Do you think it’s possible for a family with kids under the age of ten to do Washington D.C. in just one day? Our family of five saw more than I expected possible of Washington D.C. in just one day. I’m sharing my tips on how to enjoy family travel in a one day visit to Washington D.C.
How We Did D.C. in One Day with Young Kids
We saw so much thanks to the fabulous open-air bus line tour.
On this trip our three boys were the ages of three to nine so before we left, we researched how we could do a single day in this city with young kids. We knew it would be a challenge but we were in the area so we wanted to take advantage of seeing some of this great American city. I was amazed at how much we saw in just one day.
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We knew a large amount of walking was not going to be doable with a three-year old and no stroller along to plop him in.
We had just enjoyed a few days at a rented beach house on the OBX, the Outerbanks of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Our flight home was to fly out of D.C. so we scheduled in an extra day to tour the city before our flight.
My husband and I enjoyed sharing this amazing city with our three young kids. Mind-blowing art and architecture surrounded us at every turn.
Why the Bus Line?
My husband investigated which line would deliver us to the most places we wanted to visit in D.C. and he chose wisely. The bus line allowed us to hop on and off a bus from designated bus stops along the line. It was the key allowing us to see so much of the city in one day. This enabled us to move about at our own pace as buses ran at regular intervals along a specified route. With young kids this was a total win because in between the sights and monuments they could rest on the bus, plus we didn’t have to drive and park in an unfamiliar busy city.
Our kids enjoyed the simple fun of riding on top of the bus. As top of bus riders, we saw so many amazing statues, monuments, and buildings just from our seats. It was perfect for our family with young kids because even if we opted out of a stop, we were still able to see the sight from our seats atop the bus. The genius of the bus line was that we could visit the monuments we wanted at our own pace with the ability to head back to the bus stop when we were done. I recall our longest wait was fifteen minutes, but usually the our wait was shorter.
The Giant Gorgeous Monuments and Buildings
The stone monuments and statues were gorgeous. Truly amazing art to behold in person. The kids didn’t always appreciate what the monuments stood for, but they were awesome to gaze upon even without understanding the full meaning. We visited the Washington Monument, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the White House. We walked to the White House and passed by the beautiful Department of the Treasury building. Our short stroll brought us past the many gorgeous manicured gardens stacked in a neat row.
The kids’ favorite stop along the bus line was The Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. The kids were fascinated by it so we spent several hours meandering through. They had so much fun seeing all the different types of aircraft, planes, and displays. The astronaut displays were the most exciting to my kids as were the giant spacecraft. As a mom, I loved the hands-on components to some of the displays at the museum because they sparked kid interaction. We took advantage of the convenient food court and had lunch at the museum too.
More Monuments and Novel D.C. Sights
We stopped at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial which was more massive than I had expected and certainly awe-inspiring to gaze up at.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was another stop we included in our tour. We walked along the white names on the shiny black wall and told the kids about the lost lives and how the monument was created to honor those people. The number of names on the walls was astonishing. This is a hard topic to address with kids but we wanted to include this super important monument in our D.C. visit. My kids’ grandpa is a Vietnam Veteran so this monument has special meaning for our family. We are so thankful to have him with us today as so many lost others their lives.
The tour bus drove through the Arlington Cemetery, another difficult place to explain to young kids. But a place to honor those lost nonetheless. Staring at rows of many white stones was daunting and jarring as we drove by so casual and swift. It felt unfair to slip easily by so many graves as I sat with calm breathing; my son’s sippy cup clutched in my hand. Though we didn’t walk it, I honored them all in my heart.
Our bus also drove past the Pentagon, though there were regulations about visiting so we simply drove past swift and viewed it afar from the nearby highway. Our visit happened after the 911 attack so we understood the regulations regarding the victimized building. The repaired area was obvious due to the different brick color, lagging about as if an everyday scar. That which it is not.
Our boys wanted to see a Subway. They were intrigued by the idea of a subway system under a city. We live in the Midwest so seeing a real subway system was new to them. Even though we didn’t ride the subway, we trekked down without a token, and asked the subway attendant if we could just go down to the tunnels to show our boys what it looked like on the tracks. He allowed us, but did escort us to take a quick sneak peak of the trains. Our kids loved seeing the trains, the people, the deep roaring tunnels. They had never seen such a sight before as trains and people zoomed around beneath the city streets they had just walked on.
A City of Diversity
The many different cultures and variety of people and tourists present in the city created a great experience for our kids. They soaked up words from people from different countries speaking many languages. They saw many different types of culture and ways of dressing that were very different from our home. Coming from the Midwest spending even just a day in this city was a great lesson in diversity for our kids; a priceless aspect of the day trip to D.C.
A Good Day
Washington D.C. is a beautiful city with the amazing architecture, statues, fountains, and gorgeous landscapes. It was a good day and we were back to our hotel room by dinner. We were impressed with our accomplishments in the grand city in just one day as a family of five with young kids. It was a perfect addition to our east coast trip. A stop worth planning into family vacation plans.
A different version of this post was originally published on Red Tricycle “Family of Five Does Washinton D.C. in One Day” http://redtri.com/family-of-five-does-washington-d-c-in-one-day/slide/1
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