At last count, in our school district, the kids only attend school for 16 days in November (they have 5 full and 2 half days off). We decided to take advantage and visit my Dad, aka, “Grampy,” in Richmond for a few days. Unfortunately, flights from Syracuse to Richmond are expensive and non-direct. Flights to DCA (Reagan National), however, are cheap, direct, and only 2 hours away from my Dad. So I booked flights for a Friday through Tues, where we could get on the plane at 1:20 on Friday because they had a half day, and fly back on Tues when they had a day off, so overall for a 5 day trip they only missed one day of school.
I had booked a Hampton Inn for that first night in DC. I really like staying at Hampton Inns when it’s a quick overnight stay. Yes, they are the Applebee’s of hotels, but at least you know what you are getting. They had a shuttle from the airport and to the metro (saving $ on ubers or cabs), they have a full hot breakfast, the rooms are usually clean and comfortable, and they have a pool. When the kids and I landed we called for the shuttle and got to our room around 4pm. The kids wanted to go swimming immediately but since it was a weekday the pool didn’t open until 6pm. We were bummed, but we decided to instead walk the 2 blocks to the metro and take it over to the Washington Monument and the National Mall. Even though I have been to DC over 30 times, I had never been to the Lincoln Memorial and I really wanted to go there and see it lit up at night. We had a little snafu with the metro (I was a little tired from traveling and thinking you could use it the same way as the NYC subway – where you can use the same card with multiple people. Doesn’t work that way on the metro, but the workers were super nice about it and found me amusing), but then we ended up on the Mall near the African American History Museum (definitely on my list of museums I want to go to but you need to buy tickets in advance and go earlier in the day). The kids loved running around the Monument and laying up against it with their feet up.
By this point we were all starving, having forgotten to eat lunch (oops!). I knew there wasn’t much in the way of restaurants near the mall, but my iphone informed me a Shake Shack was nearby, so we headed there. After fueling up with burgers, cheese fries, purple cows, and wine. we headed back toward the mall. The kids liked just sitting and playing on the grass, and we lucked out that it was an unusually warm evening for November. We walked down the mall to the WWII memorial, and the kids had fun reading all the states names. We finally made it to the Lincoln Memorial, and there was a unity gathering in front. It seemed likevarious local clergy who were speaking on peace and unity, and we enjoyed listening to them. The Lincoln Memorial was truly breathtaking to see up close and lit up, as was the spot commemorating MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. My oldest definitely grasped the significance. After that we were very tired from walking so we caught an Uber back to the hotel in Crystal City, just over the river (free with my Amex platinum $15 a month Uber allowance), and the kids got to take a dip in the pool finally before we snuggled in to watch a movie and pass out.
The next morning, after we ate our free hot breakfast, we headed back on the metro (this time with the right number of metro cards). The kids really wanted to see the White House, so we headed over there to take their picture in front of it. To get a tour you need to book it months in advance, which I did not do, but they do have a really nice visitor’s center run by the NPS a few blocks away, which we enjoyed. It was s gorgeous sunny fall day, so we walked through the mall in the other direction this time to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where we were going to meet up with my Dad who was driving up from Richmond to get us. I hadn’t been to this museum since I was a kid, and it was awesome to go back. They have great exhibits, and of course, being part of the Smithsonian, it’s free! I especially liked the exhibit about passenger airlines throughout the 20th century, and seeing how the cabins and even the uniforms have changed over time.
We stayed for a few hours and then made our way back to Richmond. The next day we went to the Science Museum of Virginia, which seems to be undergoing some updates but had lots of fun, hands on activities for the kids. They especially liked the part that had a little track where they could “race” an alligator, an olympic swimmer, a rat, and others. They also loved playing air hockey against a robot arm. Back at my Dad’s house they tried their luck at some fishing. The following day we visited the Richmond zoo, which had a huge amount of animals and some you could feed, including giraffes. In the late afternoon, we took a pontoon boat ride on the lake and then some more fishing.
The next day we headed back. My Dad booked us Amtrak tickets from Richmond to Alexandria since it would take the same as driving and he wouldn’t have to fight the DC traffic. The train was on time and empty, which was great because we could all stretch out. We stopped in Alexandria at about 1:30pm but our flight wasn’t until 6. If it had been sunny I would have tried to rent a locker or something to store our luggage at the train station so we could walk around Old Town Alexandria, but it was cold and pouring rain, so that didn’t seem very fun. Instead we took and Uber over to the airport. Washington National (DCA) is a small airport, and as such, it doesn’t have many options for lounges. There are no Priority Pass Lounges, just Delta sky club and the American Airlines Admirals Club. I saw online that I could buy a day pass for the Admiral’s Club for $59 and the kids would get in free, and I was sold. So we spent several hours there. Looking back , this was absolutely the right call, especially since our flight ended up getting delayed by an hour so we were there for 5 hours! The lounge allowed us to have comfy chairs, wifi, power outlets, and drinks and snacks that we noshed on all day. If we had had to have sat in the regular airport that long, I probably would have spent more than that on food alone and we would have been miserable. They had chili, hummus and chips, veggies, cookies, brownies, trail mix, and fruit. Plus complimentary sodas, wine, and beer, and then in the afternoon, made-to-order quacamole and chips.
Around 7 we went next door to the dreaded Gate 35x (it’s where all the small commuter jets leave from and can be a bit of a cluster-you-know-what), waited another 30 mins past the scheduled delay, and finally boarded the hour flight to Syracuse. Overall another fun, successful trip!