Happy Thursday! We are over here still trying to get back into the routine after a fun spring break. I had all intentions of getting this post up yesterday but mom life prevailed (husband out of town + helping with school projects + evening school choir program). You know the drill! Anyway, while it is still fresh in my mind, I wanted share all the details of our trip including our biggest hits and misses! I’ll give you my take on traveling to Washington, D.C. with kids:)
We spent a total of three nights in D.C. and in my opinion it was the perfect amount of time to explore the city! It’s impossible to cover it all, but we got to most of all we had hoped.
This just might be my longest post ever, so grab a cup of coffee!
Day One: Arriving in D.C. and Managing the Crowds
We are lucky in that D.C. is just a six-hour drive! We left the house by 6 a.m. and we were at our hotel by just after noon. Our hotel room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we had to hit the ground running. It took us a few minutes to get our bearings and to get our kids ready to walk the town! We stayed at the Embassy Suites at the Convention Center and it was a perfect distance to just about everything! We parked our car in the hotel garage and did not use it once the entire trip.
Our five year old rarely rides in a stroller these days. However, we did not take any chances and brought our stroller. I am SO GLAD we did! DC is a walking city!!
After getting recommendations from friends, we knew there were several spots we wanted to hit on our trip. One of the attractions was Ford‘s Theater. It was located just five minutes from our hotel, so we decided to stop there first. Unfortunately, we learned that tickets are given out on a first come first serve basis earlier in the day and all tickets had been sold out. We struck out on this one!
Just two blocks away was the International Spy Museum and since we had heard good things about the place, we headed there next. The line to get inside was a bit daunting but it did move fast. This museum is not free and we paid over $80 for our family of five (kids 6 and under are free).
They offer a free scavenger hunt for the kids that requires them to find certain bits of information throughout the exhibits. I think if it was less crowded, this would have been a fun thing for the kids. However, it was so busy that we couldn’t get up close to a lot things.
I’m going to be honest that the Spy Museum was not worth the money for our crew. It was very crowded and was very hard to get close to the exhibits (without waiting behind a lot of people) to see things up close. My five year old didn’t really “get” a lot of stuff there. My big kids (8 and 11) enjoyed some of it, but still not a favorite. In my opinion this museum is ideal for kids 10 and up and for people who have some knowledge about spy movies (a lot of James Bond exhibits). Overall, I’d say this was a MISS for us.
By this point, everyone was getting hungry and a bit tired, so we stopped at a street vendor for some very large pretzels! This was a FAVORITE! With food in our bellies, we had a little more energy to take in the sights.
We attempted to go inside the National Archives, which was just a few blocks from the spy museum. Several historical documents are housed here including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. However, the lines were SO LONG!
We had prepared ourselves for spring break crowds., but I started to realize this would be par for the course during our trip.
So, we walked over to the White House (about a 20 minute walk). We tried to get tickets a few months ago to tour the White House. However, again, due to the busy season of our visit, we would have needed to request tickets six months in advance. Thankfully, the kids were completely fine with just seeing the outside of the White House.
After 3+ hours of walking, everyone needed a break. We headed to the hotel and checked into our room.
The only way to survive all the walking with kids is to be realistic about how much they can handle! We took breaks when needed and resorted to calling an Uber if necessary!!
We had a great dinner at Founding Farmers, a popular spot in DC. It is a lively and very family friendly place! We made reservations a month in advance and while I’m sure you could get reservations with less notice, it does seem like a very busy spot! Everything is made in house including their soda pop (my kids favorite item from the restaurant).
I love that my daughter is getting old enough to want to try new foods and split meals with me! She and I split a pasta dish and a bowl of tomato soup!
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and called it a night! One thing to note, our cab ride to dinner took over 30 minutes for a 1 mile trip! Therefore, we decided to walk home which was a good choice because traffic was still bad after dinner!
Day Two: Museums and Monuments
We started our second day bright and early. Our kids do not sleep in–even on vacation! After breakfast at the hotel, we walked over to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. After realizing how crowded every place was going to be for our visit, we realized we needed to get to the museums early in the day.
The museum opened at 10 a.m. and we were in line by 9:30. It was a good decision as the lines got so long! Even though all of the Smithsonian Museums are free and do not require tickets, the lines are due to the security screening that is required!
The American History museum was our FAVORITE museum of the whole trip! This is such a fun place and is so different than any museum. There were so many exhibits and a place that kids of all ages can enjoy!
There is a great interactive children’s area that is monitored for crowd control. We had to wait until a family left before we could enter. The boys loved the make your own pinball machine. Maybe because we had just been to an actual pinball arcade🙂
I can not say enough good things about this place. We spent four hours there (including a break for lunch in their cafe) and could have been there longer.
The cafeteria had a lot of food options but it was very busy (the theme of our trip). We popped in the gift shop and then made the decision to leave so we could enjoy the sunshine! It was a beautiful day and we wanted to get outside! All of the monuments are very close to the museums, so we were able to walk over to see them.
We spent the next two hours walking around to all of the monuments. This day happened to be the PEAK of the cherry blossoms!!
We made the trek from the Washington Monument to the War Memorials to the Lincoln Memorial. This stretch was a good one mile + walk.(Did I mention we hit over 16000 steps each day?!)
After hitting all of the monuments, my husband and I looked at each other and looked at our kids and just knew that we HAD to take an Uber back to the hotel (or else we were looking at a 2 mile walk!!). The kids reached their limit!
Our dinner reservations were scheduled for a somewhat fancy restaurant. However, we assessed the state of our crew when we got back to the hotel and we determined we needed something casual! We changed plans and headed to Ted’s Bulletin. We got there early enough (before 6 p.m.) that we had no problem getting a table.
This dinner was our favorite meal. The kids got yummy milkshakes and we got the happy hour drink specials! Both the kids menu and adult menu had a lot of options!
Ted’s Bulletin is in a cute part of town with little shops. After dinner, we popped into a few of the shops including this adorable plant store! I had to drag my daughter out of it.
We could have spent even more time in the neighborhood, but the kids wanted to get a chance for an evening swim at the pool.
Day Three: Air and Space Museum and Arlington National Cemetery
What a difference a day makes in the weather! This day was cold and dreary. I’m so glad we covered the majority of our outdoor activities the previous day.
We got a slower start this day as all of the walking was starting to catch up to us! This day we ventured to the National Air and Space Museum. We arrived right at 10 a.m. when it opened and had to wait in a twenty-minute line to get inside.
I’ll be honest that while we really enjoyed this museum, we still liked the American History museum better. Perhaps we were weary after three days in a row of museums, We spent a total of two hours here and did not leave wanting for any more time. The exhibits are interesting but admittedly, some are little old. There is a nice little kids area and some fun hands on activities. It certainly a must see place especially for kids!
We left the museum ready for lunch and were excited to try Z Burger (upon the recommendation of a Washington DC kids travel book) as it boasted 75+ milkshake varieties. However, this is where things got a little crazy! We ordered an Uber to take us to the restaurant as it showed as two miles away. We got in the Uber and arrived at the alleged location of the restaurant and it was not there! Either it used to be there or it was never there–we are not sure but the map said it was located there! The driver did not have much info for us and offered to take us to the next nearest location which was four miles away!
Since we were hungry, we decided to get out of the car and find a place to eat in the area. We ended up at a different burger and shake place. It was kind of bummer!
After lunch, we were all getting tired, but since it was our last day exploring, we decided to power through the next few hours! We gave the kids the option of another museum or Arlington National Cemetery and they picked Arlington. It turned out to be a great pick!
The cemetery was several miles away in Virginia, so we had to order another Uber. But, the cab fare was worth the visit! You have the option of walking around the cemetery on your own, but we opted for the tram tour! It was a great choice for our family because we could some of the big highlights but could stay on the tram if we wanted. I had no idea that Arlington Cemetery was so HUGE! There is no way we could have covered all of the spots of the cemetery on our own!
We were very cold so we did not get off the tram at all six stops but we did visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Kennedy family grave sites.
As luck would have, we were able to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guards change every half hour from April 1st through September 30th and then once an hour from November through March. One thing to know is the ceremony requires total silence! It was not easy keeping our five year old quiet!
Would you believe I do not have a single picture of this experience–major bummer! Because we were constantly using GPS, our phone batteries drained quickly. My phone died precisely during this ceremony! Word to the wise–bring a charger with you at all times!
After a few hours here, we were ready to head back to the hotel and relax. We had dinner plans in Georgetown that night and we just didn’t have it in us to go back out!! We ordered food from the hotel and relaxed all evening. It was wonderful!! Sometimes the best laid plans are not meant to be!
We woke up the next day and headed home after breakfast. We could have stayed a few more hours, but the reality of school the next day set in. It was a great trip and we did not leave with any regrets about things we did not see! Washington, DC is such a great place to take the kids and is most certainly a city we would consider going to again!