A weekend in Washington DC
I’ve always loved traveling. Whether it was a trip to another continent or a weekend spent a few hours away, I’ve always found getting out of my normal routine and space invigorating. Now, having two kids, traveling looks very different. It requires much more thought, is a lot more work, and can be exhausting, but I find it to still be worth the effort. During my mother-in-law’s recent visit, we packed up our minivan and all headed to Washington D.C. for the weekend.
As I planned our itinerary, I was reminded of how much there is to do in this city. There are endless museums, memorials, and historical sites to visit, and most have no admission fee. This is particularly great for families with small kids, because it removes the pressure to have a great time after having paid for admission. If your toddler loses his mind after just an hour of visiting a museum, you don’t feel like you need to stay to “get your money’s worth.” You can leave with your head held high and just appreciate the hour had together.
When we were planning our visit, we recognized that the kid-less days of aimlessly strolling through museums for hours were long gone and we tried to keep our expectations low. There was a lot we were not going to see and we didn’t want to push our kids past their limits.
So what did we do?
We timed the drive down to coordinate with our kids’ nap-times and arrived at our hotel, The Donovan, around 6 pm on Saturday (I booked the rooms through Priceline and only paid $85/night). After getting settled in our rooms, we loaded up the stroller and headed to the National Mall (it was a 30 minute walk from our hotel). On our way there, we stopped at District Taco and picked up a to-go dinner. We were surprised that most of the fast causal eateries we saw were closed for the weekend and it was difficult to find to-go food. Luckily, District Taco ended up being an excellent choice, (thank you, Yelp!), the weather was perfect, and we enjoyed a lovely picnic dinner by the Washington Monument. After eating, we spent the evening walking around and visiting the many memorials in the area. It was beautiful to see them lit up at night and Isaac loved getting to dip his feet in one of the fountains. The kids didn’t get to bed until 12:00 am that night, but they did surprisingly well. As Rich and I got ready for bed, Isaac and Ellie were sitting together, laughing, playing, looking out the hotel window, and finding it pretty awesome to be awake so late at night. It was one of those precious moments where you realize how awesome it is to be a family.
After the late night, we slept in (Ellie actually slept through the night for the first time in her life!), and ate a late breakfast at the diner-esque Lincoln’s Waffle Shop. It was a bit tough getting our stroller into the tight waffle shop, but the owners were super accommodating and found a spot where we could all comfortably eat breakfast. With bellies full, we headed to The National Museum of American History, which was surprisingly kid friendly. Isaac loved walking through the America on the Move exhibition, which was full of small and life size cars, trucks, trains, and boats. We also visited the Wegmans Wonderplace which was specifically created for kids 0-6 years of age.
Next, we headed to the National Museum of Natural History. Isaac and Ellie both enjoyed seeing the various animal, insect, and fossil exhibits. I enjoyed getting to see a stunning collection of wildlife photography. The museum was really crowded, which made it a little hard to navigate with the kids, but it was still worth seeing. Outside of the museum was a line of wonderful food trucks and we grabbed lunch and headed next door to the National Gallery Sculpture Garden. We ate our lunch by the beautiful fountain where Isaac loved sitting on it’s edge with his feet in the water. I spent nearly a half hour chasing him around the fountain, spontaneously stopping to put our feet in the water. Having just spent several hours in the museums, it was great for him to stretch out his legs and enjoy being outside. After a rest at the hotel, we finished our evening with a lovely meal at the City Tap House. We were the only ones there with small children, but the restaurant was kid-friendly enough for us to have a meal in relative peace.
Our last day got off to a really slow start. The kids were tired and needed time to relax, so we stayed in our room until our 12:00 pm check out. We then headed to the National Air and Space Museum. The planes and spaceships we saw seemed to have made the biggest impression on Isaac because it’s the first thing he mentions when you ask him about our trip to Washington D.C. Seeing the various vehicles suspended from the ceiling was impressive for me as an adult, and I can only imagine what an incredible sight it must be when seen through the eyes of a child.
We then headed to the cafe in the courtyard at the National Portrait gallery. It was a beautiful place to stop and rest, and there was a large water feature that Isaac enjoyed running through. After lunch we headed to our last stop, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. We let the kids sit and stretch their legs by a grassy, shaded area, while Rich hopped on a bike (courtesy of Capital Bikeshare) and cycled back into the main part of the city to grab our car, saving us a 45 minute walk. He was back in just 30 minutes with the car, having conveniently dropped the bike off right by the parking garage. With rush-hour over, we were now ready to strap the kids into their car seats and begin the journey home.
If you plan on taking small kids, note that it can be very tiring. After three days, we were all exhausted and I don’t think we would have handled another day of sightseeing. Also, Washington D.C. didn’t feel like a kid-friendly city. There were several occasions (like when we briefly contemplated sitting down in a Starbucks) where people seemed very annoyed that we had small kids with us. But overall, it was a lovely weekend and worth the effort. Washington D.C. is a beautiful city with so much to see and do. Although our kids probably won’t remember much from our weekend, I hope that by exposing them to new places and things, we are cultivating an appetite for discovery and learning.
Gear we used:
Baby Jogger City Select Stroller: This stroller is amazing for so many reasons and we could not have survived without. I love that it comfortably holds both kids while having a huge basket to fit the many things needed when you are out for an extended period of time with small kids.
Ergobaby Carrier– My most beloved piece of baby gear. It was perfect for when Ellie needed a break from the stroller. I’m going to be so sad when she is too big to wear!
Nuby Sure Grip Mat– This mat was perfect for on-the-go meals with Ellie.
Oxo Tot Roll-Up Bib– I am super obsessed with this bib. It rolls up, making it space efficient and perfect for an on-the-go day, and I even can fit two spoons in the pocket. It’s easy to clean and does a great job at keeping your little one clean. If you are planning a vacation or day trip with your little one, make sure you bring this bib along!
Bebe Au Lait Nursing Scarf– This beautiful scarf gives me a little extra coverage when I’m nursing Ellie in public. It’s so cute that you would never even know it was a nursing scarf!