Privilege Blog

Off To The District Of Columbia, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:06am

Last week I found out that my best friend, who lives in Belgium, would be coming to the US for a week. First she’s visiting her daughter in Massachusetts, then coming to Washington, D.C. with two of her boys. This week I decided to fly out to D.C. for a visit. I’ll be there next week Monday to Thursday, but I’ve got a post or two saved up, so you’re safe from endless photos of airport lounges, wine glass holders, and my old Hartmann suiter. For now.

I have very little idea what to do in D.C. National capitals scare me. The roads are always so wide. You can tell those long-ago architects wanted to prevent revolutionaries from storming the gates. At least the important gates. I’ve felt that way about New Delhi, Budapest, and then D.C., the one time I visited. When I didn’t see anything of note. I don’t quite remember why.

This time I am going mostly to visit my best friend. But how could one go to D.C. and not see some stuff? To say nothing of the two boys, aged 10 and 13, that we are going to have to entertain.

What should we do? I want to see the White House, and take a look at the Visitors’ Center. Too late for a White House tour. Did you know one has to request a tour via one’s congressperson? At least 15 days in advance? Ooops. I also want to see the Library of Congress and the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream.” speech. My friend wants to visit Arlington Cemetery. That’s all we have so far. Maybe it’s enough.

Surely you all know more than I do? Sitting here, on Saturday morning, I have one question in particular. The family relationship to which I have alluded is to Gouverneur Morris and his half-brother Lewis. If I wanted to find artifacts of said gents, is there an obvious place to look?

Ordinarily I would have planned everything down to the nth detail. Researched for days on the best agenda. With Plan A and Plan B, of course, and various options C-E for controlled spontaneity. Created a binder. I’m not kidding. I wish I could show you the notebook I made when we took the kids to France and traveled with another family through the Dordogne. Maps, reviews, and Guide Michelin pages all neatly hole-punched.

But my best friend will be there. Her kids, not mine, are coming along. Although I’ve known these boys since birth, although my friend and I raised our older children together, to me does not belong responsibility for care, feeding or management of small slumping spirits. So no binder required. Suggestions, however, are welcome.

Have a wonderful weekend.

62 Responses

  1. The last time I was in DC I was so sick and stuck in hotel rooms and conference center meeting rooms. I was popping every little over-the-counter drug I could find in the gift shops. You know, those teensy high price packets. And it was the start-up of the bird flu so everyone was trying to buy up all the packets. Not a fun week!

    But the last day I walked by myself to see as much as possible. I think because of my age, I stalled at the Vietnam Memorial for such a long time. And the Lincoln Memorial is so moving. Just recently I saw a clip on Roosevelt’s memorial – that he insisted that a memorial was a complete waste of money and threatened people not to build one for him when he was gone. So there is just a stone marker quoting him. I missed it and would have appreciated his message! The boys might really like the Korean War Memorial since it is spookily like you are overtaking a hill yourself within the soldier statues. It was too eery for me (with a son-in-law in combat).

    Probably the most exciting thing I saw was with a colleague who is also an EMT. We were walking on the sidewalk around the capitol building. She kept pointing at a vehicle near the capitol building – too close – watching it and all of the activity around it. I dismissed it as something normal. Later, on the evening news we saw the story. The truck had tried to drive right up to the capitol building filled with loaded weapons and a man determined to use them.

  2. In consideration of understanding our generation, and of art that bridges traditional and modern aesthetics, I recommend a reflective walk through the Vietnam Memorial.

  3. National Air and Space museum? Spy museum? VietNam memorial is a must for our generation. Not sure about cherry blossoms – when I had a conference in DC in early March a few years ago, just a few of the trees in warm spots were flowering.

  4. I’ve never been, but Paul has, on business, and our daughter just got back from ABCD (the name our granddaughter, Nola, has conferred on that place her mother temporarily abandoned her for). Daughter was there as a guest of US State Department visiting important Am. libraries (she’s a librarian/cybrarian) — I have yet to chat with her about the trip except briefly on Skype, but she was impressed by the Vietnam memorial, I know, and the Library of Congress.

    So I’ll look forward to your reports, and to more second-hand lore about a capital I don’t imagine I’ll visit any time soon. Have a wonderful time with your friend and her family.

  5. Walking around Georgetown is always nice. Some of the more unique shops are up Wisconsin Avenue around P St as well as Patisserie Poupon, a bakery I really like, also Cady’s Alley toward the waterfront. Old Town Alexandria is pretty too, beautiful historic neighborhood with some good restaurants and shops, and by the waterfront there’s the Torpedo Factory, which is a center for artists. Maybe visit Eastern Market on Capitol Hill on a weekend morning? For the kids, there’s the National Zoo up by Woodley Park, and the museums.. Natural History as well as Air and Space are always popular, and they’re free too. I don’t recommend trying to drive around the National Mall and Arlington Cemetery if you don’t know your way, taking metro is a lot less trouble. The traffic around here is horrible.

  6. Definitely the Air and Space museum as well as Natural History. You could spend a whole day just going through the museums there.

  7. As a 15 year resident of our nation’s capitol, this is what I’d recommend (off the top of my head) …..
    On Capitol Hill – definitely see the Library of Congress (great hall, reading room, Thomas Jefferson’s Library), Supreme Court (sign up for the courtroom lecture – 30 min max and good), try to get reservations for a tour of the Capitol ahead of time – it’s good but you really want reservations. For dinner in the area, try Sonoma on Pennsylvania Avenue.
    On the mall, the National Gallery (see Homer, Moran, Turner), Sculpture Garden and Freer/Sackler (Whistler and asian art) are you best bets. Also good so a quick stop are American History (Julia Child’s kitchen, rudy red slippers, first ladies gowns) and Natural History (Hope Diamond). Have lunch at the National Gallery’s Garden Cafe.
    From the Washington Monument west an afternoon walk through the WWII memorial, Vietnam Memorial and Jefferson Monument. A walk around the tidal basin is always lovely even in the winter. After, head over to the W Hotel and head up to the POV rooftop deck for drinks and the best view of the mall in town. Dinner at Old Ebbitt.
    Go to Gallery Place for the Portrait (Katherine Graham and portraits of all the presidents) and American Art (O’Keefe, John Singer Sargent) Galleries. There’s a lovely courtyard between the two with a great Norman Foster roof. Lunch or Dinner at Cafe Atlantico – don’t miss this place. For extra credit, try afternoon tea at Teasism.

    Air and Space is a 13 year old boy’s dream – for me, it’s loud and irritating. American Indian is not as good as it could be – not yet. Spy Museum is really expensive, small but interesting.
    If you want ideas of seeing anything beyond the federal property – i.e. local Washington – and there are fun things to see in the city beyond the government buildings, let me know and I’ll add to the list.
    There will be no cherry blossoms – too cold yet this year (sorry). Bring a raincoat, plan on cool weather – and don’t hesitate to hail a cab rather than walk as there are miles and miles of walking.
    I hope this helps and that you have a great visit.

  8. Also – drinks at the Round Robin at the Willard and Off The Record at the Hay Adams – both are classics.

  9. Take a walk around capitol hill – at night. Say around 10pm-midnight. It’s all lit up, nobody else is around outside – and likely your representatives are inside, working away. For you. It’s a rare experience where you can connect with more of a sense of what the place is really about.

  10. I like the National Gallery with the collection of Thomas Cole paintings. There’s a wonderful sequence of the stages of life there that I remember. I haven’t been to the Newseum, but maybe the family would find that interesting(probably expensive too.) Have a wonderful time, hope it’s warm.

  11. Air and Space Museum, Natural History, American History (The Ruby Slippers), National Artifacts (Declaration of Independence, Constitution), Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, The Mint/National Treasury, Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Library of Congress and Arlington. White House if you can get in. Wear your comfy-est shoes! Oh, yes! Great Iced Tea at the Four Seasons in Georgetown.

  12. Kittie,

    regarding Roosevelt, you’re right, he didn’t want a memorial and there is a small memorial at the corner on 9th and Penn.
    But about 15-20 years ago, the powers that be decided we needed an FDR Memorial – – it’s essentially an island in the Potomac. Quite the opposite of what he wanted.
    It’s nice – better in the spring, summer, fall. It’s a bit too winter still here.

  13. Younger men would adore the Spy Museum. Expensive but interactive and educational.

    The Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial and Vietnam Memorial are all beautiful and provide reflection.

    Try to eat at: Cafe Atlantico, Zaytinya – any Jose Andres restaurant in DC, really.

  14. The National Archives [] is a good source for historic documents. I took the liberty of pulling up the Archives’ webpage, putting your ancestor in the search field, and will now turn the results over to you in case you’ve not already mined this source:

    If you haven’t used the National Archives online search feature before, this might be a good place to start before you depart home. OTOH, you may have exhausted all the hits produced by your own search, and want to dig deeper, so that’s where to go for that, Pennsylvania Avenue, address on website.

    Way back when dinosaurs roamed Capitol Hill in 1973, my then-husband and I were hired by Florida Senator Lawton Chiles and his wife to direct their non-profit “embassy” known simply as Florida House. The facility is still standing and serving after all that time. When you’re on Capitol Hill one block from the Capitol, there’s an intersection with the Supreme Court on one corner, the Library of Congress on the other corner, the Folger Shakespeare Library on the other corner, and Florida House stands on the other corner. This is a great place to flop in the middle of all that over-stimulation. Back in my day, we’d whip up a White House tour pass in a couple of hours, max. Ugh, to the new rules. Just pretend you’re from Florida, or your grandmother had a residence in Palm Beach, something witty.

    Here’s the website, read over all the things available and decide if this is something to copy and clip in your three-ring binder [you’re an organizational genius, don’t change].

    Lastly, get ADG to lead your tour! He knows everything, he knows those sausage stands with onion rings, he knows all the great book stores, that’s his darn turf. And he’ll have those kids wrapped around his finger.

    You’re going to have the best time, it’s a gorgeous time of the year up there.

  15. So many great suggestions already, enough to keep you busy for a week, but I’ll add to them:
    Dumbarton Oaks
    Dumbarton House
    Emily Post’s House
    National Museum of Health and Medicine (boys would like this–lots of military history involved in the history of medicine)
    Smithsonian, which alone would take a week, but I loved the Julia Child’s room
    DAR Museum, wonderful antiques displayed in rooms donated by each of the 13 Colonies
    and I strongly second taking a walk (or drive) downtown after dark

  16. Dear Lisa, How exciting! I was just in DC (I love just using the initials!) in September and LOVED it so I am taking my family back there next Christmas. Ms FF directed me to see the First Lady gowns (Alex in DC also mentioned this and she would know) and I was just thinking of them in relation to you as Jackie Kennedy’s dress while white and with diamontes is such an example of understated elegance. What I would really have liked to have seen was Mount Vernon, George Washington’s house which is not far from DC. It did seem that every cab driver was from Ethiopia so we asked one to take us to the best Ethiopian restaurant and the food was delicious and the atmosphere wad joyful. I hope you have an amazing time! love Lindaxxx

  17. My favorite places in DC are Arlington Cemetery (you need to see the changing of the guard), Musuem of Natural History (you have to see the Hope Diamond), Museum of American History, National Gallery, and the Spy Museum. Drinks at the Willard is a must. A good thing to do is the Monumonts by Moonlight tour. You can check with your concierge for info. It is great!

  18. Lisa I have never been so i am not able to advise…except to say pack some sensible walking shoes and have a grand time!
    Spending time with ones BFF is the best gift of all.
    Safe journey to you,

  19. Check the Supreme Court schedule. I’ve heard it’s worth watching arguments, if only to catch a glimpse of Clarence Thomas mid-snooze.

    If I were going, I’d make time to visit the Newseum, which is new to DC since my only visit there in the mid-190s.

  20. Whistler’s Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery is stupendous. And if you can drop the boys off at the Air and Space Museum for a couple of hours, then you and your friend can see the exhibit of the First Lady’s Inaugural Ball Gowns. Clearly, some of the First Lady’s had style and, um, some didn’t. I also found the graves of John and Bobby Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetary very moving. It might be worth take the boys to see the laying of the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Not much for military displays, but this is quite moving. The kids might appreciate going to a tour at the U.S. mint, and there’s a children’s exhibit at the Holocaust Museum that is unbelievably touching and very real. Oh, and the Newseum is a BLAST for all ages. I could have spent ALL day in there.

  21. Theodore Roosevelt Island [administered by National Park Service] might be just the trick with those boys, it’s a great place to romp and cut loose, a little bit of woodland [88 acres] at the edge of the Potomac, in the middle of the hustle/bustle of the George Washington Parkway. You’ll have your walking shoes on anyway.

  22. My work has required me to travel to D. C. annually for the last few years. My favorite “touristy” thing that I’ve managed to fit in to those trips is the evening tour of the monuments. I’m not usually attracted to tours, but this one is definitely worth doing. It takes in all the major monuments, and there’s something different about seeing them in the evening when they are lit. Many hotels have direct pickups for the tour, so it’s not a hassle to do.

    For kids, I definitely concur with the suggestions for the Air and Space museum and the Spy Museum.

  23. I LOVE LOVE LOVE going to Mount Vernon. Take your friend and her boys there if you can. It’s quite the history lesson—and so well curated. We go there EVERY time we are in DC–and I dream about it in between times. The house itself is lovely, the gardens wonderful, the round barn spectacular. It’s all a great place to go.

    The restaurant adjacent to Mount Vernon is quite a nice place to have lunch also. It’s all a very short drive on the edge of DC.

  24. I’ll be in Chicago next week. Wish I could meet you and Maxminimus for dinner in Old Town. One of the best hidden gems in the city is a Marc Chagall mosaic in Georgetown on the wall of a private garden. You can see it walking down the street if you know what you are looking for:
    It’s in the 28th street/Olive 29th Street location of Georgetown. The National Gallery has the best location for lunch on the Mall. Have the best time!

  25. What about the Smithsonian? My 12 year old, 10 year old and I would just love it there!

    Kennedy Space Center? and yes, definitely the Supreme Court. Have a fabulous time! XOXO

  26. Really, the Capitol tour is great–for all ages. National Gallery is also terrific. I love Mount Vernon, too, but the boys may not. Although I’ve been to DC several times, I’ve never visited the Holocaust Museum, but it’s on my list for this spring.

  27. I have never visited D.C. myself. if I had opportunity to go, i would first visit the Native American museum, followed by any available exhibit at the Smithsonian.

  28. Our boys loved Mount Vernon—at ages 9 and 13. That was the first time we took them and we took them again a few years after that.

  29. The Air and Space Museum is a must, and if you don’t mind paying the price of admission, the Newseum is quite amazing (price is hefty but tickets are good for two days). Have fun!

  30. I have to put in a good word for the FDR memorial here. It is breathtaking, and it highlights beautifully those achievements of his on which, whether we know it or not, we all depend, regardless of who we are, and which are now largely in danger of being dismantled.

    The war memorials are profound and elegant, and this is a good time of year to see them. It may also be a good time of year to visit the Air and Space Museum, which is a zoo on weekends and in the summer but may not be as crowded in the fall.

    There is also the National Cathedral (Episcopal)–there’s something thrilling about sitting in the sanctuary during the noonish organ recital.

  31. If you decide to go to Roosevelt Island let me know when. Our dog gets walked there several times a week.

    All suggestions are great. Arlington Cemetery, the Air Force Memorial and the 9-11 pentagon memorial are will grab your heart.

    They’re also in my hood ( see dog walking).

    The early double cherries are popping open, as are crocuses, forsythia, daffodils and some hellebore.

    The botanical garden is a dream, inside and out.

    Then again, maybe just a good coffee shop and lots of chatter?

    Have a great time, I’ll be looking out for you.

    xo Jane


    As a born and bred Washingtonian – I highly recommend going to see the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Korean War memorial at night – the way the monuments are lit is really incredible, and it feels as if there is more room for reflection (if you are so inclined) because there are fewer crowds. There are park rangers stationed nearby and usually people around, so safety concerns are not a big deal.

    I also would recommend the Folger Shakespeare Library ( – you can only go to the Reading Room one day a year, but they have consistently interesting exhibits with tons of old stuff from their archives (and it’s right by the Library of Congress and my favorite, very erotic Neptune fountain) and a great wee gift shop. They also have a gorgeous little theatre (a replica of the Swan) where there will be live music this weekend. Sonoma is good as someone mentioned above; the White Tiger is also a cheap-and-cheerful option within walking distance if you want to make a night of it.

    At the Natl Museum of American History make sure you see Julia Child’s kitchen and the Greensboro lunch counter – both mundane and world-changing in their own way.

    I’d also advise that if you plan on going to the Holocaust Museum that you give yourself the rest of the day off, for processing (ie, don’t make big plans for that afternoon/evening – it is intense and you don’t want to rush to the next thing).

    The National Museum of the American Indian is really interesting and you can do a quick pop in and out (there’s a lot in here) – it also has, hands down, the best food of all the museums.

    I second the National Cathedral — just stunning (you can go up to the top of the bell tower and look out quite far if it’s a clear day) – lots of historical crypts – and a really wonderful rose/herb garden for wandering around in. A little off the beaten track but absolutely worth it – and you can have a cup of tea inside the visitor’s center if you need a wee breakie.

    If you want to wander and window shop, check out 14th Street between U and Rhode Island on a Saturday or Sunday – lots of lovely little clothing, giftie, fun shops including PULP (great cards and gifts), Go Mama Go! and Miss Pixie’s furnishings and whatnot ( Nothing high end but very fun and funky. And if you feel adventurous, go eat some Ethiopian food in Little Addis (several restaurants centred round the intersection of 9th and U Streets – DC has the largest concentration of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia).

    Make sure you spend at least some time, if you can, outside of the monument zone – DC is as you know a city of two quite separate and unequal halves. If you feel like a walk head north from the White House up to Malcolm X Park (which is also called Meridian Hill Park) and then over to Mount Pleasant (east of 16th) or Columbia Heights (west of 16th) and check out the gentrification.

    Enjoy it.

  33. The Charles Lang Freer Gallery ( is my absolute favorite of the greater D.C. metro area museums. The Peacock Room is unique. The entire museum is quiet and peaceful. Natural History would be a great choice for the boys. Young folks like it a lot. If there are lots of kids visiting that day, it can be quite boisterous and filled with energy. The Smithsonian museums (and they are many, but most people are thinking of the castle building when they think “Smithsonian”) are the result of Smithson’s grand bequest to the United States. Most of the museums on the Mall are part of the Smithsonian collective ( At the Zoo, make sure to view the pandas eating their bamboo shoots.

    The U.S. Botanic Garden is a bit off the beaten path but near to many of the museums on the Mall ( and a little different.

    “Yes” to Arlington National Cemetery and “yes” to the Newseum. Both excellent. The changing of the sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknowns is genuinely moving (, and the Newseum is chock-full of interesting exhibits for the boys. For you and your friend as well.

    If you’re truly inclined to pursue some research in re your relatives, you might want to call and make an appointment beforehand at repositories you think have something to share with a private researcher. Many do require advance notice. And in the same vein, yes, sadly, post-9/11, one must make White House tour reservations in advance with one’s congressperson. The site is no longer available for spontaneous touring.

    Certainly visit, if you can, the National Cathedral. Quite beauteous in its architecture, and the history of its long construction is fascinating, too (

    A couple of others that may speak to you and your interests: Tiny Jewel Box ( and Ann Hand ( Just for a bit of fun and comparison, since you enjoy writing about things bejeweled. Maybe purchase a souvenir?

    Great Chinese food throughout Chinatown. Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro stop; get off, wander a bit, dine.

    Here’s the website for WMATA (pronounced wah-ma-ta (stress on the “ma”)), aka the Metro ( Definitely, as others here have advised, ride the Metro, rather than try to navigate the District’s streets in an auto, unless someone who knows the city is doing the driving. Try not to be riding the trains during peak rush hour (unless you want to, of course; in the evening rush, they are most crowded circa 4:30pm–6:30pm, with rush hour extending from 3pm-7pm), because it can get exceedingly crowded both in the trains and on the platforms due to the large Federal workforce leaving offices and going home for the day. It’s a long rush hour, for Federal employees and contractors work staggered schedules.

    Make sure if you do ride Metro and you’re on the escalators, move to the right! Local commuters will thank you and you’ll fit right in as native Washingtonians, rather than being pegged as tourists. Inhabitants often are hurrying to catch a train and like to move quickly on the left side of the escalator stair. You’d be surprised how something so simple is not common sense. If you don’t ride the Metro, taxi cabs are plentiful and not terribly pricey.

    Bon voyage!

  34. Take a walk around the tidal basin and admire Jefferson up close. Take the boys to Air & Space, American History, Spy, & Crime and Punishment museums. Go for a hike on the Maryland side of Great Falls, and definitely do some shopping in Georgetown. If everyone is down with highly spiced (not spicy hot) food, Messkarem in Adams Morgan is the best Ethiopian restaurant in North America – fun and delicious! Have a cocktail at Point of View(atop the W Hotel) for the best views in DC. Have fun!

  35. I remember going to a very good Ethiopian restaurant in DC several years ago, although unfortunately can’t remember the name. A quick Google search reveals that DC has the largest Ethiopian community in the US, and restaurants are concentrated around 18th Street, U Street and 9th Street. Might be worth some exploration, if you like Ethiopian!

  36. Have fun with your friend in D.C. If and when I decide to visit, I’ll know to come back here for the tips and suggestions on where to go and what to do.

  37. As a resident of Northern Virginia with two young sons, I can add my vote for Mount Vernon (the history preserved is amazing and engaging), the Air and Space Museum, the Lincoln Memorial which has a marker at the spot where Martin Luther King stood as he made his famous speech (one can stand on it and see what he saw – sans the people, of course)and a tour of the Capitol. The boys would likely enjoy the Spy Museum. A walk around Georgetown and a stop in at Clyde’s for lunch would be nice. Let me just add Union Station and the National Gallery of Art. My entire family enjoys both of those places, too.

    A place that I haven’t visited but would like to is Hillwood Estate which was home to Marjorie Merriweather Post – Would love to hear your take on it.

    In any case, bring comfortable shoes and a handbag or tote large enough to carry water, your own snacks and, when circumstances require, handheld video games (used sparingly, if at all, and books for the youngsters. Use Metro when you can, it’s a great way to get around.

    Regarding cherry blossoms, peak bloom is at the end of the March this year. You may be lucky enough to see some early blooms.

    I’m so jealous of your footloose and fancy free-ness. You are sure to have a great time!

  38. I agree the Air and Space Museum is a good place for boys the age you are meeting up with. For a more grown up experience, the National Gallery (both East and West) are divine, not just for the astonishing art on display, but the architecture of the buildings, too. Lunch at the East Wing dining room is a pleasure (you’ll need to make reservations). Have fun!

  39. For heavens sake – STAND TO THE RIGHT on the escalators and when you buy a farecard put plenty of fare on it. The lines of confused tourists waiting to buy fare can get long at the stations near the Mall.

    You can do the circuit around the Mall very easily. The American History museum is plenty interesting for kids.

    You have to pay to go to the Spy Museum but it really is fun. It’s also close to the Portrait Gallery at the Gallery Place/China town stop.

    I see that the cafe in the middle is closed (the cafe at the Air&Space is awful), which is too bad, but it is probably the museum I like the best.

    It will be windy and chilly so bring hat/gloves because you’ll be outside a lot.

    With the two week budget extension I’ll still be toiling away in the basement as 12th & Independence, so give me a little wave as you exit from the Smithsonian Metro stop!

  40. When my son was small, the Air & Space museum was a must. The Smithsonian is an endless treasure. The National Gallery is wonderful, and just walking the long mall on a nice day is fun. You’ll have a blast, Lisa. Enjoy!

  41. Kitty – I hope we have no loaded weapons anywhere nearby. Nor flu. On the other hand, the Korean War Memorial sounds good for young boys, who haven’t yet come to the reality of combat. I hope your son-in-law stays safe.

    Linda – Hello you! I agree.

    DocP – Definitely Air and Space. Then a compensatory gallop through the First Lady’s dresses:).

    mater – Nola’s name for the city is so adorable:).

    girltuesday – Air and Space for sure. Must consider the Spy Museum. Sounds fascinating. Thank you.

    Mary Anne – Luckily I run out of museum patience just about when young boys do, so I think we will probably put in 3/4 day over all museuming.

  42. Here’s my canned tour for visitors to DC. Since I live quite near DC, I am regularly asked to show out-of-town guests around.

    I start on Wisconsin Avenue, and take guests through the National Cathedral, which is quite beautiful. A bit further south, in Kalorama, is Dumbarton Oaks, a historic house containing a modest collection of art but surrounded by gardens of great beauty. Then on to Georgetown, where there are interesting shops and restaurants as well as the University. To go home, we go across the Potomac and up the George Washington Memorial Parkway, perhaps stopping at a scenic overlook to take photos from the cliffs towering above the great river.

    On another day we also drive south down the Parkway, skirting DC, and go to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. It is full of brick sidewalks and cobbled streets and the most enchanting eighteenth-century houses, some of which are open to the public for tours (Carlyle House and gardens are open for a modest fee). There are restaurants featuring seafood, delightful little shops holding SERIOUS big-ticket antiques, galleries, and a walk along the waterfront. A replica of an eighteenth-century sailing ship may or may not be tied up there, but if not you may take a boat tour of the Potomac. You can also visit Christ Church, ca. 1759, where Washington had a pew and Lee received his orders telling him to report to Richmond, and you can eat at Gadsby’s Tavern, where Washington dined.

    From Alexandria, head south just a few miles to Mount Vernon. Every American should visit the house and its fascinating galleries and farm. Five miles beyond Mount Vernon is Woodlawn Plantation, a National Trust property. And ten or so miles from Woodlawn is George Mason’s exquisite house, Gunston Hall, which also has educational exhibits and bewitching gardens.

    Annapolis, 40 minutes from DC on the other side, is more of the same: the charm of the eighteenth century, historic houses of great beauty, fabulous restaurants on the waterfront, boat tours, the US Naval Academy and its fine chapel, eighteenth-century furniture, public buildings, and a deep sense of America’s founding.

    The great battlefields of the War Between the States are within an hour or two of DC: Manassas, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Sharpsburg. An hour west is my old Virginia stomping grounds, Middleburg/Upperville, where the Grey Ghost and his men rode and his “safe houses” still stand, counted among the most beautiful properties in the US. Here they are still riding to hounds (for the next two weeks or so) before the steeplechase season starts.

    The possibilities are endless; email me for details if anything here particularly appeals. Enjoy!

  43. May I also add: Hillwood is very interesting but it does require reservations, and it is NOT a good venue for little boys.

  44. SA – Thank you for the shopping recommendations. We are hoping to fit in a tad of purchase fun. And we will not be driving unless we’re off to Mt Vernon. I’m already making plans based on what everyone has told me here:).

    Alex in D.C. – Oh man, this is great. I’m planning to bribe the boys. I’ll go to Air and Space as long as they come to Hope Diamond and First Lady gowns:). And I bet we will end up in the Spy Museum at some point. Here’s a question for you. If you wanted to buy the PERFECT pair of black pants, you know, for dinners out, and family festivities, where would you go? Thank you!

    gruvr – I love that. Thank you.

    Garrett – Confession. I don’t know Thomas Cole:(. Must remedy.

    Candy Dye – Done deal. The Declaration of Independence. That’s what my ancestors signed. The Constitution. Gouverneur Morris is widely credited with the preamble. I mean, at this point, who knows if I still share genetic material with them, but I’m going to pretend yes:).

    Alex – If the days warm up unexpectedly, I will keep the FDR Memorial in mind as backup out of doors territory.

  45. Worthington – Jose Andres? Must look it up. Thank you!

    Flo – Thank you very much for the link. I haven’t done anything about my ancestors at all, except create odd myths in my imagination:). When dinosaurs roamed, indeed. Oh I would love to tap ADG’s knowledge, but he’s billable, ya know? And I will keep that Florida House tidbit in my mind, all the more fondly because it comes from you.

    Katherine – Julia Child’s room? What could be better? And I’ve already told my friend that my blog friends say we must take the nighttime tour:).

    Linda in Chile – if you could return that’s a great endorsement. I am pushing Mt. Vernon now, in a big way.

    Hostess – Yes, my best friend is wonderful. Thank you.

    Fritinancy – Chuckle. Chuckle. Chuckle:).

  46. cmj – I think we will have to drag the boys with us but fair is fair. I see airplanes, they see diamonds. It will be good for them:). I wonder if we will get to the Holocaust Museum. I would very much like to see it.

    Flo – You bet. In the back pocket.

    LSM – Thank you. This is my intention!

    Susan – Wonderful. Either she is going to go before I get there, or we are going together.

    Nelle – If you have any rain checks at hand, I’d love one. Thank you for the art and food recommendations – the stuff of life:).

    Entertaining Mom – You bet. We’re on it!

  47. Town and Country – I am hoping the boys will like the space at Mt. Vernon. But please let me know why it doesn’t seem like a good idea.

    Terri – We are on the Smithsonian. Rabidly:).

    Susan – OK. Good. Thank you.

    Pink Martini – :). As I just said, :).

    Staircase Witch – There is not much I like more than a noonish organ recital:).

    Jane – I didn’t know you were in D.C. If you were amenable, you could email me your location during the day, and if my friend and her boys permit, I could swing by and say hello:). But she hates to plan, so I’ve got to stay flexible. Sometimes opposites attract.

  48. Hannah – Nighttime has been planned, because of your recommendations:). I don’t think we can get the boys to do Shakespeare, but Julia Childs, yes. And thank you for the shopping recommendations. I am hoping we will make it to Ethiopian food. I’ve never had it.

    Elsa Louise – Oh my goodness! Wonderful. We will definitely try to get to the Freer. Art is good for little boys:), even if they don’t know it. As is exposure to women shopping for jewels:). Thank you.

    Kelly – Oh thank you for the view and Point of View idea! I hadn’t even thought about the views, and I like nothing more than a good vista.

    Danielle – I will try for Ethiopian.

    Buckeroomama – I know! Isn’t this an amazing resource? I’m going to make a Privilege[d] Guide out of it all.

    Sylvie – Ha! Yes! The tote. The tote is critical. I do appreciate my footloose and fancy-free status, all the while missing my children very, very much.

  49. SSG – :).

    Flo – That link is wonderful, Thank you very much.

    Reggie – I trust your thinking:). The East Wing? OK. We will try.

    RoseAG – Ha! And you bet we will wave.

    Charlotte – Thank you. I am now kind of excited.

    Olivia – Oh perfect. Just what I needed.

    Andrea – That’s wonderful. I love to know what insiders do. The prime change for me is the priority of Mt. Vernon. Thank you!

  50. The Phillips Collection is my favorite art museum – it has the only Renoir I like – The Boating Party. You do have to go to the Air and Space Museum with boys that age. Freer is great too. I agree Ethiopian food is fun and harder to find in other parts of the country. Don’t miss the Vietnam Memorial – it’s really moving. And if you happen to go to the National Cathedral think of me – I gave tours there one summer!

  51. Hello Lisa…I think it so ironic that you visited my blog just when I had posted recently about my trip to DC and our first president…too funny! I loved everything about my trip there, I hope you have an amazing time. One of the most favorite things I did was take the metro to Old Alexandria, it’s beautiful. George Washington’s church is there…so much history…of course, with two boys, the Smithsonian would great…all of it will be great actually. The Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, the usual haunts are so inpiring, no tickets are needed and they will love it.
    Have a wonderful time and thank you again so much for stopping by.
    xo Jessica

  52. Lisa,
    D.C. proper is not the for shopping – we have lots of national chains/boutiques and less of the personalized boutique and somehow it’s gotten better and worse at the same time. I’d head over to Rizik’s on Connecticut (Farragut West Metro) – or perhaps you might like Betsy Fisher (just 2 blks up).
    A better bet is Old Town – try American in Paris, Hysteria, Treat.
    I find Georgetown to have become an outdoor mall with higher end national boutiques than I like.

  53. Alex in DC has some great suggestions. I second the votes for walking around Georgetown — visit the university campus too — and Katherine’s suggestion of seeing Julia Child’s room at the Smithsonian.

    Have a wonderful week!

  54. I am a little late, but I hope you will still get this. As others have suggested, I loved the Newseum. It is a great place with oodles of interactives. Don’t try to see/read everything because you may never leave.

    Also, the Textile Museum is located in D.C. in a charming upscale neighborhood. They currently have exhibitions on Asian Ikats and recycled textiles.

  55. I’ve so enjoyed reading everyone’s suggestions! What fun to have such a resource for your trip.

    Re: National Gallery – the East Wing is really one of the best of Pei’s buildings. Gloriously modern and worth a walk through for the sculptural architecture – it’s a great setting for the Calder mobile. The Gauguin exhibit is there – so you may want to wander in. PI find the exhibit space less than functional, with cramped, compressed spaces that are difficult to display art well. In contrast, the West Wing by Pope is laid out to show art at it’s best … and a great example of american neoclassicism. The contrast is interesting. Across the street, the Sculpture Garden is fun and the pavillion cafe is a great way to waste a couple hours with a friend.

    Ms Bunny – I forgot about the textile museum! – a great stop and close enough for a stop at the Phillips Collection too. Breakfast or lunch at Kramerbooks or Tabard Inn.

  56. Wow, who knew there were so many DC-area denizens “here”?! Fantastic suggestions from everyone. Have a great time in (and around) our fair city, Lisa!

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