Our nation’s capital is a must-see destination for family travelers. No matter what your interests are, Washington DC has something for you, whether you like the great outdoors, history, culture or museums, it’s all here for you to explore.
Our 3-day trip to Washington DC was packed with fun-filled adventure from start to finish. We saw all the major sites as well as the White House. The first time I went to DC was in college with some friends. We went down during spring break to see some crew racing and the cherry blossoms. I fell in love with DC on that trip and have wanted to go back ever since. Well, I finally got my family down there and boy were they glad we went.
First Must See Site – The National Mall and Capitol Building
Being the mom that I am and loving the history of the United States I had to include the monuments, Capitol and the White House. These were a must see. We also stopped by the Ranger Station near Lincoln’s Memorial and picked up a Junior Ranger booklet for the girls to work on while seeing the monuments, click here to get your copy. Walking among the monuments was more moving then I think Clint or I thought it would be. We had to explain what each of the monuments was for to the girls but they did understand why we have the memorials. Their profound statement was “why do we have war anyway?”
The National Mall
Evelyn had been studying Abraham Lincoln in school and had memorized the first half of the Gettysburg Address. She was thrilled (and surprised) when we walked up to Lincoln’s Memorial and said: “there it is!” It was quite funny like someone was teasing her that is wasn’t actual Lincoln’s speech.
Starting out at the National Mall, from Lincoln’s Memorial to the Capitol Building is a little over a 2-mile walk but oh so memorable. Just walking by you can feel the significance of each memorial. Enjoy the walk or take a nighttime bike ride, either way, take in the National Mall.
The Washington Monument offers a tour but was closed for renovations when we went. However, I’m sure it is well worth the price of admission to go in and see the views of the city from the 500-foot level of the tower. They have exhibits on two floors with historic and modern photographs of Washington and how the monument was designed and built. As well as exhibits about the city, named after our first president, was designed. Certainly, work a look.
The Capitol Building
No visit to Washington DC is complete without a visit to the Capitol Building. Inside the Capitol, you can take a tour. You can also get a workbook for little kids to do during the tour to keep them engaged, click here for K-2nd graders. For upper-level elementary kids, click here. For 11-year-olds and older, click here. The tours are interactive and really gives you an understanding of what the Capitol is about and what happens here. I think our favorite rooms were the crypt in addition to the Rotunda. I couldn’t stop looking up in the Rotunda!
Second Must See Site – The White House
Visiting the White House was definitely a highlight of our trip. To visit you must contact your state senator to request a visit. You can request a date anytime between 3 months and 21 days in advance of your trip. It wasn’t difficult it was just part of my planning and I’m so glad I put this on our itinerary.
We entered through the East Wing and were able to see the China room as well as the Library, Vermeil room, East room, Green, Blue, and Red rooms and State Dining room. You exit through the front entrance where cars can drive up to. You’ve seen this entrance when Presidents are receiving guests to the White House. The tour is self-guided but there are secret service agents around to answer any questions you might have. It’s an amazing building, I just wish we could have seen the Oval Office! However, it wasn’t included on the tour.
Third Must See Site – The Smithsonian
After all this history we hit the museums but not just any museums, interactive museums! The Smithsonian is amazing for kids! It will have your kids looking around the next corner to see what else there is to explore. The Smithsonian is free so don’t miss it, even if you can only give it an hour or two. We enjoyed the planes, space shuttle capsules, but the rockets the most. My kids are always the ones to raise their hands when there is a presentation and there was no exception. However, I don’t think Ainsley was too happy with what she got to hold. She looks upset. LOL, kids.
Fourth Must See Site – The International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum is worth a full day on anyone’s itinerary. They’ve moved since we visited but luckily they still have plenty of places to eat right around the museum. We got our hands stamped, left for lunch then went back to finish up. You will be amazed at all the exhibits. The kids will be thrilled with how interactive the museum is. They get to solve mysteries and puzzles, break secrets codes and messages in addition to BEING part of the exhibit. It’s a real thrill!
The museum also has a huge amount of spy weapons and some ‘memorabilia’ to look at. Take this gift to the US Ambassador from the children of Russia. Some gift? I won’t spoil the thrill of this museum for you as adults, but you will be surprised to see what famous people are highlighted inside. You’ll have to go for yourself to find out who is in there though and what they did. Don’t miss the gift shop. My kids found a few new book series to read.
Fifth Must See Site – The National Zoo
If only for the Pandas and nothing else the zoo is worth the time to go plus it’s free to get in. We went late in the day during Panda feeding time and we weren’t disappointed. They were happily eating their bamboo while we visited. A few even got sleepy and took a nap. The elephants were fun to watch as well and the kids certainly got a kick out of the exhibit showing how much an elephant eats and p..ps in one day. The leopards were sleeping when we were there but close to the fence so we got a look at them in the grass. The animals are amazing, go have a look.
I also wanted to let you know of a great gluten free restaurant we found in Washington DC. Wicked Waffle was a wonderful afternoon stop for us. Having most of the menu gluten free made it even nicer. In other words, Evelyn had her choice of waffle. She had her favorite, of course, Nutella and bananas. We all enjoyed the afternoon treat and I recommend you stop by when you’re in Washington DC.
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Are you planning a trip to Washington DC? What are you looking forward to seeing the most?
If you like this adventure check out Riding the Rails with Rail Explorers.