plants, your perspective on the world changes. Upon entering the exhibits, you are confronted with the realities of the brutal history of conflict and dispossession but also with the vibrancy of the tribal cultures that are explored. One of my favorite parts of this museum is the section that delves into the psychology of various tribes. By walking through a radial series of exhibits, you journey through different regions of North America and learn how the various tribes adapted physically, intellectually, socially, and spiritually to their various climates and circumstances. The learning is about more than just looking at display cabinets, it is also about altering the way we think about what constitutes society. It is really something that is better when experienced than described, so all I can say is that you should go.

Cedar plank salmon and fiddleheads: true American cuisine at Mitsitam Cafe. image via

While there, be sure to visit Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe which is the museum’s restaurant on the ground floor. It was only by going there that I realized that “Native American” restaurants are extremely rare, which is a shame. This one is truly unique because it uses Pre-Columbian ingredients to make very modern and accessible foods. I had buffalo chili cheese fries, but don’t worry, there are plenty of vegetarian, vegan and child-friendly options. The restaurant manages to offer gourmet, adventurous cuisine representing many different regions of the Americas. Each regional serving station offers dishes of varying sizes, price points, and tastes so it is possible to try things from all of the different regions. Be sure to leave room for dessert and for the seasonal agua fresca. There really is something for everyone at this cool place.

LocalYokel: Washington DC

LocalYokel brings you the goods from someone who should know, since you’re in their backyard. This one’s from our trusty SHC. And stay tuned for her special guide to the best Smithsonian museum

Day or night, politics is in the water in this town.

EATStarter: Visit Rosa Mexicano on 7th St NW for guacamole, it’s a religious experience of the highest avocado order. Main Course: Head up the street to Zengo for an Asian-Latin fusion tapas menu. On a budget? Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street is so tasty even President Obama loves it. Willing to splash out a bit? Russia House in Dupont Circle is the place to dine in high style and drink yourself under the table. Fancy a dessert? Dangerously Delicious Pies on H ST NE is the place to be. You can close your eyes and point in there and your tastebuds will be happy.

SLEEPSomewhere glam: The Mayflower Renaissance Washington, DC Hotel – There’s a reason that this is DC’s hotel of choice for sleazy politicians’ sex scandals (remember Eliot Spitzer?), it’s a gorgeous hotel in a great location. Here’s some background info on the hotel’s role in the more dubious side of Washington. Somewhere comfy: The Westin Washington, DC City Center – This is my staycation hotel of choice. It’s in a great location. The courtyard atrium is unique and gives it a relaxing, spa-like feel. The breakfasts are gourmet and the beds are comfortable enough to work the stress knots out of any overworked Washingtonian. Somewhere cheap: Experience historic charm on the cheap at Adam’s Inn Bed and Breakfast which is in lively yet leafy Adams Morgan.

GOget some culture: At the National Gallery of Art, be sure to have some gelatto in the Cascade Cafe downstairs after viewing the excellent main collection and interestingly varied exhibitions. The Freer and Sackler Galleries showcase Asian art. You can’t really go wrong by exploring the other Smithsonian Institutions as well. If you are lucky enough to catch an interesting festival or event on the Mall, in the streets, or at the Kennedy Center, you’ll get to experience the transient diversity that makes DC such a great, livable city. Get your politique on: Check the relevant senatorial or congressional website and if you are there early enough, you can attend the committee hearings and find out what your elected leaders actually do all day. Also be sure to visit Politics & Prose, an independent bookstore on Connecticut Ave, where you can see all kinds of thought-provoking authors speak about their work.

Are YOU more local than this yokel? Tell us what we missed!

in-flight film: The Rum Diary (2011)

The Rum Diary is an adaptation of Hunter S Thompson’s vaguely autobiographical novel about his time served at the San Juan Star. As far as Johnny Depp and co. are concerned, the film is about many stories (romance, buddy movie, corporate intrigue), all of them revolving around expats versus locals in 1960s Puerto Rico. But regardless of what you think of the plot, the movie is a gorgeous peek at the east side of the island of Puerto Rico.

Amber Heard / Chenault

"I thought maybe you were a mermaid."| "I'm from Connecticut." All images via

Rum Diary

TRD lets you bask in the clean mod architecture of the wealthy coastline, dart through the lush jungles aboard a round of questionable vehicles, and watch staticky TV via your neighbor’s apartment across the alley in el Viejo San Juan. Plus there’s a bedazzled turtle. I mean, not that this is meant as a tourism PR piece (pretty clearly stated as such in a couple of the plot’s strands), but considering the real deal is just a couple hours’ from the East coast, it’s worth a trip. See for yourself. And on the flight there, watch this. (But do not try to best that record of 161 nips.)