No one was more excited about moving to the DC Metro area than I was. It really is the culmination of a dream we’ve had since joining the military about ten years ago (when I say we I mean my husband, but you know that). As soon as we knew the move was taking place we started making lists of places to see, and discussing all the things we might do. Many of the places that were high on our list to see were historical in nature. Monuments, Battlefields and Churches were some of the first places we wanted to visit.
We almost always travel with our children, and have since they were little. My number one tip for traveling with kids, start them young! There are so many places you can go with kids in this area, and many of those places are kid-friendly. You can see things in DC that you can see in your hometown, but DC is full of places that aren’t anywhere else. Here are some places we’ve discovered that might not be on a list of “Places to take your kids in D.C.”
1. Manassas/Bull Run Battlefield - kids 16 and under are free and anyone older is $3.00. You can’t live in Virginia without going to a battlefield, and our kids did well. They had a lot of fun exploring the large walking trail. It was so huge we barely scratched the surface of it. We spent time looking at the flowers, the tall grass, and the rows of cannons lined up along one side of the field. There are also Junior Ranger Activities for school-age children, where kids can learn what it was like to live during the time of the battle. The whole day was really a success.
2. The Air and Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Dulles Center – museum is free, parking is $15.00 – While this might be on your list, I wanted to include this because there are cool things you can experience if you plan ahead and visit their website. On many days the museum has docent stations set up where kids can interact with aviators and scientists that can talk with them about what they are seeing. We attended one of these days, and my kids were able to try on parts of a space suit and even meet an astronaut. We spent our time wandering around close to one hundred airplanes and helicopters, a little boys dream. On our way out we visited their amazing gift shop, and McDonalds, with its huge, ceiling to floor, windows that are a perfect way to view the airplanes coming in and out of Dulles Airport.
3. Washington National Cathedral – M-F 10-5:30 pm, Saturday 10-4:30 pm and Sunday 8-4 pm. Arrive early for one of their Sunday Services, which I highly recommend going to; and stay after the final service for one of their Highlights tours. Make sure to pack a lunch or some snacks. Parking is free for service hours, and rates vary during the week (but are under $10). Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller’s tomb is located there; and a beautiful stained glass window with a piece from the moon as its center is there. Not many people would include a church on their list of experiences, but I’m including it because when I asked my 5 year old what his favorite thing that we’ve done so far, this is what he said. We’ve attended several times since moving here and have loved our experiences. The regular Congregants are absolutely amazing and so welcoming; and the Children’s program during service is wonderful, with great workers that my kids still talk about.
4. The Metro – This is almost like a trip to anyone that is visiting, but it truly is an experience all its own. The fee for riding the metro varies depending on your departure and your arrival times, and your departure and arrival destinations. It can be quite overwhelming your first time, but take a deep breath and read the signs over the machines and you’ll be fine. During peak times (rush hour) minimum fares are $2.10 and max are $5.75. All other times are $1.70 minimum and $3.50 max. My kids went nuts over the metro, or the sumway (not subway) as my son calls it. If Curious George does it then it is the coolest thing since sliced bread as far as he’s concerned. It was relatively easy even with a double stroller and three kids. When going into the city this is now our preferred mode of transportation.
We are really only hitting the tip of the iceberg when it comes to places to see in DC and Northern Virginia. I hope to be adding to this list in the future, but I hope you enjoy these tips and places to see for now!