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Trip Report Just got Back from our DC/VA trip...

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Our family (DH, Myself, Son - 12, and 10-year old triplets (2 girls and 1 boy) traveled by van from the upper midwest with our friends (mom, dad, and 2 sons 13 and 10) to DC and VA. It was busy, HOT, and a great time. Much of the small tidbits that made our trip successful came from reading this board. This was our first trip east.

June 13 - We arrived at our hotel: Comfort Inn at Shady Grove. (http://www.comfortinn.com/hotel-gaithersburg-maryland-MD413/Hotel-Photos?sid=DW4Vg.CEM1tgAKqi.9&sarea=&sname=&slon=&slat=&schain=&scountry=&sstate=&type=&sradius=&sstate_country=&scity=) The hotel was clean, quiet, and the staff was extremely kind - the breakfast was ok. The downside: the rooms were on the small side and the pool hours end at 8 PM. We walked to and from the metro each time - somewhere between .7 and .8 miles and the walk was safe for us all. They do run a shuttle that only takes 6 people at a time (minivan.) The metro rides from that location were about 40 minutes to Union Station but we had some of our best times visiting with locals on the metro.

That night, we rode in on a nearly empty metro (great for the kids to figure it out) and did the monuments at night tour. We took the Trolley and Jazzy Jan was our hostess. We LOVED this experience. We could have walked the whole thing, but this was a great way to see the majority of the city and understand the layout a little bit before the big walking days. AND, seeing the city at night is a must. We grabbed food at Union Station and were able to take it on the trolley. The kids loved the "vendor" right outside Union Station selling bottled water for $1 - they are still talking about him.

June 14
We were tired from getting in late from the night tour and didn't feel up to facing rush hour on the metro so we didn't leave our hotel until 9:00. The metro was busy but not full, much to the kids' dismay. They just wanted to have to stand. After dumping our plans to take the double decker bus tour, we decided we could get around using the metro just as well and went straight to Arlington. We did pay for the tour there and it was well worth it. It was incredibly hot, and sweat was pouring in all the wrong places. For our family, it was $33 for the tour. The kids were mostly unimpressed with the grave sites but all LOVED the changing of the guards. We spent about 3 hours there and hopped back on the metro, heading to Air and Space. We got on a metro with no air conditioning and will never do that again - get off and catch the next one. DRIPPING!! So off to Air and Space we went, where the air conditioning and McDonalds were welcomed!! Our lunch cost us about $7-$8 per person. Our boys enjoyed Air and Space but the girls and adults were very bored. We have been to Kennedy Space Center and numerous Flight Museums so most of it was stuff we had seen before. Still, it is a must see for those who enjoy this kind of thing. After A&S, we went back to the hotel and let the kids swim.

June 15
We strapped on our tennis shoes, knowing this would be "that" day . We started off right at rush hour and WOW the kids were NOT disappointed this time - standing room only. And then that train had to empty and we reboarded the next train with everyone and then we became sardines - standing and no personal space what soever. It was on this ride that we met the nicest local woman who allowed one of my girls to sit on her lap and told us all kinds of nice local information, including the fact that the current temps were way warmer than normal. We started with a pre-booked capitol tour. The kids sat at the computers in the visitors' center until we made them move on, enjoying the learning experience. The tour itself was so-so. The adults enjoyed it but the kids couldn't see well and the ear pieces didn't work, so they couldn't hear anything.

After the Capitol, we took off towards the Holocaust museum with our pre-booked timed tickets (1:15.) We grabbed lunch on the corner by the Dept of Ag and the Holocuast Museum: 6 hot dogs, 2 waters, and 1 Mt Dew and paid $30 for the lunch. (Costs on this stand weren't posted, but the stands that are everywhere else had posted costs.) We had a little extra time, so we decided to stop in at the BEP to see if we could get tickets since our Representative's Office did nothing to help us out at all and sure enough, we grabbed tickets for the 6:15 tour. We took all the kids in the Holocaust Museum and they all enjoyed the kids' area (Daniel's Story) and all of my kids went through the whole thing. My 12 year-old is a huge history buff with extensive knowlege about the Holocaust, so he read almost everything. The 10-year olds were bored. Our friends' kids were bored from minute one of the adult part so they just sat in the lobby with their dad.

From the Holocaust Museum, we went on a walking tour of all the main monuments again: WWII, Lincoln, Washington, Korean War, Vietnam War - all the reflecting pool sites. We also saw the Einstein statue and the buzzed past the White House. One of the kids really had to go to the bathroom and all the visitor's center bathrooms had closed for the day (it was 5:08) so we walked and tried every building until we found a fantastic gem - the Ronald Reagan Building - after clearing security, we found not only a bathroom but a FOOD COURT - with many options and great prices!! SCORE!

After all the walking, we ended our day with the BEP tour - it is quick and the kids liked it quite a bit. Not every day you get to see $64 mill in a stack. By the time we got back to our hotel, we had clocked over 12 miles and the kids were awesome troopers!!

June 16
We had tickets for Ford's Theater and arrived quite early (getting really good at the metro by this point) so we went in the big DC touristy shop across the street - we got postcards there and then went into the cafe next door to purchase stamps. Awesome find. The kids had great interest in Abraham Lincoln so they enjoyed this stop a lot. The tour was 20 minutes in a museum and then a 20 minute presentation by an employee which was FULL of info the kids just soaked in.

I had read somewhere here that the Waffle shop on 10th was great, but there were two of them, so I didn't know which one was so great. We opted for Hard Rock Cafe on 10th right next to Fords Theater. We got there right when it opened and were seated right away.

From there, we walked to the Spy Museum gift shop - we didn't take the time to do that museum but the kids purchased many cool things out of the gift shop.

And then it was off to the American History and Natural History museums. Our little princess LOVED the display of First Lady's dresses - she could have been there for hours. Our boys liked the war wing as well. At the Natural History museum, the kids enjoyed the animals and all the geology areas. We all wanted to do the butterfly area but it cost extra and wasn't worth it to us.

After leaving the museums, we walked to the National Archives. Of course we didn't have timed tickets but we were hoping that after 5:00, we could get in but nope, the line was very long and we opted to walk the sculpture garden instead - I am not at all into art and I think I could have made some of the sculptures myself, but a couple of them were really cool - the metal tree, for one. End of day, we are shot.

June 17
We packed up and headed to Mount Vernon. We were tired, it was hot (again!) and we didn't have too high of expectations at this point, but wow did we love it there!! We learned so much at Mt Vernon. We paid a bit extra and took the National Treasure tour - well worth the money. We all enjoyed it very much and were also thrilled that George Washington had a Pizza Hut in his food court! $5-$6 personal pizzas for each of us. After the tour, we all watched the movie in our hotel room.


That night, we moved to the Mt Vernon Best Western. http://book.bestwestern.com/bestwestern/productInfo.do?propertyCode=47093. The hotel wasn't as clean and the breakfast was poor - they started cleaning it up 1/2 hour before it was to close. But it was a smarter move for us because from there, we headed south to Williamsburg, VA.

We learned a lot on this trip and had a very good time. Locals, for the most part, were super kind as we obviously didn't blend in. Afterall, we weren't in suits. A couple times, one of our kids was standing on the left side of an escalator - heaven forbid - and got a not-so-friendly reminder to move over. We did our best to stay out of the way of those who need to get somewhere. We didn't lose any kids along the way, no major incidents, and a very successful trip to DC. I loved the city!

We headed to Williamsburg for 4 days of fun there - Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, Norfolk, VA Beach, and Colonial Williamsburg. After that, we hit the Gateway Arch and headed back north to home sweet home!! Thanks, America, for the wonderful vacation!

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