Saturday, April 23, 2016

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

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