Visiting Washington, D.C. With Kids in Tow

The Agents and I just made a (somewhat impromptu) ten-day trip to Washington, D.C. We quickly discovered we could easily spend a year here and not see everything we want to see. Alas, we only had a week and a half, so we did what we could while trying not to overdo it. 

We stayed at a short-term apartment right downtown and used our feet as our primary mode of transportation. With the exception of a planetarium show and bus fare to the zoo (the only place too far to walk) we didn't pay to visit any attractions. Which is good, because we did pay for one meal out a day (lunch) and holy cow eating out (even fast food) is expensive here. 

Following are highlights of the 13 places we managed to see. Let's just say some were a bigger hit than others.

Agents were not terribly impressed with this museum. We only lasted about 45 minutes before they maxed out. They found a few of the "modern" art pieces slightly more interesting, but mostly they groaned and wondered (loudly) how there could possibly be so many boring paintings of houses and farms and random people doing household chores in one place. 

We never actually went into the Capitol Building itself; we just wandered around the water admiring the ducks. There are a few monuments nearby, but they didn't seem to notice because, look! cool birds! The dome of the Capitol, of course, is in the midst of a huge restoration project and simply not as picturesque with a giant wall of scaffolding around it.

Visiting the largest library in the world? Yes, please. I think that Agent E would have loved a full tour. However, the younger Agents simply wanted to get into the children's room to read and play. We only saw one other family the whole time we were there. The Agents loved having the place essentially to themselves. This was our farthest walk; about 1.3 miles each way.

The central branch of the DC public library system was just a few blocks away from where we stayed. They have an amazing children's area. We went three times, just because. Sometimes if we already did a "big" activity in the morning, we'd come home after lunch but then want to get out again for a little bit in the late afternoon just to take a walk but not do anything too intense or touristy. This worked out perfectly.

We made two trips here and could have made more. There are many stations where you are encouraged to touch/try/experiment, which definitely appealed to them. They enjoyed seeing the early planes and especially the Wright brothers exhibit. We also watched a movie about weather forecasting and satellites that Agent E in particular was fascinated by. They run multiple planetarium shows each day; the one we caught primarily talked about how space exploration has influenced so many advancements in our everyday lives here on earth.

While there are other things to see and do here, the main draw is getting to view the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. All of which are behind glass in a dark room and completely faded and unreadable. I think the Agents were more impressed when we left and walked to dinner at Panera.

This is one artsy thing that they actually did enjoy. We walked through multiple times, and even stopped for snacks at the overpriced cafe. The Senior Agents had fun figuring out what the "art" was supposed to be. Agent A simply took advantage of the fact that we were off the main street and he could run free.

While this was a little dry for Agents J and A, Agent E loved it. The history of US war involvement intrigued her way more than I thought it would. The girl also loves a good timeline, so the whole setup appealed to her sense of order and logic. After our visit I ordered this book to supplement our homeschool history studies. I definitely see us ordering other books from this collection.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! This was by far the favorite stop of all three Agents for this trip. We visited three times, logging over ten hours of viewing exhibits and it still wasn't enough time. I have to admit it surprised me a bit that Agent E's favorite part ended up being the Human Origins exhibit. (A close second was the birth of the solar system.) Agent J was thrilled to be able to see a Julia Longwing in the Butterfly Pavilion. We also spent quite a bit of time in the Mammals section and in the Discovery Room, where they could make a reasonable amount of noise and touch stuff. Unfortunately the dinosaur section is undergoing major renovations right now and closed for the next several years. We could have easily spent all ten days exploring this one museum.

This one turned out to be a little disappointing, only because they had such high hopes for it. Honestly, a lot of it is artifacts behind glass that you can't even get a really good look at. They did really like the ImagiNATIONS activity center (very hands-on) and the trivia games you could play. We built an igloo and practiced balancing in a kayak. 

We went on a rather chilly weekday (40-ish F for a high) and so we didn't really have to deal with crowds, which was nice. We pretty much walked up to every exhibit/habitat and walked right in and could take great pictures. The Agents got to meet a few new animals (fishing cat, anyone?) as well as old favorites. They were more interested than I thought they would be in some of the indoor exhibits, including birds and small mammals. We stayed for four hours and still didn't see everything.

We walked past/through this every day to get to our apartment. We never did actually go into the Naval Heritage Center, although now that I'm thinking about it I'm not sure why. I kind of wish we would have explored this more.

This was another long walk (just over one mile) but afforded Agent A the opportunity to meander down the National Mall collecting leaves without having to hold my hand constantly. We did not go inside (tickets are free but first-come, first-serve for a timed entry and we didn't want to wait around). Truthfully, this was more about the journey and enjoying the views along the way.

As we got ready to leave, I thought of at least a dozen more places I'm sure the Agents would have loved. But, with limited time (and attention spans) I think we did pretty well for a first visit. Definitely a city we'd like to return to.

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