Vacation Nation

January 11, 2011

Kind of gives politics and Washington a different spin after the tragedy this weekend in Arizona. But here is a guide to visiting our nation’s capitol:

President Obama left town just when we came to visit Christmas week. And maybe it’s just a well — the giant hawk we ran into in front of the White House, near the giant “JOBS” banner hanging on the Chamber of Commerce building, both seemed like bad omens…but we had a grand old time in Washington, seeing some friends and family and visiting some great museums…all free! (Plus, miraculously, we missed snowmageddon.)

As far as where to stay, there are a bunch of nice hotels, this being the land of lobbyists and subpoenas. We chose the Park Hyatt, which is near Georgetown and DuPont Circle. It was a lovely hotel, modern, clean decor, and on the American Express Platinum deal, you get breakfast every morning and a $100 food and beverage credit. My kids loved that they had a bench in the elevator; we loved that they upgraded us to a two room, two bathroom suite.

As far as what to do, there are a slew of options. People love the Spy Museum and the Newseum; because our kids are smaller we opted to wait on these. The Holocaust Museum, which I’ve been to, is also well done but better for an older crowd. We hit the Air and Space Museum, American History, National Gallery (which never fails to enthrall with its indoor waterfall), National Building Museum (which has a kid-friendly Lego exhibit at the moment), American Indian (which has the best cafeteria of all the Smithsonians) and African Art (where the kids sent messages to the children of Haiti). We also saw the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the White House, with said hawk. The kids even hit the carousel on the Mall, along with their pals Julia, Sophia and Anna, which was a nice treat.

We didn’t do it but a nice cashier in the American History Museum told me that for $19 you can join the Smithsonian, and it gets you 10% off at all the cafeterias and gift shops, plus a subscription to their magazine. Apparently it’s cheaper to join in any of the gift shops than to do it online before you go. The food isn’t so cheap (perhaps it needs to make up for the free admission) so 10% could pay off if you eat at a few of them. My friend Lynn said there is good gelato at the National Gallery, and she’s an expert on anything Italian!

As for other places to eat, we liked Clyde’s in Georgetown. We got a cozy booth by the window and the food is comfort-variety and reasonably priced. The Blue Duck , which is in the Park Hyatt, was very good but pricey — apparently it’s always hard to get a table, but as a hotel guest they’ll serve you the food in the smaller restaurant/lounge. Lebanese Taverna has a few outposts — we hit the one in Silver Spring and the food is very fresh and tasty. Pizza Paradiso is a step up from California Pizza Kitchen with unusual combinations — there was a wait at the one in DuPont Circle, but if it’s not too bad, it’s worth it. Founding Farmers by the campus of George Washington University has an expansive menu and a bustling crowd. Probably the best food we had was at Filomena’s on Wisconsin — all homemade Italian, complete with stories on the menu of how Bono and Clint Eastwood love the red sauce. But while the food was great, the decor is annoyingly tacky and given its popularity, there’s a palpable sense of being given the bum rush. When a plate of pasta is $28, that shouldn’t happen.

The metro makes it pretty easy to get around, although if you’re used to other big-city subways, it isn’t as extensive.

All in all I give it an A as a vacation spot for families — we didn’t even hit the zoo on this trip. We’ll definitely go back again when the kids are older and ready for a whole new set of museums.

New Year, New Favs

Last week was the second anniversary of Family Favs. I want to thank all of you loyal readers for supporting this blog and really hooking in to the tips, suggestions and recommendations. We love hearing from you! For 2011, all of our guest bloggers that you’ve come to know and love are back for the year, which is great. You will see most of them again on a monthly basis. And, Favs will now be twice weekly, on Tuesday and Friday mornings, with maybe a third day per week thrown in as an added bonus here and there. For those of you who subscribe by email, you’ll continue to get an email whenever there’s a new post. (If you’d like to subscribe by email, click the handy link at the right.) We hope you continue to enjoy Family Favs and spread the word.

Thanks!!

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