Eight monuments, four Smithsonian Museums, one Capitol tour and countless subway stops in two and a half days.
I don’t even know where to begin when describing this trip to Washington D.C. with my daughter. It started out as a plan to go and see a BYU football game. Then we changed our minds and decided not to go to a game but to wait until after the new African American history museum grand opening and to just make a mother/daughter trip out of it. I’d never been. She’d never been. We were going on an adventure together.
A huge perk of homeschooling is being able to take off in the middle of the school year and head for a vacation anywhere with fewer crowds all while making lessons out of it.
I spent the weeks before loosely planning what we’d try to see and do and walked away plotting our next trip.
If you’ve never been, you really must put D.C. on your list of places to go.
Before going on and on about how much I loved it I should disclose that we strictly enjoyed the National Mall this time around. Though we toyed with venturing out to a few other places, there was so much to see and do and since we only had a couple of days we tried to make the most out of this historical area for our first trip.
The week before our vacation I checked out some books about Washington, D.C. to read together and I bought a couple more. I think I’ll write up a separate post just outlining a Washington D.C. unit study for homeschool or people wanting to make a lesson out of it with young kids to let you know how I worked that out.
We stayed with our generous and wonderful friends who live in Fairfax, VA. So we were just a subway ride away from the National Mall. That was an adventure in and of itself and got me excited to go back with my train-loving son.
We got off at the Smithsonian stop and popped up around the corner from the Washington Monument. There was nothing like seeing my 6-year-old daughter jump up and down and screaming the icon by name.
We kicked things off with an ice cream bar from a stand right there, then walked over to the breathtaking 555 ft tall monument.
She wanted to touch it herself. We couldn’t go inside (closed for repairs) but she was happy to feel the outside and she took a little video on her camera.
I should mention I used one camera and one lens for this entire trip. My Canon EOS 80D for photos and video (though I mostly focused on photos for this trip). And I rented a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM wide angle lens that was perfect for all of the huge monuments and buildings. On a crop sensor camera this lens works wonders outdoors, and even indoors since you can stop the shutter speed down lower than usual without worrying about much blur.
From the Washington Monument we walked to the Lincoln Memorial, which was one of the two I was most looking forward to seeing. It wasn’t a quick walk with a 6-year-old who was already getting tired from a long day, but she was a trooper, and talking about the huge statue we’d seen in books that we were about to see kept her motivated to keep going.
On the way we saw the beautiful World War II Memorial and walked along the reflecting pool. Once we reached the stairs Lil’ J said she was going to walk on the steps Martin Luther King Jr. walked on. We didn’t notice it as we walked in but on the way out we saw exactly where he stood and gave his I Have a Dream Speech.
Inside the Lincoln Memorial we traded photos with someone next to us to get a picture together in front of Abraham Lincoln’s statue.
To the left is the Gettysburg Address in the largest font I’ve ever seen. The whole scene was truly breathtaking.
Next we saw the Vietnam Memorial and I had one of the most difficult discussions to date (until two days later at the African American history museum) about war. We talked to a Vietnam Veteran who volunteered there and told us more about the memorial and I helped Lil’ J read some of the names.
We walked over to the Korean War Memorial next which was just across the way. She was really intrigued by this memorial and took some photos of her own.
Lastly for this first afternoon we visited the Jefferson Memorial. It was really funny because other tourists were so enthusiastic about her. They were cheering for her as I took her photos and then asked to take pictures of their own with her. It was oddly amusing.
I wasn’t prepared for all of the questions Lil’ J would have about each monument. I found myself Googling information about the presidents and dates to refresh my memory. History wasn’t even close to being my favorite subject and I don’t remember much. In many ways I feel like I was learning for the first time right along with her.
We went home with our friends after this and she spent the rest of the evening playing with their kids. The next day our plan was to visit the last few memorials we missed then go to some Smithsonian Museums and take a Capitol tour. We didn’t get to visit the White House which was disappointing but I’m armed with tips to get in next time.
I’m just going to photo dump on the rest of this post and save more details about the education side of it for an upcoming more homeschooling-focused entry but I have to leave you with one important takeaway from this experience.
Washington D.C. is definitely a trip to put on the bucket list for any American. There’s so much history, entertainment and a real serene beauty surrounding many of the monuments. The best part of it all though? Coming home and hearing my daughter share her experience with her family and friends.
At a birthday party last weekend she asked to show some pictures of our trip to her friends, and I overheard her telling them about the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. She pointed out the monuments on a motorcycle video game at an arcade with her daddy, and notices things that remind her of the sights we saw and memories we made.
Most of all, I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to enjoy this experience with my daughter. We came, we saw, we captured, we conquered. We celebrated a milestone and made memories we’ll cherish forever.
For more photography tips from yours truly, check out my new photography course: Child’s Play: Simple Tips for Photographing Children.
From birthdays to family vacations, to holidays and more, I’m teaming up with Canon every month to share how we capture our special milestones. I’ll also dish out tips to help you better capture your special moments with your family. Shout out to my favorite camera brand for sponsoring this series.