Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Week in Washington DC with Kids Part 3

I respectfully ask that you not pin pictures of my children to Pinterest. Thank you!
The Gutenberg Bible in the Library of Congress
A Week in Washington DC with Kids Part 1 and Part 2

Our last two days were as busy as the first part of the week.
Here's what we did on Thursday and Friday:
We started our day at the Capitol Building. After having to throw away most of our lunch, we got through security and downstairs to get tour tickets. They have timed tour tickets for each day that you can get once you're there. As we got to the tour start area, I kind of scoped it out and picked a line with a tour guide that looked friendly. Best pick ever. He was from Scotland and had the best accent. His tour was really good, funny and informative, but honestly, he could have been reading the phone book and would have been great.
The rotunda is under construction but still open at this point.
Andrew; He looks angry but was just telling his story intensely. :)
From the Capitol, I had planned to go to the Supreme Court but found that there's an underground walking tunnel to the Library of Congress. Since it was cold and drizzly outside, we headed to the Library next.

The architecture is fabulous in there.
Our name is in the mosaic ceiling.

And we got to see Thomas Jefferson's library.
They have tours in the library; we just didn't have time to wait for one, and it was extremely crowded.
Supreme Court was next. There's a short film about the court that's worth watching. We didn't spend a whole lot of time here.
We ate lunch at Pete's Diner on 2nd Street. It wasn't good. The people were super friendly, but the food was only so-so and the tables were sticky. :)
We were able to get the metro from that side of the city and head to the National Gallery of Art.
An installation made of paper in the gift shop
There are so many paintings and sculptures to look at here. You could spend days there and still not absorb it all. Rooms full of Monet, and Picasso, and Singer Sargent. It's almost overwhelming. But very, very cool to see, in person, within touching distance, paintings that we've read about and studied and copied.
We left and headed to the Air and Space Museum.
The kids have done the Air and Space Museum before and I really wanted to spend time in the American History Museum, so we didn't spend too much time in here. We stuck to the exhibits that fit best with what we studied this year: History of Flight, Space Race, etc.
It was hard to tear them away, but I really wanted to get to the Museum of American History. We walked over and then stood in line forever to get in. They had bag checks and metal detectors, but were taking forever to get people through. It was not well done at all.
We did one exhibit (war in history)...
George Washington's uniform
...we came out of the exhibit, started to head to another. A security guard hollered, "You can't go that way.... You can't go that way, sir." Um, okay. We asked why not and he said they were closed.
So what happened was, I had originally planned this day's activities to be on Wednesday but switched it to Thursday because of the weather forecast. The museum was open late on Wednesday, not on Thursday.
If security had been less ridiculous, we could have had a little more time; if I had remembered the hours, we could have had more time. To make it worse, the staff was really rude to all the visitors as they were closing down. Seriously, so rude. I was really disappointed.

We had planned to eat dinner at their cafe since it was recommended online, but went to plan B because they closed 2 hours earlier than we expected. We ended up eating at the Silver Diner in Falls Church (super yummy!)

Notes and Tips for the Capitol Building area:
*You cannot take food or drink into the Capitol Building. Seriously, nothing. They'll make you throw it out. So if you pack your lunch, go later in the day. Or, you can get through security in the Library of Congress building and then take the underground walking tunnel into the Capitol. They didn't do a bag search coming in from that direction. (You can also put food in your pockets if you're desperate. Unless you set off the metal detector you can get a granola bar in. Just sayin'. :) )
*Wear good shoes.
*Get in Andrew's tour at the Capitol building. :D
* Do NOT try to squeeze in 3 Smithsonian museums into one afternoon.
* Eat at the Silver Diner; do not eat at Pete's Diner. :)

My original Thursday itinerary was:
U.S. Capitol and Visitor Center
Supreme Court
Library of Congress
Lunch and the Taft, Grant, and Garfield Memorials
National Gallery of Art
National Air and Space Museum
Dinner and American History Museum

On Friday, we:
did not have to get up super early to catch the hotel shuttle to the closest metro stop! We got up, packed up, checked out, and headed to George Washington's home, Mount Vernon.
Mount Vernon was the other attraction included in our tour bus package deal.
It's really beautiful there. I felt badly that the country pressured George into a second presidential term when he really just wanted to retire.

We did the house tour. They had park rangers stationed in each room. They'd talk and give info on that area of the house and then send you on to the next area. It was a fast tour because it was such a crowded day.
 After the house tour, we explored the grounds, the outbuildings, and the gardens.
View of the Potomac from the back lawn
We took the horse ride (free) down at the "farm", and then took the shuttle back to the Visitors Center for lunch.
 We saw George and Martha's grave site
and spent time with "Lady" Washington.
She was an amazing interpreter. She talked for 3 hours, in character as Martha. No scripts, no speeches. Just answering questions as if she were Martha herself. Someone asked how she met George, and she dimpled and blushed and smiled and told the story. She looked like she was actually in love with the man! She asked where people were from and when someone responded, "Pittsburgh", she replied, "Ah yes, George was in that area where the 3 rivers converge. He'll be glad to know that people are settling near the fort of Pitt." lol I want to be her when I grow up.

We saw all that we could and then headed out, stopping at Georgetown Cupcakes in Bethesda on our way home.
Fastest $13 we've ever eaten! So good!

Notes and Tips for the Mount Vernon:
*Lunch at the food court was very expensive. Pack if you can.
*Wear good shoes. The property is quite large and has rough terrain.
*Do sit and talk with Lady Washington if you can.

And that's it! It was a crazy busy week with a lot crammed in! We have money left on our metro cards so we're planning to go back for a few day trips to catch what we missed this time around.

A Week in Washington DC with Kids Part 2

I respectfully ask that you not pin pictures of my children to Pinterest. Thank you!
A Week in Washington DC with Kids Part 1 and Part 3

For Part 2, I'll tell you what our Tuesday and Wednesday looked like.
Here's what we did:
Because it opens so early, we started at the White House Visitors Center.
Our hotel offered a shuttle to the closest metro station. From there we were able to stay on that line and get off as close as we could to the WHVC.
We found out quickly that in DC, the escalators are two-laned. If you want to stand and ride the escalator, stay to the right because the people rushing to catch a train and running past you on the left. Wait, you say, escalators aren't that wide. Yes, you are correct. :) Stay to the right. lol
After we figured that out, we were able to get ourselves to the visitor center easily. They have a short 14 minute film that features former First Families talking about what it was like to live in the White House.
(I didn't start planning our trip until we were about 4 weeks out, so I missed out on the opportunity to get tickets for a tour inside the White House itself. We had so much planned that I'm not sure it's a bad thing that it didn't happen. It would have taken some serious rearranging to fit it in. Perhaps next time. :) )
I'm thinking photography wasn't allowed because none of us have pics from the visitors center. :)
The metro tunnels creep me out. This is no time to panic!!
Next up, we navigated the metro system again and headed to the International Spy Museum. We were able to get a package deal from our tour bus that included discount tickets to the museum. It was money well spent.
Hanging on like James Bond
Playing it cool like Bond
James Bond's Aston Martin --- um, Love!
I'd look good in that car. Right? ;)
The museum had a lot of Bond exhibits but there was so much more. The history of spying, a mission for visitors to try, spy gadgets, interactive stations for kids... If you want to read and see everything (lots of short videos), give yourself 3-4 hours.
After the Spy Museum, we ate next door at the super crowded Shake Shack. It was okay; not the best cheeseburger I've ever had, but it filled us up.

We went to the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum next. We made it there a few minutes after a tour had started, but we were allowed to join in. The docent walked us through all of the presidential portraits on display. She had lots of little anecdotes about the paintings so we stayed for the whole thing even though our time was limited.
Our PA prez - James Buchanan rocking the faux hawk
One of my fav portraits, George W Bush; He was the only president to be painted w/o wearing a suitcoat and tie. It was a great likeness and very warm and welcoming portrait.
There were other exhibits but we breezed through the rest of the 2nd floor and then headed out for sake of time. Looking back, I probably should have had us go down to the American Origins exhibit on the 1st floor.
Speaking of skipping things, we were also going to walk by Ford's Theatre (another place I couldn't get tickets to. It's free to see but you have to get a timed entry ticket. They were booked up for the days we were there.) Since we were tired and the theater was in a different direction from the next thing, we didn't bother. And we didn't get to the NGA Sculpture Garden. It was too late in the evening by the time we finished at The National Archives.

After the National Gallery of Art, we headed to the Archives. Good thing. We had to wait about 45 minutes to get in to the gallery to see the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. It was so crowded, we didn't get to see the entire Constitution. And no, they didn't film National Treasure inside. We asked. :)
No pictures inside.

That was it for the day. The Spy Museum and Portrait Gallery need quite a bit of time, plus the travel (walking and metro) in between sites.

Notes and Tips for the White House area:
*Other than tickets for the Spy Museum, everything today was free.
*Wear good shoes.
*Reserve White House and Ford's Theatre tickets as early as you possibly can.
 *Do the National Portrait Gallery tour.
* Do NOT go to DC during spring break. It was so crowded everywhere we went that it took time away from enjoying the exhibits because we were waiting in line or rushed through.
*Stand on the right; move on the left. ;)

My original Tuesday itinerary (in case you're planning and want to do things in a way that makes sense geographically) was:
White House Visitors Center
National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum
International Spy Museum
walk by Ford's Theater
National Archives
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Dinner back at the hotel (we had sandwiches and lunch food that we had brought with us.)

On Wednesday, we:
Had the worst day ever because I picked the worst tour bus company ever.
I thought CitySights DC was a great deal online. They had 3 tour loops that you could do, hop on and hop off, plus a package deal for the Spy Museum and Mount Vernon.
I should have read the reviews. It was so bad, I wrote reviews and posted them online.
You can read one here.
Soprano and I huddled down between the seats of the upper deck of our tour bus and freezing to death.
Because the bus tour was so terrible, we didn't spend much time seeing the sights.
The plan was to do the yellow loop (Arlington) and then the purple loop (Embassy Row, Georgetown), then come back and do the red loop (Monuments, National Mall) and get off to see all of the monuments and memorials.
We didn't get to the purple loop at all. But did see some of the monuments and ate our packed lunch at the Washington Monument visitor center (and use the restrooms! lol).

Washington Monument from the W.M. Visitor Center area
WWII Memorial; We saw this 11 years ago just being finished. The fountains weren't operational at that point. It's really pretty.
WWII Memorial
My shutterbugs
The Lincoln Memorial
Looking down the mall
Vietnam Memorial -- this was much more meaningful having just studied it the week before our trip

A park ranger getting a rubbing of a name
When a bus finally showed up (grr! see my Trip Advisor review), we rode part of the red loop over to Union Station. We went next door to the National Postal Museum. (Bass having worked in a mail industry position for 10 years really wanted to do this one.) It was one of the best, most family friendly museums we went to on our trip.

After the museum, we ate dinner at Union Station.
The Roman soldier statues covered with shield for modesty's sake. ;)
Um... crazy! It was so busy! But there were lots of places to eat and fun shops to browse through.
And it was super easy to get the metro there and head back to our hotel to collapse. :)

Notes and Tips for the White House area:
*Other than tickets for the bus tour, everything today was free.
*Wear good shoes. The memorials and monuments are not close to each other.
*Do NOT, seriously DO NOT, no matter what other reviews say, DO NOT take a tour via CitySights DC. Pick Big Bus, pick Old Town Trolley, pick anything else.
* DO go to the Postal Museum and give yourself a couple hours.

My original Wednesday itinerary was:
DC CitySights tour purple loop (starting at the Lincoln Memorial)
DC CitySights tour yellow loop
DC CitySights tour red loop (getting off at Jefferson Memorial, WWII Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and the Washington Monument)
National Postal Museum
Dinner at Union Station

A Week in Washington DC with Kids Part 1

I respectfully ask that you not pin pictures of my children to Pinterest. Thank you!
Every year we try to take a big field trip to a place that fits in with the history that we've studied during the school year. Last year we spent a week visiting Philadelphia and Boston. After learning about U.S. and world history from 1850 through today, we decided to go to Washington D.C.

We've also studied all the U.S. states and presidents over the past 2 years. There was a lot in D.C. that tied in to that too.

Here's what we did:
We left in the morning and drove down to Arlington. We couldn't find the Teddy Roosevelt Memorial with our GPS so gave up and went to the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.
If you're driving, there is zero parking at the Pentagon. Bass had to circle the parking lot while we walked to the Memorial, which is on the far side of the Pentagon building. You can park at the Fashion Centre Mall and walk or take a bus over, I believe.
Since Bass had to circle, we didn't stay long at the memorial but headed to the metro station at the Pentagon to buy our SmarTrip cards.
Um, helpful tip here... the metro sales office is on the other side of the building, ground level, by the bus stops. It's not up either set of the big stone steps where there are key-code-entry-only revolving doors and a multitude of security personnel who don't like lost tourists. Just an FYI. :)
We bought our cards (one per person) and added money to them immediately. You can buy fares at the metro stations but it's easier to just get a card and preload it.

After our security debacle, we left the Pentagon and went to lunch at the mall. There's a big food court in the lower level with lots of options. From there we went to the Air Force Memorial.
We don't have any family or friends that have served in the air force but it was still moving to see the tribute to those who have served. The spires are immense!
Our last stop for the day was Arlington Cemetery and Arlington House.
Robert E Lee was quite the gentleman. :)
So much loss and sacrifice. It's almost overwhelming.

And the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I didn't know there were unknown soldiers from each major conflict buried here.

We saw JFK's gravesite and the eternal flame, the Memorial Amphitheater, and the mast of the Maine. I wanted to see the Nurse's Memorial but we were getting tired and wanted to get into the next available tour of Arlington House.
The mast of the Maine.
Arlington House has a great history connected to it. We got to tour through the house from the basement to a sneak peek into the attic where Union soldiers had written their names on the roof beams. I was tickled to find out they had a school room in the house. lol The slave quarters are interesting too. It's definitely worth visiting.
I liked their taste in literature. :)
Part of Arlington includes the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. We didn't have a lot of time there since they were closing, but we did find my grandmother listed in the registry. She served as a WAAC for 10 years.
We wanted to visit the Iwo Jima/Marines Memorial but it started to rain and Arlington was closing, so we called it a day and headed to our hotel in Falls Church, VA.

Notes and Tips for Arlington and the Pentagon:
*Other than a small fee for parking at Arlington, everything today was free (except lunch and the metro cards. lol)
*Wear good shoes. Arlington is huge and the "big" monuments and memorials are a distance from each other. Give yourself enough time to see everything too. You could spend an entire 8 hour day here and still not see everything.
*Do NOT walk up the stone steps at the Pentagon. Especially the week after there's a shooting at the Capitol. :)

My original itinerary (in case you're planning and want to do things in a way that makes sense geographically) was:
Teddy Roosevelt Memorial
Iwo Jima Memorial
Air Force Memorial
Arlington House
Arlington Cemetary
Pentagon Memorial
LBJ Memorial Garden
Dinner at Fashion Centre Mall

A Week in Washington DC with Kids Part 2 and Part 3
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...