Dixie Delights in D.C. {White House Tour, Cherry Blossom Festival, Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, Air & Space Museum, Monuments Bike Tour, The Hamilton Dinner}

Our last full day in D.C. was just the icing on the cake for what was already one of the best trips we’ve ever taken!

The White House

First things first, I have to thank, again, the sweet blog reader that helped secure our tour of the White House.   Our application through our Congress person was denied and we never heard from our Senator.  So, when this reader reached out to help me, I was so flattered but didn’t dare get my hopes up.  Imagine my surprise (elation, disbelief…) when I got a note in my inbox from The Executive Assistant to the Vice President of the United States of America welcoming our family to the White House!!!  I will save that email forever <3

The entrance to the White House was just across the street so we enjoyed a lively breakfast in anticipation of what would certainly be a highlight of the trip.  And it was!!

After making it through multiple steps of Secret Service security, we were finally inside!!  Side note on that… when Whit was asked his birth date, he got so nervous that he forgot the year and they wouldn’t let us answer.  So, he blurts out December 12, 1998.  He looks so relieved and broke out in a huge grin.  The other three of us were trying not to laugh.  The Secret Service guy, trying hard not to laugh as well, says “are you suuuuure about that?”  Whit says “NO!!!!  I mean 2008.”  Whew!  We got in.  :-)

One of my favorite things about the White House was seeing what “they” see when they look out their windows.  I guess I have always been fascinated by what it is like to walk in someone else’s footsteps.  And, we had the opportunity to do that a few times on this trip.  I loved the Jacqueline Kennedy garden here.  There was a sweeping hallway lined with windows that overlooked it and you could see the Washington Monument in the distance.

My boys loved the fact that there was a huge soccer goal smack dab in the middle of this lovely garden!  They said “Does Trump’s son play soccer at THE WHITE HOUSE??????”  It was pretty cute because I think in that moment it all clicked that we were in the President’s home.  You can just see it off to the left of John’s shoulder.  I guess when the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden is not in use for soccer practice it is a place for formal ceremonies and bill signings.

All of the rooms we saw were gorgeous.  They were traditional in style and full of antiques, art, fresh flowers, etc.  This is the Library where they have hundreds of volumes all by American authors.

The China Room is used for displaying the china and glass used by the Presidents.  There was also a cabinet out in the hallway that let us get a closer look at some of the more unique selections.  I loved the one chosen by Clinton!

The Vermeil Room was once used as a billiard room but is now used for functions.  It was gorgeous!  The paneling in here and in the China Room is made from 1817 timbers that were salvaged during the 1948-52 reconstruction of the White House!

The East Room is the largest in the White House and is used for receptions, ceremonies, press conferences and events.  It was also where three daughters of Presidents celebrated their weddings (Nellie Grant, Alice Roosevelt and Lynda Bird Johnson) and the place where seven Presidents have lain in state.

The 1797 portrait of George Washington has hung in the White House since 1800!  Dolley Madison saved it when the British burned the White House in 1814.  In fact, this was also in the book I was reading during our trip – America’s First Daughter.  (So good, by the way!)

The Green Room was once Thomas Jefferson’s dining room and is now used for receptions.  The coffee urn was owned by John Adams and the candlesticks were used by James Madison.

The Blue Room is used by the President for receiving guests and includes seven French chairs and one sofa bought by Monroe for the room after the fire of 1814.  This is where the White House Christmas tree is placed, if y’all enjoy that special as much as I do each year.

The Red Room is used for small receptions now, but John Adams used it as a breakfast room and Rutherford B. Hayes took his oath of office here!

The State Dining Rom can seat 130 guests. It was stunning.

As mentioned earlier, I love looking out windows of homes and seeing the world the way the people that live there do.  This view from the Blue Room was just stunning.  You can see the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, Cherry Blossoms and so much more.  We learned later this evening on our bike tour that Roosevelt had the yard cleared so that he could watch the construction of the Jefferson Memorial from his home here at the White House.  You can tell that the glass here is inches thick by the waviness of the lines!

Our tour ended in the Entrance Hall with a family photo to remember our visit!!

We took our time leaving, enjoying the views from inside the iron gates of the White House.  It was a spectacular morning!

White House tours are requested through your Congress person.  They submit them on your behalf 3 months in advance, but ours asks that you initially contact them up to 6 months in advance.  Definitely check with your contact as soon as you know you are going in order to find out what is expected and needed to apply.

Cherry Blossoms

After our tour, we decided to walk the tidal basin and enjoy the Cherry Blossoms, just a day away from “peak bloom”.

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

By the time we finished, we were starving for lunch and tired of walking so we took at cab to Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken.   This is a teeny tiny walk up counter with delicious food.  The menu is limited to chicken sandwiches (served on a doughnut or biscuit), chicken fingers and doughnuts.  We lucked out with one of the four tables on the sidewalk, so plan accordingly.  We all loved our chicken sammies, but it is the creme brulee doughnut that I’m still thinking about.  I’m pretty sure it is the best doughnut I’ve ever had and y’all know I love a good doughnut.

Air & Space Museum

We were really going for the gusto today, so we spent our afternoon at the Air and Space Museum.  We arrived too late to make the scheduled 1 PM highlights tour, but were thrilled to see that they had added a 2:30 PM tour that was leaving just a few minutes after we inquired.

Our docent on this tour was EXCELLENT and I swear Whit nearly pasted himself to the man throughout the duration.  Like with our other highlights tours, this one lasted about 1 hour and 20 minutes and was engaging, interactive for the kids, and highly recommended.  I was not as excited about this one as some of the others, but left feeling so glad that we went!  Of course, the boys were all thrilled from the get-go.

If you go (this goes for all of the Smithsonian museums)…

  • The museum is open 10 AM – 5:30 PM seven days a week.
  • There are no tickets to purchase ahead of time and admission is free.  They do ask for a donation for a guide map.
  • 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.
  • My number ONE tip is to try your very best to schedule your arrival at the museums around the free docent led highlight tours.  You can find the schedules on each museum website.  Each of the 3 Smithsonian museums we visited had posted tour times starting around 10 AM and 1 PM (do check because they vary by 15 minutes).  You will want to arrive at least 30 minutes prior in order to make it through security.  Maybe even earlier!  Ask where the tour is meeting at the information desk once inside.  These are free and are absolutely, positively fantastic!!!  Every one we did had a very small group of maybe 12 or so people.  All of us were so much more engaged having someone tell us what we were looking at, rather than reading plaques on the wall.  The tours all lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes, which was the perfect length, in my opinion.

D.C. Bike and Roll Monuments @ Nite Tour

Our last activity in D.C. was another memorable one… the D.C. Bike and Roll Monuments @ Nite Tour!  We are an active family and I originally booked this thinking it would be a fun and unique thing to do in D.C.  Also, while there are loads of things to do in D.C. from 9 – 5, I didn’t find a lot for the evenings outside of good food.  We lucked out with the cherry blossoms in full bloom and a clear night, but it was FREEZING cold this one night of our trip.  The wind was gusting up to 30 mph!  There was no availability to move the tour so we bundled up (except for the one family member who said he would “never be cold”) and headed out.

We were in a group of about 16 people of all ages and had one guide.  We started at their shop and it was a short ride to the tidal basin.  Our first stop was the Jefferson Memorial where the sun was just setting.  At each stop we got off our bikes and our guide gave us 5-7 minute overview with tips on lesser known things to look for.  It was fantastic!

Next we moved on to the Roosevelt Memorial, which we really just glossed over earlier in the day.  This was when we realized, once again, the value of a tour guide.  While we cruised through on our first visit, we completely missed the fact that Roosevelt’s memorial was divided into four sections, each representative of one of his terms in office.  It was so well done and really told the story of that time.  One thing he told us to look for was around the back of Roosevelt’s statue.  From the front he is sitting with his dog, but around the back (where we never would have gone) you can see that his coat is covering his wheelchair.

Our next stop was the Martin Luther King Memorial, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.  It was an honor to visit this site on this day.  Along with hundreds of others! :-)

Our favorite stop of our tour was actually the Korean War Memorial.  Another one we glossed over earlier in the day.  Our guide shared with us that the 19 statues represent an ethnic cross section of America, as well as from the Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy.   They are standing in patches of juniper bushes, native to Korea, separated by granite strip symbolizing the rice paddies of Korea.  We were told to notice that no matter what vantage point you take to view this monument, there is a soldier staring back at you.  Seeing this at night was haunting and solemn and unforgettable.  During the day, the polished black wall behind them reflects the 19 statues and makes a total of 38 – representing the 38th parallel and the 38 months of war.   It also is shaped to represent the mountain ranges of Korea.

Next was the Lincoln Memorial.  Although we had just visited earlier in the day, my kids were eager to race up the 87 steps to see it again because we learned that Lincoln’s fingers are making an “A” and an “L” in American Sign Language.  His son was deaf and this is believed (but not confirmed) to be a nod to that.  Sure enough, they do look an awful lot like his initials, AL!  We also had to find where the world “Future” in the inaugural address on the right hand side of the wall was originally carved as “Euture” and then later fixed.

Finally, we were reminded, on the 50th anniversary of MKL’s death, that he gave his “I have a Dream” speech right here on these steps in 1963.  How incredible to stand in that very spot!

Oh, and the engineers in us were fascinated to learn that when you look at the memorial, you only see a bit more than half of it!  The foundation extends 66 feet under the ground to support the weight of the marble structure.

The Vietnam Memorial was a haunting site at night.  The three figures at the Three Servicemen Statue represent a Hispanic man, an African American man, and a Caucasian man – ethic groups that were heavily represented in the war’s combat forces.  The man in the center seems to be missing his dog tag, but they are actually show tied into the laces of his shoes where other soldiers might know to look for them but the enemy may overlook.  This memorial had so many photos, flowers and tokens left on the night we visited, and so many people there looking for loved ones names.  <3

The last site we visited was the WWII Memorial, a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people.  It was beautiful at night and, while we learned of the controversy in its placement, it seemed perfect between the Lincoln memorial and Washington monument.

A few readers advised me before our trip to see the monuments at day and at night and I couldn’t agree more!

If you go…

  • You will definitely want to book your tour in advance during peak season, in spite of not knowing the weather.  We watched it closely in the few days prior, but they had zero availability to move our tour to a different night as the whole week was booked up in advance.
  • The bike tour lasts 3 hours, but is easy and flat.  There is plenty of time to learn about each monument and then take time to explore on your own a bit.
  • You do stop for a bathroom break at the MKL memorial and snack (granola bars provided by Bike and Roll) around the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Bikes, helmets, water and snacks are provided.
  • Take cash to tip your guide.
  • There were all ages on our tour – from probably 6 years old to senior citizen.  Now, you do have to be able to keep up with the tour and you do ride on city streets with cars at times so I would be cautious about taking a kid younger than around 8.  The family with the 6 year old seemed a bit anxious at times, understandably.

The Hamilton Dinner

We got back from our tour around 10 PM and were ravenous.  The Hamilton was located just out the back door of our hotel so we ran straight over for a late dinner.  We had a variety of sushi, veggies, salad and I honestly can’t even remember what else.  We were dog tired!  I do recall it being good and we didn’t leave one scrap on the table.  I didn’t originally have The Hamilton on my “list” but Whit wanted to eat here the minute he spied it (Hamilton fan!) so it worked out well that it stayed open so late.

This wraps up our time in D.C. before moving on to Mount Vernon!  As for the rest of our trip, I’d love for you to follow along or catch up here.

Part 1: Amtrak Train from Atlanta to D.C.

Part 2: Washington D.C.

Part 3: Mount Vernon

Part 4: Historic Triangle

I’ll update the links in our itinerary as I take y’all along on our trip.

Dixie Delights in D.C. Itinerary  |  All D.C. Trip Posts

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