This post is long overdue. I finally got together our favorite places to visit in DC. I say “with kids” because I always have my kids with me (I’ve never even left my 3 year old overnight… who am I kidding, she doesn’t even like me to leave her for a few hours), but DC is so wonderful for people of all ages. I 100% recommend this trip to anyone (but for sure, all Americans) at least once. I’ve share this multiple times, but I LOVE history and I have a deep rooted love for my country (shouldn’t we all?). One of my favorite quotes about history is by Theodore Roosevelt, “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” These words ring truer than true (in my opinion). I’m not here to give a history lesson, but I think it’s important to know why I’m so passionate about the city of DC.
For five beautiful weeks, we had the opportunity to live right in the heart of downtown Washington DC. The mornings were filled with school, but the afternoons and evenings were spent exploring the history of the United States. Now, I’d been to DC a few times before, but the time that really got me on fire for the area was last February. I boarded an airplane alone with my 2 year old and 6 year old in tow for 4 days exploring in DC. I couldn’t get enough. Anyway, enough rambling, here are our favorite places to visit in our nation’s capitol.
SMITHSONIANSThere are a whopping 19 of them in the DC area… and the best part, they are all FREE! It could easily take you weeks to through all of these museums. We hit almost every single one, but we definitely had a few that we preferred and went back to more than once.
1. Air & Space Museum – This one is fascinating. It shares a full background of the United States’ history in this area. One thing we enjoyed there was a themed story and craft time at select time during the week.
2. Natural History Museum – My littlest Sailor could’ve gone to this one everyday. Every time we went in this one, I was reminded of the movie Night at the Museum (starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, & Owen Wilson). This museum is the home of hundreds of animals (no longer living) from some of the largest like an elephant, giraffe, and buffalo to some of the smallest including sea animals. This museum is all about the natural world. We also loved the indoor butterfly garden (small charge for this).
3. Portrait Gallery – I wouldn’t call this our favorite, but we truly enjoyed all of the presidential portraits located inside the gallery. It also had an excellent kid space with books, puzzles, and activities and an amazing covered courtyard with tables and chairs and space to play.
4. American History Museum – We easily spent the most time at this Smithsonian. The title speaks for itself. It has TONS of American history. One of the highlights for me is where they keep all of the First Ladies’ Inaugural ball gowns, china, and more information about each of them. They also had a super cool play area for kids 6 and under and then an innovation lab for older kids.
NATIONAL ARCHIVESUnfortunately, I don’t have any pictures here because it’s not allowed, but the National Archives is the home to some important original documents such as the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and Constitution of the United States. They are kept under around the clock security and are preserved incredibly well.
President Lincoln is one of the most well known presidents. The Ford Theatre is where Lincoln was shot. The theatre still holds plays there today, and a museum on Lincoln is located in the basement. Across the street is the house where Lincoln was taken and then died. You can tour it as well as another museum connected to it.
One reason we like the Ford Theatre is because there is a little whole in the wall restaurant Lincoln’s Waffle House located right there across the street, and it’s such a fun and unique experience.
NATIONAL ZOOWe hit the zoo last February only to find out that the pandas were “off exhibit for reproductive activities”. Presley read the sign aloud and said, “Mom, the pandas are in the back doing fun activities.” Oh child, if you only knew. With that being said, we had to go back and see the pandas this time around. They were the cutest EVER. Did I mention that the zoo is also FREE? We were so blessed to be joined by one of my friends that I went to school with from 4th grade through high school and her two girls. Highly recommend.
MUSEUM OF THE BIBLE
Coming from a Christian background, this museum was very special to us. We visited twice, and were very impressed by how well it was done. As usual, a highlight for us was the kids’ area. It was a dedicated room with games, activities, and a jungle gym that incorporated Bible stories for kids. I am thrilled that this museum has become a reality in the DC area.
MONUMENTSThere are so many monuments in the area, but some of the highlights for us included the following:1. Lincoln
4. Martin Luther King Jr.
PENTAGONWe solely went here to see the 9/11 memorial. It was absolutely moving. There is nothing excited about it, but it’s so special to pay respects to the victims.
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
The feeling you get when visiting the Arlington National Cemetery is overwhelming. It gives you such a small glimpse into how many thousands of people that have sacrificed their lives for freedom. It’s a lot of walking uphill, so I highly recommend to pay a small price to ride the trolley tour. They let you on and off throughout the cemetery, and also give lots of information during the rides between stops. By far the favorite here is watching the changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A tomb that is guarded 24/7 365 days of the year.
WAR MEMORIALS1. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
2. National World War II Memorial
3. Korean War Veterans Memorial
4. US Marine Corps War Memorial
This one is not in the heart of DC, but completely worth the visit. It’s the home of our first president, George Washington. I learned so much visiting here, and the view behind the home is breathtaking.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
I was blown away by the beauty both on the outside and the inside. We weren’t able to spend a ton of time here, but it’s is a functioning library and also houses mini museum like exhibits inside. The children’s library was also a big hit for my girls.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
If you’re a history enthusiast like me, then you have to go by the Supreme Court. Some of the biggest decisions in our country are made here, and I truly just had a sense of aww seeing it and walking up the steps. We also happened to be in town while the most recent justice was being voted on. There were protesters, supporters, and tons of capitol police to keep everything peaceful. It felt like we were watching a small bit of history unfold before our eyes.
UNITED STATES CAPITOL BUILDING
Something amazing unfolded the day we arrived in DC. We ran into someone that my husband had recently worked with that was interning at the Capitol. He had also just moved there that same day. He kindly offered to give us a private tour while my parents were in town visiting, and then did again when my husband was available to come with us. He gave us an extra special treat by taking us out on the Speaker of the House balcony right above where Presidential Inaugurations take place. We saw the most spectacular view of Washington DC.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Last, but not least is the White House. I saved it for last because it was so special. We lived just a few blocks from it, and walked by it at least 4 days a week just to take in the view. When we arrived in DC, another gentlemen my husband had worked with called and said his sister lived in the area and that she had a friend that worked at the White House. He then said that this friend would be willing to give us a private tour of the West Wing of the White House. Say what?! It was the most incredible experience especially because our tour guide was so kind and knowledgable. He then set us up a public tour of the White House later the same week.
Finally, here is a list of some of our favorite restaurants in and around the area in no particular order.- Old Ebbitt Grill- The Hamilton- BLT Prime- Founding Farmers DC- Legal Sea Foods- Cosi- Hen Quarter- The Smith- District Taco- Shake Shack- Lincoln Waffle Shop- Captain Cookie & the Milk Man – Presidential Scoops- Tupelo Honey in Arlington- Table Talk Restaurant in Alexandria
If you have stuck around until the end, bless you. When giving a city review/guide, I try my absolute best to give as much information and pictures as possible. If you aren’t heading to DC, save this post until that time comes. As always, thanks for your support and thanks for reading.