Philadelphia- we stayed at the Hotel Monaco, Philadelphia for a night after a family wedding. It was right across Independence Hall – you know where signed a couple of important documents in our nation’s history, and the liberty bell. All of the sites are free, and operated by National Park Service. Get your tickets at the Visitor’s Center which is at the end of the Independence Historic Park. The visitor’s center is quite amazing in and of itself and not to be missed. The best thing for kids in this area if you are walking around is Franklin Square- rides, refreshments, a giant fountain and a playground. It makes for a fun trip and everything is shaded here. We never made it to the Please Touch museum, but that is on the top 10 things to with kids in Philly. Another one is the Art Museum, and if you have time in the morning like hubby did, do a jog from Independence Hall to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These steps are the historic ones filmed in the movie ROCKY where Rocky Balboa ran up the stairs and did his big victory arms in the air shot (pictured to the left). What a fun time! A great place to eat breakfast, lunch and/or
dinner and reasonably priced is Reading Terminal Market which is also in downtown. What a great market, and the Amish are there to sell their goods Wednesday through Saturday.
No matter where we ate in Philly except at the NPS concessions, it was pricey so be aware of that. The Reading Terminal Market at least offers you some wider selections at competitive prices. But, this was a hike for us from our hotel especially with little ones. We also visited the Mint here – the largest in the nation, and the original was burned down, so this is the 2nd one. The Federal Reserve boasts a money in motion exhibit too. With lots to do and see in Philly, if you can eke out 2 days, that would be perfect.
Beaches in Delaware- We stopped at the beaches on the Delaware coast because we were heading south this trip to D.C. We stopped at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. While we thought we were escaping the Jersey shore, it may have followed us here, and it was crowded. It was apparently the first week of summer break in NJ/PA when we went because schools let out so late this year (due to a billion snow and rain days), so, everyone and their mother, literally were on this beach. But it is a nice beach. It was a windy cooler day which is good for us but the waves were high. The best restaurant on this beach is Nicola’s Pizzeria. It’s a small, family-owned operation but extremely popular and filled up quickly. The kids get these super cool crayon looking cups, and the pizza is amaze-a-balls! I kid you not. Check it out, and they treat you like family.
Washington, D.C.- If you haven’t been to D.C. for the 4th of July, you should try it sometime. It is busy and packed but the city comes alive. And if you are lucky enough to get the weather on the 4th like we did, wow! Due to Hurricane Arthur, we had amazing weather. Independence Day in D.C. includes a parade in the morning and a concert with fireworks in the evening, and all the Smithsonian museums and the zoo are open late. Government buildings are closed so make sure to get those tours done earlier in the week- like Treasury, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, etc. Since all the monuments are open air, you can visit those on holidays too. But, the crowds are overwhelming. The best time to see everything was when everyone was at the parade or eating lunch. The same goes for the National Zoo. It’s a unique zoo. There are so many trees and shaded areas, and it literally has hiking paths because of its winding uphill and downhill design near Rock Creek Parkway. I really loved seeing pandas at the national zoo and so did the girls. We do not get to see pandas at the Denver zoo or very many zoos. And, how many zoos do you just walk or hike onto for free? Right- none. Your tax dollars subsidize all of the Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo, so it’s all free! Now, if you want a map, brochure, or some food,
you will pay for it, but admission is free to all the Smithsonian exhibits. This website is awesome for all the Smithsonian museums and the zoo and is informative. The summer hours are longer and often not posted at this website though. The best time to hit the zoo may be early morning or late in the evening (after 6pm) since the zoo is open late in the summer months. The heat is overwhelming in D.C. for July 4th. Bring along your coolers and food and drink because there are plenty of picnic areas to sit and eat. For cooling off, there are misters throughout the zoo and most people treat these like swimming pools but hey, whatever helps!
Other than visiting the National Zoo which is a must in my book, my recommendations for the museums are: Air & Space Museum knocks it out of the park! You will need a full day here so plan accordingly. Best and cheapest place to eat is the McDonalds inside this museum unless you can get to the L’Enfant plaza metro stop – wow! Food trucks galore. You have to see and smell to believe the various food trucks that await you. It is less pricey than inside the museums to. Do not plan on eating at the Natural History Museum – it is disorganized and pricey! But a visit to the Natural History is a must! I loved their temporary Beyond Bollywood exhibit too, and the diamonds too- wow! The dinosaurs are cool too, but the kids enjoyed the interactive parts the most. We also did the American History museum and that was extensive and quite well done. I have heard the Postal Museum is great for kids but we never made it out there – it is not in the same location as all the other Smithsonian Museums on the Mall area. We ate one day at the national mall on P street near the White House and the selection was fabulous – it is right off the Metro Center stop – get off and walk through Macy’s. We visited the White House gift shop and i would recommend skipping this tourist trap – while they have neat gifts, it was a rip off. If you do go in, definitely skip taking the random picture at an imitation Oval Office because the people are just weird about the number of photos, and then finally when you get to the front, the lady takes a blurry shot of you and your family. Lost time: 30 minutes.
We were fortunate enough to get an insider’s tour of the Pentagon this visit. One of my friends at DoD personally gave us a tour of the giant building and it was incredible. How many food courts, banks, chocolate shops, and fun things can one building contain? We had a good time, and if you haven’t been to the Pentagon in a few years, you can also just walk the memorial outside – the 9/11 Memorial outside the Pentagon is incredible and moving. There is a 9/11 indoor memorial for the victims too and it is near the chapel. We drove by Arlington Cemetery and Iwo Jima but it was a super hot day and humid in D.C., considering all that we had packed in.
The fireworks were fabulous and we got to see them from a rooftop where my relatives live, and that rocked. The girls loved seeing the skyline lit up with various fireworks happening from the District, Va, to Maryland – gorgeous 4th of July in our Nation’s Capitol. We had a great time and feel lucky we got to experience so much in such a short period of time and especially on Independence Day week. So much history, and so much more yet to learn. Hope you had a 4th of July this year, and enjoy the rest of summer!