Washington DC: How We Saw What We Saw

As homeschoolers one of our favourite ways to learn is to be engaged in the a real activity. Walking through museums, and being around places that have historical significance is great ways to absorb and to remember.

Getting in and around cities is expensive. I didn’t notice how expensive Washington DC was, because we stayed in a camp site in Virginia, caught a train into the city, and spent $3.00 on a hot dog. Other food, we brought in and we walked everywhere.

The House of White

As homeschoolers one of our favourite ways to learn is to be engaged in the a real activity. Walking through museums, and being around places that have historical significance is great ways to absorb and to remember.

Washington DC is the capital of the United States. Full of buildings to see, and places to visit. Being in North Carolina for a few weeks, we feel it is a great time to plan a trip, and walk in the city.

We felt like we toured the city cheaply, which was important for our bank account. There are plenty of free things to do, and many places to walk. This is how we saw Washington DC and saved ourselves some money.

Walking. Walking…

Walking is hard work with children of any age. Unless you hike regularly, then everyone will be in for a surprise.

The sun was bright in the clear sky. Warm, the kind of sit-under-the-trees-and-fall-asleep type warm. We exited our train at an early stop, and walked over the bridge to the Lincoln Memorial. The steps were lined with a band, playing marching songs loud and clear, all of them facing towards the Washington Monument.

Washington Monument is the landmark you cannot miss. Tall and central to all the things to see. It makes an excellent beacon from which all walking directions can be made.

After a while those Segways seem like a good idea

Standing next to the Brothers

Metro. Getting into the City…

We wanted to be cheap and easy. We thought that using the Metro to get into and out of the city would be the best option. Maybe we miscalculated that one…

We camped in Virginia, and parked at the Metro station. Free parking on weekends, $4 a day during the week - and you can pay with the rail pass upon exiting.

$2 for a card. $4.60 for a one way trip. Zeke found a spare card in the trash - cost saving $2. Nathanael had my card from last time I visited with my brother. Saving $2. All up our trip into and out of the city for day one was $70.

Turns out that it would be cheaper for us to pay for parking in the city. $20 a day, and very little cost in gas. We’d just have to drive through a lot of traffic, but we could have time shifted around the rush hours.

Depending on the station you start at, and how many family members you have, using the train could be expensive. It was certainly a relaxing way of getting in and out of Washington DC - so maybe the cost was worth it.

Getting around Washington.


There are so may things to see in Washington DC, but with little legs and long distances we are going to miss many things. We have planned for this. We found the things we wanted to do before and made a list. It has helped us to plan a walking tour, but also rest stops.

A good break for us, was entering a Smithsonian. After our morning walk, we’d enter the museum and take a seat in a cafeteria, eat our snacks and recharge.

Time. And Time Again


The Smithsonian Museums are huge. Fantastically huge. With large displays, that lead on and through stories. Start at the beginning, and it would take more than a day to see everything; to engage in the displays as you make your way around.

We didn’t have that time. Being that we had visited the Monuments, and wandered past the White House in the morning. Arriving after lunch meant that we had to choose what to look at, and select from a short-list things to see.

Natural History Museum things to see: Hope Diamond and the geological display caught our attention. The dinosaurs display was okay, but only because the fossil section was closed (last time that one was fantastic). The mummies and the bugs.

Museum of American History things to see: The original flag of the United States. Joash loved the wars bits: Independence and Civil war areas.

Museum of Air and Space: Wright Brothers display, from bicycles to first flight. Amelia Airhart display was great. Looking at the fighter jets.

Time Management

Managing the time is the most difficult thing. We were keeping in mind the walk to the train, the trip back to the campsite, finding time to cook dinner. And, the fact we were going to do it again the next day.

I found myself saying “come on.” and “hurry up” more than I wanted. We needed to keep on moving, past displays that held our interest, because I was thinking of how much time we had, and what we wanted to go and see.

Little Legs Can’t Get Very Far

I love walking, but little legs don’t think the same. Washington is big, the National Mall is long and with great effort little legs can walk it. The museums are huge, two or three floors of exploration. The first day we walked 13km, and the second was much the same.

Capitol Building

Food. Keeping things going

We all need to eat, especially when doing so much walking. There are vendors lining the streets, selling soft pretzels, hot dogs or other assorted foods we don’t eat at home. The prices ranged from $2.50 up to $4.00 for a basic hotdog. Other prices vary depending on what you’d like to buy.

We stocked up on snacks before we started the day. Apples, nuts, granola bars, packets of chips and some hard candies for those times when little legs need some encouragement. We still enjoyed a hotdog, despite our best efforts, super-liminal advertising is still hard to beat. And Joash can get really demanding when he sees food he wants to eat.

All up we spend $20 a day on snacks. Plus the $20 for hotdogs and pretzels.

Dinner was a meagre affair. Pasta and stroganoff - we were glad it was dark, so we didn’t have to see the yellow puddles of oozing fat. Noodles and peanut butter, which was accepted by hungry stomachs, but not much more. Pasta and red sauce, not the fancy kind with mincemeat and onions and bacon and sauce, just pasta and red sauce.

Dinner cost a total of $50. Not too bad for feeding all of us. It wasn’t great food.


Gas is cheep in the United States. Fantastically cheap. It turns out it would have been cheaper to drive into the city than use public transport. All up we spent $60 in gas to fill the truck to drive from North Carolina to Virginia. Tip, be selective in which states to fill up, because of gas tax.


We saw parts of Washington DC. We read and learned some of the history of America, and looked at the White House, and visited some monuments. We didn’t see everything, and we didn’t touch everything, but we got our worth from what we did see.

Even with a family of eight, a city like Washington DC was fun to explore with not much money to spend.