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By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 11, 2008

Tops among this weekend's entertainment headlines is the opening of the Newseum, downtown Washington's reincarnated version of the former Rosslyn attraction dedicated to the history and evolution of news gathering. When it opens its shiny glass doors today, the 250,000-square-foot museum promises to become a significant new player in the city's crowded cultural scene.

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But what will you find when you get there? Only 14 major thematic exhibits; 15 theaters; a gallery of newspaper front pages that changes daily; hundreds of artifacts from major news stories (including a chunk of twisted wreckage from the North Tower of the World Trade Center); and so much audio and video it would take you more than a day to watch and listen to it all. In short, the seven-story institution could arguably be said to offer a different experience every time you visit.

Want to pick up a souvenir in the gift shop? There are four distinct shopping areas. Maybe grab a bite to eat? You could sample the cafeteria-style offerings in the Food Section food court one visit and treat yourself to the more upscale table service at the Source by Wolfgang Puck the next. Don't worry; you'll have worked up an appetite. Just walking the Newseum's 1 1/2 linear miles of exhibits takes nearly two hours, and that's without really stopping to linger over much.

So, how to navigate this jungle? Well, you came to the right place. Stay tuned as we supply the who, what, where, when, why and how (not to mention how much) needed to simplify your visit.

Is there a recommended route for first-time visitors?

Yes. Start in the Great Hall, just inside the Newseum's main entrance at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial). Overhead you'll see a replica of a Bell 206B news chopper and a giant video screen. Take the escalators down one flight to the Concourse level. Check out the short orientation film, and then ride the glass elevators near the Berlin Wall fragment up to the sixth floor. Work your way back downstairs on foot.

Insider Tips:

· Avoid using the museum's C Street entrance when tour buses are loading or unloading.

· Morning looks to be the best time to avoid crowds. Take advantage of the 9-to-5 daily hours. That's one hour before most Smithsonian museums open, and a full 2 1/2 hours earlier than the nearby Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery.

· If you've been to the Newseum when it was in Rosslyn, skip the orientation film. It's a slightly updated version of what you saw at the old museum, and you'll save a few minutes.

· For your second visit only, or for maverick first-timers: Bypass the glass elevators entirely, which don't stop between the Concourse and the sixth floor. At the east and west ends of the Great Hall are stairs and elevators that access every floor. Go crazy.

How much does it cost?


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