Our boys are both, all things considered, pretty well traveled. Living on the east coast for so long, while most of our family lives on the west coast, has meant more than a few cross-country flights, and a few long drives. All in all, they do well. But traveling with kids is a tricky thing at the best of times, that gets all the more tricky when you have more than one.
I was recently invited, along with some other rad dad-bloggers, to come with one of my kids for a weekend adventure in Washington, D.C. at the Hilton Garden Inn. My oldest son, Tucker, is almost 5, and I jumped at the chance to have a great weekend with him, and to get to hang out with some of my favorite dads from around the web. I was excited to get some one-on-one time with Tucker, but also that he is now old enough that this is a trip that he will actually remember. we’d be making memories together.
Early on Friday morning, we headed to the airport for our flight. Check-in and security, as it turns out, is a LOT easier when it’s just one adult and one preschooler, with minimal baggage.
We took out seats at the gate by the windows, so Tucker could take in all of the action on the tarmac.
Finally, we got on board and made our way to our seats waaaaaay at the back of the plane. After some minor delays where the plane inexplicably kept taxiing back and forth between different runways — try explaining that to a preschooler who is genetically predisposed not to accept the answer “I don’t know!” — we got the all-clear and we were on our way.
We were ready for our adventure!
During the flight, I surprised Tucker with a long held back gift — you know, the ones you have for them for along time, but are just waiting to dole out at the right time? — a Leapster, along with a handful of games. And some headphones, of course. This kept him busy during the 5+ hour flight to D.C. when he wasn’t enamored watching the clouds float by beneath us.
When we arrived in D.C., we found the car sent for us by the Hilton (fancy!) and made our way downtown. 5PM on a Friday afternoon is probably the worst time to make this drive, but we made it in good time and as soon as we entered the lobby we were immediately welcomed by the friendly faces of some of my fellow dad bloggers I hadn’t seen since the Dad 2.0 Summit. It was great seeing them again.
It was time for us to all head for dinner, but first we made a quick run up to our room to drop off our bags, and were greeted with the best hotel welcome I’ve ever received (even if they did spell my last name wrong).
We headed out for dinner at the nearby restaurant with some representatives of the Hilton, who told us more about what they had in mind for our stay that weekend, which to our surprise was a lot of free time to explore everything that downtown D.C. has to offer. Which is a lot! Hilton Garden Inn caters to mostly business travelers during the week, but are wanting to make more of a push to let families who are visiting the Nation’s Capitol for the weekend consider them as a prime choice of accommodations, and with good reason. They are a stone’s throw from the White House, and one of D.C.’s Metro stations is across the street.
We retired to our room, and I instructed my son to get into his pajamas for bed, but the goofy kid thought he would be clever and changed into his swimsuit instead. Although it was now past his bedtime in D.C., with the time difference from Portland it was no wonder he wasn’t tired yet, and I decided “What the heck, let’s go swimming!”
So we did.
I really enjoyed the museum. There was a LOT to see, and I could have spent hours reading all about spies and spying through history, or taking in the various displays inspired by 50 years of Bond Villains.
That said, honestly the Spy Museum is really just not designed for 4-year-old kids. Tucker has a very vague idea what a spy actually does, but only just, so most of the museum was lost on him. The virtual shark tank (from The Spy Who Loved Me) was one of his highlights, though it also terrified him. He also enjoyed Donald Duck’s brief appearance in a looping series of propaganda films, even if Donald was only trying to encourage patriotic Americans to happily pay their taxes “to smash the Axis!”
As I mentioned above, one of the things the representatives from HGI explained to us was that they are actively looking for ways to make their hotel known as a good choice for families visiting DC. One of the ways they are doing that is by holding weekend scavenger hunts in conjunction with a local museum. On this particular weekend, the hunt involved finding out a series of answers to questions directly relayed to various displays in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, so that was were we headed next. Each answer would give us a number, which then needed to be used as part of an equation. The answer to the equation was the combination to open a safe in the hotel lobby, which contained the prizes. Fun!
The clues actually ended up being quite difficult! Jeff and I and the kids worked as a team to find the answers though — everything from the weight of famous meteorites, to the number of rib bones in a whale, to the percentage of water in a spherical orb or quartz.
The National Museum of Natural History was a lot of fun. So much to see, so many things to talk about with Tucker. I think his highlight was seeing real dinosaur bones.
Sunday we started early, heading down to Union Station with Lance from NYC Dads and his family to grab tickets for the famous DC Ducks Tour. Tickets in hand, we killed a little bit of time by wandering around the U.S. Capitol. Word to the wise: even though there are no signs indicating otherwise, the security people don’t take kindly to when your four year old’s climb on certain things. OOPS!
The DC Duck Tour was a lot of fun. The tour guide was full of interesting facts as he told us about the various landmarks along the route, and I enjoyed it a lot. Frankly, most of it was lost on Tucker… that is, until our vehicle — arestored WWII-era amphibious military personnel carrier — drove off of the road and into the water. He LOVED that. He was also given a chance to take the wheel for a bit, and we were both given duck-bill quackers to hang around our necks and annoy everyone we passed. QUACK!
For lunch we followed up on a recommendation and checked out the Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museaum of the American Indian, and boy am I glad we did. It features freshly made food representing several different regional indigenous cuisines, and it was all really, really delicious. A little bit pricier than we’d expected, but worth it.
Then it was off to what was likely the highlight of the weekend for Tucker, the National Air and Space Museum. Tucker has talked for a long time about wanting to be an astronaut when he grows up, so with our time there limited we made a bee-line to the space displays.
He was in heaven. I think this photo speaks for itself.
After a great time looking at shuttles and rockets and airplanes, it was time to head to the airport. We retrieved our bags and checked out from our room, and started on our long journey home.
Thanks so much to Hilton Garden Inn Washington D.C. for giving us the chance to take this adventure together! I was impressed with how well you handled having all of these kids running crazy in your fine hotel. Thank you!
Disclosure: Hilton Garden Inn paid for travel and accommodations, admission to the Spy Museum, and a per diem to cover various expenses during the trip. All opinions are my own.