Washington, DC: Our nation’s capitol. Home of Olivia Pope and Carrie Mathison. A National Treasure. DC is one of those places that you have to visit at least one time as an American. Preferably once when you’re a kid and again as an adult. Your appreciation (or loathing?) for the city changes as you get older. However, there’s something about seeing the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial…you just can’t help but be proud of how far our nation has come. My family and I took a Washington, DC family trip from Boca Raton on our way to Maine this summer.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend driving the 14 hours there, taking your family up to DC for a few days is a fun, rewarding and educational experience you’ll never forget. Here are some of my top recommendations for visiting Washington, DC!
Disclaimer: I was not hosted nor compensated for any part of this trip.
How to Plan a Washington, DC Family Trip from Boca Raton
Where to Stay
AC Hotel Washington DC Convention Center by Marriott
I love a good Marriott property. This one, located in DC’s business district (but still a walkable distance from the National Mall), was a great choice for our visit. Our stylish two queen guest room featured uncluttered surfaces, bath amenities by Korres and bedding with crisp white linens, creating a comfortable oasis for us weary South Florida travelers.
While the room size is reminiscent of New York City (i.e. small), it was a comfortable respite from buzzing DC attractions and was located near several really awesome quick service restaurants.
Complimentary coffee and tea were served each morning in the lobby and there is a paid parking lot across the street if you need it.
When we stayed, the lobby bar/restaurant and rooftop lounge were both still closed due to the pandemic, but I imagine they’re pretty swanky when open.
What to Do
We only had two full days to explore Washington, DC, so we had to make the most of our hours there. Here’s what I’d recommend doing to maximize your time in town.
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Like Florida, summers can get hot in DC…real hot. That’s why I was so glad I booked a (paid) semi-private tour for us at the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian. While tickets are free to this museum, I wanted to make sure we saw all the highlights since we only had a few hours there.
We booked our tour through Viator and it was a great investment. Our guide was knowledgeable, had a sense of humor and was more than happy to answer any questions that we had. Even though I was disappointed much of the pop culture offerings were no longer on display (Carrie Bradshaw’s laptop from Sex and the City, *cough cough*), we were still able to see some amazing exhibits.
From Dorothy’s fully restored ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz and a Bob Ross work of art…
To “shirtless George” Washington (the statue was on display in the Capitol Rotunda from 1841 to 1843 when it was relocated to the east lawn. It came to the new National Museum of American History in 1964 and has resided on the second floor of the Museum ever since), a ballot from our very own 2000 Palm Beach County Presidential Election and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat…
To a full exhibit on First Ladies’ dresses…it truly held our and my 8 year-old’s attention for almost three hours.
Star-Spangled Banner Conservation Laboratory and Exhibition
One of my favorite exhibits was about the Star-Spangled Banner, but it did not allow photographs. The historic American flag had been on view almost continuously since it came to the Smithsonian Institution in 1907.
Despite receiving the best possible care, the flag, already timeworn, deteriorated further from decades of exposure to light, pollution and temperature fluctuations. Now, you can view it inside a pressurized, climate-controlled, glass and chrome conservation laboratory through floor-to-ceiling windows. It is almost 3 stories high and was amazing. You can read more about that exhibit here.
There were of course a bunch of great photo opps at the Museum…
And, on another pop culture/personal note, I was thrilled we got to see Julia Child’s Kitchen on display as it is now temporarily closed until October 2021.
Scooting Around the National Mall
While electric scooters might not be the safest thing to do with young children, it’s certainly a convenient way to get around most the National Mall. Thankfully, we packed a helmet for our daughter (but ideally, us adults would have them too).
With the use of an easy rental app (like Bird), we were able to scoot from one end of the National Mall to see The Capitol to the other end to the WWII Memorial with ease (my hubby and daughter shared a scooter). I also recommend pausing to check out the majestic Washington Monument up close.
MBMom Tip: Try to stay in the parks as much as possible and avoid streets and sidewalks. Your ride can get bumpy!
Visiting the White House
A necessary stop, and one that even the youngest of children recognize, be sure to stop by 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. aka The White House. Depending on the day, you may not be able to get that close. However, it’s still pretty amazing to see such an iconic building and symbol for the American Presidency. FYI- Tour requests must be submitted through your member of Congress.
There is also a White House Visitor Center that’s free to visit located at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue. It offers people an inside look at the President’s iconic home.
MBMom Tip: Be sure to get there early as it has limited capacity, so lines can get long.
From their website: The exhibit areas feature approximately 100 historical artifacts, interpretive panels, looping videos of photos and archival footage, and interactive elements for visitors of all ages. Visitors can:
- Explore an interactive touchscreen tour of the White House
- View over 90 artifacts from the White House collection
- Watch the 14 minute film, “White House: Reflections From Within.
DC Trolley Tour
Having lived in St. Augustine during my college years, I was pretty close to being clipped by an Old Town Trolley more than a few times. It takes a lot to get me on one these days! But with the summer heat in full effect, I was grateful for the ride to the historical monuments further afoot in DC such as the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
We booked with Old Town Trolley which had a strategic 30 minute stop at both memorials located right next to each other (the Korean War Veterans Memorial is also there, but was under renovation when we visited). In non-pandemic times you can also hop on/off at various spots, but we were limited this summer.
Here’s the Old Town Trolley pass I’d recommend getting:
- Live narrated, 90 minute tour
- 1 day tour stop – at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial
- Your trolley waits for you while you explore
- Over 100 points of interest
- Arlington National Cemetery Tour*
- Reservations are required
You’ll get an air-conditioned overview of DC, some fun facts/stories and you won’t have to walk with the kids for the duration of the tour. But the best part is that the Gold Pass comes with a tour of…
Arlington National Cemetery
The hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery attract over 3 million visitors per year. And it’s easy to understand why–this is a fascinating landmark to visit. Today, the property is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. It is a place to remember the men and women who served their nation and where all who visit gain a sense of their sacrifice.
You can walk around Arlington for free, but it is HUGE. I’d definitely take advantage of the add-on Trolley Tour from Old Town Trolleys, free with the Gold Pass.
Highlights of the Trolley Tour at Arlington National Cemetery include:
- The gravesite of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his wife, Jackie with an eternal flame
- Arlington House and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We were able to witness a wreath-laying ceremony and changing of the guard there and it was breathtaking. Highly recommend stopping here and learning more about the history of the tomb inside Arlington House!
- US Marine Corps War Memorial – Iwo Jima. Talk about one of the most famous statues in the world!
Thomas Jefferson Memorial and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
These were two memorials that we didn’t want to to miss out on seeing. Unfortunately the Old Town Trolley Tour didn’t make stops to either when we visited (due to the pandemic). We drove to both and parked and I’m so glad we did. Do whatever you have to ensure you see both of these memorials.
Taking Family Photos
The BEST purchase I made prior to taking this trip was this tripod/selfie stick. All of the photos featured in this blog post were taken on my iPhone 12 Pro via the selfie stick tripod. Check it out via my affiliate link for only $19.99! It’s so easy to carry along and even fits in a small purse. I am a huge fan!