One of the best parts about our neighborhood is the eclectic mix of house styles. From ranches to colonial, Mediterranean, Cape Cod, we have it all. My friend Ashley lives a couple blocks down from me in the most charming historic Tudor that she has put her colorful stamp on. I have been itching to share it with you for a while now!

Once you see how playfully Ashley has breathed life into this almost 100 year old home, you might have the urge to jump into color as well. She has really taken some bold moves, which I so admire. What I love most about her home is how it truly reflects Ashley’s personal style and taste. She is as bright and colorful as home is!

You’ll want to pour yourself a cup of coffee and take some time to savor this home tour. Enjoy!

Step Inside: Ashley’s Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Who lives in this home and how did you come to live here? My husband, our 5 year old twins and me. We are expecting a baby girl in a month! We casually had our eyes set on this house for quite some time, and then negotiations with the seller took almost a year. It was a long process, but in the end, it was meant to be. We have lived here for about 2 years.

How did you know this house was the right choice for your family?  I had always dreamed of living in an old house, full of character. But as you know, old houses typically bring unforeseen issues and extra work. Fortunately for us, the previous owners completely restored this home, almost to the point that it felt new. And they did it right. Quite the find for a 1928 historic home!

Tell us about the process of renovating/updating your home once you moved in. What all did you do?  Paint every single wall…and really that’s it.  The previous colors weren’t my taste. My mom and I chalk painted the kitchen island and two bathroom vanities with Annie Sloan chalk paint. I also replaced most of the light fixtures, simply because the former didn’t go with my decor.

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

How would you describe your aesthetic/style?  Well this is a loaded question. I love color first and foremost. If I had to pinpoint a style, I would describe it as boho chic meets palm beach prep, mixed with my grandmother’s antiques, vintage thrift store finds,and then throw in traditional southern monograms (in every room, I can’t help it!) I love the look of modern mixed with vintage…like the acrylic accent stools in my formal living room paired with all the antiques.

What do you think your home says about you? It completely matches my style…it even matches my wardrobe! You will never catch me wearing black, just not my thing. My favorite stores are Lilly Pulitzer and Anthropologie.  Colorful stores…just like my house! Thankfully, I have a husband who lets me get away with it.

What are some of your favorite places to find inspiration for your home? I follow a lot of designers on Instagram and Pinterest…Addison’s Wonderland, Jonathan Adler, Paige Minear, Parker Kennedy, Serena and Lily, Caitlin Wilson Design… to name a few. My cousin is an interior designer out of state and she has the most fabulous second home in Cape Cod that is decorated to perfection with so much fun color. That’s really where my inspiration started…she made me realize that you can pull off color and still keep a finished grown-up look. She has helped me along the way with paint colors, fabric selection, etc. I always need a second opinion (or 5) before making a huge purchase. Even when I have the initial vision, I ask my friends who have similar taste to come over and weigh in. I just need reassurance.

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Which room in your home do you enjoy the most? The kitchen and family room. I love that we managed to find an open concept main living space in a 1928 historic home. And the attached playroom in line of sight is the icing on the cake!

What do you splurge on in your home? Where do you like to save? I splurged on 9×12 rugs and custom window treatments. It pains me to splurge, because I’m such a bargain hunter, but I had to do it. My interior designer cousin told me her biggest pet peeve is store bought curtains, so I listened to her. I saved with a few knock off chandeliers/light fixtures, some thrift store furniture finds and of course accessories and lamps. I love to find a copycat bargain and will hunt down a sale like nobody’s business. I’ve really had to restrain myself from buying things just because they are “on sale”. The key question I remind myself is “would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?” I do also think it’s important to balance the room with some expensive pieces, so then no one will notice the knock offs! Like wearing designer jeans with an H&M top. I also saved BIG on furniture by inheriting antiques from my late grandmother. I painted some of her pieces (not the valuable ones) to bring them back to life and make them more current…my formal dining room chairs for example. They used to be blonde wood with royal blue striped cushions and now they are painted gray and reupholstered with hot pink Chanel tweed fabric. I’m not afraid to put a little sweat equity into a project to save some money and make it my own!

You are so resourceful at finding good deals. Can you share some of your tips?  Well I love to shop and I have the patience to dig through discount stores and thrift stores in search of a bargain. I also follow a lot of designers on social media to get ideas, and then when I see something I like, I try to copy it on a budget.

When do you think it is important not to cut corners?  On furniture that will get a lot of use and abuse…like in the family room and dining room, bedroom dressers, kids furniture, etc. Good quality furniture will last much longer than look-a-like cheaper options. Confession: I broke this rule with my 2 pink linen settees in the formal living room (thinking they wouldn’t get much use), but now I’m always paranoid that a leg is going to break every time a man sits in one! They were a bargain find on Gilt.

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

You have a knack for repurposing pieces in your home. Can you share an example? Half of my house is repurposed painted furniture, so the list is lengthy! My favorite transformation is probably the green console table in my foyer. I painted it a lacquered kelly green, switched the hardware to brass and then lined the drawers inside and out with super fun contact paper. In its former life, it was a boring bedroom dresser that I found at a thrift store for $75 (with a white marble top, so I knew it had potential). Another good example: the acrylic piano bench and 2 acrylic stools in front of the fire place in my formal living room. I found them at Tuesday Morning on sale and just paid to have them reupholstered in matching greek key fabric, to better compliment my décor- giving it a custom modern look.

What are some of your favorite places to shop for your home? Homegoods, World Market, Land of Nod (for kids’ furniture), PB Kids/Teen (for kids bedding, valances & rugs), Anthropologie, Serena & Lily, TJMaxx, Tuesday Morning, and I love Etsy for artwork in the kids’ spaces.

Whose home or design aesthetic do you admire? Why? This designer out of GA who I have never met, she has a blog called Addison’s Wonderland. She also has a love affair with color, like me.

What is your advice to others who feel scared to experiment with color? I try to keep some consistent neutral colors (gray tones and creams) to ground the room, and then I make sure to incorporate some nicer pieces, so it doesn’t end up looking childish.

What are your “musts” around a family-friendly space? My big “must” when we were house hunting was a dedicated playroom space that was in close proximity to the main living area. Luckily, I found just that! I don’t mind the playroom being messy, just as long as the other areas of the house are picked up.

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

Step Inside: Ashley's Colorful & Gracious Historic Home

I do think there must be some energy-inducing power to the gorgeous color in Ashley’s home. To think that she has done this in only 2 years while working full-time is giving me a bit of a kick in the pants to get on some of my own projects. Her stamina is awe-inspiring. Not to mention the fact that she is due for their 3rd child any day now. Phew!

Thank you Ashley for allowing us to “step inside” your lovely jewel box of a home! Want to see more home tours like this? Check out the rest of the Step Inside series HERE.

Photography: Ale Cretul

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June Favorites: Hamilton Edition

June Favorites: Hamilton Edition

It’s been a while since I’ve done a monthly favorites post. When I was thinking through what I have been really into lately, there is one thing that stood out like a sore thumb – Hamilton. As in the record-breaking Tony-winning Broadway musical and cultural phenomenon Hamilton. I am obsessed unlike anything since my obsession with New Kids on the Block back in 1989. In fact, if you even bring up the topic, there is a chance you might see me go all Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch excited. And I have never even SEEN the show (yet)!!

For those of you not familiar with the show or have heard of it but don’t understand what all the hoopla is about, let me attempt to briefly explain. Be warned, the explanation of what it is doesn’t it sell it very well. This show is the story of Alexander Hamilton and the birth of the United States of America, told through the lens and language of America today. The music is infectious to say the least. The storyline captivating and moving on countless levels.

If you have heard of Hamilton, but doubt that you would like it, let me ask if you fit into any of these categories:

Fan of history?

Fan of theater?

Fan of rap or hip-hop?

Fan of music period?

Fan of politics?

Fan of incredible storytelling?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you should go ahead and take the day off to get start experiencing Hamilton for yourself. I’m serious. To help you in that endeavor, I’ve rounded up some of my Hamilton favorites for you. These are the links, videos and articles I have gone back to again and again just for fun.

Getting Started

June Favorites: Hamilton Edition

If you have never listened to the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Hamilton, this is where it is at and where you should begin. Unlike a movie soundtrack or other musicals, Hamilton is a sung-through musical. What that means is that you get the whole story just listening to the music. Most musicals have talking with songs in between. Not the case with Hamilton. You are following the story just by listening to the music.

The best way to experience what the hype is all about is to download the album on whatever device you can. If you just want to try out a few songs, maybe start with these:

These are some of the most infectious songs. The ones that got us hooked on listening. Pretty soon, you’ll start listening to the other songs, then get hooked into the story, and then you will be a goner. Like me.

You might have noticed the parental advisory warning on the album cover. There are definitely a few colorful words in some of the songs. And one adult situation. If you have kids, I would encourage you to listen to a bit and then decide for yourself what age you think the music is appropriate for. Our boys are 8 and (almost) 10, and we made the choice to let them listen to it because we feel they are way better off having listened than not. Both kids already know more about Revolutionary history, founding fathers and the birth of this nation than most adults. But you might need to make that judgment for yourself.

Favorite Documentary: PBS’ Hamilton’s America

June Favorites: Hamilton Edition

My first true understanding of what Hamilton was and the genius of its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, was by watching Hamilton’s America on PBS last fall. Thank goodness that my mom has cable (we don’t) and recorded it for us to watch. The documentary is almost as brilliant as the story. You get to follow along with Miranda in the years leading up to the play as he is writing these brilliant songs and creating this show. Weaved into the documentary are interviews with past presidents and current historians telling the biographical story of Alexander Hamilton. Having very little knowledge of Hamilton when I saw this, I still loved it.

We recently signed up for a monthly digital membership to PBS for the sole purpose of watching this documentary – again. If you ever see this documentary pop up on your TV guide, do not miss watching it.

Favorite Book – Hamilton: The Revolution

June Favorite: Hamilton Edition

Soon after you are listening to the music, you will want to get your hands on this gorgeous book. Not to be confused with the Ron Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton that inspired the musical, this book is something completely different. Hamilton: The Revolution is co-written Hamilton creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The book contains a goldmine of behind -the-scenes stories of how this cultural phenomenon was created. But…the pièce de résistance? The lyrics to all 46 Hamilton soundtrack songs with footnotes from Miranda explaining all the different lines and how they reference particular historical situations or rap classics. Fascinating!

June Favorites: Hamilton Edition

I mentioned it earlier, but I have spent an embarrassing amount of time over the past two months watching anything related to Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Among the hundred or so clips I have watched, there are a few the boys and I keep going back to.

Favorite YouTube Videos – 2009 Performance at the White House and”One Last Time” at the White House

The first is the 2009 performance by Lin-Manuel Miranda at the White House. You see, Miranda had just recently finished creating and starring in his first Broadway show, “In the Heights.” So, the newly inaugurated president had invited the musical phenom to come perform something from “In the Heights” at a poetry jam they were hosting. When the organizers of the event asked Miranda if he had anything on the American experience, he performed a little rap he had been working on for a concept album on the life of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. You can tell the audience is nervously unsure of what they are listening to at the beginning, but by the end of his performance, they are all on their feet. 9 years later, this “idea” had become what will surely be the most popular Broadway musical of all time.

The second video I have to share we have watched at least a dozen times. In 2016, the Obamas invited the entire cast and musicians of Hamilton for a day of workshops with young students and performances. While there are a bunch of clips from this day we love, I had to show you Chris Jackson (George Washington) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton) performing “One Last Time”. This particular song is one of my favorites, as the beloved George Washington asks Alexander Hamilton to write his resignation letter telling the American people he is stepping down from the presidency. The song is moving song by itself, but you can tell the emotion is heightened significantly by the setting. The last part they sing is the actual words from George Washington’s letter.

Favorite apparel item: Young Scrappy and Hungry T-Shirt by Stately Type

June Favorites: Hamilton Edition

Once you are fully ensconced in the world that is Hamilton, you will be ready for something to throw on to show your colonial pride. That’s where this fun t-shirt from Stately Type would be perfect. “Young scrappy and hungry” refers to this lyric in “My Shot”:

“Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I’m not throwing away my shot!”

It’s such a great line that represents the grit and determination it took for an immigrant like Hamilton to make it to the ranks he did in this country. Just like the grit and determination it took for those 13 colonies to actually overthrow Great Britain.

The best part of falling in love with this incredible work of art has been the joy it has brought us. We are constantly singing together, discussing these characters and wondering “what if” together. Our visit to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia in May was that much more meaningful because we knew the significance of what we were seeing.

Have you heard all the Hamilton buzz or any of the music? Do you love it too? Let me know so we can chat it up!

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A front door is such an important element of your home’s exterior. It is one of the first things people look at when they see a house. It says a lot about the architecture and people who live in the house. I love a good front door!

We are just a few years away from having to replace our front door; it’s not in the best shape. Knowing a new front door is in our future, I have been on the lookout for contenders over the past year. As we drive through neighborhoods, I am observing door types, styles and colors trying to find one that would fit our needs. There are so many good options out there, but so far I can’t seem to nail down which one is the right one for us.

My ideal front door would:

  • Reflect a modern cottage style. As I outlined on THIS post a while back, I would like to add some modern cottage exterior elements to the house in the next few years. A front door is the perfect place to infuse a little of this modern cottage feel.
  • Let light in. I would kill for more natural light in our house. Adding glass to the front door would be the best way to bring more light into our living space. It would even allow us to have a living plant in the entry, since now there is no way anything could survive longer than a few days there. We do have a window above the doors, which is better than nothing, but adding sidelights or glass on the doors would help a bunch.
  • Bring in a natural element. I would love to have a natural/raw wood door. The problem is we live in Florida, where the humidity is at 100% for a majority of the year and I am thinking a wood door is not going to work. I need to see if there is some workaround there.

I wish it was as easy as just picking a nice-looking door and going with it. It’s not 🙁

Front door challenges:

  • Double door. Our front door is a double door. A double door is not that functional, since you are only ever using one of the doors. The other one pretty much stays shut. Hanging stuff on the front door is always weird because you have to hang two of whatever it is you are hanging. So the question is do we go to a single door with sidelights? Or stick with double doors? I don’t know the answer to that yet.
  • Privacy. If it wasn’t for this sticking point, I probably already would have made the front door decision. Equal to my desire for bringing in more natural light, I need my door to provide privacy. If there is a window on the door or sidelights, anyone could see in pretty much the whole house. And I am a big scaredy cat. Of course I am thinking about all kinds of window coverings and that is a definite possibility BUT…it changes the look, you know?

Oh well. Until I decide what we’ll do, here are some of the front doors that have been inspiring me lately.

The other very plausible option is to stick with a front door with no windows (wah!), and keep them solid. If that is the case, we could always look for an updated classic design in a beautiful finish.

Solid Front Doors

Front Door Inspiration: The Outside & In

Source unknown

You could always add some special details to personalize the doors and make them lean a little more cottage modern.

Sigh. Aren’t they gorgeous? Who knows how long it will take us to decide what do about the light versus privacy debate, but in the meantime, I will keep looking for inspiration. And don’t mind me if you see me stalking your door.

For even more front doors, check out my Front Doors Pinterest board.

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Exploring American History in Philadelphia - The Outside & In

As I mentioned in the post outlining our itinerary in Washington D.C., part of the vacation involved taking the train to Philadelphia. Since the boys had a) never been on a train before or b) ever been to Philadelphia, we decided to include it as part of our American History trip. Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train makes exploring the cities in the Northeast so easy. The train ride from D.C. to Philadelphia was just two hours and seamless! What a difference from air travel.

Knowing we only had 2 nights in Philadelphia, we really focused in on seeing what we could in the “Old City”, which has all the historic sites in a very small area. Clearly, Philadelphia has a lot more to offer as a bustling and thriving city. But we knew we couldn’t see all of the city, so we wanted to make the most of the time we had.

Exploring American History in Philadelphia - The Outside & In

Taking the train at Union Station in D.C.

Along with New York and Boston, Philadelphia is one of the key places to explore the United States’ early history. Philadelphia was the meeting place for the first and second Continental Congress. The place where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin’s hometown. The location of the first (two) presidents’ residence before the White House was finished. For a family immersed in Revolutionary History, stopping here felt like diving into a treasure trove of history.

Exploring American History in Philadelphia - The Outside & In

Independence Hall

Where We Stayed:

One of the best (unwitting) moves we made was our hotel. We stayed at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco which basically was catty-cornered from Independence Hall. The view from our hotel room window was the bell tower of Independence Hall which was so cool. We were definitely in the middle of everything we wanted to see. There were historic buildings surrounding the hotel in every direction within a 2 block radius. I would like to say that I chose the hotel after much planning and researching, but it was really just luck. We knew we wanted to stay at a Kimpton property, and just picked this one. I would definitely recommend anyone interested in visiting the historic sites of Philadelphia to stay here.

Exploring American History in Philadelphia - The Outside & In

Dark picture in the room but … can you see Independence Hall out the window?

Now on to the highlights of what we did. I will leave out the parts when we hung out at the Rittenhouse Barnes & Noble and the boys went to the Apple Store while I shopped, because, that’s pretty much standard on all our vacations.

The Constitutional Walking Tour

Since we only had 2 nights and one full day in Philadelphia, we chose to book a Constitutional Walking Tour versus visiting all dozen or so historic sites separately. This 75-minute guided walking tour stopped at a dozen or so historic sites in Old City. Places like the house where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and the site of the first president’s residence (before the White House was completed). If you have more time, then you could visit each individual site and get a full tour of each. But for a quick highlights tour, the Constitutional Walking Tour was perfect.

Our particular tour only had one other person, which made it very personalized and interesting. I love being in a small group! We stopped at each site for about 5 minutes to learn about the location and the historical context around it. The boys (ages 8 and 9) did really great at being engaged throughout. I don’t think it hurts that I offered them $5 for the gift store if they could answer my post-tour quiz 🙂 Anything for a souvenir.

Exploring American History in Philadelphia - The Outside & In

Museum of the American Revolution

Hands down, this Museum of the American Revolution was our favorite from our visit to Philadelphia, and maybe one of the top places we visited on our whole trip. The museum had just recently opened a few weeks prior to our arrival. We passed it during the Constitutional Walking tour and the guide highly recommended it, so we decided to give it a try. I’m so glad we did.

The Museum of the American Revolution is the perfect size. Not too big or overwhelming, so you can actually experience the museum in one visit. Being that it is brand new, every exhibit was not only informative, but state-of-the-art. The museum gift shop was beautiful and very well edited with their selection of interesting books, toys and souvenirs. What can I say? The boys are not the only ones who love a good museum gift shop 🙂

The highlight of the museum comes at the very end in a theater where we watched a film about George Washington during the war. For seven years, his residence was a tent where he planned attacks, wrote letters to congress, and basically did everything. The movie brings to light how difficult life on the battlefield was for all of them. The tent really represented Washington’s camaraderie with his troops since he never left their side. As the movie winds down and the screen darkens, George Washington’s actual tent is up-lit from behind. They have his actual Revolutionary War tent set up behind the moviescreen. Can you say goosebumps?

Exploring American History in Philadelphia - The Outside & In

Super happy with the museum

Exploring American History in Philadelphia - The Outside & In

Museum of the American Revolution – amazing!

Spruce Street Harbour Park

A couple different people had mentioned this waterfront park as a good place to kick back & relax. I would definitely recommend it as a pitstop if you go to Philadelphia as well. One unique feature to this park is the dozens of rope hammocks hanging from the trees. They are bright, colorful and filled with people lounging all around. The park also has plenty of food and drink vendors, plus outdoor games to keep everyone entertained. While we left before it got dark, you can see there are colorful lights hanging from the trees that would look really cool at night.

Exploring American History in Philadelphia - The Outside & In

Spruce Street Harbor Park

Reading Terminal Market

Pretty much anything you read about Philadelphia recommends eating a cheesesteak and going to Reading Terminal Market. Even the girl at the Philly Madewell store told me we had to go.

I imagined Reading Terminal Market to be like Chelsea Market in New York, the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco or Krog Street Market in Atlanta. All of which I love. And it was…kind of. A big space jam-packed with a plethora of food vendors.

I know I will be in the minority when saying this, but I didn’t really love it. There were a lot of pastries, donuts, egg dishes (we were there for breakfast), but none of it seemed special in any way. I am sure they tasted good (like all things fried and sugar filled do), but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. So take that opinion for what it is worth. There’s a good chance you would love it if you went. I guess it depends on what types of food you like.

Crispy brussels sprouts with mango and peanut sauce

Bar Bombóm

I will share a place that was right up our alley that all four of us really enjoyed, and that is Bar Bombóm. Part corner bar, part restaurant, this place had a great little atmosphere.

Bar Bombóm takes Latin favorites and transforms them using all plant-based, organic ingredients. We ordered quite a few different things and we all left happy. Brian ordered the Buffalo Cauliflower tacos and gave them two thumbs up. That is saying a lot from someone who is obsessed with pork tacos. I ordered the crispy brussels sprouts with the peanut sauce in the picture above. Yum!

Exploring American History in Philadelphia - The Outside & In

Good ol’ Ben Franklin.

After a quick 48-hours, our visit to Philadelphia was over and it was time to say take the train back to Washington D.C. Despite losing some days from our time in D.C., we really enjoyed exploring Philly for the first time. Imagining Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, George Washington and John Adams walking the same streets we were walking was surreal.

If you have never been to Philadelphia, I highly encourage you to visit. Especially if you have any interest in the founding fathers or the early days of the United States. Next time we visit we will surely explore other parts of Philadelphia.

Have you been to Old City in Philadelphia? What did you enjoy the most?

Click HERE To read more about our time in D.C.

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6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

We recently got back from our family’s summer vacation: a week in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. Our boys are 8 and 9 years old, so we are finally at the age where they can start appreciating a visit like this. If you have considered taking your school-age kids to visit D.C., I would definitely encourage you to make it happen.

There is so much to do in Washington D.C. Although we spent 6 days in D.C. and 2 in Philadelphia, we could have easily spent the whole time in D.C. – and then some.

I hope this rundown of what we saw and did will help you with your plans.

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

How We Chose Washington D.C.

This trip originally started several months ago as an idea to do an “American history” vacation which would include taking a train between Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. I loved the idea of walking the footsteps of our nation’s creation with each stop. However, once we started sketching out the timeline of how long this trip was going to take, reality set in. It was adding up to about 3 weeks and a very large budget. So, we decided to narrow it down to just Washington D.C. & Philadelphia (for now). We will have to save the New York and Boston parts of the trip for  the near future.

Here’s how our 7 nights broke down: Our first 3 nights were in Washington D.C. Then we took an Amtrak train to Philadelphia for 2 nights. I will do a separate post on Philadelphia soon. Our final 2 nights were back in D.C. So we spent a good 6 solid days in Washington D.C. We all left grateful for the experience, but craving to come back again soon.

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

How We Prepared:

One of the things I feel strongly about before taking our kids to a popular destinations is to make sure they have a context for what they will be experiencing & seeing. For us, we hoped this trip to be a living American history experience in addition to some fun downtime as a family.

I wanted the kids to go into our visit to Washington D.C. (and Philadelphia) with a good primer in American history. In the months leading up to our visit, I did a bunch of searches to get tips on books we could read and movies we could watch that in some way tied in with historic America. Before you envision these kids sitting in a chair listening to a lecture, you can go ahead and erase that from your mind. I’m talking things like watching Night at the Museum 2 and listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. I will do a separate post on what we found and liked in case you are interested.

I also kept a handy dandy “Let’s Go To DC” board on Pinterest with any interesting tidbits of information I came across on the web. Most articles about DC seemed to cover a lot of the same sights and information. I think it’s because there is so much to do on the beaten path, that unless you live there or plan on visiting for at least a month, you will unlikely be getting off of it.

What We Did (+ Tips):

Ford’s Theatre – Ford’s Theatre lives in infamy as the place our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was shot. The theatre is run by the National Park Service and does not charge and admission fee, but you do need to reserve a timeslot to go in. Once you are seated in the theatre, the Ranger gives a quick talk about the events of that evening. After that, you can walk across the street and visit the house where Lincoln died the next morning. Being so used to the “untouchability” of our current presidents, it is so hard to fathom a time when president’s just showed up to a theatre of 1,000+ people with just one random bodyguard.

Tip: There are tons of great dining options in this area. Plan to eat at one of the great restuarants in the area before or after your Ford’s Theatre visit.

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

Inside Ford’s Theater

Lincoln’s Assassination Tour – Upon my sister’s recommendation, we booked this free (gratuity-only) walking tour the same evening we visited Ford’s Theatre. I would highly recommend it to you as well. On the tour, we followed the footsteps of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, on the day of he killed the president. Over the 75 minute walk, our tour guide painted a vivid picture of the events of that fateful day.

Tip: Sign up for the tour on the same day as your visit to Ford’s theatre to get the full “Lincoln” experience.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum – Despite there being 19 different Smithsonian Galleries, we knew we would have to select just a couple to visit on this trip and leave the rest for future visits. The Air and Space Museum was top on our list. It was our first stop on our first full day. We got there right before it opened and there was a big ol’ line. However, once they opened the doors, we got in quickly. Brian and I split up to follow each boy as they wandered through whatever interested them. We joined forces an hour later to watch a movie at the planeturium. We actually came back to Air and Space Museum again on our last day to catch another planetarium movie.

Tip: The IMAX and planetarium movies are really good and serve as a relaxing for weary kids (and their parents).

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

Smithsonian National Museum of American History – Being that we were in such an American history kick, the National Museum of American History was our second museum stop of the first day in Washington D.C. We spent a majority of time in the Presidents and First Ladies exhibits. We were all curious about the presidential china which was all on display. Each first lady is responsible for picking a pattern for the the term of her husband’s presidency. What do you think will happen when there is a woman as president? Do you think the First Gentleman will be picking the new china pattern?? That will be interesting to see.

Tip: Keep an eye out for the TV screens showing short films from the History Channel throughout the exhibits. The boys really seemed to “get” what they were looking at after watching the videos.

Monuments Night Bike Tour – Visiting the monuments around the National Mall is pretty much a “must” when visiting DC. Problem is, the monuments are quite a bit of a trek from each other. So we knew a bike tour would be a perfect way to see them in one fell swoop. A night bike tour? Even better! The boys appreciated getting to ride bikes to each monument and learning a little about each one. And we appreciated not listening to any whining about walking to each one 🙂 Win-win.

Tip: Do this instead of walking to each monument. No tired legs and lots of great info from the tour guides.

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

Cruise to Mount Vernon – Our visit to Mount Vernon is definitely a highlight from the trip. We took the 1.5 hour ride on the Spirit Cruise down the Potomac River. The boat arrived at the dock in Mount Vernon and we walked up from the opposite side of the property from all the tour buses. Instead of walking the grounds and going to see the house, we headed to the museum first. If you visit Mount Vernon, please do not miss this museum. Between this one and the American Revolution Museum we visited in Philly, they were the pinnacle of our museum experiences on this trip.

The organizers at Mount Vernon have done an exquisite job of bringing George Washington to life for us at the museum. If you go, stop and watch the films they show. They made all the difference for us in humanizing this great man. We actually had to rush through and leave the museum with about an hour left on our visit because we hadn’t even been to the house or explored the property. I wish we could have stayed longer.

On a different note, I am undecided on whether I would do the cruise again. It’s not that it was unpleasant. It’s just that the trip to Mount Vernon took 1.5 hours each way. Versus a 20 minute drive from DC. And when I think back on why we loved our visit to Mount Vernon, it was the museum and property we loved. Not necessarily the boat ride. I guess you would just need to weigh the time you had to spend on getting there.

Tip: Do not miss the museum! Apparently most people skip this in exchange for walking around the property. I am now a George Washington super-fan thanks to this museum (and the one in Philadelphia).

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

George Washington’s house

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

Museum at Mount Vernon

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

Gardens in Mount Vernon

Smithsonian’s National Zoo – If you are visiting Washington D.C. with kids, I would highly recommend breaking up the museums and monuments with a visit to the National Zoo. The wide open paths for walking and the large variety of animals makes it a perfect place for your children to run around and explore. We arrived shortly after it opened and had the whole place practically to ourselves. Until the buses of school kids and visitors arrived around 10am. Then it got a bit more hectic.

Tip: Go to the zoo as soon as it opens (8am) and you will have the whole place to yourselves for a few hours.

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

Seals at the National Zoo

Tour of the Capitol – We arranged the tour of the Capitol a couple months before we went. One of the Senate office interns took us around for a private tour. She had enough juicy gossip and stories to keep us captivated the whole time. We loved seeing the spot where George Washington was supposed to be buried (before they saw his will which insisted on Mount Vernon). The boys will never forget that little detail in the John Trumbull painting in the rotunda which shows Thomas Jefferson stepping on John Adams’ foot. On the day we were there, the Capitol was packed with people there for tours and there were no tour options for people walking up that day. So plan ahead! It’s definitely worth it.

Tip: Make sure to contact your state representative’s office well in advance of your visit to secure a private tour.

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

Heading to tour the Capitol

National Archives – We almost didnt make it to the National Archives. You can reserve a timeslot to get in on their website, but we were too late for that by the time we looked into it. All the timeslots were taken. When we attempted a visit on the first leg of the trip, the line wrapped around the block. Luckily, when we came back to DC, we walked by and the line was not too bad so we jumped in. We headed straight for the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. I’m pretty sure having just come from Philadelphia where these documents were written plus listening to the backstory behind them made all the difference. It was truly inspiring. These barely-legible, 240-year old pieces of paper created a nation.

Tip: Go online way in advance to reserve your visiting time so you do not have to wait!

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

The National Archives building

Jazz at National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden – The National Archives building happens to be right across the street from the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Since it happened to be Friday and almost 5pm, we headed right over to check out the Jazz concert. A friend of mine recommended this and even though we didn’t have it scheduled as a hard itinerary item, we stumbled across it on just the right day at just the right time. This could not have been a more enjoyable experience. People gather all around the fountain and the surrounding grass to listen to the live jazz band. All while soaking in the sunshine and the refreshments available. We took off our shoes, and just relaxed for about 2 hours. If you can make it, I would highly recommend you try to catch this.

Tip: Come around 4:30pm to find the perfect spot to settle down. Whether it be a shady patch of grass or a primo fountain spot.

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

Arlington National Cemetery – We visited Arlington on our last day. With only a few hours left before we needed to catch our flight, we were debating between the Newseum (which everyone says is INCREDIBLE) and Arlington National Cemetery. It was a tough decision, but we ended up choosing Arlington. We knew that the boys would never have experienced anything like this and that the visit would help them see the magnitude of the sacrifice earlier generations have paid for our way of life.

The night before, we went on the website and realized that they open at 8am. We decided to get there are early as possible. This is our M.O. if you haven’t noticed yet 🙂  I am so glad that we did. Similar to the National Zoo, the throngs of people seemed to arrive around 10am.  We stayed about an hour and half. Walking through the shady paths that led to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we were surrounded by the iconic white headstones that seemed to go on infinitely. We stayed a while to watch the changing of the guard (which happens every half hour). After stopping by John F Kennedy’s gravesite, we started walking back towards the exit. That is when we realized how many tour buses had arrived. It was a good time to be finishing up.

Tip: Get there as soon as it opens to benefit from the peace and tranquility of the property.

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

White House Tour – One other reservation we made through our Congressman was a visit to the White House. They notify you via email about a week before the date you requested if you got in or not. We were happy that we did. This description will be the shortest of all our site visits, because I didn’t get in 🙁 Apparently, when they warned not to bring any bags with you, they were serious. When the security guard saw that I had a (teeny tiny) purse, my expectations of going in were dashed. Brian went in with the boys and we met up about 20 minutes later. When I asked them what they thought, everyone seemed a little “meh” about it. I think it is because they were seeing rooms that were mainly there for tour purposes and not rooms that actually get used. Or maybe that’s just what they told me to make me feel better.

Tip: Do NOT bring any bags or purses to your scheduled visit or you will not get in.

Top 3 Washington DC Highlights:

It is very difficult to narrow down our favorites, but I will try for the sake of helping you decide if your time is limited. These are the first three places I would tell you to not miss if you are visiting Washington DC

  1. Monuments Nighttime Bike Tour
  2. Mount Vernon
  3. Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour

Where We Ate:

While DC certainly has a thriving food scene, I can’t really say we were able to take advantage of all the great restaurants as much as I would have liked to. With so much to see, we prioritized visiting the sights over the restaurants. With that being said, the following were the places we dined during our visit. Several of them are fast casual chains that are ubiquitous in the Northeast, but for us are exciting. I will put an asterisk next to our favorite 3.

Founding Farmers

Sweetgreen

Le Pain Quotidien 

Slipstream*

Oyamel* 

Beefsteak*

Ted’s Bulletin

Shake Shack

Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian

 

Where We Stayed:

We booked two different Kimpton hotel properties for our stay. With as much walking and sightseeing as we were doing, staying in a comfortable & welcoming hotel was key.  We definitely liked one better than the other, so I will give you the scoop.

For the first leg of the trip we stayed at the Kimpton Mason and Rook hotel. Mason and Rook is in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington D/C. We loved the location of the hotel. There was a Whole Foods one street over, which was super convenient for picking up a cup of tea and stocking up up on healthy food. The Mason and Rook was only a 10-minute Uber ride from the National Mall which was very convenient. Our room was comfortable. While I am sure there are dozens of great hotel options when visiting D.C., I would definitely return to Mason and Rook.

On our second leg of the trip we stayed at the Kimpton Glover Park Hotel. While it was still a clean and stylish property (and had the most comfortable beds ever), we were not crazy about the location. It was by the Naval Observatory and the National Zoo, which meant the Uber ride to the National Mall area was more like 20 minutes.

6 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids - The Outside & In

Mason & Rook Hotel in Logan Circle

So there you have it. Our itinerary and thoughts on Washington D.C. with kids. If you have been thinking about visiting our nation’s capital anytime soon, I would definitely go for it. Make sure your kids are up for walking – a lot. And try to prep them a bit before going (without them noticing, of course). Everyone will enjoy it so much more.

Have you been to Washington D.C. recently? What were your favorite sites?

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