Washington D. C. is the perfect vacation for families with teenagers. When you think about American history you simply can’t leave out Washington D.C. which was the most important stop on our trip. We got to see where the revolution began in Boston. We reveled in the American Spirit and sense of honor while paying our respects at the 9/11 Memorial in New York. Now it was time to see the city where democracy happens, to lay our eyes on the documents that our forefathers wrote over 200 years ago that began our great nation, and to admire the beauty of our Capital. This was my first trip to Washington D.C. and I have to say that every American should see it at least once. More importantly, you should take your kids to see it.
We stayed at the Washington Court Hotel. The hotel is close enough to walk to most of the major attractions in D.C. We had more than enough space in our beautiful room to be very comfortable. The view of the Capital through our gigantic window was stunning. The Washington Court Hotel has a full service restaurant as well as a nice lounge where you could get an awesome burger and fries. In the morning they serve a breakfast buffet, but I chose to have the Eggs Benedict, which was wonderful and not too hard on the pocket book. In fact, if you check their website and book accordingly you can get a really great deal. We booked the weekend getaway package and received $50.00 worth of free food for each day we stayed at the hotel. The only trouble we had was with some of the staff. We had more than a few issues getting people to help us. The business center is great if all you are doing is printing boarding passes for you flight home. Otherwise it costs a small fortune. The free internet in the room worked, but wasn’t strong enough to download a movie on our iPad. All in all, the Washington Court Hotel was a nice reasonable place to stay and I would recommend it for family travelers.
If you are planning a trip to the Capital start making reservations early. We wrote our Senator 4 months in advance and the only tour we were able to get was of the Capital. We were denied access to the White House and the Bureau of Engraving. You can also apply for a private tour of the Library of Congress through your Senator’s office. The Capital Tour was amazing. Our guide was one of the Senator’s aides; he took us through the building telling us all about the art work and history and what part our great state of Illinois played throughout the history of government. You can tour the capital without reservations, but I highly suggest doing it through your Senator. It’s free and easy. Our Capital Building is an incredible thing to see. Words can’t do it justice, it’s just something you have to experience yourself.
The National Mall is huge; bring your walking shoes, you will do a lot of walking in D.C. You’ll want to visit the Smithsonian Museums; I suggest you also plan that out in advance to save time. The best part about Washington is that almost everything is free. However there is so much to see you will want to have a plan to see what your family is interested in. We chose the Museum of Natural History because Jake is a big dinosaur enthusiast. The coolest part of that was the massive display of animals that had been hunted and shot by FDR, who in his prime was an avid outdoorsman. The Smithsonian Castle, which is a beautiful building, houses the remains of the man himself. Also included in the Mall is the Washington Monument (closed for repairs after the earthquake of 2011), the reflecting pool (also empty for restoration) and many of the War Monuments. Our favorite was the WWII Monument that was completed just a few years ago. Although it was incredible to see the Vietnam Wall Memorial as my father is a veteran and Jake could relate because of stories he’s heard through the years. Take the trolley tour of the Monuments by Moonlight! I can’t say enough about how incredible this tour was. To see them by day is moving enough, however by night is breathtaking. The Lincoln Memorial and the Iwo Jima Statues all light up will bring a tear to your eye. They give you plenty of time to hop off the trolley and spend some time at each monument. Make sure your camera is fully charged because you will be taking a lot of pictures on this tour.
Take the public transportation in D.C. without fear of getting lost. The city is small enough to navigate the mass transit system pretty easily and will save you a lot of money on taxis. We took the subway to Arlington National Cemetery where you will view the final resting place of John F. Kennedy and his family, General Robert E. Lee and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You will also see the dedications to our fallen astronauts who have lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration. Graves of soldiers dating back to the Civil War, Arlington is beautiful and ever so mindful of the brave men and women who fight to keep this country free. Take the guided bus tour within the cemetery. Trust me, the place is huge and it’s all up hill. If you walk it, be prepared for a workout. After touring the cemetery, head over to Chinatown for dinner. Mings on H Street was some of the best Chinese food we have ever had.
Of course no trip to D.C. would be complete without a trip to the National Archives to view our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Be ready to wait in line and remember that each of the buildings is free, but under police protection. You will have to remove your belt and jewelry every time you enter a building in D.C. for a security scan. I took Jake to the National Navy Memorial and Museum where he was able to view the great hall of extraordinary sailors like JFK, Roosevelt, Ford and Truman who also served in the US Navy. We watched a movie about what it means to be a sailor and spoke to a veteran sailor who volunteers there. It was an amazing way to end our trip.
An east coast trip is easier than you would think. Amtrak runs up and down all day from each city to make you trip easy. Although we did a lot and both almost dropped of exhaustion by the time we got home, it was an experience that gave us a new view of our great nation and the people who have fought throughout history to guarantee our freedom. This trip was amazing and a fitting end to our traditional family vacations Jake and I have taken over the last 18 years. This is such an amazing country and I’m proud to count my son as one of the hero’s standing up to defend it.