No matter which way you voted in November, there is one thing we can all agree on and that is that this past election season reached our kids possibly more than any in generations past.
I don’t recall ever being interested in elections or history in school, but my kids were discussing it in school, with friends and had questions and curiosities about the places and things they saw and heard about- which I thought was great! So we decided (somewhat on a whim) to kick off this summer with a 3 day trip to our Nation’s Capitol– which you may have caught a glimpse of if you follow me on Instagram.
The city was more beautiful than I imagined (hence all of the pictures in this post) and despite the heat and humidity frizzing even my pin-straight hair (haha) it was a really nice family weekend.
Below is a little recap of our experience and 7 of our takeaways and tips that we would recommend to anyone looking to visit DC with their kids.
Map out your day
Typically, we are planners. We research tons and have pretty good idea of how each day will be spent prior to our arrival– but for whatever reason, we winged D.C. and you guys, that was a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t “ruin” any part of our trip by any means, we had a blast. BUT, the time we spent researching things in the hotel could definitely have been better spent exploring the city. Also, there are so many parts of D.C. to explore we probably could have dedicated a day to each instead of splitting up the day. Again, not terrible– but you always want to maximize your time.
The Mall is likely a lot bigger than you think
Maybe this one is obvious to some but since this trip was planned without a whole lot of prep, I made the mistake of assuming everything I saw on TV and in pictures (don’t laugh) were right next to eachother– they’re not– at all, and it is a bit of a hike with little ones in tow.
What we did that seemed to work perfectly for the kids – we explored one-half of the mall one day, and the other half the next.
Note: Learn from our mistakes. You definitely want to pack comfortable sneakers and clothing!
DC Metro is the way to go
The DC Metro got us around everywhere. We purchased SmarTrip cards and it was super easy to navigate and the kids actually really liked it.
The stations and trains are pristine, and the waffle-like ceilings are gorgeous– especially Union Station. In fact, Union Station is so pretty, I’d recommend stopping in just to check it out and take some pics if you can.
A hotel that feels like home > fancy bells and whistles
There is no shortage of hotels to choose from in the D.C. area– but when you are traveling with kids, doing a lot of sightseeing and walking, trust that the bells and whistles of some of the high-end hotels will shy in comparison to having a place that is comfy and spacious enough for everyone to lounge out and feel at home at the end of the day.
During our stay were hosted at One Washington Circle, which is located walking distance to the Foggy Bottom Metro station, part of the Modus Hotel family– and has a killer burger joint right across the park (more on that in a bit).
One of the great things about staying at a smaller, boutique hotel vs. the larger chains is the “Family feel”. The staff knew us by the end of the first day, offered us umbrellas to use in the rain, and fresh fruit infused water before we headed out for the day. It felt so much like home that Avery called it our “new house”– haha.
Once upon a time, this boutique hotel was a luxury apartment building– so every room is a “suite” with a kitchen or kitchenette in each, stocked with cookware– and a fresh coffee grind & brewer!
King suites like the one we stayed in also include a dining room, 1.5 bathrooms and a huge walk out balcony with sweeping views of the park; we loved starting our days with breakfast on ours.
There is a CVS, Trader Joes and Whole Foods all in walking distance – and Modus Hotels even offers an incredible “Stock The Fridge“ service, where you can have your groceries delivered to you for really reasonable prices. (You can see the menu here.) Cooking on vacation isn’t everyone’s thing, but having quick grab-and-go snacks, drinks and breakfast options on hand save our lives every time with the kids.
Follow The Kids Lead
Say the word “history” and often it can automatically sound like a snoozefest to kids– so D.C. can feel like a gamble– but our kids (12, 8, and 3.5) enjoyed it and I think it had a lot to do with the fact that for the most part, we just followed their lead.
Explore what grabs kids interests and skip past what doesn’t.
With no real agenda, we decided to pop just in a few of the Smithsonian museums (which are all free- nothing to lose!) and see where the day took us.
There was a lot in the Museum of American History that grabbed the kids attention, so we spent a good deal of time there and got to see most, if not all of it. They have hands-on history areas for the kids (toddler- grade school) which I highly recommend stopping by.
The American Museum of Natural History was another favorite of theirs– especially the gems and dinosaur exhibits.
We stopped in The Air and Space and Art Museum, but at that point, the kids were done with museums and tired from a lot of walking, so we headed back to the hotel for a pool break and put it on our list for next time.
The International Spy Museum is not a free one but most everyone who has been there raves about it. Their interactive espionage experience is said to be a really fun one. However, since that activity was ages 12 and up– leaving 2 out of 3 kids out of luck– we skipped it this time and added it to our list for a future visit.
The Monument By Moonlight Tour was the highlight of our trip. DC is a beautiful city in daylight but there is nothing like the beauty of seeing everything lit up at night.
We did the 8pm trolley tour through Trusted Tours, which gave a quick tour around the mall as the sunset and had 3 major stops– The FDR & MLK Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, and The WWII Memorial.
The trolley was able to park pretty close to the memorials so there wasn’t a ton of walking for the kids (though those steps up to the Lincoln Memorial are no joke– James carried Avery (3) up them– he is forever my hero).
Photo tip: At the FDR memorial, there is a prime family photo opp with a fully lit Washington Monument in the background!
Get adventurous with your food
There are so many opportunities to experience great food in D.C. Food Truck City is located right along the Mall and stretches for BLOCKS and BLOCKS. It has quite literally every kind of cuisine you can imagine– from Greek to Mexican to Indian– you can basically eat your way around the world & even grab some ice cream while you are sightseeing around The Mall.
While Food Truck city is pretty amazing, there is so much more to see in D.C beyond The Mall and grabbing a quick bite is a great excuse to step outside the tourist thing and explore the other areas and eateries that locals love.
Burger, Tap & Shake– Foggy Bottom
Burger Tap and Shake was one of the first places we stumbled upon when we arrived in D.C., as it is was right across the park from where we were staying. It was one of (if not the best) burger joints we have ever been to. Think Shake Shake– but better!
Their burgers were fresh and could be customized with a ton of different toppings, and their shake menu– which included candy favorites like Twix and Snickers– is incredible.
The kids asked for it every.single.night. of our trip and are still raving about it.
And on a hot summer day like the ones we experienced during our trip, their unique and delicious “shaketails” (cocktail meets shake) was exactly what James and I needed!
Pictured above: Bad cubmaster “Shake-tail” which includes Smirnoff marshmallow vodka, Godiva chocolate liquor, graham crackers and vanilla ice cream.
Located in Georgetown, Pinstripes is a nice sit-down restaurant with great food, indoor/outdoor seating and bowling and bocce ball right on site!
The kids really liked it there and since it was a nice night out we were able to walk there from our hotel and get a little peek at Georgetown– which I’d love to explore more next time around! Such a cute town with some great shopping too!
Baked & Wired Cupcakes– Georgetown
Baked and Wired is a local cupcake shop that came highly recommended by several people so we saved it as our very last hoorah and their cupcakes did not dissapoint– truly out-of-this-world (Try the chi cupcake- to. die. for!!). That being said, I would recommend ordering online before you go as it is a fairly busy, small shop and the staff seemed a little put-off by things like indecisive small children or requests for almond milk for coffee.
3 days will be enough and also not enough
One thing we didn’t expect was to leave with an even longer list of things we wanted to see than when we first came. There is seriously just SO much.
I personally could have spent a full day just taking pictures of the architecture– GORGEOUS!
On our way home, James and I discussed what we thought would be the perfect amount of time to spend in D.C. with kids, and we decided that although 3 days wasn’t enough to see everything by any means, 3 days was perfect for the kids.
We were able to see all the things they were most familiar with and learn enough about the city to make them want to come back again and see more.
Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by One Washington Circle. All thoughts and opinions are my own.