A Capital Trip

April was a busy month, capped by a week-long vacation for our family, including 5 days in Washington, DC. It was our kids' first visit to our nation's capital, and the first time for Joanna and I in 30 years. Because they have been learning about American history, this was a perfect time to visit the history museums and memorials.

We were blessed to stay with friends, who live just 40 miles outside the city. (Of course, in that traffic 40 miles means a 2-hour commute, at least.) They have 3 daughters, whom our kids enjoyed getting to know and playing with. I wish we had more time to be with them, but I wore us out cramming in as many activities as possible!

What We Did 

You may get worn our just reading our daily itinerary:
  • Wednesday:
    • Drove to Virginia, taking the western route up I-81. It was a beautiful drive through the mountains and Shenandoah Valley.
    • Took a 1-hour detour to drive through West Virginia, to help Elijah meet his goal of visiting 25 states by the time he's 20 years old.
    • Arrived at our friends' home at 7 PM, after 11.5 hours of driving and stops. 
  • Thursday: 
    • Because of traffic accidents along I-66, it took us over an hour to drive 15 miles to the nearest Metro station, and then we took the Metro train into the city (another 30 minutes). 
    • After a quick lunch (in the food court area of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center), we were off to the Mall! (Much to Hannah's disappointment, there were no stores at this mall.)
    • Museum of Natural History. Otherwise known as the "Museum where evolution is mentioned in 99.9% of the exhibits." (I didn't see that word near the Hope Diamond, but I may have just missed it.)
    • Walked the Mall to see the main memorials, and passed the Washington Monument (it re-opens next weekend). The kids were anxious to see the war memorials, and we spent time at each of these memorials: WWII, Vietnam War, Lincoln, Korean War
    • PS -- The Reflecting Pool isn't so reflecting.
    • Spent 1 hour at the Museum of American History, until it closed at 5:30 PM.
    • Took over 2 hours to get back to our friends' home.
  • Friday: 
    • Got an earlier start, thanks to leaving earlier and no major traffic incidents. We were able to get tickets for an afternoon tour of the Federal Bureau of Engraving, before making it for the opening of the Museum of Natural History. We spent another 2.5 hours there, including about 90 minutes just in the warfare section. 
    • After a quick lunch (PB&Js and snacks), we went to the Holocaust Museum. It was very well done, and our kids saw the children's area and the main part. (Contrary to what we read, I don't think it was too much for kids. It was less graphic than I expected.) The overall theme was: "There were lots of people around: some helped the Jews, some hurt the Jews, and some just watched and did nothing. Let's not ever do nothing again."
    • Tour of the Federal Bureau of Engraving, where we saw some of the $1.5 billion per day being printed. Amazing. 
    • Spent a quick hour at the Air and Space Museum on the Mall. We were tired, but enjoyed seeing the planes and spacecraft.
    • Then, another 2-hour commute home.
  • Saturday: 
    • Slept in a little, but still got to the National Zoo before 10 AM. Spent 5 hours there (more walking, and more of me carrying Sender). We got to the panda exhibit early, and got some great views of the baby panda climbing the tree. We saw lots of other great exhibits (gorillas, lions, etc), but we skipped some. By 3 PM, were were "zooed-out" and we figured that we could see most of the animals in other places.
    • Drove to Baltimore (Inner Harbor area), to walk around and to meet my Uncle, Aunt, and cousins for dinner. They drove down from NJ to meet us! (Note: This trip made Maryland the 11th state Elijah has been to.)
    • Drove back to our house. The 90-minute drive on the interstate was amazingly crowded, even at 10 PM on a Saturday night.
  • Sunday:  
    • Thanks to our friends who hosted us (he works for the Secret Service), we were able to go on a Garden Tour of the White House. And with one flash of the agent's badge, we also got to cut through part of the line. Connections!
    • Took the Metro over to Arlington National Cemetery. It was more of an emotional experience for me than I expected -- just looking at the unending diagonals of tombstones, of men who served our country. We walked around some, but mostly focused on JFK's grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (We got there just 1 minute before the changing of the guard.)
    • Took the Metro back to the city, and got off in the business district. Walked past Ford's Theatre, and the house where Lincoln died. The downtown area was definitely a different feel than the political and museum-filled Mall area.
    • Met my cousin at her office, where she is a top-notch (and humble) architect. (Her office building is right next to the White House, so close that they can often see the snipers on the roof of the White House.) She gave us a tour of her building. For all 3 of our kids who love drawing, they were fascinated.
    • Headed over to see my cousin's townhome (you do not want to know what she and her roommate pay in rent). Then we all went to dinner at a yummy Tapas restaurant that she recommended.
    • Back to our friends' home. No rush hour traffic on Sunday nights!
  • Monday:
    • Said good-bye and packed up.
    • Went to the other Air and Space Museum, at Dulles Airport. This one has lots of planes and spacecraft, including the space shuttle Discovery! The kids all enjoyed the variety of planes, although we were completely worn out after 2 more hours on our feet!
    • Lunch (Moe's Monday!), and then on the road, to a hotel in Fayetteville, NC.
    • We picked this hotel because it had an indoor pool. But . . . the heater to the pool and whirpool was broken. But . . . I talked the hotel into covering the cost of breakfast (not normally included at a Hilton Garden Inn). Thank you, Hilton brand, for your 100% satisfaction guarantee!
  • Tuesday: 
    • Slept in, worked out, ate a great breakfast, and were back on the road. 
    • One last major stop was at South of the Border. The kids couldn't figure out what the point was, but then it was fun. Our 15-minute stop and photo-taking was quite enough.
    • We were so glad to get home in mid-afternoon!

Homeschool Assignment at Its Most Fun?

When we got back home, each of our children had to make a "brochure" based on what they enjoyed in DC. Check them out! (Click on the images for a larger version, or Contact Me if you want it as a pdf.)

Note: I was informed that these brochures are rough drafts. I'll work on getting final versions.

From Hannah:

From Elijah:

From Sender: 

More Pictures

See below for some of our favorite pictures. And if you want, check out some other photos on this FB album.

Hope Diamond

At the Holocaust Museum and Memorial

 Baby panda climbing a tree

My cute zoo critters!

In downtown DC

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