Balderramas Back East – Phase 4: Washington, DC

After saying goodbye to our extended family, my daughters and I departed Ocean City, Maryland in our rental and drove to Washington, DC. As often happens when you travel with kids, we didn’t leave as early as we had hoped. An accident that forced a detour through Deleware also lengthened our drive. Our 3pm US Capitol tour appointment quickly became a bit of a scramble, but we were able to make it in time.

Before I go further, it’s important to note what I asked my daughters to do in DC. We had plans to visit the US Capitol, walk through the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, then tour the White House – all within a span of 30 hours. In order to do this, we’d have to do a lot of walking, in sweltering July heat. Over the two days, my daughters walked over 8 miles during hot summer days. Clara was able to put it all in perspective, but for 7-year-old Mariana, keeping everything in perspective was a challenge. It was easy for her to forget and not understand why we were trying to go to all of these places, which resulted in her looking pretty miserable in some of our photos. I hope that she’ll one day look back on this trip and appreciate all that we tried to do, but I accept that it’s not something she could have done at the moment. I am truly grateful that my daughters tolerated my ambition and I am proud of all they accomplished over our two days in DC.

US Capitol

We secured a guided tour of the Capitol which took us through the Crypt, the Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall. It was really neat watching the girls soak in all of the amazing art and sculptures throughout the rooms. We got to see the famous John Trumbull Declaration of Independence painting and the amazing Apotheosis of Washington art in the dome of the Rotunda. The National Statuary Hall was also the Old Hall for the House of Representatives to meet, and the girls actually saw the spot where Abraham Lincoln’s desk sat when he was in Congress. Mariana also got a picture next to the statue of Rosa Parks.

We were one of the last tours of the day at the Capitol and after it closed for the day, we walked back to the Capitol Holiday Inn to check into our hotel. In order to save energy for our evening plans, we opted for ordering some pizza and swimming on the rooftop pool before we ventured back out.

Monuments at Night

As the sun started to set, we headed back out and rode the Metro for the first time, to the Smithsonian (which was just one stop away, but was exciting nonetheless). We walked towards the Washington Monument and got to experience it as the sun was setting. We enjoyed an ice cream cone while taking in the sights of the Washington Monument.

We continued westward and stopped at the World War II memorial. This was the first time any of us had seen it, and it was pretty powerful experiencing the serene beauty of the fountains, while the girls got their feet wet. We then found Colorado’s pillar and took a photo with our hands over our hearts, then kept walking west towards the Lincoln Monument.

I learned two things about the monuments: 1) They look incredibly striking at night and are an amazing experience. 2) You don’t appreciate how long the walk can be until you do it with little tired legs. The girls did hang in there and were rewarded for their perseverance with some incredible views. It was amazing watching both of them – but especially Clara with her perspective – encounter Abraham Lincoln’s statue up close.

Clara just stood there, with her hands over her head, just awestruck. It’s a moment that I’m going to remember for a long time.

I looked at my watch and saw that we ended up walking six miles for the day. At that point, it was 10:15 pm and it was imperative that the girls got a good night’s rest for our next big day. We opted for an Uber to get back.

The White House

The day before we left on our trip, we received the great news that we landed a tour of the White House. This turned out to be our only activity for Tuesday (more on that, later). After sleeping in after the previous late night, we packed up, checked out, and dropped off our bags at the front desk. We then grabbed a quick breakfast at the Starbucks two blocks from the White House and lined up for our tour.

The verbiage of the tour ticket said we needed to show up 15 minutes before our allotted tour time. The reality, however, was that there was a line that snaked through the sidewalk on the east side of the white house, which forced a lot of waiting in the summer heat. It turned out to be too much for a poor kid a few people away from us, who collapsed from heat exhaustion. It was amazing watching the police, EMTs, and various helpers converge so quickly. Luckily the kid was alright and rejoined the line. I was just hoping that the same heat wouldn’t afflict the girls in the same way.

We finally entered the White House through the East Wing which took us through the main floors of the White House. It surprised us all just how small the actual White House was. The pictures and videos of the East Room and the State Dining Room gave them a much bigger scale than they actually were. We also saw the Red Room, Blue Room, and Green Room, which aren’t connected by hallways, you simply walk from one room into the other.

We then took a picture under the Seal of the President, then exited through the back of the White House (although in the video I mistakenly said it was the front), walking under that iconic lantern chandelier.

We stopped and got some lunch at Five Guys, a few blocks from the White House, and then took the Metro back to the Smithsonian to go see the National Air and Space Museum. Much to our chagrin, we realized that the Museum was under renovation and required pre-ordered tickets in order to enter. At that point, we cut our losses, picked up our bags, and decided to leave DC for our hotel near the BWI airport. We traveled there by taking the Metro, the MARC train, and two buses, all with three suitcases, three backpacks, and a booster car seat. We arrived at the hotel tired, hungry, and ready to sleep early, as we had to get up the next day at 4:30am to catch our flight home.

Thus ends our two-week excursion through four states, fifteen family members, hundreds of photos, and lots of new memories. We had spent months getting excited about this trip – and it didn’t disappoint. However, it’s great to be back home and enjoy the last few remaining weeks of summer.