The country’s capital city is always a wonderful place to visit. There is so much to see and do in Washington DC with kids. There are museums and monuments galore, all with amazing pieces of history to offer up. There is so much to see and do that Washington DC is an amazing place to bring a family with kids of all ages. It is a great place for a three-day weekend trip. That is just the right amount of time to ride the metro, see the sights, and soak in the history of our nation. To help you plan your amazing trip, here are 8 things to do in Washington DC with kids that the whole family will enjoy.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is a must-see on the list of things to do in Washington DC with kids. This museum holds the world’s largest collection of aviation and space artifacts. It is always a favorite among kids because of the thousands of fascinating objects on display, including a piece of moon rock, the airplane flown by the Wright brothers, and the spacesuit worn by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 moon landing. There are airplanes hanging from the ceiling and entire galleries full of spacecraft and tools used for exploring the universe.
Beyond the permanent exhibits, there are also temporary rotating exhibits as well as programs, educational activities, lectures, and performances. Be sure to check out the SpaceFlight Academy, a group quiz game in the Moving Beyond Earth exhibit where you and your kiddos can test your space smarts and make sure you are flight-ready. Like all of the Smithsonian museums, admission to the Air and Space Museum is free.
International Spy Museum
Do you have it what takes to be a spy? Find out at the International Spy Museum. The museum takes you through an undercover spy mission. Your mission will begin at the Briefing Center where you receive a new cover identity, an RFID-enabled badge and you will be prepared to test your spy skills throughout the museum in an immersive undercover mission. The museum also houses the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display. Could there be a place with better things to do in Washington DC with kids?
You will test your spy skills at 17 interactive exhibits spread throughout the museum’s permanent exhibitions over two floors. Spies are challenged to remember their cover identity, stay undercover, and participate in activities ranging from cracking codes to crawling through an air duct and spying on other spies. Your scores and collected intel will be tracked so that in the final exhibit, the Debriefing Center, you can checkout with your badge to see your top skills and discover the conclusion to your mission. This is one of the rare museums in Washington DC that does charge for admission. Ticket prices range based on age and the museum is open seven days a week.
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Another one of the fun things to do in Washington DC with kids is taking a trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. It is home to nearly two million objects that are preserving all sorts of American history. The museum has some of the most amazing pieces of history including the original Star-Spangled Banner, Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, the Woolworth’s counter where four men refused to leave after being denied service, the first artificial heart, Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet, and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. You can see these amazing pieces of American history and pop culture all for free.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
If your kids are fans of the Night at the Museum movies, then they will love a trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. They will enjoy being greeted in the rotunda by Henry, the museum’s famous African elephant. Then head to the dinosaur hall to see the amazing collection of 46 complete dinosaur specimens. Kids will love seeing the complete skeletons of a T-Rex, a megacerops, and a triceratops. Then head to the hall of mammals and check out the lion, polar bear, and a leaping tiger. Be sure not to miss the butterfly pavilion either. Kids also might enjoy seeing the Hope Diamond, the largest diamond in the world!
Another fun stop before leaving the museum if you are looking for things to do in Washington DC with kids is Q?rius, the museum’s education center where teens and preteens can get hands-on experience working in a lab and making their own scientific discoveries. Since this is another Smithsonian offering, admission is always free.
The Lincoln Memorial
All of the monuments in Washington DC are worth a visit, but if you have to pick and choose which things to do in Washington DC, the Lincoln Memorial is the one to choose. The grand scale of it all is a magnificent sight. Find the marked spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech and you can stand on a moment of history. Standing in front of the 19-foot-tall statue of Lincoln and the view of the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument from the top of the stairs are all breathtaking.
If you can manage it, visit the monument after dark for the most spectacular view. The inner chamber of the monument is lit up at night so you can see the giant statue of Lincoln from quite a distance. Plus, the view looking out on the Reflecting Pool and the World War II Memorial from the top of the stairs is pretty amazing.
United States Botanic Garden
Visiting a gigantic garden may not seem like a top choice of things to do in Washington DC during a trip with kids, but this is not just any garden. The United States Botanic Garden is made up of indoor and outdoor gardens. The indoor gardens and galleries of the gigantic glass Conservatory include two courtyard gardens and 10 garden rooms. It contains a tropical rainforest in a dome that rises 93 feet and has a mezzanine level where visitors can view the jungle canopy.
There is also a primeval garden that reconstructs a Jurassic landscape of ferns and other ancient plant groups that have survived for more than 150 million years, a Hawaiian garden that contains a collection of beautiful plants native to Hawaii, an orchid garden that displays hundreds of orchids at a time, and a changing display of rare, threatened or endangered plants and habitats. Outdoors, there is a rose garden and a butterfly garden that are absolutely worth a stop.
The Botanic Garden is a nice place to take kids because of the Children’s Garden. It is a favorite exploration place for families because kids can get hands-on and explore with gardening tools. Kids are invited to see what is in bloom and to gently touch and smell the plants here. There is also a climbing structure, a kiwifruit vine tunnel, a new digging area, lots of seating areas for the whole family to sit and watch nature. The Children’s Garden is open seasonally from spring to fall.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Although a little way outside of Washington DC, George Washington’s Mount Vernon is an excellent place to find things to do in Washington DC with your kids. There is so much to see and do here that you can easily spend a few hours exploring here and learning about the country’s first president. The mansion’s first floor is open for tours (with a timed ticket) and visitors can also explore many of the outbuildings, which include a blacksmith’s shop and stables. The grounds also include four separate gardens, Washington’s tomb, a slave memorial, a working farm, and two museums with more than 700 original artifacts from George Washington’s life here.
Admission to the estate and mansion tours requires visitors to purchase tickets. However, grounds passes include self-paced access to the historic area, outbuildings, gardens, tomb, farm, trails, and the Museum and Education Center. Mansion tours only require an additional $2 charge. However, the reason for the entry fees is because (and probably surprising to know) Mount Vernon is owned and maintained by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, a private, non-profit organization that does not accept government funding and relies on ticketing and private contributions to help preserve George Washington’s home and legacy.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo
It only takes a Metro ride and a short walk to get to the National Zoo and it is 100% one of the most fun things to do in Washington DC with kids (or without kids – adults like animals too!). The zoo seems to be hidden in the middle of what appears to be just a neighborhood in DC, but after being greeted by two huge lion statues at the front gate visitors soon realize they are in for a real treat. Everyone’s favorite is the giant pandas’ exhibit. You can watch the zoo’s giant pandas Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and Xiao Qi Ji eat bamboo, play, and climb trees.
There are a number of spots where visitors have the chance to see Asian elephants close up. Make sure to step inside the Elephant Community Center. You will not be sorry. The zoo is also home to lions, two species of tigers, cheetahs, gorillas, and so many more animals. If you are lucky, you will spot an orangutan making use of the O-line (orangutan line) that hangs above the walking path and allows the orangutans to travel 985 feet between the Great Ape House and Think Tank, their two habitat areas. It is a spectacular and exciting thing to see in person!
Washington DC is such an amazing place to visit. These 8 things to do in Washington DC with kids should keep everyone in your family happy because from history to animals to cool sites, there is something for everyone. There are so many fun places to go and cool things to see that your only problem will be not having enough time to do everything on your list.
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