At first glance, Washington DC may not seem like the best place to take your kids on vacation. The city appears oriented toward adult interests with its focus on government; however, as you look around, you’ll find there are many things to do in DC with kids! Many of Washington DC’s attractions have been designed for kid-friendliness and will provide options for you to keep your young ones entertained for hours. Plus, not only are most of these attractions fun, children can learn from them as well!
Consider the following things to do in DC with kids:
Visit the National Children’s Museum
This museum is a great way to spark your child’s imagination! “My Town” is an example of one of the museum’s educational programs, designed to illustrate the civic responsibilities of an American citizen. There is also a World Cultures area, which exposes children to different cultures.
Tour the White House
A tour of the White House will take some planning ahead of time, but it can be done. You’ll need to request a tour through your member of Congress at least 30 days before you plan on visiting, but no more than six months prior to your trip. You’ll also need to provide the names, birthdates, and social security numbers for everyone who will be touring with you.
Visit the Smithsonian’s National Zoo
This zoo is one of the most popular things to do in DC with kids; in fact, it receives over two million visitors each year! The National Zoo takes up 163 acres in Rock Creek Park and is home to more than 400 animal species, including endangered giant pandas. The National Zoo’s mission is to educate the public about wildlife and prevent the extinction of endangered animals. It is extremely popular with kids and admission is free.
This is the perfect destination for children of all ages. It houses the world’s largest collection of air and space artifacts, which makes it another one of the popular things to do in DC with kids; it’s actually the most visited museum in the country. The thousands of artifacts presented for visitors to see include the F-1 engine used to propel the Saturn 5 rocket for the Apollo lunar landing missions. Other exhibits include “How Things Fly,” which teaches visitors about the mechanics of flight. The National Air and Space Museum also has an IMAX theater and a planetarium.
There are more than three million artifacts contained in this museum, all with a theme of American history. The museum’s walk-in activities are free and open to visitors of all ages. From the history of conflicts involving the US Military to an exploration of transportation in America, the museum provides numerous ways for visitors to experience the nation’s history. When planning your trip, check the museum’s events calendar for special events, tours, and festivals that are kid-friendly.
Visit the Newseum
This museum of news and journalism provides visitors with a cutting edge experience that allows them to experience the history of reporting, with a goal of promoting the freedoms contained within the First Amendment. It also features many interactive exhibits where children can play computer games and be tested on their knowledge of the news.
Tour the United States Botanical Gardens
Established more than two centuries ago, this is one of the country’s oldest botanical gardens. You will find the US Botanical Gardens on the grounds of the Capitol building, hosting everything from a butterfly garden to classes for aspiring beekeepers. This is one of the more educational things to do in DC with kids, where they can learn about carnivorous plants and much more. There is even a special children’s garden where they can go exploring and play. The garden is open every day of the year and admission is free.
This may not seem to be one of the best things to do in DC with kids, but consider this: from the steps of the Capitol, you can look across the National Mall and see the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. That view from the steps is among the most photographed in the city. Similar to touring the White House, touring the Capitol building requires a reservation. Here, too, you will have to provide proof of identity for everyone in your group.
Visit Madame Tussaud’s
This museum is perfect for children, allowing them to get up close to lifelike wax figures of celebrities and renowned people from history. One section, for example, features 44 US Presidents; another features celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and historical figures such as Muhammad Ali.
If your child is interested in private lessons for music, arts, or another hobby, why not sign them up for private lessons in DC? One-on-one lessons are great for providing the right guidance along the way, and TakeLessons makes it easy to find the right instructor near you. With so many lesson types available, it will be something your child looks forward to each week.
Visit the National Gallery of Art
This building was designed by renowned architect John Russell Pope and paid for by financier Andrew Mellon, who also donated his art collection for display there. Since Mellon’s donation, there have been many more paintings added, resulting in a stunning collection of art by some of the world’s greatest artists. Among the works exhibited are pieces by Picasso, Cezanne, and Rembrandt. The gallery offers Family Programs, which are designed to help both children and adults slow down and think critically about each piece of artwork. Note that some of these programs will require you to register ahead of time.
With so many museums and attractions around town, it’s easy to find things to do in DC with kids. Enjoy!
Photo by Sue Waters