The Tierneys go to Washington Part IV: Monticello Jello and the OTHER Happiest Place on Earth

by | Jun 12, 2015 | Travel, Travel With Kids, Washington DC | 7 comments

This is Part IV of the Washington DC trip recap. If you missed anything you can click over to catch up on Part I and Part II and Part III.

Day seven of our DC area adventure started at our hotel in Richmond. The forecast was for rain. We headed to Monticello anyway.

Frankie made friends with Thomas Jefferson. And it started to drizzle a bit.

We did the house tour, and it was raining pretty good.

We started a tour of the grounds, and it was no kidding pouring buckets.

But how great is this garden?

Fortunately they have a movie about Thomas Jefferson, which was indoors, and a restaurant where we ate our sack lunches and bought hot chocolate and jello, because . . .

On the drive over, Jack had hoped aloud that they’d have Monticello Jello, and I told him that I thought that was pretty unlikely. But then they TOTALLY DID have jello. So, we got some for the kids, on the condition that Jack ask to speak with the manager and make the suggestion that if they put up a little sign that said “Monticello Jello” next to the jello, they’d probably sell more. Which he happily did, while we all cracked up back at the table.

Somehow it doesn’t seem as funny when I type it up. But it really was.

Good times.

Anyway. They also have an excellent hands-on exploration center for the kids, with recreations of many of Thomas Jefferson’s inventions and possessions. It was really cool.

Then we headed back to the heated hotel pool where we (but not ME) went for a swim.

Lulu was pretty suspicious of the whole process.

That evening, the four big kids completed an interactive online spy game, to prepare for our trip to Colonial Williamsburg. Even if you don’t plan to go there in person, my older kids (fourth grade and up) really enjoyed the game. And it’s free! You can play it here.

The next morning, we headed to Colonial Williamsburg. I had been there as a child, and remembered liking it. But I really had no idea of the amazing scope and attention to detail we’d find when we got there. What a unique and extraordinary place it is.

We started the day ready to storm the Governor’s Mansion. I’m not sure if Frankie knew what was going on, but he was for it.

Then we made a quick (just kidding NOT quick) stop at the gift shop. Nana was able to resist buying these rifles for the boys.

But she was helpless in the face of these lovely dresses and bonnets for the girls. So we looked GOOD the rest of the day.

The kids had to find one particular shop and check in discreetly (hence the finger moustaches, obviously) to get their next contact for the spy game.

They were awarded official spy neckercheifs . . . 

And certificates.

Then they went to find this guy. He gave them some clues they had to decipher.

And off they went.

It was actually pretty complicated, and time consuming. And since we wanted to see some of the non-spying sites as well, they didn’t get everything completed in the one day we had. But one of the militia men gave them some colonial money for their efforts, so the kids ended up satisfied in the end.

Frankie, “being a bad guy”:

We could not have been more impressed with the place. I wish we had had three days there. All the “historical interpreters” were great, and the buildings were great, and the shops and the shows and everything was GREAT. The kids just LOVED it. They all said it was their favorite attraction of the whole trip, and that they liked it better than Disneyland, if you can believe that.

If it weren’t for child labor laws and whatnot, I think our family would make an excellent addition to the place. :0)

The next day, Jack kept his ten day waffle streak alive. Thank you Residence Inn.

And we headed to Quantico for our last stop of the trip: The Marine Corps Museum.

We met up there with the husband’s ROTC drill instructor! Here they are in front of the actual Iwo Jima flag.

After a bit of a snafu with our airline reservations (pbbbbthhhh) we got home very late that night. But all together, so I’ll take it.

It was a great, great trip. I feel so very lucky to have gotten to share all this amazing history with my kids. Planning and coordinating and logistics and packing and transportation and expenses can be really intimidating when traveling with a big family, or with any kids at all, really. People ask me how and why we do it.

The how is mostly Nana and Grandad. We are fortunate enough to have grandparents who love to travel and want to bring us along.

But the why is because we really just love sharing these experiences in person with our kids. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of the Lincoln Monument, but WOW, when you see it in person for the first time, it’s just a thousand times bigger than it was in your head. I love that we’re getting to have that experience together as a family. I know the little guys won’t remember it all. But they love to hear the stories and look at our vacation photo books.

As long as we have the means, we’ll keep traveling with these guys. Thanks for virtually joining us.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming . . .

Updated to add . . .

Happy Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus today!

It’s also a Friday. And you know what THAT means . . . :0) We’re grilling out in celebration.

And tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I love how her feast follows his. They probably did that on purpose. ;0)

Happy weekend and happy feasting!

p.s. We’ve got a birthday party coming up this weekend. You’re probably going to hear more about it.


  1. Jessica P

    Love, love, love Williamsburg! I always say I'm going to retire to Williamsburg and be one of the interpreters dressed in colonial garb, but then…the heat in wool dresses….I don't know. Maybe just fall and spring 🙂

  2. Liesl

    Wearing a Navy shirt at the Marine Corp Museum, eh? 😉

    I love Williamsburg too! I went after college with girlfriends – now that I like only a couple hours away, I really should go again! I haven't been to Monticello but would love to go – maybe I need to take my own road trip!

    • Kendra

      The Marine Corps falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy, so I think it's probably okay. ;0)

      You should go! We loved both.

  3. Amanda

    I'm totally adding Colonial Williamsburg to our "to visit" list for the day when my husband is employed again and we can do such things 🙂 I am not a Disney person, I found it boring even as a kid, so I'm all over any alternatives for families!

    Btw your girls looked absolutely lovely in their colonial dresses! Betty could definitely pull off working there, the dress suited her perfectly 🙂

  4. Rosa Patterson

    Took my 6th grade class to Williamsburg for a field trip back when I taught middle school. I was in serious love. I can't wait to go back.

  5. Kris

    Love Monticello and Williamsburg, but I was hoping you were going to say Charlottesville and UVA were the "other" happiest place on earth. Because they are mine!! #almamater

  6. Claire Rebecca

    I'm so sad I didn't realize you were coming to Richmond (I left from college in DC a few days before you got there) – but I think I probably would've still been out of it from wisdom teeth surgery. I'm glad you enjoyed Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg – Colonial Williamsburg is one of my favorite places. If you ever come back, you should try visiting Montpelier. Lot's of fun Constitutional history!

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