One of the saddest days of my teenage life was on my first trip to DC when they told us we were going to the National Mall and quickly realizing that it had nothing to do with shopping. That disappointment aside, we did a “mall” day anyway. When you hit DC, there are a few things that are on the “must do” list, and even my 7 and 9 year old children know it. First on A’s list, was to see the monuments. His requests included Lincoln and Washington, so we did the entire loop. My favorite is WWII, so we made sure to spend some extra time there.
Before we left for DC I downloaded the NationalParks Service National Mall app, which helped me answer all those “fun” questions that any 7 year old is sure to ask. “What year was this built?” “How much did this cost?” “Why did they do it this way?” That, combined with bits and pieces of tour knowledge I’ve picked up on my numerous trips to our nation’s capital, and several Forrest Gump references, I was able to satisfy the curiosity of my little boy. R was more interested in the stories than the facts and numbers, and the app included a few of those as well. It’s not anything fancy, but I definitely recommend it as a quick reference guide. In fact, I whipped it out several times a couple weeks later when I was touring the same area with some of my ASCD Emerging Leader friends. So it’s not just info for kids, adults find it interesting, too! J did not appreciate my tour guide voice impression though. Oh well. Fun hater. He probably doesn’t like glitter or unicorns, either.
On our monument tour we made sure to include the White House, since that was at the top of R’s list. I didn’t plan far enough in advance to get a White House tour (approximately one month out), but the kids seemed happy enough with taking pictures outside, especially when we took them to the White House Gifts store across the street (across from Dept. of Treasury) and they got to take pictures in the “oval office” and give a pretend press release. I’d say for elementary aged kids that’s probably cooler than the actual White House because you actually get to touch stuff. Their biggest disappointment at the White House was that you aren’t allowed to pet the Secret Service dogs.
Our National Mall day also included a visit to the Capitol. Fortunately, this one you don’t have to book forever in advance. This is one of those things that’s cool to say you did, but the kids would probably not ask to go back again. A few helpful tips:
- One of the highlights of the entire tour for my kids was getting to wear a headset to hear the tour guide, so decide if that is worth your time.
- The dome is under construction for like another year, so be sure to check the website to see what is actually available to tour at any given time.
- If you sign up online to reserve your spot, you do a little less waiting in line. While they do offer same-day walk-ins, scheduling it in advance is really helpful in terms of planning the rest of your day.
- Final tip – the theater where you watch the short introductory film is hypothermia cold. Be prepared. If you visit in July like we did you probably won’t want to wear a sweater, since DC in July is what I imagine the heat is like in the outer circles of Dante’s Inferno, but you may want to bring someone to snuggle with. In an appropriate way, of course. It is our nation’s capitol after all.