Build a Lego memory over beers

Friday, February 4, 2011; 1:55 AM

As far as local exhibits go, the National Building Museum's "Lego Architecture: Towering Ambition" has everything you could want for a date. Artist Adam Reed Tucker used plastic blocks to re-create famous structures - including the White House and St. Louis's Gateway Arch - that make for easy conversation starters about past travels. There's also the easy topic of childhood nostalgia, and favorite toys growing up. Or you can just marvel at the 18-foot-high replica of Dubai's Burj Khalifa.

Then comes the real fun: Grab one of the mini Lego building sets in the gift shop, and put it together while chatting over beers. The trick is to give it a sweet, tailored-to-your-date twist.

My date has family from Chicago, so we picked up a 69-piece replica of the Sears Tower (renamed the Willis Tower in 2009) and headed to the Billy Goat Tavern - a local branch of the Chi-town landmark immortalized on "Saturday Night Live" - a few blocks away. With Billy Goat Tavern beers and two cheezborgerz and chips in front of us, we got to work building a nine-inch skyscraper at our table. We laughed, we talked and, at the end, we had a pretty nice little souvenir.

There are a couple of other variations on the metropolitan theme: Take the Empire State Building kit to the Passenger on Seventh Street NW to put together while sipping Manhattans, or buy a Seattle Space Needle set to assemble in a nearby Starbucks.

- Fritz Hahn

National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. 202-272-2448. www.nbm.org . "Lego Architecture: Towering Ambition" is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sept. 5. $5 per person. The smaller sets that can be built at a bar cost $25.

Billy Goat Tavern, 500 New Jersey Ave. NW. 202-783-2123. www.billygoattavern.com. Open from 7 a.m. to last call Monday-Friday, and 9 a.m.-last call Saturday and Sunday.

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