The Ultimate 2020 Bucket List for DC Families

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While you pen your New Year’s resolutions consider adding a new tradition: the family bucket list. Whether you’re new to the area or have called DC home for decades, there is always something new to see and hidden gems to explore. Not sure where to start? We’ve created a seasonal checklist of things to see and do in DMV so you can create an epic road map for the year ahead (and, while you’re at it, the decade!). Happy New Year!

  photo: Toddlin’ Across America 


1. Snow ball fight! If DC is lucky enough to get a good dusting of snow this winter, the Washington DC Snowball Fight Association (yes, it exists) hosts a flashmob-style, family-friendly snowball fight. Stay tuned to their Facebook page for deets.

2. Cure cabin fever by sliding, swinging, climbing, and jumping around at one of DC’s indoor playgrounds.

3. Skate circles around the Pentagon Row Ice Rink, and then thaw off by snuggling up at one of the rinks fire pits.

4. Visit Mount Vernon, the estate once occupied by George Washington, where this time of the year is filled with super fun candlelight tours, chocolate making demos, and camel sightings (really!).

photo: Kelle Hampton 

5. Take a break from the brisk with a spot of hot tea at a “Girlie Girl” tea party.

6. Grab your coats and some hot chocolate, and head out to spy one of the DMV’s spectacular light displays.

photo: Ted’s Bulletin

7. Get stuffed on handmade pop tarts (think: peppermint fudge) at Ted’s Bulletin. P.S. Don’t worry, there’s still some time before swimsuit season.

8. Let your toddler explore mazes, obstacle courses, tunnels, and slides at Kid Junction, a 10,000 square foot fully-enclosed facility in Chantilly, VA.

9. Want to save some money? Snag a parent-approved free kid’s meal.

10. Spend the morning at the National Aquarium. With over 750 species of underwater critters, puffin feedings, a 4D Immersion Theater, and more, the aquarium has something for everyone.

11. It’s the season of giving so volunteer at Food and Friends, where you and your minis can prep and deliver hot meals to people living with challenging illnesses.

photo: iStock

12. Eat dinner by a toasty fire at one of the DMVs restaurants that keep their fireplaces going all winter long. .

13. Chase butterflies at the Smithsonian’s indoor Butterfly Habitat Garden. Bonus: The climate-controlled environment is kept at a toasty 80 degrees.?

14. Spend the day—watching boaters, exploring historic houses, and noshing on cupcakes—in beautiful Georgetown.

15. Warm up with a bowl of chili (and/or a half smoke) from D.C.’s iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl.

photo: Oorkaan 

16. Experience a jazz concert designed for young music lovers at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Gallery.

17. This wouldn’t be a bucket list if we didn’t encourage you to go skiing or snowboarding; and the best part is that you don’t even have to travel far to hit the slopes.


18. The Kennedy Center opens its doors for visitors to check out local, national and international talent for free.

19. Kayak, paddleboat or SUP (aka stand up paddle boarding) Head over to the Key Bridge Boathouse to take a class or rent a boat or board.

fall festival, petting zoo, animals, goat, farm, girl, picking pumpkin, farm, festival, fall, harvest, october, septemberphoto: Laura Green

20. Visit the animals Head to the National Zoo, the Reston Petting Zoo or Brookside Gardens Butterfly exhibit.

21. Ride the Capital Wheel at National Harbor But don’t stop there. National Harbor is a families playground.  

photo: iStock 

22. Check out a new bilingual story time at the National Gallery of Art. No advanced registration required and it’s free.

23. Play and stay dry at an indoor playground.If you haven’t visited Badlands yet, a rainy summer day is the perfect time to do it! 

24. Enjoy flowering tees with a treetop adventure.

25. Go back in time at dinosaur-centric destinations.

26. Pack a picnic basket – or toss an extra applesauce pouch into the diaper bag – and chow down next to a towering statue of Teddy Roosevelt or between zip lines at the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring Friends School.

photo: Sarah Warren via Willow Warren Photography

27. Waterside fun isn’t just for summer. Check out all the options at District Wharf.

28. Stretch your vocal chords – see what we did there? – with kid-friendly sing-alongs at Bobby McKey’s.

29. Go off to see the Wizard at Watkins Regional Park Wizard of Oz Playground Don’t forget your camera! There’s a real life yellow brick road at this park for your crew to skip down. 

30. Live out a real-life “How It’s Made” episode at factory tours for kids.

31. Find yourself stuck with nothing to do on a Friday? No problem.

photo: iStock

32. Put your feet up and let the kids handle dinner after they take a class at a local Cookology or Wegmans

33. Take to the streets with DC by Foot, a walking tour company that gives free, kid-friendly tours of the National Mall, Capitol Hill and U Street.

34. Enjoy dinner and a show – and we aren’t talking “Peppa Pig” on an iPad.

35. Find more than cherry blossoms at the National Mall.

36. Take the museum experience outside and head to an art show in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, Bethesda and Occoquan.


37. Take in an outdoor movie. Check out this DMV-wide schedule for family friendly flicks. 

38. Pick some berries Wherever you live, there is a pick-your-own farm not too far away.

photo: Downtown Silver Spring

39. Get wet. Summer = splashing. If you don’t belong to a pool or you haven’t found your favorite splash park, what are you waiting for?

40. Roam around Roosevelt Island It’s actually one of the most baby-friendly places to hike in the DMV. 

41. Spend a relaxing morning at Glen Echo Park. The puppet shows for kids are on point here. FYI!

photo:Joe Flood via flickr

42. Stroll around a classic foodie market Don’t miss Eastern Market or Union Market.

43. Head to the Chesapeake for a day or spend the night Follow geotrails, go boating, hunt for fossils, and more!

44. Explore underground at Luray Caverns Whether you want to tire the kids out on an endless hike, ride an elevator 34 stories down, or listen to nature’s pipe organ, the opportunity to go spelunking is just a cave away.

photo: Urban Pirates

45. Take an Urban Pirates Ride on the Potomac Perfect that pirate aaaarrrrrgggghhh!

46. Three words: yoga with goats Yes, goats. What more is there to say about that?

47. Take your team out to the ballgame Of course we’re rooting for the Nationals.

48. Oooh and ahhh at fireworks on the 4th of July Scope out the best spots to set up here.

photo: Smithsonian Folklife Festival

49. Share culture at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival This free festival, which features master artisans and tradition bearers, takes place for two weeks every summer.

50. Take in an outdoor show Check out Wolf Trap Children’s Theater in the Woods or the Strathmore Backyard Theater.

51. Check out some of your favorite monuments at night. These ones are particularly stunning under the stars:

52. Relax with Jazz in the Garden Insider secret: Jazz is a great way to lull a sleepy baby into dreamland. 

53. Forget bowling. Try the locally-invented tame of duckpin at White Oak Duckpin Lanes.  

Florham Park Roller Rink skating

photo: Florham Park 

54. Roll around on some skates Show off your moves at Skate N Fun Zone or Temple Hills Skate Palace.

55. Stretch imaginations at a fairy garden.

56. Eat all of the ice cream With this many cool treats, there’s no time for watching that waistline.

57. Get a new look before heading back to school.

58. Take to the great outdoors to admire the colorful fall foliage. Or hop on a train if that’s more your speed.

59. Find all things pumpkin at your local grocery store, but for the real deal – plus fun slides, petting zoos and gourds gone wild – check out an areat pumpkin patch.

60. Doctors aren’t the only things apples can keep at bay. A trip to a pick-your-own orchard can be a great way to stave off the ever-charming “I’m booooored” blues.


photo: StockSnap

61. Inspire budding artists among the established ones at the National Gallery of Art’s Drop-in Art Making. New activities are offered weekly.

62. Once a year, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute opens to the public for a glimpse at its work in protecting and preserving wildlife.

63. Get lost in a corn maze.

64. Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month at Fiesta DC.

65. Expose young ones to European culture at the annual Kids Euro Festival, which features the continent’s most talented children’s entertainers.

66. Channel your inner police officer or FBI agent at the National Law Enforcement Museum’s Family Fun Day.

photo: Strasburg Rail Road

67. Buy tickets for a Santa train experience. Most tickets go on sale by mid-Oct.

68. Start thinking about those holiday cards, people. Snap a family pic in front of one of DC’s coolest backdrops.

photo: Meghan Yudes Meyers

69. Take a ride on the wild side at a nearby theme park. Watch for themed events for Halloween and the winter holidays.

70. Unwind at a family-friendly winery.

photo: La Mesa Oktoberfest 

71. More of a beer fan? Family-friendly breweries are also a thing.

72. Step away from the pots and pans, and let someone else take care of the dishes.

73. Build a Halloween costume.

photo: Rawpixel

74. And then map out a plan for trick-or-treating.

75. Paint your own pottery.

76. Reach for the stars from the comfort of a cool reclining chair at the David M. Brown Planetarium in Arlington, the Planetarium at Rock Creek Park, or the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Albert Einstein Planetarium.

photo: via Pexels

77. Go for a spin on DC’s best carousels.

78. Get to know Northern Virginia by exploring Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun County.

79. Or branch out and take an awesome day trip.

80. Explore DC’s cultural side at museums that aren’t necessarily Smithsonians.

photo: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi via Pexels

81. Ready to take a hike? Here’s where to go with a stroller.

82. Families that learn together, grow together. Take a parent-and-me class in cooking, yoga, art or French.

83. OK, so money doesn’t grow on trees. That much is clear. Go see where it really comes from.

84. Spend time at Glen Echo Park by taking in a puppet show and sticking your hands in the touch tank at the Glen Echo Park Aquarium.

photo: iStock

85. Take your little fishes to an indoor pool.

86. Practice parkour, swing from the rafters, climb warped walls and play dodgeball on trampolines at these obstacle courses.

87. Skip the sitter and go on a family date night.!

88. Location is everything, and we are lucky to be close to so much American history. Head down I-95 to Colonial Williamsburg. Take a detour to Great Wolf Lodge – a hotel and water park in one – to earn extra points with the kids. Stay the night or get a day pass.

photo: iStock

89. Take comfort in a bowl of soup as the mercury slowly falls.

90. DC isn’t the only place for museums. Hop on I-95 north to Baltimore to check out all Baltimore has to offer.

91. Go where climbing the walls won’t end with someone in time out: rock climbing gyms.

92. Attend a campfire program and snack on s’mores in Fairfax.

93. Put your game face on and head to a haunted house.

94. Experience history beyond museums at destinations like Abe Lincoln’s assassination site in the District or the Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson or the USS Constellation Civil War sailing ship in Maryland.

photo: Gina S. via Yelp

95. You know how the best things in life are free? In DC, that’s definitely true!

96. Take a tour of the Capitol or White House. This is the nation’s capital, after all!

—Meghan Yudes Meyers, Ayren Jackson-Cannady, Tricia Mirchandani, Stephanie Kanowitz


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