Tuesday, April 12, 2016

White House Easter Egg Roll 2016 - Part 2

After lots of preparations, commuting into the city, parking, trekking to the security checkpoint, waiting, going through security, waiting and some more waiting.... we were finally headed into the White House Easter Egg Roll!

Doesn't matter how many times you attend a White House function.... this view never gets old!

As we rolled onto the south lawn right at 12:15pm with the rest of Group C, we knew right where we wanted to head... to the actual egg roll!  Since we headed there first, there was absolutely no line and we were able to walk right up to the roll.

Tip #5 (review) - Wear layers!  Nick and I both started off with blazers on that AM and Georgia had on a jean jacket.  Three minutes into the event and we all were sporting short sleeves!

When we received the schedule of events for our time slot, we noticed that Idina Menzel (yes, Elsa!!!!!) would be singing down at one of the stages.  We decided to head there next when THEY were spotted.  THE PAW PATROL!!!!!!!

Georgia waited in line so patiently and then ran right to them.

She promptly told me, "We can leave now!"  Yes, Georgia's life was complete in that moment.

However, she quickly recovered and ran to the next friend down the line, a pink care bear.

Tip#11 - If you are looking for a specific character, hang out up by the entrance to the Easter egg roll.  The various characters come/go from their prep tent throughout the time slot and hang out in that specific area.

As we headed towards the entertainment stage, we got distracted by the obstacle course and Georgia wanted to give it a shot.  Her "interpretation" of what she needed to do on the course and with the football was awesome (she ditched it instead of running with it) and she had all the volunteers cracking up.

As we approached the music stage, I heard the unmistakable voice of Idina Menzel singing Broadway hits from "Wicked."  She absolutely sounds amazing in person.  After singing "Defying Gravity," she launched right into some hits from "Annie."

Idina was still singing while Georgia wandered around exploring some of the other activities in the area.  She dyed eggs, made some crafts, checked out the First Lady's vegetable garden, and explored the butterfly/bat/bee exhibitions.

Note the tights are LONG gone at this point!

As we walked around, Idina wrapped up her set by singing the song everyone was waiting for... "Let It Go."  Hysterically, she apologized to all the parents before starting.

Tip#12 - Take advantage of all the water stations.  It warmed up pretty quickly and we grabbed lots of free water bottles and refilled them throughout our time on the lawn.  There's not a lot of snacks distributed (I spotted some Chobani yogurts), so if you've got little ones, make sure to bring a snack or two!

We are huge fans of Good Stuff Eatery (the shakes are to die for!) and Chef Spike Mendelsohn from "Top Chef," so we had to swing by his cooking demonstration to see what fun recipe he was whipping up.  He made a fun fruit sushi roll and distributed the recipe to all the visitors.

Right after Chef Spike finished, Sunny Anderson from one of our favorite Food Network shows, "The Kitchen" came on stage for her demo too.  

Tip#13 - Pack sunscreen!  It was around this time that I applied some sunscreen to Georgia's face.  However, I didn't put any on me.  BIG mistake!!!  I was hot pink on the back of my neck and on my forehead for a week.

Georgia was super excited to participate in the hula hoop party.  She grabbed a hoop and went to town with the rest of the kids!

I love that her signature move is throwing her hands up in the air!

We had about 30 minutes left in our time slot (aka - before they kick you out), so we decided to join the long line for the egg hunt.  It moved quickly-ish.  I also remembered that I had thrown some bunny ears into my bag that morning, so that entertained us for awhile in line...

Unfortunately, Georgia didn't find the golden egg (which rewarded the finder with a beautiful Lands End official White House Easter Egg Roll tote bag), but she still had fun collecting eggs...

On our way out, we stopped by the character spot again and saw the Easter bunny, some friends from a dinosaur show and an angry bird.  But, Georgia was losing steam and the characters were all trying to wrap it up to change shifts for the next incoming crew of families.

We finally got a family shot before we headed for the gates...

We had just made it out of the gates and were walking into lunch when we received word of the shooting at the Capitol.  Nick and I's phones both lit up with friends/family trying to get in touch with us.  Luckily, most of the chaos in the city was apparently down at that end of town because all was quiet at our location.  But, thank you to everyone who checked in with us and made sure that we weren't near the Capitol at the time of the incident.

In closing, a few other quick tips:

Tip#14 - It's a LONG day.  Even if you think it's just a 2 hour time slot, you end up spending the majority of the day downtown, so plan for it!  Snacks, drinks, clothing, walking shoes, camera, battery packs for phones, fully charged devices, etc.

Tip #15 - Don't forget to pick up your commemorative wooden egg on your way out.

Georgia was excited that we got the light blue one for our collection

Tip #16 - Pick up your free treats on your way out too.  Chobani, Annie's, and Peeps were all giving out free snacks and goodies on the way out.

We're so thankful to have had the opportunity to attend our second Easter Egg Roll as a family.  It's definitely a fun (and exhausting) event.  If you are local to the area, throw your hat into the ring and try to attend next year.  We'll be aiming for #3!!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

White House Easter Egg Roll 2016 - Part 1

One of the "big events" in the nation's capitol every spring is the White House Easter Egg Roll.  It's a hot ticket and most people use multiple email addresses to enter into the lottery to increase their chances of winning every year.  I read somewhere that 300,000+ entered this year's lottery and only 35,000 receive tickets for the 5 time slots.  Prior to this year, I was convinced that using out of state email addresses increased your odds of winning since they like to brag that all 50 states are represented.

Back in 2013, we "won" the lottery after an email address that I borrowed from Mimi was selected. 

Flashback to 2013 (G wasn't even 2 yet!)

Georgia was much more interested in her cereal in 2013!

Truthfully, this year, Easter was so early in the year that I forgot all about the lottery.  I was sitting at my desk at work when I got a Twitter ping reminding me about the yearly lottery.  I quickly entered my emails, Nick's emails and my mom's emails again.  I didn't think anything of it and didn't even write down the date to go back and check to see if we won entrance.  My mom emailed me about a week later to say that she received an email saying that we didn't win.  I quickly logged into my Gmail account and was shocked to see that we had won!  I was even more shocked when I logged into my work account and saw that we won again.  There went my theory that out of state email addresses had an advantage.

Obviously, we didn't need two sets of tickets (especially since they were for two different time slots), so I passed along one set to our neighbors as we prepared to head back to the White House for our second Easter Egg Roll.  As I recap our experience, I'm also going to include some TIPS because I really struggled the first year to find any practical tips for attending the event.  The White House sends you lists of banned items, but doesn't do a great job of actually prepping you for the event.

As the date of the event approached, my weather stalking was in full effect and the weather reports kept getting more dismal.  Rain, rain, and rain.  Knowing that the event takes place on the south lawn of the White House (and is a rain/shine event), I was picturing a very muddy mess.  By Easter weekend, the local weather guys were talking about thunderstorms for that Monday.  By the night before the event, the rain/storms were predicted to be moving out by mid-morning.  Our time slot was Group C, which meant that we entered at 12:15.  It was gonna be close!

When I woke up on Monday morning, it was POURING at our house. Luckily, all the local news channels kept reporting that the rain was going to end sooner rather than later and that a sunny afternoon was on the way.  I had a hard time believing it as I packed our bag for the day.  The local news was showing Group A at the White House and people looked miserable walking around in rain boots and carrying umbrellas.

However, by the time we all got dressed and were pulling out of the driveway to head downtown, the sun was shining and the birds were chirping.  Due to the early dose of warm weather this year, the Cherry Blossom festival was also occurring at the same time.  Throw in spring break for the local school districts and we allowed plenty of travel time to get into DC to find parking near the White House. 

Tip#1 - Get there early!  The tickets recommend being in line at least an hour before your time slot.  Plan more for 90 minutes or 2 hours.

Back in 2013, I wasn't sure how to dress up, what to bring (there is a very long list of banned items), when to arrive, etc.  I felt much more confident prepping us for this year's event.  Our big debate was whether or not to bring the stroller (pro - it's a long day of walking around downtown; con - it's hard to push on the grass).  By the end of the day, we were glad we brought it again.  

Tip #2 - Think about Disney World or a large amusement park.  If your kid needs a stroller there, they will need it at the White House!  

We packed lots of snacks, iPads, and dressed in layers.  

Tip #3 - Snacks are on the banned list and you are not supposed to enter the event with food.  Fact, the Secret Service and security could care less about your granola bars!

Tip #4 - Bring an iPad for entertainment.  There is a lot of hurry up and wait as you move from one queue line to the next.

Waiting as "patiently" as a 22 month old can

Tip#5 - Layers, layers, layers.  We were in the security line by 10:30am.  It was still a little chilly.  By 1pm, I was sweating!  Wear practical shoes.  You wouldn't believe the number of ladies in high heels.  Yes, it's the White House and you should look presentable (at least in my opinion).  However, you will be walking in the grass.  People wear EVERYTHING from jeans/t-shirts to dresses/suits.    

As Nick navigated us into the city and to our favorite parking spot near the White House, I quickly made us a late lunch reservation (3pm) at Old Ebbitt Grill for after our time slot ended (2:15pm).  When we left the roll in 2013, we were starving and couldn't find any place to eat without very long wait times.  We ended up walking miles away to find a place to sit and eat.  Knowing that the cherry blossoms were in bloom, spring break was in full swing, and an extra 35,000 people were downtown for the event, I wasn't taking chances again.  

I also checked the official White House website to see the list of entertainers for the day and spotted some big names... and the Paw Patrol!  Unfortunately, they don't list the times for the various entertainment acts, so you never know who you will get to see during your time slot until you get there.

Tip #5 - Know where you are going to park.  You cannot wing it at this time of year downtown.  My favorite lot is on F Street and is only a 5-10 minute walk to the security gates.

Tip #6 - If you plan to eat downtown that day, make your reservation in advance.  There are lots of great restaurants within a few blocks of the White House.

By the time we drove downtown, parked and walked down to the security entrances off of Constitution Avenue, it was around 10:30/10:45am.  The security lines were already LONG!  Hence, my recommendation to get there early.  Security wasn't officially open yet, so we headed into our first queue line/waiting area.  There was a total of around 15 roped off lines.  We were herded into line 5 or 6 and waited for opening.

Tip #7 - Before you enter this first line, there are porta-potties. They are the LAST ones you will see until you enter the event.  USE THEM!

Security officially opened around 11:30am to start processing our group for the 12:15 entrance.  The lines move fairly fast and the volunteers are super helpful and friendly.  We watched as the first few lines ahead of us were processed.

Tip #8 - EAT!  Take this time to have a good snack.  We inhaled some sandwiches and snacks while we waited in the security lines.  Everyone was eating.  Those families that did not pack snacks had very whiny children.

Security is no joke.  To me, it was reminiscent of the airport, including metal detectors.  We originally got into one line, but were then moved to another line when they realized we had electronics (aka - our iPads) with us.  

The security area was a muddy mess.  As in, several inches of disgusting mucky mud.  People in heels were a sight!  We made it through quickly and were guided into our next waiting area.  Thankfully, we had a group of singers from Harvard University entertaining us while we stood around for another 15 minutes or so.  

It was also at this point that we were given the official map of the event and the list of entertainers who would be out and about during our time slot.  

Nick and I discussed our plan of attack, which is always to do the actual "egg roll" immediately before all the crowds and lines form.  It's the best photo opp since you're so close to the White House and it gets crazy busy during the latter portion of the time slot.  Since we were one of the first lines through security, we knew we would have an advantage of being one of the first groups admitted onto the grounds.

Tip #9 - Make a plan while you wait!  You probably can't do/see everything within the 2 hour time slot.  We find getting the egg roll out of the way works  best for us.

Rolling eggs

A lot of people were chatting about whether or not the President/First Lady would make an appearance during our time slot.  From years past, we figured it wasn't likely.  They tend to come out during the early morning sessions.  In 2013, we were Group B and Nick got to shake Michelle Obama's hand as they all walked by him.  We had already heard a rumor that the group had come out earlier in the day again, so we figured we probably would not see him again this year.

Tip #10 - If you want to see the President and crew, select Group B as your preferred time slot when entering the lottery.

Nick's view of the President from the 2013 event

Right around 12pm, the lines started moving again as we headed up to the official entrance.  We were in...