The first 5 days were spent in DC. The grandparents all joined us for that part of our trip and it was an adventure to be sure. I learned a few things along the way. These include, but are not limited to the following facts:
No matter how long one allows, you never have enough time to do everything you want to do when you’re in DC. We saw completely different things this time than we did last time, and we still left too much undone
It is hard to get 11 people going the same direction at the same time. Someone is always ready for a bathroom break, a snack, or a nap at the wrong time.
Restaurants in big cities are not friendly to parties of 11.
Preschoolers and senior citizens to do not tolerate 7 straight hours of walking very well. (What can I say, it all looked closer together on the map!)
I do not like traveling during the tourist season.
In spite of those few negatives, we had a great time. We rolled into town Friday afternoon and visited Arlington Cemetery. We got to see a few highlights, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, before we were caught in a torrential downpour. We were literally soaking wet by the time we made it back to our cars so we decided to skip a restaurant and order pizza back at the hotel.
The next morning, we headed to the Holocaust Museum. I debated about taking the kids there, but since we had studied 20th century history this year, I felt they’d be okay. We had done a considerable amount of reading about the holocaust, both fiction and non-fiction, and I think that was a key to the experience. Nonetheless, it was incredibly heavy and there were times when one of them would need to walk away from a display and regroup. I think they did a lovely job of covering a very unlovely period of history.
After that, we decided to walk the monuments. That’s where we went wrong. All those people walking all those monuments in one afternoon was too much. We walked, and then we walked, and then we walked some more. Ryan and I must have pushed too hard, because we nearly had some temper tantrums on our hands by the time we got back to the vehicles- and it wasn’t just the children! Anyway, we can now say we’ve seen all of the major monuments from Washington to Roosevelt to Jefferson!
After our crazy monument marathon, we thought we'd run over to Georgetown and get some yummy cupcakes. Abby had really wanted to go to the bakery where they film "DC Cupcakes." Let me just say, Saturday night would not be the time to try that. We waited in line for 50 minutes. At this point, the grandpas thought we had totally lost our marbles, I don't know, maybe we had. But, the cupcakes were delicious despite the wait!
The next morning we started out at Ford’s Theater. The kids were very disappointed when they found out we weren’t going to see a play there. I’m not sure how they got that idea in the first place. I was disappointed to learn that the whole thing was not original, but rather a reconstruction. However, it was still interesting. It definitely wouldn’t make my “do again” or “must do” list.
After that, we headed over to the National Mall. We only hit 2 of the museums at the Smithsonian, and within those, we only saw the highlights. We went into the Air and Space as well as the American History. I honestly think that I have been into those two every time that I have ever been to DC. I told Ryan that someday we’re going back and spending a whole day in the National Gallery of Art, which is where I really want to go!
Monday, we spent the day on Capitol Hill. The rotunda was as beautiful as I remember it being when I visited as a child. As we walked around the various buildings, I was overwhelmed again by the foresight and sacrifice of our forefathers. The principles on which our constitution are written really are remarkable and I think that the hand of God is so obvious if one has eyes to see it.
We enjoyed lunch at one of the congressional building cafeterias. It was fun to eat among all of the House interns and assistants. Though, we felt a bit underdressed in our khaki shorts and sunglasses! The best part was when they came on the intercom and informed everyone that an unidentified substance had been found in the 5th floor ladies room and that area should be avoided. My kid’s eyes got as big as saucers until I assured them that we were not headed to the 5th floor ladies room!
My favorite part of Capitol Hill was definitely the Library of Congress. Somehow, I had managed to miss that on all of my previous visits and it is absolutely amazing! The building is jaw dropping from the tile work, to the stone, to the marble fixtures. Not to mention, the Guttenburg Bible, the main reading room overlook, and Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection. It was amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone who has never been.
Tuesday, we left the city and headed to Mount Vernon. My only regret about the day is that we didn’t get there earlier. There was so much to do and we didn’t allow enough time. The mansion itself is beautiful and only takes a few minutes, but the grounds, the visitors center, and the museum areas can easily take an entire day. We enjoyed what we were able to see and when we climbed into the car at the end of the afternoon, we were worn out!
Now we’ve headed further north to see some places we’ve never been before. Can’t wait to explore some more!