By Karen Hendricks
What does the word “daytrip” mean to you? I’d love to hear about your ideas, travels and adventures. Summer vacations are wonderful, especially when they provide a week’s worth of relaxation and travels, but to me, daytrips are expeditions to special places that are fairly close to home. I think of them as little “escapes” because there’s not much travel involved but they transport you “away” for the day. They’re the places you LONG to visit, just out of reach from your normal everyday travels, that require a little bit of planning, saving a date, or sometimes saving up the price of admission.
Washington, D.C. has been and still is an excellent daytrip destination for my family. Our nation’s capital has a seemingly unending variety of events and attractions. Two of the best reasons to visit DC? Many of the attractions are free AND top quality. Located about 80-90 miles from my home, it’s just far enough away that we can’t visit frequently, but it’s close enough that we can go for a day and take advantage of lots of spectacular events, world-class museums and much more.
We almost always travel to DC by way of their excellent Metro system. Radiating like spokes from the DC area, the Metro lines are easy to access from every direction. We park at one of the northernmost Metro stops, Shady Grove, Maryland, and take the red line into the city. Then there are no worries about driving and parking for the day. There are numerous Metro stops and we’ve never had a problem finding one within an easy walking distance of our destinations. When my children were very young, riding the Metro was sometimes the biggest highlight of their day!
Here are some of our favorite DC destinations:
- The Smithsonian and its numerous museums including: The National Zoo, The Air and Space Museum, The Museum of Natural History and the American Indian Museum: The zoo is great fun for children of all ages, and the museums live up to the Smithsonian’s tagline: “Seriously amazing.” Start your visit at the Smithsonian’s Visitor Center, The Castle, for orientation and a taste of each museum.
- The many memorials, including The Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, etc. If you have the chance to take one of the NPS tours, the rangers do an excellent job of presenting not only history lessons behind the memorials, but stories of the sculptors/creators and fascinating facts. Walking between the memorials is also great exercise!
- National Holocaust Memorial Museum – Bound to leave you with a moving, profoundly deeper understanding of the Holocaust, visits to this museum are recommended for children ages 11 and older. There is a special exhibit designed for children ages 7 and older as well.
- The Washington Monument – Currently being repaired due to damage from an earthquake in August of 2011, tours inside the building are not possible at this time. When we went several years ago, we made sure to book a date and reserved tickets at least a month or two in advance (tickets are free).
- Cherry Blossom Festival – Time your visit to DC to coincide with this beautiful springtime event if possible!
There are so many more awesome DC destinations – and you can easily spend a day exploring each one. Somehow, each museum, each monument, each park, explain a facet of American life and is bound to give you and your family a greater understanding of our country—our heritage, our history, our people and our culture. I think it would be fabulous to visit for the patriotic 4th of July festivities, but that’s still on our DC bucket list. Another reason to plan a daytrip…
Hey, there’s still time to plan for the next patriotic holiday, Labor Day! I found some inspiration on the official DC tourism website—10 Ways to Spend Labor Day Weekend in Washington, DC. Hmmmmm…
Click on any of the photos below to open a slide show–enjoy a few snapshots from DC:
For additional information:
Kid Friendly DC is a great resource for families!
Have you visited DC for a daytrip? Discovered other daytrip destinations? Tell us about your family faves!