My husband and I may have surprised our two boys this summer with a staycation in D.C., but we actually got the idea from them. For nearly a year since a canceled flight unexpectedly kept us overnight in Savannah, Georgia, they’d been asking when we’d be able to sleep in a hotel again — and for nearly a year we responded, “We don’t know!” When we travel, it’s usually because we’re visiting family, and we didn’t have any other trips on the calendar for the upcoming school year.
However, after my kids asked about staying in a hotel for the 187th time, it dawned on me that we didn’t have to book an expensive long-distance vacation in order to spend the night at a hotel. There are a ton of hotel options in D.C.; we could stay locally and be tourists for a day right here in our own city.
We decided on the Omni Shoreham Hotel, which overlooks Rock Creek Park, because of its resort-style atmosphere and its proximity to a Metro station. Best of both worlds, right? After arriving one Saturday, the four of us headed outside for a quick lunch at the pool bar, fueling up for our first adventure of the day — a ride on the Metro.
My boys are 5 and 8, still young enough to love the Metro. They seriously could be content riding the red line from Shady Grove to Glenmont and back again, but that day we had a surprise destination in mind. See, like many children, if there’s one thing my kids love more than the Metro, it’s superheroes, so we took them to the National Museum of American History’s “Superheroes” exhibit of costumes and comic books.
After posing for a photo in front of Michael Keaton’s Batmobile and my little one’s jaw hitting the floor at the sight of Captain America’s shield, we wandered the museum for about an hour and a half before hopping back on the Metro and returning to the Shoreham. There were still a few more activities to accomplish on our staycation agenda, including a dip in the pool, room service for dinner and a movie in bed. Plus, the hotel had one more surprise for the boys — complimentary milk and cookies delivered to the room for an evening snack. A nice touch.
The next morning we stuffed ourselves with omelets, Belgium waffles and assorted pastries at the breakfast buffet and then let the kids lead us on the Shoreham Scavenger Hunt, a kid-friendly way to explore the hotel’s interesting history. An older property, the hotel is elegantly appointed and boasts an array of artifacts from significant political and cultural events that had taken place at the property over the years.
My boys were less than impressed that the Beatles stayed at the Shoreham before their first performance in America (they scribbled their setlist on a piece of hotel stationery!) but were very excited to win a branded Frisbee for answering all of the questions on the form.
Staying close to home allowed us not only to save money on travel expenses but also to make the most of our weekend. We crammed quite a few adventures into our 24-hour staycation, and the boys had an amazing time. How do I know? They’re already asking when we can stay at a hotel again.
Wanting to plan your own D.C. staycation this fall? Check out these hotels and activities:
The Madison is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with out-of-this-world activities for kids through December 31, 2019. With the D.C.overy Family Package, kids get a backpack filled with space-themed swag, such as a plush astronaut bear, moon landing activity book and colored pencils — and parents get free parking at the hotel.
Add the Dinosaur D.C. Package to your reservation at the Capitol Hill Hotel and make it a dino-themed staycation. Kids receive a dinosaur coloring book, colored pencils and a stuffed dinosaur at check-in and refreshing dino drinks (plus cocktails for adults!) after visiting the new Hall of Fossils at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
Thoughtfully planned by the hotel’s historian, The Jefferson’s complimentary walking guide for guests takes families on a tour of local landmarks dedicated to “Kids Who Made American History,” including Sheyann Webb, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Smallest Freedom Fighter;” Sacagawea, the young Lewis and Clark expedition leader; and Gavin Grimm, the transgender student who brought his fight over school restrooms to the Supreme Court.
Guests at The Willard InterContinental have access to the hotel’s Kids Concierge, which offers complimentary age-appropriate amenities like in-room dessert, board games and toys to borrow, and an adventure map. Young guests can earn “Duck Bucks” throughout their stay (named after the program’s mascot, Millie the Mallard) and redeem them at the property’s ice cream cart.
While staying at The Darcy, kids can check out complimentary backpacks that include everything needed for a fun adventure out in the District. There are few themes to choose from such as “Wild in the City,” a spotlight on animals, which includes resources like “First Animals” in the White House and a guided map of Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
Have a big family and don’t want to feel cramped? Georgetown Suites offer ultra-spacious apartment-style suites with a fully-equipped in-room kitchen so that your family can have tons of legroom and get a good night’s rest after a long day in the city. While typical hotel rooms are about 350 square feet, Georgetown Suite’s room are about 600 square feet at a similar standard hotel cost.
See more sights in less time on a day bike tour with Fat Tire Tours. Departing twice a day, each three-hour tour takes you to the White House, the Capitol, the National Mall, various war memorials and other famous sites. Best of all, bikers of all ages and experience are welcome: Parents can rent baby seats, tandem bikes, toddler trailers and smaller city bikes for kids ages six to 11.
“My Computing Devices,” a new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, features more than 30 devices dating back to 1840, including a 1901 cash register and Google Glass smart glasses. STEM-loving kids can take a look at notebooks from famous programmers and participate in an interactive photo opportunity.
At the recently relocated Spy Museum, now at L’Enfant Plaza, children collect intelligence at digital interactive kiosks, crawl through air ducts, and test their sleuthing skills by participating in the museum’s Undercover Mission activity. (FYI, kids younger than seven will likely need an adult’s help to complete the missions.) A full debrief, along with your child’s disguise photo and scores, is available online after your visit.
Sightseeing not your thing? Skip the museums and monuments and head to Rock Creek Park, where families can golf; ride horses; or rent kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards and other boats. There are also more than 32 miles of trails to explore, so help your little ones lace up their hiking boots and grab a free trail map at the park’s Nature Center.
PJ Feinstein a writer and the content editor of Wolf + Friends, an app that connects moms raising kids with special needs. She lives in Potomac with her family and would love to have a staycation with just her husband one of these days.