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Tourists Beat the Heat in D.C. Museums

It’s just after 10:30 on Monday morning. The temperature is 88 degrees, but it feels closer to 100.

Dianne Langevin glances at the entrance of the National Museum of the American Indian.

She decides she’s not going anywhere.

Langevin is just one of many tourists hanging out on the National Mall this week who are trying to stay cool by heading indoors.

The Montreal resident arrived Saturday, at the tail end of Washington, D.C.’s most scorching heat wave in years.

While her husband attends a conference this week, she intends to stay inside as much as possible.

“This heat, it’s not for me,” she says.

But then, with hyperthermia warnings and a heat index of 121, it’s not for anyone.

That’s where those free, air-conditioned museums come in.

Just outside the elevators of the NMAI, sisters Theresa Pankey and Ava Trinkler glance at a map. They planned this trip back in December and hadn’t anticipated the high temperatures.

The pair also didn’t realize that Capitol Hill is literally a hill, making their morning walk a sweaty one.

The plan for the rest of the day? Walk only to other museums, drink lots of water and stop in the shade when necessary.

“It’s not so bad,” says Pankey, of Dayton, Ohio.

Trinkler nods.

“We just can’t rush,” the Springfield, Ohio, resident says.

The NMAI staff has treated the recent hot days as a chance to push its events, spokeswoman Leonda Levchuk says.

Last weekend, the museum hosted its annual Living Earth Festival. The staffers anticipated people coming in from the heat, so they provided water stations.

“This doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, we want to be ready,” Levchuk says.

At least one tourist had no plans to actively try to avoid the weather during his time in D.C.

Simon Reed of Sioux Falls, S.D., came to town for a D.C. United soccer game. South Dakota has been experiencing its own heat wave, with temperatures reaching the mid-90s.

But “we don’t walk around, like people do here,” Reed says. “We stay inside and we drive around.”

Because he wants to get a feel for the city (and because the Metro is kind of confusing, he says), he opted to walk around D.C. to see the Capitol, museums and the monuments.

“I’ll enjoy the AC when I can, but I don’t want to miss out on the city,” he says.

Blocks away at the National Portrait Gallery in Chinatown, Lorraine Williams pulls off her pink Phillies cap and wipes her forehead. It’s getting a bit overcast, but that doesn’t stop her from sweating.

While her husband is on a business trip, she plans to wander around the city. And because she’s just come from Philadelphia, the D.C. heat isn’t going to deter her.

She worries that the security guards  will make her throw out her lemonade bottle as she walks through the front door, but they just wave her through.

Williams smiles gratefully at them before taking a seat in the hallway for a minute.

“I’m going to see whatever’s closest to this area,” she says as she finishes the rest of her drink. “No Mall for me today.”

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