A Whirlwind in DC

I’ve been seeing a bunch of DC related posts as of late so thought I’d share my most recent experience.

For background, I lived in the DMV area for a decade about a decade ago. Since then, my employer has remained so I continue to travel in a few times a year for business. This, however, was the first time bringing the whole family.

Trip includes me, DH, DD7, and DS4. Arrived Thursday 4/6 in the afternoon. Heading back to PA on Monday the10th. Staying in a 2BR suite at the Residence Inn at DuPont. The hotel is outdated in many ways and not where I stay when I travel solo. But it gives us lots of space, a full kitchen, and a good location.

I largely let the kids drive the itinerary.

Friday we took the Metro to L’enfant Plaza and walked a block to the Air & Space Museum. We had timed tickets for 10am entry (museum opening) and got in line by about 9:45. There were probably 100 people in front of us and by the time the doors opened and we started moving, there were probably 400 behind us. Note: current construction means you enter on Independence instead of on the Mall side. The line snakes out the door to the left (facing the entrance). People who decided to lineup to the right got walked to the back of the left line

We had two things on our list here: Mission to the Moon and the Planets exhibits. But first we had to check out the planes:

We had lunch in the Mars cafe on the ground floor. We got down there about 11:15 and ordered right away and waited about 5 minutes for our food to be ready. By the time we were done (11:45 ish) the line to order was long. The food was decent. Particularly the soup of the day (chicken noodle), which tasted home made.

We then traversed the cloudy Mall to head to the National Gallery.


DS4 had just completed a lesson on artists including Picasso, Van Gogh, DaVinci, Monet, and Warhol. So he wanted to check out some of their stuff. We planned on a pretty targeted strike given the risk when a four year old is in close proximity to priceless works of art.

In The West Wing, we took a quick look at Reubens’ David and the Lions. Then to French Impressionism where, upon entering, DS said, “Woman with a Parasol!” I didn’t even know he knew that one!

Then we promised gelato in the underground cafe.

Then to the East Wing to see the Calder mobile and Picasso’s Harlequin Musician and one of Warhol’s Marilyns. DS was disappointed there were no soup cans.

But then, apropos to this Forum, it turned out the kids’ favorite painting was Lichtenstein’s “Look Mickey”

At this point, everyone was flagging. We decided to head back to the hotel. But DS really wanted to see the Reubens one more time.

See? It was clearly time to get the lion cub back!


You have a very cultured 4yo!!


I love this picture! So adorable.


His sister has her knickers in a twist because he knows more than her on some subjects. It’s going to be a long decade with the two of them under the same roof….


So Saturday was allocated to the zoo. For those who have never been, it’s a really excellent place. You do need entry passes but they aren’t timed so you can show up whenever. The zoo opened at 8 but the weather was a bit chillier in the am so we didn’t arrive until just before 9. Still we walked right through security, scanned our tickets, and headed to the Asia trail.

I’m glad we didn’t get there any later as we seemed to stay about 15 minutes ahead of the crowds the whole day.

The pandas were still in their pens when we arrived but the keepers were setting out treats so we hung out for a few knowing they’d be released shortly. And they were! Got to see them hunt for treats and one flopped around with a big ball for awhile.

Then it was off to see the elephants. They have a couple of areas for them, but one is indoors and it was still brisk so we hung out in there for awhile. Kids got a kick out of an exhibit they have where they show you an elephant’s daily food intake as well as their output.

We walked into the small mammal house with no wait. It was surprisingly good! There was a line to get in when we exited.

Next was the Great Apes house. Amazing.

We followed a couple of these guys outside:

They have this thing called the O Line that allows the orangutans to climb like 50 feet in the air and traverse over you to another house/enclosure. It was ridiculous. But the kids favorite part was when one of the creatures peed onto the ground 45 feet below :joy:

We then waited about five minutes to get into the Reptile House. Kids were hangry at this point so they ate some snacks while waiting but decided they wanted reptiles before lunch. My daughter is obsessed with turtles (she has a pet one!) and my son is obsessed with animals in general. But this stop was a huge hit.

Blurred for predator/prey content:

Check out this snapping turtle:

Then we went to Elevation Burger/Mane Grill for lunch. This was right about 11. There was no line. Kids cheeseburger and the elevation chicken sandwich were both totally credible. Also you should note that all the Smithsonians (including the zoo) sell beer and wine if that’s your thing! By 11:30, the line had about 30 people in it.

Afterwards, we let the kids let off some steam at the playground.

And then we rode the carousel (costs $4 per person).

We went to see the Big Cats section, which featured one tiger that was super active:

And two lionesses that were decidedly not:

By this point (2pm ish), kids were fried and DH needed caffeine. So I mobile ordered Starbucks which is conveniently across the street from the entrance. It was such a nice day out and we had the double stroller so we decided to walk the 1.6 miles back to the hotel instead of using the Metro.

Total step count was about 6 miles again. My Apple Watch probably thinks someone stole it from me :grimacing:!

Kids passed out quickly. Mom and dad did some more work and then turned in. One more big day!


Naturally :joy::joy:

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Our third and last full day in DC was Easter Sunday. So we started with an egg hunt in the hotel room!

We had 10am entry tickets for the African American History Museum. It’s the one Smithsonian I had not yet been to so was excited to go but cautious about whether it would hold the kids’ attention and/or whether they could maintain the appropriate energy for such an exhibit.

My little guy was worried that “the story” as we started to refer to it was going to be too sad for him. And he did get emotional. But in the end he said he liked it.

We got to the Constitution Ave entrance at maybe 10:15 and walked right in. I can only assume this was because of the holiday. I imagine most Sundays are super busy. We put our coats in the free lockers they provide (such a small but hugely appreciated amenity) and headed downstairs to the Concourse where you can view the history galleries.

The first level is the most intense - focusing on slavery and continuing through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It’s also the most crowded. Everyone lingers here. There are a ton of interactive videos and I found it to be appropriately balanced between the atrocities of the time and the community it created among people of color.

You then go up a level to segregation. My kids were already most familiar with this era. They have a lunch counter set up where you can walk through a series of “choose your own” type situations specific to resistance. The 4 year old just liked manipulating the screen but my 7 year old really internalized how difficult some of the choices were (for instance, in a situation where you are peacefully demonstrating by sitting at a lunch counter and people start spitting at you and calling you names, would you a) fight them b) stay put and ignore them or c) be frightened and leave).

The final level is about current times, mostly focused on the progress that has been made including a section on the election of Obama. I unfortunately didn’t get to spend as much time in here as the kids were starting to get hungry and their remarkable restraint was starting to wear thin. So I started to head with them to the cafe while my husband poked around a bit longer. When we exited the exhibit, fortunately a guard was standing there and directed us to the “Contemplative Court” first. It’s this beautiful space intentionally designed to allow people to reflect on what they saw and refresh themselves before returning back to the present moment.

This picture is not mine as I didn’t feel comfortable photographing the space while others were in deep thought.

And I would have totally missed this if not for that kind man. It really did help me get back to a better frame of mind.

We then went to Sweet Home Cafe. My understanding is that this restaurant has at least one station that has a rotating, limited time menu. Overall, the cuisine is rooted in traditional, authentic, and present day fare. We got barbecue pork, buttermilk fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, cornbread (all from the standard “Agricultural South” menu. We also got one order of hush puppies from the rotating station, currently called “Afrofuturism.” Ordinarily, I would pass on a hush puppy without even thinking about it. But I decided to give these a try… they were made in the style of Akara (a Nigerian dish) using black eyed peas and I swear if all hush puppies tasted like that, I would pretty much never eat anything else.

Important to note that we wanted to try a little of everything and knew we wouldn’t be able to finish it all, but there are no “to go” containers offered given the museum’s strict no food policy. Fortunately my daughter had a container of grapes that came in a plastic cup with a lid so we were able to put our leftover mac cheese in there. And I wrapped the leftover chicken and cornbread in as many napkins as was reasonable and tucked it all in my bag so we could enjoy leftovers for dinner. Next time I will legitimately bring a plastic container or two.

After that, we promised the boy he could see dinosaur bones and the girl could see some gemstones. So we headed over to the Natural History museum. It was just after noon, maybe 12:30 at this point and the crowds were just crazy. I lasted about 10 minutes before I started convincing the crew that we should leave and come back another time to enjoy a quieter experience. Ice cream bribery may have been involved.

We headed back to the hotel via the Metro’s longest escalator, which the kids wanted to enjoy one last time.

We then headed to my aunt’s house for an afternoon egg hunt and some family time before wrapping up our trip.

Kids crashed easily that night. They were total troopers, clocking another five miles of walking. They both enjoyed their visit very much but were also both happy enough to be heading home.

And that’s it on our whirlwind adventure. For readers future, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions! Happy to help your DC plans in any way I can!


I really enjoyed your trip report! I am procrastinating on my packing for my DC trip that I’m leaving for tomorrow. But it’s a “staycation” as we actually live in the area so if I forget something it’s not that tragic. We will just be at a hotel that is much closer to all the stuff to do. We are doing the zoo for the first time so I really enjoyed your pics. :slight_smile:


Wow! Great trip report and pics! I am impressed with your 4 ýear olds art knowledge! Thank you for sharing. Im so excited for my trip in 7days! I wish my itenerary was driven by my kids. Sigh i can’t get any requests out of then! So sad! We went to DC during covid and visited the African American Civil War Museum all the Smithsonian were closed. They really enjoyed it! So much history in DC! I hope they can appreciate our upcoming trip :pray:

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