Advice for Family Travel in Washington D.C.

I’m planning a whole series of posts on our Washington D.C. trip, but I thought I’d start with a personal recap so you might wanna grab a cuppa coffee.

Isn’t that the best. mug. EVER!? We ate twice at a restaurant by our hotel called Open City, and they do coffee right.

The trip didn’t start out so well. As I mentioned on Friday, I took a bad fall running on Thursday morning. I’m still recovering, and I’m sure tromping around our nation’s capitol for 3 days didn’t help matters any. My left knee and the palm of my right hand are messed up pretty bad.

I learned a couple things from this trip that I will happily pass on to you in case you’re considering a trip to Washington D.C. anytime soon.

Advice for Family Travel in Washington D.C.

1. Spring Break is the most beautiful time to be in D.C. It is also the most crowded.

Weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself. Personally, I’d rather bypass the crowds and miss some of this.

2. Go with a plan. That plan should include dinner reservations.

I thought we had a plan, but evidently we didn’t have enough of one. That made for some pretty frustrating moments along the way. Plan for D.C. like you plan for Disney. Know where you’re going to eat, and MAKE RESERVATIONS before you leave home. Know what you’re going to try to do and see each day. Then be willing to be flexible. Which leads me to #3 . . .

3. Everything takes longer than you think it should.

So leave some wiggle room in your plans. You don’t want to be all stressed, trying to get to the next thing.

4. Use the Metro.

I have always heard what a fabulous Metro system they have in D.C., and I wasn’t disappointed. It was clean and convenient. It helped that there was a stop within a block of our hotel.

5. The trolley tours are a great way to relax after several days of walking.

They aren’t cheap, but by Day 3, we were willing to pay just about anything to give our legs and feet a rest. They are also full of interesting and entertaining information about the city and its history. See how happy they are, waiting to board the trolley?

It’s also a great way to see some of the sights you would have missed. I snapped this photo of the National Cathedral right through the window of the trolley.

6. Visit when your kids are old enough to appreciate it.

My youngest is 6, and it was all pretty much over her head. Plus, she’s a trooper, but it was still a lot of walking for her sturdy little legs. My 9-year-old wasn’t always highly impressed either, although I think some 9-year-olds would really enjoy it. My 12-year-old, however, ate it up. He would have stayed in the museums all day, and he also enjoyed the memorials. I wouldn’t go again with kids this young.

7. Did I mention how crowded it is over Spring Break?

That was the Museum of Natural History around 1:00 on Friday. We couldn’t even get near the exhibits. It was stifling.

8. Arrange for a private Capitol tour.

Everyone can do this, but hardly anyone knows about it. Call your representative and ask for a private tour of the Capitol. It’s free!!! We enjoyed this immensely. Senator Toomey’s intern showed us around and even got us gallery passes to see the House floor. People wait in line for hours for these tickets, but we got right in.

9. Stay at the Omni Shoreham

I know not everyone has the budget for the Omni Shoreham, but I was given a special media rate so it was a no-brainer for us. If it’s in your budget, I highly recommend it.

This elegant old hotel has entertained the likes of the Beatles and many U.S. presidents. My girls loved the fancy chandeliers, and they all loved our suite. They were highly impressed that it had 2 TVs. They’ve talked more about the hotel than the sites of D.C.

Beyond the amenities, it is conveniently located less than a mile from the zoo and within a block of a Metro Station. It is also across the street from several family-friendly restaurants.

10. Take time out to climb trees.

This is definitely not a place you want to rush around. It really is a gorgeous city. Take your time and enjoy it.

As for the rest of my weekend . . .

We got home late Saturday night and didn’t waste much time getting to bed. We were all wiped out.

We enjoyed an Easter celebration at our church on Sunday and then headed down to my inlaws’ for dinner. Everyone was decked out in their Easter attire and sufficiently filled up with chocolate.

Today I’m excited to attend the 3rd annual Women of the Week Luncheon where I get to see Dr. Oz. I’ll be the one hobbling around with a bandage on my knee.

I hope you and yours had a lovely weekend!

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15 Responses

  1. What a great recap! Though I’ll share that we’ve been visiting DC for long weekends since Big was 4 and always loved it. But we do a little-kids version and never try to pack it all in. We spend lots of time on the lawn and running around the monument, tossing in Natural History, Space and a corner or two of US History and we’re good. We’ll do more of a full-on visit when the kids are bigger.

    Glad you had a great time! Hope you’re feeling better soon.

  2. I have been waiting for these posts! Thought it might help plan our trip to DC next month…I still haven’t booked a hotel yet. I have read some of the mixed reviews of the Omni Shoreham online and was curious to see what you said about it. Of course, all of the hotels have mixed reviews, so I try to overlook the few “bad apples” who complain about everything.

    1. I’ve been waiting for her review of the hotel too! It’s at the top of my list but I’ve seen the mixed reviews as well. I wonder if the pool is as nice as it looks online.

  3. Those are some great tips. I’ve been wanting to go back with the kids, but like you said, I think we’ll wait until the youngest is at least ten. I think 5th grade is when they study all that stuff here in Arizona, so that might be great timing for us. You captured some great photos! Glad you guys had a nice time 🙂

  4. We went to DC at the beginning of October last year and had a great time! I know that doesn’t work for everyone’s school schedule, but the weather was nice and nothing was very crowded. Our daughters were almost eleven and nine at the time and enjoyed it – although I think the part they talked about the most afterwards was riding the Metro!! We stayed a bit outside the city, so rode the Metro in every morning and back out at night.

    Yes, it is a beautiful city – with LOTS of walking involved! We did have a plan of what we wanted to see each day, which was definitely helpful. We included the Capitol Tour as well – and scheduled the White House Tour, too.

    Glad you got to get away with the family and hope you’re feeling better from your fall soon!!

  5. Sounds like a fun weekend! We went to DC a couple of summers ago, and I agree, it’s not the best vacation for younger ones. My youngest does not enjoy walking, and the only thing she wanted to see the whole trip was the pandas at the zoo. We made it to the zoo and then she was ready for home. She went again in Nov for 8th grade and got more out of it this time. We stayed in Maryland at a nice hotel (wonderful breakfast) and rode the Metro into the city everyday. Love the Metro! Our rep never got back to us for a tour of the Capital. Library of Congress has a great tour! It’s nice that you’re so close to be able to take a trip there for a couple of days. Take care of yourself!

  6. What a wonderful trip! Washington DC is our next big family trip (it is big when you have to fly 6 people across the country)! We did Disney World this year and I plan to do DC in 2-3 years, My kids will be about 12 and 13. I will definately be reading your posts with that future trip in mind!

  7. Glad you had a great trip! We are so, so lucky to live just outside of DC and I couldn’t agree with you more about taking the Metro everywhere! The trolly tours are a definite, too, especially as a good way to see extra things. My advice to other future tourists is that the best thing about the museums is that they are FREE so just spend an hour or two in each one! Oh, and, the walk from the Capitol Building to the Washington Monument and then to the Lincoln Memorial is MUCH, MUCH further than it looks!!!

  8. We’ve been thinking about a trip to DC with our children, ages 10 & 8. May postpone for a little while. We actually thought about taking Amtrak up there, just for a change of pace, and then renting a car for the ride home. We also have friends who live in/near DC so hopefully they could give us some recommendations for kid-friendly restaurants (my children aren’t the adventurous eaters that yours are!). Do you have the Open Table app for smart phones? It’s really helpful when making dinner reservations. We’ve used it in Austin and New York and found the reviews helpful.

  9. My parents and I went when I was 15 and that was a good age, I think you’re right that younger kids would get bored, etc. And I guess you would know since you experienced it! 😉

    That’s a great tip about the private tour of the Capitol! Sounds like you had a pretty good trip and hope you heal up soon form your fall. Ouch, girl!

    Happy Easter!!

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