A couple of years ago, Natalie Gruzlewski spent a night in the American Museum for Natural History in New York City. It was all about the Ben Stiller movie Night at the Museum
The sequel, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, was filmed at the magnificent Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Jules Lund visited the museum to see what it is all about. If you can't make it to DC, check out the film, which is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum complex and research organisation. It's composed of 19 museums, nine research centres and the National Zoo. Each is alive with stories and history and each one is free to visit. Eight million visitors go there each year.
High on the list of things to see is the National Air & Space Museum. It's the most popular museum in the world, with the best collection of aircraft and spacecraft anywhere. Children love it as they're allowed to touch everything and you can even take photographs, unlike in most museums.
It's busy from dawn until dark and that's when most museums close their doors, but not Air & Space. At night it takes on a whole new vibe.
In the film Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Ben Stiller again plays Larry Daley, a former museum guard attempting to restore order at the Smithsonian. Larry is now an inventor and entrepreneur and teams up with aviatrix Amelia Earhart (played by Amy Adams). She is also his on-screen love interest.
The pair bond on the wings of the Wright Flyer, an amazing 1903 construction of spruce and ash, covered with muslin and which actually flew! Together they try to save his friends Jedediah and Octavius who have been shipped to the museum in error by Egyptian Pharaoh Kahmunrah.
Along the way they meet Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon Bonaparte, General Custer, Al Capone, Attila the Hun and many other historic figures. Stone-cold exhibits spring to life there are grunting Neanderthals and enormous squid. Even the famous Armstrong moon suit comes to life in the film.
It's all great fun, and the Smithsonian is experiencing record-breaking attendances. Most of us remember the thought of going to a museum not being high on the list of entertainment. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian seems to have stirred interest in both young and old, so it's a win-win.
If you're planning a visit to Washington, DC, try to make time for a "Moonlight Monuments" guided walk. Washington Walks runs guided tours of Washington's National Mall and Monuments which featured in the film.
The monuments are spectacularly lit at night and there are lots of them, including the Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, World War II, Korean and Vietnam memorials. From the Washington Monument, there are unencumbered views from Thomas Jefferson's memorial to the White House. The walk follows the tree-lined Reflecting Pool as the lights of Washington come up.
For further details about Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, visit www.nightatthemuseum.com.au.
Washington, DC, the capital of the United States.
The Smithsonian Institution is open every day, except Christmas Day, between 10am and 5pm and entry is free.
Washington by Night Monument Tours take place on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Friday at 6.30pm. They cost around $17 for adults and are free for children less than three years of age.
V Australia has a sale on return fares to Los Angeles.
- Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane $1095
- Canberra $1295
- Adelaide and Hobart
- Perth $1695
These prices are on sale until midnight Sunday, November 14, 2009, AEDT. The special Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane fare is for travel between February 1 and March 24, 2010.
Connections to Washington, DC, are available.
Visit the V Australia website for information on these and other great fares.
Prices correct at November 12, 2009.
For further information
Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
Independence Avenue at 6th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20560
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
10th Street & Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20560
819 G Street SW
Washington, DC 20024
Ph: + 1 202 484 1565
Visas: Most Australians do not need a visa, providing they have a machine readable passport with at least six months' validity after the departure day, have a round-trip non-refundable ticket and do not intend to stay longer than 90 days. Australians need to complete a pre-travel authorisation at www.cbp.gov/esta.
Electricity: Electric current is 110V to 115V at 60Hz. Outlets take two-parallel, flat prongs. Australian visitors will need a US adapter and converter.
Time zone: Washington, DC, is at GMT-5.
Currency: The American dollar.
International dialling code: +1.