Monday, September 24, 2012

Our Trip to Washington D.C. {Photo Story}

Fall is the perfect time to visit Washington D.C. No swarms of 8th graders, cooler weather, less crowds. A perfect time to travel there for homeschooling families! We went at the end of May and surely none of the above applied. It was over 90 degrees, crowded, 8th graders galore. These are highlights of our trip, but in the coming weeks I'll be sharing some tips on how to make your trip a hit. Even if you happen to be planning it for next spring - which is a beautiful time to go and see all the cherry trees blooming!

We do have great memories of this road trip with two littles, minus the terrible teething episodes, the car battery that died, the $20 bill I deposited on the commuter bus even though the fare was way lower, and the general expense of it all. I loved having a break from our routine, that's what I was really craving.

We really enjoyed our time at the hotel and our lazy mornings, gearing up for a day of sightseeing.  Breakfast was included and I overlooked the fact that it was unhealthy garbage, mostly. We made fresh waffles from the dough they provided. By the last day though we felt the ill effects of that kind of corn syrup filled food and ate our own breakfast instead. We brought so much food with us we had trouble eating it all and actually brought stuff back with us!

DAY ONE - Air & Space Museum

We drove through the night and arrived six hours before our 3 pm check in. The fabulous manager gave us a free upgrade and early check in, score! (review of the great place where we stayed coming soon...) We all took a long nap, woke up at 1 pm and though we didn't plan it for that day we decided to go sightseeing to D.C. right away. That way we would have things figured out for the next two full days in D.C. Glad we went, it was a logistical nightmare! From the public transportation to finding out museums close at 5:30 - we are glad we experienced all of it on this half day rather than having our first full day 'ruined'.

We were obvious tourists with kids in tow, maps in hand (we have no smart phones)... This was the first time we used our brand spanking new DSLR (Nikon D7000), so we were learning how to use it while on the trip. On day one we arrived at the National Air and Space Museum half hour before it closed! Amazingly it was enough time to go through most of the museum and take lots of photos. Baby E's favorite was the little Cessna that she could get inside of.

As the museum closed we were kicked out right into the thunderstorm, forgot the umbrella. At least it was warm! I didn't bother taking out the map and we just walked, in the rain, wherever. We hid Baby E in the stroller (thanks City Mini for the huge canopy!) and Baby T was snuggled in the Ergo carrier, sleeping. We finally found a place that was appealing to eat our dinner at - Merzi, I highly recommend it. They were serving partly organic meals that were affordable and delicious. The decor is very cozy too. Don't miss the scrumptious gelato place right next door!

DAY TWO - Open Top Bus Tour, National Gallery of Art

Perhaps the highlight of the whole trip was the open-top double-decker tour we took on day two. This time we were prepared. We figured out it was cheaper and easier to drive our own car to the Metro station at Greenbelt instead of taking the bus from the airport. Saved us time and money. The tour was perhaps the best bargain, we got a great deal through Goldstar and paid almost half price! There was no way we could see everything we saw by ourselves, with kids, this was the quickest way to see all of Washington D.C. with the least hassle. Even in 90 degree weather, it was actually cool to ride with a breeze

This was the day Baby T was teething extra bad, right after we got off the double-decker tour. He is the baby you heard crying within a ten mile radius of the White House. We were thinking of leaving back to our hotel as he was screaming and I was trying to console him. He finally got so tired, he fell asleep in the stroller and we decided to walk to the National Gallery of Art. Baby T and I lost my husband and Baby E there, took us about 20 minutes to find each other, felt like eternity! My tip: if one of you is taking the stairs and the other is taking the elevator, make sure both of you know exactly which floor you're meeting on!

DAY THREE - Museum of Natural History, Jazz Concert

On the last day of sightseeing we filled in the blanks with what we missed and felt was most important to see for us. We finally stopped folding the stroller each time we rode the Metro, we just used the elevators. Yeah, what were we thinking the two previous days? Sure the City Mini has an easy fold, but it's still easier not to take the baby out and fold it.

We went to the Museum of Natural History, which was a hit with Baby E. She loved all the animals. We then proceeded to the live jazz series in the garden, didn't find a single spot to sit, left and by accident discovered the perfect spot for us to listen to the music. There was this secluded walkway alley of botanical greenery, with benches, we were the only people there. It didn't even feel like we were in the middle of a busy, tourist filled city. We enjoyed listening to the music, taking photos, eating our snacks. It was the perfect ending to our three days of sightseeing.

DAY FOUR - Family Wedding

On Saturday, our last day of the trip, we drove to my cousin's wedding. It was surreal to see my 'little cousin' get married! She was the first of my extended family to be born in the Unites States after they immigrated here from Russia. Baby E wouldn't stop talking about wedding the entire summer after this. She asked to be taught to use a fork and knife properly when she saw the adults doing it. After all this, we drove straight home from the wedding, at night. At least that guaranteed they would sleep most of the way. We only stopped once to nurse Baby T, and another time to change drivers. Uhm, let's not mention that I drove through NYC, missed a turn on the GPS and ended up adding about 40 minutes to our drive!

All in all, it was worth the drive, but we're reserving trips like this for when the kids are actually school age. We want them to remember out travels, they will not remember this trip for sure, but we will! It was quite a parenting and marriage test!

Have you ever traveled to D.C. with kids? If you homeschool, have you or do you plan to make it part of your curriculum this year? 


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