We hit the ground running when we arrived in D.C. (hence the shower on the train)! We pulled in at Union Station around 10:30 AM, checked in at the Willard Intercontinental and were off to find lunch.
I read and then re-read and then triple-read every single reader comment when I solicited advise for this trip. I designed an itinerary of 80% of our week and then had a short list of other things to fill in as we could (mostly food). So, I consulted my list and we popped in to District Taco for a quick bite! It was quick, yummy and everyone was quite happy with the choice.
We had a 1:00 PM appointment for the National Archives and were so excited to see our first little bit of D.C. We were all almost giddy to see the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. I will say this 1,000 times about 1,000 different things over the course of this trip report, but it was a surreal moment to be staring at the actual documents that founded our nation.
In particular, we found it fascinating how worn the Declaration of Independence to be. We asked a docent about this and learned (it made sense, we just didn’t think of it) that it was heavily traveled, rolled, handled and carried from the moment it was penned by Jefferson. We also loved seeing John Hancock’s signature. And, we made a point to notice Button Gwinnett since he was Governor of Georgia and my boys learned about him on a tour of Savannah’s Colonial Cemetery last summer.
Whit shrieked when we looked at the Constitution … “THERE IS ALEXANDER HAMILTON’S ACTUAL AUTOGRAPH!!!!” We are big Hamilton fans and this was a real moment for him. Again, it was just incredible to see the very essence of the United States as penned by our founding fathers.
Honey’s favorite part was seeing the Magna Carta from 1297. It is impressive that it is still around.
If you go…
- The museum is open 10 AM – 5:30 PM seven days a week.
- I didn’t find this museum hard to navigate and don’t believe you need to allow a tremendous amount of time unless you are particularly fond of old documents. (That sounds bad.) I would allow 60 – 90 minutes. The only part that was a little nutty is that there is no line or process for seeing the Charters of Freedom. You just shove into an open spot when you see one. Kind of odd.
- You should reserve your entry time on-line ahead of time through the link on their website. This opens exactly 3 months in advance and I would book as early as you can. Tickets are free and there is a nominal service charge to reserve your time.
- When you arrive, be sure to enter the correct line. There was a very long line wrapped around the block and then an almost hidden, quite short line next to it. If you have a timed entry ticket you get to go to the short line.
- Take only a small bag with you (this goes for everywhere we visited in DC) and only carry essentials. Most places had guests toss everything edible from their bags – sealed chip bags, bars, water bottles, packages of gum, cough drops, etc. You could pour the water out of a bottle and then refill it inside.
- Watch National Treasure before you go! We had a DC movie marathon before our trip and watched the National Treasure and Night at the Museum movies. This made it even more fun for the kids (and us). I mean, you could also study some actual literature but we found this a fun way to get excited about our visit.
- Along those same lines, I started reading America’s First Daughter on this trip and it was so interesting to see those places things the people in the book touched.
No pictures inside, so here we are on the steps!
Arlington National Cemetery
Our next stop was Arlington National Cemetery and it was one of our most memorable stops of the trip. I’m just not sure the boys grasped the magnitude of row upon row of white tombstones for as far as the eye could see, but they were absolutely in awe of the Changing of the Guard.
I booked an on-off trolley tour through Arlington through Arlington Tours and highly recommend that. The knowledgeable trolley driver narrates along the way and then stops at 6 different locations during the week and 9 on the weekend.
We got off at the Kennedy Family Grave Site. There were wonderful views of the city from here as well.
Our next stop was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We were all overcome with how beautiful and meticulous and impressive and moving the Changing of the Guard Ceremony was in person. You quite literally could have heard a pin drop. I won’t forget how their heels clicking was the loudest sound around. I am so, so glad that we got to experience this.
The final stop that we visited was Arlington House. (Built by George Washington’s adopted son I almost can’t comprehend all of the stories that were woven together on this trip between DC, Mount Vernon and Williamsburg!) There are spectacular views of the city and this is not one to miss.
If you go:
- I highly recommend the Trolley Tour. It was about $45 for the four of us and was well worth having the insight of the driver and not having to cover so much ground on foot.
- I would take the first trolley to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and start your circular tour from there so that you don’t miss it. If you are like us and like to see things up close, arrive at least 30 minutes early to get a good viewing location along the rail. (I’ve only been this one time but 30 minutes had us on the rail.) That being said, we were there on the last day that the Changing of the Guard happens every hour. From April through September it is every half hour. My point is just make sure you see it. :-)
- You don’t pick a day or time for the trolley tour, so it is very flexible. I bought ours two weeks before arrival.
Le Diplomate Dinner
We ended our first night in D.C. with dinner at Le Diplomate. And it was amazing! At the end of our week, Honey and I agreed that this was our favorite meal of all. The kids would choose differently. (They liked it but it wasn’t their fave.)
I don’t have a pic, but in the center of the restaurant is a man carving loaves of the most divine fresh bread that comes to your table in endless baskets. And, the cocktails were also quite good. I think the star of the meal was this shrimp salad that Honey and I shared as a starter. I still think about it over a week later…
Honey had steak frites, the boys had cheeseburgers and I had the most divine scallops I might have ever had. They were rich, filling and delicious. Honey’s steak frites were so yummy as well. Nobody offered a bite of the cheeseburger but I don’t think I could have stuffed it in anyway.
Le Diplomate takes reservations exactly 30 days in advance on Open Table and I do recommend making one when they open up for your choice of a prime dinner time. For what it’s worth, we were some of the only people in there with kids but they were warmly welcomed by our waiter. Do note, there is no kids menu. It was such a fun and vibrant atmosphere on top of the great food and I would 100% dine here again on a future visit.
As for the rest of our trip, I’d love for you to follow along or catch up here!
Part 2: Washington D.C.
- Day 1 – National Archives, Arlington, Le Diplomate Dinner
- Day 2 – Easter at National Cathedral, Georgia Brown’s Jazz Brunch, American History Museum, Natural History Museum, Round Robin Bar, Old Ebbitt Grill
- Day 3 – Ford’s Theater, Spy Museum, Holocaust Museum, Ted’s Bulletin
- Day 4 – Capitol Tour, Georgetown, Founding Farmers
- Day 5 – White House Tour, Cherry Blossom Festival, Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, Air & Space Museum, Nighttime Monuments Bike Tour, The Hamilton Dinner
- The Historic Willard Intercontinental Hotel
Part 4: Historic Triangle
I’ll update the links in our itinerary as I take y’all along on our trip.
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DIXIE DELIGHTS DELIVERED