Family Trip to Washington D.C.

For Thanksgiving, we decided to get out of town! We have been wanting to take our kids to Washington D.C. and this week off from school provided the perfect opportunity. If you are interested in making the trip to Washington D.C. (with or without kids), this post is for you. I am sharing what museums we visited, where we ate, what monuments are a 'must-see', and all the experiences you won't want to miss. Everyone - young and old- needs to visit Washington D.C. at least once. 

Our daughters are in the 'tween/teen' age. Some people might think this makes family trips a challenge, but I disagree. It means they can get up at 4am to catch the early flight, pack their own carry-on (and roll it everywhere) and keep up with all the activities we planned!

 How to Get Around D.C.: Walking, The Metro, and Uber! 
When packing for D.C., you really just need a few pairs of good walking shoes. We walked at least 7 miles a day. It is easiest to get to most places in the Nation's Capital by walking. When we didn't walk, the girls also loved riding the Metro. We learned that you need to plan your route before you hop on a train, add enough money to your pass to cover your trip and move to the left if you are 'slow'. The locals (who are in a hurry to get to work) need to get on their way- so step to the side on escalators and walkways. And of course, we used Uber. There plenty of drivers and the rates are good. 

Must-See Museums: There are lots of museums in D.C. Happily, all of the Smithsonian museums are free to visit! This includes the Zoo. Most are open from 10am-5pm each day (except Christmas Day). To avoid long lines, be sure to get there before the museum opens. All museums have security checks - which can take a little while to get through. All bags must be searched and you will need to pass through a metal detector. 

-Natural History
-American History
-D.C. Zoo
-National Archives
-Air & Space 

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum- When we visited, it was free to get in. But note that from March 1-Aug 31 you will need tickets to enter. I have to say the images and stories told in this museum are the saddest, most upsetting things I have probably ever seen. There is a 'child- friendly' exhibit that we took our 10-year-old in before the regular exhibit. She did not have much- if any- knowledge of the Holocaust so this helped explain it in a way that is easier to understand. We did take her in the regular exhibit but had to skip a few parts because it was so upsetting to her. I encourage everyone to visit this museum. It is hard to see, but very important. No books or movies can even come close to this exhibit. It is our job to educate future generations about the Holocaust so that history does not repeat itself. 

Washington D.C. Monuments- There are so many beautiful monuments and memorials in the National Mall. You can take a tour on a bus - or just walk around see them yourself. It was a chilly and windy day when we visited- but the sky was bright blue and the American flags were all waving proudly. It made us all feel very patriotic! 

We saw the following monuments: 
-World War II
-Lincoln Memorial 
-Washington Monument (Tours are limited- check their website for advance & walk-up tickets) 

Other Places of Interest: Mt. Vernon is the home of our favorite President- George Washington! His home was like a plantation. It was fun to see how he lived and explore the house. His property was huge, with lots of buildings and gardens to see. I think it was one of the girls' favorite parts of our trip. Be sure to visit their website to get tickets in advance. 

Other Places of Interest: Ford's Theater - We prepurchased tickets to see "A Christmas Carol" at Ford's Theater. Before the show, we toured the Petersen House - which is where President Lincoln was taken after he was shot. We learned about his assassination and his poor wife! The inside of Ford's Theatre is beautiful. If they have a show while you are visiting- buy tickets! 

Other Places of Interest: The White House- To get inside the White House, you need to request tickets about a year in advance. Since we didn't do that... we stopped by the White House one evening and took some photos from the street. We did see some very vocal "interesting" people exercising their 'freedom of speech'. Which made for a good conversation with our girls about how our country protects everyone- even if we personally don't agree with them- all can express their opinions. 

Other Places of Interest: Capitol Hill. We went at night, after a full day of sight-seeing. The lights at night were beautiful. But if you arrive between 8:30am and 4pm you can tour the inside. Tours are limited to 50 people and no reservations are accepted- tickets are obtained by 'walk-up' only. Check out their website for more information

Other Places of Interest: Arlington National Cemetary- We rode the Metro to Arlington Cemetery. I was in awe at the number of people who came out in the cold on Thanksgiving Day to pay their respects to JFK, the Unknown Soldier, and all of the heroes who have been laid to rest there. I am glad we got to experience it as a family and reflect on the meaning of Thanksgiving. I think everyone would be a better American if they visited the Cemetary. It is important to see that freedom really isn't 'free'. 

Where to Eat in Washington, D.C.: We stayed at the "Residence Inn" in downtown. This worked out perfectly because we were able to eat breakfast for free each day. We ate lunch and dinner out. There are lots of food trucks in the National Mall on most days.

Here are some of the restaurants we went to:
-Cafe at Mt. Vernon
-Cafe at Museum of American History
-City Tap in Penn Quarter
-Old Ebbitt Grill (good place if you are near the White House)
-Lincoln Waffle House (dive diner near Ford's Theatre)
-Pi Pizzeria
-Founding Farmers
-Yard House

Other Fun Tips for Washington D.C.: Bring journals for your kids. My girls do not regularly keep a diary or journal. But I was surprised by how much they wanted to write while we were on our trip! 

Other Fun Tips for Washington D.C.: Try the scooters! We would have used them more, but we had a hard time finding 3 or 4 that were charged and all together. You can rent them using your Uber app, my girls loved them!  

Other Fun Tips for Washington D.C.: The National Mall Carousel is one of the oldest carousels in the US. It was built in the 1940s and has a rich history that you can read about here. But be sure to have cash on hand, they do not take credit cards! 

I am so thankful for this time with our kids. Getting out of town with them is a gift. There is so much together-time. Even if they drive us a little crazy at times :) the conversations and closeness we had over the week were something that would never have happened at home. I am proud we were able to teach them about our country and what a privilege it is to be an American.  It was truly a week full of 'thanks'.

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