View Full Version : So, you have three days in Washington, DC

08-31-2013, 10:00 PM
What do you absolutely have to do? Where MUST you go?

I am not a planner. But I need to make at least a little bit of a structured plan.

Our plan is to arrive at Union Station, grab lunch, maybe-maybe-maybe walk to a grocery I've located near the station, then check in to the hotel (walking; it is close). The rest is up for discussion.

First afternoon/evening: Walk to the White House, maybe see some monuments in the evening (cracking the guidebook tonight, I swear)

Next AM: Breakfast early followed by something in the earlier morning, walk to a Smithsonion museum (Natural History?), there 10-1:30ish

PM: Book an afternoon tour to someplace historical?

Evening: Dinner and maybe a hot tub

Second AM: Again with the early breakfast, monuments walk until lunch
PM: Another museum, maybe 2
Evening: Zzzzz

Third AM: ???
PM: Arrive at Union Station in time to catch 4PM train.

Fix it?

08-31-2013, 11:30 PM
Head to Georgetown and take a tour of the C&O canal. Go the gardens at Dunbarton Oaks (nice little museum too). Walk over to the Kennedy Center for a free live performance. Eat dinner at Jaleo - good food and kid-friendly. The Hirshhorn is worth a visit. As is the Phillips Collection. The Building Museum is fun,too.

I haven't lived there for years, though, so listen to the natives. I think we have a bunch of them here.

Accidental Homeschooler
08-31-2013, 11:51 PM
We like the zoo.

09-01-2013, 12:04 AM
Personally You could easily spend three days in the Smithsonian museums and walking The Mall and be happy IMO. I never lived there, but spend a summer just outside of DC and never got tired of the Smithsonian.

The Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum are spectacular. Don't forget the several incredible art galleries that are also part of the Smithsonian -- asian art, african art, american history, portrait gallery..etc, etc. You also have tons of monuments (Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, White House, Capitol) all on The Mall, but don't underestimate how big of an area it really is!

Bonus is all those things are also FREE. Some of the best museums in the world. So, personally, I would probably do a museum and gallery per day plus maybe a city overview tour the first morning. Then just walk and visit the sites. Sit, and people watch. Nothing like feeding the ducks and watching tour bus after tour bus pour out foreign tourists for their 5min photo op, file back in and off they go. Kids have fun on the big open spaces.

09-01-2013, 07:22 AM
Museum of Natural History, definitely. Air and Space Museum if your kids are interested. American History museum for sure. When you need a break, grab some ice cream and go to the top of the Old Post Office and take in the view. DS loved it up there so much we went 3 times during a 2 day visit. :)

The mall is super long. Not sure how old your kids are, but it is a long walk. Capitol City Brewing Co. has good food and great beer, which you might need after a long day of walking. :)

I'm sure the list is endless, but you have to make the most of your time. I'd plan for a mix of museums, city stuff and down time to process. Have fun! :)

09-01-2013, 08:54 AM
Oh, if I drank, I am sure I would! But, nope. Still, thanks for the great replies!

I looked and Mt. Vernon would really be the only excursion to consider. My parents loved it...but they are in their 60s, and were in their 50 when they went, I think, and also it was in a group. I just don't see the kids doing that this time.

So I will stick to the plan, stay near the Mall. I thought about bike rentals for a day; maybe that's what we could do in place of an excursion. We could ride the monuments. My kids are 9 (going on 10) and 12, quite hardy, and should be over this cold in no time! :rolleyes:

I only wish museums and galleries were open in the evenings. But they're not, so these are our operating limits.

Kind of fun that we are learning to do these short city trips together. They're pretty good travelers.

09-02-2013, 05:06 AM
Thanks for this thread - we will be going to DC in the spring, and it is good to have reminders of all the great things to see. Growing up, I lived for awhile in Manassas and went to DC regularly. But I've slept since then, and y'all have reminded me of some things not to miss!

09-03-2013, 08:37 AM
Something I got excited about while reading Lonely Planet was that the Mall now gets visits from food trucks! Woot! My mom had complained about the difficulty in getting lunch/dinner on the Mall without it being at a museum caf when they visited long back. I'm stoked that we'll have options. And also thinking about hitting what looks like an Indian halal place for kabob and butter chicken.

09-03-2013, 08:50 AM
That's definitely an improvement from when we were there a few years ago. I do recall that food was hard to come by, especially for a 6 yo who'd been walking all day. We don't do fast food or most of the stuff in the museums and were terribly disappointed in the offerings. Bring on the trucks! :)

09-15-2013, 09:07 AM
I wanted to pop in and thank you guys for the input.

First off, I recommend taking kids on trains if you get a chance. Lots of good experiences there: navigating train stations, viewing some of the lovely American vistas as well as the dregs of some of the towns along the way, exposure to lots of people you just don't see at airports (socioeconomic, religious/ethnic groups), and of course the simple act of traveling by train. Fun!

Second, yes--food trucks all over the mall. We had no problem finding less-expensive food, drink and ice cream. This was great.

We ended up making it to the Natural History, American History, American Indian, and Air and Space Smithsonian museums. We also visited the Holocaust Museum and the International Spy Museum, and walked through the sculpture garden of the National Gallery. We also made a visit to the Archives to see the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

We did walk to many of the monuments and the White House on our first afternoon, but far better was the last day, when we rented bikes and rode from Union Station all the way down to MLK and made stops at all the monuments in between.

My kids are 9 and 12, and we left our hotel room daily at 7:30, ate breakfast at a nearby cafe instead of pricey hotel buffet, and made our way past the Capitol to the Mall before opening time. We were at museums from opening to close with a break for lunch, and then caught dinner before returning to our room and crashing hard, usually well before 9PM. Exhausting but well worth it!

09-15-2013, 10:00 AM
Oh, I must have missed this thread when it first came around! Sorry! I'm glad you used the bikeshare and discovered the good food trucks. :) I would have also suggested Mitisam in American Indian, but it's expensive.

No one ever does the art museums. Alas. I'm always torn between annoyance and thrilled that even at the height of the season, they're often near empty for us.

09-15-2013, 10:21 AM
My favorite two things from my eighth grade trip to DC were Mount Vernon and the Vietnam Memorial Wall. The Smithsonian was amazing, too, but I think I'd appreciate it a lot more now. Mount Vernon was just so cool. It was my first experience with a historical site of that nature and it was a big catalyst in making me a huge history nerd.

09-15-2013, 10:26 AM
I'm too late as well. But I agree with farrar about the art museums. American Art and the Hirshhorn are wonderful. There's the Sackler, Freer, and African Art museums and the Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Corcoran - a plethora of art galleries! The East Wing of the National Gallery will be closed for a four year renovation, so people should see it asap.

Just yesterday, we went to the art gallery at American University. They had an interesting show about artists making community gardens, and a large exhibition of works by young Israeli artists. The Strathmore also has a small gallery and sculpture garden.

One place not art-related that my daughter loves is the aquarium at the Department of Commerce. My son loved the Spy Museum - we went when he was in his teens.

09-15-2013, 02:26 PM
The Building Museum is another gem favorite of mine and the Einstein statue and we have a downright obsession with the SAAM. But I get why people come, do the biggies and the monuments and maybe one extra - usually the Spy Museum - and don't have time for anything else. I mean, if I was visiting here, that's all I'd probably do.

09-15-2013, 02:38 PM
I am actually hoping we can follow up with another trip next year. We'd go to the Renwick and the National Gallery, Arlington Cemetery, and probably back to Natural History.

Dd was possibly most thrilled with Einstein. I loved the FDR monument.

11-08-2013, 02:55 PM
I am glad to have found this thread. We are considering going to Washington DC over Thanksgiving weekend; the pp's are very helpful.

I need to book a hotel...any suggestions? Walkability and cleanliness are our biggest criteria. I've read positive reviews of the Palomar in Dupont Circle. (and I rec'd a Jettsetter deal email for this hotel yesterday:))
Since we've never been there we would welcome reviews on this hotel or other suggestions.