Our Nations Capitol ..Washington D.C. ! For the past 8 years we have been blessed to live just 90 miles south of the capital of the United States of America. While we happen to be living here, we have been trying to take advantage of our close proximity to the vast array of sights and activities. Seat of our government, it’s the heartbeat of this Nation ! The District of Columbia encompasses only 69 square miles and is bordered by Virginia to the South and Maryland to the North . Most of the buildings are made of white marble and are all low lying ( not a skyscraper in sight ! ) This is an exciting city filled with people of many nations, the countries best museums, government head quarters, tourist sights, incredible history, and where our money is printed. Being a large family ( 9 of us ), we need to be resourceful and find as many free and inexpensive activities as possible! Washington D.C. happens to have most of it’s tourism geared towards all destinations being free. The only challenge is in parking. Getting in and out of the city is easy if you don’t count rush hour traffic . This always needs to be taken into consideration. We take day trips, so I can’t give any examples on hotel accommodations just yet.
It’s very difficult to decide on our 5 favorite locations to see in Washington D.C. There is so much to do in this exciting area. I’ll just mention some of the places we have visited so far.
Not to be ignored by any age is the National Mall which is a 2 mile long expanse of Monuments, parks and Museums. This rectangular area is marked by the Lincoln Memorial on the East end facing the Capital Reflecting Pool and the Capitol Building at the West end. This is a good hike..146 acres to explore ! Don your best walking shoes ( I learned this the hard way this summer! ) We make sure that our kids ( and our foreign exchange students ) wear comfortable clothes and good shoes . If you are taking small ones ( 6 and under) take along the stroller . Along the Mall you can walk to visit the main monuments and government buildings: The Lincoln, The Washington, The Capitol Building, the various war memorials ( Vietnam Wall, Korean , WW I and WW II ) and most of the Smithsonian Museums ( including the Smithsonian Castle which houses the visitors center.) All of our kids ( right now ages 9-21), enjoy all of the sights. Once we were able to get a private tour of the Capitol Building ( 2nd oldest public building in DC, the White House is the oldest) by our Congressman Eric Cantor’s office ( he is our nations current House Leader). By appointment, we were led through the underground tunnels that lead from his office to the Capitol Building and got to sit in on a live session in The House and Senate Chambers to witness some legislation in action! Another time my two oldest daughters and I were privileged to attend a film screening at the Capitol Theater and got to meet and chat with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. !
With all the walking we do, stopping and resting on the cool white marble steps of the monuments is a good idea. We sit to people watch and plan our next destination. For eats and drinks, we pack backpacks with food and water from home. There are not too many choices for eating along the Mall. Our kids are content to eat our food on the Mall lawn and watch the gatherings of impromptu soccer and frisbee games that seem ubiquitous in this park ! A few times a year, we take in foreign exchange students. This is a perfect field trip destination for them. We get to be cultural ambassadors for these kids ! Some of these photos show a guest we had from France this past summer.
THE SMITHSONIAN MUSEUMS
All free..most times that is a prerequisite for our large family ! We do drive around in circles for a while to find a place to park on the streets ( pay attention to the signs..we got ticketed for not leaving the spot by 4 pm outside the Museum of Natural History). The most popular museums for our family are :
The National Museum of American History, 1400 Constitution ave. See Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, Edith and Archie Bunker’s chairs from All in the Family sitcom, Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, Thomas Edison’s electric light bulb and the first record player. But the most impressive to us is the room that holds the Star Spangled Banner ! The flag that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore , Md. during the British attack in the War of 1812 ! As it is for most all of the Museums, you will need many hours to really see all that is on display.
The Natural History Museum, 10th st. and Constitution ave. Our kids always want to head to this museum first. Thousands of real, but stuffed, : animals ( greeting you upon entrance is the 13 foot tall African Bush elephant), insects ( gigantic cockroaches), marine life ( giant squid found off the coast of Spain), dinosaurs ( an 80 foot long Diplodoccus), human mummies, the Hope diamond and Moon rocks ! This place can get pretty crowded if you are visiting during the summer or on school breaks. Because we home educate, we can go on a weekday and off season. Being able to let our kids spend as long as they like to view and read about each display makes such a difference in what they can learn. If we go on a weekend in the summer, I don’t get to see any of the sights..I am keeping a close eye on my kids the whole time !
The National Air and Space Museum, Independence av. between 4th and 7th st. I grew up with the American Space Program from it’s very beginnings due to my fathers work( 1st landing on the Moon all the way through to the Space Station, and the government Aeronautics industry.. F-14 fighter jets..some sold to Iran back in the mid 70’s and because of that, we got to live there for 3 years ! ) So this museum is an exciting one for us ! See up close the Wright Brothers Kitty Hawk and the command module of the Apollo 11. There is a more recent Air and Space museum now located near the Dulles airport that holds a Concord and a Space Shuttle ! These are very impressive destinations and there is an incredible amount to see.
Of course, there are so many more museums in D.C. that are just amazing: U.S. Botanic Gardens ( live plant species from around the world) , National Galley of Art ( da Vinci, Rembrandt , Georgia O’Keeffe) National Museum of African Art ( bronze sculptures of Nigerian Kings), U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum ( replica of a Jewish ghetto), National Archives ( Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are all on display here.) My kids love this place due to the ” National Treasure” films. What an education we all get going to these museums !
THE NATIONAL ZOO and THE WHITE HOUSE
Not to confuse the two : )
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my ! The National Zoo is also free ( but parking makes up for it..$22 for the day) We try to find a free spot on the street and just hike over to the Zoo. Here too, we pack our own food from home. Sounds dull, I know, but because we visit there so frequently, we need to make it affordable. There are so many delicious and diverse restaurants in D.C. , and we have been to some. Just can’t do it every time ( remember there are 9 of us and our exchange students on occasion : ) Here at the Zoo you can see the orangutan crossings over head, the panda village, replicas of most of the world regions with their indigenous animals, birds, reptiles and plant life. It’s a very pleasant and well designed zoo. Our kids can spend the whole day here. One of my friends teenaged guest from Provence, France, visited the zoo with her and her family. After the excursion she asked him what he thought of the place. ” This was the first time I have seen an American Bison”…then she finds out he has been on safari in Tanzania, Africa..whoop dee doo American zoo : ) At least he was very gracious.
The White House ( 1600 Pennsylvania ave. ) is directly across and in walking distance from the Washington monument. It was originally called the Presidents House and has 132 rooms. Depending on what is happening at the moment in regards to national security or if the President or someone from his family are out on the lawn, blockades are now put up so that your view is much further back. Usually we are able to get right up to the front iron fence to look at the house ( and of course take pictures). Not much else to do after that at the spot. To get a tour now of the inside, you need to apply for free tickets online and it could be a 6 month wait. We have never been inside yet. But it is a good idea to at least go and see it with your kids. It faces the Ellipse park that is an enjoyable circular walk that contains a few more memorials and always seems to have some sort of live Military activity ; U.S. Army Drill Team and Band and The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. Concerts on the Ellipse are also free ! Mid April you can see the Cherry Tree blossoms and enjoy many of the festivities.
TOO MANY MORE FAVORITES !
Much to learn too at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Hard to believe when you see how our currency bills are printed..huge stacks of paper money ( really made of cotton and linen) being printed right in front of you. Sufficed to say, NO cameras are allowed to be used in the entire building ( only in the gift shop ). This is a facility that you and your kids won’t forget ( and it’s free too, you just need to check in up front to get tickets for a certain time during the day in advance). We saw a funny sign that read, to this effect, “Free $20 bills as a souvenir being given out tomorrow” After our whole tour with a guided speaker, when asked if we had any questions, my husband asked ” Who wrote Little Women?” ( family joke ..my husband always asks that question any where we go ) A lady next to us started cracking up when he said that : )
We have yet been to Arlington Cemetery, the National Cathedral, Fords Theater, up inside the Washington Monument, The National Geographic Museum, The Library of Congress and so many other great places that I can’t list with out writing a travel brochure ! I will post more stories and photos as we experience them. Hope that you all get the opportunity to see our beautiful nations Capital !
May God continue to Bless America !
Please feel free to share with us your comments and stories about family travel ( to D.C. or elsewhere). If we can help you with any questions in regards to our travel destinations, we will try to answer them. Peace !
For more interesting and helpful stories about favorite destinations, read these following articles from other travel loving families !
South Australia – Amy Page – Livin On The Road
The Holy Land: Israel- Gabi Klaf- The Nomadic Family
Sunset Coast, Michigan, USA – Jessie Voigts – WanderingEducators.com (twitter @WanderingEds)
Vancouver, B.C. Canada-Jess Farrugia – With 2 Kids In Tow
**** http://with2kidsintow.blogspot.com/2012/01/our-5-favourite-winter-activities-for.html ****
Costa Rica- Mary-Bohemian Travelers
Brisbane, Australia – Tracy – OurTravelLifestyle
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Sigh… I love DC… one of my favourite family destinations, in fact! We’ve been there several times as a family and even took a group of seven homeschool families a few years ago, on a multi family field trip… THAT was a total blast!! Good to know we saw the “right” things! 😉 Great list!
thanks Jenn ! While we are in one place for now, I want to really try and take advantage of all there is to do there. We have friends who live on the outskirts of DC who will let us stay for free and we can take the Metro in. Planning a 5 day stay to really soak in all that DC has to offer! When I lived in New York City ( before the 7 kids : ), I used to see all that I could of Manhattan. I used to go to the top of the World trade Center on my lunch break..so glad that I did. One thing I never got to do was go to into the crown of the Statue of Liberty. “Some day I’ll get up there, it’s not going anywhere” is what I used to say. Should have gone up when I had the chance !
I think I may have read one of your articles a while back in the HSLDA newsletters. Did you write for them ?
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Do I have the honor of being the first person to comment on your blog?? Nice!
I have to get back to DC. So much better when my kids get a little older. Great list Susan! Nice to see you got the blog up and running.
Hi Justin..thanks to you, we are now a part of this awesome group of adventurous families ! We may have met each other eons ago back on Long Island for all we know ( and my brother has lived in Boston ( Concord) for the past 12 years and sister lived at Harvard years back..so you may have seen them: )
So excited to hear of other families living this dream life of family travel !
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Great to meet another travelling family! Washington DC looks like an interesting place from this post!
Hi Amy ! This town has so much going on..especially politically. It’s exciting to live near our countries Capital. Hope you get to visit it one day !
Great list of places to see in DC. My husband and I visited years ago and barely scratched the surface – would love to return for a weekend now with my kids and explore the city further.
It’s a beautiful city to see. You can also combine the trip with Baltimore, Md and Mount Vernon in Va. So much cool history in these parts !
A zoo that is free?! It can’t be! Awesome!! And of course we don’t blame you for packing in lunch…!!
This zoo is also very educational. Many interactive activities for kids and classes too ! It’s in a pretty part of town, not too near all the traffic coming in and out of Capitol Hill.
DC is one of my favorite places to visit in the US. We always have a great time. We often stay across the water in Arlington and then just take the subway in so we don’t have to pay as much for lodging and no need to worry about parking. We also enjoy sitting under a shade tree in the mall and just reading some books together. No shortage of fabulous lawns to relax on!
I think you did a great job narrowing it down. When I saw someone was doing DC I thought “how in the world will she get it down to just 5”!!
it was hard to just do five. That’s why I lumped so many together. But these are all the things we have seen and done so far. Of course I really want us to go the National Geographic Society Museum too !
I did forget to mention about the affordability and ease of the Metro. It’s a little confusing when you go to buy your subway ticket from the machine..I always need to find a transit worker to help !
I’ve never been to DC but it’s great to see all the family-friendly sights on offer in such a concise list! Thanks for sharing!
D.C. is great for kids ! Happy that my short write up was helpful in encouraging you to go some day !
I remember going to D.C. as a kid and the impact was profound. Maybe that is why I became so interested in history and politics. You are lucky to live so close. I can’t imagine limiting the list to just five things.
My daughter is quickly getting to that age where I think she will get the most out of a trip to the nation’s capitol. After growing up in Canada, she is somewhat disconnected with the country of her birth. So it would be good for her to become more acquainted with the rich history and culture presented there in the District. I enjoyed your post.
this place really does help make history come alive ! It is so moving to see the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution in real life !! My husband is especially interested in politics and how our country was founded. Besides us hoping to travel the world some day, for now I know that he would really like to be involved in the political arena in some capacity .
This would be a perfect educational and fun trip for your daughter. Hope you all get the chance soon !
I liked DC a lot more when I visited with my then 1 year old daughter. It’s an easy city to get around and people seem to move at their own pace (compared to NY that is!). I’ll have to do the currency tour next time, sounds like fun.
I totally can relate ! I lived and worked in New York City for 10 years before we had our 7 kids. It is so easy going and less stressful meandering around DC compared to N.Y. New York is fantastic, but when you have such a large brood as ours, we need to find destinations that are not so crowded and intense. Guess we are not going to Bangladesh any time soon ( and we really have been invited there ! : )
Great info! We have been to NYC this year, but I guess Washington is a must-see as well.
White House and the Zoo…hilarious!
yes, with all the political craziness , behaviors and outrageous happenings in the world of DC politics, it can be compared to a zoo : ) It’s interesting to listen to the things people gripe about while standing on the Mall lawn in front of the Capitol Building. There seems to always be either a protest , concert or festival going on there.
We saw a man being confronted by police because he refused to wear any clothing while he sat near the Fords Theater ( where Abe Lincoln was shot ). I was leading a group of French teenagers on this trip and they thought it was hysterical. Of course we took pictures of him reluctantly putting his pants back on : )
I love DC! I’ve been there tons of times all before my kids were around. But it is a blast. It was the first place I took my husband to when he came to visit me in the States for the first time!
Now maybe you can all go as a family. Let us know if you need some local advice : )
i LOVE DC, too!! it’s so much fun. i can’t wait to get to the newseum, next time.
We also want to go to the National Geographic Museum ! Last year they had some of the Chinese Terracotta soldiers on display. So bummed that we missed it !
Have you ever downloaded the app called “10Q DC”? It is awesome! It has ten questions about every monument, memorial, and landmark in DC, and it is super fun to play while you are visiting all of the sites. It really helps you learn more during your trip. Just type “newteacherhelp” in the search bar of the Droid Marketplace or iTunes App Store to download. It even has a map of all of the attractions, complete with GPS coordinates!
Love that idea ! Thanks for the tip !
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We are going to DC in a week or two and I’m SO excited!!! This post is really helpful. I’m going to “pin it” right now.
Have a great time Jen. Let me know if you have any more questions about travel to DC !
We are going to DC in a week or two. I’m SO excited and your post makes me even more excited. Going to pin it now.
come on over on your journey !
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