Museums, Parks and More in Washington, D.C.
There is so many great things to see and experience in our nation's capital, that I hardly know where to start! Great museums that could take you weeks to see them all, interesting architecture, so much history and culture only begin the list. I’m just going to hit the highlights and you’ll have to go discover even more yourself!
We started our days early and visited the most popular museums and parks right when they opened to avoid the worst of the afternoon crowds. The Smithsonian Foundation is really a national treasure and includes 17 museums in DC and the National Zoo. Seventeen! We spent time in almost half of the museums and my best advice is pick the ones that have exhibits each of our family members want to see, go in knowing you won’t see everything in each museum, and visit a few museums that you don’t know much about. We were pleasantly surprised by the Hirschhorn Museum, National Postal Museum, and National Portrait Gallery. My son insisted on going to the National Zoo and of course we spent a ton of time watching the pandas play. My daughter wanted to see the iconic exhibits at the Museum of American History (think Julia Child’s kitchen, Kermit the Frog and Dorothy’s red slippers). The favorite of mine and my husband’s was the Air and Space Museum. We could have spent days there pouring over so many details (we’re both engineers and geeks, so it spoke to us). Next time in DC we want to spend more time at the African American, and American Indian, and Holocaust Museums and the lesser known but well-done Renwick and Sackler Galleries.
Beyond museums, we spent a ton of time outdoors in the parks and monuments. We noticed that DC is a very active and outgoing city. It seemed like all times of the day people were jogging, biking, playing pick up sports games, and always walking. We loved walking around the Penn Quarter and Chinatown and the neighborhood of Dupont Circle was so fun to walk around at night. We visited the National Mall numerous times throughout our trip, and enjoyed picnic lunches there during the day, but it was pretty special at dusk and seeing the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool lit up in the evening is something we won’t soon forget. The National World War II, Korean War Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans Memorials and The Three Soldiers Statue were also very moving and I am so glad we have these reminders of what so many have sacrificed for our country.
We didn’t plan ahead to get into a guided tour at the White House or meet our Congressman, but we were able to tour the Capitol Building and learn of some of it’s fascinating history. We also enjoyed the beauty of the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin. A lesser known fact is that the Old Post Office Pavilion is the third tallest in the capital and instead of waiting in the long lines of the Washington Monument, we climbed to the top of the Pavilion's Clock Tower and had fantastic views of the city.
Our favorite exhibit was hands down at the National Archives. My entire family was so moved to see the Declaration of Independence, read the Bill of Rights and articles of the Constitution. It was sobering for my kids to learn that their great-grandmothers weren’t born with the right to vote and the ancestors of their African-American friends didn’t have the same rights.
If it sounds like it was a whirlwind of a trip, it was, and we barely scratched the surface of all that Washington DC has to offer. It is not the kind of trip that is relaxing, but it is one that I think everyone should make time to do. There are just too many significant sights to not see and experience!