Column: Family Fun: Visiting Washington D.C.

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The Lincoln Memorial at night. (Submitted photo)

Commentary by Jennifer Ingersoll

Washington, D.C. has long been a family travel destination known for its many admission free museums and attractions. With the controversy following the outcome of the recent election, many parents are left wondering if visiting the nation’s Capital is a wise idea. Having the ability to observe the foundations of the United States government and witness the monuments and memorials honoring our nation’s heroes and past, now, more than ever, is the perfect time to go.

However you arrive in the Capital, driving here can be chaotic. Make the trip more relaxing for everyone by selecting lodging within walking distance of the National Mall or convenient to a Metro stop. Distance in D.C. can be deceiving and you may find you have walked further than you anticipated. In that case, taxis and drivers are readily available. Share Bike stations within this area provide another option to explore the Mall.

The National Mall is the 2-mile space between The Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol Building. Eleven Smithsonian Museums line the Mall, including the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, Museum of American History. All, offering free admission and open daily, except Christmas. The famed National memorials are also located within the Mall. Don’t miss the opportunity to view the monuments as well as the White House illuminated at night.

To tour the White House, preparations need to be made months in advance to accommodate security screenings. Tours of the Capitol Building are available on a limited basis without prior reservations at the Capitol Visitor’s Center. However, private, staff-led tours can be arranged in advance through your Congressman or Senator and include the House and Senate Chambers, and original Supreme Courtroom, among other areas.

Additional tours can be taken of the Library of Congress, U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Supreme Court and the National Archives, housing The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The International Spy Museum, Newseum, and Madame Tussauds Washington DC are popular paid entry attractions. Other admission charged tours take visitors around the District or on theme specific tours providing a great overview of Washington.

Know before you go

Hotel Rates in Washington, D.C. vary with the time of the year, and more importantly location. The average daily rate for a room to accommodate four people in 2015 was $216/night plus TAX. Be sure to check for additional costs like parking, internet or resort fees.

Admission is FREE to all Smithsonian Institute Museums in Washington, D.C.  — Hours for the Museums: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., daily; All Museums are closed Dec. 25. For more, visit si.edu/museums.

Newseum – A museum dedicated to free expression, decades of communication and the First Amendment –  Hours are 9 .m.– 5 p.m., closed major holidays; Admission (for two consecutive days): Adults – 24.95, Youths (7-18) – 14.95, Child under 6 free. For more, visit newseum.org.

International Spy Museum –The largest collection of espionage artifacts awaits – Hours: Since it is not good for a spy to be too predictable, the hours at the Spy Museum vary greatly, check before you visit. Admission: Adults – 21.95, Youth (7-11) – 14.95, Child under 6 free. For more, visit spymuseum.org.

Madame Tussauds Washington DC –The place to see all your favorite celebrities cast in wax along with all 44 Presidents – Ticket prices vary according to experience purchased and are discounted if purchased on-line. Hours: Monday – Saturday 10 a.m.– 6 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. For more, visit madametussauds.com/washington-dc.

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