Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Washington DC – Hotel Rouge July 2011
After visiting New York for 5 days (to read my review on New York, click here:http://peachheadfamilies.com/knowledgebase/kn_familyvacations_newyork.html) we decided to include a visit to Washington, D.C. We bought a ticket on Amtrak to take the train to Washington. It was pretty cool taking the train for the first time. Unlike on a plane, you bring your luggage with you (no checking baggage as long as it is within the size criteria). We upgraded to business class seats, which were very roomy and comfortable. It was supposed to be a 3 hour and 45 minute trip; however, our train broke down one stop before our final stop and we had to wait for another train to come pick us up and transfer us to the new train. It was actually a very smooth process, considering.
We stayed at a friend’s house in Maryland for the first 2 nights we were in town. The next morning we had a 10:00 tour at the Capitol (be sure to write to your Senator in advance to obtain tickets). We took the Metro from Maryland to D.C. We had a great train employee explain to us the system and how to figure it out. They have an all day deal for $9.00 that you can hop on and off as much as you want. It was great. We took the train to the Capitol. There we toured the Capitol building (we were late for our tour but they were very accommodating and let us jump in on the very next tour that was just beginning…timing is everything). We also visited the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. If you start at the Library of Congress, rather than exiting and going across the street to the Capitol, you can walk through a tunnel to the Capitol and avoid the long security line at the front of the Capitol. Once we finished there, we walked down to Pennsylvania Avenue and had lunch at “We the Pizza”. I had a great chopped salad, and the wings and pizza were very good as well. Next door is a restaurant called Good Stuff Eatery that serves great hamburgers. We then hopped on the Metro again to visit the Smithsonian Museums, which are all free to visit (including the zoo). We went to the Museum of American History and the Natural History Museum. The Museum of American History has Dorothy’s red slippers from the Wizard of Oz (my girls were so tired at this point that when they saw the shoes I teased them that if they clicked their shoes and said “There’s no place like home,” maybe it would work for them). We also saw the Fonz’s leather jacket, the First Ladies’ Inaugural ball gowns (going as far back as Abraham Lincoln’s wife’s dress, all the way to Michelle Obama’s dress). It was pretty cool. There was also an exhibit on The Civil War and World War II. In the Museum of Natural History my favorite exhibit was the Hope Diamond….what a beauty. You may want to carry an umbrella with you. It started out sunny and then when we got off of a 5 minute train ride, the clouds came in followed by a heavy rain storm, thunder, and lighting. They do sell rain ponchos inside the gift shop and there was a gentleman selling umbrellas for $5.00 so it worked out fine for us.
We were lucky enough to get tickets to visit the White House by writing to our Senator in advance (we did not get confirmation until a week before our visit). What an awesome experience. First of all they are very strict on what you can bring in, the only things being keys, cell phones, and wallets. That is it. No purse, cameras, bags, etc., so be sure to leave everything in your hotel, as there are no lockers. We got to the White House early but they let us walk right in without waiting. It is a self-guided tour. They open up different rooms based on what rooms the White House will not be using that day. We were able to view the East Room, Green Room, Red Room, Blue Room, and the State Dining Room. We even got to see the President’s dog run past us a couple of times. The kids really got a kick out of that. It was a really wonderful experience and I highly recommend it. They give the kids a special book before they enter the White House with interesting facts such as there are 132 rooms in the White House (including 15 bedrooms, 35 restrooms, 5 kitchens, 1 medical clinic, 1 dental office, 2 pantries, and 4 dining rooms). There are also 26 fireplaces, 12 chimneys, and 3 elevators.
After our White House tour, we decided to visit the monuments, using bikes from Bike and Roll. What a great way to view the monuments. My 10 year old was nervous about riding there so I got a tandem bike for us and it was great to ride around Washington, D.C. It was a beautiful day. After our bike ride we took a cab to Adams Morgan. We ate lunch at a very good restaurant called Wok and Roll. We were all pretty tired so we went to our hotel to finally check in and relax a bit. We stayed at the Hotel Rouge, a Kimpton hotel. The hotel is located 4 blocks from Dupont Circle and close to the Smithsonian Museum and the monuments. What a great hotel. The rooms are oversized and the hotel is very hip. I love Kimpton Hotels because they are all Boutique Hotels with their own theme. This hotel’s theme is Red. The hotel is beautifully decorated and the rooms are gorgeous. If you are a Kimpton Member (which is free to join), the hotel offers complimentary wi-fi and they will also give you a $10 credit for the honor bar. They had very cool robes hanging in the closet with a leopard print or zebra print. The bed was very comfortable, as well as the pillows.
A great way to see the city and learn about everything is by taking the trolley tours. There are 3 different loops. You pay one rate and you can hop on and off at each of their many stops. I started out on the green line, which was a few blocks from my hotel. Uncle Dave was the driver and he was very entertaining as he taught us about all of the historical sites and places to visit. He was quite funny when he was pointing out all of the different Embassies on Embassy Row (he almost sounded like an auctioneer as you were looking to the left and right to see all of the different Embassies lined up). After completing the green line, I hopped on the Orange line to learn about all of the monuments. There was a bit of a wait for this trolley but once we were on it, it moved along with great information about all of the monuments and attractions. For some reason the sound system was not as clear on this trolley as the first one (not sure if it was the speakers or the microphone was too close) but Uncle Dave was definitely easier to hear and understand. I loved how our driver, Frenchie, pointed out the details involved in creating the monuments. They say that the trolleys stop at all of the points every 30 minutes or less and they offer a money back guarantee if you are not 100% satisfied. I was really glad that I took the trolley ride as I now feel I saw all there was to see in Washington, D.C .
After my trolley tour I met my family at the Newseum, a 25,000 square foot News Museum with 14 main exhibition galleries exploring news history, electronic news, photojournalism, world news, and how the media have covered major historical events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This was an absolutely incredible museum. We were there for about 2 ½ hours. It is a great way to teach kids about history. There is a room dedicated to 911 with a very emotional film of this historical day. My favorite exhibit was the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery where there were incredible photos posted along with written commentary from the photographers as to what they were thinking or the story behind the photographs. It was so moving that I ended up buying the book, called The Pulitzer Prize Photographs Capture the Moment, in their store. My kids loved the interactive news room where they were able to pretend they were newcasters reporting on a story. We were able to purchase the video to view online. The museum also has a 4D movie that is included with your admission. Another exhibit I really loved was the Berlin Wall, where they actually had the Berlin Wall that you could touch and there were great photographs and stories about the Berlin Wall. I could have spent all day at this museum.
If your kids are into spies, they will love The International Spy Museum. My favorite exhibit was the School for Spies gallery, which has over 50 years of spy technology developed by agencies from the OSS to KGB. Some of the items reminded me of those used on the TV show Get Smart. It was pretty cool to see the devices that are used in “spying” and how far they have come over the years. You also learn about famous spies.
My last night in Washington, D.C. I was disappointed because I had not visited the monuments at night, which I heard is incredible, so I found out about a company that has bikes throughout the city called www.capitalbikeshare.com wherein there are bikes locked up in certain areas. You have to get a membership, which is $5.00/day (however Kimpton members get a code to join for free), and then you pay to rent the bicycle for as long as you need it (the first 30 minutes of every rental are free so if you are just going on a short ride or you stop at another bike center and trade out the bike for a new one within 30 minutes you don’t pay anything). You can drop the bike off at any of their locations and the bikes are available 24 hours. There are only one size bikes with adjustable seats, so it won’t work for younger kids. I rode to the White House and then to see the monuments. What a great view at night with the lights and what a nice way to spend my last evening in Washington, D.C.
I was pleased to visit our nation’s capitol with my family and learn about our history and culture through our firsthand experiences. My accommodations were provided to me at a discount and my attractions were hosted by the companies.