Tired of the Mudslinging? Discover D.C. for Yourself

Two Washington guidebooks highlight capital attractions in an interactive format for kids.

As we anxiously (and sometimes painfully) await the news of who will be named the 2008 Democratic nominee and gear up for another presidential election, it’s hard not to talk a little bit of politics around the house. Heck, even my 5-year-old knows who Obama is. But it’s one thing to watch the rapid-fire debates on television, and another to journey to the place where it all goes down: Capitol Hill.

If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Washington, D.C., here are two guidebooks—one for you, one for the kids—that can take you through the ins and outs of our nation’s fine capital. 

by Kathryn McKay. Fodor’s, 2008; $11.00

Hot off the presses in its fifth edition, this guide is not only current, but affordable, small, kid-friendly and written by McKay, a mother of two, whose hometown is D.C. As much as the current Washington climate may focus on candidates and superdelegates, there are loads of other super things that bring people from all over to this tiny but important district. McKay points out a solid 68 attractions, counting backward to one. She includes information on each attraction, how to best use your time while there, hours and admission fees and age ranges.

Did you know there are more spies in D.C. than any other city? At the International Spy Museum, kids can crack a safe, conduct a polygraph of a suspect, and for an additional fee, participate in Operation Spy where they can work as part of a team of intelligence officers. Some other really interesting spots include the Newseum, the National Capital Trolley Museum—what kid doesn’t love trains?—the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and many more. The only problem with D.C. is that there is too much to see!


McKay includes great tips on riding the Metro to get around, and her information on each place is succinct yet detailed enough to make good decisions. I like that she includes parks and recreational sites too, like Great Falls, which has some excellent hikes, rock climbing and beautiful waterfalls. A nice touch is Eats for Kids, which suggests nearby kid-friendly restaurants in which to grab a bite. And don’t miss the cartoon of Honest Abe in the lower right corner, who, when you flip the pages quickly, fights off a barrage of birds and a curious butterfly.


The one thing I wished this guide had done was grouped the attractions better. Instead of listing them in alphabetical order, which is usually helpful only if you know what you’re looking for, perhaps she could have grouped together all the museums, the national historic sites, parks and recreation sites, etc. And it doesn’t appear that the countdown from 68 to one was for any particular reason other than to do something different. I would have liked a note to the effect of, “If this is your one chance to see D.C., and you’re a museum buff, don’t miss ‘attraction X,” or “if you’re a history buff, don’t miss ‘attraction Y’.”

Worth buying?

Yes. And since kids will enjoy reading it and acting as tour guides too, it’s an inexpensive way to keep them occupied for the flight or drive time. 

Destinations: Washington

Themes: Art and Museums, Family Travel, Historical Vacations

Activities: Arts and Entertainment, Museums, Sightseeing