Walking tour of Tidal Basin Washington D.C.

We made it to the last day of our trip, and the weather was still amazing (and hot). Check out Part 1 and Part 2 to get the complete weekend story!

The kids were very excited to visit the International Spy Museum.  Who am I kidding, we adults were as well!  We arrived earlier than our time slot for our timed entry, and since we could not enter early, we checked out the gift shop.  This was actually a good thing, as it provided a time limit for the kids (and us). Plus, I was able to check out the original Aston Martin 007 car from Dr. No.  Score!

James Bond Aston Marting at Spy Museum Washington D.C.
James Bond’s Aston Martin

At our allotted time, we queued up and went up a set of elevators to start the museum tour.  They did a good job of making the experience engaging.  Instead of just a collection of rooms with artifacts and exhibits of spy devices, they enhanced the experience by providing its own level of intrigue.  

I was given a card key, which I used at an interactive kiosk.  With this card key, I was able to obtain a code name, alias and secret mission that can be used throughout the tour of the museum. (My cover was Devon Hill, an Archaeologist from Brazil!)

The different exhibits and themes of the rooms ties into your mission, which was somewhat unique. For example, my wife and daughter had the same exact mission, while my son’s and mine were different.  Each section had its own set of kiosks you can use with your card key to move your story along.  For instance, in the section on cryptology you had to solve some puzzles to move to the next stage of the mission.

There are some special areas for kids as well.  For instance, you can have your kid work through an air duct (simulated, not the real HVAC system!)  to spy on someone.

It was a bit pricey but overall, the new museum did a great job, and we were easily able to spend 2-3 hours of time going through the exhibits. 

While the kids were dragging through the last bit of the Spy Museum, I made a quick run over to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.  We originally swung by on our way to the Spy Museum, but the Visitor Center was closed. (Again, always check operating hours! It would have saved some headaches for me!) I walked quickly over to the very quiet Visitor Center which was thankfully open and allowed me to pick up a few of the stamps.

The Memorial statues are a little tall, over six feet, which is a unique approach. It reminded me of the FDR memorial, but in a more open space.  The memorial is split into two sections illustrating the two main contributions by Eisenhower. First, being the supreme allied commander in Europe in WWII and second the 34th President of the United States.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Statues
COurtyard in front of castle and Museum of African American Art in Washington DC

I walked over to the mall to wait for the kids. We ended up meeting behind the castle in the Museum of African American Art.  The entrance was tucked away along a beautiful garden.  I was impressed by the architecture of the museum as well as the exhibits.  My daughter loved it and was the one who convinced my wife to go in.  A short visit here and we moved on to the tidal basin.

We actually got it right today.  Instead of the unlimited day pass, everyone loaded about $8 on their card, enough for two metro rides and several DC Circulator rides.  We found the Circulator bus stop easy enough, which was on the road next to the Washington Monument. We were able to easily take it to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. 

We finished up the afternoon going through all the Memorials around the tidal basin, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

The bookstore at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial was closed, but thankfully they put out the stamps in front of the shop.  Walking around the memorial, they were doing some pretty intense construction to make the site more accessible.

We went through the FDR memorial backwards, which was fine.  I always like the water features here.  The memorial is split up in four different parts based on the four terms of Roosevelt’s presidency.

The final stop was for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  This is the first time for me, and the statue of him looking over the water is impressive.  Particularly, I loved the quotes they placed on the sides of the memorial.  Before I caught up with the family and viewed the memorial, I visited the Visitor Center. Unfortunately, I found the Air Conditioning was not working(!).  I made a comment as I left that I hope they get it fixed soon, and they mentioned it only worked 1 week so far out of the summer.  Felt so bad for them!

Sign for Spy Museum L'Enfant Plaza with Circulator Bus with Red bus in background in Washington D.C.

Thankfully, a DC Circulator stop was right outside the MLK, Jr. memorial.  We had no problem waiting the 10 min for the bus, however, the holiday weekend caught up to us and the bus was very full.  Everyone was able to get seats except me, which was fine.  I think we were all just glad we didn’t have to walk back to the Smithsonian Metro stop near the Washington Monument.

One thing we missed was the Lockkeeper’s house.  Sadly, when we went by earlier it was not open yet. Oh, well.  There are so many places to see in DC, I am sure we will be back soon and can check it out then!

Lockkeepers house Washington D.C.
  • Get a Map!  The NPS has an awesome map of the national mall loaded with information. This can be of great help as you ‘map’ out your route.  Especially if you need to pivot from your original plan (or if you don’t have a plan at all and are just wingin’ it!)
  • Tired and need a rest? Ride the DC Circulator instead of walking! They take cash and is only one dollar a ride.  So worth it if you need to take a load off.
  • Bring a good pair of walking shoes! Break in those shoes before you arrive, as you will no doubt get your steps in during your visit.

Check out all Trip Reports for Washington D.C. Here

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