A Trip to Washington D.C. with Aaron (and Silas) // Part 1

Nov 26, 2022

(As I was adding the photos to this post, I realized it was getting way too long for anyone to read. Rather than cutting it down, I decided to just split it into two parts.) 

One thing I've always wanted to do was take each of the boys on a solo trip. Originally, my plan was for Mike and me to take each one somewhere the year they turned twelve. But with covid and a second bone marrow transplant, a trip wasn't even a possibility for Aaron when he was twelve. So it got pushed back to thirteen . . . and then to fourteen.

But finally a few months ago, we began planning in earnest. We wanted Aaron to choose where he wanted to go, but he actually hates making most decisions (even fun ones like this). We made a list of a bunch of different cities in the US and tossed around a couple of them for awhile before eventually nudging him towards Washington DC. He readily agreed, and we began to come up with an itinerary. 

We knew we'd have to bring Silas with us, so we took that into account as we looked at flights (non-stop was a must) and lodging (no hotels). We eventually decided to take a red eye on Wednesday night with a return flight on Monday morning. That would give us four solid days in the city to explore as much as we could. Mike bought tickets for a few places (Ford's Theater, Spy Museum, Air and Space Museum, Mount Vernon), but then we left the rest of the time open to give us some flexibility. We planned to rent a car but also use the metro to get around the city.

In the days leading up to the trip, we were all filled with so much anticipation. This was a trip we had been thinking about for so long, and it was exciting to have it about to actually happen. (It also triggered some anxiety for me as I worried that something would happen that would make it impossible for us to go. This is very typical of me before any major events.)

In the end, we only had two minor mishaps. The first happened just hours before departure when Mike got a call from our Airbnb saying that they were canceling our stay. He scrambled to find another place in the same general vicinity, and we ended up loving it, so it was a mishap in our favor. 

The second one happened after we had exited our plane and retrieved our bags. Aaron realized he had left his hat on the plane. All the signs warn you that you are leaving a secure area and won't be able to go back, but we found out that's not entirely true. You can go back, but it's a huge pain. You have to reprint your boarding pass and go through security again to return to your gate. But Mike did it for Aaron, and you'll notice the hat being worn in many of the photos below.

Other than those two things, the trip was perfect. Before this trip, I sort of wondered if all of the time and effort and money would be worth it, and the answer was a resounding yes. Going on a trip with just one child (and a baby) is a completely different experience than traveling as a family. We could focus on what Aaron wanted to do, and everything felt easier and more relaxed. A 14-year-old (especially this one) is so patient and chill and easy going and helpful, and Mike and I both really like him.

With other trip posts, I've shared the highlights in no particular order. But this time, I think I'll go through the trip chronologically and share what we did and saw and ate on each particular day. 

Wednesday-Thursday, October 12th-13th

Our flight left at 11:05pm on Wednesday night. Silas slept almost the entire flight. Aaron slept for about half of it. I slept for maybe 30-45 minutes. And Mike drifted off for a couple minutes here and there. Needless to say, we were pretty beat by the time we landed, located the lost hat, and picked up our rental car. We had booked a hotel close to the airport for Thursday morning, so got there at about 7:00am and crashed for a few hours. This was such a good choice because it meant we were fairly well rested and energized for the remainder of the day.

We checked out of the hotel around noon and drove into the heart of DC. We parked close to the Jefferson Memorial. It had rained all morning while we were sleeping at the hotel but had stopped by the time we were ready to see the sights. We decided to walk the five-mile loop all the way around the National Mall. This was the perfect thing to do on our first day when we had all of the adrenaline and excitement that comes with being at the beginning of a trip.

Funny/embarrassing story about the National Mall: Before our trip, people kept asking me if we were going to the National Mall, and I kept responding with something like, "Maybe . . . if we have time" while thinking to myself, "I really don't care anything about shopping, even if it is a famous mall!" Since I had never been to DC before, I had no idea that the National Mall wasn't an actual mall but a gorgeous park that housed all of the memorials and monuments. I thought it was like the Mall of America. As we were walking to each new monument, I kept seeing signs that mentioned the National Mall, and finally I said, "So where is the National Mall?" and Mike got an amused look on his face and said, "This is it. We're walking it right now." In retrospect, I should have been aware of this much sooner in my life since many historical moments have happened at the mall, but never having been before, I just didn't understand. So this trip wasn't educational for only Aaron, haha.

But speaking of the National Mall, we all agreed that it was definitely at the top of our highlights from this trip. Each monument was so unique and different from the others. The layout was spacious and open, and I loved the way you could see the Washington Monument no matter where you were in the downtown area. It was really special to see these places in real life that I'd seen in so many photos over the years.

My favorite monuments though were the ones I wasn't familiar with beforehand. I particularly loved the Roosevelt and World War II memorials. 

We had the path mostly to ourselves and really only encountered what could be called a crowd at the Lincoln Memorial. Everywhere else was quiet and serene. With the overcast sky and wet pavement and leaves, it was just really pleasant. 

We were pretty hungry when we made it back to our car. We decided to go to dinner at Farmers Fishers Bakers. We ate outside and enjoyed the eclectic atmosphere. The big, thick onion rings that we ordered for an appetizer were the best things we ate there, although Mike's crab cakes were memorable as well.

From there, we finally checked in at our Airbnb, which was located in Bethesda. It happened to be within walking distance of Levain Bakery, so as soon as we brought up all our bags, we rushed over there before it closed to grab some cookies and other baked goods. It was just as good as we remembered from New York City. Such a treat.

When we got back to our apartment, we put Silas to bed and then watched part of Hamilton before turning in early ourselves. We needed to catch up on missed sleep from the night before. 

Friday, October 14th

Although we had planned to take the metro (Mike had purposely chosen an Airbnb that was close to a metro station), we decided to take our chances and try driving into the city. Turns out, parking wasn't bad at all, so we opted to drive all the days we were there. Almost every time we got in the car, both Silas and Aaron would fall asleep, so it ended up being a good choice for us all around. 

Our first activity of the day was a tour of Ford's Theater. In preparation, I had purchased the book, Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson, and Aaron and I had both read the first few chapters. This made the tour so interesting. The tour included a lecture in the theater that went over the timeline of events, so reading ahead of time wasn't necessary, but there was something about knowing all of the details beforehand that made everything more memorable. 

After Ford's Theater, we were very hungry. We went to Potbelly's for lunch (a chain sandwich shop). I think both Mike and Aaron would say this was their favorite meal of the trip. We took our sandwiches to a bench near the World War I Memorial and ate them while Silas took a little snooze in the stroller. 

We had a little time to kill after lunch, so we walked past the White House and looked around the Smithsonian castle.

We had tickets for the Air and Space Museum at 2:00pm. The museum had been closed for a few months, and Friday happened to be the day it reopened. There was so much to see (the Wright brothers' plane! Neil Armstrong's space suit!), but having a baby definitely made us quicken our pace a bit (Silas' favorite part was the fountain outside). 

Afterwards, we found some shady grass so that Silas could walk and crawl around. We did a brief walk through the National Gallery of Art. We were actually searching for gelato, and after a couple of failed attempts we found some at Dolcezza. 

We drove back to our Airbnb and walked to Tikka Masala for dinner. One thing that was so fun about this trip was that Aaron was game to try any food, and we took full advantage of it. (Also, besides having yummy food, this restaurant had the nicest staff of any other place we went in DC.) When we got back to our apartment, we put Silas to bed and then watched National Treasure to set the stage for our third day.

Click here for Part 2!

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