We arrived Saturday evening, and met up with our relatives for dinner in Crystal City near our hotel. Nice to have a 7-11 and CVS nearby.
Sunday, went to the Smithsonian Castle for some looking around and info gathering, and to meet the relatives again. Kids won and we hit the Air and Space as it opened at 10am. Straight to the simulators-all the way to the right on first floor-very short wait-kids happy. Spent about 2 1/2 or 3 hours there, and saw much of it, including the planetarium show about black holes (interesting, not essential). Based on forum and other advice, I refused to let the crowd eat at the museum, and we went next door to the American Indian Museum. The museum itself is absolutely beautiful. The cafe was indeed way above the standard fare, and don't worry, there is a spot for 'my kid won't eat any of this other stuff' chicken strips. Very expensive though, but right in line with the other museum cafes.
After, we walked the mall and enjoyed people-watching as we walked our guests to their car by the Washington Monument. Then we went to the Museum of American History, saw the Star-Spangled Banner, and most of the top floor, which was enough museum for one day! (pop culture stuff, different wars in US history, presidency, Lincoln).
Fabulous pizza in Crystal City (Cafe Pizzaiola (sp?) and then bed.
This morning, thunderstorm and very low motivation. I finally left about 830 to Bureau Engrav/Print, hoping that others had been slow too, but all the tickets were gone when I arrived. Luckily, perhaps the clouds worked in our favor as we were able to get Washington Monument tickets for noon, which the ranger said was unusual. Met my husband and kids at the National Archives. We were among the first in at 10, and spent about 45 minutes in the rotunda (movie and cafe closed today). There was a volunteer docent, and we peppered him with questions, which SIGnificantly enhanced our visit-ask away! The kids were moderately interested in the rest of the exhibits, and we spent another 45 minutes there.
The Washington Monument was cool, as expected, with weather cleared and phenomenal orienting views. There is a National Park Ranger station at the bottom of the hill (opposite side from where one gets tickets), and we stopped to get Junior Ranger booklets for the kids. These cover all the monuments and memorials, so we will work on them and return there for badges.
Walked over to the White House Visitor Center. Everyone enjoyed the movie and exhibits-took maybe 45 minutes, and we hope it prepared us for our visit tomorrow.
Lunch at the Museum of Natural History-standard cafe fare, but appreciated that there are things like cups of baby carrots, apples and fruit cups available along with the fries. Again, very expensive. I see it as the price I pay for a 'free' museum. Went upstairs and did about half of the second floor (gems, insect zoo, mammals and reptiles) before we called it a day. Dad and one kid went to the National Aquarium. It was described as underwhelming by my husband (who is spoiled by Chicago's Shedd Aquarium), but great by my son.
The rest of us headed back to the hotel where they were anxious to head to the pool. Unfortunately, it was 4:45, and we discovered it didn't open till 6pm, as they were teaching swim classes. The instructor told me that state VA & MD laws ensure hotel pools have lifeguards, and therefore most of them have very limited hours. I can understand this, but feel it should have been transparent upon reservation and/or checkin. I bet it's the same at most of the hotel pools. Anyway, that is where we are now, and everyone is happy!