I have been to DC a half a dozen times as both a child and teenager. I loved every minute I was there and always felt I was in a special place full of smart and powerful people. I felt it was a happy obligation to take my family to Washington DC and see there country’s capital and maybe become as smitten as I was with this beautiful city.
It seemed like a good time to do this trip given everyone’s age and timing of our arrival to the US. We decided to travel in mid June, before school was out, and the crowds had arrived and before the weather got too hot. While the crowds were manageable the weather was too hot . We arrived on a steamy swampy 95 degree day.
What didn’t we do in our 3 1/2 days..not much, here is what we did:
- After our 20 hour travel odyssey it seemed like a good idea to head over to the National Zoo on the subway and say hi to the Pandas. Everyone loves a panda, right? Actually, big disappointment. Its was so frigging hot that the pandas where chilling out in an air-conditioned concrete pen. It was so humid that some Zoo employee had to stand there and squeegee the condensation off the window so we could watch the Pandas sit on the ground and alternate between doing nothing and eating bamboo. Kind of lame, GM couldn’t stop mentioning how a Panda looked like a man in a Panda suit, and Callum couldn’t stop mentioning the episode that Homer dresses up as a panda at the Springfield Zoo.
- Next day was Museum day. We went to the Air and Space Museum (or as Henry dubbed it, the Aerosmith museum), and the American History Museum. These are amazing museums and they are FREE. So you go for a couple of hours and them you leave for a swim and then you come back. The Air and Space museum is the best museum I have ever been to. Really interesting stuff and so well done. The exhibit that explains the first flight at Kitty Hawk is exceptional.
- We also went to a museum that wasn’t free (all the Smithsonian museums (all 19 of them) are free). The Spy Museum had a certainly more commercial vibe to it, but actually with three boys was worth it and well done in a Disneyland like way.
- Met an old colleague of GM’s who invited us to dinner. He suggested we (meaning all the childrens too) meet him at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, second only to Chucky Cheese in child friendliness. As you can imagine I was concerned, but my kids totally pulled it off. They were exceptionally well-behaved, not missing a please or thank you. There was no wrestling at the table and Georgie, who made her requisite half a dozen visits to the bathroom, didn’t seem to have stolen anything. I was hopeful that this was possibly the beginning of some new trend in restaurant eating experiences with my kids. I was wrong.
- The next morning we went on a guided tour of the Capital Building thanks to the office of our congressmen Jim Himes(D-CT04). They also arranged for a visit to the White House that we did in the afternoon. You don’t get to see much of it (just the big public rooms). But being in the building and walking around it afterwards was awesome in the true sense of the word.
- That night, our last night, we went on the mother of all night bus tours, the Washington DC Monuments and Memorials Tour. As long as you ignored the very annoying docent, who didn’t add anything meaningful to our understanding of the monuments, it was great. It’s a great way to see the monuments, in theoretically cooler weather (it was oppressive) and all lit up. We saw: Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Wall, and Arlington Cemetery where you see the Iwo Jima Memorial.
- The next morning, while GM took a breakfast meeting we went back to the Aerosmith Museum (for one last spin in the fly simulator) and then to the Natural History Museum.
- Off to Gettysburg and Part 2 of the educational portion of our vacation.