February came, and the time for our trip for being one of the winners of the KaBOOM! summer playground challenge finally arrived! While I’ve been there several times, my husband and kids have never been to D.C. before, so I was pretty excited to take them on all the sights. Being a naturalized U.S. citizen of immigrant parents, I grew up being drilled in the history of the U.S. while my parents studied for their own U.S. citizenship tests, and I’ve always been a big fan of history myself. This blog post just talks about our sight seeing adventures of the trip. Our KaBOOM! interactions, and my thoughts about outdoor play will be blog post, part 2. Travelling as a family does bring different challenges than sight seeing by yourself, so here are some things that worked well for us:
Travelling with Kids in D.C.:
- We packed for the weather. I knew we’d be doing a lot of outdoor walking around, so checked Accuweather beforehand and saw that it was going to be cold and windy. I packed scarves, gloves, and hats for me and the boys.
- We planned for one major tourist attraction per day, anything else was gravy. With a four year old in tow, pretty much two hours at a museum was going to be his limit. Plus, a lot of places (the White House, the Capitol Building, Smithsonian museums) you couldn’t bring in food, so bringing a snack bag was out.
- Pre-plan where to eat, so you don’t have a melt down and are blocks away from food. The GPS on our phones were very handy for this, but if you don’t have smartphones, our hotel had lots of good walking maps available in the lobby with restaurants listed as well.
- Check out KidFriendlyDC, a blog about all things to do in D.C as well. It lists activities for the weekend, plus prices and how to get there.
- if you want to visit the Capitol building or the White House, email your state representative at least three months in advance to book a tour.
- we didn’t rent a car, we took the Metro everywhere and didn’t feel like we were missing out on transportation
- And importantly! Ask your kids what they want to do! My kids are really into spies and ninjas, so of course we had to go visit the Spy Museum. it was one of everyone’s highlights, even the four year old’s!
Highlights of our Trip!
- The Bureau of Printing and Engraving (tours are FREE, you can reserve ahead with your Congressperson or Representative). Our tour guide was excellent and knowledgeable, and had an answer for everyone’s questions. The bureau runs 365 days a year, 24/7, so it is always printing money. My seven year old was fascinated, and it was one of his favorite parts of the trip. My four year old did think it was boring. Tour runs about an hour, although our tour group had lots of questions, so with a less talkative tour group, it might have been about half an hour long.
- The International Spy Museum. Everyone enjoyed this! Kids five and under are free. Right now, they have an excellent exhibit all about James Bond going on, lots of interactive displays, and the best part, my kids learned that spies look like everyone else! We spent two hours in this museum, and my kids kept asking to go back.
- White House Tour. We got up early (as our tour was slated at 8:30am) but it was worth it. Just keep your kids off the furniture, or the Secret Service Agents in all the rooms will talk to you.
- The Capitol building tour. This was a personal highlight of mine. For instance, did you know that all the buildings are connected under the Capitol building to the Senator and Representative Offices over at the Hart buildings? So cool.
- The museums at the Smithsonian. You can’t just pick one, there are so many. One of our favorites was the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. We didn’t go into the museum itself, but the boys did run around the outdoor sculpture garden quite a bit. Also, the fossil lab at the Museum of Natural History had Real Life Paleontologists working! And drawing! My seven year old gave the artist drawing a thumbs up.
- The lawn at the National Mall. Honestly, this was the best place for the boys to let out some energy, and run around playing spies, secret agents, ninjas, and President. It was nice to relax, sit on the benches, and watch them enjoy themselves.
The Washington Monument and the Capitol building. There is a law in D.C. that there can be no building taller than the Capitol building, so you can see the Washington Monument anywhere in along the National Mall corridor. It’s very pretty and awe inspiring.
In the spring, these are the famous cherry trees of D.C., but when we were there, they were just pretty bare branches.
The Jefferson Memorial.
On the steps and inside the Jefferson Memorial. The boys’ commentary? “It’s cold”.
Looking back over the city from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial.
The flag underneath the U.S.A. flag is the one flown for P.O.W.’s and soldiers who are M.I.A. I think it reads “you are not forgotten”.
The new World War II Memorial. All the wreaths symbolize each state and the soldiers they sent to fight in the war.
Inside the WWII Memorial.
The Albert Einstein Memorial outside the National Academy of Sciences. At his feet is a map of the constellations, it’s pretty nifty.
Did you know you could tour the inside of the National Academy of Sciences? We didn’t know. Check out the awesome ceiling. They also had a pretty cool display about world population.
My goal this year is to hand the camera to someone else, and get myself in some shots with my kids!
The Lincoln Memorial. This was majestic and breath taking.
One of these people is super happy. One of these people is posing like Lincoln. One of these people is four. Can you guess who is who?
The National Conservatory. This was one of our favorite places to visit, and I’m not just saying that because it was warm.
The Viet Nam Memorial. This is always a tough one for me, and I kind of dreaded bringing my boys’ to see it. It’s a big part of their heritage though, on both sides.
My oldest looked at the wall and asked, does every name represent a person? When I told him yes, he broke down and sobbed.
On a lighter note, here we are outside the Corcoran Gallery of Art. My oldest and I really enjoyed the exhibits here.
Overall, we had a really fun time, and it was a great family trip. The best part was just letting the kids run around and play (the carousel is at the National Mall near the Smithsonian Museums). I even got to sneak in some history facts while we were touring around, as well. Thank you, KaBOOM!