Saturday 26 October 2013

Five Days in #WashingtonDC Summer Road Trippin #DC #travel #familytravel

Annual Summer Road Trippin' Time! 

Five Days in DC

My Husband and kids had never been, and the last time I was in DC was on the Grade 13 High School History Trip (aka a LONG time ago). It was a great vacation that was packed with activity everyday! I thought I would share with you why it was great and some of the things there are to do in DC.

Where to stay ...
Loews Madison Hotel:
We decided to stay at down town DC so we could walk to most of the attractions we wanted to see. Any savings we might find from staying outside the city would be lost by the $50 a day packing costs. Instead we booked a deal at the Loews Madison Hotel that included room, valet parking, and "bonus" 2 cocktails each day for $199 US a night. A gin and tonic goes down nice after walking on average 10 miles a day in 30 degree weather. This was a beautiful hotel in walking distance of most of many of attractions including the White House. The staff was extremely friendly, helpful, and professional. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this hotel!

Side Note: I would love to get the chance to stay at The Willard (Inter Continental that is full of history, and a beautiful hotel in the heart of the city. It is definitely on my bucket list. The Cafe du Parc is perfect for people watching and a delish lunch!

Transportation and Getting Out & About ...
Start to get in shape now! We walked about 10 miles a day (16 km). That is the point at which the kids and I quit, not because we had seen all there was to see, because it was hot and our feet hurt. My Husband the trooper of the bunch often continued on his own.
Parking: $50 or more per day is standard. We had valet parking at the hotel, and it was very convenient for the few times we needed the van to go to an attraction outside the down town core.
Subway: We took the Metro that was a few blocks from the hotel to Union Station where the Trolley night time tour of the monuments began and finished. I highly recommend this. The Metro was convenient and definitely cheaper than driving and parking.

So much to do, so little time ...
Smithsonian Museums, Galleries: (19 in total in DC area) and the Zoo: ALL FREE ADMISSION! That equals BIG savings for a family of four, since it is not unusual for museums to cost $60-$100 for a family. Plus with so many museums, galleries and the zoo there was something for everyone!

For us (aka my Husband) seeing the 2 Smithsonian Air and Space Museums was at the top of the list, and they did not disappoint.

More fun than a barrel of monkeys ...

  • International Spy Museum: This is another fun museum that is worth the price of admission at least once. You can find discount coupons in many of the free tourist magazines and flyers available all over DC.
  • Crime & Punishment Museum: This is totally fun and I think worth the price to go. You can find discount coupons in many of the free tourist magazines and flyers available all over DC.
  • National Geographic Museum: I believe if you subscribe to National Geographic there is a discount on admission. I enjoyed this museum, and the memories National Geographic brings back to most of us. It is not a big museum so this will take a half day at most.
  • Memorials and Monuments: There are 18+ monuments that are FREE ADMISSION. I highly recommend that you visit the monuments at night on one of the Trolley Tours. They take care of the traffic, parking issues near the monuments, and trying to follow GPS directions in a busy city. The driver is full of information and trivia about DC and the monuments. There are some discounts for ordering your tickets on-line or check out the free tourist magazines and flyers for discount coupons.

Yummy food ... nom nom 
Breakfast: For us was  juice, cereal, coffee from the Keurig in the hotel, and pastries from a bakery down the street. This helped to save on time and money. There was a CVS with groceries across the street, and we rented a fridge ($25 for length of stay) for our room.
Lunches: Were at the museums which can be expensive, if not planned a bit. Take a minute to look at the menu, combos and what can be shared. I always brought our own water (not paying $3 a bottle for water ever!) If you need a bit of flavour added to your water bring along a single serve drink crystal pack. Many of the museums allow you to bring your own snacks or packed lunch you can eat in the cafeteria) In general the food at the cafeterias was fair to good. 
Dinners: We opted for some healthy fast food options close to the hotel for dinner such as Subway, SweetGreen, and Chop't.

Shopping ... duh, there has to be shopping involved!
In general I did not find there to be tons of good shopping other than the typical souvenirs in the down town National Mall area, BUT....
The Smithsonian Air and Space Udvar-Hazy Centre is located in Chantilly Virginia (about a 1/2 hour drive from DC National Mall) is well worth the drive! 
Since you are already there why not check out the Leesburg Corners Premium Outlet Mall - looking at planes makes me hungry for shopping! (Note: many of the Premium Outlet Malls give out free discount books to AAA and CAA members at the customer service desk/office). There is also a Costco in Leesburgs Corners which is always fun since the US Costco stores carry different merchandise than the Canadian stores. Yes your Canadian Costco card works in the States!

Might I suggest:
That you visit the websites for the various attractions to see what events, discounts, and deals are available. Discounts on admission tickets can add up to big savings for a family of four. Also check the Outlet Mall sites for their discount booklets. If your have museum or gallery memberships check to see if there are any reciprocal agreements (aka free admission). Lastly be sure to check and ask if your CAA/AAA membership entitles you to any savings at all hotels, attractions, or restaurants

Other Links:
Washington Parent Magazine

Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about Washington DC.

Note: I have not been compensated in any way for this post. All opinions are my own, and the purpose of this post is merely to share my experiences with my readers.

1 comment :

  1. Wow, I live in the area and I'm amazed at how much you covered. I'm glad you put FREE ADMISSION in all caps. It always amazes me when I meet some tourists who don't know that the museums are free.