The Hyatt Visa Card is the gift that keeps on gifting. After 4 free nights in Paris a year ago, we were given 2 more free anniversary nights at any category 1-4 Hyatt. With the nights expiring, we needed to find a place, any place, to go for 2 nights. My wife and I debated a quick weekend getaway for ourselves, but in the end, realized it had been a while since we’d done a family road trip. We checked the lists of possible Hyatt’s, and eventually settled on the Hyatt Place, Wash DC – White House. With a location only 2 blocks from the White House, and breakfast included, we were set. In addition to location and “free” food, this 4 year old hotel also came with a queen size pull out couch in each room, which certainly made it easy to figure out sleeping arrangements. Many times, rooms with 2 double beds can quickly become very cramped and crowded for 2 adults and 2 kids, but with a king size bed, and a queen pull out, we could convert the entire room into pretty much one giant bed, which is exactly what we ended up doing.
We definitely debated taking the kids to Washington, DC prior to booking We’re always falling into the old trap of “well, do we want to go somewhere that the kids won’t understand, or won’t really remember.” We asked our 6 year old what he knew, and he actually surprised us with his kindergarten knowledge of our nation’s capitol. He told us all about the President, the First Lady, the White House, and of course, the First “Dogs.” He’s been exposed somewhat to the ongoing election news, and could not wait to go see the White House in person. For our 3 year old, the trip was going to be more about running in the parks, cool statues, and of course, ice cream! We figured, as long as we could keep the trip light, fun, and energetic, both kids would equally enjoy the trip in their own way.
We arrived late at night on Friday night, but quickly settled in to our room, and the kids fell asleep with little of the normal bedtime resistance. This left mom and dad some time to tap into the hotel wifi, and catch up on a few House of Cards episodes. There’s always something fun about watching a show that takes place in pretty much the same streets that you are staying on. (Not sure I’d want to watch The Wire while sleeping in a Baltimore hotel though.)
The next morning, we enjoyed the large breakfast buffet, and with full bellies headed out to see the White House. While our 6 year old said that he’d probably be able to walk to whole time, we brought our old double stroller along. We figured, there’s probably nothing worse that being somewhere far from a road to catch a cab, and a tired 6 year old that doesn’t want to walk anymore. In DC, there are way too many places for this fear to become a reality, and so we planned ahead and brought the double. Yes, clunky, but, we were able to fill the baskets with snacks, baseball gloves, drinks, sweatshirts and more, which all came in handy during the day.
Within minutes we were at the White House, and taking a bazillion photos. Every possible combination, every angle, and in every light. Of course, we were squinting to try to catch a
glimpse of any movement inside any of the windows. I think our 6 year old expected the President to come out and greet us, be we told him that he had a meeting, and maybe another time he’ll get to meet him. After some time on Pennsylvania Avenue, we pushed on to the Lincoln Memorial, about a 15-20 minute walk. I’ve always been a bit of a map geek, (don’t ask my wife, she’ll roll her eyes), and saw a great opportunity to show the kids where we were, where we were going, and give them a rundown of how maps work, and how to navigate them. A PROUD father I was, when my 6 year old asked me to give up my trusty map, and let him navigate us to the Lincoln. With a small detour to Bethesda, he did eventually get us there!
The Lincoln Memorial was super exciting for the kids. They raced up the steps “Rocky” style, and were amazed by the sheer size of the statue. They were also equally impressed with the view of DC from the top of the steps, and started to point out anything they could recognize. We took some time to read the engraved text on the walls of the Gettysburg Address, and yup, took another thousand photographs. Once we came back down, we decided to let the kids burn off some energy on the lawns, rolling around and entertaining the people walking by. It wasn’t too much longer before hunger pains kicked in, and we were on the hunt for food. We found some refreshment stands on an adjacent lawn, and sat down for a picnic. While taking a moment to put some photos on facebook and instagram, we noticed that we had friends from the kid’s schools that had just posted pics at the Washington Monument. We had no idea that we had friends in town, and quickly made plans to meet up. With full bellies, we continued our walk towards the Washington Monument to find our friends, with the eventual goal of getting to the tidal basin to see the cherry blossoms. The kids were surprised and excited to find people they knew, and we spent about an hour playing catch, chatting, snacking yet again, and just enjoying the warm spring day. Sadly, our friends had to leave, but we had so much more to see! Off to the tidal basin we went, but we were nowhere prepared for what awaited us!
Yup. Crowds, crowds, and more crowds. The sidewalk was impassible. Great photo ops, but, was it worth it? We made our way into it, just to get to the waterfront, and get an idea of the what the fuss was all about. It was beautiful, but BRUTAL. It took 20 minutes to 10 feet, and remember, we were pushing a double stroller with now 2 tiring kids. Sadly, it wasn’t long before we turned out of the crowds, and back into the city streets. It was just too much, and with kids teetering on the brink of being cranky, we decided to pass on making our way around the tidal basin. Instead, we decided to start the 45 min or so walk back to the hotel to get washed up, refreshed, and ready for dinner.
That night, we found a local pizza place a few blocks away, and a cute ice cream shop to top us off. The sun had started setting, and the kids could not stay awake any longer. They crashed hard, and mom and dad binged another 3 episodes of House of Cards.
The next morning, was to be all about AIRPLANES! We had promised them the Air and Space Museum, and a stop at Gravelly Point to watch the planes taking off or landing at Reagan National Airport. After another ridiculously filling breakfast and checking out of the hotel, we made our way to see the Capitol building. Of course, we had to play some catch, run around the pool, and probably draw some stares from secret service. I had spent some time explaining that this was the Capitol of the United States, and where the government makes laws. Well, at least that is what they are supposed to be doing in there! We took about another 400 photos, and eventually made our way up the steps to the fountains. Mom and dad let the kids burn off some energy running laps, and then it was off to Reagan National Airport to Gravelly Point, a small park just at the end of the runway that is open to the public for biking, hiking, picnicking, and boat launching.
The pattern had the planes taking off that day. We stayed to watch about a dozen planes take off and pass directly over our heads, at most 200-300 feet. Covering their ears, the kids were absolutely amazed! For our 3 year old, who pretty much eats, sleeps, and breathes airplanes for a living, this was a dream come true. They would try to run after the planes after they passed overhead, but sadly, the planes were just slightly faster than them. They’d come back to the edge of the park and wait for the next plane before giving chase again. This also led me to wonder why airplanes do not advertise on the bottoms of the fuselage. Seems like a wasted opportunity to this ad man! I’m sure there’s some reason, but none of them even had the logo of the airline beneath it.
By now our ears were starting to ring, and we had more airplanes to see! Anticipating large crowds at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the National Mall, we decided to go check out the museum’s other location at Dulles Airport. What an amazing idea this turned out to be! I had forgotten that one of the NASA Space Shuttle Discovery was housed there, and I think I was more excited to get there than the kids! After stopping for a quick bite to eat and about a 20 minute drive outside of DC, we were thrilled to find a very light crowd. This meant pretty much having the run of the place, and there were just so many cool (and historic) planes to see. We took a planned photo in front the F14, and then raced to find the Concorde, the Enola Gay, and Falcon Jets. For a 3 and 6 year old, this museum was heaven on Earth. Of course, the biggest hit by far, was the Discovery. We were just awestruck by the “spaceship” as they called it. Again, 500 photos, every angle, every combo of the family, and every tile on the shuttle.
We got suckered in to the photo booth, but, worth every penny as it produced this gem:
Following a stop in the gift shop for miniature Discovery model shuttles, and a couple of bags of Astronaut Ice Cream (you know the stuff!), we were ready to begin our trip back to Long Island. A 4.5 hour trip somehow became 9.5 hours, but we had so much fun on this trip we couldn’t be frustrated. We weren’t surprised at how much fun the kids had, but just slightly surprised by how effortless it was to find the fun with them. Every turn we made, every place we visited (with the exception of the tidal basin) produced wonderful memories. From the ease and convenience of the hotel, to the food we always found, to the excitement of the monuments and parks for both kids, we’re highly anticipating another trip back to our nation’s capitol.