Lives in Colorado
Since Dec 2005
35-49 year old female
Love to explore off the beaten path. Normally a budget traveler with my two pre-teen kids. Follow me: www.instagram/exploringjen
Historic Walking Areas, Parks
Monuments & Statues
Monuments & Statues
Bodies of Water
History Museums, Speciality Museums
Monuments & Statues
Monuments & Statues
Monuments & Statues
Monuments & Statues
Monuments & Statues
Monuments & Statues
Monuments & Statues
Monuments & Statues
Churches & Cathedrals
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Architectural Buildings, Historic Sites, Observation Decks & Towers
Government Buildings, Libraries
Natural History Museums
Monuments & Statues
Historic Sites, History Museums, Theatres
Sacred & Religious Sites, Churches & Cathedrals
Sacred & Religious Sites, Gardens, Churches & Cathedrals
Architectural Buildings, Sacred & Religious Sites, Churches & Cathedrals
Architectural Buildings, Educational sites, Historic Sites, Speciality Museums
We found this hotel to be an excellent choice for our family and have stayed here on multiple occasions. The rooms are family friendly, the hotel offers free included breakfast, and it is located 2 short blocks to the Dupont metro station.
This is a gem known mostly to the locals and shouldn't be missed if you are staying at The Embassy Row Hotel a few short blocks away. The Greek/Mediterranean food is fantastic, served hot and cooked fresh right in front of you. There aren't many tables, so grab a sandwich to go.
There is no better place to start your first day in Washington DC than on The National Mall. Take the Metro to the Mall station and enjoy the view. The mall itself is nearly two miles in length, one in each direction from where you stand, so wear your walking shoes, and don't expect to cover it all in one day! Look at the forecast and plan the nicer-weather day for the west half, which I've listed here first.
As a guiding point that can be seen from nearly all over the city, this is a great place to start your tour of the west half of The National Mall. Book tickets ahead of time if possible, or arrive early for same-day tickets.
This was a fun stop along our "walk of the memorials" The kids had fun finding our home state as well as those we've traveled through. There was also an opportunity to have a snack and dip our toes in the water.
The Tidal Basin can be beautiful, especially when the Cherry Blossoms are blooming. It is also quite large. Consider that, along with the time you have, and walking ability of everyone you are traveling with before heading around the basin. On our first visit to Washington DC, we didn't walk all the way around, on our second, we did. If you chose not to walk around the basin, head for the World War 1 Memorial and on to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, if you head around the basin, turn south toward the Jefferson Memorial. The paddle boats are fun for families, but with so much to see and do in the city, consider the amount of time you allot to this activity as well.
The Holocaust Memorial is located a block off the eastern shore of the Tidal Basin. I got advanced, timed tickets ahead of time in order to avoid the line (I highly recommend doing this). As a new(er) museum, there are long lines and huge crowds here. My kids, ages 9 and 11 at the time of visit, didn't understand much of this museum, as they hadn't studied the Holocaust in school or talked about it much at home. For my family, this was one to skip. Between the crowds, long waits, and heavy subject material, our time would have been better spent elsewhere (like the art or history museum later in the day.)
The Jefferson Memorial, located at the south end of the Tidal Basin offers a nice tribute to Thomas Jefferson. The columns are massive and statue of Thomas Jefferson is impressively large. Take time to read the quotes around the inside walls of the building.
The FDR Memorial was a great find on our walk around the Tidal Basin. It is located on the west side of the Tidal Basin, and stretches over several hundred feet. There are statues, water features, and engraved quotes from FDR. This was an unexpected, nice retreat on an otherwise very long walk around the Tidal Basin for my kids. They enjoyed jumping across the stepping stones of the water features and learning about the Great Depression.
As one of the newest memorials built on The Mall, this is an impressive tribute to a man who changed America. Even if you don't walk around the Tidal Basin, make sure cross to the south side of Independence Avenue to see this remarkable statue and his view of the Tidal Basin.
Continuing toward the Lincoln Memorial, you come across the Korean War Memorial. It is a beautiful tribute to our soldiers who fought in this tough battle. As you stand near the soldiers, you can almost feel as though you are there with them, marching through the fields. The detail of the solders is incredible.
The Lincoln Memorial sits at the West end of the Reflecting Pool and is as far from a Metro stop as we walked. It is one of our favorite places in Washington DC and shouldn't be missed! We visited several times and always felt the walk from The Mall Metro Stop was the most interesting. We walked from Foggy Bottom, which was all downhill, and we took a taxi from the Memorial to the Rosslyn Metro. My 9 year old son loved sliding down the "slide" just to the side of the main steps to the memorial. This was the highlight of his trip until the last day of our trip when they put up "keep off" signs. My daughter loved walking to the back side and looking over the Potomac and Arlington Cemetery. I loved watching the sun set and the sky change from blue to pink over the Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument. This was also a great place to simply people-watch while enjoying a snack. There is quite a bit of symbolism here, take time to research it at home to make the most of your visit.
This is a famous, but very moving memorial to those who served in Vietnam. There are books located at both ends of the wall where you can find the names and locations of loved ones who are listed on the wall. This is a great place to take a pencil and paper to make a rubbing or simply leave a flower. The wall itself is quite long and not protected from the weather, so be prepared for sun and heat, rain, etc.
This monument stands near the wall and recognizes the women who served in the Vietnam war. Take time to learn the significance of each woman.
This slightly off-the-wall memorial is located in the shady grove in front of the National Academy of Sciences at the northeast corner of 22nd & Constitution Ave NW. This was one of our favorite memorials! In Einstein's left hand, he holds a paper with three of his most notable equations and there are three quotes on the back side of the benches surrounding Einstein. Embedded on the ground in front of Einstein are over 2,700 metal studs representing the astronomical objects (suns, moons, stars, etc) exactly as they were at the time of the dedication of the statue. Make sure to stand in center (at the sun) and talk to Einstein, you can look directly into his eyes and your voice will be noticeably amplified, fascinating design!
The Hay-Adams is a well-known hotel overlooking Lafayette Square and the White House. We didn't have the luxury of staying here, but still took the elevator to the top floor. Upon exiting the elevator, an employee let us check out the ballroom and even stand on the balcony to enjoy the view. Definitely a highlight for the kiddos to be treated like VIPs.
This quaint, small church can offer a respite from the heat of the city. It's a cute church sitting across Lafayette Square from the White House. Every president since James Madison has attended at least one service here, and you can look for their names in the pews.
Lafayette Square honors some of the heroes of the Revolutionary War. Since my daughter had just studied the Revolutionary War in depth, this was a fantastic stop for her. She enjoyed seeing the statues and telling us all a bit about their roles in the war.
The White House Visitor's Center is a great place to stop before your visit to the White House (if you are lucky enough to get tickets in advance) or as a replacement to a trip through the White House (if you couldn't get tickets). There is history here of the presidents and of the White House and the employees are quite knowledgeable.
Plan in advance and consider yourself lucky if you land tickets to get inside the White House! In our previous 5 visits, we only got tickets once. It was a great experience and one that I hope everyone can have the opportunity to do once. Once you have cleared the lines and security (which reminded me a bit of Disney - there's always another hidden line just around the corner) you enter the White House on a self-guided tour. Take your time as you pass through the rooms. Also, feel free to ask the Secret Service Agents questions as you go through - they are filled with knowledge and love interacting with guests.
If you have time and it is open, take an elevator ride to the top of the Old Post Office Tower for spectacular views of the city from up high. The tower is home to the Congress Bells, a gift from England which are played on special occasions.
No trip to Washington DC would be complete without a glimpse at the Nation's founding documents. Here you can see the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights along with other documents significant to the history of our country. While in line make sure to stop and look at the Magna Carta located on the wall just outside the Rotunda.
This is a great place to get an overview of the Smithsonian museums that are located on the mall. If you have time in the afternoon, or whenever you are near The Mall Metro stop, take a few minutes to pop your head in here to learn more about which museums will interest your family. While here, don't miss the tomb of James Smithson, the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institute.
If time permits, this is a nice place to visit after the National Archives. Here you will find The Star Spangled Banner, The gowns and china of the first ladies, and other American Memorabilia. You could spend and entire day in each of the Smithsonian Museums and not see everything, so you will need to budget your time, and plan ahead to make the most of your visit. What interests your family? What are your not-to-be-missed items? Start with those to save time and tired feet!
Ah, Ben's Chili Bowl. In our opinion, no visit to DC is complete without a visit to this spot. Bill Cosby and President Obama made it famous with their visits as well as others. You can find pictures on the wall. This place is always packed, but like your good hometown cafe, there's always a spot for your. The staff here work hard and make everyone feel like they are at home. Make sure you try a chili dog, or chili half smoke if you are feeling adventurous! Ben's Chili Bowl is located about 2 blocks from the U Street Metro Stop in a row of unique restaurants and night-life spots.
Wow! This was a hidden treasure that we were not expecting on our visit to Washington DC. After reading the guide books, we thought we knew what we were in for, but we were greeted with an amazing building with magnificent architecture. We found this a great way to marvel the greats of the literary world, but were taken aback at every corner by the beauty of the interior of the building.
This little gem is located just east of the Library of Congress. The outside of the building offers murals of Shakespeare's most famous plays. Inside you will find an intimate theater and a nice little museum showcasing some books and artifacts from Shakespeare.
The majestic Supreme Court Building stands tall behind the US Capitol. It is truly an honor to stand in the highest court, where some of the most influential cases in US History have been heard. There are two very different ways to see this building. If you go on a day when court is in session, you must pass through security, check all of your belongings in a locker (make sure you have 3 quarters), wait in the 5 minute line, then be ushered into the back of the courtroom, where if you are lucky enough to get a seat that isn't behind a pole, you can see the Supreme Court Justices hearing testimony regarding the case being heard that day. On days when court is in session, the building is buzzing with activity and excitement. There are often news stations broadcasting in front of the building, and reporters inside getting the latest news out. Alternately, if you visit on a day when court is not in session, the building is much quieter. You are free to enter the courtroom where you can hear Park Rangers give 30 minute talks about the history of the Supreme Court. This provides you with the opportunity to ask questions and really examine the courtroom and it's architecture. If you are hungry during you visit, the basement offers a fantastic cafeteria. If you are lucky, you might even get to sit next to a Supreme Court Justice while you eat your lunch.
The US Capitol is a landmark knows to nearly every American. Tours can be arranged the day of your visit or in advance by contacting your state representative. We've done both ways, and waited excruciatingly long both times. Because there are strict limitations on what you can take into this building and our long wait to tour the building, it is hard for me to recommend a tour of the Capitol to families. We enjoyed walking around the building much more than dragging through building on an over-crowded tour. An alternate to the tour is to get gallery passes for the Senate or House from your state representative's office. Then you can bypass the tour, and go directly to the gallery to see our government in action. On a hot summer day, make sure you stop by the Summer House, located on the grounds of the Capitol, northwest of the building. Here you will find shaded seating for 22 people, a fountain to enjoy, and drinking fountains in a peaceful, quiet environment.
The Botanic Gardens house a variety of plants, including some of the oldest known ferns. The orchid room is also amazing. This is a great place to grown your green thumb and breath some clean air. This is another place that can be seen in 30 minutes or a full day, depending on your family and your interest level. Think about your interests and plan accordingly.
The Air and Space Museum was exactly as we imagined, only larger! There are wonderful examples here of all types of aircraft, from the Wright Brother's first plane, to Amelia Earhart's plane, to the Mars Rover. If your family has interest or ties to the air or space industry, this is the place for you! If not, I'd suggest a different museum, as The Mall offers something for everyone and there isn't time to see it all. Because of the museum's popularity, this museum is often crowded with school groups, plan accordingly.
The National Gallery of Art houses a huge collection of art from all over the world and all time frames. If you are an art aficionado, you could spend days in this museum alone. At the very least, I recommend asking the desk for the "Less than one hour, West building highlights" guide. It will give you a great overview, in an organized path, through the museum. You wouldn't want to miss Da Vinci or Picasso. After having seen the movie Night at the Museum; Battle of the Smithsonian, my kids found this museum to me a special treat! If your family has interest in art, this is the place for you! If not, you might not want to spend as much time here, leaving time for other museums on the mall. The Mall offers something for everyone and there isn't time to see it all.
Upon entering the building, you are greeted by a huge African Elephant surrounded by other exhibits. If your family has interest in natural history, this is the place for you! You will find ocean animals, a butterfly room, dinosaurs, gems and minerals, and the study of human bones among other things. If this doesn't interest your family, you might not want to spend as much time here, leaving time for other museums on the mall. The Mall offers something for everyone and there isn't time to see it all. This museum is huge (as they all are) and little feet can tire quickly walking through several exhibits. My kids loved the precious gems area, in particular the Hope Diamond. We read about the history of this necklace before arriving, which made the experience more memorable.
If time permits, hop off the metro at the Judiciary Square Metro Station and pop your head into the National Building Museum. This massive building, measuring 316 x 116 ft on the interior, has gigantic columns supporting the roof and upper floors. The space has been used to hold inaugural balls. When entering the building nearest the Metro (on the South side) notice the Presidential Seal set in the floor. Around the exterior of the building is a frieze depicting Civil War soldiers in interesting scenes.
Just outside the National Building Museum and at the Judiciary Square Metro Station is the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. This is a somber reminder of those who lost their lives serving in the line of duty. There is a book listing the names of officers by state that we found quite interesting.
If time permits, stop by Chinatown to see the Friendship Arch dedicated in 1986. There are quite a few sit-down restaurants here (Applebee's, Ruby Tuesdays, Outback, etc) where you can find a bite to eat before heading to an event at the Verizon Center. Notice that all the store's signs are written in Chinese!
This is a great place to learn more about President Lincoln. I highly recommend doing research ahead of your visit and planning to see a play at this working theatre. It will enhance your experience beyond that which you get simply by visiting. Play tickets were priced very reasonably and intermission gave us plenty of time to explore the basement, where there is information on Lincoln's death.
Head to the National Zoo early in the morning where you can see animals from around the world. The animals always seem more active in the mornings. Visit their website ahead of time to know which animals have new babies, those are always fun to see! No trip to the Zoo would be complete without a visit to the Panda House, where you can see giant pandas eating or playing. Plan on spending half a day at the zoo.
President Lincoln's cottage was an unexpected treat on our recent trip to Washington DC. This is where President Lincoln lived with his family during the height of the Civil War. The house is beautiful and the tours are well thought out. They provide you with a glimpse into the daily life and give your imagination the chance to really put yourself into the moment. Plan to spend half a day here including transportation time, as it is located a bit north of the majority of sites in DC.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic church in the US. It is open to the public and serves the Catholic University located next door to the church. This church has been visited and honored by two Popes. The main hall is massive and gorgeous. But the crypt on the lower level that is also interesting. Combining a visit to the Basilica and the Franciscan Monastary will fill half a day easily, plan accordingly in this city filled with lots to see and do.
The Franciscan Monastery was a fabulous stop on our recent trip to Washington DC. It was built in the neo-Byzantine style, resembling the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. We happened to be there for mass in Spanish, which was a unique experience for us. The building is beautiful inside, as are the grounds outside including the Rosary Portico containing 15 chapels depicting the mysteries of the Rosary. The catacombs located under the church here are a real treat and not to be missed! Combine a visit here with the Basilica for a nice half day adventure.
Washington National Cathedral is a beautiful English Gothic style building. It is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and second largest in the US. The interior is a beautiful sight to see, especially if you can time it for services on Sunday. The stained glass is impressive, as are the gargoyles atop the building.
Alexandria is a quaint Olde American town located just south of Washington DC. If you have an extra day, I highly recommend visiting Mount Vernon followed by an afternoon in Alexandria. The town itself offers such treats as the church George Washington attended and the narrowest house in the US. There are lots of shops and eateries along King Street worth stopping at.
Mount Vernon is a beautiful estate on the banks of the Potomac River. The grounds are expansive and each area offers another learning opportunity. There are gardens, a blacksmith, salt house, kitchen, and the main house. My kids enjoyed the ability to run and enjoy a bit of nature after several days of the concrete jungle that is Washington DC.