For the last full day in Washington, D.C., we planned to take in all the sights. We Ubered into town on this morning and began at the Lincoln Memorial. The statue of Lincoln was powerful, but there is also an exhibit inside that pays tribute to the history of the monument including Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the monument in 1963. It was moving to hear and see the video I’d seen many times before and to actually stand in the very place where such an important moment of 20th Century history occurred.
We walked along the mall to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (below). It was much smaller than I’d imagined, but meaningful to see nonetheless. All of the monuments and memorials along the National Mall may look very close together on a map, but wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to do a lot of walking! The scale of many of the buildings and popular sights is difficult to appreciate until you’re there in person.
We continued on to the World War II Memorial, which is a beautiful reminder of those who served from every state and in every theatre of the war.
The fountains make this space very peaceful.
My husband and I both had grandfathers who served in World War II, so this memorial held a more personal meaning for us.
We took pictures of the Washington Monument (above) from this vantage point, but decided to forego touring it in order to walk along the tidal basin where the Cherry Blossom trees were in full bloom. And it was certainly no secret! Thousands of people were walking along the river and enjoying the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which takes place in March and April. It took some patience to navigate through the sea of tourists with three children, but we made it through the most densely crowded areas and arrived at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
If you are looking for that moment to snap a postcard-worthy photo of the Jefferson Memorial and the surrounding Cherry Blossom trees, the very early morning hours are probably your best bet. We took pictures, but the steps and the inside of the memorial were covered with visitors. We’d packed sandwiches and bottled water in a backpack so we could enjoy a picnic on the lawn outside the monument. (If you plan a picnic lunch, remember to pack a light blanket, too.) This was a great way to take in the scenery and the early spring weather could not have been better. What appeared to be Marine One, the President’s helicopter, flew over while we were there.
After lunch, we took an Uber to the White House, or at least to the closest point you can take an Uber near the White House. This was actually a wide sidewalk with views of the South Lawn of the White House. We took photos but they were terrible because we were so far away from the White House itself and the sun was almost blinding at this point in the day. I wish we’d taken the time to walk to the other side of the White House to take photos, as I believe you can get a better view on the north side, but negotiating the extra walking with the children would not have been pleasant. We still had seven blocks to walk to get to the Newseum, which was our planned stop for the afternoon.
We passed by the White House Visitor’s Center and stopped in for a restroom break and a little souvenir shopping. Unless you plan ahead and schedule a tour at the White House in advance, I would recommend stopping in the Visitor’s Center. There is a wall with a backdrop of the White House on it and we were able to take a much better family photo there! We also were able to sign the official book of condolences for former First Lady Nancy Reagan who had passed away in the weeks prior to our visit.
We continued on our walk, passing many government office buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue as well as the National Archives. We reached the Newseum, with the First Amendment displayed boldly on the outside of the building. The day’s newspapers from every state in the country were displayed, too. This place is a news junkie’s dream!
It really was interesting, especially the exhibits on the varying degrees of freedom of the press around the world, and major crime stories from recent decades. There’s even a large piece of the Berlin Wall and the remains of an antenna from atop the former World Trade Center salvaged from the wreckage of the 9/11 attacks in New York City.
Some of the subject matter was over the heads of our young daughters, but they liked the interactive exhibits at the end. Kids can create their own news broadcast and play a video game that teaches them the steps to investigating and reporting a news story. This was the only paid museum we visited, but there are so many others in D.C. that I hope to visit one day, too.
We ended our last day in D.C. with a casual dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Arlington. We sat on the patio and it was a good way to wind down our vacation before we drove home the next day. On our return trip, we drove through a more mountainous highway through Blacksburg, Va. (where we saw Virginia Tech), and a few other small towns before stopping to spend one night with our family in Charlotte again. We made it back to Florida the next day – what an adventure! I am so glad we took this trip and look forward to more road trips in our future.
What is your favorite monument or memorial? Have you been to the Newseum? What road trips do you recommend with kids?