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timeforchange posted 3/14/2013 02:29 AM

Last summer I brought the kids over for their first trip to the USA. We visited NYC and Boston.

This year I want to take them to Washington DC for several days. They love history (esp military) and museums so I think DC is a great fit.

I would like to extend our stay for another week and was wondering what else we could do in that part of the USA.

I was toying with the idea of a few days at Virginia beach, so we can combine visits to Norfolk and the military aviation museum with some beach fun.

I am not into loud noisy seaside resorts and am worried VB may be very much like that.

Is there maybe another city/region near DC that could be good to visit?

And Has anyone got recommendations on parts of VB a little away from all the action? And what is VB like?

many thanks

Sad in AZ posted 3/14/2013 06:34 AM

If you're coming in the late spring/summertime, pretty much any beach is going to be a zoo, but Virginia Beach is known for its amusements. It will be crowded, noisy and fun for people who enjoy that sort of thing, but maybe not good for you.

You might look into Chincoteague Island:

I'm sure others will be along with better information.

dameia posted 3/14/2013 08:07 AM

I've never been a big fan of VB, but that's just me. Another option for you would be to go north and hit up the Maryland/Delaware beaches. A few to think about: Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, Rehoboth Beach. You can Google "delmarva beaches".

Also in Maryland, if you're interested in the military, is Annapolis, where the Naval Academy is located.

nooneeverthought posted 3/14/2013 08:11 AM

Take a look at Assateague Island. It is a national seashore and amazing. When of the best places we took the kids to the beach. Dolphins right off shore, wild horses putting their heads in our car windows. Beautiful, quiet, explorable.....

metamorphisis posted 3/14/2013 08:19 AM

I would suggest Colonial Williamsburg if you are going to be in DC with history buffs! We are going to do the combined trip soon and I've looked into it but I think we'll wait one more year

nooneeverthought posted 3/14/2013 08:26 AM

If you go to the Norfolk area, you have to take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

fireproof posted 3/14/2013 08:40 AM

I hope you all enjoy your trip.

There is the Air and Space Museum (online) near Dulles airport away from DC if your kids enjoy planes.

If you travel I think in mid March to the beginning of April you will see the the Cherry Blossoms in DC which is annual event.

If you are interested in going to Norfolk then I would go to Virginia Beach. If you are going to that area primarily for Virginia Beach then it wouldn't be my first choice (no offense). If you drive from DC you could stop in Williamsburg (historical sites) on the way. In addition, Busch Gardens and Water Country (Amusement Parks) are both there as well and I think they open mid to late March.

Do you enjoy hiking? The Blue Ridge Mountains are not far away from DC. The best time is the fall but it is a nice activity as well.

If I remember correctly Assateague is near Ocean City which is a beach vacation spot (I would only go if I was going to Assateague).

The Baltimore Aquarium is interesting and about an hour away.

Have a fun!

timeforchange posted 3/14/2013 11:06 AM

Thank you so much everyone.

I simply googled "beach closest to DC" and VB came up. But when I looked at it it does look kind of loud and brash and that is not really my style.

We will be in Over in mid-August.

This weekend I am going to google all the places you mention. Thank you so much everyone.

JenniMay posted 3/14/2013 12:34 PM

This is my home!

In Virginia Beach, try the "north end"---away from the "strip"---generally above 30th street is a little more of what it sounds like you're looking for. Also, Sandbridge is nice. On the Chesapeake Bay side (still in Virginia Beach), try Chick's Beach or Chesapeake Beach. The actual "strip" at Virginia Beach is a little bit of a zoo in the summer.

If you're willing to, go a little further south (about an hour from VB), check out the Outer Banks of NC.

Duck, Southern Shores, Corolla & anything south of Nags Head are really nice. Very laid-back. Nags Head, Kitty Hawk are a little more touristy & crowded but the places I listed are within a short drive to get to the good restaurants & activities.

Feel free to PM me if you need more info!

timeforchange posted 3/14/2013 12:53 PM

Thanks Jennimay.. PM sent

Sad in AZ posted 3/14/2013 13:09 PM

If you'll be here mid-August, you should miss the college crowds. Those kid are usually back in school at that time.

sisoon posted 3/14/2013 13:45 PM

If you and your kids are intrested in military history, I'd suggest the Civil War battlefields - Bull Run (Manassas), Antietam (Sharpsburg) in Maryland, Gettysburg in PA, all short drives from DC. Mt. Vernon, Washington's home, is a very short drive from DC, as is the old part of Alexandria. Also, tere's a 'Washington Monument' in MD not too far from Antietam, IIRC.

The Pine Barrens in Southern NJ was a source of metal and wealth in colonial days. Trenton and Princeton played parts in the Revolution, but Williamsburg is a better intro to life in colonial times, and you can see some sites from the Revolution in VA.

If you go into the Blue Ridge, you might wander over to Charlottesville to see Mr. Jefferson's University and Monticello, his home.

Be sure and ask about slavery at Mt. Vernon and Monticello, and about Sally Hemmings at Monticello....

sisoon, wearing his provocateur hat

timeforchange posted 3/14/2013 14:42 PM

Thanks for all the jnfo on the Civil War.

My boys are ww2 buffs.... We are surrounded by the history of it where we live in Europe. Their idea of a good day out is to visit General Patton's grave which is less than an hour from us. JFK's grave and Arlington Cemetry is on their DC wishlist.
I think I need to swat up on the Civil War and maybe plan a 3 stage trip..
Washington - Civil War sites - beach.

You have all given me lots of food for thought thank you so much!!!

Issaquah posted 3/14/2013 14:43 PM

This is my home!

Hey, me too!

I second the recommendation for the Outer Banks, it's so quiet and peaceful. I live near the Bay beach and walk on the beach almost daily, but avoid the resort area like the plague! It's crazy busy in the summer - but if you are staying in a beach front hotel I think it could be fun since there are lots of live concerts, family friendly (overpriced) restaurants, and silly things for the kids like minigolf, cheesy shops, bike rentals for the boardwalk, etc. Sandbridge beach is south of the resort area and usually pretty quite without leaving the Virginia Beach area.

Other areas I would recommend are: Colonial Williamsburg, the Jamestown Settlement, Yorktown Victory Center, and Busch Gardens - European themed amusement park.
This area also has a few musuems, but nothing compares to the awesome ones in DC. However, the Maritime Museum in Newport News is interesting. I believe Virginia Beach Aquarium offers some boat trips to see dolphins? I believe there is also a boat tour of the naval base in Norfolk.

Assateague Island and the Delmarva beaches are gorgeous too.

still-living posted 3/17/2013 21:34 PM

If you choose Va Beach, note Battleship Wisconsin is birthed in Norfolk and available for tours.

JanaGreen posted 3/18/2013 10:44 AM

I would suggest Colonial Williamsburg if you are going to be in DC with history buffs!

I wanted to suggest Williamsburg as well!

Also loved Busch Gardens with my then two-year-old.

why2008 posted 3/18/2013 11:16 AM

We live in the burbs of DC and go to the Smithsonian's all the time. We were just at National Gallery of Art for a kids film yesterday. Here is the problem with the Smithsonian's, they are so huge that you could spend just a day in each museum and not see everything. The American History museum opened a couple of years ago and is fabulous and your boys would love it. Air and Space downtown has a huge new Wright Brothers section that is amazing. My kids are too young to go but I've heard the Holocaust Museum is also really good. I've been meaning to do the Federal Reserve tour too, getting tickets is kind of tricky and I need to do that before the summer.

The memorials are also amazing for a history buff, your boys will LOVE the WWII memorial.

The Neuseum is not free but I think it is amazing and one of the best in DC. They have part of the antenna from the north tower with the headlines from around the world. I tear up right now thinking about it, very emotional. I'm not a fan of the Spy museum or Crime and Punishment, they were okay but not as high yield as the other museums.

National Geographic museum can also be very good, depending on the exhibit. They will probably be too far to walk to depending on where you are staying and it is a small museum.

Air and Space on the Mall is by far the most popular museum on the mall, the lines and crowds are tough in the summer, make that one of your first stops also, I'd get there before it opened if I was going to see it in the Summer. Last time I went in the summer the line was probably 200 people long. My kids love that museum.

I think the hop-on hop-off tours are totally worth the money. You can see so much of DC, and really get a good idea of where everything is located. You can get a two day tour and it really saves you from getting exhausted in the heat. Also they will take you by the Pentagon and through Georgetown which you might not get to see on your own. I'd focus on the memorials when I was on the tour bus because they are further out and most of the museums are on the mall.

Mount Vernon is owned by a private foundation and it is also really nice with lots of exhibits and films. The traffic to get there through Northern Virginia is ridiculous so I were doing it I would take a cab to SW DC and take this Spirit Cruise over, (haven't done this but it looks great) you will see many landmarks along the way and the Potomac is beautiful.

There is a National Harbor pickup also but Nat Harbor is far from downtown DC and is an artificial town... not a fan.

DC in August is hot and crowded, it's not uncommon to encounter long lines to enter the museums and there is alot of walking involved, it can be exhausting. School here does not go back in session until August 26.

National Archives, (see Constitution, Declaration of Indepence) always has a super long line, so make that your first stop one morning. Just looked on their web page, looks like you can now make a reservation!!

You can get away without a car in DC and I would totally recommend you do that, parking is usually 15 to 20 per day, even if you are staying in the hotels they charge for parking.

Assateague is a jewel and is close to Ocean City Maryland. There are two campgrounds on the island, State and National. I doubt you want to go camping and you have to book a site far in advance because they book up fast. Problem is that Ocean city is just what you want to avoid, noisy and commercial but the kids do love the boardwalk and beach. Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, Rehoboth Beach are quiet and more family beaches but coming from Europe you may want more excitement and your goal sounds like history.

I have friends that just went to VB last summer and they loved it, I'll have to ask where they stayed because they found it very laid back??? Maybe after living in DC anything is laid back! Another poster mentioned the battleship and that sounds wonderful for your boys. I think battleships are some of my favorite military tours and so interesting.

The National Park Service does tours of the battlefields and they are very good, but I'm not a huge fan of battlefields, but then again I'm not a history buff, and the drive to Gettysburg from DC is 2 hours one way without traffic. That being said the NPS tour is excellent!

Another place outside of DC that I think is a must see for your family is Udvar Hazy... My H is military and I have been to dozens of aviation museums, subs, battleships, boats, etc. Bar none, best aviation museum in the states. You would either have to rent a car or cab it. Parking is I think $15 dollars at Udvar Hazy. If you drive over, Manassas Battleground is not far.

Udvar Hazy has a space shuttle, flight simulators, cool engine displays (which are really informative), tons of planes, rockets and IMAX films...

You know... it all depends on how you like to travel, I hate crowds, traffic and like down time, so I'd probably stay in DC the whole time, and make a trip over to Mount Vernon for a day, Udvar Hazy for a day and just really explore the city. But seeing that you did Boston and NYC in one trip it sounds like you are more tenacious and stronger than I am.

NPS memorial tours

I like this page to find events quickly...

Smithsonian has fantastic family events so check their web page before you go, or ask at the information desk whats going on that day. You get a 10% discount on shopping and food and reduced rates on IMAX if you are a Smithsonian member, membership is only $20 so you make back the money on discounted Imax at Air and Space. Oh and Air and Space is the most popular museum on the mall, get there the day before it opens because the summer crowds are tough.

I sound like a big baby,

I would stay in the Penn Quarter section, good restaurants and you are close to the museums and sites. I'm not a big fan of staying further out and metroing in, you have to buy tickets, it's crowded in the summer and stops every two feet in DC and Maryland suburbs so it can take more time. I would metro from Penn Quarter/Verizon Center to someplace like Dupont Circle if you wanted to do a walking tour of the embassies or an african american heritage tour.

Check out walking tours and heritage tours DC on this page

Outside of DC...

Williamsburg is run by a foundation and I think they have done a great job in recreating and preserving the town, there are craftsmen making furniture, bricks... etc... We stayed there a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. It was worth it to get a room where we could walk right into Colonial Williamsburg and we did a ghost tour which was really fun, the actors were great. We also went in August and got stuck in Virginia and weekend beach traffic, the trip ended up taking almost 5 1/2 hours from DC.

Don't know if you have a smartphone, but Yelp is used heavily in this area and it can help you find better restaurants and more reasonably priced places to eat. DC is expensive.

I also really love Baltimore for the science museum and Aquarium and they have some historical boats you can tour. There is a railroad museum there too.

Feel free to PM me if I can be of any help.

[This message edited by why2008 at 11:25 AM, March 18th (Monday)]

timeforchange posted 4/4/2013 00:51 AM

Why2008.... Thank you so very much for your incredibly detailed post.
I shall look into all your suggestions.
You could almost write a Guide to Washington!!

After a lot of reflection we have decided to not go to the beach after all.

Our plan is to spend a week in Washington followed by a week in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We have booked a week of Family Camp at a traditional summer camp.

There will be loads of activities to keep the kids busy and I think it is a good match for us. As we prefer more peaceful locations and love nature.

We are hoping to also visit Charlottesville and Monticello.

Thank to everyone for their suggestions.

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