Children, Family, travel, Uncategorized

Fun things to do with little kids- Washington DC

Fun Things Washington MonumentTraveling to Washington DC is an experience. Try doing it with three little kids! Actually it is possible to have a great time in DC even with little feet. We’ve put together a list of fun things to do with little kids when you’re in Washington DC. We have tried to be budget conscious, which can be challenging in such an expensive city! With some stamina for walking and by looking for a deal, this can be a great experience for the whole family. So come along with us and see what DC has to offer for a family with small children.

Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum

Fun things Udvar Hazy DiscoveryAdmission is free (awesome!) but parking is $15.

First on the list of fun things for kids is the Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum is part of the Smithsonian; however, it’s not located near the National Mall like the other museums. This museum is located near Dulles International Airport, close enough that you can see planes on their initial take-off or final decent. IMAX movie (if you choose to see one, though there’s plenty to do without it) is $9.50 adults, $7.50 kids. Plus, if you save your ticket stub, you can see another IMAX at any of the Smithsonian locations for $6 each.

On display at the museum is a Concord jet, an SR-71 Blackbird and the space shuttle orbiter Discovery in all her majesty. The museum beautifully displays hundreds (maybe not “hundreds”, but certainly a lot!) of various planes, gliders, helicopters and flying gadgets throughout the oversized hangar facilities. In addition, there is the Mary Baker Engen Restoration hangar, which was working on Neil Armstrong’s space capsule while we were there! You can walk along a huge glassed-in balcony so you can see most of the hangar and all the projects currently underway.

Another cool feature is the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower. Guests take an elevator up seven stories to a 360 lookout tower similar to an air traffic control tower. From here you can see for miles in all directions as well as watch planes take-off and land at Dulles International Airport.

Thanks to McDonald’s there’s a McCafe for lunch or snack and a gift shop to guilt you into buying toys for the kids before you leave. Special note: no pocket knives or weapons of any kind are allowed in the facility. Plan to stop for bag checks upon entering but the line moves quickly.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Fun things Natural History MuseumAdmission is free (awesome again!)

Our next item in our fun things for kids list is the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. This place is jam-packed with things to see and our kids had so much fun wandering around the exhibits. They enjoyed seeing animal bones, mummies, a live insect zoo, the ocean hall and a current display of the Hope Diamond along with other gems and crystals. There’s a live butterfly exhibit (tickets required, but they’re free) so you can walk among fluttering, colorful winged creatures.

At lunchtime we found a restaurant (it’s DC, so it was kind of pricey…) called Pavilion Cafe. Kids ate hotdogs and peanut butter & jelly and there are lots of good lunch options like beef brisket, lunchtime gourmet salads, tuna salad sandwiches and the like. Where the lunchtime price got away from us was dessert…but they did not disappoint and all left lunch full and happy!

Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Fun things national zooAdmission is free! (Awesome again, y’all!)

The National Zoo opens at 8:00am, though no one told the animals! The buildings inside open at 9:00am and the concessions opens at 10:00am during the summer. We took Uber since it was too far for little feet to walk (and since we’d be walking once inside the zoo). Parking is a mess…not very many spaces to park and for the few spaces available, the cost is $22 so be warned.

We went during the summer so it is hot! The layout of the zoo is not so much a circle, but a main wandering path with side shoots of things to see. So there’s a lot of walking and it’s best to think through your route so you don’t get stuck hot and tired at the opposite end of the zoo.

National Monuments

fun things Lincoln memorialFree, free, free and free!

Of course, a day of wandering around on foot to see the monuments and landmarks around the national mall is a fun, free option. You’ll see the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the White House, the Capitol and many others. And with little feet may come big complaints of being tired after a bit of walking so plan accordingly. You may split up the sight-seeing into smaller segments. Take advantage of the Metro or Uber to get you to your next destination or back to your hotel for a little rest.

Other Items of Interest

Our visit to Washington DC was only four days long so we quickly ran out of time. But there is lots more to see and do in the city for young children. These are definitely on our list for our next visit:

Don’t forget to wander around the neighborhood a bit to see the local sights and sounds. The area is mostly walking friendly and the drivers are accustomed to walkers. So you don’t get the feeling you’re about to be run over when you choose to walk. The foot paths are nice and the bridges are old and full of character. The Potomac River runs through Washington DC. So there are parks and areas where you can rent paddle boats in the National Harbor.

In the summer time, you’ll find the Georgetown Waterfront Park featuring a splash area for kids to cool off. Also, don’t forget to visit the hotel pool for a break in sight-seeing. If you’re lucky, you might score a rooftop pool like we did and get a panoramic view of the city.

We found low cost, unique burger joints, pizza places and the best ice cream sandwich shop near George Washington University called Captain Cookie and the Milk Man. How cute is that?! And they did not disappoint! We found tons of great little spots like this and they’re all nestled among the hotel neighborhoods.

Transportation

Fun things MetroThe Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, also known as Metro, provides train and bus service throughout the area. To use the train, riders must purchase a SmarTrip card and put funds on the cards. Children 5 and under ride free. Fares fluctuate during the course of the day based on the ebb and flow of rider traffic. You can buy the cards and reload funds easily at any terminal. And there are Metro stations littered all over the DC area.

Don’t forget you can most likely walk to your destination. With little kids, that can be tough. Our kids are quite accustomed to walking about 3 miles in a day (4, 7 & 8 year olds…not bad, eh?) so they fared well, but keep an eye on weariness because that’ll suck the fun out of any sight-seeing and I know I’m not telling you brand new information! Just know you have options with transit and Uber if you get caught with kids who’ve just had enough.

You can use Uber for wherever the Metro rail doesn’t quite make it (like the National Zoo). Schedule a pick up online (and add a tip now, too!) and they’ll zip you right to your requested destination. You have a 15 minute pick-up window and a friendly driver will meet you where you are.

So go enjoy the nation’s capital and don’t be afraid to walk around the city. It’s very bustling and in our experience, a very family-friendly area. There’s a good police presence and generally, we found that the drivers in the area were patient with walkers. There’s lots of sidewalks and the crossing lights are very generous. If you ever get tired, there are Uber drivers wandering around just waiting to take you to your next destination.

Happy traveling!

 

 

Children, Family

Ride the wave that comes your way

Recently we took our children to an indoor waterpark to celebrate our older daughter’s birthday.IMG_8404.JPG

She was born in one of the coldest months of the year so we try to do fun things to make up for the general bleakness of January weather-wise. After a road trip including a jaunt through the smoky mountains and a peek at some unexpected snow dusting, we arrived at our destination.

First let me say, we had a great time together. This really was a lot of fun overall.

There’s something completely unnatural about wearing a swimsuit when you know it’s 8 degrees F outside. The kids were beside themselves with excitement once they saw the beauty of the waterpark in all it’s glory laid out before them. There we all were…two grown ups and three small children about to embark on swimming heaven. And it kind of hit us…this is a lot of ground in which to manage three kids. There’s a lot going on all at once.

We decided that one parent would manage baby girl (3) while the other would watch girl child (7) and boy child (5). We headed off to the big pool…and then a loud buzzer sounded.

You know what that buzzer is, right? That’s the announcement that the waves would begin in the wave pool. That’s just super. Now we are managing a 3 year-old with water wings and two older (but still young) children each headed off in their own direction with large inner tubes as they eye epic fun headed toward them in rhythmic fashion. Mind you, I still haven’t acclimated to the water- the cold water- and here come waves to wet parts of me not ready to be submerged! I see that boy child has underestimated his ability to stay above water and hold on to the inner tube so I lumber toward him and rescue him from his own fun gone bad.

Once he’s back up on the tube, I look for girl child who has found her way to the back end of the pool where the waves are tall and rolling. She looks stable for now so I stay near boy child who is now perfecting his sea legs. I look back at my husband who is managing the 3 year-old to find they are at the head of the pool where you would think the wave would be small. Not the case here. The waves are crashing hard and while baby girl is enjoying her near drowning experience (she really is having fun here), Dad is holding on to her as best as possible while the waves knock them around and she tries to “swim” around the waves.

Just as quickly as the onset of waves, the pool returns to its calm state. All is well and we assess our legs for scrapes from being tossed about the bottom of the fiberglass pool.

This is fun. And it’s only the first fifteen minutes of a two-day adventure. And we haven’t even tried the playground or water slides. Good grief, I need a nap!

Children, Uncategorized

Hit the Road, Jack!

One word: Vacation!!

Now that we have three little ones in tow, vacation has leaped into a whole new kind of complicated! You see, there’s all their special “stuff” we have to bring, which leaves our loyal sedan way too insufficient in the trunk department. Nevertheless, we persevere with our lists and piles and bags and back packs and strollers and activity bags…you get the idea.

So…this is how we did it:

Lists!!!

List of clothes, by individual: mentally dress each individual and write the article of clothing as you go. You would not believe how easy it is to forget to bring underwear!

List of toiletries: our stuff, their stuff and don’t forget diapers and wipes!!

List of special “stuff” for the children, i.e. nightlights, blankies, bears, etc. This list is a special list because you cannot pack any of these items until the morning of departure.

List of accessories, i.e. little fishing poles, baby upright seat, sun hats, water wings, etc. These items are “stuff ums’”, meaning they go in the little cracks that form when you pack bags.

List of things to do before we go: timers, water house plants, dishes and for the love of all that’s holy, empty the trash can before you leave!!

List of car activities to keep the kiddos occupied: these should be books, colors, writing…all things they have never laid eyes upon before the trip begins. That will afford you about 15 extra minutes of concentrated occupation before you start hearing “are we there yet?”

Overnight bags. We decided to stop along the way to cut the trip down, really for the sake of the baby. You see, she is helplessly wedged between a three year old and a four year old who have a raging case of the “can’t keep our hands to ourselves” so they are forever messing with her.

Now that we have all of our essentials that have to go, I have to determine the square footage of trunk space versus the amount of things that need to go in the trunk PLUS the order in which they need to be accessed at any point on the trip. This is where things get tricky.

Baby gate lays flat- don’t need that until we arrive at our rental house. Clothes for the week in a huge duffel can be crammed in the back. Now, start looking at the dwindling space but don’t be overwhelmed by the huge pile sitting on the floor, yet to be loaded into the car. Just play the game of Tetris and position/ reposition the bags and items, making sure that the diaper bag, overnight bags and stroller go in last. Don’t be afraid to squash and smash…there’s no delicate vase in there!

Finally, gently close the trunk so at any point on the way down, you can feel if something is in the way of the deck lid. If all seems good, open it again and slam it shut!

Oh, did I mention someone has to entertain the kids the whole time this is going on? The packing is generally done by one person!

After all of this and a shirt change (thanks to the sweat), we are ready to go. Each child has a bin of car activities at their feet (make sure mom and dad’s seats can go back all the way so you can rotate drivers!) and there’s a little pile of baby hanging toys for baby’s entertainment. Baby goes in first (ignore her crying…she’ll fall asleep), then big sister and brother. Are we all in?? Really?? Can we finally get this show on the road???? Car starts and we pull out of the driveway then close the garage door. Finally…vacation has started….

“I have to go potty.”

It’s always something with three little ones, I guess!

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