Ten Tips for Sightseeing in DC

Updated 2009-08-20 13:39

Summertime in the District = sightseeing trips with friends and family from far and wide. Believe it or not, we hadn’t hit this many monuments, memorials and museums since Pete and I were students, which was, you know, waaaaaaayyy back in the day. More importantly, it was way back in the day 

before we had kids.

Kids change everything. I realize that those of you without kids may be thinking, 'oh please, come on already. Get over yourself and your 'whine, whine, whine, my kids and all their whine, whine, whine.''

In response, I offer some simple math for you to consider: one 30 pound kid equals at least one meeellion pounds of stuff (stroller, diaper bag, milk bottles, sippy cups, wipes, blankie, stuffed toys, snacks, baseball bat, mitt and ball, soccer ball, dark glasses, sunscreen, chapstick, picnic, water bottles, hat, change of clothes, butt cream, NEED I SAY MORE?) This brings us to:

Tip #1: Unless your child has recently qualified for his or her driver's license, whatever you do ' do NOT leave home without the stroller. The stroller will be your salvation. Not because you can easily wheel your kids between blazing hot memorials in it. No such luck. They will want to lollygag up, onto and through everything. Rather, the stroller will serve you a thousand times over as your all purpose pack mule throughout the course of (what will come to feel like) the eternal day.

Behold, the lollygagging kids

Let me just pause here to clarify that this is not going to be a guide-book like post, detailing the best spots to go or the must-see museums. You can find that out from the many excellent websites that the DC government and the museums themselves host. Not to mention the hundreds of tourist outfits that exist to plot out the perfect route for you and your family.

No, instead, this is simply a 'mom's eye' perspective on the details that can make sightseeing (in D.C. or anywhere else for that matter) that much more enjoyable for your kids and, accordingly, a survivable experience for you as well.

Tip #2:
Plan where you park. As trite as this may sound, it ended up being one of the unplanned yet most significant highlights of our recent excursion. From our parking spot we were able to walk a circular loop that brought us right back around to where we began. This is so much better than having to hike back miles past things you have already seen when you are encumbered by a small crew of whiny, sun burnt savages who insist on being carried in one arm while you push the stroller with the other. We also, miraculously, found a shady parking spot. I can't emphasize enough the difference this made. Imagine, if you will, having spent 5 hours in the Sahara desert only to emerge, parched and red, and then be faced with a drive home in a rotisserie cooker. Not a pretty picture? If at all possible, find shade for your car. You will thank me for this.

Tip #3: Team up.
Our kids did so much better than we expected largely because they were with their cousins. Alone, we would have been back in the car within the first half hour. With Aunt Jill there we were able to 'man up' and wring the full amount of fun out of the day.

Tip#4: Bring along a soccer ball
, baseball, cricket ball, Frisbee or other amusing sports gear. Because, what with all the walking sightseeing requires, we found that some pick-up soccer or a spot of catch would keep the kids moving in the overall direction we wanted with a great deal less whining about exhaustion, dehydration or sore feet than if we had just told them to keep that chin up and keep on marching. I mean, all those miles of green grass are begging to be played on anyway and it's in everyone's best interest to keep the gang distracted from how far they still have to go before it's over.

Tip #5: Pack water bottles. But don't buy more when you run out
' that would be like buying a private plane just so you could enjoy the free drinks. Rather just save your empties and refill them. There are water fountains along all the pathways between the many memorials. And the water is, usually, refreshingly cool as well.

Tip #6: Museums
' the perfect shady place to refresh, use the restrooms and oh, yea, learn something. Plan your route so that each outdoor stretch is interspersed with a nice, shady museum break.

Tip #7: Make sure you see things from the top
. You don't have to climb the crowded, ticket-only venues to get a good view of the city. There are many spots that offer a good lookout venue from townhouses to restaurants, from museums to universities. Check into something like that to give your kids a different perspective on the city.
Tip #8: Ice-cream. Ice-cream. Ice-cream.
It is the only thing absolutely worth every penny when it comes to sightseeing in an area that used to be primarily swamp land. Hot and muggy is best countered with wet, sweet and sticky.

Tip #9: Revive yourselves with a dip.
After long days spent trying to appreciate the significance of all you are seeing while simultaneously distracting your little ones from climbing on, under or over those same things, there's nothing like coming home to the community pool.

Highly recommended to help get everyone over any post-traumatic stress that may have resulted from a day spent herding kids, which is right up there on the difficulty scale with herding cats.

Tip #10: Revisit from the comfort of your couch
Take time to stroll back down memory lane with your kids by sharing with them the pictures you took and the related stories. This should speed up the general process of erasing those memories related to the whining and public pee-peeing incidents that you would rather not retain and highlight those that you want to savor a little longer, those delicious slices of pure Americana.

Happy sightseeing! And be sure and let me know if you have any 'off the beaten path' tips that might entice us to venture forth again with kids in tow.

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