Washington DC - Part 1: National Zoo & Arlington National Cemetery

Washington DC - Part 1: National Zoo & Arlington National Cemetery

We were all so excited to make it to Washington DC. We knew we wanted to spend quite a bit of time there, exploring as much as possible. In total, we spent nine days exploring the area over our 16-day stay, and we loved it! In this first part, we will share about Cherry Hill Park where we stayed, and the first two places we visited, National Zoo and Arlington National Cemetery.

Cherry Hill Park

Cherry Hill Park was a splurge for us at about $100 per night. It is a great park, though, with all the amenities you can imagine and a great staff. It is run like a well-oiled machine and they truly take care of all of your needs. We really enjoyed staying there, and would absolutely go back.

When we arrived, we made a quick dash for the daily orientation meeting that was starting just about ten minutes after we pulled in. In this meeting, they showed a big map of the city and how to navigate your way around. They shared how to use the Metro and buses, what the options were for getting there from the park, and what some of their favorite museums were. The park offers a bus service to the Metro station as well as a bus service directly into the city. They even offer city tours. We opted to drive ourselves to the Metro station most days as it was more convenient for our schedule.

The park itself has so much to offer - a huge store, a splash pad, two pools, a fitness room, an outdoor exercise park, an arcade, a sauna, a dog park, many kid's play areas, a walking trail, outdoor movies, 3 large bathhouses, trash and recycling on every road, cabins, yurts, and tent camping. The cafe will even deliver food to your site.

The staff really was very kind and helpful. Considering how large the park is, it still felt like a small family place.

National Zoo

Originally, we were going to take the Metro to Smithsonian's National Zoo, however the week we were there, the metro station near the zoo was closed and under construction. We ended up driving there, which was not really a big deal. Although the zoo itself is free, the parking is not.

We spent about four hours at the zoo and although it was a hot, humid day, we had a great time. Most of the animals were out and active despite the heat. Of course, the stars of the zoo are the Giant Pandas. When we were there, the baby had just turned one. It was so fun to see them from up close in the indoor exhibit as well as from a little farther away in the outdoor exhibit. All of us had our different favorite animals of the day - from the reptiles to the frogs to the tigers to the sandcat and of course the pandas.

Arlington National Cemetery

After the zoo, we drove to Arlington National Cemetery. We began by looking through the indoor displays. Then, we made our way outside. It was absolutely humbling to be there, grateful for each and every one of the men and women and their family members buried there. I knew it was big, but it was overwhelming. Headstones as far as the eye can see in every direction. Just when we would turn a corner to a different road, another expanse of headstones would appear. It is a beautiful place - somber, but beautiful.

We walked over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and took a seat quietly. As we watched the guard do his job, walking back and forth, back and forth, guarding the tomb and all that it represents, I once again just felt grateful. The changing of the guard is amazing. The precision and the sounds of the clicks of the shoes and the rifles are incredible.

Put Arlington National Cemetery on your must-do list for Washington DC. You will not soon forget it.

There is so much more to share about our time in DC. Coming soon…all the museums, all the monuments, Mount Vernon, Great Falls, and more.

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Where We Stayed

Cherry Hill Park



National Zoo


Arlington National Cemetery


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