How do you spend 48 hours in Washington, D.C., with the parents to see the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony? Wowza! Other than that opening sentence being a mouthful, you spend it efficiently and warmly. Everyone travels differently and here’s how I did it in November 2018.
I landed in D.C. around 2:30 p.m. and hopped on the Metro to the Virginian Suites Arlington. The Metro stop was about half a mile to the hotel, which is nothing for me. I enjoy walking, even if it was C-O-L-D.
Note: The Virginian Suites Arlington has a complimentary shuttle from/to the Rosslyn Metro Station during specific hours.
My parents have never been to Washington, D.C. and I invited them to join me. They drove down from Buffalo while I flew from Tampa, Fla. (on Southwest, my fave airline!) and we met up at hotel. They rolled in around 5:30 p.m. or so.
Where to Eat in Washington, D.C.?
6:30 p.m. We walked to the Quarterdeck Restaurant which is about a quarter mile from the hotel. I suppose now is the time to mention my mom was wearing a knee brace, walking with a cane, and a January knee replacement surgery was on the books. I’m going tell y’all right now she was a real trooper with all the hoofing it we did in the nation’s capital. Before the trip, I asked if she’d be okay walking and she said she would be. I also offered to take a cab or Uber but most of the time, she said no and plugged along. (Quarterdeck Restaurant, 1200 Fort Myer Dr, Arlington, VA 22209; Tel: (703) 528-2722)
After asking what the market price for blue crabs was ($65 for mediums! I live in Southwest Florida and have access to fresh blue crabs at half that price), I opted for the crab cakes and they were delicious! We started with the crab dip which was tasty, too. The Quarterdeck is a delicious place.
D.C. at Night
8 p.m. After walking to Rosslyn Metro Station and confirming with my dad that yes, homeless people do sleep on the ground at the station, we headed to the Lincoln Memorial, which meant more walking! We rode either the Blue, Orange or Silver Line (can’t remember which but they all go to where we needed) to the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station. From there, it was 7/10 of a mile walk to memorial and it was worth it.
Other than a couple of other groups of people, we were alone to admire the marble statue of President Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and the Washington Monument. The air was cold but the sense of peacefulness was warm.
Next, we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We really didn’t discuss it, but I know that’s my parents’ generation and the names of men they grew up with were on the Wall. With the exception of a small tour group and a handful of others, we had the memorial to ourselves.
We hoofed it back to the Metro station and back to the hotel by around 10 p.m.
Off to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
10 a.m. After breakfast in the Virginian Suites, we bundled up in layers and headed back into D.C. to explore the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. From the Rosslyn Metro Station, we exited at the Smithsonian Station when we should have exited at the Federal Triangle Station.
I should have briefed my dad about not talking to strangers, but, he’s a personable guy. Almost anywhere he goes, he seems to find at least one person he knows.
As soon as we stepped foot on the National Mall, a couple of men approached my dad with red, white, and blue winter hats, telling him they were selling them for a donation in any amount, that will support the local homeless population. He purchased one. Although I wasn’t thrilled he stopped to talk strangers, it ended up being a smart move. The temperature dropped below freezing that night while waiting for the National Christmas Tree Lighting.
We explored the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and some of the highlights included seeing gowns of previous and the current First Ladies; President Abraham Lincoln’s hat he wore the day he was shot; Judy Garland’s mismatched pair of ruby slippers from the Museum of Oz; Julia Child’s kitchen; and THE Star Spangled Banner that inspired the song (photographing the flag is prohibited).
Noon It was time for lunch and it was easy to choose something from the Smithsonian’s cafeteria located on the very bottom floor.
Tip: Free lockers are located on the very bottom floor.
White House Visitor Center
1 p.m. Gates for the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in the Ellipse of President’s Park opened at 3 p.m. and after lunch we made our way toward the entrance. At least, I thought I knew where the entrance would be, but I was wrong, and we probably walked an additional half mile out of our way and around the Ellipse. Since it was along the way we stopped into the White House Visitor Center which is NOT in the White House but nearby.
Ugh! I guess this is a good time to talk about security while visiting Washington, D.C. Expect security when entering government buildings, including Smithsonian museums, some National Park Service units (“yes” to the White House Visitor Center and “no” to Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Memorial, etc.), and the buildings where elected officials work. Safety and security is important but it’s a pain when dressed in layers. The good thing is, you don’t need to remove your boots/shoes.
National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
2:30 p.m. Because the National Christmas Tree Lighting is a special experience, it was worthy of its own blog post! You can read about that in this post titled, “What It’s Like to Attend the National Christmas Tree Lighting in Washington, D.C.”
6 p.m. As you read in my post, we did not stay for the entire National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, it was just too cold. We ended up heading to dinner but before doing so, we stopped at the Metro Variety Souvenir Shop in the McPherson Metro Station.
I picked up some President Trump buttons for friends and saw the greatest souvenir ever made, the Defcon-Mania Rocket Rumble set. It features “Tweety Boy” Trump vs. “Little Kim” Rocketman for the “Match of the Millennium.” Look closely and you’ll see Vladimir Putin as the referee. It’s the perfect addition to my (small) political memorabilia collection.
Dinner & Drinks in Washington, D.C.
7 p.m. Next was dinner at Siroc Restaurant where I had lamb and eggplant (braised lamb shank, tender eggplant, pecorino Romano, oregano, and sweet pepper sauce) (915 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005; Tel: (202) 628-2220)
8:30 p.m. Somehow, I convinced my parents to stop by Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., for a cocktail. I mean, he is the President and when in D.C., well, ya know. And yes. I drank a $27 cocktail at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
(Trump® International Hotel Washington, D.C., 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20004; Tel: (202) 695-1100)
11 p.m. We returned to Virginian Suites Arlington to recharge for the next day.
Arlington National Cemetery
9 a.m. After breakfast and checking out, we drove to Arlington National Cemetery, which was a stone’s throw from the hotel. The best way to see and explore the cemetery is with Arlington National Cemetery Tours, Inc.
The first stop we hopped off was Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to see the changing of the guards. This happens once an hour, on the hour Oct. 1 – March 31 (every half hour April 1 – Sept. 30).
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Seven soldiers are buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Four unknowns from four World War I and three from World War II and Korea. The crypt representing an unknown from the Vietnam War is vacant. Tomb Guard sentinels from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (U.S. Army) stand watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 24 hours a day, every day.
Goosebumps chilled my skin while watching the changing of the guard ceremony. It is done with perfect precision and care. Included were four wreath-laying ceremonies with student representatives from various schools presenting the wreaths. I stood at the front and as a guard marched by and caught a waft of the fragrant, sweet lilies.
Back on the trolley, we sat until we reached the end, which is the beginning, then hopped on another trolley to visit President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite.
Looking for a Needle in a Haystack
Noon My parents needed to hit the road and I had a flight to catch. We said goodbye with them dropping me off at the Arlington Metro Station, which was a hop, skip and a jump from the cemetery’s parking area. Rather than heading straight to the airport, I backtracked and headed to the National Christmas Tree grounds. I lost one of my silver starfish earrings during the ceremony the night prior and was hoping I’d be able to find it. I found the exact location where we stood for the ceremony but my earring wasn’t there. In my mind, it was placed on the National Christmas Tree and part of the festivities.
What a Trip!
2:30 p.m. I was back on the Metro heading to the airport and homeward bound.
Phew! It was bit of a whirlwind but a fun, memorable trip and so glad I could introduce my parents to Washington, D.C.
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