Family friendly travel to Washington DC
We love to plan event-filled family vacations. We are always on the go… not much relaxing for us. So we decided to take a few hours to tour Washington DC on our way to Virginia Beach. Of course, we didn’t get to see everything, but we did find so many free things to do in Washington DC that the whole family could enjoy, that we will be able to better map our tours of the White House, the US Capitol, and museums for next time. However, we had a fun time just seeing the sights this time!
This year, we went on a much-needed and highly-anticipated family vacation. Why much-need and highly-anticipated, you ask? Well, because we had not been on vacation for a couple of years. Ok, we did take the long weekend to Chicago last year, but that was more of a get-a-feel-for-the-city-that-we-might-be-moving-to-if-my-husband-accepts-a-promotion-at-work kind of trip, so while we did have fun, we were more interested in looking at houses and schools and figuring out how long the commute to the city would be from our potential new home. More work than fun, soooo, that brings me back to this much-needed and highly-anticipated vacation.
One thing that you have to keep in mind about our family as you read about our vacations is that we are typically very spontaneous vacationers. I don’t plan every minute and map out each event or place to see, or restaurant that we will eat at. The first vacation that we went on with the kids, we decided to go, so we packed and left that night… and somehow, the spontaneous vacations work for us!
This vacation definitely had some spontaneous elements, but had been planned for about a month ahead of time. And by planned, I mean, that I had reserved hotel rooms for the nights that we would be away. This year, we would be on vacation over the 4th of July, and I knew things would be busy and probably get booked, so we definitely didn’t want to be a situation where we were without a hotel room, or ended up spending a lot more than we should have because we didn’t plan… We knew the general direction that we were taking: we were going to Williamsburg and then on to Virginia Beach.
But as spontaneity is our thing, it lead us in a different direction immediately. As we started mapping out our drive on our map quest apps the morning that we were leaving, the most direct path took us right through Washington DC. Well, that was an opportunity that we didn’t want to pass up… my husband and kids had never been there, and I had only been there once as a kid when I was in probably about fifth grade, and I really didn’t remember that much.
We figured we would get on the road and see how things were going, and if we made good time, maybe we could stop in DC for a few hours. Well, as it turned out, made made really good time, so with our early start, we were to DC by lunch time… and that would give us at least 3-4 hours to explore.
The Washington Monument
And that’s exactly what we did, starting at the Washington Monument.
The boys loved getting to walk up so close to the monument. There were lines to go inside, but we decided to skip that and continue on with our walking tour.
Yes, the little guy is already looking less-than-thrilled. It is at this point that I realize I should have packed an umbrella stroller…
The Lincoln Memorial
But, on we go… to the Lincoln Memorial.
The grandeur of this monument cannot be overstated. Pictures will never be able to do justice to the feeling that you get from actually experiencing this monument up-close-and-personal.
While in name, this is the Lincoln MEMORIAL, you don’t really grasp the magnitude of that until you go inside. There are signs to be quiet in respect, as it is a memorial. And the inscription above the statue of Lincoln that reads:
“In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”
This is one of those stops that really make you feel the importance of what goes on in DC, the great and awesome responsibility that our lawmakers have, and the privileges that we are afforded in this country…
While everything is somewhat close together in DC, it takes a little time to walk to all of it, and since this is pretty much an unplanned stop, we decided to make one last stop and walk to the White House. But on our way, we do pass a lot of other cool landmarks and buildings:
US Capitol Building
the US Capitol Building— which we wanted to see up close, but couldn’t really afford the time, so this will definitely be on the list for our next visit!
Dwight D. Eisenhower Building
the Dwight D. Eisenhower Building— seemed to be closed to the public, but the architecture was beautiful to enjoy as we walked by anyways….
National Society DAR
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Memorial Continental Hall (I had to stop and take a picture here because I am a DAR, although not currently an active member, my grandma was always quite active with the DAR so this was a bit of nostalgia for me…),
the Ronald Reagan Building,
The White House
…and finally, we arrive at the White House. This is the back of the White House, of course, and there were musicians, street performers, and just a lot of tourists loitering in the street. Not sure what I expected, but that definitely wasn’t it. But it was sort-of exciting to get to be that close to the White House…
You’ll notice that the view from the front of the White House is much further away…
I think we got a lot done in just four hours, however, the snack that we had earlier (instead of lunch) at the gift shop really wasn’t going to keep us going much longer. After all that walking all afternoon, we were hungry, and knowing that we had a couple more hours on the road, we didn’t want to stop for dinner, so we decided to eat at the food trucks instead of a sit-down dinner. Not our ideal choice (or the healthiest!), but hey, our tummies were full and we were ready to get back on the road and head to Williamsburg, our planned destination that day.
This is where actual planning and research of the area would have helped us out… After our visit, a friend did recommend Old Ebbitt Grill, which is near the White House as a good place to eat. So we will definitely have to try that next time as well.
This spontaneous stop in Washington DC ended up being one of the highlights of our vacation. And day one was really only anticipated to be a “travel day,” so this little, unplanned adventure transformed an otherwise boring day into a truly fun time. Even though there is so much that we didn’t get to see and do during our short time there, the last-minute decision to stop was soooo worth it. The education, the history, everyone should probably visit more than once anyways! Just the feeling of pride for country that you get to experience just being in our nation’s capital… God bless America!
And it was a great reminder that some of the best things in life aren’t planned. I encourage you to allow for the spontaneous events and adventures while on vacation…you never know, it may just end up being the best part.
After all, life isn’t just about arriving at the destination, it’s enjoying the journey along the way!