Thinking about a Field Trip to Washington D.C

This year my 3rd grader and I have studied key figures in American history and next year goes further into it, and how it all fits together, so I was thinking of a field trip to Washington D.C. for next spring. So here are my questions.
Has anyone done a field trip to Washington D.C.? How was it?
Did you fly or drive? (It’s a 20hr drive for us)
Did you have any young children with you (I have a 4 yr old), and how did they handle it?

We used to travel from upstate ny to washington dc frequently. I was homeschooled growing up, so it was considered part of our history lessons. We drove on some trips and used amtrak on some trips, but our trip was much shorter than yours will be.

I always enjoyed it. My youngest sibling was probably around 4 when we went the first time. She handled most of it well, although my mom loved trying to get us to visit tons of art museums and they were not always friendly to families. Many of them wouldn’t allow strollers in at all. They also tended to hover around us with disapproving faces. I am assuming they thought we were going to go crazy and start slashing paintings with knives or something :wink:

We would visit all of the main museums, white house, memorials, ford’s theater. I think we normally took around 5 days to do it all. I remember we would try to get as much done in the morning as possible, and then chill and swim in the hotel pool for the afternoon/evening. That probably helped keep the younger ones happy.

I haven’t made the trip with my own children yet, although I was planning to next year possibly for the same reasons as you.

What time of year did ya’ll go or that you would suggest going? I know our weather will not be that same down here as up there. (I’m in Louisiana). I definitely want to hit the main memorials. The only museum I have on the list so far is Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of American History. That would be a good idea to help break up there day.

We live near DC. I would definitely recommend going to the Native American museum. There is a floor dedicated to the children (third, I think) where they can do hands on activities and see features and architectural things (types of housing, etc), Also the provost loves homeschoolers, which means you can get additional goodies. They also have a passport (free), where you can get a tribal stamp from each station. I was so impressed with this museum - on all levels. There are always cultural events (art, music, food) and the setting inside and out is beautiful.

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Oh, yes, I need to add that to the list. The kids love doing the passports.
How do you let them know you are a homeschooler?

I use to live a few miles outside of DC in Maryland. I grew up in Seattle so I never did well with the heat and humidity. My favorite time of year was the end of September, early October and May. Annapolis might be worth a stop too. Cool old buildings, Naval Academy, and a statue of Alex Haley where his ancestors arrived from Africa on slave ships. We did the Duckmobile Tour of Baltimore and that was fascinating. You see where the national anthem was written and Edgar Allen Poe’s grave site. Those were the two things I remember about it anyway. Oh wouldn’t that be fun to see the Star Spangled Banner flag and then go see where it flew! We could only take the heat and humidity and crazy drivers for 7 1/2 years before we moved back to Seattle!

I lived in Washington DC last summer with a toddler (18 months). I will say that in the early summer (June) there are a LOT of big school groups at all the museums. The vast majority of the kids were great, but you always had a few who were running around and causing trouble. However, the weather in May and June is pretty nice. July & August are bearable, just warm (anywhere from 80-100 degrees) and humid with the occasional rainy day.
Generally, my toddler tolerated everything I wanted to do, but we weren’t touring all day every day, and would usually swing through the zoo at the end of the day.

Some suggestions:

  • get the SmarTrip card for the metro – it’s cheaper than paper cards and you can reload it as often as you need – and from your smartphone. If you have a little one in the stroller, they shouldn’t need their own card. Also, make sure the metro stop you are using has an elevator to make your life easier with a stroller.
  • Buy water/snacks at a grocery store when you arrive, and take them with you. Most places charge $4+ for a bottle of water.
  • Contact your state representative or one of your senators to get a better Capitol Hill tour. You won’t have to stand in line so early in the morning, and you usually get to see more. Be sure to do this well in advance of your trip!
    *Travel as light as possible during the day. Every museum & monument has security. The fewer bags you have for them to search, the sooner you can be inside.
  • Invest in good shoes for everybody. It’s a LOT of walking.
  • If time allows, rent a car and drive to Mount Vernon. It’s incredible!
  • Ask any and all National Park Rangers about the Junior Rangers Program. You can even print out the activity books before you go and turn them in for the badges.

That’s about all I can think of right now. Hope some of this is helpful!! :smile:


Thank you, your tips are very helpful. I think I will aim for an April or May trip. July and August sound as bad as ours lol.