By Guest Blogger Julee Nunley

My husband and I been discussing a family trip to Washington DC for a while, but our boys’ growing interest in New York led us to question whether we should go there instead. As we were debating which trip would be better, my husband had the brilliant idea that we could do both by taking the train to New York from DC.

We took our trip over this past Spring Break and figured this would be a great idea to share with other families to plan a summer trip, or a vacation for next year! I am splitting this blog into two blog posts. Today’s post will detail the time we spent in DC and tomorrow’s will focus on New York.

As I began planning back in January, I realized that expenses were going to add up quickly. We decided to keep the trip short to both save on expenses and to give the boys (aged seven and nine) some downtime before school started back again. It felt like putting together a puzzle trying to figure out the best way to fit everything into our short time frame and we definitely had to pare down the list of things we wanted to do. We identified our main goals and worked around those. For New York, going to the Empire State Building was top priority. We’ve been reading Percy Jackson books and we had visit Olympus! In DC, there was less of a singular focus. We just wanted to take in as many museums and monuments as possible.

Day one was spent in DC, days two and three in NYC and days four and five in DC again.

Washington, DC

DC2On day one (Saturday), we drove to DC, stopping to each lunch along way.  Lunch and traffic on the outskirts of the city made the trip longer than we had planned for. In retrospect, I wish I had packed a lunch for us to eat in the car. I do this often on beach trips and it not only saves time, we also eat healthier.

Once we arrived, we drove around a bit to see the city and then attempted to visit the International Spy Museum.  This museum is not a Smithsonian museum and therefore, is not free. Given that it was kind of expensive and that there was a line outside, on a very cold day, we all agreed to skip it. The National Portrait Gallery was right across the street, so we went in there.  The portrait gallery is housed in beautiful building and contained varied and interesting exhibits. My younger son, Jack, did get a little bored after a while, but overall, it was an enjoyable visit. I particularly enjoyed the display of the Presidential Portraits.

That night we stayed at the Omni Shoreham, which I found on a list of family friendly hotels and was later recommended to me by a friend. This hotel is very nice, located near the National Zoo and a metro station. They even brought the kids milk and cookies before bed that night.

Sunday – Monday were spent in NYC, so you will read about that in tomorrow’s blog.

The Omni Shoreham was not available for our return trip to DC on Monday evening, so we stayed at the Hotel Helix. It was a much smaller hotel, but was conveniently located with many restaurants within walking distance.

airspace1We spent all day Tuesday exploring the museums and monuments in National Mall areas. The boys, including my husband, especially enjoyed the Air and Space Museum. Alex was also very interested in the FDR Memorial, because he had just finished reading a book set during his presidency, in which the main character has polio. (The book is Blue, by Joyce Meyer Hostetter.) That monument is also a favorite of mine, so he and I enjoyed walking though it together and discussing what we saw. We were hoping to go up to the top of the Washington Monument, but there were no tickets available that day. This website explains how to acquire tickets. After dinner, we watched Night at the Museum 2 in the hotel room, which was a fun way to round out a day of visiting museums.

We closed out our trip on Wednesday morning by walking to the White House, which was an easy trip from our hotel. We took a few pictures then stopped for brunch before checking out of the hotel and heading home.

The major thing I wish we had done differently on this trip was driving in our car less. Using the metro or even taking cabs would have saved us time and the frustration of driving in traffic. Plus, when we drove to the mall area, we had to return to the car frequently because the meters only lasted a couple hours. We even discovered weeks later that we had gotten a parking ticket that we never found on the car. I also learned later that a fun way to tour the sites in DC is on bike tours.

We hope to make a return trip to DC in a few years to see more of the sights. I think it will be even more meaningful to our boys as they learn more about our nation’s history.

Please share any tips you have for visiting the DC area below! (And click here for my “Part 2” blog on NYC.)