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Washington DC with a grumpy tween

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Replies to: Washington DC with a grumpy tween

  • SomeOldGuySomeOldGuy Registered User Posts: 1,986 Senior Member
    And a trip to Georgetown Cupcake, if she's willing to wait in the spring break lines.
  • megpmommegpmom Registered User Posts: 3,114 Senior Member
    edited February 2015
    We did DC with a grumpy tween many years ago. She enjoyed the zoo (although the pandas were off display mating), a Segway tour of the National Mall (don't know if they still do this but a bike tour might be fun too), Air and Space Museum, Georgetown Cupcakes, visiting the horse stables in Rock Creek Park, and ordering in pizza and watching a movie in the hotel while adults went out to a nice dinner. She actually enjoyed DC enough to choose to go to school there (American U) and now lives and works as a tour guide there! She leads tours at President Lincoln's Cottage, which is actually pretty interesting and off the beaten path. She is also an educator at the White House, which is of course, really fun if you can get your congressperson to arrange the tickets.
  • NoVADad99NoVADad99 Registered User Posts: 2,291 Senior Member
    One of the most overlooked treasures in DC is the National Portrait Gallery, which is centrally located right across the street from the Verizon Center. Great exhibits, and wonderful portraits of every president and other national figures. You can literally spend hours in there.
  • smdur1970smdur1970 Registered User Posts: 931 Member
    You'll be in DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival. If you're lucky and the blossoms are out, even DD might not be able to resist a walk around the Tidal Basin. The bad news, of course, is potential crowds for the museums, and the Washington and other close monuments.
  • albclemomalbclemom Registered User Posts: 235 Junior Member
    Spy Museum is great. Get tix on line in advance. Booking last tour of the day makes it a bit less crowded.

    Holocaust Museum is haunting. Depends on the maturity of your 12 year old, but my kids found the historical aspect fascinating and we're ready for what they saw based on school work and prior discussion with us.

    My kids loved most of the monuments - Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean where not far from one another and they enjoyed locating them on the map, like a treasure hunt. They also liked the Jefferson.

    The following things were a bust - no interest from them:
    Mount Vernon
    Washington Monument
    Smithsonian (they thought the exhibits seemed very outdated)
  • bookmama22bookmama22 Registered User Posts: 2,260 Senior Member
    Of course I completely forgot the Holocaust Museum. It is so incredibly well-done and depending on their level of maturity and historical knowledge, very eye-opening and haunting.
  • soccergurl7988soccergurl7988 Registered User Posts: 896 Member
    I live in DC--Skip Georgetown Cupcake and go to Baked and Wired. Far, far better and less crowded!

    Recommend: the Zoo, Kennedy Center performances/terrace, Georgetown (lots of fancy houses, Kennedy history, and shops), Embassy Row, and Eastern Market if you're here on a Saturday. Also recommend Old Town Alexandria! Even if it's pre-Cherry Blossom bloom, do the Tidal Basin walk (Jefferson, FDR, MLK memorials)--it's quite pretty.

    Skip: tour of Congress. It's a snooze, quite frankly, if she's not into history or politics.

    What kind of food does she like? Is she a coffee drinker? Does she like books?
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 7,260 Senior Member
    edited February 2015
    I heartily recommend taking the Library of Congress tour. It's interesting. One exhibit is Jefferson's library. (Jefferson's library was the first collection of the Library of Congress. None of the original books still exist, but there is a replica of Jefferson's library, arranged as Jefferson himself arranged his,) And, the material they chose for the ceiling is hilarious!

    The National Archives tour is also interesting. Pay attention to the first group of amendments to the Constitution--a bit of a surprise there!

    Nobody has mentioned the National Cathedral. Where else can you see a stained glass window with a moon rock in it and another with a John Deere tractor? (I don't know if the Robin Williams' list of 10 best things about being an Episcipalian is still for sale in the gift shop. It's funny, so look for it.)There's a tour here too. (ETA I see it's on the original list for the gargoyles. Do the inside tour too.)

    Your D might be the right age to appreciate visiting at least a few of the sites on the African-American Heritage Trail.http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/portal/african-american-heritage-trail

    There's a bus tour at night of the illuminated monuments. A nice, fairly relaxed end to a busy day. One company leaves from Union Station.
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 33,348 Senior Member
    The thing our kids liked best about the zoo was when we went when it first opened in the morning and the keepers were shooting rats inthe prarie dog exhibit with air guns. I kid you not! Our kids begged for a turn but for liability reasons were denied. The keepers explained that the exhibit can get overrun with rats who steal the prarie dogs' food. Once the rates are killed or at least wounded, the prarie dogs will seal the rats in, entombing them so to speak.

    The kids made us return several days in hopes of seeing more activity at the prarie dog exhibit. It was an unexpected hit with all 4 of the kids--our two and two of our friends' kids. Some of the kids were tween-age.

    The Native American Museum cafe has interesting vegetarian selections as well as all kinds of other food, but as I said, it is a bit pricey.

    It's REALLY important NOT to overschedule and try to get your tween to select some of the activities with the promise, NO GRUMBLING. I got my picky kid to help plan the trip. He originally overscheduled (2-3 activities per day), but I reminded him of one trip we had where we tried to see a different national park every day and how miserable that was for all of us and he scaled it way back and prioritized his list. When the kids help select the attractions, they have a lot more buy in.

    The White House tour was a HUGE time waster--had to get there very early and wait in huge line (even with reservations). Security made you give up everything--no purse, cell phone, camera. They rushed you through a very few rooms and your were back out of the tour in a very short time. (This was shortly after some nut had penetrated the White House, so perhaps that was part of the reason for the very disappointing tour.) Everyone with us agreed it was the shortest and most disappointing tour we had experienced of the White House--many of us had been on prior tours that were more extensive and allowed more discussion during the tour. It just felt pro forma and VERY rushed. Even the tour of Congress felt greatly shortened and rushed and you HAD to stay with your group at all times--no straggling or lagging.

    We did enjoy Mt. Vernon more, as well as Montecello, but those were a drive to get to. Carter's Plantation was not very exciting to any of us -- 4 adults and 4 kids.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 31,454 Senior Member
    What everyone has said. The Spy Museum is a bit hokey and expensive, but it's a lot of fun. Our kids enjoyed it more than most of the museums. I like the Portrait Museum. I still haven't gone to the Holocaust Museum because dh doesn't want to be depressed. He figures seeing Dachau in Germany is enough. Oddly enough, the museum I've enjoyed most on recent trips is the Textile Museum - I actually went there because it's housed in a building by an architect that I'd recently attended a lecture about. My favorite DC museum is the Phillip's Collection impressionist and modern art housed in an old mansion. If the weather is nice Dumbarton Oaks has very pretty gardens and a small collection of art. (Modern and pre-Columbian mostly.)
  • greenbuttongreenbutton Registered User Posts: 2,643 Senior Member
    Another vote for the National Building Museum and Library of Congress. The buildings are amazing.

    Archives, White House, Congress are all time-sucks with underwhelming viewing. There's a White House museum in the old commerce building -- cool, comfortable, nice bathrooms!

    My sons love the sculpture garden on The Mall -- it's across from the Art museum and relatively near Air& Space (which is often crowded like crazy) Also big fans of Newseum (the patio view is awesome).

    Wear comfy shoes. Don't be married to your itinerary, you could viait DC hundreds of times and never see it all. So be content to just be there. If a museum is crowded, it's okay to bail. And wear belts that are easy to get off for security stations (my menfolk learned this the hard way!)
  • EmbracethemessEmbracethemess Registered User Posts: 289 Junior Member
    We did DC when our kids were tweens, DS is our generally grumpy traveler (his interests and pace are much different than ours.) Totally concur about putting her in charge of the metro and the maps - it helps a lot. We did the hop on- hop off guided bus tour, and it worked GREAT for our family. Most of the speaking guides were great, very family friendly and included lots of humor which played well with my kids. IIRC, we even skipped a few jump-off points because my kids liked the guide so much they didn't want to get off that bus! I don't think anyone mentioned Arlington National Cemetary. We did it as part of the bus tour, and both DS and younger DD really enjoyed seeing it. We went to see the Jefferson Memorial on a clear, moonlit night - stunning! It's hard for even the grumpiest not to be impressed. Museums don't play as well with our family (again, it's the differences in pace), but we all thoroughly enjoyed the Holocaust museum (much more than air and space.) Agree you don't have to climb the Washington Monument.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 30,892 Senior Member
    edited February 2015
    I'm with Himom, not to over-schedule, since your trip is short. I lived there, too. And yup, still haven't seen it all. You don't have to stop and go into every site. It can be enough to drive past some buildings, eg, the White House, the Capitol. If you're into Air & Space, maybe you save the Natural History for another time (or another city.) But don't miss the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. You can go late at night. Lincoln is probably the only place anywhere where I love seeing the other tourists from all over.

    Arlington Cem is interesting too. Georgetown is neat for the homes- and if you drive up to the Cathedral, you can drive past embassies and the Naval Observatory. (See if there is a night opening to view the telescope, maybe see something.)
  • capcap Registered User Posts: 926 Member
    Spring break time is as bad as summer for the crowds, so expect lines. You have to have bags checked at most buildings and some don't allow food or water, even unopened.

    The Postal Museum is next to Union Station, not the Library of Congress.

    The dinosaur exhibit is closed for renovation, as is much of the Hirschorn and half of the American History. So are most of the galleries of the West Building of the American Art Museum.

    The National Cathedral now charges if you go inside, except on Sundays.

    Ford's Theater is open only by tour and taking the tour was the only way to see the Peterson house. You can make reservations online.

    You need tickets to go up the Washington Monument and can get them ahead of time via the National Parks webpage for a fee. Otherwise you have to be in line very early in the morning and beat the tour operators.

    You also need tickets for the Bureau of Engraving & Printing and I believe you will for the Holocaust Museum at that time of year.

    You need tour tickets for the Capitol building, except for the exhibits in the Visitor Center. You can get them at the Visitor Center or via your congressman.

    White House tickets are available through your congressman on a limited basis and probably long gone for that week.

    Lines at the Archives may be long, so be prepared for that.

    You can go through the FDR Memorial while walking to/from the Jefferson Memorial and hit the LIncoln, Vietnam, Korean and MLK at the same time. The WW2 one is by the Washington Monument.

    There are underground walkways between the two American Art museums, between the Capital and Supreme Court, and between the Freer Art Gallery and the gazebo outside it. There are underground galleries there.

    There isn't much in the Castle but it was the original building and worth a walk through.

    Don't try to drive down and park unless you know exactly where you can find parking. Meters are two hours and it's a pain to have to run back and forth to your car. I live in the area and often park at the Pentagon City mall and ride a couple stops in.

    Have fun!
  • sevmomsevmom Registered User Posts: 8,101 Senior Member
    It's nice that so much is free in DC. Have enjoyed many things. I agree with not overscheduling , Library of Congress is very interesting, so is the Postal museum, zoo, Arlington Cemetery, WWll monument ( and all the walking around the monuments In general). There is so much to see that I would avoid anything that involved a long wait to get in. National Cathedral has a café now. Georgetown has a Sprinkles Cupcakes too. Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria are nice places to spend some time. Have fun.
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