Jump to content

Menu

Help, please! Planning a trip to Washington DC and surrounding area


Recommended Posts

My parents are treating our family to a summer trip to Washington DC and surrounding areas, and I'm in charge of planning it.

 

Does anyone have must-sees" to recommend? Off the top of my head I'm thinking of: The White House, Smithsonian, and the Lincoln, Vietnam, etc. memorials, etc. What else would be profitable for kids to see?

 

Also, would anyone have suggestions on books (read alouds and independent reading) and/or projects to prepare for our trip?

 

TIA! :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's been a very long time since I was there, but I do remember enjoying the Shakespeare Theatre. (now I'm wondering if it's still there. It's been a loooong time.)

 

The Vietnam Memorial and the Iwo Jima memorial come to mind. The Library of Congress was very interesting.

 

jeannie

Link to post
Share on other sites

how much time do you have?

 

You could spend 2-3 days doing the basics of the mall (capitol, museums on the mall --including the newly renovated American History, and monuments).

 

If you are into aerial views, I recommend the old post office pavilion over the Washington monument. It's not on the mall but it's open air, not cramped with fogged over windows.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It was a beautiful day and we got a great view. We took the train (Marc?) into Union Station and the Metro in the rest of the way. If I had the funds, I would've paid for Tour Mobile for 2 days so I could see more.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was excited to see this post, as we just got back from a 3 day visit to Washington last night. We stayed one mile across the Potomac in Arlington in a suite hotel. We were so pleased. We used the metro for the whole trip. I was nervous about if that would be the right choice for our family, but it was so easy, convenient and cheap for us to use.

 

On our visit we saw National Archives, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Smithsonians- Natural History and American History, Peterson House (Ford's Theater was closed on our visit), the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and the National Zoo.

 

I can't say there was any that we didn't enjoy. I would say the whole family's favorite was the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Just really awesome to see the money being printed and hear all of the facts! My husband and I loved our private Capitol tour given by our state representatives chief of staff. Look into getting one from yours, it really made it extra special with a VIP feel.

 

I wasn't sure about the Zoo since we have one in Philadelphia, but it turned out to be such a beautiful facility. And nothing beats seeing the Pandas and the new baby Gorilla.

 

My ds loved all of the war exhibits at the American History musuem. And the Natural History is always awesome, but was the most packed of all places. Air and Space is great, but we saw it last time.

 

We got a huge pile of books out before we went. I found it most helpful that we read up about the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial and Capitol before we went. So when we were there my son could say oh cool ... that he read or we could share facts we remembered. It also helps to orient them to the feel and layout of the National Mall before hand. Most importantly bring your walking shoes, it was a lot of walking more then I imagined and we are active people.

 

Sorry so long, I feel like I could go on forever. We just adored our trip! Any questions, please ask, I would love to share more specific info or tips.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I recommend getting Fodor's Washington, DC guidebook. I used it to plan our trip last year and it was indispensible.

 

We went to the Lincoln Memorial at night, to the top of the Old Post Office during the day, Arlington National Cemetary, National Archives, Air & Space, Natural History, the Zoo, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, a Nationals game, walked in front of the White House.

 

We stayed 4 days.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Library of Congress and Folger Shakespeare Library (a MUST!). They are right behind the Capitol and directly down the street from the train station, which has an AWESOME (and affordable!) multi-cultural eatery in the basement.

 

When I used to take field trips of high school kids to the Folger, the docents there (mostly retired English teachers) would tailor the "speech" to EXACTLY what I wanted my students to take away. FIRST RATE! (And very user-friendly / intriguing for all, not just Bard-o-philes.)

 

I also recommend the Spy Museum - not a "free" one like the Smithsonians, but WORTH EVERY PENNY!

Link to post
Share on other sites
I also recommend the Spy Museum - not a "free" one like the Smithsonians, but WORTH EVERY PENNY!

 

I personally did not enjoy the Spy museum that much. The first part is interesting, but brief, on the ways/tactics of espionage. The second part is rather dull in my opinion. I think it was more expensive than what it's worth.

 

I have never toured the FBI building, but have heard from others that it can be interesting. The Pentagon tour (if they still have it) is dull beyond belief.

 

Definitely tour the capital and I do remember enjoying the Shakespeare theater very much when I had a high school field trip there.

 

Also, right before your trip check out the Weekend Section in the Washington Post (out on Thursdays if I am remembering correctly) and there they will list all of the concerts, plays, and such that are going on. It's always fun to stop in at the Kennedy Center for a rest and listen to some free music.

 

Christina

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh what fun! Yes, I have several diff. things to suggest. We went a few yrs ago. A lot of what you do will depend on your children's ages and what they find interesting! For instance, my son, was fascinated with Lincoln. So, our key interests were the Lincoln Memorial and Ford Museum. I HIGHLY recommend the Ford Museum. Oh my- that was fantastic! You can also take a tour of the house across the street where they took Lincoln after he was shot!

 

I had three fairly young children....so we stayed away from long lines for tours such as the white house, bureau of engraving, etc. We just decided to do things that we could do on OUR time that were easy enough to navigate in and out of through the day.

 

I would try to do these things:

Smithsonian museums

Major monuments- Lincoln and Washington- these are particularly beautiful at night. That's when we did them. :patriot:

Ford Theatre/Museum

House across the street- I forget the name??

Spy museum- didn't do this,but really wanted to. Kinda pricey, but it looked great! It is near the Ford Theatre area. (if I recall correctly)

Arlington Cemetery

Changing of the Guards- very cool!

 

Anything above and beyond these places would be just icing on the cake! Of course, if you have older kids or kids that are into different things that will completely change your agenda. So, like I said, I would talk to everyone and see that they would like to visit and make a list. There is sooo much to do. The best advice I can give is to just realize from the beginning that you won't see everything and just to enjoy what you WANT to see! That will free you up to just be in the moment. ;)

 

Hope that helps!

Have a grand time!!!

Bethany Blizard

Link to post
Share on other sites

First of all, do you know that to get tours of the capitol building and the white house you need to contact your congress-person to get tickets. They are free, but you want to give yourself plenty of time because there are a limited number that they get.

 

Here are some things we loved in no particular order

 

The Library of Congress

The mint (get there pretty early in the morning to get a ticket)

The monuments at night are very cool

Any of the Smithsonian Museums (History, Natural History, Space)

National Archives

 

We had the kids memorize the beginning of the Declaration and the Preamble to the Constitution before we went. It made it very cool to see the original documents.

Link to post
Share on other sites

You need downtime to avoid brain overload. Pack a frisbee or two to play on the mall. Pack a picnic lunch to eat on the mall, or buy lunch from some of the street vendors. (Adults would generally prefer a packed lunch.). If it's windy, buy a kite from the Air and Space Museum gift shop to fly around the Washington Monument.

 

If you come the week or two before the 4th, the Smithonian's International Folk Festival will be in full swing. It's always a lot of fun, packed with people, and the food's good, or at least interesting. Check the web site for the exact dates.

 

If you want to get away from museums and monuments for a while, wander out to the C&O Canal (a national park). The most scenic area is Great Falls, but you'll need a car to get there. Not only does it have the falls and lots of hiking, but there is also canal boat rides with costumed interpreters. If you can't make it to Great Falls, the start of the canal in Georgetown (in DC proper) also has a canal boat. I believe both canal boats go through a 19th century lock.

 

Another fun break is to walk or bike along the Potomac on the VA side. The long bike path stretches from a bridge going into DC to Mount Vernon. There are many parking areas along the trail allowing for shorter walks where you can see the monuments from a distance.

 

If anyone in your group is into political humor, try to get them tickets to a Friday or Sat. Capitol Steps show. Your 11 year old might enjoy it, but I doubt if the younger ones would.

 

However your children might enjoy getting a Junior Ranger badge or two. One is available for the monuments and/or cherry trees. There is a tiny, hard to find ranger station that has the books in the vicinity of the monuments. They could also get a Junior Ranger badge for the C&O canal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

These are our favorite places to visit: National Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs, insect zoo, Hope diamond, just to name a few highlights), National Museum of American History, Air and Space Museum, National Archives, the Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery and, of course, all the monuments. Many of these sights have websites with educational materials. For the Smithsonian museums look at www.si.edu/

Narrated trolley tours are great when you get tired and hot. You can jump on and off at designated stops and the narrations are very interesting. And sometimes the little ones get a quick nap in while the older kids and adults enjoy the tour in the air conditioning.

A good book to look at is Fodor’s Washington, D.C. With Kids. This provides insight on the best sights and activities for young kids, tweens and teens. It also lists children’s books and movies about the sights.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, everyone, for the great ideas! My list is now very long and I have a lot of research to do. :)

 

We will be there approx. 9-10 days, and the challenge will be to figure out an itinerary that our entire family (including my elderly parents) can handle. My middle child tends to get tired easily, so I appreciate the advice to make sure I schedule lots of downtime.

 

Can anyone tell me what we would see at these places and how much time to allot to each one?

 

National Archives

Folger Shakespeare Library

Library of Congress

Ford Theatre/Museum

 

I would also love to hear hotel recommendations!

 

Thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I second many of the above suggestions.

 

These two are a bit away from DC proper, but might still be do-able since you'll be there so long - and a drive might be nice for everyone, rather than walking around DC in summer!

 

Gettysburg (new center; about 1.5-1.75 hr drive north of DC)

National Cryptologic Museum (Fort Meade - about 30 min NE of DC; small, but good - all about code-breaking - and free (or very inexpensive))

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's been a long time since I was there but we loved the tour of the FBI Building and the Holocaust Museum was incredible (very intense so not for the very young or feint of heart). It really was the best trip we've ever taken. Enjoy!

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Spy museum was great. I also took ds, 10 at the time, to the Holocaust Museum. It had a great impact on him. I was depressed for a few days, but it was extremely informative.

 

You do realize the Smithsonian is a compilation of many museums? It will take several days to see them all. Our family loved the Air & Space museum.

Link to post
Share on other sites

At the National Archives you will see important historical documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. A new exhibition just opened called “Big†– this includes a 13-foot scroll of the Articles of Confederation, an enormous map of the Gettysburg battlefield, and the 1941 tally sheet of the votes in the House of Representatives to declare war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Expect to spend about 1 ½ hours at the Archives.

 

Also, I agree with everyone that recommended the Spy Museum. There is also a Crime and Punishment museum that our entire family my loved.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Can anyone tell me what we would see at these places and how much time to allot to each one?

 

National Archives

Folger Shakespeare Library

Library of Congress

Ford Theatre/Museum

 

I would also love to hear hotel recommendations!

 

Thanks!

 

National Archives = crowded & usually long lines, even inside; the video inside the building is the same video you can watch online - http://www.archives.gov/ can take 1/2 day if you wander around and read everything that's there. We took only 1-1.5 hrs but that was breezing through

 

Folger's has a short tour maybe one hour and there isn't much else to see

 

Make sure to check all the websites before you go.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Would you recommend trying to get a Congressional tour of the National Archives and/or Bureau of Engraving? I've heard that there is no difference in the actual tour but we might be able to save some time in lines because we'll actually have an appointed time.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...