Travel to Washington DCA Capital Caper
For a quick fix of American culture, embark on a weekend with your little patriots in Washington DC. Stick around for a few extra days, and take some liberties with your capital capers.
Good for: Inquisitive families with a diverse set of ages and interests.
- Day-tripping to Mount Vernon
- Taking in the sights on the Nighttime Monuments Cruise
- Unwinding with a picnic and frisbee at the Mall
- Surveying the Smithsonian Museums
- Enjoying Friday Night Jazz in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Suggested stay: 3–5 Days
What to know: Keeping true to its “land of the free” moniker, many of the best DC activities are free. But, to get the most out of your trip, advance reservations are a must. For access to exclusive DC experiences, check in with your local congressperson a few months before you arrive – they are eager to arrange special tours for their youngest constituents.
Museums at the Mall
Washington offers so much to see in such a small area that you can pack in a lot even on a tight schedule. Begin your trip at the National Mall, and see Julia Child’s kitchen and Abe Lincoln’s top hat at the National Museum of American History. Head next door to the National Museum of Natural History to view the Hope Diamond and a living Insect Zoo. For lunch, refuel at the Mitsitam Café at the National Museum of the American Indian, which has the best food in the Mall. Then, spend an hour walking off your lunch in the museum, exploring the collection of unique historic and contemporary artifacts.
For older kids, the National Air and Space Museum, Newseum and the International Spy Museum offer more offbeat experiences. History buffs, news junkies and espionage enthusiasts will get the chance to pilot a combat sortie, touch the Berlin wall and check out the ultimate spy car, the Aston Martin DB5, which starred in the 1964 James Bond thriller Goldfinger.
In addition to the familiar Presidential monuments and historic memorials, there are several lesser-known but equally noteworthy tributes to American heroes tucked away throughout the city. Pick up a map of public art and spend a few hours paying a visit to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other prominent historic figures.
To experience the full majesty of Washington monuments and memorials, you’ll need to do plenty of walking, riding – and even a little cruising. An early morning walk is a great way to see the various statues without the crowds, while an evening ride or cruise offers the most panoramic illuminated views of the larger monuments.
While the best way to explore Washington is on foot, no trip is complete without a journey on the Metro. For a night on the town, Metro over to Dupont Circle for some shopping, dining and gallery-hopping. Upscale food, fashion and home decor abound in Georgetown, while you’ll find the best in cool gadgets and unique mementos at the Smithsonian Museum gift shops.
Power Lunching – and Power Lounging
In a town where every meal is a “power lunch,” there are plenty of places to power down a historic meal. Old Ebbitt Grill serves classic fare in a traditional Washingtonian environment, while Busboys and Poets offers a tasty, eclectic menu with something for everyone. You can also travel the world via a trifecta of international restaurants: Zaytinya (Mediterranean), Daikaya (Japanese) and Rasika (Indian).
When you’re ready for some power lounging, you can’t go wrong with a comfortably elegant classic, like the Hay-Adams or the historic Willard InterContinental, where you can take your afternoon tea in the lobby from which the term “lobbying” was coined.
A Meander through Mount Vernon
Escape the city on a day trip to Mount Vernon, for a view of Washington through the eyes of our first President – and a glimpse of the life of a gentleman farmer in the late 1700s. The grounds are beautiful, and the tours lively and informative. Also, stop in to the well-stocked gift shop.
While Washington DC is a year-round destination, a May trip is ideal: You can catch the tail-end of cherry blossom season and also the beginning of the evening activities that mark the Washington summer – without the humid weather.
(Photos courtesy of National Museum of American History, International Spy Museum, Washington DC Tourist Office and other)