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I went back and forth on how to write this post because we had such a great time on our trip! I’m thinking I’ll write about 2-3 days at a time and then do a tips for taking your own trip post after that? A trip to the Washington DC area has been on my “list” since I was a kid. My 13 year old has wanted to visit some of the museums in the area since he was 3 so it definitely had a lot to live up to!
We traveled for a total of 6 days. Since we were coming from Phoenix (and I’m not a fan of red eye flights – they just aren’t good on my immune system) the first day was all travel. We arrived at 9pm (which was 6pm our time). We had a layover in Wisconsin so of course we got some cheese curds for a snack!
The entire trip we stayed in Alexandria, VA (which was a GREAT choice) at the Hotel Monaco – a Kimpton property. We did receive a media rate but I reached out to them because we have really been wanting to try Kimpton properties (and we’re already staying at another one in San Francisco in a couple of weeks). I’ll get into the hotel more on my overview/tips post, but we really loved the location, the feel and some of the fun amenities (like the dive in movie on Saturday night at the indoor pool)!
Staying in a city outside of your “destination” can be a great way to see more of the area if you’re short on time. We stayed on King Street in Old Town Alexandria (the city George Washington called home) and there’s a free trolley running down the street. There’s a MetroRail stop at one end and the Potomac on the other with LOTS of great shops and restaurants in between.
The first night we got dinner at Jackson 20 – the restaurant connected to the Monaco and it was delicious. A perfect comfort meal after a long day of travel.
The next morning we woke up bright and early (hello jet lag) to tackle the boys’ “must do” list. We took the MetroRail into town (more tips on this in my last post) where our first stop was the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
All the Smithsonian museums in town are free to visit which is awesome. This was my 13 year olds “must stop” and he loved it. We had been wanting to visit since he was 3 and I think built it up a little more in our heads. It is free, and really a fantastic resource for a free museum. It has a TON of information, you’d never be able to go through it all and is almost overwhelming in that sense. The hardest part about navigating these museums are the large groups visiting (my husband did this twice as a kid) but we expected that and weren’t surprised there. My boys liked the Ocean Hall and Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt.Once the boys were ready to leave we were ready to eat lunch so walked towards the area of our next “must see” the Spy Museum. There is lots of walking between locations and I could see it being VERY hot in the summer so spring was an excellent choice! If we had been there the week before it would have been snowing but somehow we lucked out with absolutely gorgeous weather.
The Spy Museum was really great. Everyone loved it and my 11 year old especially liked some of the interactive exhibits. This is a paid museum but definitely worth it – especially for kids my boys’ age or a bit younger/older. They have the largest collection of espionage-related artifacts ever placed on public display. When you enter you adopt a cover and have to remember it throughout your visit, break codes, and test your own spy skills. I think every family I talked to said that their kids loved this museum when they visited.
After the Spy Museum we decided to check out the National Archives before they closed. The boys definitely felt the history here and I think really appreciated the work that goes into preserving the history. Half the fun of all of the places we visit is the architecture. Absolutely grand and beautiful!
We took a bit of a break in the lawn in front of the Washington Monument before heading back to Alexandria on the MetroRail which was a great quiet spot to take a breather, appreciate the surroundings and let my 11 year old explore the outside of the monument.
We found some cherry blossoms along the way which was awesome because peak season had been a few weeks before we arrived!
We grabbed a quick dinner in Alexandria that evening while starting to explore the city more. There are several small museums in the area and so much history!
Saturday morning we decided to rent a car and travel out and about a bit. I got to give some tickets away to local readers to see The Jungle Book with us so we did that in the morning and headed to Arlington National Cemetery after that. This was a highlight of our trip. The grounds are gorgeous and humbling.
We stayed to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns and I’m so glad we did. The boys loved it and read about the symbolism of the process and the importance (and honor) of the job. Many people weren’t respecting the atmosphere of silence and respect and we actually got to hear the soldier on duty loudly remind people that this was not the place to discuss the days’ plans (the boys thought that was pretty cool too).
From Arlington we decided to check out Georgetown. It’s SUCH a cute town but definitely busy on a Saturday evening. We stopped at Baked and Wired where I had the BEST gluten free cupcake I’ve ever had. The boys scarfed down their treats so fast I’m guessing they liked those too. The boys loved the Chesapeake and Ohio canal that was constructed as an economical trade route between the eastern seaboard and the trans-Allegheny West.
That evening we explored Alexandria a bit more – saw the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and Stabler-Leadbetter Apothecary Museum before heading down to the Potomac with some take out pizza. There’s a little park at the end of King Street that was perfect for a relaxing dinner! Saturday night was definitely the busiest night in Alexandria and grabbing some pizza on our walk to the Potomac was a great choice if I do say so myself 😉
We definitely packed a lot in these first 3 days but also made sure to allow time for some rest and to soak in our surroundings. I’ll be back with the 2nd half of our trip soon! Like video? Here’s a video of the first 3 days: