Our Family Vacation to Washington, D.C.
Updated: Sep 7
I believe every United States citizen should visit Washington, D.C., at least once in their life to get a better appreciation for the founding of our country. So we decided to take our family vacation there this summer now that our children are teenagers and can fully appreciate all the monuments, museums, and other sites there are to see.
It was 1998 when I last visited Washington, D.C. A flood of memories returned when we arrived. So I was excited to be able to share this trip with my family.
Here is our itinerary for our vacation.
Day 1: Travel Day
Our day started very early as we had a 6 a.m. flight from Jackson to D.C. with a four hour layover in Atlanta. All of our flights went smoothly which is always a blessing when traveling. Upon arrival at Reagan National Airport, we headed to the baggage claim to get our luggage and then over to the Metro station.
When we got to the Metro station at the airport we wanted to purchase a pass for the week which allowed unlimited use each day. A helpful Metro employee walked us through the easy process and then we were on our way to the Rosslyn stop in Arlington.
Once we get off at the Rosslyn stop we were just about two blocks from the Holiday Inn Rosslyn at Key Bridge where we would be staying. This is older hotel was affordable, clean and conveniently located in Arlington.
[Pro Tip: If planning a trip to Washington, D.C. consider staying in the suburbs, especially near Metro stations, to save some money. ]
After we got checked in to our hotel, we unpacked and freshened up before heading out to explore the area. We crossed the Francis Scott Key Bridge (known simply as the Key Bridge) two blocks from our hotel to head over into Georgetown. As we crossed the bridge the view of the Potomac River was very beautiful. It was so exciting to see all the kayakers out on the river We also got to watch the President’s helicopter caravan fly over.
Upon reading some great reviews about Thunders Burgers and Bar we decided to give it a try. It was a very hot evening and we were glad to finally sit down for supper and cool off a little bit. Thunders did not disappoint. The food was very delicious and the prices very reasonable for the area. We definitely recommend this place.
Day 2: Monument Day
Knowing the weather was going to be very hot and humid during our trip we decided to try and knock out all the monuments in one day. We started off by enjoying some yummy bagels at Bethesda Bagels which was next to our Metro stop. After breakfast, we hopped on the Metro to go over to the Metrocenter Metro stop. From there we walked over to the White House Visitors Center. Unfortunately, our request for tickets to the White House was denied. The Visitors Center was a nice stop to get a little information and history on the White House.
Throughout the day we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial, National World War II Memorial, and walked around the mall. Given it was so hot we enjoyed stopping off at the World War II Memorial where they allow you to put your feet in the fountain. It was a good place to take a break and cool off a little bit.
Since we went Memorial Day weekend the Rolling Thunder Rally was in town. This is the largest Veterans Motorcycle Rally in the country. It is so loud but such an awesome site. The parade of motorcycles lasted for around 4 hours. I never heard an official count of the number of bikers that came from all over the country to participate but it was well in the thousands.
The food court in the Ronald Reagan Building was recommended as a good and reasonably priced location to eat. So we stopped there for lunch. There are a lot of quick service options to choose from and is very convenient to the mall just a couple blocks from the White House.
After lunch, we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue away from the White House to the Newseum. This is a very neat museum dedicated to the history of journalism and the news. This is one of the few places we had to pay an admission.
After we spent some time at the Newseum we were exhausted and ready to head back to the hotel. So we hopped on the Metro back to Rosslyn. Once we got to Arlington we stopped off at a Wise Guy Pizza. It is a little restaurant with freshly made pizzas. We enjoyed sitting there staring out the window as it started to pour down.
Needless to say, after walking roughly 8+ miles today we were ready to be in our hotel room for a relaxing evening.
Day 3: Memorial Day
We had reservations for a tour of the U. S. Capitol today. We requested tickets for the tour through our senator’s office. So this tour was the first on our stop. We got up on time and headed to the Metro not realizing it was running on the Sunday schedule since it was a holiday. Therefore, we got to the Metro before it began running. So this was going to put us late for our tour we ordered an Uber and quickly got over to the Capitol. It was nice to walk around the outside of it and get pictures without anyone being in front of it.
You only get to tour the Catacombs, Rotunda and the Statue Room in addition to seeing a short intro video. In order to get access to the Senate and House chambers, you have to get special access through your representative’s office. Nonetheless, it was just an awesome and humbling experience to be in the building that is full of rich history and to stand where so many influential people in our country and have stood.
We took the underground tunnel over to the Library of Congress. We decided not to do a tour but did walk around the atrium and take in the beautiful architecture.
We walked across the street to get a couple of quick pictures of the Supreme Court building before looking for lunch. Again, looking at some great reviews we tried Good Stuff Eatery which is about a half mile behind the Library of Congress. Definitely another one to put on the recommended list. (Note: Several people can share one order of fries!!)
After lunch, we walked back down towards the Mall to tour the Botanical Garden. The gardens and the green house is full of different types of flowers and plants. I wished I could make my backyard look as pretty!
Following the Botanical Garden, we walked a couple of blocks over to the Museum of the Bible. This state-of-the-art, interactive museum is a definite must for anyone that is interested in the history of the Bible. Prepare to spend several hours easily as there is so much to read and see and interact with. This was another museum where we had to pay an admission.
After we toured the Museum of the Bible we walked a block over to the Federal Center Metro station to head over to the Wharf. After we got off the Metro we popped into a grocery store for some water and a small snack. (Normally we would carry water around with us but since there is absolutely no food or drinks allowed into the Capitol we left all that at the hotel.) We took our snack and sat under a shade trip. Now re-energized we walked over to the Wharf taking in all the stores and perusing the restaurant options available.
While there are many great options at the Wharf we decided to get out of the crowd and go somewhere a little quieter. Knowing that D.C. has a Ted’s Montana Grill, one of our favorite restaurants we seek out when traveling, that’s where we decided on for this evening. (Note: The Bison burgers and meatloaf are the best!)
After supper, we walked several blocks to the Metro station for our ride back to the hotel. We enjoyed talking with some D.C. police officers that were riding/patrolling the Metro we were one. Never did we feel uneasy or in danger on the Metro. It really has been cleaned up since I was last there in 1998.
With another day with lots walking we were ready to put our tired feet to rest.
Day 4: Museum Day
Since the museums do not open until 10 a.m. we enjoyed sleeping in a little late. Once we got up and going we took the Metro over to the Mall where we started off with the National Air & Space Museum. We were quite disappointed to find out that at least half of the exhibits were closed as they are renovating and upgrading the museum. Many exhibits in the open portion of the museum were broken as well. While the main museum is free to visit, we did pay a small fee to watch a short video in the planetarium.
Once we were finished with the Air & Space Museum it was time for lunch. We did not eat at the cafe in the museum because it is very overpriced. We enjoyed a delicious hot dog from a food stand just outside the museum. We found a shade tree to sit under to eat our lunch and watch people go by.
We then walked across the mall to the National Gallery of Art. If you are a lover of art then you can easily spend a very long time here. There are rooms upon rooms of the most amazing artwork you will ever see. Such talent! Obviously we didn’t spend a long time here with two teenagers who weren’t that interested in art.
Next, we walked next door to the National Archives to see the most important documents in this history of our country…the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. If nothing else, you must take a moment to stop in and see these important documents. After all, they are the foundation of our country.
After the Archives we were going to go to the National Museum of Natural History. However, the line to get in was backed out the door. We did not want to wait in the hot sun to get in. So we headed a couple of blocks away from the mall to the International Spy Museum. This paid museum is a must. It was one of our favorites this trip. Upon entering the museum, you are given a spy alias and a mission. As you tour the museum you have to find clues to solve your mission. You learn about all kinds of tools and tricks spies from all around the world have used throughout history.
Now it is getting supper time so it is time to decide what to eat. Typically, we do not eat at chain restaurants when traveling unless it is one that we do not have back at home. Cheesecake Factory is one of our favorite chains to eat at when we travel. So we found one and enjoyed a nice meal. Of course, we got a slice of cheesecake to go and enjoyed it back at our hotel room.
Day 5: Mount Vernon and Evening Monument Tour
We debated back and forth on whether or not to spend a full day to go to Mount Vernon. We decided to go for it and were not disappointed. However, we had quite the adventure to get out there. It is about 30 minutes away from D.C. You supposedly can take the Metro out as far as it will go and then take a shuttle the rest of the way. So we followed the instructions on the Mount Vernon website. We went as far as the Metro would take us which wasn’t the end of the line. They are doing upgrades to some of the stations. So we had to get off the Metro and take a bus to the last station where we would supposedly take the shuttle to Mount Vernon. We received a lot of misinformation about the shuttle. Frustrated, I ordered an Uber to take us the rest of the way.
Once we got there we stopped in the little food court for lunch. I don’t really recommend it. It is overpriced and the food isn’t that great. The only branded food station was a Papa John’s Pizza. However, we weren’t up for pizza. So we stopped at the BBQ station. It wasn’t that great. Eat before you go or pack some snacks to enjoy before you enter.
Mount Vernon itself was definitely worth it. The home of George Washington was purchased by the Mount Vernon Ladies Associate in 1858 to preserve the property. They are private organization and are not federally funded. The beautiful sprawling grounds overlook the Potomac River with its beautiful views. You can tour inside the home, the outer buildings, Washington’s grave, his distillery and more. It was such a neat feeling to have walked where George Washington not only lived but where he also passed away. Just stop and imagine all of the important people that were influential to the founding of our country who visited Mount Vernon and you have the opportunity be in the same place. Another humbling experience.
After spending some time here we took an Uber back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner and to meet up with some friends for an evening tour. We had a great Uber driver who was very hospitable and gave us a lot of history about the area on our drive back.
We met up with a friend from home who was leading the Richland, Mississippi’s Mayor’s Youth Council tour that week. He invited us to join them on an evening monument tour. So we met them at the Ronald Reagan Building where we ate earlier in the trip. After a bite of supper, we hopped on their bush with them.
The evening tour was led by Brian McCauley of Liberty Tours. We toured the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. While at each memorial, Brian gave the history as well as information about the Christian influence that was designed in them. (Brian leads all kinds of day and night tours for private parties and groups. You won’t be disappointed!)
Day 6: Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery
It is our last full day in D.C. and we were able to tour one of the buildings I was most excited about visiting again…the Pentagon. You must request free tickets from the Pentagon well in advance in order to tour.
We got to the Pentagon a little early so we walked around to the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. We all remember where we were on that tragic day. It was very powerful to see the 184 benches, each with the names of the people that died in the Pentagon or on the plane that hit the Pentagon. To put names with the tragedy is very emotional.
Once we cleared through security we awaited our hour-long tour. Of course, you don’t get to see the neat (classified) stuff, but that’s for reasons of national security and certainly understandable.
We then took the Metro one stop over to Pentagon City to eat lunch in the food court at the mall. This is definitely a nice place to stop for lunch if in the area.
After lunch, we took the Metro over to Arlington National Cemetery. We took the tram over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the changing of the guard. This ceremony is such a neat tradition. From there we took a private shuttle to the grave of my wife’s uncle. We had not seen his grave since he died seven years ago. (Note: If you have a family member buried in Arlington, you can request a free shuttle from the visitor’s center to the grave. They will give you a phone number to call when you are ready to be picked up.)
Arlington National Cemetery is a reminder of why we owe such gratitude towards the men and women of the United States Military. They sacrifice so much for the freedoms we enjoy in our country.
Since we needed to pack up to fly home the next day we decided to eat near the hotel. We saw great reviews for a little Italian restaurant called Il Raddicho. The fresh pasta with homemade sauces was the best. You pick out your pasta and your sauce and they bring them in individual bowls. This is definitely another recommended restaurant to try when in Arlington. We enjoyed the half mile walk back to the hotel where we packed up and got a good night’s sleep for the long day of flying home.