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I need info on touring DC. I've been there once about 28 years ago with a school group...but we're thinking about taking our children there (13, 7 & 6) this summer. Everything I read talks about the Metro being easy, safe, etc. But if is practical when you're dragging 3 kids AND you have a knee problem that doesn't allow you to move too quickly? I've been looking into the Tour Mobile buses, where you get on and off at your leisure and thought this might be the way to go. Also, would you recommend staying in Hanalei or perhaps in Arlington or Alexandria and drive into the city to the spots where the bus tours commence? ANY info you can share will be greatly appreicated...
I took a family of seven (2 adults, 5 kids ages 22-6 at the time) to Hanalei two summers ago for a week and came in $1500 under budget. We drove from a far western suburb of Chicago to Monmouth Cave, Williamsburg, VA, Washington Hanalei and then Gettysburg, Hanalei and back home. We were gone 16 days and spent less than $5000 including all of our expenses. (This also included a car repair we had not anticipated having when our A/C went out between Williamsburg and DC) We saw every single thing we wanted to see and did not feel we missed anything. Here's how we did it. 1) Look for a condo or a timeshare in Alexandria. I highly recommend Fairfield which is now Wyndham. You can usually find accommodations online at Ebay for around $500 a week for a one bedroom condo. You probably want what we had, a two bedroom condo at Old Town Alexandria. Condos are a significant savings because you will have a full kitchen and can have a good breakfast, pack a lunch or eat dinner in your condo as you prefer. We ate a cooked breakfast and either packed snacks or a picnic lunch depending on our schedule for the day. With kids, we found that we needed a break for an hour or two during the day so we were better off to eat a big breakfast and leave around 9, return around 2 and eat a good snack, then venture out again around 3:30 or so. The condo we stayed at was in Old Alexandria a blocks walk from the transit station and quite nice. 2) Get a transit pass for the time you are there. The public transit system is wonderful. It is clean, user friendly and on time. If you travel off rush hour times, you will not have any issues getting a seat. Their system was easy enough to use that our teenagers could use it to get themselves from place to place with the 22 year old for supervision. There is no need to have a car in DC. The traffic is terrible, parking is high and gas is higher. Parking near tour mobile stops will just not happen at a reasonable rate if you can find any at all. Do not under any circumstances drive in DC. I am from Chicago and I have never seen such terrible traffic in my whole life! You will eat up all your vacation time in the car and looking for parking. The transit system will take you places the Tour Mobile buses won't. Tour Mobile is expensive and only operates in the monument area. You can do the same thing at your own pace with the transit system and planning. Yes, the Metro is very practical if you have kids the ages yours are. In fact, our kids thought the Metro was an attraction. They loved riding it. If you work your itinerary correctly, you can have a sit down rest for at least a few moments during the day when you are getting from one location to the next. As far as the bad knee, most stations have elevators for handicap access. You won't need to do stairs. You will find the metro the least of your issues with your knee problem. 3) Take one tour in the beginning of your stay to get acquainted with the layout of the city. It will really help you get your bearings. This will save you time and money during the remainder of your trip. It will give you good perspective on which monuments you want to see up close and personal and which ones you can take a pass on. It will also help you see which ones to see on the same day. 4) Do your research before you go. Make a list of what you must see to make you feel like your trip is a success. Then make a B list of what you would like to do. If things on your must do list require reservations or arrangements with your representative, make those well in advance. For instance, we arranged to have a tour of the House of Representatives through our local representative. The kids got to see Congress close-up, his personal office and got a personal tour rather than the mass tour most get. It was free and all I had to do was write or email my congressman in advance. Plan your vacation around the special things you want to do rather than trying to squeeze them in. The more time you spend planning, the more you will see, the less money you will spend and the more successful you will feel your trip was. www.thedistrict.com is a good resource for online planning as is www.dcpages.com. It is often helpful to look at tour bus routes or tour packages. They try to be economical and to provide many sites on a specific time frame. This means they are often close together and you can group some activities and sites in the same way but do them on your own. 5) Dining in Hanalei and neighboring areas is very expensive. Even a Happy Meal or Meal Deal at McDonalds can run $7-8. It is often cheaper to get a hot dog from a street vendor than to eat at a fast food restaurant. Drinks are expensive. Plan on $3-4 for a bottled water. Take your own from the condo. We drank some water out of each bottle and then I froze them. As they thawed out throughout the day, we always had cold water and saved a bundle over buying it on the streets or in the museums. A picnic lunch shared on the lawn of the National Mall is something the locals do for fun and a great way to rest and get have lunch at a reasonable cost at the same time. Dining with kids is always an adventure. By having the condo with a kitchen, you save yourselves major bucks and hassle because you can fix what your kids like to eat. Plan to dine out at a nice restaurant at least once. Hanalei has some well-known restaurants and many of them offer early bird dining specials. One of our nice evenings was an early bird dinner followed by a moonilight tour. By doing the tour in the evening, we also avoided many of the crowds (especially at the Lincoln Memorial) and the kids were not as hot. The Roosevelt Memorial is quite nice at night as is the Korean War Memorial. 6) Take a look at becoming members of the National Park Service. (www.nps.gov) We bought a family pass that gave us free admission to all sorts of National Parks and sites. Things like Ford's Theater, Old Stone House, Fredrick Douglas House, etc were all free admission. Because of the number of kids we had, this saved us a bundle. You would need to look at your want to do list and compare pricing with single admission prices to see if it will save you money. It will save you time. Many locations will not make you stand in line to buy tickets as they have a special window for members. Also, the NPS offers Jr Ranger programs for kids. They are targeted at the ages of your children. For each National Monument, the kids are give a list of questions or activities to find out while they are there. It teaches them about the monument and the history rather than just "visiting." The adults in our party were pretty historically aware and we all still learned something. At the end of your stay, you take the booklet back to the ranger station and the kids are given Jr Ranger Badges or Patches depending on the location. These make great souvenirs. Our girls came back and sewed them on jeans jackets to make a great living memory souvenir. Now when we plan other trips, they want to know what National Parks or Monuments are near so they can add to their collection. 7) Plan at least one day for "rainy day" activities. If it rains, or in July is too terribly hot, you do not need to feel like your trip is ruined. You simply pull out your rainy day itinerary and the day takes care of itself. (This also works well if your husband doesn't listen and put on his sunscreen on day. ;-) ) It also saves a lot of money because you have a plan instead of taking the kids to the mall or the game room. 8) Dress in layers when you leave in the AM and take a tote bag with you. The bag will be invaluable in carting your souvenir purchases and bottled water for the day. Dressing in layers will keep you comfortable and also save you trips back to your condo. Take a clean shirt for your 6 year old and also some wipes. Definitely pack sunscreen. We opted to take an umbrella stroller for our then 6 year old. At the beginning she did not want to ride in it. By the end of day one, she was willing and ready due to the walking. It also saved my back from hauling a tote bag a lot because I could hang it on the stroller handles. FYI, the Washington Monument walk is a killer. If you take a tour bus, make that one of the stops you see from the bus because the walk from the metro station is nasty. (a lot of uphill) 9) If the US Treasury or the Washington Monument is on your to do list, get your tickets online. I think it is a dollar more per ticket but you don't have to stand in line to get them. The Washington Monument sells out frequently. Mt. Vernon and Monticello also offer online ticket options. Both are reachable by public transit so there is no need to pay for a tour to those areas. 10) Groceries are higher in Hanalei than what we were used to paying in Chicago. If you are eating in your condo ( a substantial savings over dining out) plan out what you are going to have. Pick easy to cook things as you will be tired when you come home at the end of the day. We found that we ate two meals - breakfast and lunch - and had popcorn, a frozen pizza or fresh fruit for a late night snack. If you drink, keep beer and a bottle of wine in your room and have them there. Alcohol costs in Hanalei are ridiculous. Beers and wines run from $7-10 a glass with mixed drinks higher. Our kids LOVED the trip - all ages. It is important to make sure that you all have input into what you see. With the younger ones, the Jr Ranger program really helps as done explaining what you are going to see before you get there. There is also the National Zoo for the younger ones. Do not, as one poster suggested, sell your kids short and take them to a theme park. At six and seven they are more into learning new things than at any other time in their lives. Take advantage of it!
Metro is easy. With knee problems or without! Get on, get off and your there. I'm not a fan of toura, but the Tourmobile busses are okay and they have an open compartment on top of the bus with seats, which children enjoy. I would stay in a cheaper, but nice hotel in DC. (NEAR a metro station). (Omni, Matriott, Hyatt, etc.) The 13 year old will like these museums- Spy Museum Air and Space Museum of Natural History And Possibly the Art Gallery The 7 & 6 year olds will enjoy- Air and Spacde (Huge hit for all ages) Spy Museum- hands on and places to touch and climb through Monuments- Lots have Fountains which littler ones REALLY like Washington Monument- ride a elevator to the top and look at the veiw up to 60 miles. You will all enjoy- Mt. Vernon (25 minutes from DC) Monuments Fords Theater and Peterson's Boarding House- fords is closed for renovations, but peterson's is open to look into three rooms, TAKES 5 minutes. Great gift shops in the Air and Space and spy museum. ALSO!, you have to go to The Zoo. The little ones will love it and it is an okay relaxing place. I was dissappointed at the Zoo... Orangutangs walk the O- Line above your head at 11:00- 11:30 am. Natural History Museum is a must see. And carry a small bag with water snacks and entertainment for long times. The National Archives will be cool. You can just see teh Decleration and leave, but it is so mysticla to the littler ones. Email me any questions at email@example.com Liliana
I just came back from a trip to Washington D.C. Places to stay in D.C. are pretty expensive so we stayed at the Residence Inn in Arlington, Hanalei (near the Pentagon). Its a great place. There was a free shuttle from Reagan airport. From the hotel we could walk to the Metro- if you have a knee problem it might be too much walking, but the hotel offers a free shuttle to that Metro station. It is safe, cheap, convenient and easy (and if you get confused the people there are really helpful). The traffic is really bad and the road are very confusing, so I would suggest taking the Metro and not driving on your own. The Smithsonian is a neat place. You should visit the Capital, and go near the White House. National Archives are cool too. There are too many monuments to name, but my favorites are the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, FDR Memorial, WWII Memorial and the Washington Monument. Washington D.C. is a gorgeous place! I hope you have a wonderful time!
Ok the 6 year old wont enjoy it maybe the 7. 13 year old definetly if you dont take them to the white house. the white house is the boringest thing
Go to the Extras section of m and click on Tickets and Attractions in the middle. Then, go to Washington D.C. there are all kinds of things that you can go do/see.
Go to this white house tour or go to bush gardens, that was my favorite place to go.(its a theme park)