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

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

Architecture

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

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/421359521/421359524" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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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 hide caption

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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.

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 exhibition includes lounge chairs and 700,000 white plastic orbs in the museum's Italian Renaissance style building. Noah.Kalina/National Building Museum hide caption

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Noah.Kalina/National Building Museum

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 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."