We kicked off summer with a fun long weekend trip down to Washington, DC! I hadn’t been to DC since before we were married, so exploring the city with a kid and through new eyes was a fun adventure – it felt like we were there for the first time. We packed our trip with lots of kid-friendly museums and experiences, so I thought I’d share our itinerary and some travel wins for future planning! How we traveled to DC from Boston: We spent a lot of time debating whether to fly or take the train from Boston to DC. Prices for flights were a bit higher than usual because it was Father’s Day and the Juneteenth holiday weekend, and we found a solid deal on Amtrak Acela tickets. After comparing how long each would take, we decided that even though the flight is much faster, we could cut out a lot of time getting to the airport, going through security, and getting from the airport in DC to our hotel if we took the Acela train. Plus parking at the Westwood 128 Station, where we caught the train, was much less expensive than any airport parking options!
I’m so glad we went this route because the Acela ride was a really nice way to travel with kids. We were able to bring our own drinks and snacks, it was easy to move around the train if we needed to stretch our legs (the cafe cart was a fun treat), and Jane said she *loved* that she didn’t have to wear a seatbelt (I agree, it feels so much less constrained compared to a plane). We booked table seats, so we also had a good spot for playing card games, coloring, and having snacks. Once we hopped off the Acela in DC, it was incredibly easy to get on the Metro with our luggage and take the subway straight to our hotel (avoiding booster seats for cabs was another win!).
Where we stayed in DC with Kids: We had originally booked a different hotel for our trip, but got an update a few days before our trip that their pool was closed and were experiencing some loud construction in the building. When we travel, the hotel pool is always a highlight, and so we decided to look at the last minute for a different place to stay. We ended up at the Ven Hotel in Dupont Circle, which was in a very convenient location just steps from the Metro station and near tons of restaurants (we actually stumbled upon the weekend farmer’s market in Dupont Circle too!).
The hotel rooftop had a pool and bar that looked really great in online pictures, so we were excited to try it out. Unfortunately the pool didn’t have a shallow end so it was hard to navigate with a kid, and the vibe on the rooftop was definitely catering to a kid-free guest. One of the weekend days that we stayed there, it was closed entirely for a ticketed DJ event, so while the location was awesome and the rooftop bar and pool were really cool, I think there are probably better options if you’re traveling to DC with kids.
Where we ate in DC with Kids: When we travel to any new city, my focus for planning our trip always revolves around finding the best food! We took this trip with college friends that have two younger kids, and Jane was feeling a little under the weather for part of our stay, so our focus was on kid-friendly spots and speedy service. By no means did we get to try the best that DC has to offer, but these are a few places where we ate with kids that did the trick!
A few followers had recommended Old Ebbitt Grill for dinner and the meal was great. They had a solid kids menu, but the adult food was on point and had an old school, traditional DC vibe. After sightseeing around the museums one afternoon we grabbed a quick lunch at District Tacos, which were very tasty! And before we took the train back to Boston we found a spot called Junction Bistro near Union Station that had amazing sandwiches and drinks (probably my favorite meal of the weekend!). Another good spot was Duke’s Counter for burgers and beers. I picked it because it was directly across the street from the zoo, and after walking around for hours in the heat and humidity, it was a pleasant respite with air conditioning and delicious sandwiches. The staff was also incredibly kind and accommodating when we added more people to our reserved table, and were extra expedient about getting the little kids their meals out asap to avoid any post-zoo-meltdowns (which any parent will tell you is just about the nicest thing that can happen when dining out with kids!).
I made one more “adult” reservation for the trip at Le Diplomate, a french restaurant that I’ve wanted to try for years! Jane wasn’t feeling great though and we decided to cancel our dinner (so please go if you’re ever in DC and tell me about it!!) and rerouted to a cute pizza place in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. She miraculously recovered after eating a bowl of spaghetti (ugh KIDS!!) and was ready to party, so we took a walk to hunt for ice cream. The silver lining of missing my coveted dinner reservation was stumbling upon Dolcezza Gelato in Dupont Circle where we had some of the best gelato I’ve ever eaten – YUM. Our Family-Friendly Washington, DC Sightseeing List: Seeing all of the big sites like the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the Washington Monument are quintessential for a first time DC trip, but they also involve a LOT of walking. We brought Jane’s scooter with us (another perk of the train ride!) and it made zipping around to these different sites much more fun and enjoyable. It also made taking public transportation more manageable – we took the Metro almost everywhere and found there were bike racks outside most of the museums for easy scooter parking!
We visited a few of the Smithsonian Museums. Jane was really excited to see the *real* ruby slippers from Wizard of Oz at the National Museum of American History, and I was delighted to visit Julia Child’s kitchen. There were also fun interactive kids spaces in the National Museum of American History – including an innovation lab where they could build and experiment with various exhibits. The Air and Space musuem was also on our list, my husband loves anything aviation related, so we saved this one for a Father’s Day excursion (along with everyone else in Washington, DC – it was very crowded and even with timed entry tickets, the line to get in at the opening was long). On a previous trip to DC we visited the Air and Space annex location that’s huge and has tons more planes to look at – it’s worth a visit if you have more time!
Two other new-to-us museums we visited on this trip were the National Postal Museum and the National Children’s Museum. My in-laws recommended the National Postal Museum to us and fun fact: I LOVE mail, like I’m obsessed with it and think I missed my calling as a mail carrier. So it’s not surprising that I loved this musuem and learning all about the history of mail in the US. It’s located right across from Union Station so it was convenient to get to, and the crowds were minimal so it was a nice break from some of the busier Smithsonians we visited. There was a scavenger hunt designed for kids, some cool “design your own stamp” activities that Jane loved, and I found the history and technology exhibits really fascinating. The National Children’s Museum was a hit with the kids, it’s probably geared best to kids 1-8, the activities skewed a bit to the younger side with a large Curious George exhibit and a Paw Patrol room, plus some interactive STEM activities, and lots of space to climb and slide and move around.
In addition to all of our musuem crawling, we also visited the National Zoo and took in a baseball game at Nationals Park! The National’s Game was incredibly fun and I was really impressed by the food options at the stadium (we had a bahn mi hot dog that was delish!) And as we expected, the zoo was awesome and the kids all loved it. We were all wowed by the pandas and obviously came home from the gift shop with a new panda stuffed animal and panda headband. It was a super hot day and I appreciated how shady most of the zoo was, with exhibit viewing spaces being covered by lots of trees on winding paths. There were also some perfectly positioned food trucks that were serving margaritas, and let me tell you, an ice cold margarita after a long hot day at the zoo really hits the spot!