Washington D.C., part 3

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If you missed my first two posts on our time in Washington D.C., you can click HERE and HERE for the full scoop…

On day 3 of our D.C. tour we visited the National Archives, the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum and the Jefferson Memorial.

I had reserved timed-entry tickets to the National Archives the week prior to our visit, so we happily walked past the line, right to the very front of security and entered the building. This was more than worth the $1.50 per person booking fee! There are two different museums and a fabulous gift shop here…but really the main attraction is the Charters of Freedom…the room that houses the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill Of Rights. We were able to see all three of these vital documents in person and it was so cool! After visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia we were prepared for the poor condition of the Declaration of Independence. You may recall the story of how it was passed around the country, carried on horse back and frequently changing hands…which somewhere along the line lead to a big dark smudgy handprint on the front of our Declaration. It was later displayed for viewing in a sunlit room, where much of the fading probably took place. Honestly, it is so faded that you can barely read it. Thankfully our historians learned from the past and made drastic improvements in preservation of the other two documents. None the less, it was remarkable to see these documents in person. We also enjoyed the upstairs museum that documents so many of the items that are stored in the National Archives.

And of course we watched the National Treasure movies before our visits to both Philadelphia and D.C….it was truly fun to enjoy the history and the entertainment aspect!

From the Archives we strolled over to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. This is a phenomenal museum! I really wish we had more time to explore the other Smithsonian Museums…the quality of content and the fact that they are free make for good family fun.

Out of all the exhibits that we saw, we loved the flying and space exhibits the most. We were all fascinated with the vintage planes on display…the actual plane built and flown by the Wright Brothers in 1903….the actual Lockheed 5B Vega that Amelia Earhart set two records in…and the original Lindbergh plane. We also really enjoyed the Planetarium show that we saw.

From here we walked down to the National Mall lawn (between the Washington Monument and the Capitol)…found a food truck we great Philly Steak sandwiches and had a picnic. It was such a beautiful day…we were able to soak up some sun and hang out with locals and tourists alike…truly a great way to partake in the D.C. life. The crowds were drastically smaller on the weekend, so it was fun to stop and pause here….

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Our last stop was the Jefferson Memorial. This monument is over by the water and the walk there was so beautiful with the autumn leaves falling around us. It was quite inspiring to read the words of our 3rd President…just four days before the Presidential Election.IMG_8224.jpg

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We were thankful to leave D.C. on such a high note. My favorite way to depart a city is with joy and not pure exhaustion. It leaves us all with happy memories, wanting to return for more. Clearly there is so much more to see and do in our nations Capital…we must return some day and adventure more.

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Here are my tips for those planning to visit the city in the future:

  1. As soon as you have the dates of your trip, contact your local State Representative’s office and request tours of the White House, Capitol, Library of Congress and even the Pentagon. You can request these up to six months in advance.
  2. If you are traveling via RV, make reservations early. Cherry Hill RV Park was worth the money for us to be close by and provided us with full hookups (only a 20 minute Metro ride from the center of downtown).
  3. Once the date is closer and you’ve heard back about your requests in #1, go online and request timed tickets to the National Archives ($1.50 per person reservation fee) and the Ford Theatre ($3 per person reservation fee). This is well worth the expense.
  4. Take the Metro into the city. For $2 per person you can buy each person a Metro card, then load them as you go. Although it is not cheap, it was much less expensive than parking downtown and we never had to back-track. We would exit at one station and hop on at another at the end of the day. We averaged $10 per person, per day in Metro fees (one trip into the city and one trip out). There is a weekly rate for almost $60 if you plan to utilize the Metro more. The Metro does not offer child discounts and I believe children over 4 must pay.
  5. We enjoyed starting our trip in Arlington, then walking across the river into D.C. and exploring the city one section at a time, as much as possible. See my post on Arlington here.
  6. If you are a homeschooling family, ask for discounts. By showing my HSLDA membership card (teacher ID) I was able to get free admission for myself, as the teacher, at the Planetarium inside the Smithsonian. I also received a teacher discount on a couple of books that I purchased at the National Archives bookstore.
  7. Use TripAdvisor for choosing restaurants/places to eat. The day we ate at a taco shop near the White House, I didn’t take the time to check reviews. It was horrible and we spent as much money on fast food there as we did at a nicer place the next day that was fabulous. If I had to do it again, I would of packed a picnic to eat near the Lincoln Memorial. I wasn’t sure exactly how packing a picnic would work…but if you start at Arlington and walk across to Lincoln…you will be there about lunch and it will work perfectly if you can pack it in backpacks and fold up a sheet to sit on.
  8. Wear very comfortable shoes and walk everywhere if you can. Over three days I walked 47,683 steps!

If you are able to visit our grand Capital, take the time to plan ahead…you will be so thankful you did!

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Washington D.C., part 2

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Our second day in D.C. was just as inspiring as the first. We began our day with a tour of the Ford Theatre. This is the location of President Lincoln’s assassination. There is a wonderful museum downstairs that is operated by the National Park Service and they offer a very comprehensive Junior Ranger book. This museum has a vast collection of artifacts from the time of Lincoln’s presidency, his assassination, including the derringer that John Wilkes Booth used and the timeline of events that took place during this historic event. We spent well over an hour in the museum alone and then walked upstairs to the theatre. We were blessed to have a very lengthy chat with one of the docents, who was dressed up in period attire. She was a wealth of knowledge on Lincoln and his assassination and she truly made this experience memorable.

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We were able to view the President’s theatre box, where the assassination took place.

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We then walked across the street to the Petersen House, where Lincoln was taken after the shooting and eventually died. This house opens up to another museum that houses artifacts from President Lincolns funeral as well as memorabilia from his life. One interesting fact that we learned was that upon his death, our 16th president’s funeral train drove through 7 states and 180 cities with scheduled stops where citizens could come and pay their respects. At these stops, his coffin was displayed for mourners to view and pay tribute to this great American President. In the larger cities, thousands would line up for this historical event. The train traveled a total of 1,654 miles from the Capital to his home state of Illinois.

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Later that afternoon we were blessed to have a private Capitol tour, courtesy of our Texas State Representative, Brian Babin’s, office. This tour was amazing and is now one of the most memorable parts of our D.C. trip. This is definitely a great way to see the Capitol. We met at Representative Babin’s office, across the street in the Cannon House Office Building. Here we sat down with the Representative’s staff and learned about him and his service. Wow!…we have a great Representative! Then one of his interns took us for a tour of the Capitol building via the underground tunnels. Having a staff tour proved to be even more amazing as it allowed us to tour the balcony from Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan’s office. This office most definitely has the best view in Washington…don’t you agree?

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A private tour also allowed us access to the House Chamber…also known as the House Of Representative’s! Wow, were we thrilled! My husband was now most definitely pleased that he took the day off of work and made this tour with us! This Chamber is amazing. Not only is it filled with history, but this is the room where our Presidents make their State of the Union addresses, where Congress hold joint meetings and sessions and where Members count electoral votes. Yes! We were there exactly one week before the Presidential election. What a way to usher in our study of the election and government! Unfortunately cameras and cell phones are not permitted in the House Chamber, so we were unable to document this beautiful room in our photographs. What a sight though. Sitting in the seat where our Supreme Court Justices sit, gazing at the 1834 mural of President Washington and gazing up to see the words “In God We Trust” above where the Speaker Of The House sits.

The entire Capitol building is spectacular and etched in history. Here are some of our favorite photos:

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Washington D.C., Part 1

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October 2016

Washington D.C. was certainly one of the highlights of our time on the east coast. Our D.C. adventure began as we crossed the Potomac River from Arlington. Walking over  the bridge, we met the Lincoln Memorial. What a sight this is! Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, literally sits at one end of Washington D.C. and watches over the entire Capital.

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Just a week prior to visiting the Capital, we were in Gettysburg…studying President Lincoln, his Gettysburg Address and his many contributions to our nation. In D.C., we were now standing at the feet of this great leader, reading his infamous words…now etched into the walls of the monument. The next day we would tour Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated. Chris and I are still amazed at how beautifully these visits and tours have all complimented each other. We love every moment of the time we spent studying Lincoln. I wish we could do this with every President…studying their life and character in layers…it truly adds such depth to our schooling. The combination of learning their history and walking in their footsteps gives us understanding of who our leaders were.

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Back to our walking tour….After visiting the Lincoln Memorial, we captured a family selfie overlooking the Reflecting Pool and then headed over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This is a powerful memorial that honors the men and women who served in the Vietnam War. It is a wall of more than 58,000 names of Americans who gave their lives while serving our country in the Vietnam War. We were able to witness a veteran who was taking a rubbing of one of the names on the wall. That moment of watching someone honor and remember a fallen soldier…it leaves a vivid impression on your heart. It truly helps to personify the memorial…the statues…the story and the books…it’s the moments such as this, that help us to walk in history.

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From here we walked a short distance to the World War II Memorial. This large memorial of 24 columns (each representing a U.S. state or territory during the time of the war) surrounds a beautiful pool of fountains with the words of historic leaders continuing around the monument. It honors the memory of those who served in this war, lost their life in service and the battle that was fought against great evil. A wall of 4,048 gold stars stands to remind us of the war where sixteen million members of the U.S. Armed Forces served and that which 405,399 Americans lost their life in service.

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After reading many of the notable quotes, we made our way towards the Washington Monument.

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The Washington Monument stands in honor of our first President, George Washington. At 555 feet of towering marble, it is an impressive centerpiece of the National Mall and Washington D.C.  I have much to say about this General and our first President…however I will simply state what I love most about him…his heart to serve this nation with integrity and humility. This President never sought the presidency…he was convinced and urged to become President. The American people and the leaders of the nation had to talk him into taking this office. What a refreshing thought…that his service record and character, made him so desired…that the people demanded his leadership. Naturally his monument sits in the heart of Washington.

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We rounded off our first day with a visit to the White House Visitor Center. This is located just down the street from the White House. I had previously contacted my state representative’s office in hopes of securing a White House tour…however that did not pan out. Apparently, in order to secure a tour, you need to contact your representative 3-6 months before your intended arrival…and even then, it’s rare to be approved for a tour. We still enjoyed the visitor center and my two tweens completed their Junior Ranger books. We followed up with a stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue and took a peak at the north entrance of the White House. We all agree…it really doesn’t seem that big…but really, that’s a good thing I suppose.

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Our first day in the United States Capital was wonderful and certainly memorable.