Getting Around Town
A Trip to Washington DC
Did you know Washington DC is just a short 3 hour drive from South Jersey?
My mother and I packed up my 5 kids (ages 16, 13, 12, 5, and 3) and took a trip to the capital. We left at 6 a.m. and with very little traffic and without getting lost even once, we were parked, unpacked, and ready to feast on the complimentary breakfast buffet our hotel offered. Yes, a hotel.
Although the ride to DC is relatively quick and painless we opted for an over-night stay in an attempt to see every possible sight 3 kids can tolerate before they dissolved into unruly puddles of exhaustion infused stickiness. The entire trip was educational, pleasant and extremely enjoyable (with the exception of a near death experience that was the result of yet another potty stops along the way home.)
The first thing we learned was that you can never plan a trip to Washington, DC too far in advance. Our main goal was to visit a few of the more popular of the Smithsonian Museums and do some quick tour-guided sight seeing. Had we hoped to actually tour the White House, or any of the other federal buildings, we learned quickly that advance planing and help from a member of our State’s Congress is necessary to gain admittance.
Whether you’re planning on making it a day trip or an over-night stay, your biggest challenge will be finding the best mode of transportation for your family’s needs at the best price. The are so many different tour options the choices are staggering: Double-decker open top tour buses, Air Conditioned luxury tour buses, the Metro, The DC Circulator, Open Trolly Cars, Closed Trolly Cars, DC Ducks (amphibious vehicles providing land and sea tours), Taxis, Pedicabs, Rickshaws, Segway Rentals, and walking tours are all readily available and offer distinctly different tour experiences and comfort levels.
The DC Circulator bus system is perfect to get around the National Mall and the city’s most popular attractions. Buses run every 5 to 10 minutes and cost only $1 per ride per adult and kids under 12 ride free. A great deal if you know exactly where you want to go and can read a map. For us, this was not the case. We needed far more guidance and far less map reading. But the kids all loved the excitement of racing to catch the buses before they pulled away from our targeted stops and hopping on and off the big city buses became a thrilling task for my 3 year old.There are a number of great Washington-Area Tour Operators. We chose one of the open-top double-decker bus tour service. A family pass for up to 3 children and 2 adults cost $85 and included a 48-hour pass and the night tour. A bit pricey, but well worth the expense. With tired children and the desire to be told—in detail—what we were seeing proved to be a priceless necessity at times.
We found out after the rather difficult trip to Union Station that many of the double-decker tour buses actually sell tickets on the bus, so you may be able to skip the trip to Union Station. Although it is a very beautiful building, and the kids had fun running up and down the spiral staircase leading to the high-end bistro located in the massive lobby.Of course, no matter which mode of transportation you opt for, there is still an insane amount of walking required to tour Washington DC. We actually forgot to bring a stroller for my 3 year old, but lugging it on and off the bus would have been a hassle as well, so pick your poison, either way, a child under 5 is going to have a tough time keeping up.The kids enjoyed the bus tours. They didn’t understand everything we saw, but the excitement of riding in an open-topped bus was a bonus, and when they got tired it provided a good opportunity for a much needed power nap. It also gave the grown-ups a chance to rest their aching feet.Taxis are another option to get around the downtown area. The fare rages from $4 to $15 and there is a charge for additional passengers.
Sadly, neither our pricey family bus pass, nor our extensive knowledge of the Circulator routes provided a way to get directly to or from our hotel. And even though our hotel was just blocks from the square, we resorted to calling a taxi more than once. Again, with tired children and aching feet it was well worth the expense.
Review provided by Sherrii Brentari, Mays Landing mother of 5 and feature writer for Jersey Shore Family.