For the last two years we have gone to Washington DC with one of our kids. Last year with our then six year old and this year I went with my 16 year old for a mother/son trip. Both trips were unbelievable. The key? Not expecting your kids to do DC like an adult. They are kids. What is exciting to us, isn’t to them. While our attention span could be hours upon hours at a museum, theirs is minutes, sometimes seconds. The beauty of a lot of museums in DC is that they are free. Remember that when the kids are ready to go after 15 minutes. It’s free, move on, there’s so much more to see. If you want to do DC on your schedule, spending hours and hours in each museum, go with a friend. I intend to do that next.
We were given a tip last year while planning our trip, bike all the sites of DC. I am not a cyclist, think bikes are dangerous in traffic and was petrified of this option. Especially with a six year old. It seemed like more work than pleasure. How would we lock up the bikes in a strange city? What if they got stolen? How would we navigate the people? The traffic? Luckily my husband is not worry warrior like I am and insisted we try it out. YOU MUST DO THIS. Call Bike the Sites. You can ride on the sidewalks, when necessary, but it rarely is. Most of the riding is done through the National Mall in wide open spaces with plenty of room for both pedestrians and cyclists. You definitely want to bike along the beautiful Potomac.
The International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum is not a free museum. I was told by MANY people that this museum was the perfect choice for teens and tweens. Both my son and I were underwhelmed. There are gadgets to see for sure and perhaps our expectations were not set properly. For the most part the museum is a “read about the history of spies” kind of thing. We paid nearly $40.00 to get in and left within an hour. If you have an entire day they offer Spy in the City and Operation Spy which are interactive spy adventures and looked really cool. It definitely had interesting moments like the movie you watch upon entry, the gadgets and the Bond car, but unless your child is REALLY into that kind of thing, the amount you pay to peruse might not be worth the time you are there perusing. Capiche?
National Museum of Natural History
This National Museum of Natural History offers a little bit of everything. Bugs, bones, hanging out with butterflies and giant diamonds and rubies. Both times in DC we visited this free hotel and both times I found different things because I allowed my kids to be the guide. This is a must do museum. Remember, it’s free. You could spend hours upon hours, but if your kids are like mine, it’s more likely to be an hourish.
In which I found my people. I could truly move into the Newseum. It is my new happiest place on earth. In a really sad way. This museum is as the name suggests, a museum about news. Five centuries worth. The Pulitzer Prize winning photos are a must see, but take your tissues a lot of the photos are heartbreaking. Note: Many of these photos are not fit for small children. There is an amazing 911 exhibit and as my son and I wandered through it, he said, “We saw a movie on this.” It struck me how at the age of 16 he’s too young to truly understand the magnitude of that day. It’s just “history” to him.
As you can see below, there is something for everyone at the Newseum.
If you were saving all your “give me just five more minutes” all day for one special museum, this is the one. The Newseum is not free. Please check the website for pricing.
The National Mall & White House
In between all the museums, we biked the Potomac, biked to the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and we biked along the Forrest Gump Reflecting Pool. Unfortunately due to an earthquake the Washington Monument is under construction and not all that lovely on the eyes.
Where to Eat
There are a bazillion places to eat and we have tried many. One of ur favorites is Elephant & Castle a wonderful Pub with outdoor cafe seating.
After a long day of exploration, my son and I turned our bikes back in and headed there for some much needed grub. He enjoyed this deliciousness…
…while I chose a healthy and INSANELY delicious sea bass.
Where To Stay & How To Finish Your Day
We went back to our hotel, The Hilton Garden Inn, which is fabulously located, reasonable, and has the most incredible service. We’ve stayed there both times. It was a pleasure. Most definitely Ooph Approved!
After spending some time resting in the hotel while we waited for darkness to fall, we headed out for something I have waited 16 years to show my son. Fireflies. As I type this I am tearing up. There is something so magical about fireflies. When we rounded the corner to the park where I knew they would be, it was as if he was five again. “These are AWESOME,” he exclaimed. And indeed they were. Especially seeing them through his eyes.
I cannot stress enough what an unbelievably special trip, if done the right way, this is for you and the kids. I could go back year after year. Actually, I plan on it.