Perhaps your family is looking for one final “family field trip” before the summer ends and school begins. If you have a limited budget, and a limited amount of time, you may want to consider taking your family to Washington DC. Although it’s expensive to stay in and around the city, most, if not all of the sites to see are free. Because of this, it’s one of our family’s favorite “family field trip” destinations.
Our family recently went to take a tour of the White House. Note that policies change frequently due to security measures, and so our experiences may not be exactly what you’ll experience if you schedule a trip now.
You must request tickets through your Congress person. Note that, when we went on our tour, each Congress person was given a certain amount of tickets for the year. That meant that tickets were harder to get if you lived closer to the city, because more people were able to visit. In order to visit, we had to pass a security clearance as well.
The tour lasted about 20 minutes, and we were allowed in certain rooms, but we weren’t able to tour the entire house, nor did we see the President and/or staff.
Tickets do not automatically guarantee a tour either. We got tickets for another tour later in the year. That tour was cancelled at the last minute due to security concerns. If you can’t get a tour of the White House, you are still able to walk past the building. Many years ago when I was a child, you could actually drive by the White House! Those days are gone.
Stop For A Snack
When we were in Washington DC, we stopped in the Caribou Coffee Shop, which is right across from the White House. When we were there, several members of Congress had also stopped in for a quick cup of coffee. The kids were amazed that they could see “famous people” up close.
Vist the Smithsonian
The Smithsonian is actually a network of museums in Washington DC. The museums cover a range of topics from art to history. Our personal favorite museum is the Air and Space Museum. It features the actual replica of the USS Enterprise which was shown for close ups on the Star Trek series. The American History Museum is great for learning more about American culture, television, and history. Currently, you can see Kermit the Frog on display at the museum, along with the sign post from the M*A*S*H television series.
Union Stationis a historical monument, train station, and a mall, all wrapped into one building. Union Station was first built in the early 1900’s and was designed to be a train station. The architecture in the building is simply beautiful! When train travel was possible, and after President Garfield was assassinated, a special waiting room was created at the station for the president. This room, which was first used by President Taft, is now B. Smith’s Restaurant. The station also has a wonderful food court on the lower level where you can find American, Italian, Greek, and Japanese style restaurants, among many others. The restaurant’s feature very reasonably priced food and this is why we stop here to eat when we visit the city and are on a tight budget. Another great feature to this attraction is that there is plenty of parking!
Tour the Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is actually made from two different colors of marble: the project was started in the infancy of the country and stopped when money ran short in the budget. When the project began again, the marble was a slightly different color!
This attraction is free to get into, although you will need to get tickets ahead of time if you want to be guaranteed a certain tour time. Inside the monument, you can ride the elevator to the top, or walk up the monument and check out the carvings inside the structure. At the top of the monument is, believe it or not, a gift shop.
Visit Your Congress Person
While you are in the area, it’s a great idea to stop by the office of your Congress person. Many offices have aides which will give tours of the Capitol to visitors. Simply call ahead of time to schedule a tour for your family.
During a recent trip, our family got a tour of the Capitol building. The kids were so impressed and they learned a lot about the building and the whole process of running the country. The best part was that the tour was free!