Every year we are selfish and enjoy taking a trip, just the two of us. No family. No children. No friends. Just us. We want this time to disconnect from everyday life and reconnect with each other. Our goal is to plan this trip in early October, since that’s when our anniversary is.
However, in 2019, our trip date was predetermined. Nicole wanted to attend a conference in Richmond Virginia, and we had done a big family vacations with Ryan’s side over the summer…. As much as we would have loved to take 3 vacations in one year, it wasn’t possible between the financial aspect and finding time to get away. So, our annual trip was butted up against Nicole’s conference dates…. first week of December!
When deciding on where to go, we realized Washington DC was only a few hours away from the conference. Normally, we try to pick a location neither of us has been, but this trip was already different, we were both okay visiting a city that wasn’t completely brand new to both of us. Nicole has been to Washington DC in grade school. While she remembered the trip and the places they visited, the feelings and experiences would be completely different as an adult. Someone who could understand and appreciate what she was looking at.
Our trip was only for 2 days because Ryan wanted to be back in town for his company’s annual holiday party. One thing we’ve learned, 2 days to experience even a decent portion of Washington DC is not nearly enough time! This is one city that has so many great things to do and perfect for someone who either enjoys beautiful things and/or history!
During our first day ins DC, we found the Capital Building and decided to find a random parking lot to leave the car so we could walk around. Please note… at this time, the traffic wasn’t too shabby, but it was also the middle of the day! We snuggled up (thankfully hoodies were enough since it wasn’t THAT cold), grabbed our cameras and started our adventure.
After taking a few trips together, a pattern has emerged…. We love buildings and architecture and Washington DC has plenty of both!
Being at the Capitol Building… meant we need to go on a tour! We were in the “old people” tour and our group was small enough we took the elevators instead of the stairs. Small wins rock! Leave it to Ryan to grab a unauthorized photo. Personally, it’s becoming a thing for him on our trips!
Nicole had taken a similar photos when she was in the 6th grade!
Did you know there was a tunnel that lead from the Capital Building to the Library of Congress? Yeah, we didn’t… and was we walked it (alone) we felt like at any moment we would be met by secret service agents telling us we shouldn’t be here. But we weren’t (not sure if that’s good or bad… it would have meant for a better story right?!)
To say the Library of Congress was breathtaking is an understatement. Seeing it in the movies and photos does not do it justice! The nice thing about the time of the year/day we went, for the most part, the building was empty. So much so, Ryan was able to lay on the floor to get a photo of the ceiling while Nicole was able to get a photo of him taking a photos… with no other person in frame!
Insert creepy kids on the stairs!
Special thanks to the other random tourist willing to grab a photo of us!
As we continued our adventure to the National Archives, our last stop for the day, we were easily distracted by all the squirrels, just hanging out in a small patch of green grass among all the stone of the city! As fluffy critters do, they distracted Nicole with their cuteness for a few!
How can you not love this little guy!!!! He was close enough to almost touch and if we had some peanuts, we night have been able to. Notes to self… carry peanuts on vacation so you can try to pet the squirrels.
After our brief distraction of squirrels, we were off to see the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives. Fun fact….in the movie National Treasure, their way of stealing the Declaration of Independence was flawed as you’re not allowed to take photos or video in the room, so Riley wouldn’t have been able to set off the heat sensor using a laser on the side of his camcorder.
As we stood there, in front of the document that began the start of our country, we were both speechless. To think the men who signed that committed the ultimate treason, just to give their families and friends better lives. How can that not make you speechless?!
At this point in the day, we were both tired with throbbing feet and a bit hungry. We were ready to go to our hotel, relax and grab some food…. But our car was a decent walk away. We decided not to take the trek, but catch a ride. While Ryan was going to order an Uber on his phone, Nicole hailed a cab who took us back to our parking lot! #lazy #butworthit!
Our hotel was on the outskirts of DC… and it was in the middle of rush hour. NEVER AGAIN WILL NICOLE DRIVE IN Washington DC. It was the scariest, most anxiety ridden thing she has ever done. Not only were cars just coming from everywhere, it was dark and rainy.
The hotel happened to be on a side street with no parking lot, and next to an embassy. Finding parking spot just to check was impossible and led us to circle the block a million and one times. Both sides of the street were lined with cars and big SUVs would come barreling down the road towards us without hesitation. For this Cincinnati driver, it was terrifying…. but alas, a parking spot opened up near the hotel. We made it without hitting a single thing! Bonus points for Nicole!
Nicole headed inside to check in (since she made the reservation). Fast forward about 10 minutes, she walks back to the car without hotel keys in hand. Why you may ask? Well, they couldn’t find our reservation even with the confirmation number. After our driving adventure, we were both DONE with city driving. We sat in the car in front of the hotel to find a new place to stay near the city, with one simple requirement…. A parking lot!
When we pulled up to our motel (yep we went motel route) in Arlington VA, it was as if we just entered a time warp! Hello Highlander Motel… it looked like a place you would hide someone from either the FBI or a Crime Boss. But it did have a parking lot (fairly empty one at that). We were pleasantly surprised when we walked into our room to discover it was recently remodeled and the room was nice! Finally, time to relax and find dinner!
The majority of the time when we were planning our trip, Ryan only had 1 request, to see the changing of the guards at Arlington National Cemetery. With our motel only a couple miles away, we headed there first thing in the morning on our second day. Through our travels, we have learned using tours and tour guides will give you the most out of your visits…. So, we opted for the hop on hop off trolley which allowed us to visit JFK’s grave as well.
Initially, we were going to only spend an hour or so at Arlington National Cemetery then head back into DC, but we lost track of time. As a result, we were unable to visit the any of the Smithsonian museums as we had planned because we had reservations in Baltimore at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery for a tour. Like we said, you need more than 2 days to even remotely be able to see a bulk of what Washington DC has to offer.
We traveled to Baltimore late afternoon and grabbed dinner at a local restaurant, Bonfire Outdoor Charcoal Grill. The best thing about traveling is finding amazing food you can’t get at home and the Bonfire Outdoor Charcoal Grill did not disappoint. The food was beyond amazing and we would recommend it to anyone headed to the area!
Stuffed to the gills, we choose to head over to the brewery a little early and spend some time just looking around. As our tour time came, we were in a small group with an amazing guide. His personality was perfect for the job and we enjoyed the time he chatted with us after the tour. We loved hearing some of his stories about breweries he’s visited while on vacation with his family.
Oh take us back to Ireland!!!!!!
Time for tasting! According to Ryan, the best part of the tour!
She at least took a taste test from each sample.
Someone is sad his beers are all gone.
To end our Washington DC adventure, we FINALLY found time to walk National Mall… even if it was at 10pm! Good thing it’s open 24 hours a day (well it is outside so that makes sense). If we’re going to be completely transparent, we only did half of the mall for multiple reasons… 1. We wanted to go see the White House (which was a total bust since they’re doing construction and you can’t see anything), 2. It was getting a bit cold (hello nighttime in December), 3. Our feet were starting to hurt and 4. We were a bit tired and had an early morning.
As we were walking the National Mall, specifically along the Vietnam Memorial, we both were once again speechless. This wall seemed to extend on for eternity. The names were so small and there were so many. There were tears that streamed down Nicole’s face… thinking of all these people who never returned home. Seeing this wall as a child did not resonate the same way as seeing it as an adult who understands what each name represents. A person whose life was ended abruptly.
It’s amazing what 2 days of just us time can do for our spirits. On our drive home, we discussed planning another trip back to Washington DC but with the boys! It would be a great adventure for us as a family.
We hope you loved re-living our adventures in Washington DC!
Nicole & Ryan