It’s become a sort of tradition to plan a staycation during the winter holidays, mainly because it’s such a crazy time to fly anywhere- prices are high and airports are madness. I think the only year we didn’t do a staycation was December 2020, for obvious reasons. Before COVID-19, in December of 2019 we had a beautiful weekend stay at the Marriott Gaylord National Harbor in Maryland (See post). This massive hotel hosts a special holiday theme for families each year, and that year was our first time attending.
This year, I wanted to take the kids to the same place, but also do other things while we were there. From experience, I figured one day would be enough time to spend at the Gaylord National to do all the holiday activities we wanted. I didn’t want to stay at this hotel because it was christmas weekend and I figured A LOT of families would be staying there. So to keep away from the crowd, we ended up staying in Arlington, Virginia which was just a 15 minute drive from the Gaylord. It was actually brilliant because Arlington is a short 15 minute drive from everywhere we wanted to visit, and it was so quiet in this area it worked very well for us.
The hotel was located in a row of several hotels, it was actually a neat place. The hotel was great for families because it offered free breakfast with a lot of options including eggs, bagels, muffins, toast, cereal, oatmeal, DIY waffles and beverages. I also chose this hotel because it had a full kitchen in the room, AND *bonus* it had two king sized beds in the room. This was a major selling point for a family of five. I had no complaints about our stay, everything was wonderful.
National Harbor Waterfront
We drove to D.C. on Thursday evening, and it took us about four hours with stops to reach there. Friday morning, the kids were up and ready close to 9 am, so after breakfast we drove to National Harbor waterfront. It was nicely decorated for the holidays with a gigantic christmas tree, gingerbread family and wreaths. We rode the ferris wheel, the kids rode the carousel and played in the playground. Then we had lunch at Mezzeh – a halal chipotle style place.
We headed back to the hotel to rest and the kids watched a movie. Then for dinner my sister-in-law and I snuck out for dinner out, just the two of us. The Residence Inn was directly next to a Renaissance Inn (both Marriott brands) we even shared a parking garage, so we walked over and had dinner at their hotel restaurant called Socci. It was a beautiful italian restaurant in the lobby, and it was empty…Christmas eve. Each of us got a pasta, and a dessert to try, everything was good but being alone was a special treat for us!
Gaylord National Christmas
On Saturday, after breakfast we headed to the Gaylord National for their special Christmas event. We had to purchase timed tickets for each activity ahead of time. We started at around 12pm and did the gingerbread decorating, Storytime with Mrs. Claus, and I Love Christmas Movies walk-through. The exhibition was a walk-through of a few famous Christmas movies, including Polar Express where they set up a train, it was pretty cute. It did begin to get crowded by late afternoon, but we were finished with all our activities by that time.
Washington D.C./National Mall
I’ve been to D.C. plenty of times, seen it on TV and movies but I definitely saw it as a tourist for the first time. We walked around National mall and it was really fun. The weather wasn’t bad so that was a huge plus (December and 60F!). Washington Monument is way larger in person, and the fact that we could walk right up and touch it was pretty cool. The reflecting pool was also way longer than I thought, and the fountains were so pretty and fun to sit by. They have a pillar for each U.S. state, which I never knew about. We walked up the steps to see the famous Abraham Lincoln memorial, and my sister-in-law and I had serious dejavu of Handmaids Tale (if you know you know lol).
I was searching for something to do on Christmas day that would be open, and was lucky to find out about Mount Vernon which is the Estate of George Washington. This is a fun attraction to do as a family. It’s basically a history lesson! You can walk through the grounds and the actual home of President George Washington and his family. We bought tickets upon arrival, they had tours for the estate for an extra charge. The tour takes you through several rooms of the estate such as the kitchen, dining room, personal office, etc. The grounds were pretty amazing. They had a stable with a horse’s carriage which was way larger than I would’ve imagined, they had live sheep there, and a beautiful view of the Potomac river. We also saw George and Martha Washington’s tombs there. It was a very informative and neat way to spend the day, especially for the kids to see firsthand how their first president lived.
Breakfast at Kaldi
On our last morning, I had fed two out of three kids breakfast at the hotel. Then we headed to a local coffee place for breakfast, and were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was, so I thought I’d share it here. Kaldi’s is a local coffee shop, and it has everything you’d look for in a cute, trendy coffee place. The coffees tasted great, and the food was so fresh! (Spot the small, impatient hand down below)
We had a fantastic Christmas weekend getaway to Arlington, VA and would definitely recommend it. Hope that this blog post helped in planning your next trip to the D.C./VA area. If you have any suggestions or places we should try, share below in the comments! Thanks for reading!