The White House tour. The changing of the guard. The
Smithsonian. The Constitution. They are definitely Washington,
D.C.'s A-list attractions-the must-sees you read about in just
about every guidebook.
But do you know what made our trip to D.C. fantastic? It was the
unexpected moments that ignite your kids' senses and create
The moment they, well, get it.
Considering a trip to Washington, D.C.? I say go ahead and
guidebook plan it, but keep those peeps peeled for the surprising
lessons you'll discover along your way.
Here's what we discovered.
Staying right in Washington can be super cool. We've stayed just
steps from the White House. But, on our last trip we stayed in
Alexandria, Va., 20 minutes outside of D.C. Of course, I was
crazy-worried we'd be too far from the action, worried the long
commute would cramp our schedules. I couldn't have been more wrong.
The D.C. Metro system rocks.
And it didn't take me long to learn if you want to really see D.C.,
you've got to get around D.C. My girls mapped out our day each
morning at the hotel. They knew where to catch the Metro, where to
get off, and how to order our travels so they made commuting sense.
It really put them in the driver's seat.
They are the first words of the Constitution. The ones we learn
in school, the one you can see under glass at the National
Archives Building. But while we were killing time before our
Capitol tour, we slipped inside the ornate Library of Congress to
sneak a peek at the drafts of the Constitution.
What a treat to read. The girls were able to see all the changes
and crossed out words, all the effort that went into finding the
exact wording we all know today. It was neat to discover that even
our founding fathers didn't get it right on the button-or come up
with a document everyone agreed with-the first time around.
OK, this sounds like a disaster, doesn't it? Little ones on
bikes at night when a lightning storm hits. But it literally was
the highlight of our trip. With legs too little to walk the
monuments, we rolled through Washington on a Bike and Roll tour with a
Washington guide. We were just approaching the Lincoln Memorial
when the sky opened up. We spent the rest of that first evening on
the steps of the Lincoln Memorial under cover watching beautiful
Washington lit by bursts of lightning. An amazing first night view
of the city we'll never forget.
The Holocaust Museum was on
my oldest daughter's list. There were films, and set-ups and
pictures, but the one thing we will never forget were the shoes.
The museum houses the actual shoes Holocaust victims wore. There is
a pile of hundreds of shoes. It gives you pause to see it. They are
working people shoes. They are scuffed and dirty and they smell
like feet. Seeing the shoes, you are stopped in your tracks and
quickly reminded millions weren't killed in the Holocaust, millions
of people were killed.
We called our local congressman's office and booked a tour of
the Capitol months in advance. But we didn't plan on bumping into
Robert Dold during our tour. He graciously took a few minutes out
of his day-magical minutes for us-to walk us through the speaker's
office and out onto his private balcony where the president speaks.
Fantastic moment and photo opp.
The walk from the train to Arlington Cemetery to
watch the changing of the guards was long. My girls complained the
entire time. But then, during the ceremony they were all
eyes-completely amazed someone could stand so still for so
It was memorable, but the most amazing part of our day was the
walk back to the train. When we walked back-the road just as long
and hot-no one said a single word about the heat or the walk. I
believe my girls really grasped the concept of serving your country
that day. They learned sometimes you stand-or walk-out of duty with
Donna Bozzo is a Chicago mom, freelance writer and travel guru. Check out her video of her D.C. visit at theladywiththealligatorpurse.com/
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