Taking Kids to Washington, DC

Taking Kids to Washington DC



We just returned home from a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C.  

Ideally I would have loved more time to plan every detail of the trip, but since this was a quick trip (dad was working in Bethesda for a couple weeks) we kind of flew by the seat of our pants.

And guess what?   

That was ok! We had a great time, and I feel like we packed a lot in and got a great taste of our nation's capital. 

We did prepare by reading This is Washington, D.C. and skimming Frommer's Easy Guide to Washington, D.C. .  You can also order free maps and a visitor's guide online. 

So, if you're wondering how to approach D.C. in 2 (well really 2.5) days, this post is for you! 

Day 1: Traveling and Taking it All In

We left Atlanta Friday morning  and arrived in D.C. mid afternoon. 

The ride from Reagan Airport to Bethesda took us down George Washington Parkway, which is a lovely ride. We had the treat of seeing the Washington Monument and Georgetown University on the drive. 

The Marriott headquarters (where my husband was working) is in Bethesda, so we dropped our bags at the hotel and immediately caught the METRO for downtown D.C.  

Taking Kids to Washington, DC

Using the METRO was safe and easy. I HIGHLY recommend using it if you visit D.C.

We ate an early dinner at  Old Ebbitt Grill, which is just around the corner from the White House. (This is a GREAT restaurant with a lot of local flair. It's also the oldest restaurant in D.C. and the food is AWESOME! BUT, if you go -- make a reservation!)

It was such fun to watch everyone walking along the street in their Halloween costumes. It was the evening of trick or treating at the White House, and children who had won the military lottery were able to trick or treat and meet the President.  

We couldn't see the front of the White House because the streets were blocked, but we did see the back of the White House at night, which was beautiful. We walked around the city a bit, got the lay of the land, and then headed back to the METRO. 

Day 2: Arlington National Cemetery, Monuments, and The National Archives

Arlington National Cemetery was the number one thing all of us wanted to see in D.C. We arrived early in the morning and purchased bus tour tickets.

*If you go to Arlington, GET THE BUS TICKETS. The tour guides are very well versed, and there is no way you could see the pertinent things in the cemetery in one day on foot. 

The leaves were turning brilliant shades of orange, yellow, and red. Those colors stood in such sharp contrast to the white gravestones. It was extremely moving. Several times we just stopped and SAT on a bench and admired the beauty. 

We sat for 45 minutes at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched the Changing of the Guard. A group of veterans were there for an Honor Flight, which was especially moving. 

We also spent a lot of time at JFK's tomb, and took in the view of D.C. from his tomb, and could easily understand why this was the spot chosen for his burial. 

(I love this documentary about Arlington National Cemetery.  We are watching it again this week.)

Washington DC, Day 2

From Arlington we headed to see the monuments. It was about a 1.5 mile walk to the Lincoln Memorial, so we called an UBER car and made our way there.

*UBER was a lifesaver in DC. Our ride from Arlington to the monument was just $5!  

The Lincoln Memorial was so much larger than I had imagined. Grant was super excited here because he had just finished the LEGO Architecture Lincoln Memorial before we left home! 

From the Lincoln Memorial we walked to the WWII Memorial, where another Honor Flight group was there. As you can see from the picture, the veterans were there in their wheelchairs, with giant posters of themselves as young soldiers. It was extremely moving to witness this. 

Monuments in Washington, DC

The Washington Monument is just after the WWII memorial, so we headed there next.

We hadn't reserved tickets to go to the top and didn't think it would be possible to go to the top (555 feet). As we were standing and looking at the monument, I asked one of the volunteers if there were any tickets left for the day. She said no, but that it did look kind of slow in the line and she would see what she could do about getting us to the top.

Ten minutes later we were at the top of the monument!  The views were spectacular. We spent quite a long time just taking pictures and admiring the city because it was a perfectly clear day. 

After the monuments we hit the National Archives. This was HIGH on our list because in Challenge I Anna is memorizing and annotating American documents. 

No photos are allowed in the archives. We saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution - VERY cool!  We also loved some of the interactive exhibits they had exploring issues like the death penalty, women's rights, and other debate topics Anna has explored this and last year in Challenge. 

I was in homeschool mom heaven, know what I mean??  

By the end of the day we were all exhausted and hungry, so we grabbed a FABULOUS dinner at Plan B Burger and hopped on the METRO. It was about 7 p.m. when we arrived back to our hotel, and thankfully we gained an hour for Daylight Saving's Time! 

Day 3: Holocaust Museum, Space & Aviation Museum & The National Gallery of Art

We knew Sunday was going to be a more somber day. We carefully researched the recommended age requirements for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and decided Grant could handle the visit. (He is soon to be 11 years old and we have studied the Holocaust in history. Anyone with younger and/or sensitive children might want to skip this museum.)

There just aren't words to describe our morning. We spent three hours in the museum and I felt that was even moving quickly. 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The National Holocaust Museum

After lunch (hot dogs and pretzels from a food truck!) we made our way to the Museum of American History (hello LEGO Flag!) and also to the Air & Space Museum. 

We saw the Wright Brothers' airplane and the Apollo Lunar Module. 

We also watched a fabulous iMax movie: D Day: Normandy 1944, which seemed like the perfect follow up to the Holocaust Museum. 

All of these museums were free and beautiful. I love that you can do nearly everything in D.C. (with the exception of lodging and eating) for free or low cost! 

Museums in Washington, DC

One of the things on MY DC bucket list was visiting the National Gallery of Art. 

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure the kids were as excited, but we plied them with hot chocolate and we took about 30 minutes to people watch and refuel. 

I also downloaded the free app from the National Gallery - YOUR ART, which was INVALUABLE to us as we toured the museum. The app is also just good to have because it guides you through art appreciation with your children! 

The National Gallery of Art

We saw works by Rembrandt, Leonardo daVinci, Mary Cassat, and so many more!  As we found pieces we enjoyed, everyone would sit on a couch and study the art for a bit, then I would look it up on the app and read about it. 

(This was very exciting to me, because we've been focusing more on Art Appreciation in our homeschool this year.)

As we were strolling through one gallery there was also a free classical concert happening in the adjoining gallery. I could have stayed for several hours! 

We left the museum around dinner time, grabbed some pizza, and hopped on the METRO for Bethesda. 

Our trip went by in the blink of an eye.

I'm so happy we've had the chance to visit our nation's capital and that we saw the highlights. I would love to return and see MORE! 

Not only did we learn more about our nation's history, but we also experienced another city's public transit, met several interesting UBER drivers, and just learned how to be better travelers. 


Have you been to D.C. What was the best part of your trip?

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