Published: December, 2017
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Washington D.C.

The look on our son’s face as he silently stood next to the oversized statute of Abraham Lincoln made me reflect on how all great minds start as a curious child.
— Megan Escher
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, City
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: 4-5 DAYS

to & from

Direct SFO to DCA (Reagan National) – much closer than Dulles. And as always #flyvirgin whenever possible.

  • Uber is much less expensive than taxis and never waited more than 4 minutes for a car.
  • Walk as much as you can - there is always something you will discover!

Where to Stay

Graham Georgetown. Boutique, updated. Great Location. Rooftop Bar and The Alexander Graham Bell Speakeasy in basement. Best Cocktail of the trip.

Where to Eat and Drink

  • Table: In Shaw, a neighborhood one local told me I would not have gone to in an armed vehicle ten years ago, now a very cool area. Loved the Octopus Salad, John Dory of the Day, and Vegetable Platter.
  • Unum: In Georgetown, has neighborhood feel on busy M Street. Chef came out to greet the children. Wonderful Short Rib Pasta and Grilled Branzino with celery root and olives.
  • DBGD: In H Street Corridor, near Spy Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Ford Theater and Peterson House (all must do's). Perfect place to settle in for a cozy lunch of bistro fare. Gourmet Burger, Crab Cakes and Artichoke Ravioli were all good.
  • Hank's Oyster Bar: In Capitol Hill, locals watching football and eating fresh seafood on a Sunday Afternoon.
  • Thomas Sweet: In Georgetown, super classic old school ice cream parlor with chalkboards of flavors and a hundred options to create a delectable treat.
  • Baked and Wired: In Georgetown, one block from The Graham, great to start the morning here with coffee and quiche. They also have line-out-the-door good cupcakes.

What to Do

  • Capitol Hill Tour: One hour focused on art, architecture and history of building. Learned so much. Was able to see the original Senate and Supreme Court chambers which are not always open to the public. You need to get passes through local representatives to go into the House and Senate Chambers - so book ahead if of interest.
  • National Portrait Gallery: Go directly to the Hall of Presidents on the 2nd level and then walk through the atrium on your way out. Walk immediately to the White House (we got lucky and had the perfect snow storm to add to the beauty of this walk).
  • Arlington National Cemetery - Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Changing of the Guard is an absolute must do. We also visited the Kennedy graves. The sound of our footsteps on the cold frozen walkways of Arlington National, brought to life the grief of the thousands of families that had walked these paths before us.
  • Spy Museum: Super interactive and educational.
  • Go to the Lincoln Memorial at Night: It is magical. The museum underneath is worth a quick spin as well.
  • Ford's Theater and Peterson House: Children loved it. Very detailed installations. It is also still a working theater and they were building the set for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
  • Holocaust Museum: Has beautiful, poignant and creative installations. Daniel's Story is a good place to test how much information your family is ready to absorb. The information desk is a great resource for guidance.
  • National Air and Space Museum: Spent less time here than I thought we would - but the children LOVED the Flight Simulators complete with 360 degree turns.
  • Natural History: Very well done. But we prefer to experience nature outside. Did love seeing the Hope Diamond and took in an Imax on the National Parks that was a big hit.

inside scoop

  • Let the children use their own cameras. It is wonderful to see and discuss what struck everyone's eye and makes them more engaged in discussing what they experienced. The way our daughter presented her photos of the day with mention of angles and light and perspective was a highlight of our trip.
  • In winter, go back to the hotel around 5:00 and let the children rest and relax. Then you can keep your 8:00 dinner reservation as a family.
  • Most of the government supported museums are free, open to the public, and are near each other which makes it easy to pop in for 30 minutes and move on or stay for 4 hours and explore. Many require getting advance passes during the busier months, so double check before you go. Early to mid January is a very quiet time to go. It is cold, but it is not crowded.

What to Pack


Saved for next time

Washington D.C. - Suggestions from the Oliver Community

  • Megan Escher Says

    Another hotel that caught my eye when researching a DC trip was the Embassy Row Hotel. It seems to have a more local vibe, which is what I try to look for when choosing a hotel.

  • Sabrina Eliasoph Says

    The new Wharf area is brand new and super fun for families. The Hyatt House on the Wharf is really a fun hotel to stay with kids. Very cool rooftop pool on top. It’s a taxi ride though away from the main Mall area, but there is a huge promenade on the Wharf that has lots of parks, restaurants, fun games, paddleboat, and swings for kids…

    The Mandarin Oriental is excellent place to stay with kids, as you are so close to Mall area. The hotel gives kids stuffed panda bears when you check in which is a fun touch…great spa too!

    Le Diplomate is truly considered one of THE best burgers in the city, if not the best… It is a very lively, awesome ambiance. Reservations required. Moules frites also highly recommended. AWESOME place to eat!

  • Cynthia Pillsbury Says

    Could not get in, but have heard GREAT things about Le Diplomate (dinner). Make reservations!

    Highlight (culture) was the National Museum of African American History & Culture. You must register for a timed entrance online, we did in the AM of and were able to secure entrance. The museum is incredibly well done and VERY comprehensive. You will want 3 hours (at least) to really get the whole experience. Recommend doing the Middle Passage, have lunch at their yummy cafe and then hit the top floors which celebrate the accompaniments of African Americans (and has a very different energy than the somber and sad early years of slavery).

  • Cynthia Pillsbury Says

    Thanks to good friend and culture-seeker, Tinsley Hutson- Wiley, if you are looking for tour guide resource check out William F. Wadsworth – tours by appointment.

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