U.S. Capitol Building

#TakeTheTrain To Washington D.C. (Or Wherever You Want To Go)

Amtrak and Late Enough teamed up to talk about the awesomeness of train travel.

On Sunday, we took the train up to Washington D.C. for the day.

Staples Mill Road Station
Staple Mill Road Station is definitely not as fancy as Union Station, but we love it.
Inside the train station
Family! Trains! Let’s go!
Train is here!
The train arrived backlight, but I did my best.
Walking to the train
Walking to the train with our Amtrak National Train Day goody bags.
Kid Train Conductor
Nobody worry – our conductor has arrived.

I’m a bit obsessed with trains to the point where I chose my first apartment in Charlottesville in 2002 based on seeing the train tracks from my window. In retrospect, I would’ve factored in my landlord not caring if my bathroom had heat, but I still found the whistle and chug of the trains soothing while I putz around my place.

The last time we went to D.C. on the train as a family was in 2009 to meet up with friends at the zoo.

kids on train 2009
E is 3 years old, and N is only 6 months here.

And yes, I had planned to take a matching photo, but my children refuse to be dolls.

Kids looking out the window
I can’t believe how big they are now! 5 and 7 years old!

We took advantage of everything the train has to offer from the Wi-Fi to downtime.

UNO on the train
Scott asleep

And of course, we hit up the most exciting part the train: THE DINING CAR!

Train dining car

We arrived in Union Station, and while I liked the architecture of the main room, my kids were much more into the spiral staircases and not just because they led to lunch.

Union Station
In their partial defense, Union Station’s main room is under construction.
Union Station spiral staircases
But these spiral staircases rock!
Union Station spiral staircases 2
Let’s go eat!

We decided to walk to the mall (which as a kid, I remember being confused when there were no actual shops and this explains why my son said: I thought there would be more stores) to visit the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (thanks to everyone for the excellent Facebook suggestions).

On our way (it’s about a 20 minute walk), we passed the U.S. Capitol Building where my kids had as much interest in Congress as the rest of the nation.

U.S. Capitol Building
At least the Capitol Building is pretty. When my kids older, we’ll do a tour. I’ve heard you can ask your senator’s office to run it and it will include fun facts about your state!

I also ooh’d and ah’d over the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress — holding on to everything including our tweets.

We arrived at the museum, and my kids were immediately excited about the ice cream truck parked out front that is exactly like the ones in any town, anywhere, but with a promise of dessert “in a little while,” the kids went on to explore the museum.

Air and Space Museum
Space. The final frontier and my kids favorite part of the Air and Space Museum.
Air and Space Museum2
A double-decker plane – the Boeing 747 to be exact.

My kids also loved the Wright Brothers exhibit and IMAX show. Plus, the show was nice way to sit for 20 minutes.

Hidden Universe 3D
IMAX in 3D = “OMG we’re in SPACE!”

After the IMAX movie, my daughter said: We are all made of stars, mama. Be still my heart.

We went back outside for the very fancy ice cream we had promised.

Ice Cream Truck ice cream
At least I’m looking at the Washington Monument.

And we hopped on the carousel.

National Carousel
National Carousel on the Mall
Elsa's horse
Of course, my daughter found “Elsa’s horse” (can’t you see the snowflakes?)

We were going to head down to the Lincoln Memorial, but the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History caught our eye, and with all the museum being free, we decided to wander inside. My daughter loved this place and not just because she got a stuffed animal out of it. She was running around naming animals like the tiniest biologist they’ve ever employed.

National History stuffed animal
Although the new stuftie is pretty cute and went to school with her the next day.

After the gift shop fun, we met up with friends and played in the dirt and chased birds off the mall. We hit up a food truck (mmm…. falafel) and (took a cab) back to Union Station (because our day was a lot of walking for a 5- and 7-year-old).

I asked my kids what their favorite part of the trip was and taking the train #1 and #2 for each of them. Pretty impressive since we visited two D.C. museums, ate ice cream, and got gift store presents. For me, the worst part of the day was my daughter falling asleep on the train because I knew she’d be up until 11 p.m. but not having to drive back in Sunday night Washington/Virginia, I-95 traffic made it all better.

PS. I still annoy my daughter with the lean in pose on trains after all these years.

Still annoying her with poses

Thanks to Amtrak for sponsoring our trip! If you would like to know more about taking the train to avoid traffic and parking and all that annoying car stuff, visit Amtrak Virginia. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter @AmtrakVA. Remember, tickets for kids 2-12 years old are always 50% off, but if you book 14 days in advance, all tickets are 25% off. Between you and me, the people who work at Amtrak were the nicest on our trip. They chatted up my kids and helped fellow passengers without needing to be asked. I was really impressed, and I have pretty high standards for customer service. 

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

7 thoughts to “#TakeTheTrain To Washington D.C. (Or Wherever You Want To Go)”

  1. I love you! I rode trains a lot as a small child. I remember the Doodlebug, what everyone actually called it. You could open the windows and walk out onto the ends of cars while it rolled along. There was no dining car. We brought big boxes of fried chicken and carrot sticks. I still have fond memories. There’s a wonderful new book about trains. It includes the history of the development of railroads, glossing over I’m sure the part about the Gilded Barons who got rich off of it. The title is LOCOMOTIVE. The author is Brian Floca and it has won two awards. Great art. Having a wooden train whistle to blow while reading it is optional.

  2. Shocking fact? I’ve never been on that carousel. But I think it costs money, so not actually shocking. And that looks like an awesome day downtown. Which I would totally go to by train, except I don’t think I have a station and trains are a bit beyond my budget!

  3. I love the museums. I spent a lot of summers there. I often complain to my husband that we don’t live closer to the Nations Capital. I used to take Amtrak from CT to VA in the summer.

    I was kind of shocked by how grown up your son is. Man, time is flying by.

  4. My family was there last week!! How funny, we took the Amtrak from New york city to DC. Went to all these places you went to 🙂 We were last Tuesday.

  5. My sister-in-law and I keep talking about taking a train trip up the California coast with our kids.

    Maybe one of these days we’ll do it….perhaps even while my children still qualify as kids…

  6. I can vouch for how great Amtrak is in this neck of the woods; I’ve ridden the Texas Eagle many times. I plan to take Amtrak up in the NE corridor at some point, and D.C. is definitely a place I want to explore. I enjoyed seeing it through the eyes of you and your fabulous family.

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