We planned a 3 1/2 day family trip to Washington D.C. to introduce our kids to the nation’s history and federal government.
A Family Trip to D.C. With Kids
My husband and I have been to the District of Columbia known as Washington D.C. multiple times. We see and learn new things with each visit, so we wanted to begin empowering our kids to learn more about how the country started and how decisions are made.
Our goal was to have a quick, efficient Washington D.C. Family Vacation. We flew into Regan National Airport (on Southwest airlines), stayed in a Holiday Inn near Capitol Hill and walked and used the metro to get around.
The capitol of the United States of America is it’s own independent district and is not in a state. There’s so much to see and do in this city. It is hard to take it all in during one trip. The more often you go the more you will pick up each time.
Planning Our Trip To D.C.
To help make the most of this trip we had to do some planning ahead. We visited in mid August when Congress is in recess and several schools had begun, so crowds were smaller.
About a month ahead of time we booked a free tour of the United States Capitol, made restaurant reservations and should have made reservations to the Air and Space Smithsonian. We were able to secure a free reservation the day before our visit once we learned of the necessity to make online reservations.
Even with the lower crowds we were not able to get inside and ride the elevator to the top of the Washington monument.
Our Family Trip Itinerary
We flew in Tuesday August 15th and landed at 3:15 p.m. at Reagan Airport. We walked across the airport and took the subway or Metro to our hotel – the Holiday Inn, Capitol Hill. The hotel is less than a 5 minute walk from the Metro station.
We got dinner at the 21st Amendment Bar & Grill in the hotel which has good food like Garlic Parmesan Fries and , but slow service. We were anxious to start a walking tour of the area.
- 3:15 p. – Landed at Regan National Airport.
- 6:30 p. – 6:45 p. – Ubered to Lincoln Memorial to begin looking at major monuments in the area.
- 7:15 p. – 8:15 p. – Korean War Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial and World War II Memorial.
- 8:30 – 9:15 p. – Walked to Martin Luther King Memorial, FDR Memorial, and took a longer walk to the Jefferson Memorial across the tidal basin. Took an Uber back to the hotel.
This was an enjoyable walk to soak in great views and admire so many stately buildings, monuments and important places. The exercise after a day of travel is also great.
Day 2 – Wednesday August 16th
- 8 a. – Left hotel and walked to Grant Memorial near the Capitol.
- 8:30 a. – Walked up Capitol Hill to the visitors center on the back side of the Capitol.
- 9 a. – 10 a. – Moved our reserved tickets up to get on the 9 a.m. tour which was very enjoyable.
- 10 a. – 11:30a. – Walked to neighboring senate building to get gallery passes and returned to the Capitol to see the Senate and House of Representatives galleries.
- 11:30 – 12 p. Lunch in the Capital cafeteria has an extensive and excellent selection.
- 12 p. – Returned to hotel, grabbed bags, drinks and used the Metro to get to Arlington.
- 1:30 p. – 3:30 p. – Riding tour of Arlington Cemetery
- 3:30 p. – Uber to Marine Core Memorial aka Iwo Jima Memorial then Uber to Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, VA.
- 5:30 p. – 6:45 p. Gadsby’s Tavern opened and we had early reservations
- 6:45 p. – 7:15 p. – Walked through shopping district to the metro, although a free trolley was available
- 8 p. – Arrived back at hotel to relax.
Day 3 – Thursday August 17th
- 8:20 a. – Left hotel to walk to Washington Monument and try to get walk-up tickets.
- 9 a. – Walked to White House and the visitors center.
- 10 a. – 12:30 p. – Explored the American History Smithsonian, then took a pool break at the hotel.
- 3 p. – 5 p. – Explored Air and Space Smithsonian
- 5:30 p. – Hung out at the roof top pool and ordered pizza from the hotel bar.
- 8 p. – Got the kids settled with grandma and the adults enjoyed an evening at the hotel bar.
By the time we arrived at the Washington Monument there was a huge line for walk-up tickets and the park ranger suggested that it was highly unlikely that most of us would get tickets. So we walked to the White House
Day 4 – Friday August 18th
- 8:45 a. – Walked to Old Post Office in the Waldorf Astoria. Took elevators to the top of the clock tower.
- 9:50 a. – Walked to National Archives to view the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and more.
- 10:45 a. – 1:30 p. – Explored and ate lunch at the Natural History Smithsonian.
- 2 p. – Gathered bags from hotel and began journey to Regan airport via the Metro.
- 4:35 p. – Flight departed for home
Places To Eat
- We ate lunch each day in the Capitol or Smithsonian that we were visiting.
- My husband planned a special meal with reservations at Gadsby’s Restaurant 30 minutes from the Capitol in Virginia.
- The remainder of our meals were from the hotel bar and casual restaurant as most eateries (outside of food trucks) are only open during normal business hours (M-F from 9-5).
Gadsby’s Tavern and Restaurant
Gadsby’s Restaurant in the shopping district of Alexandria, Virginia that’s been around in one form or another since the days of our founding fathers.
George Washington was a regular including holding his birthday party there at least once. The ambience is very much from that time period with waiters dressed up in period clothes.
The food is excellent with a combination of modern dishes and colonial tavern staples. Be sure to have reservations even in slower times as this place is popular with locals.
Be sure to check the hours and make reservations ahead of time. The policy and when the schedule opens is on the Gadsby’s Tavern and Restaurant website.
What Reservations Are Needed Ahead Of Time?
- Tickets to top of the Washington Monument
- U.S. Capitol Tours
- National Air and Space Smithsonian admittance time ticket
- Gadsby’s Restaurant
Where to Stay with Kids in D.C.
We choose the Holiday Inn Capitol Hill because it is close to the mall and metro, which would help decrease transportation costs and time spent traveling. There are 2 queen beds in a good chunk of the hotel at one of the best rates.
Another perk is the roof top pool with the view of the U.S. Capitol in the background.
Spending a bit more on the room to save on transportation and parking worked best for our family.
Several other choices have king beds only, were in a higher luxury category and the older hotels had two doubles.
Know Before You Go
- Dress for our family was tourist casual, many may prefer to dress up a bit for Arlington.
- Make sure the wheels work well on your luggage as you pull through the airport, metro, roads, etc.
- Bring a little cash for tips.
- Prepare for a lot of serious, quiet, respectful time.
- There’s lots of free stuff, but there are a lot of opportunities to maximize your time by spending some money on a tour.
- We wanted a fast paced trip so we flew in, stayed in the middle of the action and had busy days while there. We could have saved money by driving, staying further out, but parking is expensive and a hassle. So we focused on getting as much done as possible in a limited amount of time.
- The old post office is a great opportunity to take in views of the city up in the clock tower (12 stories in the air) if you do not get the Washington Monument tickets.
- If you want to visit the House and Senate Galleries contact your Congressman or Senator ahead of time to avoid taking extra time to obtain them on your trip.
- The Smithsonians are open 10a – 5:30p.
Using The Metro
The Metro was very convenient and laid out very well to save money and time over catching Ubers or Lyfts.
Using the Metro was probably the most memorable part of the trip for our kids.
More Family Vacation Ideas
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