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A trip to Washington DC and How You can Do it Better

We recently went to Washington DC.  The whole family went.

I didn’t plan this trip at all.

I don’t recommend that for DC.

(But I did have amazing packing lists…)

Plan Ahead

About three months before you go to DC, you should decide what you want to do.  Then you should get tickets.  Luckily, we went with another family and my friend had the foresight to get us an apartment through VRBO.  She also contacted our Senator so we could get tours of the Capitol and the White House.  You need to do this really early.  You can get a tour of the Capitol through their website as well, but you need to sign up in advance.

We had an intern take us around.  The official Capitol tour is done by historians.  You can decide which you want to do.  The historians know more, but the groups are bigger.  I think.  Middle Schools take over Washington DC during the week, so I don’t know if the groups were bigger or they were all middle school tours with chaperones.

I just know I will never be a chaperone.  Watching the kids in the cafeteria scarred me.

We couldn’t get in the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Because it’s new,  the tickets are gone about three months in advance.  You can get there early and stand in line or you can try for same day tickets on the internet, but we couldn’t get any.

We also couldn’t tour Ford’s Theater because we didn’t book early.  We went on a walking tour about the night of Lincoln’s assassination and the conspiracy behind it, but we weren’t able to get into the building.

You also need to get advance tickets to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  You can also stand in line early for same day or try online around 6am.  We were able to get tickets online.  They give you a time you can go through the main exhibit.  It was incredibly powerful.  We received a card with a story of someone who experienced the Holocaust.  Each page is to be read on a different floor.  On the last page, you find out what happened to your person.  Mine died in Auschwitz.

Easier Tickets and Entries

We didn’t have a hard time getting into the National Archives.  You should get a ticket for this so you don’t have to wait in line, but you can still get in if you don’t.

We went to Mount Vernon and were lucky that the National Treasure tour still had spots.  I took my three kids and loved learning little insights about Washington.  I think my kids were less thrilled than I was that George and Martha’s sarcophagi couldn’t fit through the steel door of the new tomb George asked to be built in his will.  So they just left them in front of it.  There are two white stone sarcophagi on each side of a metal door.  It’s surrounded by brick and a metal fence, but it’s still easy to see.

I love information like that.

Luckily, some of the Smithsonian Museums are walk right in without a ticket.  And by walk right in I mean: stand in a long line to have your bag looked through and go through a metal detector.  Most of the lines were caused by security.  I’m completely fine with that.

We learned so much in the National Museums

But my hint would be to send someone up front to see how many metal detectors each door has.  One door only had one while the other had two so our line went twice as fast.

My other hint, if going during school, is to NOT wear matching shirts.  That way you know your kids are the ONLY ones NOT in fluorescent yellow.  Or orange.  Or blue.


Some Extras

I love attending MLB games.  I don’t watch it on TV and I’m not good at following teams or their standings, but I LOVE going to a game.  And getting a hot dog.  It was very thoughtful of the Nationals to score 8 runs in the 4th inning as well.  It made for an exciting night.  (Sorry, Seattle.)

I don’t usually eat hot dogs unless camping; but there’s just something about one at a game…

We also loved the Capital Bikeshare.  You can go to the website and find out which stops have bikes and how many are there.  It’s not an exact system, but when you’re looking for five bikes, it makes it a lot easier.

We biked the monuments at night.  They were a lot less crowded.  Jefferson’s was basically empty, but it had been raining from FDR Memorial to Jefferson’s.

The kids also had fun just sitting on them in their stands.

I don’t think I would recommend biking in the rain, just to miss the crowd, though.  But that’s just my preference.

One of my favorite experiences was the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally.  Thousands of motorcycles ride from the Pentagon to the Lincoln Memorial the Sunday before Memorial Day.  They shut down Constitution Ave and you just watch them drive past.  It’s awe-inspiring.  My kids loved it.  It’s definitely a reason to go to Washington DC over Memorial Day weekend.

It made me want to get a Harley. With a side car. And I could ride in the side car.

We were able to go to the Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol PBS puts on every year.  We sat at the Capitol and listened to inspiring stories and amazing music.  It was the perfect ending to our trip.

I love DC.  It has so much to see and learn.  We were out and about 12-15 hours a day.  By the end, we were all exhausted and sick of each other.

A sure sign of a successful family vacation!

Even after biking in the rain for 20 minutes, it’s a pretty amazing site.

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