For all the details of our vacation, please read this blog post.
For the quick details of our itinerary of Washington D.C. with little kids (ages four and two), read on.
Where to Stay
We stayed in the Marriott Residence Inn Capital View in Arlington, Virginia. We had a kitchen, grocery shopping was a complimentary service, and there was a free metro shuttle and airport shuttle. We also got a suite, so the kids were in one room and we were in the other and it was nice to have that space at the end of the day, and also to be able to put the kids to bed and then stay up and spend time as a couple. We found it to be worth the extra money. But, really, just stay anywhere close to the metro, even if it’s a little further out.
How to Get Around
Parking seemed like it’d be a nightmare in the National Mall area, so wear good walking shoes, pack a stroller for each kid five and under (you will NOT regret the extra luggage), and take the metro. If you want to hit the Pentagon or the Arlington Cemetery, same story. If you want to go past these places, consider renting a car for that day.
- If at all possible, start your days early. Kids do best in the mornings. Melt downs happen in the afternoon around nap time.
- Ice cream is a great bribery tool and ice cream trucks are everywhere.
- Strollers make great places to take naps
- If you’re travelling from the west coast, or even the mountain west, expect a bit of jet lag. It’s not as easy to jump forward in time as you think.
- If you want an immersive trip, or a trip where you don’t have to carry anyone or deal with melt downs, go with children ages 8+. Otherwise, plan on hitting the highlights and some foul moods. Younger children don’t always get it and they don’t apologize for that. But, you can still have a great trip, so don’t be too discouraged. Just temper your expectations with little ones.
- Reagan National Airport (DCA) is the closest airport to the mall, Arlington Cemetery, and other big highlights of the area. Try to fly into this one with little kids. The less travel time, the better.
- Spend three days minimum, maybe four if you also want to hit the Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon. This is actually a great amount of time with little kids. We might’ve overdone it.
What to Do
Here is the itinerary we planned for our trip to Washington D.C.
Day 1—Bike Tour of Monuments
We started the day a bike tour around the Washington National Mall and the monuments. We used D.C. Bike and Roll and spent about five hours. I have this blog to thank for the idea and the route. The National Mall is huge and the space between monuments is much larger than they appear on a map. There is no way we could have fit everything in one day without a bike. We ended the day with a little bit of free play on the National Mall and a ride on the Mall Carousel.
We hit three Smithsonian’s this day. There are many to choose from, but we did the American History museum (which wasn’t a hit with our kids, so we left after about an hour; that’s the beauty of the Smithsonians—they’re all free, so if one isn’t working, you can leave without any guilt), Air and Space Museum (big hit with our two-year-old son), and the Natural History Museum.
Day 3—Capitol Hill
We got up bright and early for a congressional tour of the Capitol at 9:00 a.m. A congressional tour is the way to go with little kids. There were just four other people in our group, the intern was knowledgeable and we were able to really enjoy each part of the Capitol. Other tour groups we saw were massive and wore headphones and we could tell that there was a lot of confusion about where they were and what they were looking at. Also, we were able to leave our stroller, bags, and (if we’d brought it) food in our congressman’s office.
The tour was about an hour and a half long, so after the tour we were ready for some lunch. It was a long wait to get back into the Capitol to access their cafeteria, so we headed to Union Station which was about a twenty-minute walk.
I got a picture outside of the Supreme Court Building and then we headed to the Library of Congress. We checked out the lobby of the library, where we saw an original Gutenberg Bible, and then headed downstairs to the young readers section to give the kids a little break.
After the library, we headed to the Capitol’s fountain to throw pennies and then we hit the Mall Carousel again.
Day 4—National Zoo
We hit the National Zoo on Friday. We actually wish that we’d hit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing or toured some other buildings instead, because our kids, surprisingly, just weren’t that interested in the zoo. We were also all pretty tired of several days of walking. Actually, if you can, have Day 4 be Sunday and just take it easy resting at the hotel or visiting the temple. If Sunday isn’t an option, just do something a little easier. The National Zoo is on a hill and so there’s a lot of uphill walking. They do have cool animals, and the zoo is massive, but none of us were into it. But, it could’ve just been us.
Day 5—Arlington Cemetery and 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon
We took a guided tour of the Arlington Cemetery, which costs money, but is the way to go after days of walking and with little kids. We were able to see the Kennedys’ grave site and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
We then took the metro over to the Pentagon and visited the 9/11 Memorial. Our two-year-old napped here, so we spent quite a bit of time at this memorial. It was very peaceful and somber. Our four-year-old played quietly among the benches, trees, and gravel. Take the time to visit if you can.
Day 6—Washington D.C. Temple and Visitor’s Center
Day 6 was Sunday for us, so we took the metro and a bus up to the Washington D.C. Temple. It was quite the trek. We’d actually recommend renting a car. The temple is in Kensington, Maryland. The visitor’s center was great for kids with lots of interactive things to play with. The missionaries there are very helpful and let us eat our lunch in the kitchen.