I love Washington DC. Always have. During high school and college, I assumed I’d end up living there as an adult, working full time in politics. Didn’t work out that way (although maybe it still will at some point!)
When I was only 15 years old, my parents allowed me to move to DC all by myself for one entire summer to work as an intern in the office of my then-congressman, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN). This wasn’t part of any organized program or school thing; I just rented a room in a house just off Capitol Hill full of 23 year olds who had just graduated from William and Mary and UVa, and I got myself to and from the office each day, and I had a fantastic time. Were my parents insane? Possibly so. But it was a great summer – wacky mishaps and all – and it was during those three months that I really fell in love with the city.
I came back for another full summer internship between my freshman and sophomore years of college, and this time, I learned to appreciate not only the iconic DC landmarks and attractions, but I also spent many a happy post-workday nighttime seeing some great live shows at the 9:30 Club, or dropping quarters in the jukebox for one Hank Williams song after another while packed into a red plastic booth with friends at the Tune Inn.
The first time I ever took my own children to DC, Henry was 5 years old and J was only one – just about the age that Danger Baby is now. We drove up to hang out for a week with my little brother Robert, who was in law school at Georgetown at the time. I still remember it as one of the best little family vacations we ever took. Five year old Henry was far more interested in the pigeons on the National Mall than in the Monument or Museums, and he was adorable. He also loved the giant pandas we took him to see at the National Zoo. His Dad teased him and told him that they were actually men in panda suits, and for the rest of his life, Henry cracked that same joke any time he saw a panda in a magazine, or on television: there were those men in panda suits again! His toddler sister J was still breastfeeding at that time, and I remember that I had her in a sling, quietly nursing during the entire run of the White House tour that we took.
In my opinion, Washington DC is one of the absolute best places in America to take kids of any age for a vacation. There’s so much to do, and lots of it is totally free. Also in DC’s favor as a vacay spot, because the city is so walkable, and because reliable, clean public transportation is readily available, you can get children from one attraction to the next without the hassle or expense of dealing with a car.
Although any time of year can be fun, the best times to take kids to DC are late spring and early fall. The city gets INSANELY hot and crowded in the summertime, and winters there can be pretty chilly. Early spring can work too, but it’s a bit of a gamble. DC in March can still be pretty blustery and cold.
But this week, my sister Betsy scored when she took her three kids, 13 year old El, 9 year old M and 4 year old NC, as well as my 14 year old son E up to DC for half of the kids’ spring break vacation from school. The weather has apparently been awesome, and Betsy reports they’ve been having an awesome time, as does E, who has been regularly texting me reports of what he’s seeing and doing, including a snapshot of Abe Lincoln’s actual stovepipe hat that he took at the Smithsonian’s Civil War exhibit.
I thought I’d share some of the photos from the kids’ adventures in DC this week – including a silly travel photo they took for Henry. And here they are…
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How about your family? Have you ever done the Washington DC vacation thing with kids before? What did you think? Which sites did your kids love and which ones would you skip in a do-over? Share your thoughts on vacationing in DC in the comments below.
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