Our family summer vacation is officially in the books.
Washington D.C., baby.
I have so much to say, and so much to tell you, but before I start babbling incoherent nonsense, let me just start with one thing.
Our vacation to D.C. can be summed up in one word: Metro.
If you ask my kids what they loved the most about this family vacation, they will just smile, start salivating, and say, "Metro". In their minds, it is a five-letter word for pure awesomeness.
What Disney World? All this fun can be had for mere dollars, people.
As I was preparing for our trip a few months ago and researching where we would stay, and what we would see, several people told me to make sure we stayed near a Washington Metro train station, because driving in D.C. is a big no-no. "Don't even try it," they would say, and then they would regale me with tales of horrible traffic and lack of parking. But in my smug, know-it-all brain, I would think, "Heh. What do they know? We lived in the city of Chicago for 3 years, and in the Chicago suburbs for 7, so we know traffic, and we know how to drive in city traffic. Surely we can handle D.C., and their supposed little traffic problem."
Stupid me. Stupid, stupid, me.
You are more than welcome to try it for yourself, and prove me wrong, but take my advice. Do not make the mistake we made on the first full day in town. If you value your sanity, your marriage, and you would very much NOT like your heart to spasm wildly and explode in your chest as a result of pure terror and panic, then DO NOT drive in downtown D.C. Just. don't. do. it.
The District of Columbia doesn't mess around with their traffic. They mean it. For realsies.
I'll just sum up that story by saying that while stupidly driving in the heart of downtown D.C. on a Sunday afternoon, it took us TWO HOURS to get to a parking garage to park our minivan. What should have been a 15-minute drive, but actually took TWO HOURS (did you get that part?) resulted in hungry, crying children, and desperation so great that I had fantasies of ditching our minivan on the side of a road, and running to the nearest Subway to feed my children and myself. Furthermore, in the process of this...ahem...leisurely Sunday drive, I may or may not have called my dear husband a "poop head", and screamed "We're gonna die!!!" as an enormous tour bus decided that it would like to occupy the lane in which we were driving, regardless of the fact that our family of six had dibsies on said lane.
Temporary insanity. What can I say? It happens.
So the Metro. Yeah. It's where it's at.
When I lived in Chicago, I rode the El every day back and forth from my job, and I loved it. However, that was pre-four kids. Now, the thought of standing on a crowded train platform with four sometimes-rambunctious children filled me with a sense of paranoia, and visions of children falling to the tracks. I got over the paranoia rather quickly, once I realized that because of the aforementioned traffic, the Metro was going to be my "boo" over the next few days. Soon, my kids were train-riding champs, and we navigated the escalators, train platforms and transfers with ease.
Our hotel was in the gorgeous town of Alexandria, Virginia, about 8 miles from downtown D.C. (also the home of George Washington's Mount Vernon) near the historic Old Town Alexandria, and luckily, there were at least three nearby Metro stations.
Need I mention how much kids heart riding trains? It was the big hit of our trip. Forget the T-Rex at the Smithsonian. "The Metro was the funnest," declared my 5-year old son.