Our nation’s capital is always a great choice for a family vacation. Not only are there enough activities to keep you and your “munchkins” busy for days, but the city’s symbolism and spiritual pull should be experienced by all Americans, young and old. This is where our nation lives and breathes; it’s a reminder of what a powerful and beautiful country we live in.
You may be daunted by the traffic that routinely winds its way through D.C. Avoid dealing with road stress by taking a bus tour through the city. Bus tours or plane trips are always an option if you don’t want to brave long traffic lines, especially if you live far enough away that a road trip in your vehicle will not be practical.
For a different twist, you may want to try not to focus on the old stand-bys of a trip to Washington D.C. Of course you’ll want to visit famous attractions like the Washington Monument, the Wall and the Smithsonian, and you’ll want to peek at the White House if you have a chance (I got my first glimpse from a swiftly-moving bus window!) but you might want to find something smaller, less known. It seems like every American family and their mother-in-law winds up at some of these crowd-pleasing attractions. Find some quiet places to explore; they are no less historical, but are considered off the beaten path.
Kids (and adults!) will be fascinated with a visit to the International Spy Museum; it is definitely a different approach to our nation’s history and is crammed with educational and historical interest. The International Spy Museum is a high-tech paradise, located in an old brick building that looks as if it jumped right out of the 1930s. Prices are reasonable; $15 for adults (over 12) and $12 for children (ages 4-12). Children younger than 4 are admitted free. The Spy Museum sports a unique gift shop where little spy enthusiasts can get their fill of cool gadgets and souvenirs and an upscale restaurant is located nearby for an unforgettable dining experience.
If you or your children love animals, Washington’s Zoological Park (the National Zoo) is a great find. The zoo is part of the Smithsonian complex but feels like a totally different atmosphere as you traipse around taking memorable photos of furry (and not-so-furry) creatures. From flamingos to bears to sea life, there isn’t much chance that you won’t see whatever animal you may be looking for. Posing with animals makes a great photo op for kids, as long as animals are safely behind their cages! The Zoological Park boasts over 2,000 different animals with countless species and many varieties of birds, reptiles, mammals, etc. Don’t miss the zoo’s store for some great buys.
For a cultural experience, visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. You certainly don’t have to be of the Jewish faith to appreciate the vast number of lives torn apart by the horrendous institution of the Holocaust, which included many countries and resulted in the deaths of many other groups including gypsies and those with certain disabilities. Come here to reflect on the tragic loss and learn about the people killed during the years of World War II. See photographs and special collections and hear amazing stories of survival. Admission is free for the main building and exhibits, but for the large permanent exhibit, you will need a pass.
Most of us have heard of Ford’s Theatre throughout our school years, and we know it’s the place President Lincoln was assassinated. What many visitors may not know is that, in honor of that beloved president, Ford’s Theatre has been reopened and once again puts on performances for awed viewers. Although you won’t find hoop skirts and top hats (unless the performers happen to be performing a play about the Civil War era) it will be interesting to both take in a show and take in the history of this morbidly fascinating building. Tickets for most performances range between the $20.00 and $50.00 price scale depending on which event you plan to attend.
Do some research and you may find a unique activity or an event in the area at the time you will be visiting. The best “off the beaten path” thing I ever found was a slow boat ride down the Potomac to Mount Vernon but there are plenty of things to keep you very busy in and around the city.