This past weekend we checked another city off our sightseeing list: Washington DC!
I had been mentioning DC to Brad for a while (we have both been several times but this would be the first with the kiddos) because I really wanted to go when the cherry blossoms were blooming. The cherry blossoms only are in peak bloom for a very short window; about a week to 10 days, so it made planning for this trip a little trickier. But DC has so much to offer, we knew that even without the cherry blossoms, there would be no shortage of things to see.
Because we were timing our visit to coincide with peak cherry blossom bloom, we were not able to book anything in advance. That meant last minute plane tickets for four were out of the question, which meant ROAD TRIP! I’ll admit hubby and I were not looking forward to the drive (about 8 hours without toddler delays), but we were pleasantly surprised with how successful it was. I will be sharing our tips and tricks for road tripping in an upcoming blog post.
This was another long weekend trip as Brad and I are saving our vacation days for when Heidi makes her arrival this summer. To maximize our time in DC, we chose to drive as far as we could on Thursday after work. This left 2 1/2 days in Washington DC. We decided the main things we wanted to hit were the National Mall, the Tidal Basin, the White House, the capital, the Smithsonian Museums, the National Zoo and Arlington National Cemetery (because Brad’s grandparents are buried there, otherwise I wouldn’t recommend for a toddler). I have heard great things about the National Building Museum and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, but we did not have time to fit these in.
The great thing about DC is most of these attractions are free. Our one qualm with DC was finding close parking that didn’t break the bank. We didn’t find the public transportation to be well positioned to take advantage of, so we just sucked up the price tag to park nearby. We definitely already had a lot of walking in the plans. So we parked near the L’Enfant Plaza Metro off of Maryland Ave, which worked out well because it turns out that DC has a large food truck gathering along Maryland Ave, which we took advantage of for lunch.
We brought our Zoe stroller this trip, which was a first trip with a stroller. At 27 weeks pregnant, I didn’t want to rely on baby wearing with the amount of walking we wanted to accomplish. Besides maneuvering a bunch of stairs, the stroller worked out great!
Friday ended up being cooler and rainy, so we chose to tackle the museums that day. The main museum we wanted to see with the girls was the Air and Space Museum. It was reminiscent of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, with large eye-catching planes and shuttles that interested the girls. Blakely particularly liked the astronauts, but Brooklyn was a little terrified.
We also went to the Museum of Natural History. The Museum of Natural History (similar to the Field Museum in Chicago) was a little hard to engage the girls in. They do love animals, but the way the displays are set up made it hard to get them clued in. We were disappointed to find the butterfly garden area that was our main draw to the museum was an extra (steep in our opinion) fee, so we moved on to the Museum of American History.
The Museum of American History actually has an area geared to young kids. But it closes earlier than the rest of the museum (it closes at 4), so me missed out on this. The girls did find interest in a giant 20+ room dollhouse display that depicts American home life in different eras mainly for pointing out various objects they recognized.We also walked up to the Capital and out to the White House as part of this museum loop only pausing at the exteriors for photos. This generally made a loop around the upper side of the National Mall.
We did not bother breaking for nap time. At this age the girls do nap well, but can also survive without one. We also had the ability to recline the stroller seats and the girls did cat nap along the way. Again snacks are your best friend so have a stash on hand.I was blown away by the number of museums we passed up for the sake of time. There is definitely a lot of potential for future trips especially as the girls grow into the museums. To name a few we passed: Museum of Native American History, Museum of African American History, the National Gallery, Smithsonian Castle, Botanical Gardens, the National Museum, the library at the Capital, the National Building Museum, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the International Spy Museum and the Holocaust Museum (they have a special exhibit for children but the recommended minimum age is 8).
Saturday was beautiful outside, and we devoted this day to soaking in the cherry blossoms around the entire Tidal Basin. If you ever have a chance to be in DC for the bloom, I highly recommend it! The cherry blossoms were a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo in 1912. Just be prepared for large crowds.
We also walked the outdoor monuments and memorials completing the bottom half of the National Mall. We saw the Jefferson Memorial, FDR, MLK, Lincoln Memorial, reflecting pool, WWII and Korean War Memorial. The Washington Monument was closed for elevator work, so we just admired it from a distance. It might not seem like a lot to complete this loop, but it was quite a bit of walking to accomplish with toddlers.
We ended the day at the Wharf, which is near to the Jefferson Memorial and hosts Petalpalooza along with a firework show. We were pleasantly surprised to find a Shake Shack at the wharf, which we have now been to in NYC, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami and DC.
Sunday we could only stick around DC for a half day since we had to drive home that afternoon/evening. We started off with a quick stop at Arlington National Cemetery to visit Brad’s grandparents. They are both buried together their of their own accord. We found that in contrast to past visits we had to park at the visitor center as they no longer let outside vehicles in. Brad received inaccurate information from the information desk, which led us to believe that we had to walk the mile plus to their graveside. Thankfully I asked if any of the tour shuttles got us close (we were not feeling a 1+ mile double stroller walk that morning) and a different person let us know about the complimentary gravesite shuttle.
Afterwards we went to the National Zoo, which is in a different area of DC. Parking was even more difficult here with zoo parking being completely full. Like the museums, the National Zoo is free to visit. Unfortunately, we didn’t have too much time to visit the zoo. We prioritized seeing the Pandas (we haven’t been to a zoo yet they has them) and the Gorillas (a favorite of the girls). We also got to see an Orangutan tight rope over a pedestrian walkway, which was neat to watch! The zoo could have definitely taken the rest of the day if we had the time. Forewarning though, the zoo is quite hilly.
So that was our first quick trip to Washington DC. Despite our concerns over the car trip, it ended up being very successful! I know the girls won’t remember seeing some of these significant sights, but we had lot of treasuable family time and memories to be made.