Take A Trip To D.C.'s Indoor Beach, Where It's Always 75 And Sunny

Take A Trip To D.C.'s Indoor Beach, Where It's Always 75 And Sunny

5:24pm Jul 09, 2015
Museumgoers play in the 10,000-square-foot exhibition called "The Beach" at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
Museumgoers play in the 10,000-square-foot exhibition called "The Beach" at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
Noah Kalina / National Building Museum
  • Museumgoers play in the 10,000-square-foot exhibition called "The Beach" at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

    Museumgoers play in the 10,000-square-foot exhibition called "The Beach" at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

    Noah Kalina / National Building Museum

  • The exhibition includes lounge chairs and 700,000 white plastic orbs in the museum's Italian Renaissance style building.

    The exhibition includes lounge chairs and 700,000 white plastic orbs in the museum's Italian Renaissance style building.

    Noah.Kalina / National Building Museum

The nation's capital is sweaty and sweltering right now, but Washington locals and visitors can find a seaside getaway in the most unlikely of places. In the middle of downtown D.C., the National Building Museum has installed a 10,000-square-foot indoor "beach" that has attracted kids, tourists and workers looking for an out-of-the-ordinary lunch break.

"What we've got here is a big, white box 200 feet by 50 feet," explains Cathy Frankel, vice president for exhibitions. "We have it carpeted with our sand, which is more like white AstroTurf. You can walk around here on the beach. It's always 75 degrees and sunny here."

The beach — situated in the museum's Great Hall amid massive Corinthian columns — consists of a snack bar, white lounge chairs with umbrellas and a pool of 700,000 white plastic balls, up to 3 feet deep in some places.

"It took a full day for the entire staff to unload all the boxes of balls into the ocean," says Chase Rynd, the museum's executive director. "We thought it was going to be really simple. ... No, it was work."

On a recent afternoon, Cindy Guan and Olivia de Fouchier — two interns from the Justice Department — stop by for a dip. Dressed in business attire, they take off their shoes and wade into the ocean alongside throngs of screaming kids. "I thought it would be a great way to have fun in the middle of the day," says de Fouchier. "This is wonderful."

Rynd says he wants to give visitors a new and fresh perspective of the formal and elegant museum interior. "We were really intent upon using our space in different ways," he says.

Sitting on the white "sand" with friends visiting from Juneau, Alaska, Ellen Canopy thinks it's working: "It's kind of neat being surrounded by this beautiful building — being here at the beach and look around and see these gold columns and beautiful windows," she says. "It's a beautiful place. It's a neat concept."

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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

You know, I've always heard about these places where you can do indoor skiing. There's apparently a spot in Bellevue, Wash. where you ski and snowboard on carpeting, I guess getting a taste of winter without the cold. Well, another Washington - Washington, D.C. - is trying this from another angle, summer. They've created an indoor beach. It's a huge indoor exhibit at the National Building Museum. You can taste summer right in the city while avoiding the nasty heat and humidity just outside. We received this audio postcard.

JUDY FAGEN: My name is Judy Fagen (ph). I live in D.C. I'm here with my granddaughters. We're in the Building Museum, although they would say we're at the beach.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY #1: Cannonball.

CATHY FRANKEL: I am Cathy Frankel. I'm the vice president for exhibitions here at the museum. What we've got here is a big, white box, 200 feet by 50 feet. We have it carpeted with our sand, which is more like white AstroTurf. You can walk around here on the beach. It's always 75 and sunny in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Everything is monochromatic white. But if you notice, the color in this room are the people.

ANDRIANNE SALVETTE: My name's Andrianne Salvette (ph), and I'm from Alexandria, Va., here with my son trying to get some beach time in since this summer has been so wet.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: People are running around without their shoes on. They're jumping into the ocean of plastic balls. They're sitting on these beautiful beach chairs with umbrellas as we have laid out in rows here.

FRANKEL: There's a pier that goes out into our beach, 700-and-some-thousand plastic balls to wade into. It gets to be about 3 feet deep.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY #2: Plastic ball fight.

ELLEN CANOPY: Ellen Canopy, Alaska. People are swimming and having a good time. And there's no sharks, though, so it's nice and safe.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY #3: I just jumped in. It's really cool.

OLIVIA DE FOUCHIER: Olivia de Fouchier. I'm interning at the Justice Department. We're here on our lunch break right now, and we want to take a break and just have a little bit of fun for adults.

(LAUGHTER)

CANOPY: Kind of neat being surrounded by this beautiful building, you know. You're at the beach and look around and see these gold columns and beautiful windows. And yeah, it's a beautiful place. It's neat. It's a neat concept.

GREENE: Bizarrely, it actually sounds like the seashore, doesn't it? Those were visitors to the beach at Washington, D.C.'s National Building Museum. The fun out of the sun runs through Labor Day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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