Category Archives: Washington, DC

Cherry Blossom Time in Washington DC

This year, Spring Break coincided with peak Cherry Blossom Season, so off we went to Washington, DC. A rather last minute home exchange landed us in a beautiful townhouse in Adams Morgan, a perfect home base for our 4 day stay. Here are some highlights of the trip this year –

1. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History – It’s open late during spring break, which meant we could arrive at 4:30 pm and see everything we wanted before closing time at 7:30 pm with no lines. We hung out at Julia Child’s Kitchen for over an hour, watching old videos of Julia’s TV shows and listening to her interviews. It really is such a special exhibit.

2. The National Gallery of Art – Truly a national treasure. The kids loved it!

3. Hillwood Estate and Gardens – in Cleveland Park. If you like Russian Art, French pottery and beautiful gardens, it’s worth a visit. The Japanese Garden, though small, is really quite special.

and the orchid greenhouse is magical.

Probably a better time to visit is in May or June when more is blooming that a few Cherry Blossom trees. If gardens aren’t your thing, then head instead to the nearby Zoo. Combine it with an al fresco lunch at Yanni’s Greek Taverna (best gyro meat I’ve ever had).

4. Potomac Monument and Cherry Blossom Bike Tour – We rented bikes for the kids at the Washington Marina (warning – bring your own helmet or be forced to buy one for $20 and get a trail map ahead of time) and rode along the Washington Memorial Highway portion of the Mt Vernon Trail into the city.

The well-paved and mostly flat trail took us past the small and attractive Reagan Airport, where planes were landing practically over our heads as we rode. We left the trail to cross the Arlington Bridge to visit the Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson Monuments, then rode back across the Mason memorial Bridge to return to the Marina. Total distance  – about 12.5 miles. If you do this ride, do pack a picnic lunch, as food is scarce among the monuments – just some tourist food kiosks with long lines at the Lincoln and Jefferson Monuments. (We ended up parking the bikes and sneaking into the Holocaust Museum Cafe for lunch.)

5. The newly gentrified area around 14th and P. We did our food shopping at Whole Foods and ate at ThaiTanic with the chic young working crowd who are living and flocking to this area in droves. If I were of that age, this might be where I’d live.

6. Shopping in Adams Morgan – We loved Idle Times Books, the Tibet Shop (Tibetan Imports) and Bazaar Atlas (Moroccan and Senegales imports). Having kids along, we did not hit the bars, but would have loved to have had a beer and listened to some West African music.

7. Visiting friend and blogger Linda and her family in nearby Frederick, Maryland. Wish we had more time to visit this lovely little town. Hope to return one day for a meal at Volt.

This was our second spring break in a row in DC, and I want to do it again next year. I loved having a house to stay in, food shopping with the locals, cooking dinner and hanging in the kitchen over coffee in the morning overlooking the garden.  Not to mention having bikes to ride! Thanks to our hosts for opening up their warm and lovely home to us – we’re so glad you had a good time at our place. Let’s do it again next spring!
Thanks to Nats for lending me her photos from the Gallery visit.

Spring Break in Washington, DC

Washington, DC has never looked more beautiful, and I never felt so proud to be an American as I did when spending time in this wonderfully cosmopolitan, cultural and international city. It’s a great place to take your kids, especially in their teens when they have a grasp of history and politics and can appreciate all there is to learn here.

Where we stayed

We stayed at the Melrose Hotel in Foggy Bottom, just two blocks from the Metro, a short walk from Georgetown and right on the Circulator and MetroBus routes. The Melrose is a not very large, older but nicely renovated hotel that is well-run by a small, attentive and friendly staff who became familiar faces to us during our 3 night stay. Most importantly for me, it was reasonably priced ($140 a night on, with wireless an additional $10 and valet parking $35 a day), and had room windows that open (I hate being trapped in a room with no fresh air). The nearby Aroma Cafe, a small coffee shop with excellent croissants, sandwiches and coffee, was our daily breakfast stop.

What we did

  • The International Spy Museum– Loved it! Great for teens and adults alike. You need at least 3 hours to do it justice, and don’t get so waylaid by the early exhibits that you miss the cold-war stories at the end. The Spy Experience, a timed pre-ticketed small group adventure, was really fun, though not essential to enjoying this marvelous museum.


We also saw the controversial Obama “Hope” collage – the original has beautiful graphic detail that the mass-produced poster does not capture.

The museum’s central enclosed atrium reminds me of the one at the the Chicago Museum of Art, and is a wonderful spot for an afternoon tea or coffee break. Located right across the street from the Spy Museum, so you could combine the two museums with lunch at one of several local restaurants, the Spy Cafe or in nearby Chinatown.

  • The White House – If you want to see the White House from the inside, you need to book a tour months in advance through your Senator or Representative. Since I am not a good advance planner, we had to be content with paying our respects from outside the fence. I was amazed at how close we were able to approach, even putting our cameras through the rails to get a close shot. I’m guessing the Obamas were out for the day…

  • The Holocaust MuseumThe dreary, cold and rainy day seemed an appropriate backdrop. My mother-in-law was with us, and her stories of relatives who were lost and friends who had survived the Holocaust made the experience even more real for us. The kids did not want to leave without seeing and listening to everything, so we actually spent the entire day here, with lunch in the cafe. This was my second visit, but I still learned so much about this important and terrible time in the world’s history.
  • The Renwick GalleryThe Renwick is located just across the street from the White House, making for a nice combo visit. We went specifically to see the fabulous exhibit on the arts and crafts of the Greene brothers, but I was taken in even more by the Indian Gallery, a collection of 19th century paintings by artist George Caitlin.

  • The Kreeger MuseumThis former home of David and Carmen Kreeger was designed by architect Philip Johnson to house the Kreeger’s expansive art collection and provide a venue for the musical concerts the couple often hosted. The art collection is fabulous and varied, including Impressionists, Picassos and other modern paintings and sculptures, and a small African art room.

    The Kreeger Museum is located just outside of Georgetown on Foxhall Road, and is easily reached by car or cab.Docent led tours are by appointment only, but this was easily obtained by email two days prior to our visit. The personal stories of the Kreegers and their many friends in the arts were as interesting as the paintings. We packed a picnic lunch, which we were allowed to eat on the grounds of the museum just before our tour. I would love to return to this museum some evening for one of the chamber music concerts held there.
  • The Library of Congress – This was an unplanned visit, and one of the highlights of our trip. One of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen, recently restored and worth a special trip. The Docent tour was informative, and allowed us access to the gallery above the great reading room, which you may remember seeing in National Treasure 2. If, unlike us, you plan ahead, you can combine a visit to the Library with a visit to Congress – but best to book in at least 6 weeks in advance though your senator or representative.


  • Georgetown – Great food and shopping for teens and adults alike. Take the 30 series buses or the circulator, or walk as we did, from Foggy Bottom.


What we did not do
  • Bike tour of the monuments – This was top of my wish list, but bad weather precluded it. Next time…
  • Flight of the Conchords Concert at DAR Hall – Sold out (damn!), and I just could not bring myself to pay over $100 to the resellers for what was originally a $35 ticket.

Where We Ate

  • Ethiopian at Meskerem in Adams Morgan was disappointing. Not so the company – friend and blogger Linda drove in from Fredricksburg, and seeing our daughters reconnect their friendship was a highlight of our trip. Thanks, Linda and Paige, for schlepping in – it was great to see you both !
  • Clyde’s in Georgetown. My best meal, to my surprise, since I tend not to favor American traditional joints for anything other than a burger. Softshells had just come into season, and were served very lightly breaded and perfectly cooked on a large crisp potato pancake with a zucchini and carrot salad atop. (I’m still thinking about that softshell 5 days later…) The fireplace on a damp rainy night gets extra points.
Did you know?

More Americans visit Disneyworld each year than Washington DC. I encourage you to reverse that statistic and visit this wonderful city. I certainly plan to head back again soon. There’s so much we did not do.


Great site for finding hotels near the Metro