Going Balls Deep at the National Building Museum

by Heidi Obermeyer

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I don’t think I will ever have a better blog post title than that, do you? Katelyn came down for the weekend a few weeks ago and I convinced her to join me on a trip to The Beach at the National Building Museum. Every summer (or at least the two summers that I’ve been in Washington) the museum has a huge interactive exhibit in its main hall. Last summer, it was a giant wooden maze. This summer, it is an all-white “beach”, complete with all-white beach chairs, all-white umbrellas, a concession stand, and…. thousands and thousands and thousands of translucent plastic balls that form the water.

It is, in a word, surreal.

You walk in and think “Oh God. This is going to be awful.” We went at 10 or 11, right when the museum opened on a weekday, and the place was already packed full of kids. It looked like it was going to be awful in the way that crowded things are sometimes awful. But surprisingly, once you made the leap and got in to the ball pit- er, ocean- it actually felt quite serene. Since you- at least as an adult- are pretty stuck once you jump in, even the people who are close to you have almost no chance of invading your personal space.

The best part of the whole experience was the selfie opportunities presented by a giant pit of balls. Perhaps the exhibit was really a commentary on millennial life? Anyway, we got some great shots. And a vine.


The rest of the museum, aside from the interesting model buildings surrounding the upper level of the atrium, was a bit of a bust. Most of the visitors were obviously there for the beach exhibit, and while the gift shop was fantastic, they could probably do a lot more with the topic of buildings than they had.

I think the exhibit is over now, but if you’re ever in DC during the summer (something I do not recommend, in fact) check out what’s happening in the main hall at the National Building Museum.