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Washington DC in Less Than 72 Hours

Sometimes we have limited time and other times we just have limited funds. While both of these reasons may prevent us from taking a vacation, they don’t have to. I’m a busy mom of six school-age children, so my time is limited (as are my funds). However, running is my passion, my therapy, so I make the time to run races – usually once a month. One of my “bucket list” races was The Marine Corps Marathon that’s held in Washington DC. I entered the lottery and was fortunate enough to be selected to run this year’s race. You can read all about that experience here. But running that race gave me the opportunity to make a short trip to DC. I took a red-eye out Thursday night to arrive Friday morning then flew back home Monday. I had about 72 hours in the city – several of those hours devoted to the race and surrounding events – but I simply had to take advantage of my kid-free trip to DC and see some sights.

Getting Around

The Metro! As OC Moms, we don’t use public transit on a regular basis but this is the best way to get from your hotel to The National Mall (the area where most of the memorials, museums, and other sights are located). I suggest getting a Smartrip card. It costs $10, gives you $8 in Metro fares, and is refillable. This is the best deal because Smartrip fares are $1 less per trip when compared to paper tickets – so with one round trip you will have broken even with the $2 fee for the card and all your additional trips are cheaper.

Uber! If your hotel doesn’t have a shuttle from the airport or if you want to visit a location that isn’t Metro-close, Uber is the way to go. Fares are significantly less than taxis and even less than airport shuttle services.

Walking! Once you’re at The Mall your own two feet will get you to all the memorials, museums, and sights you’ll have time to cram into your busy day. There are Segway rentals and bicycle rentals available, but we were on a budget and walking is great both pre- and post-run.

What to See/Where to Go

Since we were limited on time, we had to pick and choose with what sights we wanted to see. Both me and my friend felt that the most important museum for us to visit would be The Holocaust Memorial Museum. It’s located a short walk south of the Washington Monument on 14th Street. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this museum for young children, it is a definite “must see” for teens and adults. Come prepared to be immersed in the reality of the Holocaust that spread from Germany through much of Europe prior to and during World War II. Admission is free and first come/first served. During March-August timed passes are available to prevent over crowding and you can reserve these tickets online ahead of time. When you arrive you’ll receive an identification card for an actual person who lived in Europe during the Holocaust and then travel through four floors of exhibits that walk you through this horrific time in our world’s history. There are photos, videos, artifacts, and detailed personal stories. As described on the museum’s website “the Museum provides a powerful lesson in the fragility of freedom, the myth of progress, and the need for vigilance in preserving democratic values.” It’s a powerful, somber, and immersive experience. We finished our tour of the museum at the Hall of Remembrance – a peaceful place to sit and remember the people whose lives were lost or forever changed because of the Holocaust.





There are a multitude of museums in the National Mall area – since we were there for the marathon our time for sightseeing was somewhat limited so we didn’t get to visit others, but don’t let that stop you. The museums include: The National Gallery of Art, U.S. Botanic Gardens, National Museum of the American Indian, National Air & Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution Information Center in the Castle, National Museum of Asian Art, National Museum of African Art, and National Museum of American History. Pick one or two that interest you the most and spend a few hours exploring. All of these museums offer free admission so they are definitely budget friendly.

Memorials and Monuments on the National Mall – you can’t visit DC and not visit the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. If you can, I’d suggest visiting during the day and at night. The Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials are beautiful lit up in the evening, but the FDR & MLK Memorials are better appreciated during the day. Beneath the Lincoln Memorial is a small exhibit that provides historical and biographical information about Lincoln.







The various War Memorials were also on our list. We visited the Marine Corps War Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and the Vietnam War Memorial. Both the WWI and Vietnam memorials are located on The Mall, but the Marine Corps War Memorial is a little further away in Rosslyn.

Arlington National Cemetary is also a “must see” – open 365 days a year, you’ll easily fit this stop into your itinerary. They have  tours and several ceremonies and memorial services during the year, including national observances for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. We chose to do a self-guided walk to see a few notable graves. Our first stop was  the Tomb of the Unknown where we arrived in time to witness the changing of the guards ceremony, which takes place every hour on the hour. We then visited the grave for President John F Kennedy and his family. There are several notable graves and places of interest within the cemetary that you can visit, or if you take the tour the majority of these places will be included.


And of course, you can’t visit DC without seeing the White House.


Have you made a “quick trip” to the DC area? What are some of the “must see” sights on your DC list?

Julie is an OC Supermom to six beautiful children in Orange County. She is an editor with Astraea Press, active in the community and enjoys running in her free time.
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