America’s Capital – Washington, DC

We were all eager for our road trip to Washington, DC.  We told Leah the night before about our trip.  At first, she wanted a freeze-pop because she thought we meant, “trip” as in fall down.  Once we explained “trip” in two year-old terms, she got excited!  This was the first time she actually understood and wanted to go.  Most people don’t know when the travel bug bit them, for Leah – it was then!  She wanted to go to “VashinTOWN”!

We “planned” on leaving around 8AM.  When you are taking a flight, your departure time is set.  If you don’t leave on time, you’re not going on vacation.  It certainly adds a sense of urgency to getting out of the house.  When taking a road trip, everyone is a little more relaxed.  That can be a great thing unless you want to arrive at a specific time.

I normally add extra time to our departures since Leah can add five to twenty minutes doing everything herself! Maybe you are familiar with the phrase “I do!”  but all of us (including me)  seemed to be pulling the “Oh wait a minute – let me just grab one more thing.”  Then I hadn’t planned breakfast ahead, so we stopped at WaWa (for those not on the East Coast, it’s an awesome convenience store).  And, we also had to stop for gas!

At 9:30AM we were on the road with the GPS set.  All things considered, not too bad.  The car ride was quick and the kids loved the Baltimore tunnel.  Michael came the closest but none of us could hold our breath for the entire length of it. 

Michael is familiar with the DC area and he wanted to take us into the city via a more scenic route.  We went “off GPS.”  Scary, right?  We did have some tense moments as his memory lapsed a bit but he quickly figured it out and we were on the right course.  Wait, what’s that ahead?  You guessed it, the red break lights of traffic.  My husband felt badly but it just made it easier to enjoy those great views and vistas!

We made it through and to the Embassy Suites around 11AM.  We knew we were too early to check in but decided to give it a try.  As suspected, our room wasn’t ready so we checked our bags, gave the car keys to the valet, and began our tour!  The concierge gave us directions to our first stop, The Museum of Natural History.

As we left, we noticed a sparkly path across the street.  We thought Leah would love to walk across the glittery pavement, which she did!  About halfway along, we realized this was a bus stop.  It felt very odd to think we had stumbled across a little girl’s wonderland only to realize we were walking through a waiting area for bus travelers – see you can make anything fun!

At the museum, we made our way first to the café.  Don’t do this!  It was very nice but so crowded and expensive.  Why, oh why did we go there, who knows, but learn from our mistakes, please!  We considered this our contribution to the museum since entrance was free!

The kids liked the museum – the dinosaur bones and the real-life looking mammals were our favorites until… the butterfly exhibit.  This attraction does cost extra but is so worth it!  We’ve been to a few (Hilton Head most recently, which was good) but this is the best!  There are so many colorful butterflies and they land on your hands, your hair, your hat; it was really amazing!  This is a “must-do”!

After, we walked down The National Mall, past the Washington Monument and past the back of the White House, we were at the World War II Memorial.  It was just beautiful.  Moving on, we walked along the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial.  Insider Hint:  If you have a stroller, about halfway up the steps, there is an elevator.  Be sure to check out the little museum they have back there.  Oh, and if you need the restroom, it’s there too.

We were all a little tired and thirsty.  We decided to go back to the hotel via Pennsylvania Avenue.  We stopped along the way at one of the tons of sidewalk stands, which sell everything.  We just bought some water.  We walked past the front of the White House.  This is pretty cool and you should check it out.  It’s worth it just to see the protestors.

Back at the hotel, our room still wasn’t ready.  They were trying to give us a room with a great view but since we were all so tired, we opted to forgo the nicer room.  The room we did receive was fine.  One of the things I love about the Embassy Suites is the free happy hour.  After resting for a bit, we went down to enjoy some snacks and drinks.

While there, we finalized our choice for dinner and my husband suggested calling first.  Good thinking because they had a 45-minute wait.  We called our second, third, and fourth through tenth restaurants – all had waits.  I should take my mother-in-law’s advice  and make reservations!  We ended up getting room service, which wasn’t outrageous and the kids loved it.

As planned, the boys took a quick swim and I put the baby to bed.  Another great point of the Embassy Suites is the separate living area.  The babies can sleep while the rest of the family enjoys their night too.

The next morning, we enjoyed our free breakfast at the hotel and then made our way to Ford’s Theatre.  This is another “must-do”!  It was tough with Leah but my husband stayed with her just in the outside hall area.  I would say over age three would do just fine – as long, as they can be quiet or at least whisper for 30 minutes.  The presentation is very interesting and informative.  Go early though.  We arrived at 9:30AM and went right in.  When we came out, there was quite a line.

We then went to the Old Post Office (a short walk away).  This again is a “must-do”!  The glass elevator ride is cool, the views at the top are fantastic, and it’s free!

Back to the hotel and to get our car.  We stopped for a quick lunch and went to the National Zoo.  Okay, you’re probably not going to like hearing this but it wasn’t good.  First, we parked in Lot C toward the back of the zoo.  The only entrance was up a boardwalk trail, which had steps.  Not a lot in a row but getting a stroller up any steps is tough.  The zoo is free – I guess that means I can’t complain too much.  I am going to tell you though there was a lot of walking without many exhibits along the way.  It seemed much of it was under construction; maybe we were just there at a bad time.  Also another odd thing, many of the animals are behind glass but the glass has etchings of leaves and such on it.  This makes it really difficult to even see the animals.  If you do go, be prepared to walk (as I’ve mentioned) a lot to see just a few animals.

We left around 5PM and were home by 8PM.  There were no crazy car stories.  I did have my plastic bags ready but am happy to say we didn’t need them.  I guess I jinxed myself in a good way with the preplanning story

Here are some details if you’re planning a trip to DC!

Washington, DC Details

Getting There:
We drove but if you want to fly,
Washington National Airport…closest to downtown
Dulles International Airport…about 40 minutes from downtown
Baltimore-Washington International Airport…about an hour from downtown 

Where to Stay:
Embassy Suites:  900 10th Street NW, Washington, DC 202.739.2001…great family hotel in good location
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill:  400 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 202.737.1234…special rate for familes getting a second room and 20% off for fans (let me know if you want more information)   

What to Do:
National Museum of Natural History…intersection of 10th Street and Constitution Ave., NW Washington, DC. 20560, cost = free
Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History…2nd floor of the National Museum of Natural History, cost = $6 for adults, $5 for kids
War World II Memorial…located on 17th Street, between Constitution and Independence Avenues Washington DC, cost = free
Lincoln Memorial…900 Ohio Drive SW Washington, DC, cost = free
White House…1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC, cost to walk outside = free, cost to go inside = free but you need a special pass, write to your congressman 4-6 months prior to your visit
Ford’s Theatre511 Tenth St, NW, Washington, DC, cost = free but you have to stop by the box office for a ticket and a donation is requested
Old Post Office…1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC, cost = free
National Zoo…3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC, cost = free

Coming Soon:  We’re off to Sin City (with the kids?)!

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