Hi all - I thought I’d share my trip report from Washington DC last weekend. This was a combination family trip (I grew up in DC so my parents still live there) and sightseeing. My two daughters and my spouse came with me. The girls are ages 11 and 7. My spouse was competing in the DC BBQ Battle and really spent most of his time working.
We flew in on Delta to DCA on Friday morning from NC. We flew instead of drove as we needed to be back at a decent hour on Sunday evening. The flight was fine, and my daughters and I took the Metro from the airport to a stop near my parents’ house.
I have found the Metro employees to be helpful as the fare machines - while not confusing - do require users to read a bit before starting. So usually as I am standing there remembering the 6 steps that will result in a fare card, the Metro employee comes over and assists.
The Metro ride was good - we were on an older train but we had just missed rush hour so the rates were lower and the crowds not heavy at all.
After a visit with my folks, my mom offered to drive us back down to the Air and Space Museum in downtown DC. We spent the afternoon at the A&S and it was amazing. It’s the most popular Smithsonian for a reason. I did try something new this time. We walked all the way to the second floor to the very end of the building and started touring from there. Most folks start on the first floor and work up, we started on the second floor and worked our way down. It was still crowded (in my unauthorized opinion about a 7 :)) We picked and chose the exhibits my kids wanted to see rather than tour the whole museum. We took about 45 minutes and saw a Planetarium show called Dark Universe narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson which was incredible. The show was $24 for the three of us.
The A&S planetarium is very smooth, the seats go way, way back and surprisingly I did not get motion sickness. #win
After the show, we took a little break, got a snack and sat down against the wall in the upper corridor. The museum could definitely use more seating.
My 7YO favorite part of the museum was the Amelia Earhart replica plane and this new kids area on the first floor called How Things Fly. (I say new as I do not remember this exhibit from visits during the last three years, but we may have just missed it.)
Anyway, the How Things Fly area is very interactive, there is staff to help kids with experiments, they can “fly” a plane using rudder controls and a joystick and climb in a Cessna 150. All told, my 7YO spent a very happy 45 minutes here - my 11YO wanted to die she was so, so bored and tired. (I think she would have enjoyed it more had we gone earlier in the day)
We rode the Metro home around 4:30 p.m. and again I was slightly taken back by how un-crowded it was. Enjoyed dinner with my parents and that was the end of our day.
After breakfast and packing, my kids and I headed back in downtown DC to our hotel. We stayed at the Liason, Capitol Hill. The hotel was reasonable for DC and extremely close to The Mall. (410 New Jersey Ave) It also has a rooftop pool that the kids really loved. And a rooftop bar that I enjoyed. The hotel is a little dated and aging, but for proximity and cost it’s a good deal.
After the hotel, we Uber’ed over to the International Spy Museum. I would rank this as “Not To Be Missed.” It’s an incredible museum, filled with interactive spy exhibits and activities. Caveat: my very brave 7YO got a little freaked out a few times as the museum is dimly lit and occasionally there are mildly creepy sights and sounds. My 11YO was not bothered in the slightest. This is a fee museum and for the three of us online tickets were about $55. You have a timed entrance which helps with crowd control. The museum is pretty big and sectioned into rooms, so it feels much smaller than it really is. Be sure to check out the sharks in the James Bond exhibit.
There are all sorts of items to look at, some interactive exhibits with computers and screens and even tunnels to crawl through.
After about 3 hours (and you could easily spend 4 hours here), the kids were starving. We found a Pizza Pi around the corner for lunch. There is a Steak and Shake right next to the museum, but everyone goes there and it’s super crowded. Walk a bit further and there are two sports bars and a Subway.
Make sure you save money and time for the gift shop. There are some really neat souvenier items.
After lunch, we visited my husband at the BBQ festival, then hit the hotel for a swim and enjoyed a late dinner in Chinatown.
The hotel pool opens at 8 am, #win, so my 7YO and I spent an hour swimming, then packed up and tried to find breakfast. Finding an open coffee shop on a Sunday morning in downtown DC is about as easy as securing ADRs for Cinderella’s Royal Table. After walking about 2 miles, carrying luggage we finally found an open breakfast place.
We spent the morning at the BBQ festival, then sought out air conditioning at the National Gallery of Art. What a hidden gem! It’s quiet, un-crowded, plenty of cool marble benches to sit on and the friendliest staff and docents ever. There’s even a cool fountain with plenty of seating. My 11YO was all ready to park herself there with a Harry Potter book. We toured the Impressionist gallery quickly then headed over to the West building for an art activity.
Docents had thick drawing paper, clipboards and excellent colored pencils and encouraged kids and adults to take as much as they needed and go into a specific gallery to sketch. This quiet, low-key activity was just what we needed. My kids love to draw and we spent an easy hour sprawled on the floor sketching the artwork.
Also on the walk from the East gallery to the West gallery, there is a nice dessert cafe with coffee and pastries. Careful - it closes about an hour before the museum does.
My takeaways were - don’t be afraid to Uber around downtown. It’s faster than walking in between Metro stops. The Metro is farily easy to manage, just pay attention to the fares and the map. And as always, the Smithsonian museums do not disapoint.