Visiting Washington, D.C. is an affordable trip for families. Many of the attractions are free, and the Metro makes it easy to get around. I thought it would be a great learning experience for the girls, with some mild weather and Cherry Blossoms thrown in. We scored on our first goal but not our second. A few days before we arrived, it snowed. There was no sign of it when we arrived, but it was chilly and didn’t really warm up until the last day we were there. That said, we would definitely do it again.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing — This place is billed as the money factory, and it most certainly is. We saw the making of money and learned all kinds of cool facts about legal tender. For example, did you know that 95 percent of money printed each day is to replace old and worn out money? Only five percent is actually new money for the economy. There’s a lot of waiting that goes along with getting a tour of the money factory. I stood in line for more than hour the morning of our tour so that I could get four tickets. Then we were told to show up 15 minutes early for our tour and still had to wait even longer to go through security. I’m not sure if the 35-minute tour was worth all of that waiting. The good news: Simone and Nadia soaked in many of the money facts and took home some .50 cent rings with the dollar sign on them as a souvenir.
Air and Space Museum — Everything about the museum is geared toward children. From the huge McDonalds, to the 3-D movies, to the life-size exhibits. I have a feeling that Simone and Nadia would have stayed at this museum all day. If science is for geeks, I certainly couldn’t tell. There were throngs of people at the museum, and it was difficult to move inside the Apollo exhibit. Simone and Nadia are fascinated by the planets and stars, and we watched Journey to the Stars, a short movie about the life of stars. They were a little scared when the stars exploded but now know more than we could have ever told them. When we return to D.C., we’ll definitely make a stop at this museum.
Natural History — The only thing the girls wanted to see was the Butterfly Pavillion. Sure, we saw other exhibits because we had to go through them to get to the Butterfly Pavilion. What’s the Butterfly Pavillion? It’s a warm room the size of a living room that is filled with beautiful butterflies. The butterflies flutter around and even land on visitors, all to the delight of children. A tour begins every 15 minutes or so, and it was, well, priceless. The Butterfly Pavillion is in the Insect Zoo, where kids and big kids can point and even shiver when they see harmless and dangerous insects.
National Zoo — I really wanted to see the pandas. I’ve heard so much about them, but the Panda House was closed. When I asked why, a zoo employee told me they were trying to mate them. I forgive the pandas; we’ll be back to see them one day. At the same time, I will not pardon the people who are responsible for building one of the best zoos in the country on a hill. A big hill. It’s all well and good as you make your way through the zoo. At the end of the day, though, you’re likely to be at the bottom of the hill. If you’re going home on the Metro, you have to climb and claw your way out of the zoo. Not cool. The bird house was the highlight of our day. We saw a colorful toucan, flamingoes, owls, and an vultures. We also saw the back of a cheetah and an orangutan. They apparently were not interested in having visitors.