It’s time for another Things To Do With Kids post! Make sure to check out all the posts in this series. Today we’re going to talk Washington, D.C. A few years ago, we took our kids to Washington, D.C. for a long weekend and we had a blast, but I know we barely scratched the surface.
Today Gina from Money Wise Moms is going to share her insider’s tour of Washington, D.C. and her top ten list of fun things to do with kids in our nation’s capital. Gina, take it away!
10 Things To Do With Kids in Washington, D.C.
After living in several urban areas in my lifetime–Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles–now I’m raising my family just outside Washington DC. There is so much to do, whether you’re a tourist or a local, so it was hard to narrow down my top ten. Thank goodness my kids weighed in with their opinions! Even after eight years exploring, we’re still finding new favorites.
Here are my family’s recommendations for the Top Ten DC Attractions for Kids:
1. Washington Monument & Mall
Start with the most iconic images that kids know. Walk along the Mall between the Capitol Building and Washington Monument, then ride the carousel, fly a kite or have a picnic. I love that DC has height restrictions on its buildings so there are no skyscrapers blocking the view. The Monument recently reopened to visitors after being damaged in the 2011 earthquake. Request tickets for your trip up to the observation deck and museum at the top so you don’t have to wait in long lines.
2. Tidal Basin & Memorials
Walking the beautiful Tidal Basin, you can also visit the Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials. If you’re willing, take a paddleboat into the Basin, which is often the home to duck families, and is just stunning (but terribly crowded) in the spring cherry blossom season. With a little more walking, you’ll find the Korean War, Vietnam War, and World War II Memorials. Plan to go early for cooler temps and less crowds.
3. Kennedy Center
Make family memories by taking in a show–orchestra, opera, ballet, comedy, musicals and more–at The Kennedy Center. Enjoy a free performance daily on the Milennium Stage; seats are first come, first serve.
4. Smithsonian Air & Space Museum
All of the Smithsonian museums have free admission, and all are worth visiting, but the National Air & Space Museum is a favorite for both kids and adults. Learn about both flight history and flight science with actual planes as well as hands-on exhibits.
5. Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art
Three seasons of the year, the Sculpture Garden is a favorite of kids for its open-air space and 17 interesting works of art. From December through March, take a spin on the outdoor Ice Rink.
6. National Zoo
As part of the Smithsonian, the National Zoo is also free. The baby panda along the Asia Trail is always a favorite, and we also love the Great Ape House for observation and hijinx. The Kids Farm and playground are a favorite of younger kids. Just a heads up–this is the hilliest zoo I’ve ever visited! Plan to park at the bottom and work your way up so that you have an easier walk down at the end of your visit.
7. Potomac River
Take a boat ride along the river for a unique view of the landmarks. Leave from the Georgetown Dock for a cruise of the monuments, or depart from Alexandria for a trip as far north as DC and as far south as Mount Vernon. Kids love walking along the river in Potomac Park, with a great view of planes taking off from National Airport, watercraft of all sizes floating by, and cherry blossom trees in bloom in spring.
8. Old Town Alexandria
South of downtown, take the kids for a walk on the cobblestone streets of Old Town Alexandria where George Washington lived and worked. Ride the red trolley up and down King Street, walk the waterfront and check out the fire boat, and visit the Archaeology Museum to learn more about the area’s history.
9. Arlington National Cemetery
Depending on where you live and your family’s experience, your kids may not know the role and sacrifice that our military plays in our everyday lives. Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Challenger Memorial, and the museum. Arlington National Cemetery is a vast space with many hills, so keep that in mind and consider bringing older children who can handle the physicality as well as the emotional nature of it.
10. Theodore Roosevelt Island
Take a break from history with some flat hiking, climbing and animal spotting on Theodore Roosevelt Island, an oasis within the city. Built as a monument to Roosevelt, this national park is a hidden treasure with paths, fountains and wetlands habitat.
I included only one non-DC attraction in this list, which was hard to do. If you’re visiting the area, there is so much more to see and do, including Washington’s home Mount Vernon, Great Falls National Park, and other Northern Virginia destinations. There really is no end to the amazing family memories you can make when visiting this part of the country.
Gina Lincicum has been blogging about family finance and frugality at MoneywiseMoms since 2008. She’s a mom of a 10-year-old son and 8-year-old twin daughters who lives just south of Washington DC. Connect with Gina on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
For more family travel, see all of my Things To Do With Kids posts.