Three days in Washington DC with the high school boys

Westport ABC boys at the Capitol
Westport ABC boys at the Capitol

WASHINGTON, DC (day one of three) — Five museums in two days plus the U.S. Capitol and a dozen monuments and memorials. That must be a record.  But we didn’t even scratch the surface in Washington DC.

I was chaperoning six inner city high school boys who attend our suburban school under the auspices of A Better Chance, a national organization that identifies  kids with academic potential in middle school and sends them to communities like ours (Westport, CT) to live and attend high school.  Several of the boys had visited Washington, DC on middle school trip

My challenge: To make a visit to the nation’s capitol as much fun as it would be educational

We opted to travel on Bolt Bus from New York—far cheaper than the train or flying and less stressful and more comfortable than driving. The boys were happy because there was free Wi-Fi and they weren’t crammed in a back seat.  Seats were comfortable.  I was happy because I didn’t have to battle Friday night traffic on a holiday weekend.

I booked us into the Capitol Hill Hotel because the rooms had two beds as well as a fold out couch (high school boys, I’ve learned, don’t like to share beds), there were mini-kitchens  and free breakfast—terrific when you are trying to feed growing boys on a budget. 

I loved the location too—just a short walk to the Capitol, which was our first stop. Certainly it was impressive to stand in the Rotunda, look at the famous paintings and status. But because it was a weekend we couldn’t even peek into the house or senate chambers. (When the House of Representatives is not in session, visitors with passes may visit the House gallery from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Senate and House galleries are open to visitors whenever either legislative body is in session, however the galleries are not included as part of the U.S. Capitol tour. Passes are required to enter either gallery at any time that you can get from s from the offices of your Senators or Representative.  

We adjourned to Eastern Market for lunch—DC’s oldest continually operated public market for more than 136 years!   It is a place to buy fresh fish and organic chicken, vegetables and flowers from local farms and peruse arts from local artisans

We opted for sandwiches, smoothies and empanadas—fueling up for our afternoon with Bike and Roll Washington DC.

Rather than walk the famous National Mall to see the presidential monuments and war memorials, we opted to bike and I was so so glad we did… it turned out to be the highlight of the weekend

ABC Boys get ready for bike ride on the National Mall
ABC Boys get ready for bike ride on the National Mall

Sure we had to dodge tourists and strollers but we saw a lot more and had a lot more fun with our engaging guide Young Cho than we would have on our own

“You really get to see a lot,” offered nine year old Georgia Kulp, visiting from Richmond with her family ad along with her dad on a tandem bike

“More fun than walking,” agreed Willy Mondress, 8, here with his dad from Washington State

Our boys certainly agreed—and each had different favorite memorial. The two freshman liked the 555 feet-plus Washington Monument, still closed for repairs following the 2011 earthquake.  One of the juniors liked the World War II Memorial, especially the famous “Kilroy was here” graffiti familiar to every veteran of the Second World Wa

The fifty-six granite columns, split between two half-circles framing the rebuilt Rainbow Pool symbolize the unprecedented wartime unity among the forty-eight states, seven federal territories, and the District of Columbia while two 43-foot tall pavilions proclaim American victory on the Atlantic and Pacific front

I stood there thinking of my late dad and father-in-law, both World War II veterans who were younger than my son is now when they went to wa

One of the chaperones liked the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial which includes statues of beleaguered men on a bread line during  the Great Depression, and a rare statue of the president in his wheel chair as well as one of his dog Fala.

The 11-year old niece of another chaperone loved the 21-foot high bronze Einstein Memorial  because you could climb up on Einstein’s lap.  (Legend has it if you rub Einstein’s nose, some of this intelligence would rub off on you!) Everyone, of course, had to pose for a picture rubbing Einstein’s nos

I loved the fun facts and legends our guide imparted (Was Lincoln really “signing” liberty—the sculptor, our guide noted, had a deaf son and knew sign language.  Was Jefferson really looking over the shoulder of future presidents from his memoria

Was the Army nurse in the statue commemorating women’s service during the Vietnam War looking up at a helicopter bringing the wounded or up to the heavens?

I also didn’t know that the Washington Monument is the tallest free standing masonry structure in the world or that the Jefferson Memorial is a popular spot for wedding photos (there were two couples there the Saturday afternoon we visite

We didn’t  know that the faces etched in the stone at the Korean War Veterans  Memorial are real faces of those who fought in that horrible war eithe

Marine One flew overhead. Was it President Obama or a decoy chopper? It was exciting all the sam

It was the rare afternoon where the kids—and the grownups—learned a little history, spent some time outdoors and got some exercise.  Just as important, everyone was in still in good spirits at the end of the tou

We adjourned to Carmine’s—the popular NYC family-style Italian eatery has an equally popular Washington DC location.   We chowed down on fried calamari and zucchini, pasta and meatballs, ravioli chicken masala and more.  Yum! And plenty of food for our growing boy

We were joined by one of one of our Westport ABC House graduates, a sophomore at George Washington University, and the mom of one of our current freshmen who is from DC, along with my daughter’s best friend from college and her boyfriend.

It’s easy to forget in this city of memorials and monuments; I told the boys, there are a lot of people who live, work and go to school.

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