After a week in Colonial Williamsburg, my wife was back behind the wheel of our rental car, bracing for what no doubt would have been a challenging seven-hour drive back to New York City with me and our three children (14, 10, and seven).
Given that we had already made that drive to Virginia earlier in the week, we were in no rush to replicate it on the way home. So with the hope of prolonging our vacation a bit longer, we broke up the drive with an overnight at Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC.
Having never done D.C. as a family—and giving ourselves only 24 hours to do it—we wanted to relish every moment. And thanks largely to Four Seasons, who hosted and helped plan our stay, we had some wonderful moments. Here are 24 of them:
Those were my teen’s first words upon entering our adjoining rooms and spotting the zesty fall fashion issue clearly intended for her. While the hotel knew she was coming, she didn’t know they knew—so the magazine’s appearance was magical for her.
Four Seasons also knew beforehand about our brood’s food allergies, so naturally we were pleased that the spread in the kids’ room, including popcorn and fruit kabobs, was nut-free.
Waiting in the kids’ room, along with two full-sized beds, was a rollaway fitted with a domed camping-style tent. My two younger kids concluded on their own, after arguing about who saw it first, that the tented bed was meant for our seven year old.
Among our surprises at check-in was a staffer pulling a toy-filled red wagon, which, along with the pillow gifts the kids had already received, made them feel special. But about an hour after check-in I asked the kids what about the hotel they liked the most so far, and they agreed it was how “everyone goes out of their way to make you feel welcome as a kid.”
My wife suggested we hang around the lobby to see if another arriving family (whose dad wasn’t blogging for Four Seasons) would get the same welcome wagon reception we did. Sure enough, they did.
While Georgetown is evidently the place to shop in D.C., I lobbied against visiting chain stores we could find at home, an argument I quickly lost. According to my teen, the Urban Outfitters in Georgetown is “really good,” whatever that means. Also, the hotel’s M29 LIFESTYLE has a nice selection (accessories, clothing, gifts and children’s items).
Four Seasons arranged for an escorted nighttime drive of the D.C. monuments on the evening we arrived. Beyond the obvious merits of having a private car and driver, if you want to see the D.C. monuments in limited time with three kids in tow, there are few logical alternatives to being chauffeured. For more than three hours, our patient driver (hired by the hour) let us explore each monument at our leisure and had me call him on his cell each time we were ready to be picked up.
for the first time was a treat, especially at night. The starkness and soft lighting at the MLK memorial, coupled with the towering statue of Dr. King, made this a novel place for the kids to get a little perspective about their place in the world, and in history.
(which also honors Eleanor Roosevelt and the couple’s little dog, too) was a refreshing surprise. As first-timers, and we were delighted by the water features and open-ended sprawl of the memorial.
and having Abe slowly fill your line of vision never gets old, and I was excited for the kids to do it. This experience is the very definition of awesome: a mix of wonder and fear at being in the shadow of something so intimidatingly spectacular.
When my son fell asleep towards the end of our monument tour, my wife stayed in the car with him and my younger daughter, while my teen realized her dream of being a bill sitting on Capitol Hill, as immortalized in the School House Rock video. The good-natured armed guards let me take her picture on the steps, and it was nice to have this quiet moment with her.
While Georgetown Cupcake of “DC Cupcakes” reality show fame has a healthy line during business hours, Sprinkles Cupcakes Georgetown isn’t similarly afflicted. And fortunately my family doesn’t need an excuse to have cupcakes for breakfast, aside from which they were maple bacon cupcakes, and it was my birthday.
The day one of my kids’ friends says “Hello, Mr. Eisenberg” to me it will no doubt make me feel old, but hearing the front desk team say it to me in front of my kids, every time we passed, made my kids think I was cool, and that doesn’t happen very often.
The Four Seasons has a car and driver available to all guests on a first-come basis, weekdays and weekends. We hopped in for our ride to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The Holocaust museum notes on its website that “visitors frequently report that the sight and smell of the 4,000 victims’ shoes is the most searing memory from their time in the permanent exhibition” and our experience was no different. An exhibit like this reminds you why photography in the museum, aside from being prohibited, is also not necessary.
The exhibit, geared toward children, portrays a family’s Holocaust experience through the eyes of a child, starting with a recreation of Daniel’s tidy Frankfurt house and then moving on to the ghetto and later, the quarters at Auschwitz where his family lived.
At one point, my GPS told me that our next stop, the National Museum of American History, was a hike from the Holocaust Museum. But after asking directions from a real person, we realized we were an easy walk away.
(on through January 2014) was worth seeing at the American history museum, whose configuration had changed a lot in the five years since I had been there, and my biggest mistake was trying to navigate the museum based on those memories. Instead of muddling through the museum as we did, we should have headed to the National Archives, which would have delivered the “Wow!” I was hoping they’d experience here. Next time.
One highpoint of the American history museum was finding Abe Lincoln’s hat, currently situated at the end of the Emancipation Proclamation exhibit. My son thought it was cool that Lincoln “gave his speeches under that hat.”
which we took from the museums back to the hotel (a half-mile/15-minute walk). The closest metro station to the hotel is Foggy Bottom, served by the blue and orange lines.
Four Seasons has a modest-sized indoor lap pool—kid-friendly, noodles on hand—and spa facilities that cater to grown-ups. But since we didn’t have time for either, we were content to lounge on the deck off the gym area as well as the outdoor patio on the lobby level.
Restaurants abound in Georgetown, including a handy outpost of Le Pain Quotidien not far from the hotel. Another good find nearby was Café tu-o-tu—the healthy wraps and bowls of pasta were just what we needed before piling back into the car for our ride home.
The morning after we arrived, we left our packed bags in our room and headed out to find breakfast, stopping at the front desk for advice about the most painless way to store our luggage. The hotel’s solution was to check us out and tell us to go out and enjoy our day while bellmen went up to our room and put our bags in storage.
After we returned to the hotel, the valet brought our car to the driveway and our baggage soon followed. As our bags came up from storage, it dawned on us that since the bellmen had gotten our bags for us, we had failed to do a final sweep of our rooms. Turns out the bellmen did that for us; in the pocket of my carry-on was my camera battery charger, which a bellman had evidently discovered in one the outlets in our room.
Finding that tiny charger in my bag spoke volumes. Our Four Seasons valet got our car in three minutes flat, which is impressive, but still, many luxury hotels have mastered this “Do this for me” service. However, there’s also what I like to call “They did this for me?” service: my daughter’ surprise at finding that Teen Vogue, or my surprise at seeing my forgotten charger thoughtfully tucked away. That kind of service is a bit harder to find—and we found it here.
Read more on Washington, D.C. in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our “Concierge Recommendations” for Washington, D.C. in Four Seasons Magazine.
For more than a decade, Paul Eisenberg has logged thousands of miles field-testing destinations and travel strategies with his wife and three children. He is a family-travel blogger for Shermans Travel and genConnect, and editor of Traveling Dad. Paul is a former editorial director at Fodor’s and recently updated the 6th edition of Fodor’s Around New York City with Kids. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, he won a 2010 Lowell Thomas Award for his reporting on medical tourism. Follow Paul on Twitter and Google+ .
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