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48 Hours in Washington, DC {Let’s Go!}

April 27, 2015

Written by Marykate, Maggie, Ronald, and Amanda of Gladwyne PA


I went to college in Washington, DC at Catholic University. As a student I was trying to sort out what I wanted to do with my life (I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life) as I worked as a tour guide at the Admissions office, played some lacrosse and field hockey, and formed life long friendships. DC was our oyster, and we took great advantage of this special city and all it had to offer. I was lucky enough to board with my closest friend from home, dear Marta. Who is actually a soul sister disguised as a friend. Before college so many warned us not to room together – it would ruin our college experience, ruin our friendship, we would never speak again. We speak almost daily, had a wonderful college experience, and grew even closer. Cheers to tuning out the nay-sayers!

My favorite class in college was called simply “Speech.” We could write about anything we wanted and then present to the class. The focus was on presentation skills but for me it was all about the content. I don’t miss the irony that while I had “no idea” what I wanted to do with my life, my instinct was telling me – write about whatever you want (blogging!) and presentation skills (corporate trainer!). I remember after a class when I did a rendition of “The Night Before Christmas” for my family the professor pulled me aside and said “you know, I usually don’t say this but you  have a knack for this writing about anything thing.” Before the internet, before Mommy blogs, before I knew what I wanted, it was there.

Fast forward (gulp) 19 years and I am back in DC for 48 hours with my crew, visiting dear college friends Shana and Mike and their awesome children Thomas and Ryan at their beautiful home on Capitol Hill. Targeted, time conscious, and strategic hitting a few “must do’s” that were on our list from past trips that we never made.

My awesome kids, Maggie, Ronald, and Amanda helped me write this post. It is a compilation of our trip, experiences and tips. We scoured the city visiting every museum, restaurant, and experience to bring you back the creme de la creme. Not really but I always wanted to say that. We did some research and went for it. Less exciting, more tactical.


Spy Museum

This is one of the reasons we went to DC. We have been wanting to visit for quite some time hearing so many friends talk about how fantastic it is. The International Spy Museum is the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to the craft, history, and contemporary role of espionage. Open since July 2002 the museum features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display – many have never been seen by the public. These artifacts – from a 1777 letter by George Washington authorizing a New York spy network to a 1980s coat with a camera concealed in a button – bring to life the people and techniques behind some of the most influential espionage actions in world history.

Some highlights are: We selected a cover identity and remained in character as we toured the museum. We learned about how spies are recruited, and trained as well as some of their tools:


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Spy guns. Amanda said she would pick the umbrella one. 


We learned about the history of spies and as well as women spies, and spies such as George Washington and author Daniel Defoe. We loved the exhibit “spies among us” and the Bond exhibit – highlighting 50 years of Bond villains.


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Ninja Spy Kids 

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Dangling from a tall building! A lesson in determination, the smallest of the three but hung on longer than her siblings and anyone else in line. Amanda said this was her favorite part of the museum.

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Maggie and Ronald detonating a bomb and ridding the world of evil.

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And the Oscar goes to…. learning about spies in Hollywood.


The spy museum gift shop was a highlight for us. We found all kinds of things such as top secret listening devices and gum that “shocks” unsuspecting gum chewers. They are now fully equipped as sky kids and were able to work their craft as we visited historic sights and museums….

Here is what they had to say about the Spy Museum:

Amanda loved the “hanging thing” because she did it for  long time. Maggie reminded me that there are more spies in Washington, DC than any other city in the world. To which Ronald remarked, “there were at least 2 spies in the museum”. Me, “why do you think there were spies there?” Maggie suggested, “maybe they are spies but they want to act like regular people, so people won’t know they are really a spy. So they go to the Museum so people think they aren’t spies. So they think they are regular people trying to learn about spies.” Practical and logical, well said Maggie. Amanda suggested, “They want to learn more about how to be a spy so they can be a better spy.” And my learner, the consummate student.

So we head across the street to the National Portrait Gallery. Maggie and Amanda do this while Ronald and I look at art….


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Maggie and Amanda practicing their 

craft with their new super sonic, high tech listening device.

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Smithsonian Portrait Gallery



National Portrait Gallery

We visited the Portrait Gallery because we had some time before dinner at Shana and Mikes, had parking, the stars aligned. How amazing that you can say, we have some extra time, lets stop in to look at world renowned paintings of our presidents, and priceless works of art. We loved the Champions exhibit and Twentieth Century America.

Ronald and I had meaningful discussions about the art, what he liked and why. It is a gift to look at some of the world’s most beautiful art with your son and have thoughtful conversations about it. Maggie and Amanda were busy practicing some of the newly developed skills and spent most of the time spying on unsuspecting patrons. They were keeping the art safe, all in a day’s work.

Here is what they said about the Portrait Gallery:

Maggie – It was quiet. You weren’t allowed to touch anything.

Amanda- I thought the paintings were cool, but I didn’t like how you couldn’t touch anything.

Ronald – I liked the Champions exhibit. (Life imitates art, and art imitates life).

We retreat to Shana and Mike’s, have a wonderful dinner, catch up with dear friends and prep for day 2. Which started with…


Air and Space

We got there early which I would suggest. Even while opening, there was a line to get in. However we were able to see everything we wanted, without lines once inside. By the time we were leaving around lunch time, the museum was at capacity.

Here is what my crew had to say:

Ronald – We went in this room and  they showed how stuff takes flight and I was a volunteer. It was about thrust, weight, lift and drag. And then we went back and we did a simulator. It was fun and wasn’t scary at all. I wanted to go on the one that went upside down and around and around but no one else wanted to. (air and space simulator rides – super fun and yes poor Ronald had only one option. I promised him next time I would do it with him),

Maggie – They had a lot of family friendly activities to do there in the kids section. It was cool to go in model planes. My favorite part was doing the experiments about flight.

Amanda – my favorite part were the experiments, and learning about flight.

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Assistant Ronald 


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Active Audience. I wonder if this is what they look like in school. 


After Air and Space we stop at Five Guys for burgers. A couple things to note: there are not in fact 5 guys. There was about 9 or 10 from what I could tell. And they all weren’t guys. There were girls too. It can be misleading. And the veggie sandwich is not a veggie burger. It is a mix of topping on a roll. In case you like me, believe someone when they insist it is a veggie burger (even though you are reading a description that says it is a sandwich). Yes I am trusting by nature. Now that you know, do not take advantage, circle of trust.


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After lunch we were off to…

Engraving and Printing 

It is all about being early in DC. These tickets go quick. The booth opens at 8 and by 8:30 when I arrived only the afternoon tours remained. We got there in the nick of time for our tour (parking problems) but it was well worth the dash there. This museum tour takes you through a printing press where you can see how money is made. It starts with a video and then you are there – looking down on stacks of currency which almost reach the ceiling. I have always wanted to do this and was so glad we pulled it off this trip. Here is what Maggie reported back: it was tiring running all the way up there, but it was totally worth it! It was cool to see how your money got made. How it got started and how much work it took to make it happen.

I would absolutely recommend this one. The tour takes about an hour and you are close to the monuments as well as the Holocaust Museum, one I so want to do when my kids are older.

And later at the gift shop….


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Mo Money

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Priceless daughter


White House, the Mall, National Monument

Note – I should know better than to try and park around this area. In hindsight I should have kept my car at Shana and Mike’s and taken the metro – shoulda, coulda, woulda. I say this for you – do not try to drive and park – no garages, limited parking. There is limited dining as well however there is a cafe at the Holocaust Museum for replenishment or lunch.

We drove by the White House, and parked within view of it. One trip I want to tour it – it’s on our DC bucket list. It was a beautiful day and after all the running around we enjoyed playing at the Washington Monument – rolling down the hill, playing catch with a money ball Ronald selected at the Engraving gift shop, and doing cartwheels. What a gift. Here is what Maggie (my main correspondent) had to say: it was fun to be outdoors and play on the lawn at the National “Momument” (my adaptation) and it was good to get exercise. (Sigh. So proud)



My Stars in Stripes

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Proud to be an American 

Years from now generations will look back and think I didn’t exist if it wasn’t for the occasional selfie, I am obsolete, non existent in the photographed journey of our family story.


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Mom really was there. 


After frolicking on a perfect Washington DC afternoon we headed to Georgetown for dinner. I could have stayed there longer but we had reservations at my favorite college restaurant, Clydes in Georgetown and cupcakes to pick up at Georgetown Cupcakes.


This is where my family celebrated after my graduation from CUA and upon returning I understand why I always loved Clydes. Classic American fare and ambiance, it is easy and family friendly with a welcoming staff and atmosphere. We had veggies to start (we were significantly depleted) and then dinner. I had a salmon salad and my crew had the kid fare – bacon cheeseburgers, and mac and cheese. Maggie reports back: they made their food in different ways than you typically do – they cooked the carrots with a lot of butter (we eat a lot of crudite!). I liked the brussels sprouts.  Their Mac and Cheese tasted like Ruby’s (our favorite local diner – props). The atmosphere was casual and friendly.”



Georgetown Cupcakes

Friends, the hype is true. The best cupcakes I have ever had. Ever. Sorry Magnolia Bakery, you are a close second. Here is what the critics had to say: Ronald – they had the best cupcakes in DC. (This is all I got. Elvis left the building to play football with his friends. I gotta move fast Moms)

Maggie –  Their cupcakes were very good and they had a good variety. The line was so long it went all the way to another store. My favorite was the triple chocolate.

Amanda – They were my favorite cupcakes.




What was your favorite part of the trip and why?

Maggie – My favorite was Georgetown Cupcakes because we got a bunch of cupcakes from the best cupcakes in Washington, DC. They were the best cupcakes I ever tried.

Ronald – playing on the mall.

Amanda – Picking out toys everywhere. I also liked eating Georgetown Cupcakes. I also liked rolling down the big hill and playing on the hill. (Washington Monument).

Me – if I was to ask myself, and answer to myself – it was hanging out on the Mall.

And there you have it folks. Drive 3 hours and the best part is being together. Which is why I always say I am my best self as a Mom away from the house – where I can be truly present without thinking about laundry, and lunches and what is coming next.

Other to do’s:

Natural History – all you would expect and more, for free!! Be prepared for crowds unless you can get there early. We did this 2 trips ago – everyone loved it.

American History – Lincoln’s hat, the First Ladies exhibit (my favorite!), strolling through Boston streets during the revolution, history comes to life. Our last trip we did this – fantastic.

If in VA: Arlington cemetery, Mount Vernon (we did this our last trip and it was one of my favorites), Udvar Hazy (also last trip and amazing – and empty!) it is the satellite Air and Space and truly worth trekking to see it.

Our next time:

News Museum!! – I wanted to hit this and we ran out of time. Some dear friends from Gladwyne made it here (while we were spies) and said it was great. They said there was a fantastic 9\11 exhibit and much much more.

Holocaust Museum – I so want to do this but think my guys are a tad young. I think I have about 2 years and then they will be the right age.

And one of these days the White House tour – it takes planning with getting tickets in advance which can be a challenge.

Okay so what are your DC Must Do’s?


















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  1. Marykate

      on April 27, 2015 8:59 pm

    Hi mom! This was a great post. The style of it is great, like how you used our advice on how Washington DC was. I love this post and can’t wait for your next one.
    your daughter Maggie :]


  2. Marykate

      on April 27, 2015 9:00 pm

    Thanks Maggie! Love you sweet girl!!


  3. Joanne

      on April 28, 2015 7:39 am

    It sounds like such a fantastic trip! My parents took me a lot when I was young and I remember the museum that made money-one of my faves!! Air and Space Museum was cool too, since my Dad was a WWII pilot and shared his love of flying! I love your kids’ comments! Great writing-all!!


  4. Marykate

      on April 30, 2015 4:12 pm

    So fun Joanne – one of these years we need to all go together! The twins are getting closer to that age where they would really enjoy it! XXOO


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