Our Washington DC trip


Justin, the boys and I just got back from a quick trip to Washington DC! Justin was up there for work, so after he was finished with the conference, the boys and I drove up to meet him.

It’s about a 4.5 hour drive from Raleigh, and I’ll admit I was a little nervous about doing that trip alone. We’ve done 5 hour road trips with the boys before,Β and the boys have always done so well in the car, but I’ve always had another driver.

We left in the morning, and I had easy access to snacks + toys in the passenger seat. We hit a bunch of rain on the way up, which slowed us down a little bit, but David and Luke did great. We made a pitstop just north of Richmond at a mall, but I failed to notice that it was an outdoor mall with no food court. I looked up a few different places to stop, and I think I just got confused about which mall this was.

So, after unloading the boys from the car into the stroller in the rain, I pushed them into the mall hoping for a play place to let them burn some energy. We ended up in the Nordstrom nursing mothers room, eating a peanut butter and jelly that I had packed “in case of an emergency”. They got some wiggles out in there, and I tried my best to just make it work.

We got back in the car and finished the drive up to the Gaylord National Harbor, just south of DC.



We met up with Justin, dropped off stuff in the room, and then took the boys immediately outside to run around. The rain had subsided, so it was perfect timing. National Harbor is like this little town of restaurants and small attractions. We walked up and down the pier, and then found a little playground to play on for a bit. We grabbed a quick dinner, and then headed back to the hotel to start winding down for bed.

Since Justin was here for work, we just crashed in the room he was in. We put Luke in the bathroom in the 4moms pack n’play (this thing is the best, I cannot recommend it enough), and when I say in the bathroom I just mean in the bathroom opening. There wasn’t a door to the sinks, there was only a door to the shower/water closet.


David slept on an air mattress that a reader recommended we buy. We found it at walmart and it was perfect for him. The sides are a bit higher than a regular air mattress, so it kept him from rolling out. He loved the novelty of it, and also was very excited about sleeping in the same room as mom and dad.

He stayed up for about an hour just talking to us, bouncing around, and looking out the window. Justin and I were both laughing in the bed, enjoying David experience this “first”. Eventually, we brought him into our bed and rubbed his back to wind him down, and then told him it was time to go to sleep, and put him back on his mattress.


Both boys slept great, and were awake the next morning at about 6:30a. It’s a little earlier than they normally wake up, but not by much. I was very pleased that they had a solid night of sleep before the big day we had planned.

We decided to use the Metro to get around town, and that worked perfectly. We headed to Ted’s Bulletin for breakfast first, then hopped on another metro line to go to the zoo.

Ted’s Bulletin was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was a little nicer than I expected for a family-friendly place. Also, a bit expensive but we anticipated that. Justin and my meals were large enough that the boys didn’t need their own, and they just ate some of ours. I heard a lot about the homemade pop tarts at Ted’s, so Justin ordered a meal that came with one. We tried the strawberry and it was over-the-top sweet! It was almost too sweet for me, which says a lot because I can handle a serious amount of sweetness. I’m glad we tried it though, and overall I’d say that’s a place to check out just note that it’s not inexpensive.

Next, we went to the zoo! David was getting a little tired at this point, and had a little bit of an attitude, so we didn’t enjoy the zoo as much as I’d hoped.

David: “I’m too big, Mama!”


We did find the carousel and that was very fun. The boys loved it. The zoo is large and on a hill, which we knew beforehand, and we didn’t spend a ton of time here. I think if the boys were older, they would have enjoyed it more, but it was something easy/free to do nonetheless.



Then we hopped on a metro and went toward the White House and the Mall. The boys both fell asleep in the stroller leaving the zoo, and slept through the entire metro ride and about 45 minutes of our walk around the White House.

We brought the UPPAbaby Vista on this trip, versus the UPPAbaby side by side stroller, and I’m so glad we did. The Vista allows both upper and lower seats to rock all the way back, which was perfect for sleeping. There is also a generous sun shade, so that helped block a bit of noise/activity/distraction to help them sleep even better. I think David slept for nearly 2 hours, and Luke slept for about 1.5. We were just going to skip naps and see what happened, so this was a very pleasant surprise. They both needed naps, and were happy as ever when they woke up!



The Monument wasn’t overly crowded, and the boys woke up from their naps ready to MOVE, so they spent a bit of time running around, having a quick snack, while Justin and I sat!


We wrapped up the afternoon with a quick visit to the Air and Space Museum, as we heard there was a fun kid area there. It was great for the boys. It’s geared toward older kids, but they really enjoyed playing and running around in there. Then we crowd-sourced on SnapChat for a place to eat for dinner, and promptly headed over to Good Stuff Eatery.

We filled up on burgers, fries, and milkshakes. We had skipped lunch after a huge breakfast, so we were all pretty famished at this point. And when I say “we”, I really mean Justin and I because I had snacks for the kids with us in the stroller.

Then we hopped on the metro to head back to the hotel. We arrived close to bedtime, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take the kids swimming in the hotel pool. So we quickly got them ready and headed to it.

Luke isn’t really into swimming, nor wearing the puddle jumper like David does, so pool + Luke = holding a squirmy toddler. I was happily surprised to find a small sprayground/splash pad outside the doors of the pool, so Luke and I headed to it while Justin and David swam in the pool. Luke LOVES a spray ground, so he was basically in heaven despite the water being pretty cold.

Finally, we took the boys up, got them showered off, and put them to bed. David crashed much sooner this second night, which we assumed would happen.

During the evening, though, I saw an e-mail come through from a blog reader that offered to take Justin, the boys and I on a private tour of the Capitol and the Library of Congress. We JUMPED at the opportunity, and made plans with Kate (#nametwins) to meet the next morning. We otherwise did not have plans for the day and were going to head home mid afternoon, so this worked out perfectly.




Kate was so kind and made the tour kid friendly. We got to ride on the underground subway that runs between the House and Senate sides of the Capitol, and see really special parts of the buildings. It was a highlight of the trip, without a doubt.


Beyond the fact that we got to experience such a cool part of being in DC, I got to meet a sweet reader that was so generous to give up 2 hours of herΒ day to walk us around the Capital. I was humbled by that, and just felt really grateful to be able to meet such a kind person thanks to the blog. (Kate, if you are reading, I can’t thank you enough!)

After the tour we grabbed a quick lunch at Union Station and headed home. It was such a fun trip, and I’m so glad we went! I’m planning on writing a follow up to this post, sharing a few “traveling with toddlers” tips, if that could be helpful for you.

Justin and I were talking in the car on the way home about making this an annual thing. It’s nice to live close enough to DC to do the drive in under 5 hours, and the older the boys get, the more we’ll be able to do and see!

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Comments (37)

  1. Elizabeth says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    DC is one my favorite cities in the US, so I think you guys should make this an annual trip! (As if my vote really counts πŸ˜‰ ) Yourr pictures took me back to memory lane of my last visit there and now I’m itching to go back again soon. Glad to see you four had a great time!

  2. Kira says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    Good stuff is the best burger place here, it’s my favorite!! So glad you enjoyed a visit to our city!

  3. Paige says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    I live super close to and work in DC! Love this city so much! Glad you got to go to Ted’s- we Love their grilled cheese and tomato soup ☺️ all food here is expensive unfortunately, but at least the big attractions like monuments and museums are free!

  4. Posted September 22, 2016

    SO fun. This makes me miss home, so, so, so much! I’m originally from Maryland. We toured DC many times, I think in my youth I took it for granted, but NOW when I visit, I soak it up! I’m so happy the restoration was finished on the monument for you. Last time we were there it was still covered with “sheets” etc. And the mall in front of all the museums was torn up (redoing grass and walk ways) – gotta love progress!!!

  5. Yvonne says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    Kate please give me all the tips and tricks you can!!! I am traveling with my adult daughter, SIL, and 3 granddaughters (ages 10, 9, and 18 months) in October from Central Illinois to Orlando FL for a nice vacation and we are driving!!! The older ones will be fine but we will need to keep the 18 month old occupied as much as possible.

    • Stacy says
      Posted September 24, 2016

      I would second this comment! I have two boys also and love tips and trick on how to contain two littles around cities!

  6. CBell says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    We love, love, love DC and have gone roughly annually since before we got married (10 years ago) since my parents lived about 1 hr away until recently. Our boys are now 5 and 2 and we take them along everywhere we go. This last trip, I made some scavenger hunts for our 5 year old to find things at the zoo, air and space, and American history museums. That helped him get really excited about some things he probably would have just looked past otherwise. American history has some awesome exhibits for little boys (trucks galore!) and a cafeteria in the basement if you need a meal break but don’t want to hunt down a restaurant. Natural History museum is also great even though we believe in the biblical account of creation/history. Mostly our boys just love all the huge stuffed animals and replicas! Of course walking the mall and seeing all the monuments is always a great reminder of the history of our nation. Hope you take advantage of your close proximity and enjoy even more of the city in the future!

  7. Shannon says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    Hubs and I did the first part of our honeymoon in DC, and after the trip all we could talk about was how much we were looking forward to bringing our family back! It’s such a fun city! Next time you guys head up there, don’t miss District Taco- Hubs would have eaten there EVERY DAY had I let him! ?

  8. Katie says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    I took my 8th grade class last year to DC. We had the BEST time and they really learned a lot from just walking around. We also went to the Zoo on our trip, it was nice but we are from St. Louis and really liked our Zoo better. The metro was another HUGE hit, my class loved figuring out what line we needed and making sure everyone got on and off at the right time. So fun!! Glad that you had a fun trip, the pictures are great! =)

  9. Kirsten says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    DC is on our radar to go as a family. My 8 year old daughter is really interested in history. Seeing your post and reading the comments makes me want to go even more… One day.

  10. Angela says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    Good Stuff Eatery is the besssstttt! I live in the DC area and always find an excuse to eat there πŸ™‚

  11. Brooke says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    Would love a “traveling with toddlers” post!

  12. A New Old Fashioned Girl says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    My family and I are going to DC in a couple of weeks, really looking forward to it.
    It looks like you all had a blast.
    A New Old Fashioned Girl

  13. Ashley says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    We have that air mattress as well for our 2 1/2 year old, and I also recommend it. Great buy!

  14. Melissa says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    We LOVE Washington DC!!! My husband was just there last week for a business thing. Unfortunately we couldn’t go with him this time but I can’t wait to take our boys there in the future.

  15. April says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    Thank you so much for the tip about the air mattress! We’ve found that when traveling with our toddler, we prefer to eat a quick breakfast in the hotel room while we all get ready for the day. We bring a few ready-to-eat items from home (e.g., Cheerios, breakfast bars, string cheese, bananas). This way we can take full advantage of our little one’s happiest time of day and had straight to the attractions! πŸ™‚ On a longer trip, we will pick a favorite restaurant for breakfast on a day when we plan low-key activities like swimming at the pool or beach and shopping. Looking forward to reading more of your toddler travel tips!

  16. Megan says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    What a fun family trip! And that air mattress looks perfect; I might need to get one for my 3-year-old!

  17. Dana says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    That was super cool of Reader Kate to show you around the Capitol. How neat!

  18. Justina says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    Welcome to my neck of the woods! I’m due with my first in November and curious about what the metro will be like with a little one. Looking forward to your “traveling with toddlers” post.

  19. Stephanie says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    I’m from Richmond, and went to college in DC, so I’ve spent some wonderful time there. Glad you enjoyed your trip! Also, that picture of Luke on the carousel, with his little hands holding onto that pole? Priceless.

  20. Jessica says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    My husband’s family lives in Northern VA, so we hit up DC anytime we’re in the area. We’ve done everything you guys did and I consider this a pretty good ‘best of’ list with toddlers in tow. If you get the chance to do it again, I’d add in a trip to Georgetown. It’s a fun little college town close to DC with a lot of shopping and restaurants. Also, Udvar Hazy is similar to the Air and Space Museum (they will sometimes actually move exhibits between the two), it just doesn’t have a kids play area. Our three year old is airplane obsessed and we choose Udvar Hazy over the Air and Space every visit just because there is so much to see in there. Your husband would probably like it too πŸ™‚ Glad you guys had fun!

  21. sahara says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    you have lovely family <3



  22. Posted September 22, 2016

    I’ve always wanted to go to DC, but I’m in the OTHER Washington, and it’s never quit made it on my list! πŸ™‚ How fun! Your boys are absolutely adorable!

  23. Inna C says
    Posted September 22, 2016

    Oh I’m so glad you guys had a great time! Pictures are darling, and I never knew such air mattresses existed! I’m glad you posted about it! Btw, the very top family picture of you guys– can I just say you look phenomenal?! Leg goals for sure over here! All your hard work pays off!

  24. Jessica says
    Posted September 23, 2016

    That looks like so much fun! You guys did so many fun things and who doesn’t love staying in a hotel? I’m glad the boys slept well and were so excited. Adorable!

  25. Bethany says
    Posted September 23, 2016

    I’m glad you enjoyed your time in DC! I’ve lived here a little over a year now (moved from Raleigh, actually), and one of the things that has been the hardest to adjust to is how expensive restaurants are. Unfortunately that’s the tradeoff for living in a city with a lot of free activities! My husband and I have found that food is significantly less expensive if we go to a place that doesn’t have a wait staff – pro tip for your next visit! πŸ™‚

  26. Allissa Sloan says
    Posted September 23, 2016

    We go to Washington every year and love it! We go every year in December and take place in wreaths across America, which is a wreath company out of main who donates enough wreaths to cover the whole Arlington national cemetery. And you can just volunteer for it! We have been doing it for 9. Years now, it’s a great experience deff check it out!!

  27. Amanda says
    Posted September 23, 2016

    Super fun! I’d love to go to DC one day. That air mattress is awesome!

  28. Ariadna says
    Posted September 23, 2016

    That brings back memories of my senior year when we took a trip there as a class! And yes please do a post about traveling with toddlers, that would be really helpful! Have you done one on traveling by plane with toddlers? If you can include some tips for that , I’d appreciate it!

  29. Kiara says
    Posted September 23, 2016

    We always put the baby in the bathroom, even on a cruise ship when we had a tiny interior room with a bathroom only as big as the pack n play!

    This makes me want to visit DC!

  30. Katherine says
    Posted September 23, 2016

    I lived in DC for four years and it looks like you hit all the best places for a family visit. I love the pic of the boys in front of the Monument. And what a great opportunity to get a special tour of the Capitol. Plus a lot of fun stuff to do at the (fairly new) National Harbor.

    And I love seeing Justin in Duke shirts…my son just started freshman year at Duke and loving it!! Can’t wait for bball season!

  31. Katie says
    Posted September 24, 2016

    Kate, I enjoyed this post SO MUCH. I love that you included details about moments that weren’t “perfect”, e.g. David in the zoo. I find that life with a toddler is full of such moments, and they’re rarely mentioned on social media. Looking forward to your post about toddler travel.

    • Rachel says
      Posted September 24, 2016

      I agree!! People don’t talk about days that aren’t perfect, meltdowns when you’re on a day out, etc. Thank you for being so real.

  32. Posted September 24, 2016

    Oh hey, I’m heading to the Gaylord in a couple of days for a wedding!!

    Kristina does the Internets

  33. Sarah says
    Posted September 25, 2016

    That was so sweet of Kate, your blog reader! So, so, sweet!!

  34. Alycia says
    Posted October 17, 2016

    I’m so jealous Kate got to offer you a tour first. I would have loved to have given you a Capitol tour and have met you. Glad you had fun. πŸ™‚

    • Kate says
      Posted October 17, 2016

      oh thanks!! Next time!