I found myself with only one day to tour our nation’s capital, Washington DC – and we all know that is not enough time! We’ve visited DC before but on this occasion, I was going to have a whole day together with only my 8-year-old while my others were engaged in a technology competition and we wanted to make the most of it. Happily, she is always up for a day of adventure! Here we share our itinerary which took us about 9 hours and approximately 10 walking miles, according to my FitBit watch. Your mileage may vary! This is a very general look at our walking tour:
As you can see, on this day we generally stayed within the National Mall and Memorial Parks. This unique part of our National Park Service includes more than 1,000 acres of parkland, more than 100 unique monuments, memorials and historic structures, and more than 150 historic parks, squares, circles and triangles, not to mention the 3,000 famous Japanese cherry trees whose beautiful blossoms grace the Tidal Basin for a couple of weeks each March/April. So there is plenty to see, much of which is iconic of the USA. We couldn’t wait!
We started with our first-ever Uber trip into DC from our hotel, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor. We were dropped off at the US Supreme Court, where we started our day with a glimpse inside one of the most important buildings of our nation.
We then set off walking down the road toward the US Capitol. We got a tour of the inside of the Capitol building with all the statues and paintings within and hearing the tales surrounding them. It was interesting and definitely worth doing if you can!
We only briefly visited the wonderful botanic gardens on this visit (this is worthy of more time!), then spent a few moments at the Capitol Reflecting Pool admiring the ducks. She was delighted with how close she was able to get!
We then meandered our way down toward the many museums on the National Mall and decided to go into the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. You cannot go wrong here. I knew we couldn’t begin to see it all but had thought she would want to see mammals in our limited time…. but to my surprise, she chose gems. And she loved it! She took the time to admire so many of the sparkling and interesting rocks, even wanting to stop at the gift store and spend some of her precious vacation money on gemstone souvenirs. This turned out to be the start of a lasting fascination for her, and the first of many rock and gem purchases to grow her collection as we traveled to the western US. We may just have a future geologist here!
We continued on through the park until we reached the merry-go-round, which of course required a ride (or two). I’ve been led to believe it is actually illegal to pass by a merry-go-round without indulging in a ride…. ahem. We also took the opportunity to patronize a nearby food truck for lunch.Yum! Then we pushed on toward the Washington Monument, which is always a sight to behold.
Beyond that, we wandered around the National World War II Memorial, finding our home state, Florida, and admiring the fountains – and ducks. You can never go wrong with ducks. We continued on to the White House, and regardless of who happens to be occupying it at that specific moment, it is unquestionably a special place for our nation. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and Korean War Veterans Memorial were next. While I think the true gravity of these is hard to grasp, these did give us pause. We then moved onward, despite our increasingly weary feet, around the tidal basin to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
Finally, we made it to The Wharf where we boarded a ferry back to the Gaylord. It felt so good to rest our feet, feel the breeze on our faces and just watch the passing shore as we headed back to our temporary home. Once there, we happened to run into the middle school team of technology students we were helping to chaperone just in time for their special trip to a candy store – what perfect timing for a delicious caramel apple! And then what better way to end the evening than with a gorgeous sunset and a ride on the Capital Wheel at National Harbor?
There are very many possible and wonderful itineraries for families who have just a single day to spend in DC but this was ours and I hope you enjoyed coming with us for the ride! Again, this trip took us about 9 hours and approximately 10 walking miles until we got on the ferry at The Wharf. We felt like we really saw a lot and still had time to relax and we were very happy with our day.
If you are lucky enough to be able to spend several days in our nation’s capital, there is so much more to see! Some of the sites we have visited on a previous trip that are most certainly worth a visit include:
- Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
- United States Botanic Garden
- Arlington National Cemetery
- US Bureau of Engraving & Printing
When we are able to go again, these are some additional sites on our DC bucket list:
- Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Washington National Cathedral
- International Spy Museum
What have you seen in DC that should absolutely not be missed? Please tell us in the comments because we will be back there within the next couple of years and we would love to add to our must-see list!