Spring Break DC trip

I am planning on a family trip to DC over my kid’s Spring Break. We will arrive on Sunday, March 12 and start driving home to IN on Friday, March 17 probably at lunch time. We will use various forms of public transportation while there-Metro, bus, DC circular, uber/lift as appropriate. We are staying in a hotel a block from the Navy Yard Metro station.

My travel group is myself, DH, DD16, DS15 and DD9. I have a schedule mapped out and have a few entry tickets lined up and am waiting for a few more to open mid February (30 days out)

The kids have never been to DC, DH went once years ago. I have been once as a teen and once in college so a lot has changed since we have been there.

Rough plans-
Sunday-Arrive, dinner near hotel, monuments as desired

Morning-Washington Monument, White House (outside only and Visitor Center), Black Lives Matter Plaza, lunch
afternoon-American History Museum, Maybe Holocaust Museum

morning-Congress, Library of Congress
afternoon-National Archives (really just to see Declaration of Independence and Constitution) and Spy Museum

Morning-National Zoo
afternoon-Arlington, Pentagon Memorial, finish monuments

morning-Air & Space Museum
afternoon-African American Museum

Friday-Postal Museum (DD9’s request) prior to departure

questions I have:

Does this overall plan seem doable?

Is the Holocaust museum and American History Museum too much in 1 afternoon? I would only take DD9 to the children’s exhibit and then take her to American History museum. The others could follow when they are done at Holocaust or is that too much?

Am I forgetting anything big to visit?

I would love to fit in the Native American Museum but don’t know where to put it or what to skip, unless we leave later on Friday. Is this worth the visit? If we stay in DC longer we would get a hotel that night on the way home and split our drive into 2 days.

Would it be possible to tour the monuments using Capital Bikeshare? I have seen blog posts with this as a tour option but don’t know if the reality of trying to rent 4 bikes at once would work. We would bring DD9’s bike since she is tiny and would not fit on a Capital Bikeshare bike. DH has knee issues and can bike but walking long distances can be a challenge. We ended up with a wheelchair at WDW to help with this but I don’t really want to push him in one through the monuments in DC. He would refuse a mobility scooter rental (and probably a wheelchair rental) We don’t really want to do a bus or other organized tour so we could go at our own pace and not be rushed.

Is parking our van at National Airport long term parking or Union Station a realistic option to avoid the super high hotel parking fees?. We don’t plan on driving our van once we get in to DC until it is time to leave. Is one of these places better than the other?


Visit the Smithsonian for the theme park exhibit. Some of us are a part of it thanks to @len

Edited- shoot it opens April 15

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It’s a lot, but yes. You may find you get through the monuments quicker than you think - many of them are close enough together that you can knock them out pretty quickly (unless someone in your group needs to read every info panel)

Probably - but again it depends on if you want to see everything or just select things. You could theoretically spend a whole day in American History. But if you’re only doing the highlights, it might be okay. Just FYI that the children’s exhibit at Holocaust can still be intense. I saw it 30 years ago now and it still sits with me - so just be prepared for questions from DD9.

Yes. But the new thing in DC are electric scooter ride share rentals - so perhaps your DH can use one of those - might be easier on the knees. Also, what neighborhood is your hotel in? None of the monuments are particularly close to a Metro stop. Also, beware that the zoo is very hilly. So that may be a tough morning for DH as well.

Yes. I’d do National Airport though as Union Station traffic is a nightmare. (Can’t confirm costs but I might think National
One term is cheaper, too.)

Have so much fun!

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Definitely worth seeing. Even if just for an hour for the highlights. If you finish up the Capital and Library of Congress in good time it would make the most sense to hit Native American museum at lunchtime on your way to the Archives. They have the most interesting cafeteria. The fry breads are awesome.


I hope you post updates and report on how things go for you! We will be there in June. First trips for my DDs, 3rd trip for me (I was there long, long ago).

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I’m planning a summer trip and I have this in my notes

Rent scooters and do a DC Monuments tour.

Can rent 3 scooters for $225 for 4 hours. ($18.75 / hr)
Can rent 3 scooters for $275 for 6 hours ($15.28 / hr)
Full day is $150 per person, so $450 for 3.

You can’t take the scooter rentals into the monument area. The above is OK to take in, but the ones that are scattered on the street, you can’t take in. Basically they don’t want people leaving them scattered around the monuments. If you try to end your ride and lock your scooter on the Mall, it will say you are “outside the approved zone” and will charge you $25 extra. Including if it just runs out of juice.

Also, I don’t see you have “Go up the Washington Monument elevator.” I think you need tickets for that.

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That’s a good idea. They may not take us all morning so could fit in a highlighted tour here. We have Archives tickets at 12:45 that day so may have to back track or see if the military don’t need timed tickets is actually true.

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Thank you for your reply.

I know the Holocaust museum is intense. I visited it about 30 years ago but don’t remember the children exhibit (not sure I stopped at it) but remember the rest of the museum. My DH hasn’t been and wanted to do it. We may just let him visit with the teens. I thought of having him go to that instead of the zoo because I was afraid the zoo would be too much walking but my DS15 wants to do both so that didn’t puzzle correctly. We may get a wheelchair at zoo for DH. I might be able to convince to do a shirt rental there by comparing it to WDW.

I scooter might work for him but I don’t think would work for DD9 for the monuments, I know the Monuments aren’t close to Metro stops but it looked like DC circular gets much closer so I figured Metro to Circular might be an option. That is also why I thought of bikes but didn’t know how available they were with the scooters becoming more popular. I also don’t know how much time we will need at them. My DH and I are both Veterans, my Dad fought in Vietnam, all our grandfathers were in WW2 and my DH was stationed (in peacetime) in Korea. We may spend a lot of time at the War memorials or we may just breeze through them. It depends on the teens/kids.

I will look into parking at National. We are staying at Residence Inn Navy Yard, would it make sense to drive to the hotel to unload luggage/people and then drive out to park the van at National or should we avoid driving into DC at all? How Does it compare to downtown Chicago traffic? Or much worse.

I will try to update.

The hardest thing for me is keeping track of all the different dates to get tickets for different things and different websites.

For instance Air and Space is roughly 6-8 weeks out but they release a big batch of tickets on 1 day every 6-8 weeks out not a rolling basis. I never really figured out Holocaust Museums schedule because it keeps changing every time I have looked and now my dates are opened. Some others are 45 days out. Some 30 days, some 1 month which is not the same as 30 days. Also times of day that tickets release varies-0800, 1000, noon. I found it just as confusing it not more so than WDW.

My Congressman has an automated form to request tickets for Congress but no indication of when they let you know if you have them so I got some through the Visitors Center as a back up.

Lots to keep track of so I tried to divide my days into morning and afternoon chunk and them group things that were close together into those chunks to help with transportation.

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Looks doable and you do know your family best.

What do you want to do at the zoo? We didn’t feel it was that great of a zoo and it is small. We went to see the pandas and wandered a bit.

Your monuments tour is broken up. Are you planning to see just the ones on the National Mall or are you planning to go to Jefferson, MLK, and FDR also?

The bike is the way tour the monuments. I don’t bike so we had to rent a tandem.

How much time you need for each site is your family dependent. My family really enjoyed the American History Museum and spent all day there. We only went to the Art Museum to see the preamble in license plates! We enjoyed the Air & Space Museum at the airport more than the one on the National Mall, which is rather small.

This was very solemn and beautiful and would even be better at night. DD found a child her age on the list. She was teary.


I understand! It IS a lot. I have a spreadsheet, color coded by what days I THINK we will do things. I also marked it based on when I can reserve things, get tickets, etc.

I have had some success with our Congressman–so far, we have the Capitol building and the FBI experience scheduled. It’s not quite time for us to get the White House reserved but :crossed_fingers:


Thanks for the suggestion. I looked into scooters but I don’t think my DD9 could ride one well since she is really tiny.
If we did bikes we would just bring hers from home and either put it on the bus rack or bring it on the metro to get from the hotel to closer to the Monuments. I think we could navigate 1 bike on public transportation ok since they are allowed. Or we might just rent bikes from near our hotel and bike to tidal basin then to the other Monuments.
We may just skip the bikes and try to use DC circular for help with them but that might involve more waiting. I can’t figure out which would be better. I just don’t want my DH to overdue it and then not be able to walk well the just of the week. He can handle a mile or so slowly but anything over that gets really tricky and hard to predict.

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:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: For months, we had a huge sheet of paper on our wall with our dates written in. We wrote the venue on Post-Its and moved around the Post-Its with time.

I hated holding dates and times for the tours times that didn’t come until closer to the day.


:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: Liners :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


We did Ford’s Theater, Library of Congress, Holocaust Museum, and Air and Space Museum in one day. I do not recommend as we didn’t have a lot of time to spend anywhere. However, it can be done. :joy:

If you can squeeze in the Native American Museum, I highly recommend. You don’t need reservations for that one, so easy to do if you find you have time. Also, the botanical gardens are close by if you wanted to pop in there for a bit. No tickets required there either.


That’s what I am trying to avoid. I want to try to enjoy what we see and not feel rushed to check off the box of we went here. I am leaning toward spending longer at fewer places but maybe skipping some things completely. It know a few places will probably be quick-Archives, White House pictures, probably Library of Congress. But others I have no clue, don’t want to rush but also don’t want to feel like we have too much down time either.

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I have the monuments broken up mostly as back up plans. I would ideal hit them all but going inside Washington Monument on our first day. We will be coming off of a 9-10 hour car ride and may not have the energy to do them all, if so I figured we could hit the Mall monuments the first day and then do Tidal Basin monuments another evening.


Library of Congress was one of my favorite things we did. It’s amazingly beautiful in there!


I’m so excited to be able to weigh in ! I’ve lived in the DC area (Maryland) for almost 15 yrs. First, it’s been unseasonably warm here so far this year, so I would have told you to expect it to be really cold in March, but I don’t know. There is even the slightest chance of seeing the cherry blossoms starting to bud (not blossom) by mid March, but you never know. Be prepared for both winter and summer-ish weather, light layers is probably best.

The bottom line on most of the museums is this: how much do you want to do there / how long do you want to stay. For example, the African American museum is in several different parts and I’ve been there to do it all solo, and also with a friend to just see one temporary exhibit. For that one the best part is the beginning, I can’t remember the name of that part, but the start at slavery and then up to the Civil Rights movement. This is an incredibly moving museum and I was really overwhelmed by that part of the experience, and I’ve been a museum curator before.

The Holocaust Museum is quite often sold out so definitely have admission lined up. That one requires a timed ticket for even the basic permanent collection (at least last time I looked).

I found the Postal Museum to be really wonderful. It is a smaller museum so you can see everything much quicker than most of the DC museums. The Native American museum is also sort of a smaller museum and you could really enjoy the experience in an hour or two. They have an amazing cafe–it has bison! Although I’ve not tried it, I loved it the two times I was there. African American museum cafe is also really good.

The American History Museum is fun! A lot of really interesting, fun stuff. Big contrast to the Holocaust Museum if you do them in the same day. I saw one of the ruby slippers sets from Wizard of Oz there, and I think this is a permanent exhibit.

I know you already have a set itinerary but I also highly recommend the National Museum of Art. Amazing art museum, Rembrandts, all kinds of art, 3 great cafes. The gelato bar downstairs is right next to an installation by Leo Villareal that is a walkway with lots of patterns of white lights, moving in different patterns, I do this every time I go.

I hope you have a wonderful time! :slight_smile:



You have lots of great tips in here. I will definitely keep the Art Gallery in mind. There is too much to fit it all in.

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