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Travel Tip For Today

Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes as well as a pair of sandals or Tevas. Before you leave home, break in your new shoes so you're not uncomfortable on the road.

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Washington, DC

The capitol building in Washington DC

INTRODUCTION

Called “The District,” Washington DC is an exciting town fueled by politics and tourism. The pulsating city center revolves around the Capitol and then spreads out into a variety of distinctive neighborhoods including Adams-Morgan (bohemian and international), Downtown (monuments and business), Dupont Circle (upscale business and residential), Shaw (historically elite residential areas and ghettos) and Georgetown (pristine historic houses, a university and trendy bars). Capitol Hill and the National Mall are where you’ll find the movers and shakers in the political world. Presidential monuments and most branches of the world-famous Smithsonian Institution are located here. For history-lovers and culture fans, Washington DC is filled with world-class museums (the Smithsonian alone includes 15 distinct museums with vast collections of art and artifacts, including the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of American History). Kid-pleasing attractions, art venues, neighborhood boutiques, family friendly lodging, fantastic family-oriented restaurants and so much more await you in our Nation’s Capital.

WASHINGTON DC HISTORY

The history of Washington, D.C. is tied intrinsically to its role as the capital of the United States. The site along the Potomac River was chosen for the capital city by George Washington, and approved by the United States Congress in the 1790 Residence Act.

Slavery was abolished throughout the District on April 16, 1862, though the city remained segregated until the 1950s. The Washington Metro opened in 1976, and gentrification in the late 1990s and 2000s allowed many neighborhoods to revitalize. Because it is not a state, the District of Columbia still lacks voting rights in Congress.

WASHINGTON DC: GETTING THERE AND AROUND

The modern underground transit system in Washington, DC.

Originally inhabited by the Ohlone Indians, Carmel was founded by attorney James Devendorf in the late 1800s and after the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 became a mecca for famous artists and writers like Ansel Adams, Upton Sinclair and Jack London. One of the main Carmel attractions is the San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Caremelo Mission – known as simply the Carmel Mission – built in 1771 by Spanish missionaries and became the headquarters for the 21 missions built in Alta California. Considered one of the most beautiful of the Spanish colonial missions, its bell tower was featured in the climatic scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.Washington DC was originally a small piece of Maryland, surrounded by the Potomac River with Virginia across the river. Today, the entire city covers 65 square miles. Most tourist sites and family lodging are located around the Capitol, along the Mall and in the Northwest quadrant. Flying in and out of the District is serviced by three major airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). Amtrak trains will take you to DC as well as Greyhound and Trailways.

The District’s Metrobus system efficiently services the city and surrounding suburbs, as does the new Metrorail. Children love learning the color-coded Metrorail system – riding the Metro is an activity in and of itself! In addition to Metro, two commuter train systems serve downtown DC from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, but these are mainly commuter lines designed around those coming into and out of DC for work.>/p>

There is no shortage of cabs or buses in the city, Diamond Yellow and Capitol Cab being the two major cab companies, but visitors be aware, the traffic is stifling and it is often faster to take the Metrorail.

TOP DC HIGHLIGHTS

The Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in the green and expansive National Mall, must not be missed.

Unless your family has a few weeks to explore Washington DC, you should start with the highlights and work your way down. Plan ahead and consider transportation to and from each stop to maximize your touring time. Touring the White House is a great place to start but you must have a group of 10 or more and you need to make arrangements through your Member of Congress. If you can put this together, it is well worth your time. The Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in the green and expansive National Mall, must not be missed. Also showcasing DC's natural beauty are Rock Creek Park and the US Botanic Garden. Often a surprise to visitors, the U.S. Capitol building is open to the public (free tours available) and is well worth a stroll down the commanding halls. You may even want to stop in your State’s representative office to say hello. Historical Georgetown with its lively ambience, wonderful shopping and gourmet dining options will fill half a day planned around lunch or dinner. The National Gallery of Art could take a few hours or all day with the old and new wing as well as the outdoor sculpture garden. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts proudly offers a large variety of performing arts presentations throughout the year in this spectacular venue. Consider planning dinner at the Kennedy Center's Roof Terrace Restaurant before the show. Visit the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, an erie and powerful experience you will always remember. Get a close up view of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the National Archives Building. Lastly, take time out of your busy schedule to walk through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

WASHINGTON DC FAMILY FUN

High Fivin' your friendly neighborhood Orangutan.

To orient your family to DC and all it offers, hop aboard a narrated tour bus for a run-down on the most famous sights. Tourmobile, Old Town Trolley, and open Top Sightseeing allow you to get on and off, so you can explore sights of interest as you ride around town. DC Ducks departs from Union Station and will delight your family with a ride on the water aboard a WWII amphibious vehicle for a 90-minute narrated educational tour of Washington. If you’re in town March through November and your family loves to bike ride, sign up for a Bike the Sites guided tour and cruise about the National Mall aboard a bicycle as you see the monuments and memorials up close.

A fantastic start to a family vacation in DC is a Washington Nationals baseball game. Head out to Nationals Park in Southeast Washington, south of the Capitol and along the riverfront, and watch the Nationals rival their competitors in a thrilling baseball game at a modern park with picturesque views of the riverfront, the Capitol, and the Washington Monument.

A visit to DC’s National Zoo is definitely in order. Greet the famous giant panda family, follow the Asia Trail, visit the Orangutan Think Tank, and get goofy with the Great Apes.

Children and parents alike can’t wait for a stop at the International Spy Museum where the history of espionage comes to life with interactive exhibits. KidSpy programs allow youngsters to crack codes, develop a disguise, go on missions, and learn about spy science!

The National Building Museum dazzles young architects with hands-on activities that include arch construction, bridge design, egg drop contests, and Family Tool Kits bring the exhibits to life.

Rock Creek Park delights families with opportunities to hike, bike, horseback ride, and skate around a beautiful natural setting in the middle of the city. If you want to head out on the water, jump into a canoe or kayak and explore the Potomac River. Boathouses along the Georgetown riverfront rent canoes and kayaks by the day or hour. Locals recommend Rose Park and Turtle Park for good old fashioned park play in the sandbox, on the swings, and underneath the “sprayground” on a hot day.

THE SMITHSONIAN MUSEUMS

The Forest Theater performing arts center

Known for its world class exhibits as well as incredible research facilities, the Smithsonian Institute operates the most extensive group of museums in the world. Try to make time to visit at least one or two of these national treasures. If visiting DC around the 4th of July, you’re in for a treat. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival hosts an annual international exposition of living cultural heritage produced outdoors on the National Mall by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The Festival takes place for two weeks in the summer and is an educational presentation at its best. Free to the public, like other Smithsonian museums, each Festival typically draws more than one million visitors, so plan ahead and book your family friendly lodging in advance.

WASHINGTON DC DINING & EVENING ENTERTAINMENT

The annual Wine and Food Festival is always a crowd pleaser.

DC boasts culinary fare that rivals some of the best in the world. With political alliances forged over a single dinner service, you can bet that the food is up to par. The expansive cultural community offers just about any type of cuisine you can think of in the Nation’s Capital in family friendly venues. Washington DC’s International Food & Wine Festival offers a series of nightly dinners paired with wine. Festival dates vary from year to year, so make sure to call ahead and purchase your tickets.

After dinner, enjoy a nighttime sight-see of the many famous Moonlight Memorials and Monuments on a scheduled tour. Known around DC as the best way to visit many of the famous memorials and monuments, different tour groups employ knowledgeable and witty guides who will paint a picture you’ll be hard pressed to forget.


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