Ultimate Guide to Visiting Washington DC with Kids
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Are you planning a trip to Washington DC and looking for what to do with kids in Washington DC? There are endless things to do with kids in Washington DC. The city is full of rich history and the perfect destination for families with kids. Here are some family friendly activities in Washington DC.
Before heading to a new destination, we like to read books about the place to learn some facts before exploring. Kids also love seeing things they saw in books in person, so it’s a great way to prepare them for the trip. We recommend these books, depending on your child’s age. Milana is 11 so this kids travel guide to DC is what she used and it was awesome and very well written for older kids.
How to get to Washington DC
Washington DC has 3 nearby airports but the best airport fo fly into when visiting Washington DC is DCA. Our hotel in the middle of the city was just a 13 minute car ride from DCA or alternatively, you can take the blue line and get there in under 30 minutes.
Where to stay in Washington DC with kids
There are many family friendly hotels in Washington DC, so this will depend on which location you prefer and if you have status with any particular brand. For us, we are loyal to Marriott so we stayed at the Westin Washington DC City Center.
The hotel was in the middle of the city and a short walk to the White House and other sites as well.
How to get around Washington DC with kids
While many will opt to use public transportation, this would have added a ton of unnecessary travel time for us and we only had a long weekend. Since our child is now 11 and no longer needs a car seat, we used Ubers. They arrived in under 3 minutes each time and dropped us off exactly where we wanted to be. If you do have kids in car seats, Uber in DC is one of the few that has the option to select a car with car seats when selecting your car. I have no idea how long the wait would be since we didn’t try it, but know this is an option in the app.
I don’t recommend renting a car in Washington DC as parking is expensive, if you can even find it! If your kids or older and non car seat users, grab Ubers. They are everywhere and super convenient. Otherwise, you’ll have to take public transportation (trains and buses), which weren’t a convenient option for us.
What to do in Washington DC with kids
Our daughter is now 11 and the perfect age for a trip to Washington DC. She has been interested in seeing the White House and all of the famous monuments in person, so we decided to bring her for a quick weekend getaway. Here are some things to do in Washington DC with kids.
Visit the National Mall
No visit to Washington DC is complete without taking a stroll through the National Mall. Home to iconic monuments like the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, the National Mall is a great place to start your trip to Washington DC.
If you don’t have walkers in your group, you can tour the National Mall by electric vehicle by booking a family friendly Washington DC tour. It’s a lot of walking here, and remember that even though you can see the monument in the distance, it might still be another mile or more of walking before you reach it! Ask me how I know.
Visit the White House
Is it even a trip to Washington DC if you don’t visit the White House? Since our trip was planned last minute (just days before we left), we couldn’t get tour tickets. But if you have more time, contact your local representative to book your tour of the White House. Milana has been wanting to see it in person so we made it happen!
Home to the Smithsonian Institution which includes 19 museums, Washington DC has museums that will surely keep your kids entertained and engaged. There’s a museum on every topic from art to space to the history of the postal service, so find a couple you want to visit and go! Admission to all Smithsonian Museums, including the zoo, is free. Which can mean huge crowds during busy times so keep that in mind!
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
The Smithsonian Natural History Museum was a must for us since our entire family loves natural history museums. It definitely didn’t disappoint! There are tons of exhibits here, ranging from geology to early human life and lots of animal exhibits. Kids of all ages will be mesmerized!
Want to learn about the history of the postal service in the United States? You’ve come to the right place! The Postal Museum opened in 1993 and your kids can see what mail trucks used to look like as well as the largest collection of stamps in the world.
If you want a souvenir, head to the gift shop and get a mystery bag full of 500 stamps. Milana chose the international bag and loved seeing all the stamps from all over the world. The bag is only $10!
National Gallery of Art
While I don’t recommend this for those with really young kids who like to run around and touch everything (there is security everywhere and alarms will go off if your kids come within a couple feet of the art work), this is a great place for older kids who are interested in art. Milana brought her DC kids travel guide to the museum, which had a fun scavenger hunt made especially for this place.
National Museum of American History
One of our favorite museums that we visited on our trip to Washington DC with kids was the National Museum of American History. This museum has something for every member of your family. There are multiple levels of engaging exhibits, from pop culture to an entire section dedicated to food.
International Spy Museum
If you only do one activity in Washington DC with tweens or teens, make it the Spy Museum! This was by far the highlight of our trip. The experience takes at least 2 hours, so be sure you have some time before booking. This is an interactive museum, where your kids will become spies and go from exhibit to exhibit solving different puzzles. Milana loved this and said it’s one of the best museums she has ever been to. I would say most kids under 10 won’t get much out of it, it’s best for the over 10 crowd.
Located in Rock Creek Park, the National Zoo is another place you can visit with kids in Washington DC. It’s home to over 2000 animals, including cute giant pandas and offers an educational experience for kids of all ages. This zoo is free, which means massive crowds. You need to reserve tickets on their website for the day you plan to go, but the crowds were still insane when we went so we ended up leaving.
National Children’s Museum
Traveling with younger kids? Then a visit to the Washington DC Children’s museum should be on your itinerary! This museum offers lots of hands on activities, including a construction site, pretend grocery store and art and science exhibits geared toward kids. It’s the perfect place to keep little ones engaged and having fun while learning.
Family Friendly Restaurants in Washington DC
There are lots of family friendly restaurants in Washington DC, so you won’t have a problem finding one! We really like the Farmers Restaurant Group restaurants, and ate at two different ones during our stay. These restaurants are owned by more than 50,000 farmers and the food is fresh and really good.
Farmers Fishers Bakers
If you only eat out once, make it a weekend brunch at Farmers Fishers Bakers! This was one of the best buffet brunches we have ever been to. They have lot of food options that is sure to appeal to every member of your family and kids under 6 eat for free. Be sure to order some cinnamon rolls for the table! They are included in the price but only served table side.
We came here for dinner one night and while it was a long wait (make a reservation!), the food was amazing and worth the wait. Milana had the spicy chicken sandwich, I had the straw & hay bucatini and Dave had the gnocchi. The pasta is handmade and super fresh!
Don’t skip on dessert! There are many dessert options but we opted to pick up a box of their Virginia Peanut Butter cups to go. They make their own chocolates, similar to mainstream brands but without the yucky ingredients. You’ll see a menu at your table with all the available options.
We randomly found this place after our brief zoo visit, it is directly across the street from the zoo. The burgers here are amazing! I had the wagyu burger, which was perfectly medium rare. There were lots of families with kids here during our visit.
Lincoln’s Waffle Shop
Directly across the street from Ford’s Theater is this very popular and busy restaurant. We came here for breakfast and while it was fully packed, once you order the food comes out in minutes. We came for chicken and waffles so that is what we had.
Washington DC is one of the best US cities to visit with kids. You don’t need a car to navigate the city, making it a great options for those with little ones still in car seats. Washington DC offers endless learning opportunities for kids and adults alike, with history at every corner. Whether you have a weekend or a week to explore, you are sure to find endless things to do. We only had a long weekend (2 full days) but we definitely crammed a lot in! We highly recommend visiting Washington DC on your next family vacation!
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