This was a very long vacation! We added a couple of days by ourselves in DC at the end of our Virginia Beach week with family because it was WAY cheaper to fly out of DC on a Tuesday instead of Norfolk on a Saturday. We saved enough money on airfare to easily cover the hotel. Two days isn't very much time for our nation's capitol, especially during high tourist season, but we got as much out of the time as possible.
We started bright and early Sunday morning. None of the museums open until 10:00 am, so we planned to walk around the monuments at the West end of the National Mall while we waited for everything to open. We realized that taking a taxi would actually be less expensive for the four of us than buying four Metro fares, so we mostly rode taxis during our two days. They were very affordable for four people since our hotel was so close to the things we wanted to see.
We started with the Lincoln Memorial. The boys were very impressed.
We then walked towards the Tidal Basin to see the memorials in that direction. We passed the Korean War Memorial first. I much prefer this one to the Vietnam War Memorial for children. The wall of names on the Vietnam War Memorial carries emotional weight, of course, but the statues of soldiers are a little less abstract.
The next memorial on our route was the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. We spent quite a bit of time here reading all of the quotations and talking about the civil rights movement. Charlie is especially enamored of Martin Luther King Jr's story.
We kind of got lost at this point, but luckily Santa Claus pointed us in the right direction. Really! We were sitting on a bench by the Tidal Basin, trying to figure out which way to walk, when a man who looked just like Santa Claus came running past us. He was wearing running clothes, but his beard and Santa hat clued us in to who he was. The boys were gobsmacked. He was very helpful. We decided that he must be on vacation. I didn't take a picture of him, because I didn't want to be rude. I kind of regret not taking a picture though. It would be nice to have proof.
With Santa's help, we found the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial. FDR is my absolute favorite president. I'm very liberal, so I suppose this shouldn't surprise anyone. He changed the world for the better, and I was so happy to share some of his history with the boys. I love his personal strength in overcoming his disability, and the good work he did for disabled Americans. I am inspired by his social programs and the way The New Deal, the Public Works Administration, and the Civilian Conservation Corps helped the poorest Americans. I always take note when we go to a public site that still has art or structures built by people in these programs. I love that he supported the military, was active in foreign policy, and led the US during WWII, while still hating war. I love that he helped to create the United Nations and that Eleanor Roosevelt was our first delegate. He wasn't perfect, and I'm certainly aware of his mistakes and failures, but he DID things, and that's something that very few presidents are able to accomplish.
By this time, we were all getting hot, tired and sweaty. We drank a bunch of water and started our walk back to the National Mall. Our goal for the rest of the day was to see the highlights of the Smithsonian American History and Natural History Museums. We passed the Washington Monument on the way, and then blissfully entered the air conditioned museums.
No, Charlie did not actually drink fountain water. He just asked me to take this picture of him re-creating a scene from his favorite Prince of Persia video game.
We spent hours in the American and Natural History museums. We had lunch in one of the museum cafes, and walked miles along the air conditioned halls. I didn't take very many pictures, because it was overwhelmingly crowded. Late June is never the time of year that we would choose to take a vacation, because it's just so hot and crowded in high season. Oh well. We were glad for the chance to see everything, but would love to go back in Fall or Spring sometime to see everything again without the crowds.
Things went a bit pear-shaped when we left the Natural History Museum. We should have just taken a taxi right back to the hotel. David noticed a National Aquarium listed on the map that I had pulled out of a tour book. We tried to find it, but it turns out that it had been permanently moved to Baltimore. An hour later, we finally stopped walking and went back to the hotel, and all we had to show for that hour was one photo in front of the White House (and very tired feet.)
We rested for a while, and then had a very satisfying (and expensive) dinner at Clyde's Restaurant. We certainly slept well that night!
I got up early on Monday, and went out to find some good coffee and take some pictures. I didn't get very many good pictures because it was cloudy and the light down on the urban streets was dingy. Plus, I now realize that I'm not very practiced at taking photos of buildings. It was a relaxing bit of me-time.
The Chinatown arch...
A couple of Baptist churches near our hotel...
And finally, St. Mary's - the catholic church across the street from our hotel room...
We spent our last day seeing as much as possible, although the plan did not go as smoothly as I'd hoped in the morning. We were once again hindered by the fact that very few things open before 10:00 am in Washington DC. We'd planned to let the boys experience riding the Metro this morning, so we started with that. They loved it.
We had wanted to start our day with a tour of the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing because it opens at 9:00. I knew that you needed tickets to do their tour, and that the ticket office opened at 8:00, but somehow I misunderstood how difficult it would be to walk there from the Metro stop and how quickly tickets would disappear. By the time we got to the ticket office at 8:30 there weren't any tickets available until 2:00 pm, so that was a waste of time and walking.
We then walked to the National Mall because I knew the Smithsonian Castle and Visitor's Center would be open. We rested for a while and started the Castle tour, but it was really hot and slow, so we bailed. It was about 15 minutes before 10:00 by this point, and we hadn't really seen anything.
We really should have just headed over to the first Smithsonian museum we'd planned to see, and waited at the the doors until they opened. When you have a plan, you should always stick to the plan! As we were walking towards the Art Museum, however, we realized that we were right by the National Archives, so we decided to do that first. We ended up waiting about an hour to get in, and then we probably only spent 15 minutes inside. Oh well. It was probably worth it to show the boys the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Charlie found a book about Michael Jackson in the bookstore (random!) so he counted the morning as a success.
By the time we exited the National Archives, it was almost time for lunch. We had arranged to meet Jamie, another college friend, at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, so we headed over there. We did a quick walk through the museum (very impressive building - not many actual exhibits) and then had a yummy lunch in the Mitsitam Cafe.
We were ready for some serious museum viewing by this time! We started with the National Air and Space Museum. We didn't see everything, because it was really crowded and Charlie had a stomach ache, but what we did see was quite impressive.
We then walked straight across the Mall to the National Art Museum.
We all really like art museums, so we spent the rest of the afternoon there. David loves furniture exhibits, so he started with that area while the boys and I rested and perused the shop. I love museum shops. I ended up buying a print for our walls. Tommy bought a sketch-a-day journal and Charlie bought a book about dragons. Charlie rallied after a bit of a rest and seemed to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
After our rest and shopping break, we toured the more traditional art exhibits. I love French art from the 75 years right before impressionism developed, and was pleased to see lots of examples from this time period. Tommy and Charlie liked the paintings by the Dutch masters the best. We discovered an interesting underground walkway and cafe that took us to a different museum building, and had a good time just exploring.
We headed back to the hotel in late afternoon, and then I headed out on my own again while the boys had some down time. I really, really didn't want to miss the National Portrait Gallery, especially since it was only four blocks away from our hotel. I'm so glad I pushed myself to do this! I took a few pictures for people I love.
I was so tired of walking by the time I finished the National Portrait Gallery! We decided to just have dinner in the Irish Pub & Restaurant attached to the hotel. The food was decent, but it was competitive karaoke night, so we didn't choose to stay for very long. We all slept like the dead again that night.
Then we woke up, went to the airport and began our journey home. I hope you enjoyed our trip report as much as we enjoyed our trip!