Washington D.C.: Top 5 Kid-Friendly Excursions
By Kara Mayer Robinson
Even if your kids are too young to appreciate our nation's history, there's plenty of fun to be had in our capital city. My favorite way to see the city is to combine sites that amaze my husband and me but also amuse my little ones. Here are my favorites:
Your toddler may not have a clue who George Washington is, but she'll dig our first president's monument, located smack in the middle of the city's National Mall (www.nps.gov/nr/travel/wash/dc70.htm), a vast stretch of lawn and reflecting pools that boasts a handful of our country's most recognizable landmarks, including the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. The parcel of grass surrounding the Washington Monument is just one spot that kids of all ages love thanks to its potential for burning off excess energy. The fact is that just about any spot along the Mall will do for a game of tag, the toss of a Frisbee, a few somersaults and cartwheels or some plain old running around. One warning: Though it looks small and easily walkable on maps, the National Mall is in fact very long and can wear out even the most energetic adult. Plan on conquering one portion per day to avoid burnout.
Hop on and off
As a mom of three little ones, I often save organized tours for the destinations I visit with just my husband, but this city is incredibly kid-friendly and its Hop-On-Hop-Off Open-Top Double-Decker Bus Tour (www.dctours.us) is a cool way to get your bearings while simultaneously entertaining your offspring. One ticket gives you unlimited access to its fleet of buses for two full days, so you can hop off at one of a few dozen stops, hop back on again when you're ready to cruise to the next neighborhood or attraction, then use it as transportation the next day. While it's in motion, you'll be introduced to many of the city's landmarks-including the vice president's house and the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech-while kids get a kick out of sitting on the top level of an open-top bus.
Spend a day at the museums
There are way too many museums to devour in a single trip to D.C., but that doesn't mean you shouldn't nibble on just a few. Take the kids to some of the best and they'll go home with a bunch of memories that have-bonus!-educational value. Don't miss the gemstones,including the Hope Diamond, and the genuine mummy at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (www.mnh.si.edu/). Find time to visit the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (www.nasm.si/edu/), with hangers filled with retired planes and spacecraft and interactive exhibits that especially delight older kids. Speaking of which, if you have kids older than 10, be sure to hit the International Spy Museum (www.spymuseum.org) to dabble in some hands-on sleuthing.
Walk in Abe Lincoln's footsteps
Miles away from the boring history lessons you remember as a kid is a fascinating spot that will teach the whole family a thing or two about American history: Ford's Theater (www.fordstheater.org). This is the site where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and it's a pretty surreal experience to sit in the spot where it all went down almost 150 years ago. When you walk into this tiny building, you'll be shown exactly how the events of his death transpired on that tragic night. Take a seat and let it all sink in, then walk across the street to the small building where he died a few hours later. Your kids won't get antsy-it takes about three minutes to view the entire place-and afterwards you can entice them by popping into one of the many souvenir shops that flank these historic buildings on 10th Street NW.
Lick some historic ice cream
Carve out some time to visit Gifford's Ice Cream & Candy Co. (www.giffords.com), a 70-year-old ice cream parlor that has as many famous fans as it has delicious scoops of the chilly stuff. Fans of this old-fashioned establishment include Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Dwight Eisenhower and Goldie Hawn. Besides gourmet ice cream, Gifford's is stocked with yummies that you can take home with you to remember your trip long after it's over, like homemade caramels, hot fudge and butterscotch candies. What a way to end the trip.
If you go…
Live large at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill-it has the most comfortable bed, pillow and comforter I've EVER experienced. Get more information about this property and check availability on Ciao Bambino.