Day Three: We started the day by walking to the Mall and taking in some of the Smithsonian museums. The Museum of Natural History is the best thing since sliced bread. I think I could go there every day for a week and still not see everything or get tired of being there. It's such a beautiful building, and there was something for each of us. My older daughter loves the Hope Diamond and all the gems and minerals. My younger one loves dinosaurs. My husband loves marine biology, so the ocean exhibit was great for him. I love all of it and was just happy to be there.
Butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History!
We had planned on seeing some of the monuments this day, but we decided to push those off until the next day and just get some more museums under our belts. D wanted to go to the Hirshhorn Museum, which is a modern art museum and sculpure garden. I wasn't sure how the girls were going to like it, but they LOVED it! I had to drag them out of this weird little movie about a baseball pitcher throwing balls at ceramic objects over and over and another one about a man who is slowly covered in bees. And it had the coolest gift shop! I really enjoyed talking art with them, and it made me even more impressed with them as little developing people.
We also saw Air and Space, which I kept pushing for based on my last visit (1984-ish). None of us really care about airplanes or space ships, but I love the building and all its skylights and all the aircraft suspended from the ceiling. We just did a walk-through. We walked back to the hotel after that and the girls played in the pool for a while. Finding a hotel with a pool was an excellent idea by the way.
That night we went to Chinatown to eat dinner, and we discovered that the "town" in Chinatown is a slight exaggeration. It was a block or two of restaurants and that was about it. The one my husband had researched didn't exist anymore, but we found a cute hole-in-the-wall that was fantastic. This day didn't exactly go according to plan, but we ended up having a great time because we just decided to slow the pace and relax some. We also ate a a place that seemed to be popular with the locals, and that really paid off, too. We much prefer not to look like tourists if at all possible.
Day Four: This was our last day of exploring, and we had planned to see three monuments: JFK, MLK and FDR. We thought we found a city bus that would take us to the Lincoln Memorial and we planned to walk from there, but the bus runs a weird schedule and never came. We even called the 800 number and talked to someone at the transit department. No dice on the bus. The only other options were taking a cab or paying for a tour bus that circles the monuments and costs around $30 per person - what a racket. We really didn't want to spend that kind of money. At this point, my sweet husband, who had been a bit of a drill sargeant thus far, just threw up his hands and said, "Forget it. Let's go to more museums." I had really wanted to see the MLK memorial, but actually I was pretty relieved, because the monuments were quite a hike, and I just didn't think the girls would last very long. Plus, we got to go back to the Museum of Natural History! We also tried the National Gallery, but by then the girls were tired and hungry, so we took the train to a cute neighborhood and ate Ecuadorian food.
The last half of the day was the most fun we had the whole trip. After we ate, we walked across the street to what looks like an old train or bus depot. It's been renovated, and on Tuesdays (the day we happened to be there) they set up a farmer's market type thing outside. Inside has lots of produce stalls, butcher shops, cheese shops, a cafe and an ice cream stand. The girls got ice cream, Drew got some really good cheese, and I bought some fruit for the train ride home the next day. Everyone was happy! Again, we felt like locals.
We went back to the hotel and the girls swam for a bit while I made use of a guest washer and dryer (free!). Bringing home a suitcase full of dirty clothes is the worst part of travel for me, so I was absolutely thrilled at this turn of events. Dinner was a little hard to come by. Our hotel was right downtown, and everything seemed to shut down after the office workers went home. We wandered around for a while and eventually found a sandwich shop. Then we went back to the room and passed out.
Day Five: We got up and went to Union Station with some time to spare for breakfast. This time we were much smarter and bought lunch there, too. We took it on the train with us, and after a couple of hours we spread out at a table in the dining car and had a feast! That's another thing I loved about Amtrak - they didn't care if we bought our food from them or not. The tables were for everyone, and there was free wi-fi in the dining car, too! The ride home seemed much shorter that the ride there (isn't that always the way?), and my younger daughter took a long nap with her head in my lap.
Tuckered out Izzy
All in all, we had a great time, and the girls are still saying they miss D.C.! Drew and I really enjoyed the train and being back in a big city (have I mentioned we lived in Chicago for 8 years?). We didn't have a car for 5 days and didn't miss it once.
We can devide the costs of our trip pretty evenly into three parts: food, train, hotel. I'd love to decrease food costs next time somehow. Maybe we sacrifice the pool for a suite hotel with kitchens in the rooms, and we can cook some instead of going out for every meal. Staying downtown put us close to a lot of the attractions, but staying in a neighborhood would have put us closer to grocery stores and smaller, less expensive restaurants. Priorities, I guess.
Anyway, D.C. was a huge success. Where should we go next?