A Weekend Away with the Kids: Washington, D.C.

We have always been adventurous parents, so this past holiday weekend was no exception.  I have some cousins that I haven’t seen in a long time who live in Silver Springs, MD, so I made arrangements to visit.  We decided to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to avoid traffic.  So, on Friday, we packed up the car with kid-friendly gadgets and our luggage, grabbed the kids and got out of town, heading to Maryland and our ultimate destination, Washington, D.C.

It was a smooth ride to Silver Springs and we arrived at our destination, the Homewood Suites, four hours after leaving home.  For $115 a night, we stayed in a comfortable family suite.  Only blocks from the Washington, D.C. border, this hotel is also a short walk from the Metro station.  We also had a fully-equipped kitchen and hot breakfast daily.  The hotel is right across the street from a ton of shops, including Border’s, Ann Taylor Loft, Marshall’s, as well as a slew of restaurants.

My son has always loved staying in hotels and this experience was no exception.   We found that at even at 6-years-old, he still likes opening and closing doors, running wild around hotel rooms and kicking my daughter in the bed they shared nightly.  I have always hoped that travel with the two would get easier.  Still, as much as the two of us love to travel, it is rubbing off on our children.  At the end of the day, we all have the travel bug.  Some trips will just be easier than others, and this happened to one of the harder trips. About 3/4 into our day of hopping around D.C., I realized that my son had somehow deleted all of my photos from my camera, so I can’t illustrate this post as well as I would have liked to!  That’s traveling with kids!  Expect the unexpected and then move on. Thankfully, I took photos on my iPhone, too, as did my husband.

Courtesy of Flickr

We started our day on the Metro – the train ride into the metro DC area only took about 25 minutes.  Once off the train, we walked up the stairs and entered the magnificent Mall.  It was a beautiful, crisp day.  As soon as my kids caught sight of the Smithsonian Carousel, they jumped for joy and ran toward it.  The carousel is open every day, except Christmas, from 10am-5:30pm.  Each child cost $2.50 each, and the ride was several minutes long.  It was actually a great way to kick off our day in Washington, DC.  Spinning around the white buildings, with the Washington Monument staring them in the face at one end, the nation’s Capitol at the other end, it was certainly a unique experience.  It’s located at 12th Street and Jefferson Drive.

Then we headed to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  Admission to all of the Smithsonian institutions is free for everyone, all the time.  Our son is a budding pilot and we knew we would be memorized by this museum, filled with actual space ships and air crafts, as well as memorabilia and artifacts from the last century, and indeed he was.

We spent quite a while in the space museum.  My son was in heaven.  We learned all about Neil Armstrong and the other astronauts who traveled to the moon, entered a rocket ship, learned about the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart and learned all about how how plane fly.  We had lunch in the museum’s food court, which has a McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.  The food was over-priced but necessary as we were all starving.

When all was said and done, after we took another spin inside the museum, we needed  a rest.  We made an executive decision to go on a Double Decker Tours hop-on, hop-off bus.  At first, the driver asked for $75 for all of us, but he somehow went down in price to $60 (taking the kid’s ages into account) which helped make our decision easier to climb aboard.  This way, we were all able to sit down and take in the sights from inside the bus.  We rode around the monuments and sites and took in the tour guide’s narration.  We drove by the George Washington Monument, FDR Monument, the White House, the Capitol and the imminent site of the MLK memorial.  When we came to the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, we jumped off so the kids could experience this powerful sculpture up close and personal.  To me, this sculpture represents democracy and freedom.  Here was a man who did so much for our nation and changed the course of history.  If my kids don’t remember anything from this trip, the one stop that I hope that they do remember is this one.  Everything ab0ut the history of U.S. Presidents really seemed to resonate with our 7-1/2 year-old daughter and I truly believe that this trip will stand out in her memory as the first of her many trips to this great city.

When we got off the bus, we talked my tired son into going to one more Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of Natural History. Both kids loved the dinosaur exhibit, which includes real fossils and artifacts.  Located at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue, the museum is a real state-of-the-art building that contains more than 126 million natural science specimens and cultural artifacts.  Another wonderful experience, but we had to call it quits after this museum as the kids were exhausted.

After taking the train back to Silver Springs, we found ourselves exhausted and in need of an early dinner.  We stopped at Panera Bread, which offers yummy soups, salads, kid’s meals, bread and drinks, as well as WIFI.  Everyone was very happy with their food, which is totally comforting.  Last month I went to an amazing event with Panera Bread and had been eager to visit a Panera with my family.  Tom Gumpel, Panera Bread’s Head Baker, former associate dean at the Culinary Institute of America, and Captain of the 1999 U.S. Baking Team that captured the grand prize at the prestigious Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (World Cup of Baking), was on hand to teach myself and about 15 other bloggers about bread.  At that event, I was provided with a $25 gift card and was eager to try out the food with my family.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry on the rest of our weekend trip, which included a stop in Baltimore, Maryland.

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