Seven Unique Things to Do in Washington, D.C. with Kids
Families that are traveling to Washington, D.C. for summer vacation or during the school year often feel overwhelmed with the enormity of choices of activities and things to do with kids around the city. With so much to see and do, planning ahead for a mix of traditional favorites, off the beaten path activities, and times to relax and play, will make your trip to Washington, D.C. with kids one that you will never forget.
If you want to go back in time –
Visit Mount Vernon in Alexandria. A day spent exploring Mount Vernon, the historic home of our first president, is like traveling back in history to the year 1799, when George Washington died. There is much more to see than just George and Martha Washington’s mansion when you visit the plantation. For more details on what you can see and do at this historic landmark, see my article on A Day at Mount Vernon.
Tip: there can almost be TOO much to do. By exploring the site online before you go, you can prioritize what will be most interesting before tiring out your entire crew.
If you want to eat like a local –
Consider stopping for lunch or dinner at Tonic on the campus of George Washington University. You can feast on variations of mac and cheese as an appetizer with choices like Lamb Chili Mac, Taco Mac, Bacon-Tomato Mac, or Pulled Pork and Fried Onion Mac or feast on burgers or pizzas.
If you want to get up close and personal with animals –
Spend a day at the National Zoo. The zoo is a perfect way to be active while sightseeing, allowing children to play while learning. The other bonus to the zoo is that much of it is shaded, making it a great way to be outside during a hot summer day. For more tips on how to get the most of this park, see my friend Davina’s article A Day at the National Zoo.
If you want to be inspired by artistic talents –
Visit the National Sculpture Garden. Located at the National Gallery of Art, the National Sculpture Garden is filled with seventeen works as well as loans for special exhibitions that will inspire and capture the imaginations of the entire family. If the family is tired after sightseeing, you can have a seat alongside the fountain in the middle of the garden.
Tip: Children will also like exploring the story of Lizzy, a young girl at the National Sculpture Garden before or after their trip.
If you want to see where money comes from –
Don’t miss the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Watching real money being printed is interesting for both adults and children. The tour shows visitors how paper currency is printed, stacked, cut, and the quality control process. Although entry is free all year, tickets are required during the peak months of March to August. Going early is always better as this is a typically popular destination, which is only open on weekdays.
If you want to learn to be a spy –
Spend a day at the International Spy Museum. This museum is a perfect place for children who are interested in mysteries, technology, and spies. The exhibits are interactive and help young spies learn the tricks of the trade through hands-on exploration, innovative exhibits, films, and more.
My daughter loved learning about invisible ink and buttonhole cameras and the aspiring detective in her was thrilled by the creative disguises. Kids can prepare for their visit by visiting the Kids Spy Zone full of spy vocabulary, games and more to build their background knowledge before their visit and extend their excitement afterwards.
If you want to see the city from the water –
Head to Jack’s Boat House. The Washington, D.C. icon has been open since 1954, and offers rentals for canoes, kayaks and rowboats from the heart of Georgetown. Seeing the city from the water gives you a unique perspective and as an added bonus, spending time on the water rowing will help ensure a great night of sleep for the younger family members.
A family with kids can easily spend several days rushing from one attraction to another and still not see everything with the many things to do in Washington, D.C. Creating opportunities for down time each day like playing on the National Mall; finding ways to balance sightseeing and active adventures; and planning ahead can help make a trip to the Nation’s Capital something that everyone in the family will remember. The good news it that if you don’t see everything in your visit, you can always go back.
Our Hilton Mom Voyage team members live throughout the U.S. and have traveled by air and car all over the world with their families!