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Published: Friday 09 August, 2013

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We went the first week in April, spring break for many schoolchildren, and the height of cherry blossom season. And, according to one tour guide, it was the week that all the ninthgraders in the country were visiting the capital on class trips. She was exaggerating only a little, it seemed. Luckily, we came prepared with a few tricks for making the trip fun and educational, while keeping our sanity amid the crowds.

Many government sites require advance tickets, often obtained through your representatives office. We had scheduled a tour of the Capitol through Rep. Keith Ellisons office, but had called too late to get tickets to visit the White House. And the advance tickets to go to the top of the Washington Monument were already sold out on the National Parks website several weeks before. Contacting your representatives office by phone or email is easy just do it weeks, even months ahead of time. Sameday tickets to the Capitol and the Washington Monument are distributed in the mornings and go fast.

We booked a hotel near the Dupont Circle Metro station, an area rich with cafes, groceries and bookstores. At the end of a busy day of sightseeing, having those comforts close to our beds was ideal. We quickly learned that taking time for a midday break was important. Given the choice between a cafeteria line and a real restaurant, we chose the latter. That was our chance to retreat from crowds and lines, and just sit and talk about what we had seen. When sitting down to a slowerpaced meal was not an option, we would at least linger on a park bench or in a museum cafe with a coffee o isabel marant dicker boots r an ice cream cone.

Lines are inevitable in Washington. We realized that if we really wanted to see something, it was worth arriving early. When we wanted to see the Supreme Court justices hand down opinions, we set the alarm clock and ate breakfast while waiting in line. Our efforts paid off: Our ears perked up as we listened to Justice Kennedy read from an important environmental law opinion. Words my children recognized greenhouse gases and global warming grabbed their attention. The next morning over a more isabel marant dicker boots leisurely breakfast, my older son held up a newspaper with a frontpage story about the opinion we had heard. busy for months. Unfortunately, most of us have onl isabel marant dicker boots y a week. These places top my familys mustsee list.

1. Capitol. Get an insiders tour of the Capitol by contacting your representatives office in advance. Even with the guide, the security line can be long and the building crowded. Passes to the House and Senate galleries may also be obtained from your representatives office.

2. National Museum of the American Indian. The Smithsonian Museums free admission and location on the Capitol Mall make it easy to duck in and out of your favorite exhibits. A favorite of ours, the National Museum of the American Indian, offers an informative guided tour and beautiful displays of artifacts along with multimedia stories of presentday tribal life. We had our favorite museum meal at its Mitsi tam Caf which serves up many delicious choices of Native cuisine. Important notes on other Smithsonian Museums: The Museum of American History is closed for renovations until 2008. The Air and Space Museum is the worlds most visited museum, and the crowds are proof of that.

3. Library of Congress. Capitol, this building is an architectural treasure, full of beautiful marble arches and columns, painted ceilings, mosaics and statues. The free guided tours are a good way to learn about the librarys history and collection.

4. Supreme Court. On days when the court is not sitting, educational lectures are given in the courtroom. If you want to see the court in session, check the schedule ahead of time by calling 12024793211 and get there early.

5. National Gallery of Art. The collection is immense, so pick some favorite areas to visit. We enjoyed the Italian and Dutch paintings in the west building, and then took the underground concourse to the east building to view modern art. Take a break at the gelato and espresso bar in the concourse, and browse the large bookstore and childrens gift shop.

6. National Archives. A short film and an exhibit explain the range of materials and information available at the National Archives. Be prepared to wait in line to view the most famous documents including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights displayed in the buildings rotunda under heavy security.

7. Mount Vernon. While guidedtour buses to Mount Vernon from Washington are available, we opted to take the Metro to Huntington Station in Fairfax County, Va. Then we transferred to a Fairfax Connector bus that took us right to the gates of Mount Vernon. Plan on a taking whole day to visit the grounds and the informative museum exhibits about George Washingtons life. isabel marant dicker boots

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