On a beautiful sunny day during Columbus Day weekend, Washington, D.C.’s skyline was magnificent. The city’s marathon was in full gear, making crossing the street in front of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture cumbersome. Fortunately, there wasn’t a long line to get into the Museum, as entering the magnificent building was indeed a long awaited pleasure. There was so much information to take in. Guests were immediately directed to the front desk for a map and instructed to start at the bottom for the beginning of the tour, and our story.

All you want to do is experience the history, a story of a people from the very start of their existence in America. On the ground floor, you are exposed to the slave ships. The scents, photos, wall texts, sculptures and actual objects on display were awe inspiring. The feelings passing through your mind, heart and soul were real. “Grandma, there’s a shoe left at the bottom of a ship,” said little Soraya Randolph, a second-grader preparing for a Black history report at her school. She was studying every detail. She mainly wanted to see Harriet Tubman, a character she wanted to portray for Halloween’16. In the midst of a huge crowd of people, everyone walked, gazed, listened and experienced the often emotional delivery of the most sensitive, yet memorable, details of African-American life. It was wonderful to be with so many folks. Everyone was in awe of the magnitude of the exhibits.

The museum transitioned guests through amazing cultural and historic events, some of which were disruptive at times, especially in the slave ship segment. You can actually see and feel what it was like to be on the slave ship. You can hear the sea splashing against the ship and smell the scents. Some folks cried. Others just talked to the person next to them. Another serious experience involved sitting at the lunch counter and watching the films of violence that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement.

As for fashion, African-Americans dressed themselves in their best clothing in this era, especially when going to church and to town. There was a dress donated from the fashion collection of the late Lois Alexander, which was on display at Alexander’s Black Fashion Museum in Harlem. Dressing up back then was about gaining respectability. Walking through another section, you viewed the actual white shawl gifted to Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria in 1897.

Now through Dec. 7, 2016, there’s a display of 22 photographs that reflect the diversity of African-American experiences on the lower level. Through March 8, 2017, the first Floor West Wing features a rotating “New Perspectives” display, located within the “American Enterprise” exhibition. The display examines the ways in which African-American businesses have grown. This temporary showcase focuses on Harold Cotton, who owned and operated Bob’s Hat Shop in Greensboro, N.C., from 1953 to 2005. As vice president of the Madame C.J. Walker Co., Marjorie Stewart Joyner, supervisor and the trainer of thousands of African-American beauticians, is also represented in this section.

With Christmas fast approaching, you may want to take a trip just to see this beautiful museum. Tickets can also make a nice present or stocking stuffer. It is worth a trip for the entire family.