We spent the morning of our second day at Arlington National Cemetery, a beautiful but emotional place. My SIL "knows someone" and so we didn't visit like most people do. (This means that we had private transportation.) Our first stop was at the very top - Arlington House - which offers these amazing views of DC.
To arrive at this location, one must climb what feels like two hundreds steps. Note that the Cemetery is extremely hilly and a fair amount of walking is involved. I would imagine that pushing a stroller would be quite cumbersome. (We did see trams dropping off and picking up visitors in certain locations but I'm not sure if that's a free service provided by the Cemetery. I will say that there was a very long line to board the trams at JFK's gravesite.)
We next visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As we approached the area, the changing of the guard had just begun. It was very crowded so the girls weren't able to see much. When it was over and people cleared out, we moved over into the shade and waited for the next change. Due to the heat, they were changing every half hour. As we were waiting, a few veterans came up and stood behind us. At one point, I heard shuffling and whispering and turned to see the folks behind us moving so that a Vietnam vet in a wheelchair could be closer to the rope. I alerted Rich and we all moved over to make room for him. In a world of push and shove and everyone looking out for him or herself, it was nice to witness respect.
The girls asked questions. What is the Tomb? Why is there a guard? We explained. When we returned home, Allie made a poster for school with some of her photos and written descriptions of where we had visited. This is what she wrote on her own for the Tomb of the Unknowns - "to honor all soldiers that were killed or taken away in wars."
The changing of the guard is very serious and everyone is asked to remain silent, standing and respectful. (Turn your phones off!) It is also important to stay outside of the roped off area. I didn't see what happened but the girls informed me that a kid had slipped underneath the chain and entered the restricted area. The Sentinel bellowed out a warning, which made us all jump.
Our next stop was a very special one. A good friend of mine (who has been my friend since junior high so I can legitimately call her a dear friend) has a son whose final resting place is in the Cemetery. We were able to find him and leave some prayers. He's with Abbey.
As we were leaving the Cemetery, we visited JFK's gravesite.
We were checking into our hotel later that afternoon so we returned to my BIL's house to pick up our suitcases and say good-bye. But first, we grabbed lunch from The Italian Store. So very yummy.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
With a bit of time to kill before we could check in at the hotel, we decided to tour the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. There are parking lots, restrooms, a food stand and gift shops here.
Monuments by Moonlight
Our decision to split our stay in DC between family and a hotel was twofold. My BIL and SIL were going away for the weekend and had planned to leave early Saturday morning. They offered their house to us but our whole reason for staying there was to visit with them. We had also booked a night tour of the monuments and figured it would be easiest to return to a hotel in the city versus trying to deal with parking and driving. When I posted here that I was planning our DC trip, Monuments by Moonlight was suggesting in the comments. (Thank you!) We had been discussing some type of night tour of the monuments and whether or not we should attempt to drive around ourselves. For us, booking a tour was the perfect solution. There's no way we would have been able to find parking at these locations. The tour was definitely a time saver.
We booked Monuments by Moonlight with Old Town Trolley. There are other companies who offer the same type of tour but we went with this one due to the high ratings on TripAdvisor. I do have an important tip if you ever decide to do this. Schedule for the trolley to pick you up at your hotel or a nearby hotel if yours isn't on their route. The starting point for this tour is Union Station. Our hotel wasn't near Union Station and we didn't want to commute over there and then back to our hotel again late at night with the kids. Old Town Trolley states on their website that they do pick up guests at certain hotels. We called and our hotel wasn't on the list but there was one a few blocks away. When the trolley picked us up, there was only one other family on board. The trolley then drove to Union Station to pick up the remaining guests. Our driver told us that there were ten trolleys going out that night for Monuments by Moonlight. When we arrived at Union Station, there was a long line of folks waiting to board the trolleys. By having the trolley pick us up, we avoided the hassle of commuting to and from Union Station and waiting in line.
This tour makes three stops (not always in this order):
- Martin Luther King. Jr Memorial - FDR Memorial (located near each other)
- Iwo Jima Memorial
- Lincoln Memorial - Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Korean War Memorial
I didn't take photos of everything. We did walk through some of the FDR Memorial and we also stopped at the Korean War Memorial. Please note that these photos were all taken with a handheld camera (no tripod.) Some are from a moving trolley.