Washington D.C. in a Weekend

Is that a long weekend coming up on your calendar? There are several chances to make a quick escape during fall and early winter—make the most of it with a trip to Washington, D.C.

Why D.C.?
Why not? It makes for a great family experience, offers living history lessons for you and the kids, is a chance to watch government in action and provides the opportunity to sneak in a few college visits.

What to Do
You could spend two weeks in Washington, D.C. and still not hit all the tourist hot spots. Here are a few highlights that promise to leave you satisfied:

Tours—A White House tour is impossible unless you know six months ahead of time about your trip, so focus instead on the U.S. Capitol (First St. and East Capitol St., Washington, D.C. 20001, 202-226-8000). Rich with history, the guided audio tours include the famous Rotunda, details about the building and the art and statues housed within. Take a trip across the street to your representative’s office and you can score tickets to the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate galleries.

Monuments—Simple math will show you—there’s no way you’ll see everything in a weekend. Everyone’s favorite will be different, so as a family, choose 2 or 3 you really want to see and don’t fret if you aren’t able to fit them all in. Our recommendation? Don’t miss the Lincoln, FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr. monuments. Outstanding.

Museums—Washington, D.C. is synonymous with the Smithsonian Institution. Again, with just 2 or 3 days, you won’t be able to see everything. Unless you’ll die if you don’t see the Hope Diamond, skip the Natural History Museum. Instead, spend a few hours at the Museum of American History, Ford Theatre and the Air and Space Museum.

See: The Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C., 20001 888-NEWSEUM). News buffs could spend days here scouring through original papers featuring the world’s defining moments in history, but even casual fans will enjoy the bulk of their exhibits in just a couple of hours. Also? The National Archives and Records (700 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., 20001 866- 272-6272) and the opportunity to see the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution is something that should never be passed on. Finally, insiders will tell you that if you’re looking for a spectacular view, you can’t beat the Old Post Office Pavilion’s observation deck (1100 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C., 20001).

Skip: The Washington Monument. You can see it from just about anywhere, and because it’s closed for another 18 – 24 months, there’s no reason to get up close and personal. And if you go and spend more than 5 minutes waiting in line for a cupcake in Georgetown, you are Wasting.Your.Time. There’s a shop on every corner, and they’re all delicious.

Tip: If you plan on carrying a purse or a backpack, designate one person to be the pack mule and leave everything you can in your hotel room safe. You will encounter airport-style security everywhere. The fewer bags, the faster you’ll travel.

What to Eat
D.C. has never been a foodie town, but that is starting to change. Here are some great family choices:

  • Smithsonian Museums: The “food trucks” outside the museums are pretty awful, but some of the cafeterias have better-than-expected food. Plan your day to be near the National Museum of American History around lunch and eat at the Stars and Stripes Café for regional and locally sourced dishes. Also the National Museum of the American Indian has native-inspired cuisine at the Mitsitam Café.
  • National Cathedral: Our favorite pizza is at 2Amy’s. Grownup combinations and kid-friendly options abound. Plus a wine bar. Plus homemade doughnuts on Saturday and Sunday! (3715 Macomb St. NW, 202-885-5700)
  • U.S. Capitol: The Monocle Restaurant is on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, and is an institution. Dinner is pricey, but lunch affordable if you don’t let your kids order a steak (sandwiches and salads are in the $12-15 range). You’re bound to rub elbows with Senate staff and lobbyists, and the atmosphere can’t be beat. (107 D St, 202-546-4488)