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Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

Kansas City, MO
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Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

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.

Wednesday:

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?

SEE IT:

Udvar-Hazy

Air & Space

White House

Capitol (get gallery passes)

Arlington National Cemetary and the Changing of the Guard

SKIP IT:

Zoo

Anyway...hope this might help another family planning a trip! We all loved it! Thanks again for all of the tips and hints here!

Kansas City, MO
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1. Re: Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

One more note about the National Mall with kids...it is much much more walking than you imagine. I have a 9 year old and 7 year old who are both good travellers and didn't complain, but originally I thought we could walk the whole thing (Capitol to Lincoln and back) in one day....there is NO WAY. Not even I could have done that and enjoyed it. I would plan half for one day and half for the other day. Unfortunately there is no Metro stop near the Lincoln, but we walked to the Lincoln from the Smithsonian stop and ended up taking a cab back to our hotel b/c we couldn't fathom walking back. Of course that was in the rain at night, so maybe if it were 70 degrees and sunny we could have made it. :)

Appleton, Wisconsin
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2. Re: Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

Thank you so much for this! I have been "following" your posts as we have kids the same age and I seemed to have the same questions and interests (all the way down to the pop tarts at Ted's) :) Thanks also for your reply to my post regarding the zoo- I'll have a backup plan now.

Questions:

How much time did you spend at Arlington? You recommend the Tram? I've read a lot of bad reviews...

How did you like the Metro? and did you all have a SmarTrip card?

Thanks again

Kansas City, MO
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3. Re: Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

Glad to help out!! When are you traveling?

Regarding Arlington...we spent about 1.5 hours there total. We did the tram for 2 reasons...one is that it was cold/snowy and we didn't want to spend the extra time outside because of that. Two was we were tired of walking! ;) So, if you are there and the weather isn't great and you are tired of walking because of other activities (or if you are planning on walking a lot later in the day), I think the tram is helpful. It takes you to the "main" things fast so you don't have to spend that time walking. If the weather was nice I think we woudl have liked to have walked through on our own just to take it in a little more. The "tour" part wasn't anything amazing. They don't give a ton of information, but they do point out a few things and talk a little bit about the history of Arlington National Cemetary.

We loved the Metro (the kids got a huge kick out of it and felt very grown up using their own cards). We did get the SmartTrip cards...I didn't realize that they charge you an extra $1 per trip if you don't have one. So the $2 charge for the SmartTrip card paid for itself in two trips.

Let me know if you think of any more questions!

Washington DC...
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4. Re: Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

Thank you for your great trip report. You did a wonderful job conveying how the visit went for you. Too bad about that snow day. But the unexpected happens during vacations. You have plenty left to see on your next visit.

Hales Corners...
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5. Re: Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

Great report! totally disappointed about the zoo as I left that for our last day before we get on the plan at 4PM. Guess we will just spend the morning slowly packing as we have till noon to get out of our room and goto the National Cathedral.

Washington DC...
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6. Re: Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

You might have a totally different opinion about the National Zoo. It doesn't have an admission fee, so all you lost is time. I think the OP opinion is a bit harsh, but it isn't one of the great zoos of the world.

Kansas City, MO
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7. Re: Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

Like the pp said, it is free so if you don't have anything else you want to do, it is worth a try. It may be better later in the season when the animals are out and the construction will be done. I was just expecting a Smithsonian quality zoo and it was far below the quality of all of the other Smithsonians we visited. Our home zoo is much better.

Fwiw, the kids didn't complain. They liked some parts. But for us, we had limited time and gave up doing other things that we really wanted to do to go to the zoo and it was disappointing. But it would be better than packing! :)

Hales Corners...
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8. Re: Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

We have a very nice zoo in Milwaukee. We really were just going in to see the Pandas.

washington dc
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9. Re: Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

Opinions do differ, though I cannot by any stretch see how anyone could call the zoo "run down." The National zoo is designed for maximum animal benefit - with large natural enclosures for better quality of life. This means you may walk a lot between areas, and the animals may not always be performing for the tourists as they would like. The pandas are always hyped, but they are usually a disappointment. Did you go to Amazonia? The Invertebrate Hall? The Bird House?

Montreal
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10. Re: Trip Report: 4 day trip to DC with Kids

Great report! We did our trip very recently and missed a shutdown snow day by three days. It sounds like you made the best of it and had a good time. We felt the same way about the Udvar-Hazy Center - one of our favs.