Washington D.C. – not just for politicos!

The political happenings in Washington DC generally make your skin crawl can make you think twice about visiting our nation’s capital, but this city is an absolute must to put on any travel itinerary. A destination spot for all ages. From the natural beauty of this lush, heavily tree-lined historical mecca, to the impeccably clean streets and subway systems – D.C. is a joy to walk around. And the way it is laid out it is easy to do just that.

My husband and I took our kids to DC years ago, when they were 12 & 14-years-old. At this point in their education they had learned about a lot of U.S. history, so it was an intriguing time for them to visit an area so full of U.S. history.

We stayed across the street from the White House, at the Hay Adams Hotel – hoping for a sneak peek at the President. We took turns watching out the window, but all we ever caught a glimpse of was the security personal stationed on top of the roof. We saw lots of black Suburbans come and go through the side gate to the White House, but things were all quiet on the front porch of this magnificent national home of all homes.

White House with the Washington Monument in the background

White House with the Washington Monument in the background

It was a hot and humid summer when we visited D.C. After taking the obligatory pictures in front of the big white fence that surrounds the White House, we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue making our way towards the stately U.S. Capitol building, with the Statue of Freedom standing tall upon the dome of the rotunda. Along the way we took detours to walk by the Ford’s Theatre, the offices of the FBI and the International Spy Museum – where, at present, there happens to be a Bond exhibit commemorating 50 years of Bond villains.

U.S. Capitol with Statue of Freedom reaching high up into the heavens

U.S. Capitol with Statue of Freedom reaching high up into the heavens

Tucked behind the U.S. Capital is the Library of Congress. If anyone has seen National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the interior of the Library of Congress is as architecturally beautiful as the books it showcases. It is a reminder of how revered libraries once were as being a place where deep and important learning took place and hopefully still does. For this avid reader, it is a thing of beauty to see history displayed in row after row of leather-bound narration.

The architecture in the Library of Congress is as beautiful as the books it houses

The architecture in the Library of Congress is as beautiful as the books it houses

After walking along the front of the U.S. Capital, we worked our way back towards the Smithsonian museums and the other major national monuments. Needing a break from the sweltering temps we ducked into the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. A huge building showcasing several planes from over the generations hanging life-size from the high ceilings. The line into the United States Holocaust Museum, 12 years after it’s dedication, was blocks long – obviously a must see that our itinerary unfortunately was not going to allow us time to visit.

We moved on to the very serene setting of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial that sits looking out over the Tidal Basin – a pond that is fed by the Potomac River which we walked along up to the Lincoln Memorial. Nothing prepares you for the magnificence of the stately President immortalized in his famed relaxed sitting position. The famed Reflective Pool sits at the base of Lincoln Memorial – you do just that as you sit upon the steps feeding into the pool – reflect upon the visions from historical events like the Martin Luther King‘s location for his “I Have a Dream” speech to Forrest and Jenny embracing in the pool in Forrest Gump. Flanking the other end of the Reflecting pool is the National World War II Memorial with each state showcased.

Even in a relaxed sitting position, this stately and stoic President looms large at the Lincoln Memorial

Even in a relaxed sitting position, this stately and stoic President looms large at the Lincoln Memorial

The stately Greek architecture of the Lincoln Memorial is an appropriate match to the statue of the stately President it houses

The stately Greek architecture of the Lincoln Memorial is an appropriate match to the statue of the stately President it houses

Finishing off this historical walk took us by the awe-inspiring Washington Monument – that stands at 555′, ten times the width of its base. Recently re-opened after repairs made to it after a 2011 earthquake, the Monument was the tallest structure in the world at the time of its dedication in 1885.

The Washington Monument all lit up at night and reflecting in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

The Washington Monument all lit up at night and reflecting in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

If one wants to learn about the history of this wonderful nation of ours and the connection we have with the histories of so many other nations, than this is the place to be. Set aside another day, and hop across the Potomac and experience the pageantry of the service men and women who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; pay homage to the final resting places of JFK and RFK; and so many others that make up the mind-blowing view of never-ending rows of white crosses that make up Arlington National Cemetery. I salute you all and thank you for our freedom. The statue of Iwo Jima at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and the Pentagon sit at either end of the famed cemetery.

The eternal flame burning at the final resting place of JFK and JKO at Arlington National Cemetery

The eternal flame burning at the final resting place of JFK and JKO at Arlington National Cemetery

Washington D.C. proves that history does not have to be boring, despite the boring politics that often overrides the beauty of this magnificent city.

Schools out! Prime time to travel with the kidlets!

Being an empty nester, having to figure out kid-oriented summer travel plans are no longer a part of my summer agenda. But one can’t help be affected by the throngs of kids out and about trying to figure out what to do with the long days of summer. This vision brings memories flooding back of some of my most enjoyable travel over the years with my kids. Seeing the world through their eyes was a refreshing and enlightening way to travel.

This ranged anywhere from taking our kids fishing twenty minutes away from our house to a little fishing hole known only to the locals to a major road trip through multiple states to visit Disneyland to a flight to the east coast to visit the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell and the White House. As much as my kids were into just hanging out with their friends at home, playing video games, going to the new summer movies, reading the next Harry Potter novel – they also had, and still have, an openness to a new adventure.

My husband and I came from an era where the great outdoors was our playground and we wanted our kids to be exposed to all that our natural environment has to offer. We spent a lot of time taking our kids to my Dad’s cabin in a remote part of northern Minnesota – where there is no TV hook-up. Days were spent walking the trails looking for wildlife and picking fresh berries; jumping off a pontoon and swimming with the newly hatched minnows; catching minnows for fishing off the dock; throwing the tennis ball into the lake for our labs to retrieve – over and over and over again; making bonfires to cook weenies and roast marshmallows for s’mores; nap and read in a screened in porch.

As my last post revealed, we lived in several different places during our kids developmental years. And each place offered up a plethora of day trip opportunities. We loved to pack up the picnic basket, hop in the car and in an hour be at a destination only Mother Nature could create, chockfull of opportunities for fun activities – i.e. hiking along cascading falls learning to navigate fallen trees and slippery rocks; a glass-topped lake to learn how to skip rocks; a slow meandering river to float down; climbing upwards to vistas that would take away anybody’s breath.

Walking along cascading falls

Walking along cascading falls

With longer blocks of time we hit the road and were able to expose our kids to some of man and natures most amazing masterpieces. The Mount Rushmore monument and the still in progress Crazy Horse monument are a sight to behold. Not only to see what the marriage of man and nature can create, but to realize the magnitude of such a venture, and then think about when those carvings were done – long before today’s technology was there to help ease the transformation.

The truly amazing destinations are the one’s man had nothing to do with creating: the geysers of Yellowstone National Park, with bison, elk and moose grazing along the roadsides; or the immense majestic snow-covered peaks in Glacier National Park, with mountain goats licking the salt off the roads and grizzly bears eating huckleberries along the mountain slopes; or the Badlands where centuries of wind blowing sand has created formations that no human could emulate; or the natural slide and jumping holes created by centuries of running water at Slide Rock Park outside of Sedona, Arizona.

Slide Rock State Park, Sedona, AZ

Slide Rock State Park, Sedona, AZ

Sports are synonymous with my family. So no summer would be complete without many sports themed outings. Whether we were teaching our kids to golf or taking them to a baseball game. Teaching them to play tennis or off to the pool to work on their swimming stroke and dives. These activities were initiated closer to home, so that when we traveled we could incorporate them into our travel activities.

Getting our son into the game of golf at an early age

Getting our son into the game of golf at an early age

A little bit of culture never hurt anybody either. There were many destination trips taken with the sole purpose of attending a play or a concert; visiting museums and historical monuments; or checking out the local zoos or botanical gardens. Education can be fun, and the more we exposed our kids to these kinds of cultural activities, the more they became part of all future travels.

My daughter off to see the play Carmen, with her Grandfather

My daughter off to see the play Carmen with her Grandfather

As adults, our kids now partake in many similar activities they spent their youth being exposed to: my daughter would rather spend an afternoon reading in a beautiful park setting or visit a local museum vs. being cooped up in her apartment watching TV; our son would rather be out playing golf or attending a concert than sitting at home playing video games. Travel traditions were created that have stood the test of time: fishing trips to Jan Lake, Saskatchewan for my son and husband; spa days for my daughter and I; and becoming “foodies” by being open to the flavors of our travels.

So whether you have time for a day trip, a weekender, a more extensive road trip or even a flight somewhere – there are always activities to have some summer fun that will become a growing and learning experience for the kids – whether they realize it or not!