Day 14: Delayed in D.C.
We have made many trips to Washington, D.C. When we lived two and a half hours from the New Carrollton Metro Station it was a nice day trip option. We have been to the National Zoo, the Smithsonian museums, the monuments on the Mall, Jefferson Memorial, the Holocaust Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, the National Archives, the National Gallery of Art and Ford’s Theater. During a father-son weekend, my husband and oldest son visited the Spy Museum (admission costs), saw the Pentagon and FBI building from the outside (found out you can’t take pictures of the Pentagon) and saw the Iwo Jima Memorial at Arlington. The great thing about D.C. is that so much of it is FREE.
We normally ride the Metro into D.C. and walk, so we actually used it as a practice before taking all four kids to New York City a few years ago. It is normally less crowded than the New York Subway, so it was a good way to test the kids to make sure they could follow our directions, stay close, get on and off without problems and understand how to go through the ticket machines.
Since we were going to be in the area on this Long Journey, I wanted to take the opportunity to visit one of the more difficult destinations in D.C. with kids. The U.S.Capitol. Normally when we go we take umbrella strollers for the twins, a backpack with snacks, drinks, diapers, wipes and other items needed when traveling with children and babies. Now that our twins are completely potty trained I felt like we could tackle this destination. Security at the U.S. Capitol is stricter than other locations in D.C. The two big things are that they limit the size of any bag to 13x14x4 and no food or drink is allowed. Even though this information is clearly stated on their website and on the reservation sheet you have to take with you, I was amazed at the number of people in line outside who had to throw away food and water bottles before they could enter through security.
You also need a reservation to enter the Capitol. The Visitor’s Center is accessible without a reservation and there is a nice Exhibition Hall that has lots of information about the Capitol, government and the history of Congress. The easiest way to obtain a reservation is online. The other option is through your Senator or House member. If you want to see the Senate or House galleries then you have to go through one of those offices. We were told it was better to go to your Senator’s office, but there are times, like weekends, when they don’t allow you in to see the galleries anyway. We took the easy route and booked a reservation online. The thing to remember when you book a reservation time is that you have to be there at least 45 minutes before your scheduled time to allow for security. We made it in plenty of time, so we were actually able to move our reservation up to an earlier time when we got inside.
There are some great FREE items to pick up in the Visitor’s Center. There are several brochures near the entrance and free postcards. Also, at Coat Check they have booklets for older children that are full-color and provide lots of information for them.
The tour of the Capitol was interesting and moved quickly. A little too quickly for me as I was trying to take lots of pictures, but it was a busy place with lots of guided tours being brought through at the same time. Our tour guide, Eric, did a great job and their headphones with receivers made it easy for us to hear him and not be distracted by other groups.
|The ceiling in the Capitol dome. They have free postcards of this as well.|
|Trying to hurry on the way out of Statuary Hall. It was the old Senate Chamber.|
|This carving was done by the same man who went on to carve Mount Rushmore.|
The other benefit of going through security at the Capitol Visitor’s Center was that we could take the underground tunnel to the Libraryof Congress. I wanted to go there to see the building and their copy of The Gutenberg Bible (we are trying to see all the copies in the U.S.). The interior of the building was impressive. The Great Hall has a beautiful mosaic ceiling with large columns and marble carvings throughout.
|This is a view of the Great Hall|
We also saw a nice exhibit of books that have shaped America as well as Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. We were able to see the Main Reading Room from an overlook area. A scene in National Treasure 2 was filmed in the Main Reading Room. No pictures were allowed in these areas either.
By the time we returned to the Capitol Visitor’s Center it was 2:00 PM and we were hungry. They have a restaurant inside, but we needed to stick to our budget, so we decided to walk the couple blocks back to the Capitol South Metro Station and grab snacks at our van and then get food on the way back to Annapolis. Unfortunately, as soon as we sat down to wait for a train, the system shut down and after waiting at least 20 minutes we were informed that the computer system was down and all the trains were closed. People were upset, although the attendant said they had to accommodate their customers, so the bus system would work with us to get us to our destination. As we exited the station I noticed a Subway and we decided to eat before we got grumpy or frustrated. It was a great decision. We ate food everyone liked, sat and relaxed and by the time we were done, the trains were running again.
We were behind in our plans to get to my parent's home in Salisbury, MD, but we were fed, safe and together, so it was okay. When we had gotten into the Metro station before the trains stopped, we had just missed getting on the Orange line. I am so thankful we didn't catch that train because we would have ended up stuck or dropped off in a different station that might not have had any place to eat close by.
This TripLearning experience was great for learning about U.S. government and to encourage reading and a love of books, but it was also a lesson in flexibility and remaining calm when plans are changed. While waiting for the train that would never come, I used my digital camera to entertain the kids by taking pictures and then letting them look at them. We made it through the delay without getting upset and we were able to have a good time together as a family visiting our nation's capital.
*Please note that many of the links in my posts will take you to information about the destination or information about the subject. Many of the sites have teacher resources that provide valuable information for parents as well.