Vacation in DC Area with Tweens

Updated on April 09, 2011
K.L. asks from West Lafayette, IN
9 answers

We are hoping to get to the DC area this summer. Our kids are 10 (DS) and 13 (DD). We want to do everything--but I am afraid it's too much. We are looking at 9 days. Besides the basics in DC, my son wants to do the Smithsonian and my dd wants to do Williamsburg, and dh wants to do Mt Vernon and Monticello, and I want to do Arlington. Anybody have a recommendation on how to get the best bang for our buck, must sees, travel arrangements, places to stay, time frame and scheduling? Thanks, moms.

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answers from Washington DC on

Just a warning the Holocaust Museum is very intense. I would not recommend it to preteens and younger. It really freaked my daughter out last week and she is 15, History class field trip. My son went at 16, years ago, field trip, and he too said not to take the younger ones.

You can get out of the city and stay in Fairfax, Springfield, even Stafford, Woodbridge, MAnassas. The hotel rates are cheaper, but then there is the traffic to contend with, our traffic is worse than Chicago's or anything in Indiana. I think we rival LA. Take the METRO, it isn't too expensive and a great experience, and will get you anywhere downtown.
Take the METRO to the zoo. Do not try to park near or at the zoo. It is almost impossible. THe METRO station is about a 10 minute walk to the zoo. And the zoo is a must do in DC. That will take about a day. The zoo is free, parking is not.

The sightseeing tours are a really good place to start. THey stop at the monuments and all the museums and you can just hop on and off all day. They also go to Arlington Cemetery.

Some places require tickets, the Capitol, Washington Monument, Mt Vernon. You can get them online.

Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown are about 2 1/2-3 hours southeast. THat would be a great side trip, as would Baltimore or Annapolis. You would want to stay there. Busch Gardens is in Willimasburg too.

Fredericksburg is a quaint, antiquey town. It also has Ferry Farm, George Washington's boyhood home and a fantastic German restaurant, although very expensive. The Bavarian Chef, it is very authentic.

Food is crazy expensive downtown, but it is fun to do the museums and the monuments and then grab a hot dog from the vendors on the mall. Sometimes the experience is worth the price.

Oh, King's Dominion is on 95 South of DC, exit 98. It's an amusement park like Busch Gardens. That's only about an hour or so away.



answers from Eugene on

My son is right here interrupting me so I asked him what he liked best about our trip to Washington DC. He was about 10 or 11 when we went. Here's what he said: Tour of the Mint, Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Gettysburg, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol Building, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

We spent 5 days in DC and stayed at the Hampton Inn near the Convention Center. Everything in and around DC was expensive but we found a good deal on this hotel and being in the city made the most of our time there. Then we rented a car and spent a week driving to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, various Civil War sites including Gettysburg, Monticello and Mt. Vernon.



answers from Louisville on

Are you driving in or flying and renting after arrival? If you get a hotel near the Metro, you really wouldn't need a car much - and you might be able to get by w/a private car service (think limo's and Lincoln towncars - from BWI to our hotel, they were cheaper than the taxis - and nicer, too!)

The mint is actually the Bureau of Printing and Engraving - and you will need tickets to get in -- presume the tickets are still free, but they are handed out each morning until gone (and go quickly!)

The Smithsonians could almost keep you busy your entire trip - but you've chosen several really neat things to see! If you into a little history of sorts - go to Georgetown area and ride the mule-driven canal boats! (found those by accident when we went about 10 years ago -- hopefully they'd have more of the canal rebuilt by now and it would be a great little trip!)



answers from Austin on

I would highly recommend purchasing a multi-day pass for the "tourist trolley" thing-sorry I can't remember the name of it. It goes all over downtown to all the museums and even out to Arlington cemetery. You can hop on and hop off at any of the stops. This is a great way to see a lot without worrying about driving and parking. (and it will be hot and humid, so you will appreciate the break from walking!)

I would also recommend the Spy Museum. My son was about 12 when we went and he loved it. (I loved it too!) I would disagree that the Holocaust museum would be too intense for children of that age. I think you can be the judge based on your children's personalities. It is very moving and an important part of history.

I think either Mt. Vernon or Monticello are nice. Do both if you have the time.



answers from Washington DC on

I live just outside DC and travel the Metro daily.

Don't stay IN DC, but just outside in Old Town Alexandria/King Street. There is a Hilton across the street from the Metro. There is a free trolley that will take you from the Metro to the Waterfront where there is lots of good food and shopping. The King Street Metro is 2 stops from the Reagan National airport. 6 stops (15m) from Arlington. 6 stops (20m) from the Mall.

The Metro has all day passes that are around $9 a person. They are good starting 9:30a for the day. You can get on and off the metro as many times as you'd like. The museums and momuments open between 9 and 10a.
Mt Vernon is about a 20m drive. Monticello is about a 20m drive.

Williamsburg is around 2 1/2 - 3 hours South on I-95/295. We went to Williamsburg last summer. You can do the whole thing in 1 - 2 days depending on when you get there. You can buy 2 day passes that will save you money. Williamsburg can be walked in 1 day, but they have lectures with the Presidents, and Ghost tours at nighttime that are pretty good. We stayed at the Williamsburg Hospitality Inn that is right on the edge of Williamsburg. There is a series of buses and trolley that you can ride for a small fee, but that hotel was too close so we ended up walking all over. In August it was 100+ degrees, so ...

The National Zoo is near the Wooley Park Metro. If you get off the Metro at the Wooley Park stop, you have to walk up the hill to the zoo. However, if you go, go one stop past that (can't think of the name), you can walk down the hill to the zoo. Then when you leave, walk down the hill to Wooley Park station.

Don't waste your money on the National Aquarium. Its in DC in the basement of the Treasury Building (?). Its $20 a person to get in. It is VERY dark, and is one big room with a partition and a big alligator. The reptile house at the National Zoo is bigger!



answers from New York on

Nine days in D.C. is plenty of time to see and do all that is on your list! Don't forget Alexandria and the National Zoo as long as you're there. I used to live in Arlington - not much there, other than the shops and restaurants in the Crystal City underground (Metro stop), but there are lots of hotels there if you don't mind staying outside the city. FYI, Williamsburg is not that close to D.C., but definitely worth the trip!



answers from Columbus on

We went to DC 2 years ago. We saw most of what you have listed in 4 days. We did 1 day at Mt. Vernon and Arlington and drove around to see monuments. There are tours at Mt Vernon that you should buy way in advance on their website if you are interested. You really don't need more than 1/2 a day for Arlington. Allow 2-3 days to see all of the Smithsonian museums. The large air & space Smithsonian is not in downtown DC - its out by the airport. It has alot of space stuff. Monticello is several hours away by car, and so would be Williamsburg. Even though museums in DC are free - the food is outrageously expensive at the museums. And there are not alot of food choices on the National Mall. You need to buy ticket for the capital, etc in advance as well.



answers from Washington DC on

I've lived in the DC area my whole life. As you probably know, there's a never-ending list of stuff to do here. Most of it is low cost. I could give you hundreds of suggestions. I'll start with a few, if you are interested in knowing more, or have questions about ANYTHING DC, Let me know.

Stay in a hotel outside DC... I personally like the Residence Inn chain. They have little kitchenettes, and some have separate rooms attached by living room. The one in Woodbridge, VA (about 35 min outside DC, RIGHT by the interstate) specifically, was very welcoming, nice and clean and reasonably priced. They also have discounted rates for longer stays, I think.

Why Arlington? I know Arlington very well (there's a LOT of nightlife, for instance), but as a specific request by a traveler with kids, I'm just curious...

As far as having a family sight-seeing possible shopping day with some wonderful restaurants, I HIGHLY recommend Old Town Alexandria. There's always something to do there. It is right by the river, surrounded by historical buildings, there's many museums there, music, boat rides...

AND, you should NOT miss one of the most beautiful drives in the country (been deemed so by many sources), The Washington Boulevard. There is also a most wonderful, very long trail along that drive, ideal for families that enjoy beautiful river scenery. It passes through Old Town Alexandria- and it also passes through many other great attractions around DC.

The zoo in the DC area is free and very nice. Also, the Smithsonian museums are fantastic and free to go to. They are all wonderful- as are surrounding museums. The Monuments are free as well as magnificent:)

Mt Vernon is recommended as is Williamsburg. Just a tip on Williamsburg: If you want to stay at the same hotel your entire trip, You won't be able to if you go to Williamsburg. That place has SO much to offer, that you couldn't get enough of it in one day, and then trek it all the way back to DC. Takes about 2 1/2 hours to get there from DC, and it isn't just the driving, it is all the sites you would want to see there that would make it hard to fit it all in.

Okay, i fear this is too long already. If you have any specific questions or want to know more, message me.



answers from Dayton on

We lived there for 10 years and you have some good advice. In my opinion you can spend more than you need to on hotels and parking (25.00 per day). In DC you will pay alot....if you stay just outside DC on the metro route you will be able to park your car for free and pay lower rates and still be able to take the metro where ever you want to in DC. You will also be able to drive to Mt. Vernon easily, as the metro does not go there. I recommend you stay at The Holiday Inn /2460 EISENHOWER DRIVE ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA22314.Hotel Front Desk: 1-###-###-####. You can see the Eisenhower metro stop from the hotel.
Have a fun trip!

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