D.C. Trip Report

Old Aug 25th, 2004, 07:58 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 257
D.C. Trip Report

I wanted to report back on our trip to Washington DC that began July 24, driving up from Birmingham, Al. My husband and I, two boys 10 and 6 and 21 yr old daughter. We stayed four full days in D.C, then moved on to Williamsburg, Va. We arrived Sunday mid-morning and had lunch before driving into the city. Then we went to our hotel first, the Radisson Barcelo, to check in. Got a great room as has been posted here, very large, big marble bathroom, etc. Very comfortable!! Terrific location as well. Then we left and drove to the National Cathedral first thing. A great Sunday thing for us to do. We found parking there easily (surprisingly) and took the tour offered. Such a beautiful place, I had no idea it was so large. Impressive. THen we left and drove to Arlington Cemetary, via Georgetown. Love Georgetown!! Found parking in Arlington and got in line for tickets for Tourmobile tour. We enjoyed the Arlington tour and also did a lot of walking. My boys favorite thing was the changing of the guard. Love the military ritual and what it stands for. We stayed a long time there. Enjoyed seeing the graves and all the memorials there. Next, we drove across the bridge to the Tidal Basis and parked, fairly easily (for a Sunday). We went to all the memorials and they were very moving. By then it was getting late and we were starving. No food in the area of Arlington or the memorials. So we left and drove back to the hotel (parked the car) and went to dinner at Pizza Paradiso. Wonderful pizza!

Monday, had reserved tickets (Senator) to Bureau of Printing and Engraving at 8:15. Neat tour and everyone enjoyed it. Then, on to Air and Space. Had to wait a bit til it opened at 10:00. Loved it, ate lunch at food court, and saw as much as everybody wanted. Then we left and walked down the Mall to the Capitol. Lots of construction going on as they are building a new Capitol visitors center. Just so neat to see things I have always heard about! We let the boys play around the fountain, took pictures and headed back to American History museum. Along with way, went through the Sculpture Garden and stopped for popcorn from a vendor. I LOVED the American History museum the best! Didnt get through it all as kids were bored and went on the Natural History museum. They were more entertained there and it was neat. The Natural History museum was open until 7:00 during the summer, so we saw most of it. THat evening, we retrieved our car and drove to Needwood Maryland (25 min) to have dinner with friends. THis was a nice break after our busy day.

Tuesday, we had tickets to tour White House(Senator)at 10:30. My husband left the hotel at 8:00 to go get tickets for Wash Monument for afternoon. No line when he got there and lots of free available tickets. He got the 4:30 time slot and met us at the WH Visitor Center by 10:15. Visitor center was very informative. Somehow, our reserved tour of the WH was not booked, and as luck would have it, the Senate was on break and the aide that booked it on vacation. However, lucky for us, the Secret Service believed our story (we had a confirmation letter)and took all our security information and went through everything to check us out! Very frustrating for us to have this happen after such careful planning. However, they were very nice. Also, we were worried because White House tours ended at 11:30. It took the full hour for them to scramble to get us through security, but finally we were able to go through. Did I mention it was raining lightly outside?? Anyway, the tour was well worth the wait. We were told to take nothing with us but drivers license and money. However, they were letting folks in with umbrellas, cameras (no picture taking), camcorders,etc. I was upset I had not taken mine as I couldnt take any pictures as we were walking at all that morning. After the tour, went to Old Post Office Tower for lunch and purchased a disposable camera. Lunch there was very reasonably priced and good. Loved the tour, great for kids and wonderful views. THen we walked over to Ford's theater and listened to the guide tell the story of that fateful night. Was very real the way it was told sitting there looking at the seat where Abe was sitting. The museum down below is not to be missed. Wonderful items on display. (After this tour, my daughter and I took Metro back to hotel to get real camera, camcorder, snacks, water, etc., while husband and boys went on to Washington Monument). WE met back up and loved the view from the monument. THey were working around the grounds, but thankfully, it was not closed. I think it is closing sometime in Sept for work. After that, we went back to WWII Memorial and stayed for a while. This was my husband's favorite memorial. (Now, I can see why people put there feet in the water) THe quotes on the walls around the fountain were very meaningful and tastefully done. Then, back to the hotel. Tonight, boys ate at Subway and daughter and I ate at the D.C. Cafe next door. WE both enjoyed our meal there, took back to hotel to eat and get off our feet!

Wednesday was our last day. Not much planned, a go-back day for things we wanted to see again, after our Capitol tour. Took Metro this time to Union Station. Such beautiful architecture everywhere. We met an aide at the Senate office and they took us on a very informative tour of the Capitol bldg. We all enjoyed the underground train. The Capitol was very beautiful inside, particularly, the Senate side. The Rotunda, especially. SO much neat history tucked away. Such a fun tour! We had lunch in the cafeteria in the Dirkson bldg. Very inexpensive and good food. Then we walked over to the Supreme Court to take a look (not in session), back to the Natural History/American History museum to finish up seeing everything (we split up). The hotel had allowed us to check out of our room and leave everything in our car, valet it for free until 4:00. That was so nice of them. SO we were back by 3:00, drove through Georgetown again, and went to the zoo. I wish we had more time there. The zoo was lovely and different than our zoo at home. It was a perfect attraction for my boys. The zoo will be a higher priority next time we return. However, we did get there in time to see the Pandas. Neato!

As you can tell, we didnt waste a lot of time. We were up and out early. The Metro was very efficient, still tons of walking. But I am glad we saw what we did and four days was enough for my young sons. The rest of us could have done more. Thanks so much for the helpful hints and info from everyone at Fodor. I had read everything I could (this was planned since Jan)back a year or so. It felt so familiar when we got to D.C. My advice?? Good walking shoes, no sandals, take lots of pictures, and get a best map of the mall and capitol area you can to understand your way around. The Capitol maps were available in the Senate office and I wish I had them prior to my trip. Also, the best book I read for advice and maps was the Unofficial Guild to Washington D.C. Very concise. Used a lot in my planning. I loved D.C. and wish I could budget a trip again sooner, but so much to see in the USA and we are just starting to take bigger vacations, it will be a few years before we get back.
mommybryant is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 08:09 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 219
Thanks for the terrific trip report. I've never been to Washington and my husband keeps saying we should go. I'm just not sure our girls (13 and 11) would be into all the sightseeing and history. But it sounds like your boys did great! What did your daughter think of all of it? Is she into politics at all?

If you don't mind my asking, how much was the Radisson per night?

What about Williamsburg? You didn't give any details there. Did you stay at your same hotel and just drive to Willamsburg from there?
mwessel is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 08:18 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Her Williamsburg report is at


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rb_travelerxATyahoo is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 08:20 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Lovely report - thanks for taking the time to post a detailed, well organized report.

Most visitors can spend a week in DC and not see and enjoy as much as your family did. Good for you! Your planning skills are impressive and a testament to the pay-off to be gained from such meticulous research. I hope the Fodor's forum was able to provide a liitle help along the way.

BTW, did you attend a "full-blown" service at the Cathedral on Sunday? The liturgy is beautiful and the cathedral boys choir is a national treasure, IMO.
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Old Aug 25th, 2004, 08:22 AM
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Your girls would absolutely love it! The kids learn about history during Presidents Day, by looking at coins, seeing the news about elections,etc. I also got childrens books from the library and we talked alot about what we would see. So many familiar looking buildings for them, fountains, and they even had fun chasing squirrels. The Amercian History museum had an American Girl display, First Ladies exhibit with many ball gowns and inaugaration gowns, etc. You can always cut short a museum if they are completely uninterested. My 21 yr old daughter is majoring in Elementary Education and no she does not enjoy history, but all the architecture was so amazing and from a teacher standpoint, this trip was priceless. She did not like Air and Space much, but loved the Capitol, White House, Old Post Office, and really everything else. I was surprise how well everyone did. All I can say is go, go, you wont regret it at all! The weather also cooperated for the most part due to clouds and it was pleasant as well. The Radisson was $99. Large enough (2 Queens and sleeper sofa) to sleep all five of us comfortably. Go to their website and click on Internet Rate. (For breakfast, we kept donuts and cereal in the room to save time in the morning).

We drove to Williamsburg, took about 2 1/2 hours. Left late to avoid traffic on 95. I already have a trip report on Williamsburg posted. Just click on my name or go to the Virginia section to read that one. Too long to post here. THanks and let me know if I can help you further. Just go as soon as you guys can plan a trip. Your girls will have a great time. If you drive, get a TV/DVD for your SUV or van and it will be so easy! We took the TV in our room so the kids could play games/watch DVDs while we watched whatever on the other TV.
mommybryant is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 08:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Excellent trip report, thanks so much! Having lived in and near DC most of my life, I miss it, but I get to visit vicariously through reports like this--thanks again!
E is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 08:27 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2004
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Bardo: No we got there late for that, but would have enjoyed it. However, we were there long enough to hear the organist practice and later the choir came in. We stayed as long as the boys were quiet. So much to see inside.

Yes, I used tons of Fodorite advice. So thankful I stumbled on this forum. I especially used your comments and tips. THANK YOU for all your posts! And...we never felt scared or threatened, even when we got lost one evening, near dark, walking to Capital South Metro Stop. We saw no homeless or beggars in the Dupont area we stayed, only in the Mall area. My sons gave out some coins, but we always felt safe, taking the usual precautions as one should. I highly recommend the Dupont area for being so close in, and having such a variety of places to eat. This location saved us lots of valuable travel time in the morning. The 24 hr CVS around the corner proved very convenient as well.
mommybryant is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 03:16 PM
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So sorry, this should have been posted under the Washington DC category. Not really sure where I put it.
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