I think I said yesterday’s itinerary was our most ambitious, but today’s just may rival it. I mean, we didn’t go to D.C. to sleep, right?! We had a quick breakfast at Cafe du Parc at the Willard and were off on our day.
Our morning started with a 10 AM visit to Ford’s Theater. There are various tickets available for purchase that offer admission to different parts of the experience. Our tour started in the basement of the theater where they have a small museum. Overall, it was interesting but maybe a 20 minute experience in total.
Afterwards, you are admitted to the theater. We headed straight to the balcony and were on the front row, which was a fantastic vantage point of both Lincoln’s booth and the stage. We booked a ticket that included the One Destiny two-man play and I highly recommend doing this if you visit Ford’s Theater. Like I’ve said in other parts of this trip report, my family finds having something explained to us much more engaging than trying to figure out what we are looking at on our own.
Learn about President Lincoln’s assassination from two men who were there. Actor Harry Hawk and Ford’s Theatre co-owner Harry Ford revisit the events of April 14, 1865. As they reconstruct the sequence of events, they grapple with the question: Could John Wilkes Booth have been stopped? This 35-minute performance explores the key facts of the assassination while capturing the emotions of that fateful night.
Finally, we headed to the Aftermath Exhibits, which were more interesting than the first museum, but we were short on time so we didn’t get to stay as long as we would have liked. John LOVES Lincoln and has chosen him for projects, living museums and regular reading material frequently over the years, so I am so glad we could give him this experience!
If you go:
- I purchased our tickets online about 4 months in advance. I highly recommend doing this as they do sell out.
- If you can’t get a ticket with the One Destiny play, or if you are short on time in DC, I would consider skipping this attraction. We loved it, don’t get my wrong, but if you don’t get to go in the theater and sit for the play and have that experience, I don’t think it would be worth it.
- Just FYI, the theater is rebuilt on the original site, but is not original.
Spy Museum + Spy in the City
After Ford’s Theater, we walked to the Spy Museum for our 12 PM admission time. Whew! I was originally on the fence about purchasing tickets to this one, but I am SO glad we did. It was fantastic for the boys (and adults alike) and was incredibly interactive on all accounts.
From the moment you enter, you engaged in the whole idea of being a spy. You choose a “cover” and there are tons and tons and tons of interactive exhibits and things to learn about spy techniques. There is also a scavenger hunt that you can pick up at the front desk and I highly recommend doing this! My boys loved it.
After the Spy Museum itself, we did a Spy in the City Tour, which was a highlight of the trip for this guy. Imagine learning about what it takes to be a spy and then getting to try it all out!
The tour takes about 1 hour and covers about a mile looping you from the museum, hitting some major sites, and then heading back. DC is very walk-able and it was easy and enjoyable.
You get your mission guidance via an ipad and interact with it out throughout the experience. You have to look for obscure things, eavesdrop, decode and all sorts of things!
If you go:
- I purchased our museum tickets and reserved the Spy in the City tour 4 months in advance, which I highly recommend.
- When purchasing in advance, you can head straight into the museum at your admission time and skip the line that runs all the way down the block.
- Definitely ask for the scavenger hunt at the information desk when you enter. Whit loved it!
- We purchased two Spy and the City tours, each for two people. We didn’t know it at the time, but it ended up taking us on different missions so it became a bit of a family competition as well. (Whit and I won!) That being said, the two kids easily could have shared the iPad and worked together on it. I just didn’t know what to expect.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Holocaust Memorial Museum was without a doubt the most moving, beautiful, heart-wrenching, and memorable experience we had in D.C. You are given an identity when you enter the museum, and each page of your book correlates to a floor of the museum. Three of the four of us died.
I don’t believe I have adequate words to convey what touring this museum is like. Of course it is hard to see, but it is tremendously important to see. It is also a critical reminder to speak out and to never forget.
These two rooms, along with the survivor interviews, are things that will stay with me forever.
I got a lot of questions on social media about how my boys did. I have also mentioned that we each chose one from the major museums for the family to visit and this was John’s choice. He has learned about it in school and two of his closest friends are Jewish. I honestly didn’t know how appropriate the museum would be for a 6th grader, much less a 3rd grader, but I knew it my heart it would be even less appropriate to deny him the experience. And so we went. And I’m so glad we did. To answer the specific question, this museum was a lot to grasp, even for an adult. I realized that the kids understood and processed the things they saw in an age appropriate way.
The most emotional of the entire visit was when we did Daniel’s Story, an exhibit aimed at children, told through the voice of a child. We all left choking back the tears. It was a solemn walk home as we each tried to process what we had seen.
If you go:
- You absolutely must reserve your tickets on line in advance. Tickets are released a few months at a time and all of that will be posted on their website. Mark your calendar and get them the first day you can. They do sell out – they were sold out to walk ups the day we went.
- Allow a minimum of two hours, but more like three to tour the museum. Also plan to wait in a very long line, even going with tickets.
- If you can’t get tickets, I believe you can still do Daniel’s Story. I know that one is targeted at children but we found it to be more emotional than the museum itself.
- I would not miss visiting if there is any way that you can!
We took some time to relax at the hotel and then headed off to dinner at Ted’s Bulletin. I mentioned that Le Diplomate was our favorite “adult” meal, and Ted’s Bulletin was our favorite family meal!
Inside was so cute with it’s vintage school desk chairs, leather booths, letterboards and big screen playing I Love Lucy in the background!
I got the Super Deluxe Grilled Cheese, stuffed with braised short rib and three cheese mac ‘n’ cheese, and it was amazing.
We all had the Ted’s Pop Tarts for dessert and they were just as yummy as I had hoped!
If you go, they don’t take reservations but they do allow call ahead seating. Just give them a buzz about 1 hour before you wish to dine. We arrived about 45 minutes later, had time for a drink at the bar and were seated right around our promised time.
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