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Trip Report -- DC and Williamsburg with kids

Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 11:33 AM
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Trip Report -- DC and Williamsburg with kids

Thanks to the generous Fodorites who assisted me in planning this trip. Here's a quick run down of our family vacation.

The first 4 nights we stayed in DC at the Radisson Barcelo. I had many doubts about staying here primarily about the location. As it turned out the location was very good -urban, somewhat upscale, good choices for meals nearby. However the room and hotel itself left something to be desired. The pool area was shabby and uncared for to the point where the kids didn't even want to swim there (and they love swimming). The room was large and the bathroom was also large but there was a telltale musty smell that was an indication of less than stellar housekeeping. We did have a good room rate and it definately was a case of "you get what you pay for". I think I'd stay across the street at the Residence Inn next time or closer to the Mall.

During our stay we saw the zoo, the White House, the American History Museum, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial and a small bit of the National Gallery of Art.

Zoo - Its a very pretty zoo, hilly and shaded. We saw a quick glimpse of a panda's behind and lots of other animals. We don't have much of a zoo in Boston so it was nice for us to see this one but there are definately more interesting zoos elsewhere.

Washington Monument - We learned from this website to get tickets in advance. This was the best tip. We had tickets for 10am and the daily tickets were long gone by the time we got there. The view was great but the highlight for us was participating in a walking tour down the monument to see all the contributed stones. It took about an hour to get to the bottom and the park ranger told some great stories about the various stones that line the inside of the monument. Particularly interesting was the stone contributed by the NYC Fire Dept sometime in the 1870s. It depicted a fireman being given his discharge papers while angels waited to escort him to heaven. Very moving in light of Sept. 11.

American History - way too much to see and do. We loved the gelato there. The hightlight for me was seeing the flag that was draped over the Pentagon after Sept 11.

National Gallery - we ate at the Cascade Cafe which was very good. We took a quick look at American paintings in the East Wing and also found the Alexander Calder mobiles that my 8yo was interested in. Thank you to the Fodorite that gave us that tip.

White House - another great part of the trip. We loved the beautifully decorated rooms, the display of the pets in the White House and loved finding a painting of Nahant, Mass in the Green Room. My dh spent the first few years of his life in Nahant so it had a connection for us. The Secret Service guys were friendly and very knowlegible.

Lincoln Memorial - from this website I learned that seeing the Memorials at night can be special because of the smaller crowds and the lighting. Well we took this advice and regretted it. Only the rain that had held off all day let loose just as we reached the memorial. But I will never forget walking up the steps of the memorial in the pouring rain while a group of high school girls sang "Glory Hail Allelieu". Forgive my spelling.

Vietnam Memorial - under renovation so only half was visable. The impact of the memorial was lost as a result.

Will post a relpy with further details.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 11:47 AM
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For meals we again relied on info gleaned from Fodors. Had a very nice meal at Pizza Paradiso. A tad expensive but all very good quality. The vegetable salad was the best - zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes all chopped fine and served over delicious bread with oil and vinegar. Also had a nice glass of Italian red wine - served in a juice type glass not a wine glass which was kind of cool.

Also had a dinner at Mimi's American Bistro. Food was good but not great. Service was good but also not great. Portions were a tad small but we enjoyed the singing waiters. Some strange song selections but it all added to the evening.

Wrap Works - another recommendation from this site. Huge portions, very reasonable and very tasty. More of a take out/fast food kind of place - just what we needed at the time.

Part of our trip was a Red Sox/Orioles game at Camden Yards. We drove up easily with none of the famed traffic. Got to Camden Yards around 530, enjoyed walking around with about 10,000 fellow Red Sox fans. You would have thought you were in Fenway. Saw batting practice, ate a fabulous crab cake and after about 2 innings the heavens opened up once again and the game was delayed. We waited about an hour but there was no end in sight. Got soaked once again getting to our car. But the good news was that the game was called and we'll get a refund on our tickets. So we saw the park, saw our Red Sox and Nomar for the last time and it only cost us a few bucks to park. All in all not a bad deal.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 11:59 AM
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Hi Bennie! Thanks for the detailed trip report, i'm enjoying it very much! Appreciate your thoughts on the Radisson too, as we're planning a trip with my in-laws to see the WWII monument. I also thought about you last week with all the rain along the east coast, altho it doesn't sound like it dampened your spirits! Glad you had such a wonderful time. Also wondered how the crowds were at Mt. Vernon at this time of summer?
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 12:02 PM
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All in all the trip to DC was very worthwhile. We saw many interesting historic things, all reinforcing our pride in America. My 11 yo just basked in the glory of it all from the White House to Camden Yards. It all was so special to her. My 8yo could not have cared less. It was way to much walking for her and it all blended together after awhile. She loved the Hands on History in the American History Museum but you are limited to 30 minutes which just wasn't enough. She still at that stage of wanting to touch, run, climb etc. She loves abstract art for some reason so she did enjoy the sculpture garden at the NG but would have liked to cimb up on a few things.

The second half of the trip was to Williamsburg. Now the 8yo was happy happy happy. We stayed at the Kingsmill Resort which I cannot recommend highly enough. We could have stayed there for a week or more easily. Beautiful room with great linens and toiletries. A view of the James River with no construction in sight- thanks Birdie for checking this out for us. A great breakfast buffet each morning - though service was spotty here. We played golf on a 9 hole course that runs along the James and is free to guests. We spotted two bald eagles while we played. This course was just perfect for our kids - no challenge to my dh but its rare that a family can golf together so we loved it. The staff here was just great - friendly, helpful. There are shuttles to Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens and Water Country. The pools were very nice - one large indoor and one large outdoor again overlooking the James River. The resort had everything we wanted and then some.

We visited Busch Gardens and Water Country which we loved. After DC we had enough history and museums so we took a pass on those types of attractions in Williamsburg and headed right for the roller coasters and water slides. Both parks are clean, well kept, shaded and had plenty of fun rides and decent food. BG could use another roller coaster or two but we loved the older Big Bad Wolf and Loch Ness Monster. Apollo's Chariot was too much for me but the kids loved it. Water Country's Bid Daddy Falls was a blast.

Overall the trip was great. A good combo of education and fun. I can see a return trip sometime in the future.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 12:24 PM
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Ellen - we never made it to Mt Vernon. We gave our 8yo a choice - Mt. Vernon or Water Country. Guess what she picked? ;-)
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 02:24 PM
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LOL bennie, i can totally relate. Just another reason for a return trip someday!
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 07:24 AM
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Ellen - I know your family returns to the West each year because there is so much to see and do. We have similar feelings about the East Coast. There's so much to do and see from Maine to Florida. Washington and Williamsburg alone could easily take 2 weeks. Grateful we have the means to get out and see it.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 08:51 AM
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Thanks for such a detailed trip report! I'm very glad you had such a good trip, as you visited some of my very favorite places. Cheers!
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Old Aug 4th, 2004, 06:31 AM
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Bennie - I'm glad you enjoyed Kingsmill. We are so happy that the condos are finished and the tourists are back. I usually have breakfast at the golf club and always enjoy that. The staff told me that they had wrapped the buffet into a package so it was keeping guests away from the golf club. Too bad!
Did you try any other restaurants in Wmsbg?
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Old Aug 4th, 2004, 07:00 AM
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Birdie - We ate dinner and lunch at the golf club and did the breakfast buffet in the ballroom. The golf club's food was very good - service could use some work. The setting is great. We ate one night at a sports pub associated with the Sheraton 4 Points - only because they advertised that they had satellite access to most major league baseball games and we wanted to watch the Red Sox. Unfortunately this didn't turn out to be the case. The food was forgettable. But it wasn't bad.

I envy that you live in this area. We wanted to stop into the real estate office to get a feel for what it might be like to buy there. I really think the area is great and would make a nice second home for us as we get closer to retirement. We're only in our 40s so it is more of a pipe dream at this point. But I've been down there 3 times now and haven't stopped enjoying it. Time will tell.

And thanks again for easing our minds about the room/construction. I still can't believe they discounted our room because it was in a "construction zone". The only construction I saw was on the golf course. We were right on the river and no where near construction.
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