Archive for August 2014

Possible Trip to Washington DC — What I recommend

You can never fully plan a vacation, as much as I had list and ideas and more list and checked items off…nothing is every what you plan.  But if you are planning to take a family trip to Washington DC this is what I recommend:

1) Contact your state representative or senator and have them do tickets for the White House and Capitol.  These are both free activities, but you must contact them at least six weeks to three months prior to your travel date.

— Being able to say we went through the White House is something a lot of people cannot say.  This tour was a lot different than when I went when I was ten and Ronald Reagan was in office (we saw the back of his head).  We were able to actually walk into the separate rooms and had a tour guide.  This time we walked through and was able to just look into the room, and no guide.  But we can say we were in the White House.

— The personal tour of the Capitol is amazing.  We are not fighting to see things among 40 different members of a group, we were bumped to the front of the line a lot and was able to take different exits due to being with an aide of our representative Jason Smith.  The whole experience was a lot better for the kids because they could ask questions and not have to wear headphones to get information about what we were seeing.

2) Big Bus Tour — you can purchase 24 or 48 hour passes.  This is  a system where you can see the whole city from the top of a bus, get on-off at will, and save some wear and tear on your feet.  We spent $176 on two adult and two child tickets; but we also got tickets to the Madame Trousseau’s Wax Museum and the Crime and Punishment Museum.  It also included a river boat ride (we did not do this).  So we had two days worth of bus riding and two museums for the price of the tickets.  (Well worth it, and this can be budgeted in when planning the trip).

3) Park at Union Station — if you are driving up or rent a car, use the car garage at Union Station.  It is easy to get in/out of, everything is there (the tour buses, metro).  We found other parking that was five dollars cheaper, but it was on a side street and down underground…a little scary.  The parking garage here is open and with security guards, the most they charge is $22/day.  Yes, that’s a lot of money…but safety and ease of getting in/out of the city was a bonus; and I spent $14 on one trip on the Metro during peak business hours (which we traveled during the week, so it would always be peak hours).  So the Metro could be expensive, there is parking on the streets and at the monument areas that are by coin meters and some are free.  So if you have a large family the Metro could get expensive.

4) Stay outside the city.  Yes it would be cool to be on a busy city street and just walk out your door and be next to a neat building.  We had a motel with free Wifi, a pool, a large breakfast, and free parking.  In the city the internet connection and parking cost and very few of them have a free breakfast.

That’s all I can think of for now…it was a great experience, and I am glad I was able to take my nieces and nephew to see the Capitol of the US.

Washington DC 2014 – Day Five

It’s Saturday…Go home day!!  We are all ready to have our own beds and pillows.  Though the pillows at the hotel were awesome, to the point that I was going to try and fit one in my carry on; alas, it would not fit and allow me to bring my clothes back home with me.  Our motel room was on the ninth, and top floor, of the Comfort Inn and Suites in Alexandria, VA, though it was on the top floor we did not have the Penthouse Suite.  The room was very comfortable and the staff were all very friendly and helpful.  I would recommend the hotel to anyone, the breakfast was great, they had free WiFi and a pool.  The drive into town took about 15 minutes at most, yet we were far enough out to have a ton of restaurants available and affordable lodging.

We got up and around, packed our bags and performed the room sweep to make sure we had everything with us. Then we were off.  Our plane was not scheduled to leave until 5:00 pm, check-out time was 11:00, so we had a few hours to kill before we had to be at the airport.  I personally wanted to see the Jefferson Memorial and the WWII memorial, so we headed downtown for one last “walk-around” before heading out.  We were going to grab lunch in Lafayette Square (which is lined with food trucks).  Jefferson Memorial was very majestic.  He stands very tall in the center of the dome and his words are inscribed on the walls.  Around the top of the dome is the quote: “I have sworn upon the alter of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny”.  There is a great area downstairs of history, book stores, and bathrooms.  Bathrooms being the main attraction on that floor for those of us that drank our water that morning.

We headed from there down the the Lafayette Square area, drove past the WWII memorial and found parking not far away from the square.  Purchased T-shirts for the kids, and went in search of lunch…apparently the food trucks are only out during the week.  BOOO!  So we decided to just head to the airport and eat there, after getting the car returned and everything settled.

Enjoyed at California Tortilla (very tasty, and recommended for good food), and then found out our plan was delayed until 6:00.  After hanging out for awhile, we were informed that our plane was delayed until 7:00.  Ugh!!  We ended up flying out of DC at the time we were supposed to be arriving in STL.  We attempted to keep occupied and in good spirits, but sitting in an airport is not what is considered fun.  But we are THANKFUL that we had traveling mercies and nothing happened or went wrong with our flights or while we were driving around the city.

We landed, collected our bags, and headed south…it was great to be in MO.  I had been driving in DC all week, so when I got out on the freeway it felt very strange to only have a few vehicles there.  No crazy drivers weaving in/out of traffic, honking at everyone, no blinkers being used.  We were stopped at a sobriety check-point in Farmington  (I passed).  The drive home was long, but we persevered and arrived around 2:00 am.

While in the Capitol City we met and had lunch with a lady from Seattle (or at least shared our table with her during our food truck experience) that was in town protesting the education system.  We also saw two different protest going on, one for Oromo Students (to stop killing and supplying fund to the militants in Ethiopia),  and then on Saturday we saw the protestors for the Gaza blockade.  We were able to see democracy and freedom of speech in action.

All in all it was a good week, with a lot of information packed into five days worth of traveling.  We can say we walked through the White House, toured the Capitol building and were able to see the underground world that has been created for the Senators and Representatives, visited Arlington and watched the changing of the Guard, and hit some Smithsonian Museums.

Until later…ERM.

Washington DC 2014 — Day Four

We made it to Friday!!  Today we had our day two of our Big Tour bus pass to use.  We purchased a 48 hour pass, it gave us unlimited rides on all four lines and we also received tickets to the wax museum and the Crime and Punishment museum.  It also had an option to do a river ride, that we did not take advantage of.  We headed out this morning and parked at Union Station again, it is easy to access and today I actually made it out of there tonight without difficulty.  I think if I had a couple of more days I would have this down-pat and be good to go!!

Today our main goal was to get to DC Cupcakes.  You can order online prior to going to pick up to save time; but we messed around and missed the cutoff time (8:00 pm) to pre-order.  We went ahead and went in hopes that the line wouldn’t be long and we would have the opportunity to try these cupcakes.  Kirsten watches the DC Cupcakes show on TLC, and we were on the lookout for some of the cast.  Unfortunately non of the staff on the show work at the location we were ordering, though it’s the only place for the public to go.  We arrived and there were only about ten people outside the door, so our wait time was  only about 15 minutes total.  The cupcakes were good, but I think I like Jilly’s in STL better.

The bus ride today was interesting, it was a little overcast and rainy.  The theory of the seat saver (Peyton) was that the bus would be going fast enough that we would not get wet, because on Myth Busters they did an experiment where a guy had paper on in a convertible, and he didn’t get wet because they were traveling at “x” amount of speed.  She did not take into account that the bus starts and stops frequently; luckily they handed out poncho’s.  It made the ride interesting, and added a different element to the whole experience. :)  We are THANKFUL for the weather that we had this week.  It has been very nice weather, and today it only sprinkled, it could have very easily POURED.  We were blessed this week.

Again…the only ‘down fall’ of this endeavor of a Bus Tour is waiting for the bus to come back around when you’re done sight seeing at that location.  Today we had an episode in Georgetown where we waited for awhile and was tired, so we decided to go take a few pics…unfortunately we missed a bus and was left waiting another round of time.  We had a tense time of waiting because there was one team member that wanted to wait and not go take pictures….so some of us caused them to have to wait for another ride.

After finally getting out of Georgetown we headed into town to hit the museums.  We went to three different museums today, looking for things that were Night of the Museum worthy.  The kids were sadly disappointed in the museums.  They were SOOOO CROWDED and HOT.  The only one that was remotely cool was the Art Gallery.  To me the museums were very unorganized, and when you went into one section you couldn’t get out until you walked ALL THE WAY through (the length of the museum) to get out.  And that included going in circles about twenty times.  At one point I was just asking to get out, and a worker laughed and asked how long we had been lost.  At that point I was hot and tired and just ready to GET OUT OF THERE.  Not a good experience.  We did end up seeing Dum-Dum (the Rock Head) and the Thinker.  We walked around the corner and the kids were like “seriously”…the thinker wasn’t as large as they had pictured in their head.  He was actually only about 15 inches tall.  We did catch some other neat things, The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years (a ballerina), and some DaVinci artwork.  We were all ready to leave the museum’s behind by the time we arrived at the Art Gallery (we hit three Smithsonian’s within a two hour time frame).

We caught the next bus that came by and rode it back to Union Station.  Got the car and headed back out of town.  We were going to eat in town, but decided to go back to the area that we ate last night to meet up with my friends again.  We picked Noodles and Company — which was TASTY.  Everyone was tired and hungry by this time and I thought we may have time of Come to Jesus meetings in the parking lot, we had people declaring hunger strikes and others that stoically walked away.  Once we all ordered, sat down, and took a couple of drinks of our sodas made from the cool soda machine (you can add the soda and flavors there in the machine — very cool)…things were settled down and we enjoyed our meal.  My friends and their son stopped by to join us and we had a great two hour visit!!

We topped the night off with FroYo, came back to the motel and crashed.

The kids were disappointed in the museum’s, but it was still a good day when it was all said and done.  We head home tomorrow.

Until then…ERM.