But the odds were so good!

So it turns out I didn't win that trip to Paris. I know--weird, right? Having been prompted (probably by the Spirit) beforehand that this might be the case, I went ahead and booked myself a little alternative.

It's not Paris, but I'd been watching tickets like an obsessive person and yesterday I bought plane tickets to . . . drumroll . . . Pittsburgh!

Yeah. Try to keep it together, people.

GH's sister and her family are living there while her husband finishes his last year of dental school, so we're going to fly out in September and take advantage of their hospitality. We're excited to hang out and see the city with them, and they have a little boy who is 9 months older than The Dark Lord (who will finally be old enough, I hope, to play with his cousin).

I'm actually quite glad to be going to Pittsburgh because I have some unfinished business with that place. I spent a week there for work in another life, but I was alone (and, you know, working) so I didn't get to see much. I tried to go to the Point State Park once after work but I turned out not to have any cash on me and they wouldn't let me park or go in. So I spent every day driving around the greater Pittsburgh area (beautiful) and every evening at IKEA (also beautiful). It's time for a do-over. I'm hoping for a day trip to Kirtland and maybe trying to visit some Amish country.

We're also going to drive to Washington D.C. and stay for a couple of days. GH has never been and is looking forward to his first visit. Since it's a great place to walk around and the monuments and museums are free (as in, we can leave if our kid starts freaking the heck out and not have just wasted $50), we're hoping this will be a good traveling experience with little Lord Voldemort.

So, let's have it. Favorite things to do in either Pittsburgh or D.C.? Tips for traveling with 9-month-olds? Vacations you've just booked that you're dying to tell someone about? Something that has nothing to do with any of this? Bring it on.


j said... [reply]

Through your congressman or senator's office you can get free, better-than-general-public tours of places like the capitol, library of congress, and I think maybe a few others. Those have been my favorite things. Near runner-ups are of course the monuments and museums on the mall.

Camille said... [reply]

I'm living in DC and my #1 tip for having a decent sightseeing day with a baby? A stroller that reclines, and has a shade. I learned that the hard way.

Also, do not miss the Museum of American History. Or Georgetown Cupcakes. The end :)

daltongirl said... [reply]

Second J's comment. Call your elected offical's office and they will give you awesome treatment. It works, and they're happy to do it. See me if you need to know who they are.

Bone Junior said... [reply]

I think you should make a pit stop in Philadelphia. If for no other reason than to run up the Rocky steps. Totally worth it.

Melanie said... [reply]

I live in DC, so here's some inside info: eat at Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill - get any sandwich or burger, rosemary fries with mango mayo, and if you still have room, a shake. Also, forget Georgetown Cupcake; it's very overrated. Instead go just down the street to Baked and Wired. The cupcakes are bigger, much better, and you won't have to stand in line for an hour.

The Library of Congress and National Cathedral are my favorite buildings here. The National Archives has very well-done exhibits, but the wait to get in can be quite long during the summer. The Newseum is really awesome, but kind of pricey. If you're here on a Friday evening, there are free jazz concerts in the sculpture garden of the National Gallery, although they get quite crowded. Really, you can't go wrong by visiting the museums on the mall and walking around the monuments in the evening.

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

Baked and Wired is totally better than Georgetown Cupcake, and you don't have to stand in a crazy long line. Also, you should check out either Good Stuff Eatery or We the Pizza - right next to each other, both have different reasons to be awesome, but are owned by Spike Mendellsohn (sp?). If you have time, you should visit Mt. Vernon. One of my top spots and not everyone makes it down there because it's a little out of the way, but worth it. Now that I mention it, I haven't been there myself in a little too long. Oh! And Arlington Cemetery!

Welcome back to DC! (in advance)

Brandi said... [reply]

If you plan on taking the metro at all while in DC, then I would say skip the stroller and use a baby backpack. At most of the metro stations, you'll have to hike all the way to the opposite end of the station to get on the elevator if you need to get on the opposite side of the tracks. Also, strollers are kind of a pain to deal with in the museums and at the monuments. So, I know it seems insane to suggest NOT using a stroller, but speaking from experience--I lived there for 5 years with kids aged newborn to 10, it will actually be easier (unless you have no issues with walking across train stations and waiting for elevators and then walking back across the station just to get to the opposite platform, or waiting for the elevator at the monuments--IF the monument has one. Or taking the stroller through security at the museums. Or maneuvering it through crowds or in tiny restaurants. I'm pretty sure there's not a tourist site in the entire city or surrounding area that does not require going up stairs).

goddessdivine said... [reply]

I LOVE DC. I honestly wish I could live there for a summer and just "comb" through all the museums and such. So much to see! Last summer we did one of those tours that takes you all over the city, and you can get off and on as you wish. But those of course, cost money. The Holocaust Museum is quite powerful. The National Archives is really cool. All the monuments are fun. Seriously, you can't go wrong to just walk through the National Mall and find stuff.

I also second the Mt Vernon and Arlington Cemetery. (Though, if you're looking for "free", the former isn't.) But it's one of my favorite places in the world!

Be prepared for wretchedly hot and humid days. And I mean wretchedly hot. And humid.

You've picked a good alternative to Paris!

Jessica said... [reply]

I definitely agree with the above comment- Good Stuff is truly good and not too hard on the budget. I miss it! If you're looking for something a little pricier, my two favorite restaurants in DC (which also happen to be about a block from each other in Chinatown-ish area) are Jaleo (AMAZING and authentic Tapas) and Rosa Mexicano (also amazing and also authentic- but fresh and done with a twist- Mexican- the tres leches cake there is like floating to heaven on a cloud of mango meringue).

I also have to throw in a good word for Pitango Gelateria- you won't find better gelato anywhere in the US- they've only been open a little while but already have locations all around the district.

As for non-food places to visit, the LOC is by far my favorite building in DC. It's gorgeous in itself and the exhibits are always fascinating. I'm always sad that visitors can't wander around the main reading room (or even the reading rooms in the other two buildings- they're all really interesting in their own ways) because it's so spectacular.

Museums- I love the Freer-Sackler, two galleries that are part of the Smithsonian (on the grounds behind the "castle") that mostly focus on Asian art- they also have Whistler's Peacock Room- a fabulous folly of turquoise and gold that I covet.

The National Gallery of Art sculpture garden is wonderful, mainly because it has the most amazing and huge fountain in the middle- it's my favorite spot in DC to sit and people watch.

DC is one of my favorite cities, hence the excessive recommendations.

(also- this is my first comment and I always feel a little like a blog-stalker commenting on the blogs of people I don't know, but I found you via a link that someone posted on the ALA NMRT discussion board- I was excited to find another Utah librarian- so hi! :) )

Bridget said... [reply]

Hooray! Sounds dreamy.

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

Almost forgot - my favorite walking tour group - http://dcbyfoot.com/

Kelly said... [reply]

DC is so convenient for tourists! I say you do the Mall trek, starting at the Lincoln Memorial and going to the Capitol (or vice versa) with stops at the WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War Memorials. A nice walk around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial.

My favorite museum is American History, so definitely check that out. If GH likes planes at all (and you can handle it) you might want to hit Air and Space. Jason LOVES that place and I thought it was pretty interesting, though I probably wouldn't have spent quite as long on the mock bridge of the aircraft carrier if I hadn't had Jason with me, squealing with delight.

Wear comfy shoes!

I've never been to Pittsburgh, but have heard that it's actually quite lovely, despite having the word "pit" in its name.

Cherie said... [reply]

Oooh - so jealous!

If you can handle the walk/bus ride, try to get up to the National Cathedral in DC. It takes some effort to get there, but you won't be disappointed. Try to catch an organ demonstration or choral Evensong (though it might be an adventure with baby in tow) and be sure to check out the gargoyles and the gardens!

I used to work at the Cathedral. How lucky can a girl get?!?

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

NO fruit snacks and orange juice on the plane. Or if that is what you feed him then don't wear white. It looks atrocious covered in orange throw up.

That all.

Jenny said... [reply]

Dani and Brady Firth live in DC and Dani takes her two babies everywhere. I'd chat with her. Also, most babies, especially first babies, don't really play with other kids until like 18-24 mo. Its more independent playing near other kids. So don't hold your breath that the two kids will be BFFs by the end.

lilcis said... [reply]

You should visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater while you're there! It's kind of hidden away, but worth the drive and sooooo beautiful! Not sure if the leaves will be changing by then, but if they are it looks like Heaven. You have to book your tour ahead of time, though, don't just show up.


FoxyJ said... [reply]

We just went on a two-week trip to Hawaii and didn't bring our stroller for the baby (well, she's sixteen months old but only weighs 20 pounds). It felt weird not to do it, but saved us room in the car and was much less of a pain in the airport. We just wore her in the Ergo during the airport. BUT, we weren't doing a lot of sightseeing/walking around. If you regularly wear your baby, then I would recommend it. If you don't, then I think a stroller would be nice, especially if he will nap in it during the day. If he's still in an infant seat then you can use the stroller to transport the carseat to the plane.

That goes along with my second piece of advice: ask at check-in if the flight is completely full or if you should bring your carseat to the gate with you. These days most flights are full, but if it's not then you can bring on the baby's seat and put them in it--so nice! If your kid is in a bigger convertible seat, I highly recommend getting a car-seat bag--it's only about 25-30 dollars on Amazon or at Babies R Us and makes it much easier to transport the seat.

Nemesis said... [reply]

The baby carrier advice is good, but LV is already 20lbs and I haven't been wearing him regularly. Not sure if our backs could take it.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

Yeah, and you will be hot and sweaty. I'm actually a bit of wimp and usually make my husband wear the baby, and if we were going to DC to sightsee I'd totally take my stroller.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Jen, I'll take independent play near another kid. He notices other kids now & gets interested in them, as opposed to the last time they were together a few months ago.

Mike and Debbie said... [reply]

Spy Museum is fun, but can be pricey I think nowadays. As for carrying a kid...Phil and Ted make a fabulous backpack carrier. We used it for our daughter in Venice (can we say death trap for a 1.5 yr old?) and she was great in it all day. Plus it was July and I wasn't too hot and sweaty after wearing it all day. It has some sort of fancy ventilation fabric. Whatever...it worked! I think you can put babies in it as well. Pretty sure Target sells them. Have lots of fun...I miss living in that area!

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

The Spy Museum is definitely on the pricey side and was kind of crowded the day I was there. Also, it's not laid out particularly well. You and GH might love it, but it would be risky with the babe.

Claire said... [reply]

Please go see Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater House in PA....expensive but totally worth it. As for kid travel, I usually bring my car seat and stroller for (free) plane side check in, then I ask the person at the desk if there are extra seats to bring on the car seat, and a lot of the time, there is! Have a great trip. And, you can go see the British Embassy in DC with a statue of Churchill outside. Just sayin'.

Kiersten said... [reply]

I love DC. I lived there for a summer and have a trip planned for the fall, and cannot wait! My favorite thing to do is visit the monuments at night. The crowds die down and they (the monuments) look beautiful all lit up at night. One of my very favorite ice cream places is in DC, too: http://thomassweet.com/index.php?p=locations_washington. I love the Freer and Sackler galleries. They are full of interesting, mostly Asian, art, and aren't as busy as some of the other museums. Oh, and the Iwo Jima memorial is really neat, too. Have fun! Oh, one more thing--you maybe know this if you've been to DC before, but don't be afraid to take the metro. They are clean, air conditioned, easy to navigate, and pretty much a different species from the subway in NYC. Thank heavens.

Cooldad said... [reply]

Holy crap. This post is only hours old and already has 24 comments from your adoring blog fans. Was the hiatus intended to up your readership comments? But back to the topic. Anywhere is better than Paris, even P-Burg. Hope you have fun.

Kristi said... [reply]

One thing to consider is baby's sleeping arrangements. Kate got to the point where she wouldn't sleep for more than a few hours in the pack n play, so I went to the fabric store and got a piece of hi-density foam to make a mattress for her - worked like a charm. It folds up really nicely in a suitcase and is a serious lifesaver for sleeping on the road. The foam is a bit pricey - I paid about $50 for it, but it has made a huge difference with my girls.

abby said... [reply]

Wow...as a DC person you have a lot of good tips. I would also add eat from a Food Truck in DC. There are tons of variety (Korean, stuff on a stick, lobster etc.) and the prices aren't bad. This website has a tracker: http://foodtruckfiesta.com/. If the timing of your trip is incredibly fortunate, you may be here for the National Book Festival. A book nerds dream. Also Eastern Market's Market Lunch for breakfast is to die for. The blueberry bucks are a favorite but I love their French Toast and crab eggs Benedict.

If you or GH is into baseball, get a $10 ticket for Nationals Park or if you hate baseball, and want to eat a chili dog watching opera maybe you'll be lucky to be here for Opera in the Outfield. It is usually in mid-late September and its free. Google it for the dates closer to your trip. I enjoyed Lincoln's Summer Cottage and I love the National Geographic Museum. Both cost about $12 but they are worth it.

If you want to be hip while here, follow welovedc.com for all sorts of ideas on non-touristy things to do. They usually have a We Love Weekends section that has events that are going on around town.

I'm happy I had the chance to hang out with you the last time you were in DC. I'm not sure how kid friendly my tips are but I'll leave that up to you.

Desmama said... [reply]

GH might enjoy the International Spy Museum. We went there a few years ago and thought it was kind of good. I've heard that the Newseum is kind of interesting too. Hmmm, where else where else where else . . . must think . . .

kip said... [reply]

I'm so happy you're taking this trip! I think 8-10 mo was our best time to travel with Anya.

I second the Ergo recommendation--I still use it with my 23 lb. toddler all the time. (Although, I like it a lot more than my husband does.)

Jessica said... [reply]

Went to DC for the first time ever last year. (I am only 37.) Anyway, we only had one day and we chose the Holocaust Museum. It was a life changing experience for me. Definitely not sunshine and flowers, but an amazing thing to see. Get there early if you want to get tickets early.

Kimi said... [reply]

So, first off, hooray for trips! Of any kind!

Secondly, is it bad that when I saw that you wanted to visit Kirtland, I thought, "Oh my Gosh! I only live 45 minutes east of Kirtland! I could meet Miss Nemesis!"

Thirdly, have too much fun :)

Anonamom said... [reply]

There's lots of good advice, here. I swear by Bike the Sites. Walking the monuments, even in September, can be sweaty business. Worth every penny, if you think The Dark Lord would be happy in those little trailer things.


There are enough Smithsonians to last you for forever. I like the art ones the best. But the gizmo ones are great as well.

And I adore Mount Vernon. Adore it.

For eating, we like Ella's Pizza.


And there's always Baltimore just up the road! :-)

BB said... [reply]

Blog stalker here coming out of the closet. I don't have anything to add about traveling with a baby as I am not a mom yet BUT I do know how to beat some the stress. Go to shakeshack http://www.shakeshack.com/ , they have one in DC now though it may not be as good as the one in NYC. Have a burger, a shake, groan and thank me. Seriously better than In n Out, Burgerville, 5 guys. A little pricey but it is all organic and hip

Kassie and Jordon said... [reply]

When the Dark Lord is older you will have to take him to the Carnegie Science Museum in Pittsburgh, cause its awesome. And make sure you ride The Incline, and wipe the sweat from your brow with a Terrible Towel. And if you REALLY want to impress people, instead of saying "you guys" say "yunz". As in "yunz wanna go to the Point, or get a Hoagie?"

While you're in DC put the National Gallery at the top of your list, and visit the East wing and take the elevator to the top floor, because for some reason that's where they hid Matisse. Then go across the street and see the Hope Diamond. And do the monuments at night after the museums close.

mj said... [reply]

Holy crap. I live in the DC area too and am honestly not going to add anything b/c sheesh.

I will say I traveled with nine-month-old last year and it worked surprisingly well. It's a good age for still toting around while they don't run off from you at a million miles an hour but they have enough awake time to let you have some fun and see them start to get into stuff. On that thought, definitely plan to work in naps at semi-regular times if you want your trip to stay pleasant (whether it's in the car, the stroller, the p'n'p). It seems like you have a pretty chill kid, but if he has a meltdown on the plane just know many have gone before and will go after you.

mj said... [reply]

Actually, nevermind about that last (naps) part. I was talking about my kid. The truth is by nine months you know way more about what your baby needs/will tolerate than anybody else.

So... just have fun.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Holy dang. I keep getting on here about every 5 minutes, because that's about how long it takes for somebody else to chime in with an awesome recommendation. You are too kind, people. Seriously.

P-Cute said... [reply]

We are so kind because the DC area is awesome :)!! I love the Arlington Cemetery (you pay for parking $10ish, and may I insist that you do the $8/person bus tour as it saves your little feet) and have been itching to check out Mt Vernon, but anyways, this is about you. Any I agree, monuments at night!!

Desmama said... [reply]

Yeah, Arlington really is so beautiful and amazing, it's probably worth the bus tour and the parking. I loved Mt. Vernon, too! Monuments are a must, there's a fun little flea market behind the capitol that goes on on the weekends (I'll find out the name and tell you when I see you next) and you can buy breakfast there and it's like amazingly good (Bluebucks! Remember to get the bluebucks!). Oh, whatever you do, you're bound to have a great time. It's such a great city.

emandtrev said... [reply]

I am late to the party, apparently! I've never been to Pittsburgh, but have been to DC, Kirtland, and Amish Country in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and must say--you are bound to have an absolutely fantastic trip.

I loved all the museums and monuments, visiting Arlington Cemetary, and eating great food in Georgetown. And! The Library of Congress!

What else...great eats in Amish Country (pretty much no matter where you go). I still talk about the homemade granola, tarts, and pies. Ahhh...

Please post pics of your trip!

nomadic gnome said... [reply]

another DC person here...my absolute favorite favorite place to visit are the dumbarton oaks gardens. dumbarton is in georgetown and has beautiful italian sculpture and fountains and a section solely dedicated to roses. ROSES. i forced my husband to come with me and he agreed it is one of the more stunning places to visit in DC. you can leave your stroller at the top of the garden while you walk around with your guys.
and while you're in georgetown, i'd recommend eating at kafe leopold - a cute little cafe tucked behind the street full of desserts and the best kale salad i've ever eaten. ever.
you have some great suggestions from other DC folks! i second good stuff eatery, and if you like good pizza, 7th Hill pizza is right down the street. it's the best pizza i've had in DC. and they have outdoor seating and it's very casual.

good luck! it sounds like a great trip!

Missy W. said... [reply]

I hear there is a good spice market somewhere??? My mother in law came home with some bulk spices...

Nells-Bells said... [reply]

this is great! i'm really excited for you guys. yes, all the museums and monuments in D.C. cannot be missed. of course, not all can be seen in just two days but definitely try to get to as many monuments as you can. the iwo jima was one of my favorites. i also really like the einstein statue. for some reason i remember it being by the white house...not exactly sure about that but it was super cool. i'm jealous!!

scott davidson said... [reply]

You can of course always decorate your home with flowers that don't grow, or wilt either. These were painted by master painters of the past, in Western art history. I found a "garden" full of these flowers at wahooart.com, a company that makes excellent canvas prints, and even hand-painted replicas in oil paint on canvas, from digital images in their large archive for you to choose from.
I ordered this one online from wahooart.com, http://en.wahooart.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LJ5JY , called Flowers by Jan Brueghel the Elder, a Flemish painter of the 16th century, as a present for my dear sister for her birthday, that she now has proudly hanging in her living room. She loves tulips and actually has those growing in the garden now, not far from the framed canvas print.
She said the print adds "timelessness" to the atmosphere of her living space. That's true, because that beautiful vase of flowers has now stood for 600 years.

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