With all the travel that we do, would you believe that I had never been to our nation’s capital (aside from layover)? The hubs had been, but the boys and I had not. With the kids having two weeks off for the holiday break, we decided to take a road trip from Texas to Washington, DC (more on the road trip coming to the blog soon) to explore the history, museums, and monuments of the United States capital. We had three days to visit this first time around, and managed to see and do quite a bit! We all loved our time there, and are sharing our recommendations to inspire your own family trip to Washington, DC.
The White House
We opted not to tour the White House on this trip, but it was really cool to see (from the outside) the house that our nations’ Presidents have called home for more than 200 years.
The Supreme Court
Here are our recommendations for where to stay, where to eat, how to get around, and what to do if you are visiting Washington, DC for a few days with your children.
Where to Stay in Washington, DC
The St. Gregory Hotel. Disclosure: I was hosted by The St. Gregory Hotel for my stay, but the opinions are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review.
I’ll start by saying I’d happily stay at The St. Gregory anytime I visit DC, and highly recommend it. This luxury boutique hotel in the District’s coveted DuPont Circle neighborhood recently completed a renovation of all guest rooms, and the results are everything!
From the moment we arrived, weary after days on the road from Texas, our mood was transformed. The multi-level lobby included cozy and rustic elements (couches with plush pillows, books, and a central fireplace) combined with a classic mid-century simplicity that felt both upscale and welcoming.
The staff greeted us not only with the usual friendly service you’d expect from a luxury hotel, but took it a step further by engaging with our children and getting to know our plans for the three days we’d have in DC. We had maps and tourist advice in hand (literally and figuratively) by the time we were helped into our lovely room, and this level of friendly, personal service continued for our entire stay.
The room renovations were intended to bring an aura of relaxation for those visiting for business or pleasure. We put this to the test, and The St. Gregory passed with flying colors. After walking miles each day seeing sights (more on that below), some comfortable R&R was exactly what we all needed. The hotel and neighborhood was quiet, the bed and linens were amazingly comfortable, and fragrance spray for the pillows enhanced the feeling of tranquility. The room itself had tons of natural light and was decorated in a chic and cosmopolitan mid-century style that I appreciated.
Truly family-friendly luxury (and pet-friendly too, from what I hear), I was warmed by the little touches that reminded us that our young kids were welcome at The St. Gregory. Children’s books and cookies were waiting in our room, along with kid-sized robes to accompany the larger sizes for my husband and me.
Delicious Artisan Confections truffles were left at our bedside with our turndown each evening
We ended up eating at the hotel several times because the food was so good. We ate both from room service and the on-site restaurant Tredici Enoteca. Whether you are staying at The St. Gregory or not, this restaurant is worth a visit if you are near DuPont Circle or Embassy Row.
Tuna Ribbons (yellowfin tuna, smashed avocado, taro chips, honey leek vinaigrette) from the restaurant’s Raw Bar
The Tredici Burger (grass fed beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomato)
Pan Seared Gnocchi (roasted corn cream, pickle jalapenos, crispy shallots, parmesan)
Smoked Salmon Flatbread (crème fraiche, red onions, capers, dill, chives)
The Joey Flatbread (pork sausage, mozzarella, crushed tomato, spinach, garlic, chili flake)
We had exceptional service, luxuriously comfortable sleep, and a relaxing atmosphere during our stay at The St. Gregory, all while feeling welcome and at home with our two kids. I look forwarding to returning to this family-friendly hotel again some day!
How to Get Around Washington, DC
Though we had a car with us, we heard that parking could be a challenge near the tourist sites at the National Mall, so we opted to take the Metro. The trains depart frequently, and the whole experience was much easier than dealing with one-way streets, traffic, and parking. Note that prices are higher during peak commute times, but there are discounts for young kids and seniors. Here’s a great rundown from Trip Savvy on how it all works and what to expect for using Washington, DC’s Metro subway.
What to Do in Washington, DC with Kids – Monuments and the National Mall
Since many of the sites we wanted to see were in the two-mile long National Mall, we decided to split it between two days. The first day we walked the west half between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. In addition to those sites, this half of the Mall includes the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This was a lovely walk with the kids and an opportunity to take in several significant sites. We didn’t have the energy to walk down to the Jefferson, FDR, or MLK Jr. Memorials, but those are accessible on this side of the Mall as well.
If you’d like to add more interaction and education for the kids, I always recommend getting a free Junior Ranger activity book whenever you’re at a National Park (including the National Mall – you can find them at the gift shops for the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument). Kids can earn a special badge from a Park Ranger for participating.
World War II Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Sculptures at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Washington Monument
What to Do in Washington, DC with Kids – The Capitol and Library of Congress
The next day we spent our time on the east side of the National Mall to take a tour of the US Capitol and visit the Library of Congress. We loved the guided tour of the Capitol, and I definitely recommend taking one. We did not book in advance, and luckily got in just fine but advance booking is recommended. Remember to account extra time for getting through security when arriving at the Capitol before your tour time. You can also arrange for more intimate tours with your Congressman’s office if you contact them in advance.
After the tour, we ate lunch in the cafeteria before walking the tunnel to the Library of Congress, which has free admission!
This compass marks the center of the District of Columbia, where all streets in the city converge.
The art on the inside of the Capitol rotunda
Paying homage to pioneers of the woman suffrage movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott
The Abel Buell map at the Library of Congress is the first printed and published map of the United States after independence
The Library of Congress was a masterpiece of design inside. The exhibits were cool, but the beauty of the LOC itself was worth the visit.
What to Do in Washington, DC with Kids – Museums
DC is home to several world-class museums. Unfortunately we visited during the government shutdown, and many of the museums, including all Smithsonian museums, were closed. Ford’s Theatre was even closed to tours at the museum and historic site, however the Aftermath Exhibits across the street were still open. This was a really cool, interactive museum about the impact of Abraham Lincoln’s life on our nation.
Art installation at the Ford’s Theatre Aftermath Exhibits that represents all of the books written about Abraham Lincoln
Traveling with a Car? What to Do Near Washington, DC with Kids – Mount Vernon
About 15 miles south of Washington, DC, and well worth the drive if you have a vehicle and time, is George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. The house, museum, and general history were incredible to experience, and our visit was a highlight of our time in DC. We couldn’t take photos inside the house, but did take some pictures around the grounds.
The tombs of Martha and George Washington
It was impossible to ignore the fact that so many were enslaved and working against their will at Mount Vernon. We mustn’t forget that even some of our proudest moments as a nation are intertwined with some of the most tragic.
Looking over to Maryland on the other side of the Potomac River from Mount Vernon in Virginia.
This was such a memorable first trip to Washington, DC for the boys and me. While we were disappointed not to be able to go to the Smithsonian museums, we know we will just have to plan a trip back soon!