Honor The Heroes Of America At The Memorials On The National Mall
My family lived in the Washington DC Metro area for several years. Weve visited the monuments and memorials in Washington DC dozens of times. Ive visited them by foot in the spring, on a bike in the fall, on a warm summer evening when theyre lit up brightly with lights, and in January when theyre covered in snow. It never gets old.
The view of the Tidal Basin filled with white puffy cherry blossoms in the spring during the National Cherry Blossom Festival is probably my favorite. However, I do also enjoy listening to the Army Band playing beneath the Washington Monument at sunset in the summer.
It can take three or four hours to walk past all of the memorials and monuments, especially if you take the time to complete Junior Ranger activity sheets available at most memorials.
My favorite path through the memorials is to begin at the Jefferson Memorial and walk along the Tidal Basin through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. A quick walk along the Tidal Basin then brings families to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
At that point, leave the Tidal Basin and walk towards the Lincoln Memorial, visiting the nearby Korean War Veterans Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the way. After climbing the steps to the Lincoln Memorial and admiring the view, walk along the reflecting pool back towards the Washington Monument and World War II Memorial.
Dining At The Smithsonian Institution Museums
Walking the National Mall from museum to museum can work up quite an appetite! Families will be relieved to know that most Washington DC museums have a restaurant or cafeteria available for hungry visitors. Some of these cafeterias, however, are far superior to others.
A longtime local favorite on the south side of the Mall between the US Capitol building and the National Air and Space Museum is the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe inside the National Museum of the American Indian. This cafeteria is a bit pricier than average, but the quality of the food is excellent.
There are several different stations featuring native foods from around the Americas. The Navajo fry bread served with honey and powdered sugar is a favorite for my kids. This cafeteria does get busy at lunchtime. Unfortunately, it does not have many choices for pickier eaters who like bland foods.
On the other side of The Mall, there are far more options. My favorite is the new Sweet Home Cafe at the Museum of African American History and Culture. It is modeled after the Mitsitam Cafe.
It is also a cafeteria-style restaurant that serves traditional regional food. Youll find many good barbecue options here. It does have more kid-friendly options than the Mitsitam Cafe. The only drawback to the Sweet Home Cafe is that you must have a ticket to enter the museum.
Cafe at the Sculpture Garden
Where To Stay In Washington Dc With Kids
There are many hotels options for families visiting Washington DC area. However, the majority of the hotels do cater primarily to business travelers. Thus, the availability and prices of hotels in downtown Washington DC are highly seasonal.
Generally, its easiest to snag a good deal at a well-located hotel in Washington DC from Thanksgiving until mid-March.
In the summer months, many locals leave the District in August to escape the oppressive heat and humidity. Consequently, there are fewer business travelers in town in late summer as well. Early September and early June bring fewer school groups to the city and less crowds at the major tourist sites.
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National Children’s Museum Washington Dc
The National Childrens Museum is located in downtown Washington, D.C. near the famous National Mall. The museum moved to a brand-new building in late 2019 and expanded the space for many exhibits, and hands-on learning experiences help kids learn sciences, technology, engineering, arts, and math in a fun way. he museum has a modern/futuristic design, and their goal is to provide useful information and to spark creativity within kids for generations to come. The museum is large, and takes at least half a day to explore everything.
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004, Phone: 844-2486
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Cheer On A Sports Team
DC has an incredible sports scene – from major league to college to suit all interests. All of the below teams play in Metro-accessible stadiums!
TIP: Often severely discounted tickets can be found on Groupon and on Living Social
- Madame Tussauds
- and more…
If you are planning on visiting more than one of these attractions, see our section below that details all the family-oriented attractions included in the Washington DC pass.
5. Explore the Neighborhoods like a Local
It’s always fun to see what life in a new city is like, especially if you aren’t from a big city. One of the unique experiences of city living is taking public transportation.
Ride the Metro to get between sites or use a city bus. Two children under the age of 4 ride free with a ticket holding adult and strollers are allowed.
Most lines in downtown are underground but if you’re heading out to Alexandria, you’ll get to ride above ground. We have a whole guide on visiting Old Town Alexandria with kids below.
Georgetown is one of the most popular neighborhoods to visit but unless you’re looking for historic homes and antique shopping, it may not be of interest to younger kids.
So instead head to Eastern Market – an actual food market and on the weekends you’ll find a craft and farmers market. There is also a great game store and local book store right near the Metro Station.
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Enjoy A Washington Capitals Hockey Game
During the winter and spring months, catching a Washington Capitals hockey game is a great way to spend your evening with some of D.C.s most passionate fans. Capital One Arena is located in Chinatown/Penn Quarter, and surrounded by countless dinner or lunch spots.
Grab tickets and chant along with the crowd just dont ever cheer for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Nations capital!
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
The National Zoo is located in Rock Creek Park and is open year round. Summers can be hot and crowded, which is why I love to visit in the spring and fall. Even a winter stroll is fun when you get to hang our with pandas and elephants.
The Zoo stretches across 163 acres and has mall sorts of animals you will want to meet. Buffalo, red pandas, snakes, spiders, flamingos and even catfish and cows are ready and waiting to meet you.
There is a historic carousel for kids to ride, and plenty of learning stations to get to know the animals better.
One fun event they offer is the Snore and Roar, an over night camping adventure at the zoo. At the Snore and Roar you get to pitch a tent and sleep on the lawn while listening to the lions roar and even get a behind the scenes look at the animals.
You do need tickets for this special event, so stalk the National Zoo website for dates and details.
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Eat Your Way Around The World: Union Market
Have a budding foodie in the family, or looking for a one-stop shop for a range of tastebuds? Up in northwest Washington, Union Market could call itself a national food tour thanks to 40-plus vendors. O-Ku has top-quality sushi and sashimi, as well as wood-fired meats and seafood. Shouk serves up flavor-packed Israeli street foods, many of which have a plant-based twist, like mushroom shawarmas and eggplant burgers. Save time to shop for childrens giftsmini suitcases, wooden puzzles, handmade stuffed animalsfrom Three Littles.
The Family Drive In Theatre
Watch a movie from the comfort of your car at this classic drive-in in Stephens City, Virginia, about 90 minutes from DC.
And if this isn’t enough fun things to do in DC, and its surrounding metro areas, don’t miss our always packed daily events calendar.
An earlier version of this article first published in 2018 with reporting by Christine Mooney.
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Things To Do In Washington Dc With Kids
If youre looking for a great family vacation destination, put Washington, DC on your short list. Our nations capital is a beautiful place to visit all year round no matter what your political beliefs are. In fact, the one thing both sides might agree on is how many great things to do in DC with kids there are!
Some of the best attractions in Washington for kids are its historical monuments and museums, many of which are considered the best museums in the U.S. These institutions are both fun and educational. So, forget about anyone suffering family vacation brain drain while youre in town. Need a little more convincing? Read on for our picks for the best things to do in Washington, DC with kids.
Take Older Children To The Us Holocaust Memorial Museum
Even from the outside, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum speaks to the events during and surrounding the Holocaust. Graphic photos and personal artifacts often elicit tears.
While it is a sad part of our history, the museum encourages people to honor the victims of the Holocaust. It also calls us to halt and prevent genocide from happening today.
Viewing the exhibits of this museum is a truly invaluable experience for teens, the museum takes at least a few hours to visit. It is a very emotional experience so parents should carefully decide if they have enough time and energy to give this museum when considering which things to do in Washington DC.
Free, timed tickets are required in order to enter the museum. There are a limited number of same day tickets available at 7am each day but most tickets should be secured in advance.
Read about teaching your kids about the Holocaust before you visit any Holocaust site.
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National Cherry Blossom Festival
This is a truly stunning family-friendly attraction in Washington. It takes place for a few weeks every March and April, and youll get probably the best family photos of your life amid all those pink petals. But its more than pretty blooms. So, be sure to check out the kite festival, parade and the live music, activities and giveaways at Petalpalooza.
One of the best things you can do when youre in Washington DC is take a private U.S. Capitol Tour. There is no reason to wait in line for a public tour of the Capitol when there are hundreds of young interns and staff assistants eager to leave the mailroom and phones and show you around. A few months before your trip to DC, contact one of your U.S. Senators and arrange a VIP experience.
If youre in the mood for something more traditional, you may want to take a White House Tour. Yes, you CAN go right inside the presidents pad , and when you call that Senators office for the Capitol tour have them hook you up with tickets to La Casa Blanca. Note: You are more likely to strike gold if you give three-six months notice.
Of course you cant leave DC before visiting the National Mall. Even if its just to stand in the same place where so many historic and important moments for our country have taken place, its worth the stop. While youre there you can see the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, Constitution Gardens and more.
More Great Things To Do In Dc With Kids
Washingtons riches extend beyond the Malls most-visited museums and memorials. The family-oriented listings here dont include important art collections like the Renwick Gallery of American crafts, the Corcoran Gallery of American art, and the Phillips Collection, a private gallery with treasures from Renoir to Rothko. Judge for yourself whether these would be of interest to your family.
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Explore Interactive Exhibits: National Childrens Museum
Good luck tearing your half pints away from the new National Childrens Museum, which encourages kids to touch, build, explore, and flex their brains. The Tinkerers Studio is where art supplies, recyclables, and plenty of tape and glue might lead them on a design path to building the next great city. Snow and lightning come alive in an immersive digital room that would make your local weather reporter jealous, and kids can bat off a tee and celebrate sports teams at an exhibit thats all about games and play. Theres also a three-story slide and a slime funhouse . And as for those active tots? Open the gate to the sky-themed Little Dreamers playroom, where they can climb in wooden airplanes and hot air balloons, while you might be tempted to nap in the pillow-filled cloud pit.
Wolf Trap National Park
Wolf Trap Foundation and the National Park Service present more than 100 performances from late June through early August at the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods in Vienna, Virginia. Family-friendly performances, including music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater are held at 10 am and 11:15 am, Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Wolf Trap provides year-round concerts for all ages as well as a variety of education programs, artist master classes, special events, and a Holiday Sing-A-Long. The park is in a natural area with marked trails.
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Experience The Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial, which honors the 16th president of the United States, is one of the National Malls most popular attractions. The majestic monument to Abraham Lincoln contains a 19-foot tall statue of the man, as well as an inscription of his most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address. Check out our our guide to the memorial to learn more about its incredible details.
Top 10 Things To Do And See
The following section will cover the best ideas for things to do with your kids in DC, covering whether an activity is free or available at night.
For more ideas on top popular attractions, check out our comparison post on tourist discount passes, which could help you save money on admission and which also offer family-friendly itineraries.
You might also want to take a look at our name your own price walking tours and find out more about the various bus tours and boat tours available in Washington DC.
Youll also find several family-friendly activities on our list of the top things to do in DC.
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Funday Monday Fairfax Va
Fairfax City’s summer Funday Monday program provides free children’s programming at Old Town Square in Fairfax every Monday at 10:30am. The summer lineup includes a bubble show, My Gym activities, musical performances, and more.
Your kiddo will look forward to Thursday mornings at National Harbor. Photo courtesy of National Harbor
Picnic On The National Mall
On nice warm days, the National Mall, which runs along the Lincoln Memorial, past the Washington Monument and up to the U.S. Capitol, acts as the perfect picnic spot with plenty of room to spread a picnic blanket, fly a kite and play soccer.
The Mall is lined with the beautiful Smithsonian Institution, manicured green grass and monuments on both sides, a perfect back drop for photos or a game of frisbee too.
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Smithsonian American Art Museum And National Portrait Gallery
One of the major collections of American art shares the same address as the appealing National Portrait Gallery. Both are housed in the former U.S. Patent Office, an 1836 building with grand vaulted galleries, curving stairways, and decorative iron balconies. The folk art collection is a favorite family destination in the art museum but it is the Portrait Gallery that really engages children, with a range of subjects from George Washington to Beyonce. Rap star LL Cool J, tech guru Bill Gates, basketball great Shaquille ONeal, baseball star Pedro Martinez, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg anyone who has had an impact on American culture can be found here. The presidential portraits are a big draw along with many first ladies, especially the most recent additions, Barack and Michelle Obama. Portrait Discovery Kits, available in the Education Center Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m., offer childrens activities, games, and puzzles that tell more about the people who have made their own kind of history. The Explore Gallery, designed for children aged 1 ½ to 8 years, offers a host of daily activities daily, as well as stories about the subjects of the paintings on 11:45am Tuesday to Sunday. Check the current schedule for other programs for Young Portrait Explorers. Note that these museums are free and stay open later than the mall properties, making them easier to fit into a schedule. Daily 11am-7pm
Walkersville Southern Railroad And Museum
All aboar-r-rd! Visit us for a trip back in time on the Walkersville Southern Railroad. Travel over track that the Pennsylvania Railroad originally built in 1872. Come see our turn-of-the-century railroad station and tool house. Ride in vintage 1920s passenger cars, or on an open flatcar, as your rail excursion runs past a 100-year-old lime kiln, and then out into picturesque Maryland farm country. Whether it is a scenic excursion for the whole family or a romantic dinner for two, we have something for everyone. You will find history and adventure on the Walkersville Southern. We operate regular trains on weekends May through October, with charters and special trains all year. The regular excursion is about one hour and 10 minutes.
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