On day 3 of our D.C. tour we visited the National Archives, the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum and the Jefferson Memorial.
I had reserved timed-entry tickets to the National Archives the week prior to our visit, so we happily walked past the line, right to the very front of security and entered the building. This was more than worth the $1.50 per person booking fee! There are two different museums and a fabulous gift shop here…but really the main attraction is the Charters of Freedom…the room that houses the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill Of Rights. We were able to see all three of these vital documents in person and it was so cool! After visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia we were prepared for the poor condition of the Declaration of Independence. You may recall the story of how it was passed around the country, carried on horse back and frequently changing hands…which somewhere along the line lead to a big dark smudgy handprint on the front of our Declaration. It was later displayed for viewing in a sunlit room, where much of the fading probably took place. Honestly, it is so faded that you can barely read it. Thankfully our historians learned from the past and made drastic improvements in preservation of the other two documents. None the less, it was remarkable to see these documents in person. We also enjoyed the upstairs museum that documents so many of the items that are stored in the National Archives.
And of course we watched the National Treasure movies before our visits to both Philadelphia and D.C….it was truly fun to enjoy the history and the entertainment aspect!
From the Archives we strolled over to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. This is a phenomenal museum! I really wish we had more time to explore the other Smithsonian Museums…the quality of content and the fact that they are free make for good family fun.
Out of all the exhibits that we saw, we loved the flying and space exhibits the most. We were all fascinated with the vintage planes on display…the actual plane built and flown by the Wright Brothers in 1903….the actual Lockheed 5B Vega that Amelia Earhart set two records in…and the original Lindbergh plane. We also really enjoyed the Planetarium show that we saw.
From here we walked down to the National Mall lawn (between the Washington Monument and the Capitol)…found a food truck we great Philly Steak sandwiches and had a picnic. It was such a beautiful day…we were able to soak up some sun and hang out with locals and tourists alike…truly a great way to partake in the D.C. life. The crowds were drastically smaller on the weekend, so it was fun to stop and pause here….
Our last stop was the Jefferson Memorial. This monument is over by the water and the walk there was so beautiful with the autumn leaves falling around us. It was quite inspiring to read the words of our 3rd President…just four days before the Presidential Election.
We were thankful to leave D.C. on such a high note. My favorite way to depart a city is with joy and not pure exhaustion. It leaves us all with happy memories, wanting to return for more. Clearly there is so much more to see and do in our nations Capital…we must return some day and adventure more.
Here are my tips for those planning to visit the city in the future:
- As soon as you have the dates of your trip, contact your local State Representative’s office and request tours of the White House, Capitol, Library of Congress and even the Pentagon. You can request these up to six months in advance.
- If you are traveling via RV, make reservations early. Cherry Hill RV Park was worth the money for us to be close by and provided us with full hookups (only a 20 minute Metro ride from the center of downtown).
- Once the date is closer and you’ve heard back about your requests in #1, go online and request timed tickets to the National Archives ($1.50 per person reservation fee) and the Ford Theatre ($3 per person reservation fee). This is well worth the expense.
- Take the Metro into the city. For $2 per person you can buy each person a Metro card, then load them as you go. Although it is not cheap, it was much less expensive than parking downtown and we never had to back-track. We would exit at one station and hop on at another at the end of the day. We averaged $10 per person, per day in Metro fees (one trip into the city and one trip out). There is a weekly rate for almost $60 if you plan to utilize the Metro more. The Metro does not offer child discounts and I believe children over 4 must pay.
- We enjoyed starting our trip in Arlington, then walking across the river into D.C. and exploring the city one section at a time, as much as possible. See my post on Arlington here.
- If you are a homeschooling family, ask for discounts. By showing my HSLDA membership card (teacher ID) I was able to get free admission for myself, as the teacher, at the Planetarium inside the Smithsonian. I also received a teacher discount on a couple of books that I purchased at the National Archives bookstore.
- Use TripAdvisor for choosing restaurants/places to eat. The day we ate at a taco shop near the White House, I didn’t take the time to check reviews. It was horrible and we spent as much money on fast food there as we did at a nicer place the next day that was fabulous. If I had to do it again, I would of packed a picnic to eat near the Lincoln Memorial. I wasn’t sure exactly how packing a picnic would work…but if you start at Arlington and walk across to Lincoln…you will be there about lunch and it will work perfectly if you can pack it in backpacks and fold up a sheet to sit on.
- Wear very comfortable shoes and walk everywhere if you can. Over three days I walked 47,683 steps!
If you are able to visit our grand Capital, take the time to plan ahead…you will be so thankful you did!