Our Nations Capital.

When friends and family ask for a recommendation as to where to travel for the first time, I’m always inclined to suggest Washington D.C. Planning a good trip to our nations capital does take planning as there is so much to see and with a city full of so much to do you can easily become overwhelmed. Not to worry, I’m here to help guide you. First and foremost you need to know why Washington D.C. is such a great family vacation destination.

  • The sights. Washington D.C. is a trove of places to see. From museums, monuments, memorials, and our government’s quarters; you literally need weeks to see it all. That is why not only is D.C. a must go to, it’s a must place to re-visit. No 2 trips to D.C. will be alike if properly planned. I’ll get into detail below on my favorite places to see in D.C.

  • The FOOD. D.C. is definitely a foodies paradise. There are so many farm to table venues, along with the standard one town staples. I’ll let you know our family’s must stops.

  • Costs. A majority of the sights to see in D.C. are free. Yes, free. I kid you not you will find that when you visit D.C. your expenses will primarily be the flights, hotel, food and souvenirs.

  • Commutable. D.C. has an excellent public transportation system the Metro. From their trains and buses they are super navigable. This town is great as well for Uber.

  • Safe. Unlike in the 80’s and 90’s, crime is way down in D.C. My family has been several times and never once did we not feel safe.

  • Hospitable. Each hotel we have stayed has been wonderful. Any locals we have encountered were great. Not a grumpy town like other places we have been…

  • Minimal. Unlike a beach vacation where you will need ample tropical wear, or a ski trip where you will need coats; my only MUST purchase item for D.C. is good shoes. Trust me, if you are someone who wears a fit bit and counts their steps, you’ll easily log roughly 15 miles daily…..

THE SIGHTS

This section will be quite lengthy, not because I am long winded or anything, it’s truly because there is just SO much to see in D. C. It’s super important that when you are planning your trip that you look at a map and plan your day within said specific area. I’m going to break this down by sight and not region. I’ll leave that to you to “design” your day, and include recommended time frames to give you an idea of the time to allot for each site. NOTE: My family has been to D.C. twice as a unit, and my husband and I each went in our younger days. These sights were not all seen in one trip. Read and pick what suites YOUR group.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

  • Recommended time to allot: 3-4 hours

  • Cost: Free

  • Cafeteria: Yes

This Museum is probably a favorite for boys. The second you walk in you are surrounded by decommissioned planes and space ships. This museum is dedicated to all off the ground. From a section dedicated to the founders of flight the Wright brothers, to an awesome flight simulator ride that will surely test your limits. The amount of history of our space travel in here is something to see as well. We saw a ton of Japanese bombers, an Apollo capsule and super cool Boeing display. There is a permanent display called “Destination Moon”, here you can touch a moon rock, see Apollo 11, and one of Neil Armstrong’s suites. I recommend hitting this museum right after breakfast and enjoying lunch while you are there. After all they do have a HUGE McDonalds located right inside.

 

Smithsonian Museum of American History

  • Recommended time to allot: 3-4 hours

  • Cost: Free

  • Cafeteria: Yes

Parents, this is your museum. Ok, middle schooler’s and up, this is your museum as well. From awesome original pieces of American history to a full on pop culture memorabilia selection, there is surely something for everyone. My family’s personal favorites are Dorothy’s red slipper from The Wizard of Oz, The Magna Carta, Old Glory (the Flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, and Aretha Franklins American Express! Yes, we are all about points in this family so that was definitely super cool for my husband. My son and husband also loved the journey of the cell phone display. This is another museum that will take several hours for you to truly see everything, therefore I recommend hitting it after breakfast. You can either eat lunch in the cafeteria onsite or head out and then go back if you do not see everything. There is SO much to see. Make sure you take the time, grab a map and see it ALL.

 

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

  • Recommended time to allot: 3-4 hours

  • Cost: Free

  • Cafeteria: Yes

This is the Museum for ALL ages. Definitely a favorite for the younger group especially. This museum is definitely a sight for the animal lover. There are sections dedicated to classification of animals and with the amount of species on this planet going through this can be timely, of course if you read every little description and detail…. lol with a son like mine at the age of 8 we easily spent 6 hours hear because this was his jam. They have skeletons galore for dinosaurs. Our family absolutely LOVED the evolution section along with Lucy’s skeleton! Super cool. They had a bunch of sea creatures in fluid of course, my science loving son truly enjoyed this. There is also a section dedicated to gems and minerals. Fascinating. What is even more neat is the fact that they have the Hope Diamond! Yes!!!! Of course you cannot touch it, it is behind glass and secure of course. Duh. This is another one you will want to hit early and have lunch there or close by to insure you see it all.

 

Smithsonian Holocaust Museum

  • Recommended Time to allot: 1-2 hours

  • Cost: Fee

  • Cafeteria: Yes

I recommend this for the older children ages 12 and up. This is a smaller museum so it will not take you much time. However do take the time to see ALL the exhibits. I found “Remembering the children: Daniel’s story” to be quite moving.

Smithsonian Portrait Gallery

  • Recommended Time to allot: 1-2 hours

  • Cost: Free

  • Cafeteria: Yes

I did not visit this museum my first 2 times to D.C. However after seeing the lovely Obama portraits, our family had to make this a stop. I am super glad we were. Seeing all the portraits of ALL our Presidents was awesome. I was amazed to see how artists depicted each of them. Some more modern like Obama and Clinton’s, some formal like Roosevelt’s and some not so formal like W. Bush’s. The museum also contains many other neat portraits, our family favorite was LL Cool J’s.

 

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

  • Recommended Time to allot: 1-2 hours

  • Cost: Free

  • Cafeteria: No

If you are interested in seeing how our money is printed, this is the tour for you. Tickets are available daily at their ticket window, and they are available for specific time slots until all are booked for the day. We had contacted our Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s office and they set us up with tickets so we did not have to wait in any lines to obtain passes. Once the tour is in session you are not permitted to take pictures. For obvious reasons. The tour was very informative and at the end there is a gift shop where you can buy uncut sheets of money along with shredded money.

 

The U.S. Capitol Building

  • Recommended Time to allot: 1-2 hours

  • Cost: Fee

  • Cafeteria: No

You cannot go to D.C. and not visit. After all this is where ALL our legislation goes on… There are 3 ways you can tour the capital either by reaching out to your congressman or senator, you can reserve your tour online, OR you can obtain same day passes. NOTE: if you do same day passes you may not get the time you want. Our first family trip to D.C. we arranged the tour through our Congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s office. I highly recommend that if you are able to set this up in advance to do so. We actually arrived super early for our tour and ended up eating in the cafeteria located at their offices. I must say it was neat knowing you are eating where our legislators often grab a bite! (the were on recess so we just saw interns…) Going this route you get to tour your congressman’s actual office, and one of the interns takes you on a personal one-on-one tour of the Capitol. No headphones needed LOL.  You also get to enter the Capitol as the Senators and Congressmen’s often do, through the underground tunnel. The ONLY way you can see this is on the private tour. On our most recent trip to D.C. we opted to book our tour in advance online. I wanted to see what information a park ranger would share vs. the intern. All in all pretty much all the same information was provided. This tour however the houses were in session… and former Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine walked with in 3 feet of us! He saw we noticed him and he waved. SUPER AWESOME!

 

The White House

  • Recommended Time to allot: 2 hours if no line

  • Cost: Free NOTE: you must arrange for these passes thru your Congressman or Senator

  • Cafeteria: No

The people’s house. Regardless of your political likeness of the occupant at the moment, the White House is a must visit if you have the opportunity. It’s not easy to get in. Our first family trip we had tickets lined up (2015), however sadly were notified the tour was cancelled a few weeks prior to our trip. Why? Remodeling. Luckily our most recent trip we tried again and were successful (2018). What a treat. Though you do not get to view the WHOLE house what you do get to see is memorable. You are brought thru the bottom where you walk thru tons of memorabilia such as the formal place settings and dishes, along with photo’s of all the pet occupants of the White House. You also are able to walk thru the famous Red Room, Green Room and Blue room. So much history in these walls, not something you would want to pass up if you have the opportunity to visit.

The Supreme Court

  • Recommended Time to allot: 1 hour, unless of course you are able to sit in a hearing!

  • Cost: Free

  • Cafeteria: No

Aside from the beautiful structure itself, there is honestly not too much to view in the Supreme Court Building. There are several paintings of the justices, along with historical information on how the court was shaped and the building itself. I especially enjoyed how each “era” of the court had a display that went over important cases that were heard in each “era”. Along with challenges the rulings faced that ultimately shape our laws today.  I’d reserve this trip for the older kids. Personally my husband and I would LOVE to come back just to sit in and listen to a case. If the case is not too popular, there are always seats available for the public if you arrive early enough to snatch one up! Additionally after each ruling a certain number of copies of the ruling are ran off and available for the taking.

 

Arlington National Cemmetary

  • Recommended Time to allot: 3-4 hours

  • Cost: Free

  • Cafeteria: No

Where do I even begin. This is probably one of the most touching, most humbling places in the D.C. area. Located just across the river in Virginia is Arlington National Cemmetary. The resting place of so many of our soldiers and important political figures. Built on the grounds originally owned by Robert E. Lee (Civil War General for the Confederacy), hundreds of thousand of our U.S. Soldiers rest at this location. Just to the side of Arlington House (formerly the Lee mansion) rests President John F. Kennedy. His plot contains the “Eternal Flame” which is never extinguished. Towards the bottom of the hill rests his brother, Bobby.  Throughout the grounds as well you will find many different memorials dedicated to those who provide service for our country. Towards the back of the cemmetary lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is a must see, also you should make it a point to make time to watch the changing of the guard at the tomb. This takes place every 30 minutes to hour depending on the season.

 

The Newseum

  • Recommended Time to allot: 3-4 hours

  • Cost: $26.94 Adults, $14.95 ages 7-18, 6 and under are free

  • Cafeteria: Yes

If you are a first amendment buff like my family, this is your JAM! Within these walls you will learn all you need to know about our first amendment and more specifically our free press. There are sections dedicated to large news events such as 911 and the falling of the Berlin wall. There is a large piece of the wall here as well. Additionally there is a large collection of Pulitzer Prize winning photos. One thing to note with this museum is that your pass is good for 2 days. I say this because the museum itself is located right in the heart where protests happen. When our family visited in 2018 we were also attending the “March For Our Lives” protest. What a bonus to be able to go indoors for some warmth, use the restroom, grab a bit to eat AND look at the crowds. There was no better view for this march than from the Newseum.

Mount Vernon

  • Recommended Time to allot: Full day.

  • Cost

  • Cafeteria: Restaurant onsite

Mount Vernon is the home to our first President, George Washington. Beautifully nestled on a hill along side the Potomac River, Mount Vernon is a must see. If you did not rent a car, which honestly is not necessary for D.C. trip, you can easily navigate your way to the estate by taking the train and a bus. The approximate time to get there using public transportation is an hour and 45 minutes. The estate grounds are beautifully kept and there is so much to see. There are the slave quarters, the blacksmith quarters, aside from the big house itself.  There are actors roaming the grounds as well in typical garb from that era. Inside the mansion you are given a detailed tour. I found the guides to be highly knowledgable on not only the history of the house, but stories of the Washingtons.

 

The Monuments

  • Recommended Time to allot: Full day.

  • Cost: Fee

  • Cafeteria: N/A

Throughout Washington D.C. there are monuments. Many of the more note-able are located right off the National Mall. I highly recommend that you see as many as you can in the day and at night. The monuments take on a new life at night with all the lighting. The best way I found to get around to them all is via the Loop or one of those hop on hop off tours. Below are some of my favorites.

 

THE FOOD

Here are some of my favorite must eats of D.C.

Founding Farmers: Any blog you look at regarding D.C. food, Founding Farmers is sure to be on the list. With their farm to table concept it’s easy to see why. From their bacon lolipops to their homestyle pot roast, there is something to please every pallet. If you are into craft cocktails, look no further as well. Their Cucumber Delight is out of this world. Did I mention as well they serve BREAKFAST?!?!?!?  TIP: Make sure you have reservations, well in advance. They are on open table.

The Pig: Fan of the swine? This is your place. The menu is filled with both small and large plates all centered on the glorious PIG. My favorites are their chucutterie board, the meatballs, as well as the shank. My son especially loved their burger, it was very juicy. They have plenty of local beers on tap to quench your thurst. TIP: This restaurant is rather small so make sure you have reservations, well in advance. They are on open table. I did not see a kids menu so if you are traveling with picky eaters this may not be for you.

NOTABLES

Activisim: Washington D.C. is the place where many convene to protest and rally. If you have the chance to participate in one of these events I highly suggest that you do. I have several friends whom attended the Womens’ March as well as the Tax March. Many of us as well have relatives that attended marches that were held in the 60’s that protested the Vietnam War. Protest is one of our freedoms that we should never take for granted, and when the time comes to protest do it. Do it for your country and do it in hopes to bring about change. Our latest trip to D.C. was to attend the March for Our Lives. Our family lives in Broward County, the same county the Parkland Shooting took place. This march was an experience I will never forget and certainly one that my sone will not forget.

 

FUTURE: The African American History Museum is now open. Our last trip we were not able to get tickets for this one. Due to it being a newer museum and it’s long awaited arrival getting in is not easy. You must plan ahead. We will definitely be back to see this one.

 

What are your favorite places in D.C.? I’m always up to suggestions!

 

xoxo,

Liz

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s