Visiting Washington DC
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Spring Break - Washington DC - 13 year old boy
We're taking our 13-year old son to D.C. for spring break (5 days). What are your recommendations for places to visit that are out of the ordinary? On our list - Spy Museum, U.S. Mint, Air & Space. Also considering Mt. Vernon. Archive recs are out of date. Thanks! Jane
Hi - we just moved from DC - if you like hiking - check out the billy goat trail just outside of DC, in Maryland. It is a fun challenge and has gorgeous views of the Potomac river. You will probably need a car to get there though.
There are also cool Segway tours of downtown. I know it sounds cheesy but it's good way to see the city. Jes
We went to DC when I was in high school. My favorite places were the three Smithsonian museums. I'm not even a big museum person but they were all amazing. I'd love to go back. I also liked our trip to Williamsburg. On the way back we got lost and drove through the bad part of town. I saw my first prostitute! That was exciting also. Have a great time
Dont know what your 13 yr old wuld like but here are some things we liked: national building museum, national portrait gallery, watching congress in session (look on your congress person's and senators' web sites), textile museum, national museum of the american indian, roosevelt memorial, japanese internment memorial, korean war memorial, vietnam memorial, .. Look on line to see what currently is showing in temporary exhibits. Also, if you kid is into airplanes, there is an additional museum out near one of the airports (dulles?). Sorry i do not know more about it. May be run by a state or county. Also, keep an eye out on web pages for sequestor closings, just in case....but should be fine. Travelin' mom
We used to live in Baltimore, so we spent a LOT of time in DC. You could spend at least a week in just the Smithsonian alone. Personal favorite: Air and Space. Do not miss the Tow Path, where you can take a mule- towed barge up the river, through the still-functioning locks, as well as hike. The National Zoo is fun. Go fly a kite on the Mall, near the reflecting pool. Of course see all the monuments. Take a trip out to Gunpowder National Park.
Go eat Ethiopian in Adam's Morgan. Any of the restaurants are great. Please, please please go get some real blue crabs in some crab house like the Quarterdeck or The Warf. It's an experience you will get nowhere else but the Chesapeake Bay. You will never ever touch Dungeoness again. Wendy
We love Newseum, the museum of news on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. It is not part of the Smithsonian and charges a steep entry fee, but it has a wonderful collection: hundreds of on-demand video clips of historic events, all the Pulitzer prize-winning photographs with the backstories, parts of the Berlin wall, the front pages of newspapers from around the world after September 11, a moving homage to reporters killed on the job. We have spent hours there with our teenage son each time we have gone to DC. http://www.newseum.org/
If you like the Air & Space museum, don't miss the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. It is an adjunct to the Air & Space Museum with an enormous collection of aircraft, including the Enola Gay, the Space Shuttle Discovery, and the Gemini VII space capsule. http://airandspace.si.edu/udvarhazy/
And, of course, there is the Holocaust Museum. It is moving beyond belief, but be sure to prepare him because it can be overwhelming. Mom of Big Guys
Traveling to Wash DC summer 2013 - budget hotel?
We are hoping to go to Wash DC next summer and looking for a budget priced hotel in Wash DC and also one in Williamsburg, VA. Our girls are 11 and 13. any suggestions? Catherine
I'm not sure what 'budget priced' means to you; DC is expensive, so 'budget' is relative. We always stay at Georgetown Suites. There are two buldings, both right off M Street. It is an all-suite hotel; each suite has a large BR, a living area with a pull-out couch, and a full kitchen -- ample space for parents and a couple of kids. Breakfast is included in the rate, and they have a parking garage (costs extra). Furnishings are nothing fancy, but it is serviceable and clean. And the neighborhood is great -- the heart of Georgetown, with lots of restaurants and shops. It is a 25 minute walk to the Lincoln Memorial end of the mall (1.5 miles, but very pretty -- along the Potomac), and just a 5-10 minute walk to the Foggy Bottom metro. At under $200/night (I think they have a AAA rate that brings it closer to $175), it is a great deal for a great neighborhood in DC. http://www.georgetownsuites.com/ We Love DC
We (2 adults, 2 teenagers) stayed in Bethesda, MD and took the metro in. It worked great. It was at the Residence Inn (just a block or so from the metro): http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wasbr-residence-inn-bethesda-downtown/ We saved money by eating breakfast in the room and making our lunches. -DC is great
DC vacation with tweens
We're planning a summer vacation in Washington, DC, and I'm looking (mostly) for recommendations for or against the many possible tours, museums, and other 'attractions' - - some of which apparently must be arranged months in advance. Also interested in hotel recommendations, specific or neighborhood. (We expect to stay in the 'burbs for affordability, but hope to find a hotel that's walking distance to a Metro station.)
We have an 11 year old son whose primary interests are mechanical objects -- building, engineering, the physical sciences. We have an 8 year old daughter whose primary interests are nature -- birdwatching and the like -- and art. Neither is, at least as of yet, terribly interested in politics, government, or history, but *I* am excited by those things, and have never been to DC. (My husband went once as a kid.) We enjoy theater and dance; none of us cares about sports; our vacation-shopping tastes run to local handicrafts and open-air markets rather than high fashion.
We have one week, during some of which time I will be attending a conference, and we'll be there for the 4th of July. What should we absolutely not miss? What could we skip? What are some good places for Dad to take the kids for half a day, that I won't mind missing out on? Where are the best fireworks? TIA! holly
Our kids really enjoyed the tour at the bureau of engraving. You have reserve a spot on a tour, we went late in the day and got one at about 6:30 pm. I also recommend the children's section of the holocaust museum which is beautifully done. (The main museum is way too much for an 8 year old).
Thanks to fears of terrorism, access to the Capitol is severely limited and the tours are not very extensive or interesting. If Congress is in session you can get a pass to the gallery from your representative but if your kids aren't into politics that will probably not be very interesting for them. The White House is similarly extremely limited and not very interesting.
The Smithsonian is a treasure trove of all kinds of stuff, so plan on hitting the American History building to see things like the original star spangled banner (which is huge) pop culture ephemera; they usually have special exhibits that are beautifully put together and very interesting.
The Air and Space museum on the mall seemed to be a bit dated the last time I was there, but take the free shuttle to the new wing out near Dulles airport. It is massive and they have things like a stealth bomber and one of the space shuttles.
I also highly recommend the Archives, not only to see the declaration of independence and so forth, but they have very interesting exhibits featuring the materials in the archives (like presidential papers and things like that). It was fascinating and kept my girls very busy.
The National Gallery has a great collection and good tours; the East Building alone is worth a walk through and usually has some very interesting exhibits.
I also recommend going to things like the Lincoln Memorial, in the evening when it is a little cooler. And check out the FDR memorial, near the Jefferson memorial, it is very interesting.
The best part -- most of these museums are free! It is a great city to visit and should be extra fun around the 4th, though probably crowded. There used to be a folklife festival on the mall at that time of year, don't know if it still goes on. Have a great time! DC fan
Newseum, Spy Museum, Crime Museum -- every one of these costs money (a lot). In DC, where there are amazing free museums, it seems crazy to pay for these. BUT my kids really like them. And, I figure given how much we've paid to be in DC, I need to have perspective.
Ford Theatre (I was there in the spring and asked if I remembered correctly being able to go into the balcony where Lincoln was shot and was told in the summer, when there are fewer tourists, it's still possible). I know your kids aren't very interested in history, but this is as accessible as it gets -- someone being shot, Lincoln, compelling and understandable story and chronology.
Fredrick Douglas house -- ok, this is more a place you drag the kids to, but not too deadly for them. And, as a result, they've always perked up when his name comes up. They just feel more of a connection to him. Make a reservation a few days ahead of time.
For your daughter, I've found boating on the Potomac events, canoeing, etc. Fairly cheap. Never convinced my family to go.
My kids really wanted to tour the White House. (Make sure they understand they won't see Obama.) It may be easier to get tix in the summer. Call Barbara Lee's office and stay on them.
Everyone else will tell you about the museums of awesomeness. have a great time!
Need a good hotel in D.C.
I'm traveling to Washington, D.C. for a week in August with my husband and six- and 10-year-old sons. We'd like a nice place to stay that's not too costy. Can anyone make a recommendation?
Hi-I just got back from a delightful stay at the Tabard Inn at Dupont Circle. MANY thanks to the person who recommended it before - I chose it based on that. It's: http://www.tabardinn.com/
I found it very inexpensive - I chose a room w/o bath and it was only $113/night. For a family you'd need a more expensive room or suite. I loved the price, the colorful walls, the friendly staff, the quiet location (near metro and in a nice area to walk around), and the very excellent restaurant.
However, is it a good choice with kids? I wondered how my two boys ages 5 and 8 would do there. There was no tv/radio, the atmosphere is (and clientele seemed) very European, it seemed like a fair amount of business travellers (maybe less so in summer). They did offer a shared pc with free internet, day passes to the nearby YMCA, and there are many living room type areas (live jazz one night) for reading a book or playing a game. For my two, if I wore them out plenty seeing the sights during the day I think they could behave themselves ok here, even though it isn't designed for kids exactly. But if you're looking for tv + a pool, this isn't it. - Charis
What to do in Washington DC with teens?
Family of four (two teenaged boys) spending spring break in DC. We love the offbeat and would like any recommendations for what we absolutely must see/do/eat while in DC. Advice on crowds, tix, etc welcomed. Also - what is a great neighborhood seafood joint? Thanks everyone!
I lived in DC for 8 years and just got back from a long weekend there. Also, I tend to like the funky. I'd highly recommend Lebanese Taverna for dinner. Amazing food and not too expensive. Not sure about seafood in DC these days, per se. Buy souvenirs at the Spy Museum. Didn't go to the actual museum, but t-shirts and other stuff were very unique and fun. Lesser known galleries are THE MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART AND NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, THE RENWICK (love the piece ''Game Fish'' and ''Ghost Clock.''). These are part of the Smithsonian so they are free. Funky neighborhoods: U Street and Adams Morgan (tho A.M. is more gentrified these days). Breakfast at Eastern Market on Capital hill is fun and the art/flea market there is wonderful. Have fun. It's a great city beyond the ''Hill''. dc-lover
If you don't get any good recommendations here on food, go to chow.com I use that site all the time when I travel to a new place and want to find some really good local food joint. Also, if you don't get good recommendations on off beat stuff to do in DC, check out the fodors chat page for that area and search the archives. If you don't find what you need, define ''off-beat'', narrow your scope a bit and ask the participants. I've received some great advice from that site. Anon.
We took the white house untour, which was great, for kids, it was led by a storyteller, they have other great tours too, depending upon the age/maturity of the kids (my 6 year old loved it).www.washingtonwalks.com--highly recommend it!! anon
DC/Virginia with kids
We are considering a trip to the DC/Virginia area over the winter holidays. We have three children, ages 1 to 15, and are looking for any recommendations of great things to do and places to stay. Thanks! Travelling mom
We just returned from DC with our daughters age 5 and 18 mos. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is beautiful (dinosaurs, mammals, IMAX sharks! etc) and great for ALL ages. Haven't been, but the Air & Space Museum is supposedly very good too. Plus, all museums are free! There are also very good double-decker bus tours of the city and historic sights/monuments near the capital. View from the Washington Monument is supposed to be pretty cool too. The National Zoo was fun as well - we did that when we had just one child. Have fun. Nina
The Smithsonian museums in DC are fantastic. And they are Free! Esp since you will be going during the winter, it'll keep you out of the bitter cold. A huge hit with the younger ones, and all ages really, is the Air and Space Museum. I also really liked the National Museum of the American Indian on my most recent trip. The National Zoo is great, but that's a touchy one - not everyone likes zoos. Also, you'll be outside...something to consider. The Lincoln Memorial is quite impressive. There is a ton of ''sightseeing'' stuff along those lines... You'll have plenty to see and do! And their Metro system is Great.
Into Virginia itself, about 2.5 hrs from DC area is Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg. Also pretty cool for the kids. Carol
depending on their interests, the National Air and Space Museum is often a hit with kids, and would be a warm pastime in what can be very cold weather at that time of year. I don't recall what the Zoo is like at that time of year but it's a possibility as it's a pretty good one. both are very convenient to the Metro. have fun! lived there
I recommend staying somewhere on a Metro line for easy transportation around. DC is full of fun things for families and kids, many of which are free. Here are some ideas:
All of the Smithsonian museums, of course (free!, esp Air & Space and Natural History
Carousel on the Mall
International Spy Museum
National Zoo (free!)
Bureau of Printing and Engraving -- see money actually being made (free, I think). I grew up in DC and this was always the most fascinating thing for me...
Shopping in Georgetown
Walk along the C Canal if the weather isn't too cold
former DC resident
DC is fantastic with kids! In addition to visiting the wonderful Smithsonian museums, we took our children to Mt. Vernon. The boat ride to George Washington's home is a grand little adventure from DC, and ol' George's home has fun activities specifically designed for kids.
You might also like to check out the Contra Costa Times' parenting blog, aPARENTly Speaking. We've been running family travel tips - kid-friendly hotels, great eats and cool sightseeing suggestions from Bay Area parents. There's one from a Kensington family who did DC and the Big Apple this summer - it includes links for booking behind-the-scenes Capitol tours and having breakfast with a senator - fun! This weekend we're adding an entry from a Clayton family who raved about DC's International Spy Musem and the Smithsonian's Space & Air Museum too. (Other entries feature Mexico, California beach towns, London and Wales, etc. and we're always looking for more!) If you're interested, the aPARENTly Speaking link is at www.ContraCostaTimes.com/blogs. And if you want more, there's a family travel archive link in the blog's lefthand column. Happy travels! Jackie B
Toddler hangouts in Arlington, VA or DC?
My husband, our 18-month-old, and I will be in Arlington VA for three days (next Mon-Weds). I'll be working and he'll be entertaining our son from 8am to 6pm each day. In a hotel room. They'll be going bonkers within hours. Are there any good play spaces, toddler hangouts, fun things to do for hours on end that are either in Arlington near the Ballston Metro stop or within reach of the Metro? many thanks!! Mary
There is so much to do in DC! Riding the metro is a great toddler adventure. On the Mall, downtown, the museums are all free, and if the weather is nice, is a good place for a toddler to have huge amounts of open space for running around. Museum-wise, Air and Space and Natural History are kid favorites. The National Zoo is also fabulous and free. There is also a Children's Museum in DC, which I don't think is free. Everything is metro accessible. abby
Seeking Washington DC Hotel Suite Nov 2-5
My partner has a conference in DC in Nov and we'll stay where the conference is (Renaissance Mayflower) for those days, but hope to find a hotel with a reasonably-priced suite (under $300?) for us (and a nephew to stay with us). We've heard that Dupont Circle is a good area. Thanks
Hi, We just stayed in a GREAT hotel that I'll recommend to anyone who asks... The River Inn in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, near GWU. http://www.theriverinn.com/index.php All suites w/kitchenettes, clean and even hip in design and decor. Reasonably priced with a good, but pricey restaurant in the lobby Alison
Staying in Dupont with small children is not something i would recommend. While it's close to the Mayflower - it's not kid friendly there at all - unless your kid is 21! Try the embassy suites at chevy chase - it's only a few more stops away on the metro. if that's too pricey - try something else in that neighborhood because it's way more kid friendly up there north of dupont & the zoo. Your child will love the metro and it's very safe. I lived there for 8 years and stayed at the Grand Hyatt last time i was in town - it's fine but not the huge suites you're looking for. Alternately, you could try Silver Spring, Bethesda or Roslyn/Arlington - as potentially cheaper alternatives on the Metro line. Hope that helps debbie
my favorite hotel anywhere is the Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle in DC: http://www.tabardinn.com/home.htm. i believe they have suites, but no tvs. Not that kid-friendly however.
DC at Xmas -- fun for 14 mo old and 2.5 yr old
We'll be heading to Bethesda for Xmas with our 14 mo old and our 2.5 year old nephew. I checked the archives but there isn't much listed. Just wondering if anyone has recommendations on particularly fun places to take kids that age. Something like Habitot of the East Coast? Also interested in any restaurants you found that were great for kids *and* had good food. Thanks. dc bound
We just moved here after ten years in the DC area, and so I can offer a lot of tried and true suggestions. You don't say where in Bethesda or if you will have a car or do mass transit, but the Metro is a great way to get around and super kid-friendly. You can't roll your stroller right onto the bus like you can out here, but all the Metro stops have elevators and are very stroller friendly. One easy and fun outing would be to take the Red Line from Bethesda to Union Station, where they always have a big model train setup and lots of great holiday decorations. There's tons of space for them just to roam around indoors. You can choose from several casual sit down restaurants, one nice one, or a food court. (And maybe even do a little last minute holiday shopping). All the Smithsonian museums are free, as is the National Zoo (and all fairly Metro accessible, although you will be walking a bit.) The Insect Zoo at the Natural History Museum is great for really little ones - lots of stuff at their eye level and a fairly contained space. AIr & Space is always packed and slightly better for older kids. Also the American History Musuem has a Transportation exhibit with big trains, buses, etc. that is fun. And when the weather is terrible and they are bouncing off the walls, check out www.gosilverstars.com, which is not too far from Bethesda and offers a one-hour open gym on weekdays with all the gymnastics and tumbling equipment for kids under 5 for $5 each. (Check the website for holiday scheduling). Have a great time! Pamela
DC has a great children's museum in NE Washington. Both kids should have fun there. The National Zoo! There is an aquarium in Baltimore. Bethesda is the burbs so there are lots of family casual restaurants as well as Gymboree-type places throughout Montgomery County. DC proper dining is more for those on corporate accounts, ie fine dining, but there are lots of casual ethnic restaurants in the neighborhoods. Great Metro and bus system so you could ride to the museums and the kids could have the fun of the transportation while you get to see the art/history. There is the National Christmas Tree and they have reindeer in a pen. Also, off 16th St. NW there is the most outrageous holiday home worth seeing. People come by the busload. Look at the Washington Post on line and see about special events while you are in town. Don't forget to check out Baltimore too. Elizabeth
Bundle the kids up warmly and take them to the National Zoo. See if you can get tickets through your senator or congressman to go on a tour of the white house and view the christmas decorations. Take the elevator to the top of the washington monument. The 2.5 will also probably be fasinated by the lincoln and Jefferson memorials. The natural history and american history musuems might be interesting enough for the children on a limited basis. As far as restaurants, Clydes in Georgetown is casual and noisy enough to host children. Linda
How funny! We have a 3YO and a 14 month old and we will be in the DC-area at Christmas too! We are planning on going to outdoor things mostly eventhough it'll be cold. We are taking them to see some snow (about a 45 minutes drive) at one of the ski resorts. We are also taking them on some hikes. I'll ask my MIL who lives there what else she recommends and write you off-list if you give me your e-mail. Let me know what else you find out too if you don't mind. Thanks! lynn
For activities for children in different cities, check out www.gocitykids.com. Here's a link to their seasonal activities list for Washington, D.C., which is quite exhaustive: http://www.gocitykids.com/calendar/month.jsp?area=193=2423=12 ho, ho, ho
A correction to someone's post: DC's children's museum is closed (until 2008!) while they're rebuilding/revamping. And you might be lucky enough to have snow on the ground right there in DC-- there's some still on the ground now (Dec. 13) from a previous snowfall. Ellen
We are planning a trip back east this summer, with a week in NYC and a week in DC and we are looking for recommendations for good, inexpensive places to stay in DC. Anyone know of a place to get apartments by the week? Or motels with a kitchenette? There are four of us, myself, my husband and our two daughters who will be 9 and 11. Also, we're thinking of an overnight in Williamsburg, any recommendations there? We don't need luxurious, just clean and well located, though I guess a pool would be nice too. Alice
When my family moved to DC way back when in the 70's, we stayed for a week at the Guest Quarters in Alexandria (right outside DC) Virginia. I believe they rented by the week, had kitchenettes, a pool, laundry, tennis courts, etc. Good Luck finding places! Sean
We will be spending a few days in Washington DC this summer and I'm looking for an affordable kid friendly place to stay. We have a two year old boy. Any type of place is fine...hotel, B, etc. Does anyone have any recommendations? I'm not too familiar with DC, so I'm not sure what neighborhood we would like to be in, so I'll take suggestions on that too if anyone has any! Many thanks! Monique
I used to live in DC. There are many hotels in the Dupont Circle area where I lived. This is definitely the most convenient neighborhood to stay in if you're there for a visit. It is close to the metro, walking distance to many museums, the mall, the White house. Lots of fun shops, restaurants. I know that there are several larger hotels located on P Street. There is also a Hyatt or Hilton located on Connecticut Avenue Don't be tempted into staying near the Mall. There is nothing to do at night around there and it can be a bit sketchy. Dupont is a lovely, safe, neighborhood. Anonymous
Check out www.tabardinn.com for a funky, non-traditional, affordable hotel in dupont circle. it is close to everything and a real breakfast comes with it. if you want more of a traditional hotel, lincoln suites on m street has kitchenettes and is reasonably priced plus a good location. in the summer there are lots of rentals in people's homes and i could help you find those if you are interested. my husband is a dc native and i still work there so feel free to e-mail with any questions. Elizabeth
I'll need childcare in DC for 1 day while I'm at a business meeting. Any suggestions? Thanks Tania
I have used two DC based nanny services in the past. I generally stay in a hotel so the nanny spends time in the room and on the grounds with my child (Bring toys). Most of the nanny services have a 4 hour minimum and with fees etc cost about $50/four hours. The phone numbers are: weesit 703-764-1542 and baby boo 202-347-2105
I always set these up before leaving home, and reconfirm once I am in DC. sheri
Does anyone know of a babysitting service in Washington, DC? Also, does anyone know if there are any drop-in chilcare centers there? I am looking for something in Northwest, in either the Dupont Circle or Foggy Bottom areas. Thanks! Miriam
Two weeks ago, I needed a sitter in Washington, D.C. A friend who lives there sent me these three numbers:
- Family and Child Care - (202)723-2051
- Wee Sit - (703)764-1542
- Mother's Aides - (301)424-6000, www.mothersaides.com
The conference organizer told me another attendee had used a firm called Whitehouse Nannies and was happy with the person they sent.
My family will be vacationing in the Baltimore/Washington DC area for 10 days in June. I am looking for any recommendations regarding sightseeing -- don't miss places to visit as well as any other tips (i.e. parking, crowds, etc.). Am especially interested in information about the Smithsonian and the National Zoo. Note: kids are 10, 4, and 1. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks. Holly
I gave a book to a friend who was visiting DC a few years ago that was entitled something like Kids in D.C. She loved it. You could probably find it at Cody's in the travel section under Washington D.C. I'm a big believer in (good) guidebooks: they save a lot of time and make for a happier/more efficient vacation. Linda
In the Washington area, Baltimore has some great places for children - including the B train museum, the Baltimore children's museum, and the Aquarium.