Years ago, we told our kids that when they turn 10 years old, they can pick anywhere they want to go in the country (lower 48) and we’ll take them. Our Livi was the first one to turn 10, and we just got back from her trip to Washington D.C. We left our 3 year old son at home with Grandmama, and Amy, Jonah, Livi, and I flew Southwest into Baltimore, and stayed with some dear friends. (Thanks, Doug and Nancy!)
We had such a great time. I was a little worried at first because D.C. didn’t have the immediate thrill factor that a place like Disney or 6 Flags would have had. And I was so proud of Livi for wanting to go see the Capital City, I just didn’t want it to end up being a dud of a trip.
Thankfully, since we haven’t vacationed very much, pretty much everything we did was exciting to them. They enjoyed seeing Mt. Vernon and walking around the Lincoln Memorial and the war memorials (they have grand-veterans on both sides of the family). And seeing DC from the top of the Washington Monument was pretty amazing for everyone. For most of the trip, however, their favorite thing was riding on The Metro; DC’s public transit system. Of course, they insisted on standing and holding onto the poles for balance, they giggled with pseudo-scared delight when we lurched forward, and they gasped when we suddenly tunneled underground.
It’s those kinds of revelations that keep me conscious of how young they still are. At 8 and 10 years old, I’ve seen them go through so much already, I sometimes forget they’re still only a few years removed from learning to blow their own nose. Their blessed childishness was on full display at their eventual favorite spot, The International Spy Museum.
They had been looking forward to the Spy Museum ever since Christmas when we gave Livi a few books on DC to help her make plans for what she wanted to see. Almost as soon as you enter, you assume a secret identity. Then you weave through the thoughtfully laid out displays and interactive stations past tiny pen guns and cameras hidden inside hairbrushes and other 007 type novelties, until you arrive at the entrance to an air duct.
If it had been just Amy and I, we wouldn’t have even taken the time to peek inside. There were so many other neat things to see, and what’s so great about wiggling through an air duct? It reminded me of a glorified McDonald’s Playplace, without the colorful slides. There’s one tunnel, with one way in, one way out, and it looks like an air duct. Very few people went in, but my kids had read about it in Livi’s book, and this was the moment they had been waiting for.
They charged up the incline and disappeared from view… for about half an hour. There was only about 30 feet of “vent”, so I peeked in after about 5 minutes and they were giggling and squirming around back and forth “spying” on the people below. Their imaginations were in high gear.
They were surrounded by interactive computer screens and short videos all about spies, but they wanted to spy. Eventually they coaxed me up and in, and I absorbed some of their excitement, but most of my joy came from watching their unbridled glee.
I should mention the Ford Theater. “Liberty Smith” was a thoroughly enjoyable musical about the American Revolution and the kids loved it. The museum below the stage (which holds the tiny gun that killed Lincoln) was also surprisingly impressive. For our one big restaurant splurge we walked to Clydes and it was tremendous. Our waitress’s name was Blessing, and her mother named her well. In fact, she was the personification of our vacation. We used free tickets from Southwest, stayed with friends, and borrowed a car in order to afford this little trip. Oh, and I can’t forget Grandmama, who stayed with our 3 year old for 5 days. In return, she received our eternal thanks and a coffee mug from the International Spy Museum.