Washington DC - 2006
Fifty-seven parents, grandparents, and children traveled to Washington DC by Amtrak train, arriving on May 25 and departing on the morning of the May 28. We had a volunteer train host who boarded with us and described the sites along the way. He showed the children tricks, talked to them, and answered questions until he had to depart in Rocky Mount, NC.
The Amtrak conductors and assistant conductors were friendly and accommodating. They allowed us to have the entire car to ourselves both ways, even though we didn't have the minimum number of travelers required for a reserved car. Because of this, our children were able to move around relatively freely and play/talk with each other during the trip.
Though the ride was long, it allowed the children (and parents and grandparents) to get to know one another and bond before arrival. From the comments I've received so far, most of our travelers enjoyed the train trip and would like to travel this way on our future trip to New York City.
Amtrak provided food items such as soup, salad, pizza, sandwiches, snacks, and beverages, but we found them to be expensive. Those who brought coolers and "snack bags" with their own food ate better, and spent a lot less. This is definitely the way I'll go next time, if we take the train.
Everyone seemed very pleased with our hotel. The rooms were clean and very comfortable, with two double beds, a refrigerator, and microwave. We also had a decent breakfast every morning, consisting of a wide variety of food for even picky eaters. Some folks in our group who admitted to being choosy about hotels said they were very pleased with it. That's good enough for me.
Some of the sites we visited together were the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, White House, National Zoo, Old Post Office Pavilion and Tower, Ford's Theater, Arlington Cemetery, and Washington National Cathedral. We split off to visit the Smithsonian (and other) museums of our choice, such as: National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, Holocaust Museum, and more.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to take our reserved US Capitol tour. There was an alleged shooting there the morning of our tour date, so they were on "lockdown" all day. It turned out to be noise from construction (instead of the gunshots they thought they heard), but they didn't find out until it was too late to take our tour.
Seeing the monuments, cathedral, and museums up close was an amazing experience. (Be sure to check out our pictures of the trip.) The only thing I'll drop from the itinerary on the next trip will be the zoo. It was fine, but not really worth the walk for my family (and quite a few of the other travelers agreed with me).
Most of my itinerary was flexible - folks could stick with the group, or go off on their own if they wanted to see the sites alone. That was one of the benefits of using the Metro and we'll definitely use the same strategy for our next trip.
We walked a lot during the trip, and had a few people with recent foot surgeries or foot/leg problems who had trouble keeping up with the pace. The flexible itinerary benefited them, since they could go at their own pace. However, I wouldn't recommend the trip for those with problems or limited mobility - a guided bus tour with limited walking would be better.
For anyone interested in going on this trip in the future, I recommend that you start a walking program a month or two before the trip if you don't get much physical activity so you'll be prepared for the amount of walking required. Also, be sure to walk in the shoes (tennis shoes, walking shoes) you'll be using for the trip - don't buy new shoes without breaking them in thoroughly. Trust me on this.
The area around our hotel hosted a lot of restaurants (most of which we didn't discover until we ate at Chili's for the second or third time). We'll have a little more variety on the next trip since we know where to find them now. There were also many other stores (pharmacies, etc.) in case we needed something unexpectedly, or forgot to bring something.
I received such positive feedback from this trip, that I'm making plans for the next one (several families have told me that they'd like to go back to see the sites we missed this time).