Another Washington D.C. Thread

Discussion in 'Budget Board' started by CalDisneyMomof2, Jul 24, 2017.

  1. CalDisneyMomof2

    CalDisneyMomof2 DIS Veteran

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    So I know we've had a couple threads about D.C. but reading them haven't really answered some of my specific questions so here goes.

    We'll be going to Washington D.C. next summer - EXACT dates to be determined but July 10th can not be an arrival day nor departure day. We will be going to the MLB All-Star game that day so I don't want to plan anything else for that day. Family dynamics are as follows: Me, DH, DS (will be 9) DS (will be 7) and DD (will be 8 months). Also joining us will be DM (59 so still young) and DSD (mid 50s). This has been a trip that DS(9) has wanted to take for a few years and we thought that aligning it with the All-Star game will be icing on the cake. We're traveling from Southern California and when traveling to the East Coast we prefer to do red eyes.

    Our first day (we'll be arriving in the morning) will be a non planned day. I want to use it as a day to unwind, get the kids acclimated to the time change and not plan any museums or tours. The All-Star game will be on a Tuesday so I'm just trying to figure out the best use of our time the rest of our trip. Of course we will have a baby with us so one of my questions is, what restrictions (if any) have any of you experienced traveling to D.C. with a baby (8 months). Obviously, I have no idea what kind of baby she will be so thinking worst case scenario here. We'll be renting a car.

    How long of a trip do you think would be enough and also not too much to burn out our family? Keep in mind that arrival day is a laid back day and last day will be mostly a travel day and Tuesday will be mostly dedicated to the All-Star game. And when thinking about the days we go, are there many restrictions having a couple of our tour days land on the weekend? Or is it better to do them on the weekdays? Would rather not fly on Fridays or Sundays as they tend to be the most costly.

    Some things my son does not want to miss: Ford Theatre, Museum of American History, Mt. Vernon and the White House. I'd also like to add Natural History, Air & Space, Holocaust and Capitol Tour at the least. Any other recommendations? How many days (considering our family dynamics) would be sufficient? We have plenty of Marriott points to cover our trip - looking to stay at Springhill Suites Alexandria Oldtown/Southwest. They have free parking and breakfast and the price/points usage can't be beat. My parents will also have enough points to cover theirs although possibly only 5 nights (signed up for the 80,000 point offer very recently). Maybe 6 if they spend about $10,000 in a year with it.

    Any advice for our trip? I'm not sure how busy it typically is so if anyone's gone around this time, please share your experiences. I want to plan ample time at each attraction but also don't want to burn out the kids. This will be my DSDs first time as well as my kids' first time. Also, what attractions would be stroller friendly and which ones will we have to use the baby carrier? I've been to Washington D.C. 3 times before (never with kids but once AS a young teenager and I didn't plan that lol) but planning it with kids is so much more different - especially with a baby!

    Thanks everyone!
     
  2. mrsp1030

    mrsp1030 DIS Veteran

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    Well, D.C. is a hot spot for tourists in the summer and with the All Star game coming here next year, it will bring in lots of activity especially for that week. You are smart to book early and doing your research concerning hotels. Honestly, I would rely on public transportation to get to see the sights that you want to see. I would get familiar with the metro and use it for going into the city. If you do stay in Alexandria, you can take the water taxi from the harbor to the game and back. It is a nice way to go to the game and creates less hassle. Alexandria is an absolute beautiful part of the area, with great restaurants and dining; however, if you are planning to do a ton of touring in the city, I would stay closer to the city area. You can look at Arlington based hotels or ones near the Navy yard in DC (as that is closer to the ballpark). We go into the city often and stay even though we live in Northern Virginia and our preferred hotel base is around the Foggy Bottom area to access both metro but within walking distance to the mall and Georgetown areas. It will take you several days to see the variety of places you want to see. I recommend at least 2-3 days to take in all those experiences because it is HOT here in the summer with all this concrete lying around. You can do the hop on/hop off bus or the Trolley tour which is a great way to hit up a variety of places such as The National Cathedral, Arlington Cemetery, Capitol, etc.. I also love seeing the monuments at night and many tours offer that experience as well. The FDR is absolutely beautiful at night. You will have to book your capitol tour in advance. You can book them online either through your senator or representative and a few are offered individually as well. I hope this helps a little. If I think of other advice, I will let you know.
     
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  4. CalDisneyMomof2

    CalDisneyMomof2 DIS Veteran

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    Thank you for all the information! I think we are going to stick with Alexandria because of the points usage (and also the fact that it's free parking and breakfast which breakfast alone will save us about $50 a day and that more than pays for the cost of the rental car). We are doing a big trip in November (WDW and Disney Cruise) so this is more of a budget trip and I don't want to spend extra on hotels as it's not in our budget. Looking at the hotels in Arlington and closer to the city, points are twice that of what we would use at the Alexandria hotel. I do love that we can take a water taxi though to the game! That is a great idea. We will also be doing what I imagine at least half a day at Mt. Vernon which to me, seems Alexandria would be a good location to get there from.

    Is public transportation pretty easy to use with kids and a stroller? In So Cal we HARDLY use public transportation. I'm used to taking a car everywhere. Each time I've been as an adult I've had a car and didn't have any trouble navigating around and usually found parking to be plentiful in areas that I wanted to park in. We usually find a pretty central parking spot to the attractions we'd like to visit for the day and walk to each attraction. Now, the drivers - that's a whole 'nother story. Those D.C. drivers are some of the worst I've ever been around :scared:

    My aunt used to work for one of our congressmen so I'm fairly familiar with booking the White House and Capitol Tour. For some reason I thought you had to book it far in advance but after looking some more it says 3 months max? This could just be a change since the last time I went in 2012 I think it was.

    Do you really think all that can be done in 3 days? We were going to do either 5 or 6 nights depending on how much time we need to see it all (or most of what we want - I know you can NEVER see it all!). But day one is unwind day, Tuesday is All-Star Game and last day we'll probably do a late afternoon/early evening flight so no time for much except maybe some time in Alexandria.

    Again, thanks for the info!
     
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  5. boakl68

    boakl68 Earning My Ears

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    We (me, husband, and sons:17,12,12) visited DC for a full week in June, and we could have used a few more days! Here is what we learned:

    1. We rented a townhome in the SW Waterfront area, which was walkable to everything on the mall. For everything else, we used Uber XL (about $8/ride). There were several chain hotels between the townhome and the mall, but I do not remember which ones. This was a safe, accessible area and I highly recommend!

    2. Contact your representative/senator's office a few months in advance to set up a private tour with an intern. We were able to use the tunnels that run between the buildings, see rooms not shown on the general tour, and we were given passes to enter the House and Senate chambers. A very memorable day!

    3. Visit the Newseum. There is a charge, but the tickets are good for 2 consecutive days. They had an amazing collection.

    4. Skip the hop on/off buses. We have loved them in other cities, but our experience was meh in DC. So much is walkable, and we felt we wasted a lot of time sitting in traffic. We bought 2 day passes, and never made the full loop.

    5. The Air and Space Museum has the most amazing volunteer docent squad. Hunt them down and stick with them.

    6. If you have a rental car, a day at the Udvar-Hazy (the "other Air and Space"), next to Dulles in Chantlly, VA is a must-do. The Space Shuttle Discovery, the Enola Gay, Apollo 11 (undergoing rehab, we almost overlooked it but for a discreet sign), a Blackbird, Concord... you get the idea!

    7. On our last night we took an Uber to the WW II Memorial at dusk. We walked around the Washington Monument, the WW II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial as the sun set. Very moving and memorable.

    8. Rent the audio tour ($5/person) at Ford's Theater. It makes the place come alive!

    Obviously, it was a great week. It was hot, but we are from Georgia, so heat doesn't scare us! There is so much to see and do. Have fun!
     
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  6. TwoMisfits

    TwoMisfits DIS Veteran

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    Babies are a LOT of effort...and heat and little kids will make you want to slow down and enjoy vs go-go-go...

    I'd probably plan a week for your family to come and stay...I'd break days down into morning/afternoon/evening and I'd plan for "kid time" in one of those blocks...

    I wouldn't fly in before July 5, b/c of the July 4th mall concert - that will be a mob scene...

    I would give a 1/2 day for each main museum (American History, Air and Space, and Natural History) and a full day for Mt Vernon, maybe adding on a pay program. The White House and Congressional Tours will also be another 1/2 day...

    Holocaust might be too much for the little ones...I'm not sure I would take them, but you know your kids...

    Haven't done Ford's Theatre, so not sure I can help there:)...

    I would also recommend the Chantilly Air and Space, even more than the DC one...it costs $15 or so to park, but it is worth it...that would also be at least a 1/2 day adventure...

    I might also look for Groupons for area trampoline parks, bounce houses, laser tag, water parks, etc...it's good to break up all the history with some fun, and some of the after 3pm weekday waterpark deals can be CHEAP (as an example)...

    If I was planning, I might run with something like this...

    Day 1 - Arrival and Relaxation - Nice Waterfront Dinner
    Day 2 - Natural History / American History
    Day 3 - White House Tour / Ford's Theatre
    Day 4 - Air and Space Chantilly / Area Waterpark Afternoon
    Day 5 - Alexandria Waterfront (lots of little places to explore) / All Star Game
    Day 6 - Congressional Tour / Holocaust (if you want it)
    Day 7 - Mt Vernon / Evening Tour of Monuments or Trampoline Park
    Day 8 - Fly Home

    If you wanted to split on the Holocaust tour, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is pretty close and does a fun and fascinating 45 minute tour (need to get tickets), so someone could take the 9 and 7 year old here, while the others do Holocaust...
     
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  7. melk

    melk DIS Veteran

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    Be aware that July will be super hot so I wouldn't over plan your days. We've gone a couple of times and the first time our kids were about the ages of your kids (not the baby though...no advice there). We found the Metro to be the way to get around. It's clean and easy to navigate.

    Be sure and get your tickets for Ford's Theatre ahead of time, it's very popular. That and Mt. Vernon are probably my two favorite places to visit. One other comment, I don't recommend the Holocaust museum with young children. They do have a children's section that you can go through with them and it is very well done. As for the main museum, it is good for adults to see, very sobering and also very sad. I just think young children can't appreciate the reality of it and could be bored.

    I think a week would be a good amount of time so you can see all you want while not going at high speed.
     
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  8. Lvsdisney

    Lvsdisney DIS Veteran

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  9. CalDisneyMomof2

    CalDisneyMomof2 DIS Veteran

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    All great advice! @boakl68 I'm sure an AirBnB would be a great deal for another trip. We have points so we'll be staying for free on those. Otherwise that sounds like a great option. Seeing the monuments at night sounds like something I'd enjoy doing. My mom has no interest in doing so, so it might be a good time to leave DD with her.

    @TwoMisfits thank you for the time in putting an itinerary together! It might be one day too long so hopefully I can squeeze a couple things in together (6 nights would be max I believe). I absolutely want to visit the Holocaust Museum and have heard that it is very somber. I think my to be 9 year old would actually appreciate it. He's an old soul - appreciative of life and such. Perhaps DH and DSD can take DS (7) and DD to someplace else while DM, DS (9) and myself visit. DM has said it's on her to-do list and being my 4th visit, I'd love to pay a visit as I haven't done so in the past. I also agree with not traveling too close to 4th of July. I would assume that's a popular vacation week? Perhaps we should just visit the following week instead - maybe Sunday through Friday (red eye Saturday night).

    @TwoMisfits and @melk you both make great points about the heat, young kids and resting. That was one of my main concerns. We've experienced some HOT weather here in So Cal the last several weeks and the humidity is like nothing we've had in the past. I won't go as far as saying we'll be used to it, but we'll definitely be cautious. I've warned my mom - we have NO idea how this baby will be so there may be times where one may stay back with the baby and she's ok with staying back if need be. She and DSD will be staying with DD while the other 4 of us go to the All-Star Game as well.

    @Lvsdisney thank you for the link. That looks like something fun to do on our first or last day! I thought about the zoo and not sure we'll have time but if we can squeeze it in, I'd love to. We have pandas in San Diego so it's not something that would be once in a lifetime but it certainly would be nice to not have to pay to see them :teeth:

    Keep it coming, everyone and thank you so much! I'll be booking our hotel in a few weeks DSD JUST got the Marriott card so it will take some time for points to post. I guess we don't have to wait for them and can link our reservations later on.

    :thanks:
     
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  10. Eureka

    Eureka DIS Veteran

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    I live in the D.C. area. It's busy from April through when schools start back in. Keep in mind it will be HOT and humid. We have had a heat wave for over a week now with high 90s. Mount Vernon is a lot of walking and while the grounds are stroller friendly, I don't think you can take it in the house. All the museums should be reasonable stroller friendly but of course it depends on how busy they are. When I went to the African American museum last fall, about a month after it opened, it was packed like sardines and we could barely move. The zoo is a good choice for your kids' ages and they have misting stations to help you off.

    They are in the middle of doing a lot of repairs on the metro so I don't know what it will be like next year but this year the hours have been cut and some days some lines are not available. Hopefully by the time you get there it will be better.

    I agree with the poster who said maybe skip the holocaust museum. It's a must do for someday but I think your kids are too small. Mine are teens and we have only just recently started thinking about taking them. Some of it was being busy and not getting to it, but for awhile we just thought it was too heavy for them.
     
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  11. CalDisneyMomof2

    CalDisneyMomof2 DIS Veteran

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    The entire month of July has been high 90s, into the low 100s and lots of humidity here in So Cal. Humidity is something we're not used to but looks like we should start getting used to it.

    Good point about taking the stroller in the house at Mt. Vernon. We'll be bringing our baby carrier along so I'll remember to have it with us there. Is the zoo a full day zoo like other big zoos (i.e. San Diego, L.A. Zoo)? I'd like to visit but not sure we'll have time.

    Good to know about the metro. I looked into the boat from Alexandria to the Nat's ballpark and it's $100 (and actually, that's for regular games. Says they charge $30 PP on busy days)! :scared: Might be fun but not sure if it's worth the $100. The two times I've gone as an adult we rented a car and found it reasonably easy. I think we maybe spent $20 a day at most to park and just parked in a central location to the activities we were doing. I'll do some more research on the Metro though. But if we get a minivan or SUV that seats 7, it will probably by cheaper to park rather than do the metro for all 7 of us.

    You are all convincing me to skip the Holocaust. I think what we may do is do it the day before the All-Star Game. My mom and I will head to the museum and the guys and kids can go hang out and enjoy the All-Star festivities.
     
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  12. TwoMisfits

    TwoMisfits DIS Veteran

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    A better way to do Holocaust might be to be dropped off in the morning with your mom and baby (who won't know what's going on anyway) and then have your spouse take everyone else to American History. You, baby, and mom could then walk back to American History (they are 3 LONG blocks apart, but not too terrible a walk if you do it when it's not flipping hot:)...you could extend your stay at History an hour or two if you miss anything...but this might give your kids some time to play in the playroom at that museum and then you join them for the museum tour - 2 birds, one stone...(Or as I mentioned above, you can do the same plan, while having the kids and spouse do the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Tour, which is cool for 9 and 7 year olds b/c everyone wants to see where money comes from:)...https://www.moneyfactory.gov/wdccongressionaltours.html
     
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  13. mrsp1030

    mrsp1030 DIS Veteran

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    Also be on the lookout for All Star Tickets as soon as they are posted on the variety of resale websites if you are planning to go. We are season ticket holders to the Nationals and we are already on the list for tickets because of game plan but I have a feeling they will be hot commodity here in the DC area for a variety of reasons, to include the easy access from other major cities like Boston and NYC as well as Baltimore nearby. Also, I know those dates area available for booking via Marriott with points right now so I would do that ASAP. There is also another Springhill Suites in Alexandria that offers free parking and free metro shuttles too so that could also be a possibility. I would not visit Mount Vernon on the weekend if possible as it gets very crowded.
     
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  14. CalDisneyMomof2

    CalDisneyMomof2 DIS Veteran

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    My husband worked for 2 MLB teams for a total of 13 years. He knows many brokers in the business and may get them free (we did when it was in San Diego) but if not, he'll be able to do an internal purchase and get them at face value. But thank you!

    Good to know about Mount Vernon - we'll be sure to go on a weekday!
     
  15. CalDisneyMomof2

    CalDisneyMomof2 DIS Veteran

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    Great idea! I know there's tons of maps but hearing first-hand about the how close certain attractions are to one another really helps. Thank you!
     
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  16. Psychodisney

    Psychodisney DIS Veteran

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    When we were there with our kids, we enjoyed the Washington Monument. We also took them to the Bureau of Engraving. As others have said, it is HOT in Washington DC during the summer. When we were there, I remember getting to the Holocaust museum early to pick up tickets for later that day. I also think we were able to get Washington Monument tickets ahead of time on the National Parks website.
     
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  17. CalDisneyMomof2

    CalDisneyMomof2 DIS Veteran

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    So I hear it's hot :laughing: I live about 20 miles inland in Southern California. About 2 weeks ago the average high temperature for the week was about 100 degrees with incredibly unusual humidity (I think it got up to 106 one day?). The last several days have been nice though - upper 80s to low 90s which for us is pretty comfortable.

    What exactly do Washington Monument tickets get you if you can't go in? It won't be open until Spring of 2019 but I wouldn't mind passing by. We will add the Bureau of Engraving to the list - a possibility for the guys and kids to do while DM and I go to the Holocaust Museum as @TwoMisfits also mentioned.

    Thanks for the tips!
     
  18. Butterstick

    Butterstick Earning My Ears

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    Another local Washingtonian here.

    DO NOT rely on metro. It is a mess. Constant delays, track work, closures... weekends are impossible. It would be a complete waste of your time. I couldn't imagine doing it with a baby.

    I think you are being a little overly ambitious with your "must see" list. I would skip Ford's Theater. It's away from the other attractions you want to see, and parking is a pain over there. I'd also skip the Holocaust museum.

    Mount Vernon could easily take up an entire day. Same with the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space museum (out by Dulles airport). Both are fun, but if I had to choose between them for your group, I'd recommend doing Udvar-Hazy.

    I second the suggestion that you see the monuments at night or dusk. In July it is so, so hot and miserable out there.

    There are many Smithsonian museums (I think there's 15 in DC?). For your group, I'd recommend Natural History above all the others-- it has dinosaurs, the Hope diamond, a bug exhibit, a huge new(ish) Mammals hall, a huge exhibit on Oceans, a fascinating collection of minerals, stuff about earthquakes and volcanoes... and I think they still have an exhibit on a colonial excavation site that had evidence of a murder. Fun stuff! You can spend the whole day there.

    Also, the new African American History museum is now open. Tickets are hard to come by (it's on timed entry only because of high demand), but if you can snag them, it's worth a visit. I just went for the first time a few weeks ago. I thought it was amazingly well done. Again, you could spend the whole day there. I only had time for three hours, and I felt like I missed a lot.

    If you have a car, and you want to see something people don't typically see when they visit D.C., I highly recommend going up to Great Falls. I'm partial to the Maryland side. :)
    https://www.nps.gov/grfa/planyourvisit/directions.htm

    Welcome, and have fun!
     
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  19. Butterstick

    Butterstick Earning My Ears

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    Oh, and I would definitely skip the zoo. It's built on a big hill. The uphill walk in the summer is killer. If you've seen pandas before, there's really nothing special about it to make it worth a special trip.
     
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  20. Butterstick

    Butterstick Earning My Ears

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    One more thing. :D

    One of my favorite things to do with out-of-town guests is to take them to Gravelly Point. Parking is easy and free. It has a fantastic view of the city and the Potomac River. And it is *right* at the end of the runway of Reagan National Airport. I think your kids would get a big kick out of being so close to the planes as they fly in! It's really fun to pack a few sandwiches, a frisbee, and just relax for awhile.
     
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  21. crazylady

    crazylady DIS Veteran

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    We went last summer with a 9 and 12 yo. My thoughts:

    • Pick only two to three touristy things a day to do. My kids were done after that.
    • UBER is awesome and for us was about the same cost as the metro with less walking
    • Check out the Real Kids Real Mysteries series. There is one book about DC which your kids might like to read beforehand.
    • Spy Museum looks great but we decided our 10yo would revolt so we skipped the actual museum and just did the add-on "mission"
    • Bureau of Engraving is worth the extra trouble to get the tickets. Kids loved it.
    • Pick up a National Parks book (not sure what it is called). The kids can get stamps at each park they visit and there are tons in DC. (All the monuments for instance)
    • And look at an actual map. LOL. I wasn't very organized in planning our days properly!
    • When you go to Ford's, try Pi Pizzeria.
     
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