Trying to see all of Washington DC in two days is like going to a McDonald’s and trying to eat everything on their menu in a single meal! Impossible for most, however a challenge worth taking (OK…maybe if you are a BIG junk food fan). Travel definitely motivates us more than food…so not only did we plan to see as much of DC as we could in 2 days, we also decided to drive the 900 odd miles from St. Louis to DC to do all the running around. Oh, and did I mention, we planned to do all of this with our 8 month old!
In hindsight, convincing my wife to make this trip was probably the most difficult part of the trip! Travelling through 7 states with a 8 month old (who had just started crawling) strapped to his car seat for almost 15 hours is definitely not an easy feat, so I don’t blame her for her skepticism. However my persistence and the fact that her sister would also be accompanying us on this trip finally got us on the road over the Memorial day weekend in 2011.
As with most of our other long road trips, we usually hit the road by early afternoon, cover roughly half of the total distance and break for the night in a hotel and tackle the remaining half of the trip the next day. We stuck to the plan, started driving by about 1:00 PM, drove about 500 miles through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky before breaking for the night in a hotel in West Virginia. The next morning we checked out of the hotel by 9:00 AM and rather than sticking to the tried and tested Interstates, we decided to take the more unconventional State Highways through West Virginia. This added an hour or so to our travel time, however driving through the Monongahela National Forest and the Seneca Rocks region was a feast for our eyes. Just being there a midst the mountains, forests, numerous small streams and lakes was quite invigorating! We reached our hotel in Arlington by 4:00 PM and I think Daivik was relieved to get out of his car seat finally! (Though, he had a pretty entertaining ride with his aunt doting on him every single minute that he was awake!)
As I mentioned earlier, there’s just too much to see and do in DC! Prioritizing and making the best use of our time, this is what we finally ended up doing:
Day 1 evening – spent 4-5 hours in the National Mall area visiting all the War memorials, Washington Monument, The Ellipse, Lincoln Memorial and an outside closeup view of the White House.
Day 2 – Got an early start and spent the first half of the day at the Museum of Natural History and the second half of the day at the Air and Space Museum. Also spent a short time at the Smithsonian Castle and at the Capitol.
Day 3 – Covered the Iwo Jima memorial, Arlington cemetery and a quick stop at the Pentagon before hitting the road for the return journey.
Finally, I think spending even the 2 days was definitely worth the drive…and to be honest I really enjoyed being behind the wheel. We drove through numerous cities (Louisville, Lexington, Charleston) and many more smaller towns and each of them had their own special character. Thankfully we did not encounter too much of traffic and the beautiful weather made it a very pleasant journey and a trip we will fondly remember for a very long time!
A few things that really helped us during the trip:
- We booked a hotel very close to the National Mall area. Parking in DC (especially over a long weekend can be quite crazy). We found it a lot more convenient to park at the hotel and take a cab.
- We walked and walked and walked! Thankfully we went prepared with our sneakers, Daivik’s stroller and lots of water…that definitely made it easier.
- Taking your car along with you has a lot of advantages! We were able to dump our icebox, Daivik’s stroller, a whole bunch of his toys (even his bathtub!) and everything else we needed at the back of our CRV…most of them came in very handy all through the trip.
- There were lots of decent restaurants close to where we stayed and ordering in food helped us (and more importantly Daivik) to get a good night’s rest.