Two Days In Washington D.C.
This summer I packed up my wife, Amanda, and two kids, Asher who’s 9 and Isaiah who’s 6, for a trip to our nation’s capital. This was two-and-a-half day stop on the way north from Georgia to New Hampshire.
We got into DC mid-afternoon, and after the long drive wanted nothing more than to relax at the hotel. We stayed in Alexandria,VA, right outside the city proper. Amanda made that truly great decision. Hotel rates around DC are ridiculous, so staying outside the city was budget-friendly. Even better, we were centrally-located to our plans. We spend the half day at the hotel pool. And I believe that pool was a key to all of our sanity.
We woke up early the next morning with fill day planned. There is so much to do in DC, it’s important to plan out your time. It’s just as important if you are taking young kids to understand your plans will be blown apart.
Day 1. We started at The National Zoo. We went early in the morning to avoid crowds and heat. Unfortunately, the day sweltered and the zoo was packed, but the park handled the crowd well. There’s room to walk, many exhibits to see, indoor (mercifully) and outdoor, and, perhaps most awesome, the park is full of mist stations where kids (and dads who act like kids) can run through cool water. The coolest thing about the zoo is the Orangutan Walkway. This is a metal wire way up above everything where the zoo’s orangutan population can swing their way around areas of the park.
We left the zoo to head downtown. If you can go on Sunday as we did, parking is free. Its really crowded around the Smithsonian, don’t underestimate just how big or how many buildings the Smithsonian is. It’s actually a little overwhelming. We decided to ask our kids where they wanted to go, and narrowed it down to The National Air and Space Museum and The National Museum of Natural History.
I can’t think of two better museums to visit. From rockets to dinosaurs, fighter jets to fight scenes between woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers, and the Wright brothers to a timeline of skulls, both museums were “wow” after “wow”. Of course the biggest “ooohhh” and “ahhh” may have been Amanda when she first saw The Hope Diamond. But after a couple of hours in each museum (and definitely plan for that!), the boys started breaking down and it was time to call it a day. This again was where the hotel pool was money, and after dinner and a little swimming we pulled the covers over the day.
Day 2 was all about Mt. Vernon. Be prepared for this venture. I have to admit I came away a little disappointed, but the history involved was completely worth it. Given the time of year, it was really hot. The lines were long and there really aren’t water fountains. Definitely bring water bottles. There also isn’t air conditioning. But, walking through George Washington’s estate was amazing. And the staff working were very knowledgeable and even more friendly. The best part of Mt. Vernon was the museum. It was fun and interactive, and while we were in awe of the the first president’s house and the views of the Potomac River, the museum made the trip.
As with our first day, we wanted to do more on day two and actually drove into Arlington Cemetery. Once again, our plans were foiled by two boys who’d had enough. It took Amanda and I (ok, it took me awhile) to understand the cemetery was for us, not really the kids, so we turned around and spent the afternoon at the hotel pool. This turned out to be a great day of diving and splashing and water fights, which leads me again to advise anyone making this trip in the summer to stay in a hotel with a pool. It will save the day!
If you are driving to Washington DC from the south and bring young kids, I have three basic suggestions for the drive:
- Start early! Our drive was pretty much 11 hours on the road. We left at 4 AM and our boys slept in the “family truckster” until about 8 or 9. Of course when they awoke it was an immediate bathroom stop.
- Pre-plan activities. We focused on audiobooks (The Magic Treehouse and Star Wars were big hits) in the morning, followed by tablet time and I Spy, then onto some artwork time and then movies. We even rocked out to 80’s music for awhile
- Take I-81 if you can. The trip through the Shenandoah is worth it.