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Top 5 Planning Resources for a Washington, DC Trip

Update: 01/20/2009 – Be sure to check out the new White House Blog before your visit.

Tuesday’s Presidential inauguration of Barack Obama in Washington, DC, has filled up every hotel room in DC and the surrounding area, including dorm rooms and private homes. Visitors from all over are gathering to witness this event at the US Capitol, and celebrities are descending upon this destination for the parties and balls (see live streaming of Al Gore’s Green Inaugural Ball). All of this news coverage makes me reminisce about my past DC trips.

The first time I visited Washington, DC, I was a 17-year-old high-school senior participating in the National High School Honor Band. I was excited because not only was this my first trip up north, but I was traveling with a handful of other students from Louisiana and there were NO PARENTS.

The visit not only made me feel very independent, but it gave me a patriotic feeling. My high school friends and I had a blast learning about the subway system, touring all the free attractions, and making a visit to a restaurant (which shall remain unnamed) in Georgetown where we were able to convince our waiter to serve us alcoholic drinks.

My second visit to DC was for a more somber reason. It was as an Honor Guard member for the fire department I work at. A group of us drove from Louisiana to DC to attend the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service, which is held each year in October. Normally, this event is held in Emmetsburg, MD, but for this particular year it involved all the firefighters who had lost their lives on 9/11.

The White House copyright Shannon Hurst Lane

I’m currently planning a third visit for the Independence Parade on 4th of July, and I’ve been researching some top tips on visiting. Here are some of the resources and places I’d like to check out when I’m there. Maybe these will help you, whether you visit for the Inauguration, 4th of July, or just on a family vacation.

1. TravelMuse has compiled a few articles, including 44 Free Things to Do in DC and Inauguration Planning Tips.

2. WorldHum brings us into the green side of the Inaugural Events.

3. Oprah even offers tips on having your own viewing party in your home.

4. Washington, DC’s Official Tourism Site offers insider tips to help you plan your visit.

I won’t be in Washington, DC for the 44th Presidential Inauguration, but I will keep all these resources filed away for my 4th of July Parade visit. I hope these help you plan your family vacation, romantic getaway, or business trip to DC. And now for the last resource:

5. If you’re looking for places to eat, be sure to watch Monday night’s episode of No Reservations on The Travel Channel. I know that after watching this clip of Anthony Bourdain at Ben’s Chili Bowl, I plan on tasting one of these great chili dogs.

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  1. We go to DC every other year and my best piece of advice is to contact your Representative as soon as you know your dates because she (or maybe he) can give you tickets to all kinds of tours that you can’t get on your own. Plus, visit your Representative’s and your Senator’s office, we haven’t been there when the actual politician was in office, but the kids were able to sit at our Representative’s desk (great photo op) and the staff patiently answered all my kids’ questions and even discussed some of their up coming school projects with them. I was very impressed.

    Books that I found helpful when traveling to DC with my kids: “Mouse” books (one for
    Congress, one for President and one for the Supreme Court) by Cherly Shaw Barnes and “A Kids Guide to Washington DC” by Diane C. Clarke.

    It’s a great place to take your kids.

  2. Loving your site. Glad I saw it on the Bloggies nomination form.

    I could have almost written this piece. My first trip to D. C. was in high school, as a senior, going with Close-Up– no parents, just high school friends and the way too cool comparative politics teacher, whom we photographed posing in the women’s restroom doorway.

    My 2nd trip to D. C. was not somber, but a reflective trip for myself. I was visiting a friend who was interning a semester, which left me free to explore during working hours. I spent the entire week at the Smithsonian and the other museums at the Mall. I got lost on the bus once.

    My 3rd trip to D. C. I planned last summer, to take my 3 boys (11, 12 and 14) on their first trip. We are “those” parents who dropped the boys off at the Washington Memorial with a cellphone and a map, and told them to meet us in a few hours at an agreed upon location.

    D. C. is magical, and our trips are always too short.

  3. DC is such an underrated “vacation” destination.

    Many people think of it as a pilgrimage for families, so that their children can learn about American history. But in reality, Washington, DC has great restaurants representing virtually every culture in the world, all kinds of performing arts – from the Kennedy Center to Georgetown and U Street jazz clubs, lots of boutique shopping, great places to stay from four-star hotels to point little bed and breakfasts frequented by the foreign service crowd. There’s tons for adults, with some fun nightlife, and great activities for children that doesn’t include just dragging them through countless museums.

    The last time going out to dinner, while having a drink at the bar, I met a couple from visiting from Costa Rica, a Ph.D. candidate studying in DC from Russia, and two gentlemen from Egypt and Nigeria. Needless to say, it’s a great place for learning about other cultures.

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