Four Days to Do DC
It’s taken a week to digest our first trip back to Washington DC as a family of four. Stu was there all week for work so I made my inaugural flight alone with two kids and everything went swimmingly. When traveling with a baby the Ergo is key…I don’t travel without a comfortable baby wrap, it was the reason Finn slept the majority of both flights. Our kids should win awards for their travel behavior.
We landed around 10am and Stu was working, so we took the Metro to our hotel in Old Town (the Hilton which is across the street from the King Street Metro). I forgot how long of a walk it is from DCA’s Southwest Terminal to the Metro, but I really didn’t want to get the carseats out to cab it. This marked Ethan’s first time on a train system (he rode several times as a toddler but doesn’t remember) so he had to learn how to hustle. Move fast to get on and off trains, stay close to me, and walk quickly through turnstiles. At first, Ethan assumed it was his job to entertain a car full of commuters but I explained it’s best to sit quietly and leave people alone. After one trip with lots of “Hurry Ethan!”, he quickly became a pro.
While taking elevators to and from all the trains is more of a hassle, it was worth it to travel with our Bob…Finn sure appreciated it. Other passengers, not so much but they accommodated.
Bags dropped off, we headed back to the Metro, bound for the capital. Ethan could NOT wait to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History museum. We made the short walk across the construction zone of the Mall, gazed at the scaffolding Capitol building (not the most beautiful time to visit the Mall these days), and entered with much anticipation. We’d been dozens of times before, but this time Ethan was two years older and way more excited. We turned right, headed for the exhibit entrance and…it was closed. FOR FIVE YEARS. It didn’t even occur to me to check before our trip, the National Fossil Hall has been there forever, why would I ever think to check? I panicked a little, wished I’d never mentioned it, wished I hadn’t spent the last month talking about it, and then realized there was another small dinosaur exhibit upstairs…whew.
It was actually great. Two huge, complete dinosaur skeletons loomed in the space, a T-Rex and a Triceratops—crisis averted. Ethan doesn’t melt down often, but I could see entering a dinosaur-less museum as the perfect storm. We browsed the skeletons and dig-site photos and watched “REAL paleontologists!!” clean some fossils and wandered through the Insect Zoo and Ocean Life exhibits before making a quick, we’re-too-excited-to-wait stop at Air & Space and catching the Metro back before rush hour. Dinner was at our favorite Old Town Pizza Paradiso…oh how I miss it.
The next day was all about the monuments and the Air & Space museum. We Metro’d to the Lincoln Memorial and walked from there, taking in some of my favorite views. Finn of course didn’t give a hoot about any of it, but I was extremely nostalgic remembering the times we spent in DC with baby Ethan, which in turn made me miss living there even more. Being able to just tootle around the monuments on a sunny day, people watching and taking in the gorgeous views. I never get used to this place. And the older Ethan gets, the more I love taking him there.
Ethan requested a trip to the top of the Washington Memorial, which I considered since it was closed due to earthquake damage when we lived there. Unfortunately you have to line up at 8:30am to get passes, therefore that was out. I promised him it was just like the Arch, but shorter. These things are prettier to look at anyway. He seemed to agree.
Typically around noon we’d need to head home for nap, but I promised myself I’d float naps for Finn, that we’d let him just pass out wherever and whenever and get in as much as possible. He did just that, morning naps cozy in the stroller while Ethan and I explored. So after the monuments we stopped for lunch at, to my absolute delight, the new Shake Shack location on F Street. This is our favorite burger joint where we rarely ate due to it’s location in DuPont Circle—a pain to get to by Metro and impossible to park near, so this second location is more than perfect walking distance from the Mall and the kids were in heaven. I recommend you plan this into your day in DC.
Finn figured out the art of dipping, an important life skill. This kid is copying everything we do and it’s cracking me up.
I say our lunch spot was within perfect walking distance, but may I remind you that is by DC standards. We went ready to walk many miles, which meant Ethan needed a ride from time to time. I remembered why I could eat anything and still lose weight while living there, we walked everywhere. Luckily, the weather was nice and not a thousand degrees as usual this time of year.
Fueled by chocolate shake, burger, and fries, we made a quick stop to see the transportation exhibit at American History (and passed Julia Child’s kitchen where Ethan did his best Julia impression, “Bon Appetit!”) before hitting Air & Space HARD. Ethan wanted to do everything after getting a sneak peek the night before. He joined a paper airplane contest, designed and flew a fighter jet, rode a Space Elevator, walked through Sky Lab, and saw a hundred planes and other space crafts. “I’m going to be an engineer and build this stuff when I grow up!” he told me about 50 times.
Having such a short time to see and do so much made me appreciate our time living there even more. These museums are free, you just pop in and out of them effortlessly, but when you are limited on time, it’s a bit stressful trying to spend quality time viewing all the incredible exhibits these museums have to offer. The Smithsonian Museums will never cease to totally blow my mind.
That evening was spent with our new-to-Old-Town buddies. It involved a sitter at the hotel and us all but running out the door to begin our luxurious date night which included a glass of wine and oysters at Hank’s, dinner and the best salmon we’ve ever had at The Majestic, then Yuengling and Irish music at Murphy’s. Seriously, walkable nights out in Old town are the BEST.
The next day was all about Old Town. We happened to visit during the King Street Art Fair so it was a bustle of activity as usual as we headed down to the farmers market and waterfront. We stopped at Misha’s for coffee and bagels, then strolled down our favorite streets, let the boys play on the market stage (a farmers market tradition), checked out new shops (I even scored a cute sweat shirt for Ethan at my favorite kids consignment shop!), and played at the Tot Lot across the street from our old rental house.
Finn looked just like Ethan pushing and riding on toys and swinging. I was in kind of a constant state of déjà vu watching the kids play, like seeing Ethan grow up all over again. And Ethan immediately beelined for the “new digger!” toy that was, admittedly, really cool. There was always an old digger toy laying around this playground when we lived there and Ethan loved playing with them. I showed him where he walked for the first time all by himself, and told him stories of the fun we had with our Old Town buddies in this tiny little pocket of mulch and sand.
Our trip was topped off with an afternoon spent with my friend Kristan and her adorable family. It took about two seconds for Ethan and Quinn to get reacquainted and they were off playing, non-stop, for nearly four hours, only breaking for food. We’ve each added a second boy to the mix and when we visit in another year, they will be friends I’m sure. It was so much fun being back together that the time flew by and before we knew it babies were fussy and it was time to go. Sob.
Our ride home was peppered with Ethan sleepily asking, “Can we do that again?” “When will we see Quinn again?” “Is he coming to St. Louis?” “Quinn is my old favorite friend who I miss so much.” Heart = ripped out. Making good friends is hard enough, leaving them too soon is traumatic. These guys were our adventure buddies for one of the best years ever.
There were tears involved on our last morning, mostly from Ethan (and a few from me) as we prepared to fly home to St. Louis. Don’t get me wrong, we love St. Louis and our neighborhood and friends, but there’s something about Old Town that will always feel like home. Each time we visit, after over a year away, and step right back into our comfort zone. Hopefully there will be a chance in our future to live there again. I’ve been making the case to Stu all week.
That was a long one, full of mushy memories, sorry. But I can’t wait to read it after our next trip back.
How do you spend short trips back to your favorite places? What would you do first?