Your kids have been working hard the last six months at school and deserve a little fun and relaxation. Start planning your family Spring Break getaway now! My pick this year would be cool road trip to discover a little bit about our nation's capitol.
Now, they may hem and haw because your pick isn't a theme park or sandy beach, but the city has a variety of kid-friendly things to do and they'll hopefully pick up a few great nuggets for thought to take home.
To get there, you can consider the ultimate family road trip by car, however with the price of gas, you'll have to look for a good deal on a rental car or vacuum out the old family station wagon for one last ride! There are plenty of options to ride the rails either for a few hours or overnight - Amtrak has some great access from big cities and points in between. Or...keep scouring the web for last minute fares - most airlines fly to both airports! The city has excellent subway and bus service to get you almost anywhere in the city. A plethora of kid-friendly hotels in all price ranges, including several bed and breakfast homes, await you - some even within steps of the White House.
D.C. offers cool mini adventures for families of all age groups -- from toddler to grandparents -- and many of the attractions are located within walking or subway distance in this very navigatable city. Best of all, most of the attractions won't break the bank because there is so much to do that is free.
The key is to incorporate daily excursions with yummy meals! You'll get them nice and tired with some fun walking trips and urban "hiking" up and down stairs and reward them with family-friendly places to eat!
The Mall and Environs
Climb to the top of the Lincoln Memorial. Here President Lincoln sits in his towering 19-foot high glory. Pose with him and admire his bigger-than-life sculpture that presents him in all his humanity. Access is free.
Visit the Washington Monument. You won't be able to go up to the top because they'll be repairing the damage from the recent earthquake a few months ago...but the view on the lawn is a great photo op. Access is free, but you need a ticket.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This museum will inspire the adventurist for all ages especially for the little astronaut at home who commands his spaceship in and around the living room! Try out the space simulator, get up close to the real Explorer I and see flying machines from every era. Admission is free.
Springtime in D.C. is a great time to talk to the animals and take a leisurely stroll around the region's best Zoo, the Smithsonian National Zoo Park. Say hello to over 2,000 animals and 400 species including big cats and apes in the beautiful ambiance of Rock Creek Park. Admission is free.
Invest in a visit to the Library of Congress and get some extra brownie points in the classroom later! Students can bring classroom learning to life after they feast their eyes on the genuine artifacts in this American treasure chest. Expect glances of appreciation from a teacher when your child can report that they saw, up close and personal, such documents as the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and an assortment of books and papers written by famous Americans. Admission is free.
A visit to Capitol Hill is not only inspiring, but will help physically visualize to your children how really extensive our government is. What's nice is that during Spring Break, Congress will not be in session and things may not be so hectic inside. Often many Congressional offices are open and you could even seek out your Senator's office and be greeted by a staff member who may have time to talk to the kids or give them some handouts on current discussions taking place in the Senate. This could prove for great material for "civics or history" reports due by the end of the year. Either way, this will be a great encounter to re-tell to teachers or fellow students back home. Admission is free, but passes are required the historic areas.
And last, but not least, a photo op in front of the famous white columns of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - The White House. You can request a public tour by requesting tickets through your member of Congress.
Family Style Dining
D.C. is known for fine dining but the many politicians and Capitolites have families too so the city offers great and budget-friendly local hangouts that cater to kids, families and even the President and his family.
I happened to have visited one such place, Ben's Chili Bowl. A great family-owned place in what used to be called the "Black Broadway" of D.C. XXX district. I even sat in the booth President Obama perched during his last visit. While there, I chowed down on their famous chili half smoke. Their mouth-watering sandwiches and fries are known for their hot and savory goodness. Since we're "on vacation", we don't count calories on this trip by the way. Plus even the resident hostess, the First Lady herself, has often said a treat once in a while is not bad. Bon Appétit.
Georgia Brown's Restaurant is wonderful. I have eaten there many times and tasted their great South Carolina-style soul food - not over-seasoned or full of fat. Kids can enjoy the beautiful ambiance without feeling threatened and the staff is very kid-friendly. They serve breakfast and lunch- but I suggest trying it for a memorable finale dinner with the family.
And for desert, check out Thomas Sweet -- a small-town ice cream shop which has outdoor seating, yummy milkshakes and chocolate treats including homemade fudge.
Take it from a mom who's been there on Spring Break -- my kids loved it and they still remember the impressions it made on them as young kids. My co-host, Regina, the other Granny, took her eight-year-old granddaughter there recently and they had a ball -- we hope you will too.