3 Mistakes We Made in Washington D.C

Little girl at the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C.

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We took a trip to Washington D.C. this spring that went terribly awry. We had the chance to visit the Capital City again this summer, and I wanted to ensure we didn’t repeat those same mistakes.

I took my time and put a lot of effort into planning our redemption trip. And I can honestly say that it was worth it!

Our second trip to D.C. was SO MUCH BETTER! Here are the things that we did RIGHT this time around.

Don’t Try to Walk Everywhere

During our first trip to Washington D.C., we tried to walk everywhere. And it was a GIANT mistake. All four of us ended up with terrible blisters and achy feet/legs.

This time, we spent the money for a trolley tour and it was worth every. single. penny. Not only did we not have to worry about hurt feet, but we were able to see more monuments and attractions.

Though it was a little pricey, I highly recommend Old Town Trolley Tours. We could hop on and hop off as many times as we wanted. The guides were friendly and knowledgeable. And the open-air trolleys were spacious, clean, and offered great views of the city.

We utilized several different methods of transportation to give our tired feet a rest. We took the trolley, the subway, a bus, and rode scooters.

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating how much walking you’ll do in Washington D.C. It can really make your trip miserable.

Resting our tired feet at the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C.
(Resting our tired feet at the WWII Memorial. You are allowed to sit at the edge with your feet in the water.)
The scooters in Washington D.C are completely worth the hassle - make sure you use them!
(The girls thought the scooters were the coolest things ever!)
(Getting on the bus is an opportunity to rest your feet AND take a selfie!)

Don’t Go During a Festival

During our last visit to the Capital, we went during the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival. In my naivete, I thought that we could see both the cherry blossoms and the major attractions at the National Mall. But I was so very wrong and our trip was miserable.

The cherry blossoms were gorgeous, but the crowds were dreadful. It was almost impossible to find somewhere to eat, getting into any of the museums required hours of waiting, and it was difficult to even walk down the street because of the sheer number of people.

Our second trip was much more enjoyable and much less crowded since it was just a ‘normal’ weekend and not a huge event. Make sure you check the events happening in D.C. before you go to try to avoid the ridiculous crowds.

It’s probably even better if you can go during the week!

The Lincoln Memorial at night.
(The Lincoln Memorial was still crowded even in the evening, but it wasn’t terrible.)
The WWII Memorial in Washington D.C at night.
(The WWII Memorial was almost empty in the evening.)
(Even during the day the Korean War Veterans Memorial wasn’t nearly as crowded!)

Don’t Try to See Everything at Once

This tip sucks! And it was and still is so hard for me to accept. Even though I have now been to our nation’s capital 3 times, I still have not seen all of the monuments on my bucket list.

Every time we go somewhere, I want to see and do as much as humanly possible. We typically don’t return to the same destination twice during our travels, so it makes sense to me to do it all while we can.

However, Washington is not a city where you can do that…especially on a weekend. Ideally, I would try to spend at least 5 days in D.C. Even then, you still might not get to everything on your list.

(The Lincoln Memorial on the $5 bill and in real life.)
The Smithsonian Castle in Washington D.C
(The Smithsonian Castle is always stunning.)
(Our tour of the Capitol Building was incredible!)

My best advice is to make a list of the things that you want to see and prioritize what you want to see the most. Make sure to see the high-priority items first and everything else afterward.

You might also have to accept that you may not get to see one of the major attractions due to circumstances outside of your control. For instance, we weren’t allowed in the Washington Monument due to elevator and security updates that have kept it closed to the public since 2016. We also didn’t get to see the Jefferson Memorial due to a roof replacement that won’t be complete until May of 2020.

You can check the status of all of the monuments at the National Mall on the National Park Service’s website.

I wish I had known all of this before our first family trip to Washington D.C. But…we live, learn, and then help others avoid our mistakes!

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