Washington DC was the spot for us to spend fall break this past year. We packed a ton of fun into three very full days! I curated this itinerary based on my boys’ ages and interests in an effort to balance the must-do sights with energizing fun!
Day 1 – Presidents and Politics
We kicked it off with a tour of the White House. A White House Tour can be requested three months prior to your DC visit. A short walk from the White House, we dined at Old Ebbitt Grill. Lots of charm, history and a hearty, delicious lunch.
After lunch, we walked to The U.S. Capitol. A long walk but I wanted to ensure a walk through the National Mall and a peek into the Sculpture Garden. At the Capitol, you can take a self-guided or guided tour through the Visitor’s Center. For a more in depth look, contact your Member of Congress in either the House or Senate to arrange a tour through their office. Plan on spending at least two hours, depending on the ages and stamina of your of children. The Statue of Freedom graces the top of the Capitol building but the 15,000 plaster version is housed inside. That was a larger than life surprise!
At the request of the kids, we returned to the hotel for a break and heavy snack (in place of dinner) before our evening tour of the monuments. There are many different tour companies that offer various lengths and group sizes from bus full to private. I arranged a private tour through Tiber Creek Private Tours. I wanted to choose my start time and to be picked up and dropped off at our hotel. The thought of a central drop off spot after the tour and then taking a second method of transportation back to the hotel with tired kids was just too much for a busy day. The private tour worked out perfectly. Our guide Anita and our driver were fantastic. We moved comfortably from monument to monument while Anita’s stories kept our full attention. Her stories told at each monument, especially the legendary story of Abe’s assassination and the lesser known facts about The Korean War Memorial, had us all intrigued. The kids (even the 6 year old) were completely engaged! What could have been drudgery, was a 100 percent delightful evening.
Day 2 – Immersed in American History
We started the day at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to learn about how and where our currency is printed. Tour tickets can be reserved in advance during peak tourist season but during our non-peak visit, tours were first come first serve. We waited in line 30 minutes for our tour (they begin every 15 minutes). The tour, with visitors center and gift shop stop, was an hour and 15 minutes. Souvenirs such as shredded and giant $100,000 bills will surely lure your bucks out of your billfold!
We thoroughly enjoyed lunch at Ted’s Bulletin. Ted’s has a super cute theme of an old fashioned soda shop (counter and table seating) and an extensive menu including all day breakfast, a bakery, and a bar – everyone was happy! This was the perfect “before” to our next stop.
We spent the afternoon at The National Museum of American History. Highlights for my crew were Julia Child’s kitchen (my middle son knows his way around a kitchen), the transportation through the ages section (loved showing the kids what the road looked like in the 80’s), the actual flag that inspired The Star Spangled Banner (AMAZING), and Abe Lincoln’s hat (which tied in so nicely with Anita’s story at the Lincoln Memorial from the previous night).
Time to turn off the thinking caps! Well, kind of! We then played and snacked in Georgetown. The Escape Room Live with bar, swanky living room waiting area and unique themed escape rooms was the perfect break from two days of focusing on facts. No clues necessary to figure out that Georgetown is the place for hipsters judging from the fun eateries and upscale shops. We caught an Uber to Farmers Fishers Bakers for a excellent farm to table dinner. Brunch here is highly recommended.
Day 3 – Pandas & Planes
After a laid back morning, we took a trip to the Smithsonian Zoo to see the adorable pandas. What could easily be a full day affair, we cut short so that we could visit another museum after lunch.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum was a larger than life experience for sure. The Wright brothers exhibit, including the 1903 Wright Flyer, was terrific. The boys begged to do the flight simulator, but spinning upside down in the fighter jet left mom with a galactic size headache! This museum houses thousands of objects including a lunar rock that you can touch and Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis. Like all of the Smithsonian Museums, there is more to see than you might be able to conquer in one visit so do what you can without exhausting your children’s minds. Admission is free so there is no pressure to stay all day!
Dinner at Carmine’s consists of family size platters of Italian dishes and of course, dessert. We opted for the Tugboat which is the (not on the menu) alternative to the big brother and giant Titanic. Tugboat was the perfect portion for our family of 5 and a sweet ending to our D.C. visit. This was a whirlwind and jammed packed trip! Wonder if the kids realized they were learning … ssshhhh!