Got back from our DC trip on Saturday. First of all, thank you to everyone who gave us tips and helpful hints...it made a difference!!
Hotel: We stayed at the Residence Inn Capitol. I wil post a review in their profile here, but we were very happy with it. it's in a great location for going to the Capitol and the museums on that side of the Mall. They have free breakfast (decent) and also had free dinner 3 nights while we were there (M-W). They even offered free lunch on the snow day to everyone stuck there. Little touches like that were nice. The room was great and the service was great. The pool is adequate and we spent a LOT of time there with the kids after our sight-seeing.
Helpful Hint: If you DO stay at the Residence Inn Capitol and have a car, use "Parkatmyhouse.com" and search for the spot near the hotel on 3rd St. SW. We parked there for $10/day and saved over $200 total from what we would have spent parking at the hotel! Super easy and such a good deal!
Sunday: Arrived in DC just as the first snowflakes fell. Managed to walk around the Capitol before the snow really started and got a few photos.
Monday: Snow Patrick's Day. Government shut down, all Smithsonian museusms closed other than Air & Space and two art museums. Our Capitol tour was cancelled...thankfully I booked a backup time for later in the week b/c I was worried about the snow. We went to the Air & Space Museum with every other tourist in DC. The museum is great. We all loved it and it was definitely a good thing that we got there a few minutes before it opened. We had a lovely first hour or touring before it got really, really crowded. We skipped the IMAX entirely and concentrated on all of the exhibits. The kids loved the hands-on room the best. We all loved the Wright Flyer and I enjoyed the space shuttle room. There is more than enough to see for everyone in the family there. We spent about 3 hours which was a good amount. We missed a few rooms due to how crowded it was, but the cafeteria (McDonald's) was so packed we couldn't even get in the door so we had to leave to get lunch.
Tuesday: Still cold, so we decided to make this our Udvar-Hazy day. We had our own car so we drove out to the museum (took about 30-40 minutes at about 9:30...some traffic but not terrible). We all LOVED LOVED LOVED this museum. I would say that this was the MUST SEE of our trip. We enjoyed getting to see Discovery up close and there were hundreds of airplanes that we all enjoyed. It was nearly desserted so it was a nice contrast to the crowded museum the day before. I would highly recommend making the trip out there to anyone interested in aviation or space. Spent 3 hours there and felt like we saw everything. Did simulators (no wait) but no IMAX.
On the way back into to town we went to Arlington National Cemetary. Snow still on the ground but it wasn't terribly cold. We took the tram tour which was nice...a good break from walking and we were able to see the highlights in a fairly quick amount of time. (We got there close to the end of the day). We all enjoyed the changing of the guard.
Started the day with our Capitol Tour. Got the first tour of the day which was nice. We all enjoyed the tour...you wear headphones to hear your tour guide's voice which works really well. The tour groups are large but we felt like we got to see everything. We got gallery passes from our Senator's office, which I would recommend. Neither was in session, but we enjoyed seeing the House and Senate chambers.
Walked to the Natural History Museum afterwards. A very nice museum with a lot to see. The kids enjoyed it but it wasn't their favorite stop. Their favorites there were the mummies and the gems/minerals. I liked the ocean room, too. One tip...they have a locker room behind the info desk where you can store your stuff for free (just need a quarter that you get back when you leave). It was fabulous to walk around without all of our umbrellas and bags for a few hours!!
After resting at the hotel for a bit we rode the Metro to eat at Ted's Bulletin Capitol Hill. This was our one big meal out (vacationing with kids means grabbing meals on the go...plus it was hard to pass up the aforementioned free dinners at our hotel). We LOVED this restaurant. Called ahead and got a table within 5 minutes of walking in. Loved the shakes (for both adults and kids) and got a home-made poptart to go. Very fun and kid-friendly. An easy walk from the Metro.
Took the Metro to the Smithsonian stop after dinner and walked to the Lincoln Memorial to see it at night (ran out of time to see it during the day). It was very pretty at night, even though it was raining while we were there.
Thursday: Finally! A nice day!! We had our White House tour (set up through our Senator's office) this morning and we all really loved it. I would definitely recommend doing it if you can...you need to write at least a month or more ahead of time...the earlier the better! It's a great tour and pretty mind-blowing to see these rooms that so many presidents have been in.
Took the Metro to the zoo after the white house. The zoo was our only real DUD for the trip. My husband and I both hated it. The kids were fine with it, but 75% of all of the "big" animals were not on display due to construction or for whatever reason. We saw one panda for about 5 minutes and that was it. The baby was asleep inside the whole time...you could only see it on a tv monitor. I found the zoo to be run-down and unpleasant. I would not go back.
We grabbed lunch near the Metro on the way back into town and went to the Archives. Didn't have timed entry tickets (well, we had them for Monday, but the snow day ruined that plan!) but we got in within 15 minutes. The kids enjoyed seeing the Constitution, etc.. more than we thought they would. My son ended up with a souvenir set of documents with his own feather quill and ink bottle. :)
After the Archives my son and I walked to the WWII memorial. I would like to see it again when the reflecting pool wasn't empty, but I really liked it. It was overrun with disrespectful high school students which was too bad, but my son and I still got a lot out of our visit.
And that was it! We drove both ways (16+ hours) so there was a lot of time spent in the car but the drive was nice. My children really loved DC and I would go back in a flash! Make sure to bring comfy shoes...I feel like we walked 100 miles!
Things we missed due to the weather and/or not having enough time: Bureau of Engraving and Printing (very sad to miss this, but just couldn't fit it in), American History Museum, American Indian museum, Vietnam Wall, Korean War Memorial, MLK Memorial, Jefferson Memorial. Only getting one museum in on Monday kind of put us behind but I think our kids were museumed-out by the end of the trip anyway. Maybe a blessing in disguise?
Air & Space
Capitol (get gallery passes)
Arlington National Cemetary and the Changing of the Guard
Anyway...hope this might help another family planning a trip! We all loved it! Thanks again for all of the tips and hints here!