Road-tripping to Washington D.C. in a flash

Family photo outside the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington D.C.

The Merriweathers are back on the road again! After 2.5 long years of COVID caution, we are officially back OUT this summer. And what’s a summer without a family trip to see some of our nation’s greatest treasures? In this post I’ll be talking about how to get the most out of D.C. in less than 48 hours with hubby and kids in tow.

Itinerary Planning & Packing

We made the decision to drive down to D.C. which for us, is a few hours drive. With two small children, snacks, iPads, portable potties, and pre-made bottles were essential to surviving the trip without having to stop a million times. We also packed bathing suits, toys, and books to keep our preschooler occupied. To squeeze a little bit more out of the trip, we intentionally chose a hotel that had a pool so that we could have a little downtime between museum trips.

When it comes to itinerary planning, I swear by Google Maps. From choosing the least stressful travel routes to finding the best kid-friendly restaurants, I’m able to plan full itineraries just by using this app. One of my favorite features is the list function because it allows me to save places and organize them according to my own categories. So for example, I have a list designated just for family-friendly activities that are local. Depending on where we travel, I will create separate lists for the location we are visiting. Another feature that I love is that when you save a location in Google Maps, you can add notes under it such as pricing if it involves a fee and whatever the parking situation looks like so that I can plan accordingly.

For longer trips, I generally don’t recommend going overboard on planning because it’s important to allow for downtime and wanderlust, but because we were only in town for a day in a half, I wanted to maximize the time and try to hit as much as possible. This is where the lists come in handy. I recommend starting by considering all of your family’s interests and what is age appropriate. We have two little ones under the age of 5 so finding family-friendly places that would have menus and activities suitable for our busy babies was essential while also being interesting enough to engage the adults. The great thing about D.C. is that there is an abundance of museums and cultural and educational centers that offer this great mix.

National Museum of African American History & Culture

This trip we decided to visit the National Museum of African American Heritage and Culture. Teaching our children about their heritage is high on our priority list of educational activities and although our kids are still pretty young, exposure is still key. What I love about this museum is that there are multiple levels with lots of exhibits that are interactive. Our favorite was the hall that honored the great Black musicians. There were lots of cool costumes and an interactive music room that allowed visitors to change the music played in the room. The Histories offered a variety of audio-visual exhibits that were interesting enough to interest my 4-year-old and enriching to engage my husband and me (confession: we are TOTAL history buffs).

Just a quick note about this museum, due to its popularity, while entry is free, timed tickets are required. At the height of tourist season, they are in demand and fill up quickly. They will typically release tickets a month in advance so keep checking the website for openings.

Also, if you’re looking for good eats, check out the Sweet Home Cafe for delicious soul food cooking and kid-friendly dining options for your picky eaters. Chicken fingers and fries anyone? Now, admittedly, as most museum cafes, it’s going to be a little pricey so I recommend bringing small snacks to nibble on along the way.

The National Children’s Museum

This was actually the one place I had not pre-planned to attend. It just so happened that I was up late our first night in town, scouring Google to see if there was one more place that we could squeeze in before we got back on the road. The National Children’s Museum is a two-story interactive play space that features exhibits that encourage play, creativity, and problem-solving. In other words, perfect for extremely active kids. There’s nothing in this museum that doesn’t scream “TOUCH ME!”. One of its most popular attractions is the two-floor slide.

Fun at the National Children’s Museum, Washington D.C.

There’s so much more that we would have loved to see if we had more time, but we’ll have to save those for the next trip.

P.S. Mommy Self-Care Tip

Penn Quarter, Washington D.C.

Moms, even while you’re planning all of the fun stuff for the family, don’t forget to take a little time for yourself, even if it means getting up a little earlier than the kids. Our first full day in D.C. I made it a point to wake up a few hours before the kids and went down to the Starbucks in the hotel lobby, took my laptop, and grabbed a coffee while I worked on some personal projects and caught up on episodes of The Breakfast Club (guilty pleasure).

We’re looking forward to spending more time in D.C. and are always looking for new spots to check out. So let me know what your fave family-friendly spots are in the city in the comments.

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