I am one of those lucky people who have two passports: a Canadian one and an American one. I think it’s an amazing thing and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to live and work in not only Canada, but also in California and Tennessee. Even though I was born and raised in the Toronto area, my parents made sure I learned about the US. The first time I went to Washington DC was when I was in high school. I remember complaining about the boring museums, wearing gigantic basketball earrings and being pumped to have my parents meet a boy I liked. (That did NOT go so great, btw!)
Since then I have been to Washington DC probably close to ten times and it never gets old. If you’re a fan of history of literally any type–this city is for you!
Seeing the White House, Washington Monument, the US Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial in person is an amazing experience. The US Capitol is a personal favourite and Anson and I both loved our tour. The kids were a little bored, but they survived!
The National Mall refers to the land that runs between the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol with the Washington Monument between. I don’t consider myself dense but I definitely was confused when I thought I was going to visit a mall and couldn’t find any stores. I even asked if the stores were underground maybe like in Toronto’s PATH system. So, don’t be like me–it’s just grass. You will not be getting a new outfit. It is a great place for your kids to run around though!
Traffic is generally always terrible in DC but the public transportation system is fantastic! We also have always been able to spot license plates from every single state during our visits–yes, we are totally lame, but kids love these kinds of games!
I don’t typically love museums because I don’t like the pressure of reading everything right then. (It probably stems from my hatred of being told what to do.) There are a lot of museums I don’t like but if I’m going to visit one then I want to do it in Washington DC. The Smithsonian museums are massive, full of hands on things to do and also free. FREE! Can you even believe that?! There are 19 museums, galleries and the National Zoo as part of the Smithsonian family which means you basically have enough activities for every single day and you won’t even break the bank!
The kids always enjoy the Air and Space Museum in particular because there are so many things for them to get involved in. Making paper airplanes is always a hit. Please note that I won because my plane went the farthest:)
Another favourite activity of ours was heading to a Washington National’s baseball game!
We left the kids behind for this and had a great time. If you look closely you can see the Washington Monument on the other side of the stadium–pretty awesome if you ask me!
When I was in college I got to visit the FBI Building as well and it was completely fascinating. After September 11, 2001 the tours were canceled for ten years but are up and running again. The only catch is that you need to plan your tour 3-4 weeks ahead of time. It is definitely worth it, so don’t leave it until the last second! I can’t wait to take the kids when they’re a little older so that I have an excuse to go again! With the sudden influx of TV shows involving the FBI it is always so interesting to learn what really goes on and what is just made for TV.
If I had to choose only one place in Washington DC to visit I would head to The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (also free).
I wish this museum didn’t need to exist, but unfortunately the horrors of the World Wars were real and this museum makes a large piece of history even more real for those of us who didn’t live through it. They pull no punches and portions are very graphic. They have privacy barriers surrounding the most graphic exhibits so that children can’t see them unless their parents or guardians feel like they can handle it. I have been there twice and will never forget the sobering things that I saw and read while there. It’s not a happy place although there are some truly beautiful stories of survival and courage shared in the museum. It isn’t an easy place to spend the day, but I think it is so important to remember the past and not allow ourselves to become complacent regarding things that happened before we were born.
Whether you are Canadian, American, or from one of any of the other amazing countries around the world– a visit to Washington DC should be in your future!