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We will be in DC in January (March for Life) we will have 1.5 days of sighseeing.

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All the Smithsonian museums are great, but the Air and Space is particularly good for kids. Here's a site with some info on each of them:




The museums are HUGE so it will take a good bit of time to just see even one. I'd talk about each of them and decide as a family which ones are most important to see. The Zoo is awesome if the weather is good. :)


If you're sightseeing after the March, I'd plan on something mellow for the following day as legs can be a bit sore from all the standing and shuffling. If you can figure out which side moves first, go there as you may be able to walk more as opposed to doing the shuffle. IOW give yourselves some options depending on how you're all doing.

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Yes, Air and Space!


Also, the Newseum is AMAZING!!!! It is NOT free, and you need at least 1/2 a day, but it was awesome. My 9 year olds loved it, but they are very much into history. Your five year old may be a little young. Anyhow, that was my absolute favorite museum.


Obviously, see the White House. There is a White House museum about a half block away and we really loved that. It's small, but informative and plenty for the 5 year old to be entertained while the rest of you enjoy the adult stuff.


We also really loved the American History museum.

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That's not a lot of time. What do you want to see? Do you want to see...


sciencey stuff (Natural History, Air and Space, zoo...)?


art stuff (NGA, Hirshhorn, Phillips, Sackler and Freer, etc.)?


big famous DC stuff (monuments, Declaration and Constitution in the Archives, walk around the Capitol, see inside the Library of Congress, etc.)?


history stuff (American History museum, American Indian museum, Library of Congress, Archives, Portrait Gallery, various sites like nearby Mount Vernon, etc.)?


"fun" DC stuff (Spy Museum, Newseum, canal boat ride, etc.?)


A little of everything?


Usually I'd toss in the nature stuff... Arboretum, Great Falls, Rock Creek Park... but not in January, though it's really nice to go to the Botanic Gardens in winter as it's all tropical inside.

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The tried & true faves of my dc are:

Natural History Museum (both love)

American Indian Museum (dd loves; great food here too)

Mt. Vernon (but not easy unless you have a car)

Some of the monuments (esp. FDR)


The Postal Museum (also part of the Smithsonian) is quite neat. We also love the two sculpture gardens along the Mall.


Since you will be there in winter, a fun thing to do at the end of the day after the museums close is to ice skate at the rink put up in one of the sculpture gardens.


I'm not a fan of the American History Museum, but it does have a great exhibit on Presidents &, of course, the dresses from the First Ladies. Otherwise I find it blah & not well done overall... which is sad because it was closed for a couple of years to do major renovation. It still looks similar to the out-of-date, dusty exhibits they had there when I was in 7th grade (which was a long time ago). I had really high expectations about how it would be after the reno & it.just.wasn't. The cool thing is that when it was closed, they had a temporary exhibit set up in Air & Space. The temporary exhibit was *excellent* & really had a lot of best-of-the-best of American History on display. Too bad they didn't carry that over into the redone museum. Ok, I'll get off my platform now....;)


I love Air & Space myself, but my dc have never really been into it. Of course, I always wanted to be an astronaut, a pilot, etc... & my dc have not had similar 'dream' aspirations, so maybe that's why Air & Space doesn't thrill them as much.... :tongue_smilie::lol:


Since you have such a short time there, I'd pick 2-3 'must do' things & 1 or 2 'backup' things.

Edited by Stacia
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National Archives (Declaration and Constitution, and a nifty museum)

Natural History Museum (we like it better than the Air and Space)

American History Museum

Monuments (we actually were able to see them all, except for the Teddy Roosevelt one on his own island, in about 4 hours)

National Cathedral (amazing architecture)

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I agree with what the others said --


you are kind of pressed for time, so here is my .02:


Botanic Gardens is a wonderful treat -- it won't take but an hour to get through as i would not expect there to be crowds at that time of year. It is fascinating -- especially the medicinal herb section.


The Museum of Natural History is awesome -- usually crowded, but worth it, check out their IMAX films -- you will need a few hours here OR beforehand, decide specifically what you want to see otherwise, one could spend days here.


The National Cathedral has a fascinating tour. The National Shrine of the Basilica also has a fascinating tour but would be out of your way.


The Museum of American History has the BEST hands on room but I think you need to make reservations beforehand (I am not certain) -- you can check it out on the website.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We will arrive Saturday afternoon. We will be staying at the Hyatt downtown. Is that close to the memorials?


I figured it won't be worth it to go to the museum on Saturday as it will close in a few hours or do they offer a return trip the following day with a ticket purchase? So Sunday will be our main tourist day. Maybe we could do the Botanical Garden on Saturday.


I saw online that the memorials are nice to view in the evening. Is this true? Is it safe?


Thanks for your input!

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We love the monuments at night. While you don have to be aware of your surroundings we have never felt unsafe down there at night. My absolute favorite monument at night is the Lincoln!


The WWII monument is cool.


If you have a car I woud say get to the Udvar Hazy Air and Space museum. The kids will LOVE it. The other fun car idea is right outside DC is a airport park right at the end of the Reagan Airport runway. The planes fly literally over your head. I've never been closer to a plane in flight. I should post some pictures of my boys there.


Just continue onto Mt Vernon then...or hit it on the way back. So worth getting a car for that.


Downtown there is very little you can go wrong seeing! You will need good walking shoes! And a good backpack for snacks etc.


Walk by both sides of the White House.


I'm rambling. I love living so close to our capital! We get down there as much as we can.

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Yes the monuments are spectacular at night! The biggest hazard is the driving style - everyone drives like they have diplomatic immunity whether they have it or not. :lol:


I've never done a tour, but I've heard that they can be a great way to see a lot when you have limited time. That would solve the transportation issue and all of you could enjoy the scenery without having to pay attention to driving and traffic. I think there are some bus tours more highly regarded than others, so I'd do some googling.

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We only had a day and a half too. Our half day, we took the tour of the capital, went to the Library of Congress, and did the Monuments by Moonlight tour ($$ were so worth it as it allowed us to also use the evening hours as well as have some commentary about the city in general. Excellent tour!). The full day was spent at various Smithsonian museums. We only saw the White House from the outside but we saw it both at night (we made a special request on the night tour and they allowed us to get out and take pictures) and during the day the next day on the way out of town. It was a whirlwind tour, but I feel like we made the most of it. HTH.

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Yes, night is a great time to see the memorials. You can take a driving tour (any cabbie will do it) and you see them. Plus side to doing them at night is you are using time you can't do museums.


Definitely hit American History and National Archives and Air and Space. Stick with Smithsonians because you won't have much of a line. White House tickets require advance notice (you have to request them from you Member of Congress) and you will stuck in a line rather than seeing anything. Save that for a trip when you have more time.


Visit the Capitol. Call in advance and your Member of Congress will schedule a tour for you and have someone show you around their office.

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If you're willing to spend the $$ on a tour, I'd highly recommend it b/c it enables you to cover a lot of ground in a short pd of time. My kids love seeing the capitol bldg and the WH on tv or in books (we did tours of both, which if you can get our wonderful).


On our short list would be the Natural History Museum, the Postal Museum, and probably the Air and SPace. Air and Space is just ok in my mind, but everyone else seems to love it-and since you're going in the winter, it would be insanely crowded.


I personally loved the National ARchives, and again, winter is a great time. I'd also consider a tour of the Mint. I haven't been since I was a kid (again b/c it's too hard to get into in the summer), but clearly remember the $$ being made.



I haven't been to the Newseum in years, but my sister (who lives there) raves about it. I think it is a little pricey.

Have fun!


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I grew up near DC and we were just up that way in November. My kids LOVED the Air and Space Museum. We also went to the American History Museum.


DON'T go to the aquarium. It is overpriced and not many fish/creatures to look at for the price.


You could go see the new MLK monument! We wanted to, but spent so much time in the museums, the kids were pooped.


The Holocaust museum is really interesting too, but might be intense for young children.

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Air and Space is great for kids. The Native American museum (I'm completely blanking out on its name) is also fun and has a great food court. Botanical Gardens is fascinating, and only takes around one hour to get through.

A nighttime monument tour is a fun, great way to see the major monuments.

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