5 Underrated Smithsonian Museums That You Should Check Out

5 Underrated Smithsonian Museums That You Should Check Out

Avoid the crowds at the Air and Space Museum by going to these hidden gems.
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The Smithsonian Institute is known world wide for being an institution made up of renown museums and exhibits mostly located on the capital mall of Washington D.C. As someone has spent most of his life visiting these museums I can attest that are very much deserving of the reputation they have received. On top of the fact that every Smithsonian is free of cost (Yup, you read that right you broke college student: FREE!!) they are a great place to spend your summer days while also educating yourself on variety of topics. The things is there are over 20 Smithsonians each dedicated to a specific topic, however the vast majority of people tend to visit a few of the more well known Museums (i.e. Air and Space Museum). Many people are unaware of the countless other Smithsonian museums that exist and are waiting for you to explore. While museums such as the American History museum and the Renwick Gallery have become essentials of the DC experience, this list of hidden gems are just as exciting and worth your time.

1. National Museum of African Art

This underground wonder is unlike any of the other art museums on the National Mall, it is a collection of exclusively African art from around the entire continent. It is a great place to be exposed to unique and non-Western art as well as being a great resources for learning more about African cultures in general.

2. National Museum of the American Indian


This is a building that is both a piece of art on the outside and the inside, its unique architecture alone makes it one of the most stunning places in the entire city. The museum is also known for its interactive exhibitions, authentic food and of the most creative and unique gift shops you will ever see.

3. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

This museum is home to Asian art going back centuries. Holding some of the oldest artifacts of any Smithsonian, it is a must see for a true art lover. Its modern pieces are equally captivating and its iconic peacock room is a must see piece of art.

4. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden


This museum is the home to some of the most creative, abstract and revolutionary art out there. Every single floor is exciting and different. Your eyes will never be bored at the Hirshhorn.

5. National Portrait Gallery

This is perhaps my personal favorite on the list due to the diversity of its exhibits as well as the beauty of the building itself and its indoor courthouse. Its many paintings, photographs and sculptures are used to tell different stories about the American experience.

Cover Image Credit: Unsilent Majority News

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Meet The College Student Who Took A Solo Road Trip Across The United States

With only a cooler, a bag of electronics, and a bag of clothes, Alex Kim embarked on the trip of a lifetime.

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Not many college students can say that they've taken a road trip across the United States. Even fewer can say that they've gone on that journey alone.

However, Alex Kim can say that within one month, he drove from the east coast to the west coast of the United States by himself. And he made sure to hit all the major attractions on the way.

You name it — the White House, Cloud Gate, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and Yosemite — Kim has been to all those places.

Kim is currently a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in religious studies with a minor in human rights. He plans to attend law school in the fall of 2019. So, he knew that if he wanted to take a trip across the states, the summer of 2018 would be the perfect time.

Courtesy of Alex Kim

I had the opportunity to meet Kim when he briefly stopped by Lawrence, Kansas, near the final stretch of his journey. When he told me about his trip, I was baffled, intrigued, and impressed all at once.

To take a long road trip with friends is one thing, but to take a month-long road trip by himself is an entirely different story.

Kim said he simply wanted to meet people. He had the opportunity to meet other brothers in his fraternity, Pi Alpha Phi, and made quite a few friends (myself included!) on the way. He also visited family friends and people that he knew through Greek life.

Besides meeting people, this trip also consisted mostly of driving an 6-8 hours per day, listening to educational podcasts, and traveling to national parks, monuments, and memorials. He even bought along a burner and pot to cook ramen noodles in the national parks. Kim called these meals his "ramen adventures."

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Kim said this trip was extremely of out of his comfort zone, but it helped that he went alone because he was able to set his own schedules, plan his own routes, and do everything at his own discretion.

When asked about why he decided to go alone, Kim said "Going with someone else means that I will spend way more money than I should… If I went with another person, I also have to cater sleeping accommodations as well."

There were many times where Kim simply slept in his car because he didn't know anyone in the area, or he didn't want to pay for a hotel or Airbnb. But he didn't have to sleep in his car the whole trip. Half the time, he had friends or family members who were willing to house him for a night or so.

In addition, going alone gave Kim a lot of time to reflect on his past and what's to come in his future.

"I can't tell you how many times I thought of what my next chapter of life will be," Kim said.

However, going alone also presented its fair share of obstacles. Some difficulties included bad weather, over exhaustion, too much caffeine, and lack of sleep and nutritious food. One of the biggest problems that he faced was loneliness.

Kim admitted that there were periods of time where he felt extremely lonely. When he knew that he wasn't going to see people for a while, he would call his parents in the morning to tell them where he had been and that he was doing well.

There was one instance where he was first traveling to a national park, Yellowstone Park, and he internally freaked out. For the most part, Kim heard nothing but complete radio silence because there was no reception. Kim said that he felt scared because he wasn't in control of his loneliness.

Aside from those challenges, Kim was glad to say that the road trip went well, and he didn't have any car trouble.

For him, some notable locations were New York City and Los Angeles. Kim didn't really go to L.A. for sightseeing, but rather to pay his respects to an old mentor who passed away. Even though he explored much of nature and national parks, he said that the most breathtaking view was not in fact at a national park, but at a family friend's farm in Harlington, Nebraska.

Courtesy of Alex Kim

"I never thought I would say this, but I really enjoyed the countryside in Nebraska. Being away from the city lights, it was very peaceful and quiet. The sunset was breathtaking," he said.

Overall, Kim approximated that he traveled across the United States for a grand total of 9,700 miles, and despite some challenges, he really enjoyed this trip. He met new and old people and witnessed stunning views that he wouldn't have seen back in North Carolina. As a lone traveler, Kim practiced humility and now sees the world with a fresh perspective.

Kim also learned many lessons along the way and here are six that he shared:

1. Learn to rely on yourself.

2. Sometimes it's good to play it by ear. You'll have the freedom to do so much more.

3. If you can't play it by ear, always have a contingency plan.

4. The people who constantly kept up with you throughout your whole trip are you true friends.

5. Get out of your comfort zone; learn to be versatile.

6. Take time to yourself to reflect on your past, make amends if possible, and plan out your future.

After his trip, Kim returned to North Carolina, taking with him all the experience and lessons he gained from his travels. Nowadays, he keeps busy by studying for the LSAT in September and working towards getting into law school.

But would Kim take this extraordinary road trip again if he could? Most definitely.

See more pictures from his trip below.


Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

All photos here are provided courtesy of Alex Kim.

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I Was Thrown Into Dragon Boat Racing And I Loved It

I tried dragon boat racing for the first time not knowing I was going to be doing it and loved it.

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I recently was invited by my boyfriend to paddle a dragon boat. Little did I know this was going to be a race. Neither of us expected it to turn out as intense as it did. I thought it was going to be a semi-leisurely paddle around a lake. There were twelve teams that raced in two heat races then were seeded in a final race. Our team ended up taking 5th place out of the 12 teams which was pretty good for a team who's never raced a dragon boat.

The teams were made up of 21 people each and a coach. There were 20 rowers and one drummer. The drummer's job was to keep the beat of our pace so that we all knew what speed to paddle at. As rowers, we had to paddle in sync. I didn't think it was going to be as difficult as it was. The coach steered the boat and somewhat directing our moves.

The tricky part of paddling is that you had to keep your top arm straight. To propel the boat forward you lean forward and pull your core back to pull water to the back of the boat. There was very little arm movement involved in paddling. The bigger people with more muscles were seated in the middle of the boat as "the engine" while smaller and weaker individuals were towards the front and back. I sat in the very back of the boat next to a female about the same size as me.

The boat was the shape of a canoe but was much longer. There were 10 rows of benches and a seat in the front that faced the rowers. The front and the back were much narrower than the middle. The front and the back of the boat had a dragon head and tail on them, respectively. The coach stood in the back with a large paddle that hooked to the back to steer.

Rowing the boat was therapeutic. It was a great way to focus frustration from my week into something productive. It also made me feel strong and powerful. Additionally, it fostered a sense of team between the people rowing the boat. We all were enthusiastic and went out there to have fun but also try to win. Many of the people on the boat were my boyfriend's family who I have never met. I think this was an interesting way to meet the family and I would definitely do it again.

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