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Plan It: Four Days With the Kids in Washington, DC
Comments () | Published April 28, 2008
4:45 PM: White House or Bust
It’s off to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, for a look at the President’s home sweet home. Because tours of the inside of the White House are hard to come by—they must be booked months in advance, they’re reserved for groups of ten or more, and they’re available only during certain hours—you and the kids will have to take in the sights from behind the fence. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty to see.

The White House complex consists of the main building, which is the executive residence, and the East and West Wings. The East Wing, visible from Pennsylvania Avenue to the left of the executive residence, houses office space for the First Lady and her staff and the White House Social Office. Below it is a secure underground bunker, where the President goes in the event of an emergency. The West Wing is where the business of the White House happens. From the Pennsylvania Avenue side, it extends to the right of the executive residence and houses the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, the White House Situation Room, and the Press Briefing Room. Outside the West Wing on the White House lawn, you’ll might see camera, sound, and lighting equipment—this is the area from which White House correspondents videotape their reports.

Snap a few photos, and you’re off.

5:30 PM: Spend an Evening in Bethesda, Maryland
Get on a Red Line subway train at Metro Center (607 13th St., NW) and head to the hopping “urban suburb” of Bethesda. The center of activity is at Woodmont and Bethesda avenues, just a few blocks from the Bethesda Metro stop. Enjoy a dinner of Spanish tapas at the colorful Bethesda branch of Jaleo (7271 Woodmont Ave.; 301-913-0003). Parents will love the fruity sangría, and kids can’t get enough of the sizzling garlic shrimp and patatas bravas (Spanish fried potatoes).
7 PM: Ice-Cream for Dessert!
Stroll down the street to Gifford’s (7237 Woodmont Ave.; 301-907-3436), the Washington area’s oldest ice cream parlor. (The original location, founded in 1938, was just a few blocks down Woodmont.) There are dozens of house-made flavors, including a killer Swiss chocolate and a roster of sorbets made from fresh fruit. Even the sugar-free, fat-free yogurt is surprisingly creamy and delicious.

Want more to do in Bethesda? Check out guide to the neighborhood for ideas on shopping, dining, arts, and more.

Today you’ll catch some of the lesser-known attractions DC has to offer—such as the aquarium and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing—and spend some time outside on the National Mall, at the Tidal Basin, and in West Potomac Park.

8 AM: Breakfast
Start your day off bright and early at Teaism (800 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-835-2233), an Asian-inspired teahouse near the White House and Lafayette Square, for cilantro scrambled eggs (or tofu) and hearty Irish oatmeal with fruit. Be sure to grab one of the hefty salty oat cookies for the road—they have something of a cult following among Washingtonians. Open Monday through Friday only.
8:45 AM: Plan Ahead! Grab a Picnic Lunch
You’ll be spending the day on the southwest side of the National Mall, where the pickings for lunch are slim. We suggest hitting Breadline (1751 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-822-8900), a short walk from Teaism, and packing a lunch for later. The lunch rush at this popular spot can be chaotic, but because you’re going in the morning you’ll find no lines and will have your pick of fresh salads and sandwiches on excellent bread. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the prosciutto with watercress, mascarpone, and fig jam on walnut-raisin bread. We also like the egg salad on olive bread.

9:15 AM: National Aquarium at the Commerce Department
Yes, you read that right—there is an aquarium at the Commerce Department. The entrance is on 14th Street between Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues, Northwest. It’s home to more than 50 tanks and 1,000 creatures. Exhibits include piranhas, sea turtles, sharks, and alligators. DC’s aquarium is not as big or fancy as the one in Baltimore, but kids still enjoy it. Plus, at $2.50 for kids and $5 for adults, it’s about a quarter of what you’d pay in Baltimore.

10:30 AM: Learn Where Money Comes From
At the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (14th and C sts., SW), you can watch paper money being printed, stacked, and cut. If you’re lucky, you might also see White House invitations to special events or naturalization certificates, as these and other federal documents frequently run through the presses here. Tours are offered every 15 minutes and last about 45. During the off-peak season (September through February), tickets are not required; just line up at the entrance on 14th Street when you want a tour. Tickets, which are free, are required during peak season (March through August) and can be picked up at the ticket booth on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8 AM on the day you wish you visit. We suggest sending one person in the morning to get tickets for the family to avoid a snafu. Tickets go fast, so plan to get there early.

Unfortunately, the building is closed on weekends and holidays. If you visit DC then, don’t worry—there are plenty of other museums just steps away on the National Mall. The closest are the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave., SW) and the Freer Gallery of Art (Jefferson Dr. at 12th St., SW), which together make up the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art. The castlelike Smithsonian Institution Building (1000 Jefferson Dr., SW)—sometimes called simply the Castle—is next to the Freer Gallery; you can take a tour of the building on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 or just enjoy the architecture and gardens at your own pace.


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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 04/28/2008 RSS | Print | Permalink | Articles