A Family-Friendly Itinerary for Two Days in Washington, D.C.

Two Day Washington, D.C. Itinerary

Washington, D.C. is an awesome place to visit!  Whether you have just a few days or a full week, you can certainly fill your time.  In fact, the hardest part will be deciding what to add to your itinerary.  We visited to celebrate a special birthday over a long weekend and we had the best time.  We were really happy with our itinerary and although we wanted to see so much more, that is just a great excuse to go back!  In this guide, we share a great two-day itinerary, perfect for kids and teens.

When we went

We visited Washington, D.C. in early February.  We fully expected wintry weather and brought along all the gear as well as comfortable, waterproof boots, perfect for trudging through snow and slush.  Well, we got very lucky with the temperatures reaching the mid-60s during out visit.  It felt more like early spring than the middle of winter, which made our exploring days unexpectedly wonderful.

Where we stayed 

J.W. Marriott | 3 nights | Washington, D.C.

We stayed at the J.W. Marriott and had two rooms for all of 6 of us (my mom joined us on this trip).  The location was perfect and we enjoyed the bar, 1331, for drinks and apps in the evening. 

About Washington, D.C.

As the capital of the United States of America, Washington, D.C. is the focal point of our country.  Our laws are created at the U.S. Capitol, our president lives in the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, the U.S. currency is made at the National Treasury, and artifacts, memorials, and statues abound in this city whether it’s a monument or a world renowned museum.  Not only is there a lot to see and do here but it’s a beautiful city as well.  We found the large sidewalks very clean and well kept and the big, white buildings beautiful.

Did you know that Washington, D.C. wasn’t always the capital?  The capital was originally in New York City and then moved to Philadelphia.  Finally, in 1790, Washington, D.C. was declared the permanent capital of the United States by Congress.

Washington, D.C is located on the east coast of the United States

Day One

We flew in from Kentucky the evening before and had just enough time to get to the hotel and go to sleep.  We had a busy weekend ahead of us!

Our morning started off with breakfast at Pret A Manger, a grab-and-go place great for a quick breakfast and coffee.  This was on the way to our first stop of the day, the U.S. Capitol Building.

The U.S. Capitol

We walked here due to the lovely weather, which took us about 40 minutes from our breakfast at Pret-a-Manger, around the corner from our hotel.  We found the clerk we were meeting at a designated meeting spot outside of the Capitol building and were brought inside.  After a quick security check, we were brought to the first stop, our state senator’s office.  First, we were introduced to the guide who would be giving us our tour.  Next, we had to check in, show our IDs, and get our visitor’s badges.  Finally, we got on the tram that took us underground from the senate offices to the main capitol building.

We started our tour in the Crypt, which is located directly beneath the rotunda.  This area was created to be the entrance of George and Martha Washington’s graves, although they were never buried here.  Instead they are permanently laid to rest at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

The Crypt in the Capitol

The absolute center of Washington, D.C. is marked here in the Crypt with a star emblem on the floor.  

This star marks the exact center of Washington, D.C.

After visiting the Crypt, we were then taken to the old Supreme Court Chambers, which housed the court from 1810-1860.  

Notice, the corn in the columns – a nod to American agriculture

Next up we visited The National Statuary Hall which contains two statues donated from each state, representing important people from that state.  Also on the floor are markers where certain presidents and notables’ desks were once located.

The National Statuary Hall

The crowning glory of the Capitol tour was entering the gorgeous rotunda of the United States Capitol.  The fresco painting at the very top is called The Apotheosis of Washington. 

The Apotheosis of Washington, painted up in the rotunda of the Capitol Building

All along the circumference of the dome are frescoes, painted initially by Constantino Brumidi.  He died before finishing the frescoes, however, so it took two other artists to complete it.  If you look closely, you can see slight differences in the style of painting of the frescoes from the beginning and the end, due to different artists completing this project.

The black and white frescoes painted all around the rotunda, meant to look like sculptures

Around the walls of the rotunda are massive paintings, telling the story of the United States of America.  The paintings take you through the arrival of pilgrims being greeted by Native Americans through the presentation of the Declaration of Independence.

Beautiful paintings tell the story of America, all around the walls of the rotunda

Touring the Capitol was the highlight of our visit to D.C.  We especially were happy to have done this in mid-February with just a few other people touring as well.  I recommend reaching out to your state senator or representative to secure a tour.  As soon as we had our trip booked, we reached out to our state’s senate office.  Two weeks before our trip, we received official confirmation of the tour.

The National Archives

After a great lunch at The Dubliner, we headed to our next stop, The National Archives.

The National Archives house the most important documents of the United States of America.  Within its walls are the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and Constitution.  Knowing that these are the documents that founded our country, we felt very thankful to be able to view them.  The documents were in a dimly lit area, behind glass, with special lights lighting up the faded documents for viewing and were heavily guarded as well.

While we were there, one of the four surviving Magna Cartas, dating back to the 13th century, was on display.  Modern democracy is based on the Magna Carta.  Written in Latin, there were interactive displays that walked you through a full explanation of the document.  I spent a lot of time at this intriguing station!

This museum houses many other important documents such as letters written to presidents from citizens, signed documents from presidents, and various papers and artifacts on civil rights and wartime.  Overall, we found this museum to be captivating.  We spent about an hour and a half here taking it all in.  

To visit, you’ll want to make a reservation ahead of time on the National Archives website.  Limited same-day tickets may be available, but we always recommend booking as soon as you know your plans.

NOTE:  No photos allowed inside.

Monuments by Moonlight Trolley Tour

Following a great dinner at Carmine’s, we headed straight to the Washington Welcome Center, just around the corner, to catch the Monuments by Moonlight, operated by Old Town Trolley Tours.

We arrived about 15 minutes before the tour was to depart.  A long line had formed, but right at 6:30 two trolleys arrived and were filled up with us waiting guests.  We got on the second trolley and were soon on our way.  Due to our great mid-February weather, we were able to have the windows open which was great for viewing everything during the tour!

To start, our guide was GREAT!  He was friendly and full of great facts about what we were seeing along the way.  At no time was it boring and he rolled the history and facts off at perfect times – usually when stopped at a traffic light or when driving through traffic.  It made the tour flow really well.

We were first taken around the perimeter of the U.S. Capitol building.  Our guide shared which side houses the Senate and which side houses the House of Representatives.  We then drove past the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, located behind the Capitol.

The beautiful U.S. Capitol all lit up at night

From here, we headed around the Tidal Basin and were able to get off at this stop for about 30 minutes.  Here is where you can visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial glowing under the moonlight

The two memorials are easily visited together via the walking path surrounding the Tidal Basin.  On this path, you also get a great view of the Washington Monument reflecting in the Tidal Basin.  This is where those iconic photos with the cherry blossoms are taken in the spring.

After visiting these two memorials, we hopped back on the bus and headed across the river to Virginia.  We cruised past Arlington National Cemetery while our guide informed us all about the incredible feat to become a guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.  We then parked at the Iwo Jima Memorial and had about 15 minutes at this stop.  It was also possible to see the monuments on the National Mall in the distance.  Soon, we headed back to Washington, D.C. to our final stop, The Lincoln Memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial is beautiful, day or night, but especially extraordinary at night.  It seemed so peaceful, perfect for honoring our 16th President. 

The beautiful Lincoln Memorial

Again, the Washington Monument was in view, this one my favorite view yet.  It was centered in the distance across from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, creating a beautiful scene.

The Washington Monument as seen from the Lincoln Memorial

The Monuments By Moonlight trolley tour was awesome!  Seeing all the monuments beautifully lit up in a two and a half hour span along with narration, history, and facts as we cruised throughout D.C. was a fantastic way to see them all.  Definitely book this tour during your trip to Washington, D.C.!

TIP:  Book your tickets ahead of time to secure your spot.  You’ll also save a little bit of money by reserving your tickets online.  

PHOTO TIP:  If you want great photos of these monuments, a tripod is a must!  I had mine in collapsed in a carrying case while on the trolley and was able to get it set up to take the photos of the monuments when we got off.

Ford’s Theatre

On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was taking in a play at Ford’s Theatre.  John Wilkes Booth, a famous stage actor at the time, entered the theatre, climbed the stairs, and headed to the president’s balcony box.  Being the famous stage actor he was, security didn’t think anything of him wanting to visit President Lincoln, an avid theatre fan.  Of course, Booth had an agenda no one could have foreseen – he assassinated President Lincoln from behind, jumped onto the stage from the balcony box, broke his ankle, but still made it out of the back of the theatre onto a waiting horse and rode off.  He evaded police for the next 11 days until he was found hiding out in a barn in Virginia, where he met his fate and was shot to death.  

You’ll hear this story and more from the wonderful park rangers stationed around the theatre.  One can go right up to the balcony box Abraham Lincoln sat in to watch the play.  There is a short hall leading to Abraham Lincoln’s balcony box.  The box is very well preserved and blocked off with plexiglass.  I was able to view it quietly for a few minutes, a pensive experience.

The hall leading to Abraham Lincoln’s balcony box

Abraham Lincoln’s balcony box as seen from behind

To start the self-guided tour, you begin walking through displays in the lower level of the building, viewing artifacts, including some of Abraham Lincoln’s own personal items. 

Finally, you head upstairs to enter the theatre and view the president’s box.  

Abraham Lincoln’s balcony box

While at Ford’s Theatre, one can sit in any of the theatre seats, including those that current presidents sit in when they watch shows here (it’s still a working theatre).  The park rangers give informative talks and we sat down in the seats to listen for a bit.  Overall this was an incredible site to visit.

Across the street from Ford’s Theatre is The Petersen House, the building where Abraham Lincoln eventually died.  After being shot, he was carried there to be seen by a doctor and then to be cared for until he passed away.  Tours are available, check the website for up-to-date information. 

The Petersen House, across from Ford’s Theatre

We happened to visit Ford’s Theatre on February 12, Lincoln’s Birthday.  Skylar was also due on February 12, although she was born a few days later.  She also happened to be a big fan of Abraham Lincoln as a kid, devouring books about him and collecting activity and sticker books.  So February 12 and Abraham Lincoln have always had a little special place in our hearts, so it was neat that we wound end up visiting on this date, which was not intentional at booking time, just how it worked out!  It felt a bit serendipitous.  

Every visitor to the museum needs a ticket and it is encouraged to book ahead of time online at the Ford’s Theatre website.  

After our visit here, we walked around the corner to Pi Pizzeria and had a fabulous lunch!

The National Mall

The green area is the National Mall, location of many of the popular monuments and museums

Below are some of our favorite photos taken from the National Mall.  We have a detailed post about visiting the best monuments and memorials, Tour the Monuments with us in D.C.!

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

The WWII Memorial frames the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument

The White House – technically not on the National Mall, but it can be seen from the Mall.  A quick walk away, you can walk around to the back as well (where this photo was taken)

Our long weekend in Washington, D.C. was absolutely wonderful.  Seeing historical documents, buildings, monuments, and memorials, in addition to touring the U.S. Capitol, was extraordinary.  We can’t wait to come back to this beautiful city and explore even more!

Read More!

To read more in-depth about the monuments and memorials we visited in Washington, D.C., be sure to check out our post, Tour the Monuments With Us in Washington, D.C.!

Dietary Notes

The restaurants we dined at in Washington, D.C. were all great for accommodating our dietary restrictions.  Below is a list of places we ate at:

  1. The Dubliner 
  2. Carmine’s
  3. Pi Pizzeria
  4. 1331 Bar
  5. Old Ebbit Grille

For more on traveling with dietary restrictions, be sure to check out our guide:  On the Go with Allergies.

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