We are off to Washington, D.C. the day after Christmas, and we couldn’t be more excited! With all of the chaos around the U.S. Election this year, I’m looking forward to sharing one of my favorite cities with my girls and reflecting on all of the incredible people and events that make up this country’s amazing history. Regardless of our political views, it will feel good to appreciate and respect what it means to be American.
Both my husband and I lived in D.C. at different times in our lives. So we both have our own perspectives and priorities for planning this trip. Our time is limited, so we are going to be efficient and choosy with how we spend our days and nights!
Here are the items that made our must-see list:
- The Monuments – this alone could take several days. I have been to the biggies several times…namely, Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Iwo Jima and Vietnam Veterans. Since my last time in D.C. in the late 1990’s, several monuments have been added such as FDR and Korean War Veterans, among others. I also have to consider that it will be December, and potentially, it will be cold. I plan to explore a private tour to drive us to all the monuments…some by day and some at night. I’m currently checking out several options on Trip Advisor.
- The Smithsonians – the beauty of the Smithsonian museums is that they are all free of charge. So, you can “zip in” to see a few things and then move on without worrying about getting your money’s worth. I think the highest on our list will be Air and Space museum, and for that, I will leave several hours for exploration. In addition, the American History museum is very unique with displays that you won’t find anywhere else in the world, so it warrants a high priority visit. I personally love the National Gallery of Art, but I may end up spending more time there than the rest of my family. There are many more museums that we will consider visiting as well.
- The White House – Getting a reservation to go into the White House was a very interesting process. I had to contact my congresswoman (via her website, but then I also called for scoop). The nice intern in the office said that every Monday morning, their office attempts to obtain open tour slots for the White House. This must be done 90 days in advance…not a good candidate for last minute planning. Unfortunately, the White House is closed to visitors the week after Christmas, which is incredibly disappointing because I wanted to see it decorated for the holidays and my husband and kids have never been inside. However, we will do a “walk by” and take photos, and we plan to go see the White House Christmas Tree on the South Lawn as well.
- The Capitol Building – We were able to secure a tour of the Capitol during our visit also arranged by our congresswoman’s office. I’m curious how much we will see since Congress will not be in session. We will give a full report! And, I understand they have a beautiful Christmas tree and Christmas decorations as well.
- The National Archives – For my 8th grader who is currently studying U.S. History (and my 7th grader who will be next year), a visit to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are a MUST! In my research I learned that you can make a reservation online for a timed entry to the National Archives, but it is not necessary (highly recommended for summer months). I will explore this once I have my daily plan nailed down.
- Arlington National Cemetery – This is an absolute TOP priority for my husband. We will ensure that we see the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. My understanding is that the ceremony takes place every hour on the hour from October – March (and every half hour during the peak summer months). Check out the website for more details. There is a long list of monuments at the cemetery, including the JFK gravesite and two Space Shuttle memorials. We will try to choose our best weather day for this visit. I’m assuming between the metro ride and the walking around, this is a solid half-day in the schedule.
- The Kennedy Center – Situated on the Potomic, the Kennedy Center is a beautiful building unto itself and it hosts a wide variety of entertainment options. On New Year’s Eve alone, it will have three different performances to include Wicked, a Second City comedy show and Into the Woods. We chose to see Into the Woods so that we could go inside the center and enjoy the New Year’s Eve Gala afterwards (free to all patrons). And, we think it will be a beautiful place to watch the fireworks at midnight that will be shot off in Alexandria down the river.
Washington, D.C. has a fabulous underground metro rail system for getting around to most all of the sites. Since most of my priority locations are on the Blue/Orange metro lines, I am choosing a hotel that is located near a Blue/Orange stop. I’m partial to the Foggy Bottom area because, as a GWU alum myself, I used to live there. The Foggy Bottom metro is the closest to Georgetown as well as there is no metro stop in Georgetown proper. I’m considering a few hotels that offer family suites with kitchens to allow us to eat breakfast in our rooms, pack lunches for our day and just have the convenience of eating more familiar food (less restaurant food). There is a Trader Joes and a Whole Foods within walking distance of this area. Stay tuned!