The second destination for the 5 for $500 Challenge is Washington, D.C. DC offers a glimpse into our nations history as well as a lot of free attractions. This makes DC an ideal location for this challenge.
Plan this trip for June 8-June 10 to match our prices. Prices are very time-sensitive for this trip. You can save $10/nt at the hotel just by the day you stay so when planning your own trip, make sure to be flexible and test options.
You’ll find the best rates if you avoid staying in DC proper and stay on the outskirts of the city. When I last stayed in DC I stayed on the Virginia side and found it very agreeable. For this trip, I’m recommending the Americana Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Your hotel room will cost an average of $100/nt and offers a mini-fridge, continental breakfast and free parking if you choose to drive into town. Budget $220.50 for your hotel room.
DC is not a very car-friendly town. There may be plenty of places to drive but there are limited parking spots and what parking there is does cost and may require feeding a meter. You can opt to park around town, though it’s hard to estimate pricing. For the purposes of this trip, we’ve planned and budgeted taking the Metro Rail around town. This will require extra walking, so consider your families needs before choosing this option. You’ll want to fill each family member’s metro pass with $13.50 in credits for $54 total.
Locals would like me to mention that there is escalator etiquette in DC: Stand to the right, Walk to the left. Pay attention, stay out of the way of commuters and you’ll be just fine.
Breakfast Day 1: Grab a bagel or a pastry at Open City. The menu does contain sit-down options but they come at a high price. Just grab a croissant, danish, bagel, scone, or muffin, add on some juice and coffee and chow down with your family for $25.
Lunch Day 1: Eat inside the zoo at the Mane Restaurant. Grab everyone an age-appropriate combo meal of burgers or chicken and eat in the great outdoors so you don’t miss out on any of the fun. Budget $40 for the family.
Dinner Day 1: After chowing down on junk food all day, you’ll appreciate dinner at Chop’t. The focus here is on eating healthy and their slogan is Better Tastes Better. Everything here is farm-fresh with nothing prepared ahead of time or filled with trans fats. They even took Michelle Obama’s platform of healthy eating for kids in school and made it part of their mission. It’s hard to be more DC than that. Their menu features creative salad and sandwich choices that even the pickiest eater will have a hard time resisting. Budget $48 for this experience.
Breakfast Day 2: Stay near your hotel and grab breakfast at the Corner Bakery Cafe. Fill your family up with breakfast paninis, scramblers, oatmeals, and fruits. You’ll spend around $35 at this spot.
Lunch Day 2: You’ll be grabbing lunch inside the National Air & Space Museum at the Wright Place Food Court. Inside you’ll find McDonald’s, Boston Market and Donatos Pizzeria. Everyone can pick and choose what works for them, though we like Boston Market for the more homestyle meal and veggies. You’ll spend around $35 at this spot.
Dinner Day 2: After a lot of walking around, fill yourself up at Good Stuff Eatery. The menu is full of burger options and if you have any change left, you can splurge on a shake. Pre-shake, your meal should run you $40 if you split 2 orders of their fries. Since fries run large you’ll still end up stuffed.
Day 1: Spend the day at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. In this zoo, you’ll find kangaroos, monkeys, apes, cheetahs, leopards, lions, tigers, seals, zebras, and elephants. On top of all that, this is one of the few zoos in the country to feature giant pandas. You’ll want to stay until closing time in order to avoid the Metro crowds and increased prices for rush-hour. Best of all? The zoo is free!
Day 2: Spend this day on the National Mall. The morning can be spent exploring the many monuments including the World War II Memorial, The Washington Monument, The DC War Memorial to World War I, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, and the Lincoln Memorial. Spend the afternoon at the kid-friendly Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. All of these activities are absolutely FREE.
View 5 for $500 DC in a larger map
We came in under $500 with pocket change to spare. If you’re looking for ways to save even more, consider taking advantage of the continental breakfast at your hotel, cutting down on Metro rides with closer food choices, or choosing price over convenience by searching for food outside of your attractions.
Check back tomorrow for the next 5 for $500 challenge!