125 Hours in Our Nation’s Capital
“Disney World or D.C.?” I asked Hayden, my almost 11-year-old son. My husband, Bryan, and I were surprised when after only a few moments of deliberation he firmly announced, “D.C. Because it’s got the Air and Space Museum.” Did I mention he’s obsessed with flight? So began our five day adventure in our nation’s capital.
9:41 a.m. @ Reagan International Airport
- Our Airbus makes its picturesque pass to avoid regulated air space and touches down at Reagan International Airport. The 5:50 a.m. flight out not only gives us more time in the city, but also is consistently the most affordable.
10:52 a.m. @ The International Spy Museum
- A quick Uber ride to drop bags at our hotel, located across the street from the McPherson Square Metro station, and we’re off and walking to the International Spy Museum. $58.85 later we board an elevator to begin the museum experience. Memorabilia from real life and Hollywood abounds, including the Aston Martin DB5 which first appeared in the 1964 James Bond thriller Goldfinger.
2:37p.m. @ Hill Country Barbecue Market
- Famished, we walk a block to what the folks on Yelp claim to be the best barbecue in the area. I’m skeptical until the first bite of brisket hits my mouth.
3:32 p.m. @ National Gallery of Art
- After stuffing ourselves, we walk down 7th Street and consider going into the National Archives building to see the Declaration of Independence. But the line stretches around the corner so we opt for the no-wait National Gallery of Art. Hayden tolerates my excitement in the Impressionist Gallery and I try to explain why Renoir and Monet were rock stars of art in their day.
5:03 p.m. @ National Gallery of Art Sculpture
- Just outside the NGA is a beautiful formal garden dotted with impressive sculptures. But for my family they are overshadowed by an albino squirrel that takes up residence near the Pavilion Café within the garden.
9:57a.m. @ National Archives
- Because we arrive early, the around-the-corner line from yesterday is non-existent. Inside we are tempted to dally at the displays downstairs, which include one of three surviving copies of the Magna Carta. However, to keep our early bird advantage we climb the stairs to view the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. I’m surprised at how reverent I feel. The script is so faded it’s hardly legible. But only a thick pane of protective glass separates me from a paper that marked the beginning of our country’s formation.
12:14 a.m. @ L’Enfant Plaza
- Food trucks galore line the street and we refuel on tasty Philly cheese steak sandwiches under the shade of giant live oak trees.
1:02 p.m. @ Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
- “We’re here! We’re really here!” Hayden says as we step through the doors. I follow behind, enjoying watching him read practically every plaque for every plane and spaceship. After meandering through every exhibit Hayden asks, “Where’s the big stuff, like was in Transformers?” Turns out there are two locations. And the “big stuff” is housed 40 minutes away at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
4:37p.m. @ Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
- Taking advantage of the summertime extended hours, we head back across the mall to the Museum of Natural History.
7:50 p.m. @ Georgia Brown’s
- My foodie husband makes dinner reservations for us at Georgia Brown’s, known as a D.C. must-visit eatery. The shrimp and grits are out-of-this-world delicious and the bread pudding will take you to heaven.
10:30 a.m. @ Old Ebbitt Grill
- They do brunch right and the old wood paneling makes it feel like a place where political deals get done.
12:02 p.m. @ Udvar-Hazy Center
- A metro ride to the end of the line, plus an Uber trip, puts us at the doors of the Udvar-Hazy Center. Like every Smithsonian museum, this one also is free. “Mom! There’s the Blackbird!” And just beyond that I see the space shuttle Discovery. We have found the big stuff.
6:30 p.m. @ White House
- I realize I made a pre-planning fail in contacting the wrong congressman when requesting a White House tour, so we view the Presidential residence from beyond the gate.
9:42 a.m. @ National Mall and Monuments
- We head east to see the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Korean War Veteran Memorial. “Arlington National Cemetery is just across the river, let’s walk,” suggests Bryan.
3:12 p.m. @ Arlington Memorial Bridge
- Just over halfway across the bridge my shoes rub a blister. It’s a much longer walk than it seemed when looking at the map on my phone.
3:30 p.m. @ Arlington National Cemetery
- The tram is worth every penny. It takes us to all the major landmarks including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where we witness the changing of the guard. The bugler plays Taps and my eyes well up with tears.
5:47 p.m. @ Arlington Cemetery Metro
- We take the metro back to the hotel and order in dinner. My phone lets me know we walked over 13 miles.
11:27 a.m. @ Supreme Court
- We make it to the Supreme Court just in time for the next lecture.
1:00 p.m. @ United States Capital
- We arrive at Congressman John Ratcliffe’s office in the Rayburn building for our tour of the capital building. This has to be set up in advance with your district’s U.S. Representative.
6:38 p.m. @ Jefferson Memorial
- After the capital tour we grab a late lunch/early dinner and stroll around the capitol grounds before walking the length of the National Mall to the Jefferson Memorial. Engravings of Jefferson’s writings line the walls while the setting sun casts an amber glow in the open-air rotunda. Of all the memorials visited, this is my favorite.
11:00 a.m @ Woodward Table
- After packing and checking out of the hotel we stop for one last delicious meal at Woodward Table. The maître d stops by to make sure Hayden is enjoying his shrimp po’boy and pauses for a picture.
2:44 p.m. @ Leaving D.C. Airspace
- I lean back in my seat as the plane ascends, watching Hayden gaze out the window at all the places we visited over the last 125 hours. “Well, what did you think about D.C.?” I ask him. “It was awesome,” he says. I don’t disagree.
By Abby Hoeffner