When I was a kid, we went to Washington, D.C. every couple of years. It was an easy trip down from New York, and the history of D.C. (if not the summer climate) gave it a real draw. Robert, on the other hand,had now been to Washington a grand total of three times, each of them with me, as an adult (shocking, I know!), so we had to give him another trip. We spent Labor Day weekend there, having gotten cheap US Air shuttle tickets, and we had a great time: it was Robert's fourth D.C. trip, Marcus's third, and Samantha's second.
Friday night we flew into Washington National/Reagan Airport and took the Metro to our hotel, the Washington Court Hotel near Union Station. Samantha slept through much of the train ride and the whole walk back to our hotel. We had a nice room with a king-sized bed and a double fold-out couch, so Marcus slept happily on the fold-out.
On Saturday morning we walked the few blocks back to Union Station to pick up a Zipcar for the day. This was actually an incredibly involved process that included directions such as "Walk 120 yards past the Peter Pan bus waiting area on Level M (reachable only by the elevator that is up one escalator level from the main level of the station)," but eventually we got our car and drove out to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum annex, near Dulles Airport, which neither Robert nor I had ever seen.
We met some D.C.-area babywearing friends there (Marianne, Kay, and Rashann) and their kids, big and little. Marcus at six was the oldest and tallest, but then there were two five-year-old girls just starting kindergarten, one four-year-old girl, and then Samantha and Felix, just nine days apart in age. Marcus loved the Blackbird, the fastest plane ever, and the animal-themed airplane scavenger hunt the volunteers at the information desk set him up with. We located a Gulfhawk, a Kittyhawk, a Mustang, and several other animal-named planes on their list, while also seeing a Concorde and the space shuttle, as well as a demonstration of a water-cooled space suit. Marcus participated in a paper airplane contest too, though he made his best effort in the testing round and was all spent by the time of the actual elimination rounds.
For lunch we got something sub-standard from the McDonald's there and walked all the way down the hill to a picnic grove where planes from Dulles zoomed overhead. The kids ate and played very happily.
Just before our friends left, a man took all of our picture. With kids running everywhere, we were all astounded that he got a good picture on the first try!
After walking around the museum for another hour or so on our own, we met Suzi and Ken at Willard's BBQ, just a few minutes from the museum, for really excellent burnt ends, rice and beans, cornbread, and other bbq delights, served with free refills of sweet tea and lemonade. Suzi and Ken were on their way to a beer-brewing party in the city, so we said goodbye to them and headed back into the city ourselves, this time to the National Zoo.
Samantha fell asleep in the car and remained asleep in my sling when we got to the zoo. She slept through the pandas and elephants but managed to wake up for the "bison." Supposedly, August 30th (that day) was the day of the grand opening of the bison exhibit, in honor of the first-ever animal in the National Zoo, the bison itself (displayed on the White House lawn over a hundred years ago), but we didn't see any bison in the enclosure, and no one else we spoke to had that day either. We did see a few signs and cardboard cut-outs of them, but that was all. Marcus liked the misters/sprinklers as we walked around the zoo, and Samantha woke up for the cheetahs near the end.
At the end of the day, going back to our car, we saw a deer, a wild deer that stepped out of the bamboo forest at the edge of the zoo and parking lot and walked with us across the street and into the lot. This might have been the closest we got to an animal all day. Marcus was entranced.
We had a nice chat with a friendly Indian parking lot attendee about deer, zoos, ethnic restaurants in D.C., kids, and Jackson Heights (his mother lives there and he goes up to NY every week), and then we drove to the U-Street area and went to Dukem for Ethiopian food. Since we were stuffed with bbq but the kids (though Samantha had eaten mac and cheese by the fistful and then a whole rib, and Marcus had eaten a hefty burnt-end sandwich) were hungry, we just sat in the take-out side and ordered one dish, minchet abesh, a mild beef dish, which Marcus adored. He scooped it up with plenty of injera and ate quite a lot. Samantha ate a beef sambusa which at the first bite she declared "Spicy!" There was silence. "But yummy!" I countered, and she nodded, and proceeded to eat the entire thing. The tiny taste we did have of it confirmed that it actually was fairly spicy, but she didn't complain.
Around the corner we had ko-fro-yo and then we drove back to the hotel, dropped off kids and carseats, and I got the kids bathed while Robert returned the Zipcar.
On Sunday, we ate at a bland place with terrible service just inside Union Station (Marcus devoured his oatmeal) and then took the Big Bus hop-on-hop-off bus tour.
We did the Patriot Tour, a subset of their regular lines, and I think we were all pleased with the experience: even though a bus tour is not normally our style, in the heat, and with so many things to see spread so far apart, it was convenient. We sat on the top and had a great time riding it out to the Lincoln Memorial first.
From there we walked back along the reflecting pool to the WWII memorial and then to the Washington Monument, where the kids climbed a tree with some other kids and we determined that it would basically be impossible to get tickets to go to the top of the monument unless one of us (Robert) got up early and hiked over to wait in line at 8:00 in the morning.
We decided to pass, and instead went to the Natural History Museum, first stopping in their cafeteria for pizza and Indian food, and then seeing the skeletons, the mummies, the truncated dinosaur exhibit (it's being renovated), and the bugs wing.
On the other side of the museum we hopped on the bus again to the Building Museum, where we arrived with Samantha once again entirely asleep. We went through their very cool maze and then up to the kids' play area until the museum closed. Interestingly, the building was built to administer government pensions after WWII, and the stairs were especially made low and easy for disabled veterans.
We took the bus then to right by the White House, but didn't get to get close enough to get a really good look because the President was just then coming home and they closed off all the streets and shooed us away. When traffic started moving again we hopped on the blue line of the bus and rode it out to Arlington Cemetary and the Pentagon, crossing the river and watching thunderstorms forming above us. We got back to town just as it started to rain, and the driver gave us some ponchoes and dropped us off back near the White House.
We took a cab to Chinatown, eating at Full Kee for comfort food--beef chow fun, shrimp dumpling noodle soup, spicy salty pork chops, rice, and garlic spinach. Marcus ate almost his weight in spinach, as well as some of everything else, and Samantha concentrated on noodles. In the pouring rain when leaving there we actually wore our ponchos to walk to Rita's for Italian ice and frozen custard, and then again back to the hotel from there, wearing one kid each. This time Marcus was completely asleep when we got back to the hotel.
On Monday morning we took the D.C. Circulator bus over to Georgetown to have the special buffet brunch at Farmers Fishers Bakers, a farm-to-table restaurant owned by North Dakota farmers. We ate outside on the patio overlooking a fountain, just a short distance away from the water and a dock. They brought platters of biscuits and cinnamon buns to the table and walked around passing trays of sushi, eggs benedict, and nicely made pizza, and inside the buffet included kale salads, pimiento cheese spreads and flatbreads, make-your-own taco bars with wonderful guacamole and other fixings, eggs, and some nice desserts. It was a fabulous meal, and then we grabbed a cab to the Air and Space Museum on the Mall afterward.
There we wandered around and looked at assorted stealth planes, rovers ("Why did they call it Viking?" asked Marcus. "Did it Vike?"), and parts of the Apollo, before we finally left to go next door to the Museum of the American Indian, particularly their kids' area Imaginations. Marcus got very into using the little passport they provided to get stamps for completing different activities, including basket weaving, surfing, and building an igloo out of giant soft foam blocks. I loved the book room they had, and I sat and read about ten kids' and young adult books by Native American authors.
We left the museum and walked up past the Capitol--with two awake kids for once--to the Postal Service Museum, a really fun museum right between our hotel and the train station. The kids could sort through piles of cancelled, soaked-off stamps and each could take home six to keep to start a stamp collection, and there was a postcard-writing station (sadly the internal post office was closed for the holiday) and exhibits about the various trucks, trains, etc. that had been used to deliver mail in the past.
We dashed back to our hotel to pick up our bags and take a cab to the airport, where we grabbed a decent quesadilla and an awful burrito for Marcus and Robert, respectively, to eat on the plane, and arrived back in Boston in time to get the kids in baths and in bed by 8:00.
By the end of the weekend Samantha could say that we'd gone to Washington, where the President lived in the White House. She'd drape a scarf or something over her head and say "Look at me! I'm a little president!" and we'd all laugh at her. Marcus could spell "Washington" and was absorbing more from all the buildings and places we'd been, and it was a lovely Labor Day weekend.
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Created: 9/2/14. Last Modified: 9/3/14.