While it might seem daunting to travel with children, visiting Washington DC with kids is one of the easiest and most rewarding family vacations.
Nicknamed the Capital of Free by many, you will find a large portion of the attractions and sights are free to the public and the wealth of history and experience that can be found in this area is enough to overfill a DC itinerary of any length of time.
From zoos to art to history and a little bit of everything in between, planning a family friendly vacation to the capital of the United States is not only easy but also incredibly rewarding.
Another benefit to visiting this area of the US is that there is plenty of park space in and around the city for restless young ones to burn off some steam in between a whirlwind tour of sights and attractions, ensuring that visitors of all ages have a truly wonderful experience while visiting Washington DC!
Be sure to plan well ahead of time to take advantage of all the amazing things to do while visiting Washington DC with kids!
Exploring Washington DC with Kids
The below list is a great guide to getting started while visiting Washington DC with kids.
National Children’s Museum
New on the scene of things to do in Washington DC with kids, the National Children’s Museum is a vast and ever-changing arrangement of experiences and exhibits curated around a giant climbing and play structure.
In addition to the play structures and activities to inspire movement, there are also pop-up exhibits that change regularly based around technology, science, math and art. Be sure to research ahead of time to find out what exhibits are on display during the time you will be traveling so you can best plan your adventure in the nation’s capital!
International Spy Museum
Filled with dozens of hands-on exhibits and tons of espionage information, the International Spy Museum is the perfect stop on any itinerary when visiting Washington DC with kids. Not only will you learn all about the secret underworld of international spies, but you will also be able to take part in your own interactive secret missions as you put everything you learned into action as a spy in training!
National Museum of Natural History
From butterflies to tarantulas, the hands on learning experiences at the National Museum of Natural History are plentiful and varied. Not only that, but you will also experience fossils, science experiments and a plethora of interactive exhibitions and elements that make the knowledge held in this revered establishment not only accessible for children, but also exciting!
No matter where the interests of your children lie, the National Museum of Natural History will provide hours of excitement and educational opportunities for everyone in your travel group, making it one of the best places to visit while touring Washington DC with kids!
United States Botanic Garden
Filled with hundreds of plants, flowers and sights that will wow the young and young at heart alike, the United States Botanic Garden is a unique and exciting stop on your sightseeing itinerary when visiting Washington DC with your kids.
Tour the lush greenhouses and lavish gardens before stopping at the child-friendly Children’s Garden for an opportunity for your little ones to get a head start on cultivating their own green thumb or to simply burn off some steam at the playhouse located within. The relaxing atmosphere of this green-space is a joy for all who visit, including children!
National Air and Space Museum
The magic and mystique of flying through the skies or exploring space are at your fingertips at the National Air and Space Museum. As a popular attraction for all visitors to the capital district of the United States, this museum has taken extra care to ensure a number of exhibits and experiences are child and family friendly.
When traveling through Washington DC with kids, be sure to plan a visit here to take in the sights, watch a planetarium show, view an IMAX film or even climb into a flight simulator and watch the little ones try their hand at piloting a plane of their own!
The White House Visitor Center
No visit to the capital of the United States is complete without a stop at the White House and visiting Washington DC with kids is no exception to this!
Be sure to research ahead of time to take advantage of the numerous hands on experiences available for younger visitors to take part in so they too can experience the once in a lifetime opportunity to see the home of the President of America!
Children can play interactive games and see sights that aren’t readily available anywhere outside this unique and special place. Regardless of whether you enter the Visitor Center or not, just the opportunity to see the iconic White House in person is often a special and memorable moment for everyone, including the youngest travelers in your party!
*Specialty visit – each year the White House offers an Easter Egg Roll on the lawn of the house. You do have to enter into a lottery for tickets, but if you are selected, it is free to attend the event.
The National Mall
Perhaps the most iconic area of the nation’s capital, the National Mall is a collection of monuments, memorials and walkways that connect some of the greatest and most popular sights within the area.
Visiting Washington DC with kids would not be complete without a stop at this world renowned area! From the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, there are so many opportunities for children to explore and take in the marvels of the capital.
Plus, a walk along the Reflecting Pool is not only a breathtaking experience for adults but also a perfect opportunity for children to burn off some extra energy in between exploring some of the best of the best sights within the capital district!
Smithsonian National Zoo
Children and zoos seem to go hand in hand and one of the top spots on any itinerary when visiting Washington DC with kids is a stop at the famous Smithsonian National Zoo.
With over 300 species on exhibit for a whopping total of almost 1,500 animals, the Smithsonian National Zoo is a sprawling, exciting opportunity to see these marvelous creatures up close and personal.
The most popular of all the exhibits in the zoo is the panda enclosure, where children and adults alike can marvel at the gentle giants of the Asia Trail. Perhaps the best part of this attraction is the fact that it is free for all to explore! You will be able to pop in and explore at your leisure, whether it is a quick stroll in the afternoon or you are planning your day around the experience!
If you visit during the winter, you can attend the special evening event, ZooLights. This event will run from November 27, 2020 – January 1, 2021. Over 500,000+ LED lights turn the zoo into this magical wintery wonderland.
Rock Creek Park
Located near the Smithsonian National Zoo is a sprawling park space that offers dozens of opportunities to enjoy quality time together as a family while visiting Washington DC with kids.
From the hiking trails to guided tours, there is so much to see and do in this park that you will surely find it difficult to cover everything in just one day! Horseback riding in this natural landscape within the urban sprawl of the nation’s capital is always a fun experience for those with older children and for the younger ones, a visit to the Children’s Discovery Park offers opportunities for children to experience nature and wildlife up close in a number of interactive and exciting ways.
Research ahead of time to take advantage of some of the free programs available to families, including star shows at the only planetarium operated by the National Park Service!
National Building Museum
One of the more interesting museums for kids, the National Building Museum has been known to put on insanely fun interactive exhibits the last couple years, including a larger than life ball pit!
Be sure to check in advance of visiting as the museum started renovations in late 2019 and were anticipated to go through spring of 2020.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Located in the nation’s capital is an unlikely but exciting option to explore when touring Washington DC.
A visit to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing offers families the opportunity to see millions of dollars in person as well as learn the intricate details behind how money is printed. Engraving plates and exhibits dedicated to the art of printing US currency offer a glimpse into the world of money as well as the history behind the engraving and printing of the dollars and cents that children find so appealing!
An added bonus is that with some planning ahead, you can score the first come first serve free tickets to this attraction, making it not only exciting but also very budget friendly!
See a National’s Baseball Game!
If your kid(s) love baseball, then seeing a game at the National’s Stadium is an absolute must!
Pro tip: it does get pretty hot in the summer, but if you can swing it, take in an evening game for when the sun goes down. It will be much cooler.
Georgetown Waterfront Park
Looking to burn off some energy after treating the littles to a Georgetown Cupcake or macaron from Laduree? The waterfront offers beautiful views, wide open spaces and plenty of space to walk.
No matter how young or old you are, visiting Washington DC is always a memorable and rewarding experience. Visiting Washington DC with kids is an opportunity to give young travelers a taste of some of the most impressive and breathtaking sights in the country.
With exhibits, museums, programs and opportunities tailored to children of all ages, you won’t have any problems finding something to entertain and wow even the youngest of travelers.
In addition, many of the attractions offering experiences tailored to children are also some of the most highly rated experiences for visitors of all ages, ensuring that everyone in your travel party has a breathtaking visit that will craft memories that last a lifetime.
With some advance planning and a carefully planned itinerary that is paced for the stamina of smaller legs and shorter attention spans, you too can enjoy a rewarding and memorable visit to Washington DC with the kids!
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