100 Things to Do with Kids in DC

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When you’re looking for things to do in Washington, DC with kids, the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum and the national monuments and memorials come to mind. But there is plenty to see and do beyond the National Mall. Keep reading for our list of favorite things to do with kids in the DMV.

1. The White House isn't just where the President lives it's also the People's House! This means it's open to the public and it's a must-do when visiting DC. You won't be able to visit all areas of the White House but you can visit the East Wing and the residence with some advance preparation. Contact your Congressional representative at least 21 days in advance of your visit to schedule a tour.

2. After checking out where the President lives swing over to Capitol Hill. There, you can walk the Capitol grounds and see the Capitol's majestic rotunda for yourself. Reservations are recommended to visit the Capitol Visitor's Center For an even more in-depth look, contact your Congressperson or Senator in advance of your visit for a tour of the Capitol itself.

3. Just a short walk from the Capitol is the Supreme Court. The Court is usually open to the public on weekdays with no reservations required. Even if you can't get inside it's worth a stop to take a photo on the Court's iconic stairs. 

4. DC is one of the few places in the United States you can see pandas. They are even more adorable in person. Be sure to visit the National Zoo to catch a glimpse for yourself. While at the zoo be sure to explore the rest of Asia Trail, play in the Pollinator Playground and seek out your favorite creatures from tigers to bald eagles. Admission is free! 

5. We are getting closer to the day where anyone might be able to travel to space. Until then visit the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum to get an up-close look at rockets, space science, and hands-on exhibits about how things fly. 

6. To see an actual space shuttle you will need to travel to the Udzar-Hazey Center, the Air & Space museum's satellite location near Dulles airport. The Udzar-Hazey center also houses a Star Wars X-Wing fighter. The Udzar-Hazey Center hosts regular family-friendly events so keep an eye on their events calendar.  

7. For those who prefer learning about the land, the National Museum of Natural History is a must-do. The Museum of Natural History is home to an impressive collection of dinosaurs but don't miss the indoor butterfly habitat and hall of gems while you are there! 

8. Visit National Harbor and Gaylord National Resort. It's easy to spend a day or two exploring National Harbor. Take a ride on the Capitol Wheel to catch great views of the city, shop and dine and spend time diffing on the beach. National Harbor frequently hosts special events like a Lantern Festival, outdoor movie, jazz festivals and more. Make the most of your visit with a stay at Gaylord National and experience an indoor laser and lights show in an impressive atrium, a family-friendly rooftop bar with incredible sunset views and augmented reality games. 

9. No trip to Washington, DC is complete without a visit to the National Mall to see the monuments. See the monuments for free by foot or book a tour by Segway, bike, or trolley. The monuments are magical at night so consider visiting after sundown if your kids can stay up past dark.

10. Go deep undercover at the International Spy Museum.  Learn essential spy skills like crawling through mock air ducts to eavesdrop and designing outfits for undercover agents.

11. Explore Rock Creek Park. DC is home to over 1,500 acres of national parkland. Spend a few hours or a few days exploring all this park has to offer.

12. Thanks to an arcane law that prohibited selling or disposing of parts of the Capitol removed during a 1958 renovation anyone can now visit the Capitol Stones. It's not easy to find the stones' "secret" location but it's actually just a short walk down a well-trodden path. Many children enjoy climbing on the stone but be careful!

13. Great Falls Park has some of the best natural views in the DC area. The Billy Goat Trail is one of the most popuar trails to tackle with kids. 

14. Roosevelt Island is a fantastic natural place to explore with kids just minutes from the National Mall. Explore on your own or join a ranger-led program

15. At United States Botanic Garden you can experience the jungle, the desert and see rare and endangered plants under one roof. Be sure to check out the outdoor Children's Garden and the canopy walk that give you a bird's eye view of the plants.

16. The National Arboretum is a huge oasis in the city. The highlight for many visitors is seeing the old columns from the Capitol Columns dating from the 1800s now sitting in a grassy knoll. Don't miss the extensive bonsai exhibit and state trees. 

17. Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens is one of DC's best kept secrets. The former home of the heiress to the Post Cereal fortune is now open for exploration. Take a kid-friendly tour of the stately mansion but stay for the expansive gardens including a Japanese garden, lunar lawn, French parterre, putting green, and more. Bring a picnic or grab something to enjoy at the estate's café. Keep an eye out for the heavy French and Russian influences throughout inspired by Mrs. Post's time accompanying her husband to his assignments as an Ambassador.  

18. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is an expansive garden featuring lotus blooms and lilies. Don't miss the boardwalk trail that is stroller-friendly.

19. The C&O Canal served as a 185 mile shipping and transportation route along the Potomac river for over 100 years. See a small part of it on your own or through one of the many events held along the canal. You can even take a boat ride along the canal. More adventurous families can even book a stay in a preserved canal house.

20. Brookside Gardens features acres of gardens and an extensive conservatory. There is something for everyone with an Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden, and the Woodland Walk. The Formal Gardens areas include a Perennial Garden, Yew Garden, the Maple Terrace, and Fragrance Garden. Check their website for seasonal events, such as Gardens of Light in the winter and the Wings of Fancy live butterfly exhibit in the Spring. 


21. Visit Artechouse to see magic happen when art and technology collide. Artechouse's exhibits change every few months but they are always interactive, immersive and worth the trip. Past exhibits have focused on everything from Cherry Blossoms to the life of a neuron. Be sure to check out the bar before you leave which features themed drinks (including virgin versions) related to exhibit's theme complete with VR coasters. 

22, Not far from Artechouse is The Wharf DC. The Wharf is a great place to go if you have wanted to swing on a giant swing with river views or roast smores on a big firepit. Check out activities ranging from riding a free Water Jitney to renting a paddleboard. t's also a great destination for dining and seeing live music. 

23.See where George Washington and Martha lived by visiting their well preserved home in Virginia. Mount Vernon also features sprawling grounds perfect for exploring. While you are there you will also learn about the history of the slaves who lived and worked at Mount Vernon. Before you go check out the kids' activities on the estate.

25. The National Cathedral is a stunning masterpiece and the sixth largest cathedral in the world. Inside view colorful stained glass and search for the moonrock embedded in one of the windows. Visit the many chapels and look for carvings of luminaries including Rosa Parks and Hellen Keller. Outside look around for whimsical gargoyles.

26. The grounds of the National Cathedral are their own destination. The Bishop's Garden is a peaceful oasis in the city. Enjoy the beautiful landscaping, visit the Shadow House gazebo or bring a picnic and ball and enjoy the grounds. Just past the Bishop's Garden is Olmsted Woods with a contemplative circle and native flowers.

27. Kingman Island and Heritage Trail is home to rare ecosystems and over 100 species of birds. This unique spot was created when the Anacostia river was dredged over 100 years ago. Today it's a great place to look for frogs, ride a (free!) paddle boat, and hike. Check out their events calendar for family-friendly events focusing on helping the environment. 

28. Thrill seekers will love exploring the many amusement parks in the DC area. From the sprawling Six Flags America to the smaller Western-themed Adventure Park USA there is something for big and small adventurers alike. 

29. DC kids love to play! There is no shortage of playgrounds in the DC area. Check out some of the best and biggest or head to a playground with tons of shade to escape the DC heat.

30. The DC area is home to an extensive network of spray grounds. Open all summer long, these splash pads are a great place to cool down and let kids burn off some steam. Find spray grounds perfect for kids with disabilities, city kids and more.

photo: Glen Echo Park

31. Washington, DC is an international city and home to embassies from all over the world. Take a Self-Guided tour of Embassy Row starting at DuPont Circle to see some of the best. It's the fastest and easiest way to take a world tour!
32. The Culture House is an iconic spot for selfies in Southwest DC. The church building dating to the 19th Century is now painted in bright, bold colors and is home to a vibrant arts community. Check out their exhibitions to see what is on display. Before you head out make sure that Culture House is open to the public when you want to visit since it is a popular venue for private events. 
33. The Woodrow Wilson House is where the former president and his wife moved when the left the White House in 1921. This well preserved time capsule from the roaring 20s is just off of Embassy Row and hosts events including tours and vintage game nights. The Woodrow Wilson House strives to be historically accurate and has programs relating to the impact of President Wilson's controversial policies including the segregation of the federal workforce. 
34. The Underground Railroad Experience takes visitors on a trail that simulates the experience of slaves who fled the south in search of freedom. The trail starts at Woodlawn Manor
and take visitors through woods and fields. Take a guided tour or print out this map for a self-guided experience that explains how former slaves found hiding spots and the dangers they faced on their journey to freedom.
35. Woodlawn Manor House isn't just the start of the Underground Railroad Experience, it's also a well-preserved example of the Maryland of yesteryear. The manor includes a sprawling 19th century house. The grounds preserve Maryland's agricultural history. Events include public hikes, old fashioned games and demonstrations on churning butter by hand. 
36. The Clara Barton House tells the story of a remarkable woman who founded the Red Cross. Her home once served as the Red Cross's offices. Visitors can explore three levels of this beautiful home and learn more about Barton's life and work.
37. Adjacent to Clara Barton's home is the fun and interesting Glen Echo Park. The park was formerly an amusement park but is now a vibrant center of arts and fun. The park features the only carousel in a national park, a playground, a children's theater, a puppet theatre and a network of yurts where artists work and sell their wares. 
38. The National Museum of Women in the Arts, not surprisingly, is dedicated to showcasing art by women artists. It's a  great way to view work from artists who have historically been marginalized. 
39. The Renwick Gallery located across the street from the White House, is part of the Smithsonian's American Art Museum. This quirky museum has featured exhibits centering on the Art of Burning Man, floor-to-ceiling fiber installations, and Chicano revolutionary graphics. The Renwick Gallery hosts periodic family events so check their calendar before heading over.
40. Blagden Alley in DC's historic Shaw neighborhood is an off-the-beaten track destination worth exploring. The alley is home to well preserved townhomes and horse stables from the 19th Century which now house cafes, bars and restaurants. Don't miss the colorful "LOVE" mural which is a favorite spot for selfies. 

photo: Ben's Chili Bowl

41. Visit Luray Caverns to experience an underground marvel. These caverns are the largest in the Eastern part of the country and are less than two hours from DC.

42. Annapolis is less than an hour from DC and is worth the trip! This small town is home to the US Naval Academy, a charming Main Street, great seafood and more. A highlight for many families is Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake

43. Hungry bellies should head to Union Market is an open-style food hall with eats and drinks ranging from gourmet coffee and bagels to unconventional butcher cuts and esoteric wines. The market also features some unique shops. Keep your eye open for special events, including drive-in movies in the parking lot and expansive Sunday Suppers. 

44. The Torpedo Factory Art Center is a former munitions factory that now houses dozens of working artists. See artists letting their creative juices flow and browse what's for sale in their galleries. 

45. If you make a stop at one of the Smithsonian museums be sure to stop at their beautiful and expansive gardens. The Smithsonian's gardens are colorful, vibrant and span over 180 acres. One of the 13 public gardens maintained by the Smithsonian attracts butterflies and another features a classic Moon gate. 

46. Dine at one of DC's iconic political restaurants. The Old Ebbitt Grill, just a few blocks from the White House, is where movers and shakers have met to break bread for decades. Martin's Tavern in Georgetown has served every President since Harry S. Truman. Romantics will appreciate that this is where where JFK proposed to Jackie O.

47. If you want to skip politics and instead try DC's legendary half-smokes head to Ben's Chili Bowl. This U Street staple has been around for over 60 years and is an important part of DC's Black history and culture.

48. The Great Zucchini is a DC legend among local tots. His show is a unique blend of magic and comedy. While The Great Zucchini is a staple on the birthday party circuit he also has a number of public shows every year so everyone can experience that magical experience of seeing The Great Zucchini live.

49. Explore historic Georgetown for a leisurely afternoon of shopping and dining. While there, be sure to walk along the historic C&O canal.

50. Another historic neighborhood worth exploring is Old Town Alexandria. Old Town's King Street is lined with quaint ice cream stores, book shops, antique stores and restaurants. Be sure to take a trolley ride down to the waterfront. 

51. Visit the Library of Congress. While you have to be an elected representative to borrow books the Library of Congress's buildings are open to the public and they are magnificent! Rare and significant materials are often on display. 

52. The National Portrait Gallery is a fantastic way to learn about U.S history by viewing portraits of presidents, authors, athletes, movie stars and more. If you visit ask about their family kits for self-guided activities. 

53. The American Art Museum is connected to the National Portrait Gallery and showcases the best work of American artists. Don't miss the building's beautiful, soaring atrium, the Kogod Courtyard, located between the two museums. It's a great place to stop for a snack break.

54. The Sculpture Garden is a whimsical open space in the heart of the city. Walk through to explore larger-than-life installations including the façade of a giant red house and art deco vines, or make a pit-stop for lunch. During the winter, a giant fountain in the middle of the garden transforms into a ice skating rink. 

55. The National Gallery of Art features modern art in the East Wing and classic pieces in the West Wing. The museum is full of surprises, including a giant blue rooster on the roof and a magical walkway dotted with pinpoint lights. It's also home to one of the best cafes on the national Mall.

56. Just off the National Mall the Canadian Embassy holds a surprise. The domed rotunda just outside the main entrance creates the perfect echo chamber. Bring a bouncy ball of unlimited echoes. 

57. The National Children's Museum is a wonderland for the younger set. The museum is filled with hands-on activities including a green screen, a giant indoor slide, art projects and more.

58. Gravelly Point is a park that is perfectly situated for watching planes take off and land from the nearby Regan National Airport. Bring a picnic and settle in for an hour of two of epic activity in the sky.

59. East Potomac Park is a peaceful park with great water views. The park houses a golf course, mini golf course and public pool. The tip of the park is known as Hains Point and has a playground. 

60. Cabin John Park is an area favorite because it has a huge playground and plenty of shade. There is also a miniature train, picnic pavilions and plenty of room for sports.  

61. Watkins Regional Park is expansive. The highlight for many families is the Wizard of Oz themed playground complete with an Emerald place and ruby red slipper slides. The park also houses a mini-golf course, a petting farm and more. 

62. The DC area's climate is great for growing berries, apples, peaches, pumpkins and more. Check out this list of the best pick-your-own farms. Then, pull on your overalls and enjoy fruit fresh from the source! 

63. Practice your putting on of DC's fabulous mini-golf courses. From glow-in-the dark indoor courses to a classic mini-green overlooking the Potomac every family can find a fun spot to hit some balls. Find one near you here.

64. One of the best playgrounds in the DC area is also accessible to all kids. Clemyjontri Park has it all from a wheelchair accessible swing to an accessible carousel. The rest of the park features slides, climbing structures, a maze and more. 

65. You can't go too far in the DC area without finding a bowling alley. From the swanky Pinstripes to kid-friendly duck pin lanes you will find a lane that works for you. Check out a list of family-friendly bowling alleys here. 

66. Wheaton Regional Park is also known as Adventure Park for good reason. Multi-story slides and a huge blue pyramid great for climbing share space with a carousel, miniature train, digging area and more. 

67. The Hirshhorn Museum is a modern round building on the National Mall. This is the place to go to see modern art in DC. They also host regular family-friendly events with hands-on activities. 

68. Tregaron Conservancy is a beautiful network of woodland trails, streams, gardens, meadows and more. Not far from the National Zoo, this is a great place to explore and decompress after a busy day in the city.

69. The Mansion on O Street is the quirkiest place in DC! Spend an afternoon exploring the wacky rooms and look for hidden doors to nowhere. Find the stuffed life-sized bear, hidden wine cellar and more. Stay to dine or have tea in their eclectic restaurant. 

70. There is a real castle in the heart of DuPont Circle. The Brewmaster's Castle, otherwise known as Heurich House, has survived from the 1800s. Built by the owner of the largest brewery in 19th Century DC, this marvel features intricately carved fireplaces, mantles and more. Now open to the public, the Castle often hosts throwback game nights and family-friendly scavenger hunts. 

photo: Dumbarton Oaks

71. The Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic church in the United States and one of the tenth largest in the world. Open to visitors of all faiths, the Basilica has over 80 shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary representing cultures and traditions from around the globe. The Basilica is especially beautiful when decorated for Christmas but is worth a visit any time of year.

72. The National Museum of the American Indian tells the story of ingenious peoples throughout the Americas. This stunning building houses exhibits created with input from Native voices. It's a great way to learn about not only the complicated history surrounding American Indians but about vibrant Native culture and arts. Don't miss the award winning Mitsitam Café to sample traditional Native foods. Be sure to check out the play area where you can build an igloo and try your hand at Native-inspired crafts.

73. The National Museum of African American History and Culture tells the history of the African American experience in the United States from slavery through Jim Crow to the Civil Rights movement and beyond. This museum also highlights the rich contributions of African Americans to American Culture from music and film to food and sports. 

74. The National Museum of American History touches on nearly every aspect of American life. History exhibits explore the development of railroads and transportation, cultural exhibits explore everything from video game development to Julia Child's kitchen, political exhibits showcase First Ladies' inaugural ball dresses and pop culture exhibits feature iconic items like Dorothy's ruby red slippers from the Wizard of Oz. Don't miss the hands-on activity areas for kids of all ages. 

75. Want to see how money is made? Head over the to United States Mint just off the National Mall. Take a tour then visit the Coin Shop on your way out.

76. Tudor Place has been home to six generations of Martha Washington's descendants. Occupied through the 1980s, this home and its grounds are now open to the public. Visitors can tour the home and the Georgetown estate's 5 1/2 acres of land. Tudor Place hosts frequent family-friendly events including Tudor Tots. Keep an eye on the their calendar. 

77. Dumbarton Oaks is the former home of a distinguished ambassador and his wife. Now a research institute run by Harvard University, the home and expansive gardens are open to the public. Dumbarton Oaks has expansive gardens that were named one of the ten best in the world by National Geographic. They make a lovely spot to rest and explore after a busy day of eating and shopping in Georgetown.

78. The National Naval Museum is a hidden gem. This museum tells the story of the US Navy from covert submarine operations to the role of the Navy in conflicts starting with the Civil War. Many exhibits are hands-on and lots of fun.

79. The National Postal Museum is one of the Smithsonian's lesser known museums but it is definitely worth a visit. Learn the history of the Postal Services from its days as the Pony Express and trace how the agency became the high-tech operation it is today. Sit on a horse-drawn wagon, "drive" a big rig, hop on an old-fashioned mail hauling train and test your speed at sorting packages. Before you leave mail a postcard and get it hand-stamped. 

80. The National Aquarium in Baltimore is a massive home to all types of sea life. The centerpiece of the aquarium is shark alley where visitors are surrounded by over 200,000 square feet of a variety of species of sharks. Learn about jellyfish, see dolphins being playful, watch scuba divers feed deep sea creature and more.  

81. Baltimore's Maryland Science Center is the destination in the greater DC area for kids to get up close and personal with science. Learn about everything from gravity to space to electricity to how the human body functions. There are plenty of hands-on, interactive exhibits for kids and teens to enjoy. Check out the planetarium for a glimpse into the night sky. 

82. Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore is a wonderland for kids of all ages. Kids can get wet in the Wonders of Water room (raincoats provided!), slides down three stories from the very top to the very bottom of the museum, create in the art room, join in a story time, explore ancient Egypt and more. 

83. The written and spoken work dominate our lives but there has not been a museum dedicated to this essential part of our lives. Until now. Plant Word is dedicated to how people all over the world use language. Planet Word is full of voice activated and immersive exhibits. 

84. The National Building Museum is dedicated to buildings of all types. Past exhibits have centered around everything from art deco movie theatres, to eco-friendly homes, to designing livable neighborhoods. The National Building Museum is a popular family destination because of their two exhibit spaces dedicated to exploration and play. All of DC looks forward to the museum's annual Summer Block Party when a new fun, massive exhibit is installed for the season. 

85. Dino-fans of all ages should not miss Dinosaur Park. This park is home to an unbelievably large number of fossils still in the ground. Better yet, young archeologists get to dig themselves. If you dig up a rare fossil it is cataloged with your name and you could possibly see your name in a museum one day! Dinosaur park also has a playground that is, of course, dinosaur themed. 

86. When the original Walter Reed hospital and its grounds closed it transformed into The Parks at Walter Reed. This area, which had been closed to public for decades, now features a lovely rose garden, playground and more. Check out their calendar for regular events including farmers' markets, outdoor movies, jazz performances and more. 

87. Abraham Lincoln lived in what is now known as  President Lincoln's Cottage for over 25 years. Today, the home and grounds host events year-round. Take a tour of the home and explore President Lincoln's life in the adjacent visitors' center.

88. Fredrick Douglass National Historic Site commemorates the extraordinary life of the famed abolitionist. Take a tour of his DC home and view thousands of objects that belonged to Fredrick and Douglass and his family. This site is a unique look into the life of this former slave who dedicated his life to securing freedom for others. 

89. Ford's Theatre is where President Lincoln was shot with the bullet that would ultimately take his life. Tour the theatre to learn about one of history's most famous assignations or grab tickets to a play in this theatre which is still operational. 

90, After President Lincoln was shot he was carried to the Peterson House across the street from Ford's Theatre. Now known as The House Where Lincoln Died, the room where the president succumbed to his wounds has been preserved. Visitors who are not faint of heart can even see the pillow used while at the Peterson House, which is stained with the president's blood.


photo: Richard Barnes via The Reach at The Kennedy Center

91. Madame Tussaud's Wax Attraction is the place to be to hang out with everyone from Obama to Taylor Swift. Learn about everything from how the attraction's intricate wax figures are created to the civil rights movement to landing on the moon. Because this is DC, Madame Tussaud's has a wax figure of every president from George Washington. Take a photo with the current president in an Oval Office replica. This attraction is surprisingly interactive with the opportunity to pose for several photos with American luminaries, costumes, and a Virtual Reality option.

92.The Holocaust Museum teaches children about the Holocaust through the story of a child. Remember the Children: Daniel's Story tells the story of one child's experiences living in Nazi Germany. This exhibit is on the first floor of the museum close to the entrance so it's possible to visit with younger children without seeing the rest of the museum which may be upsetting to them. Older children can 

93. The REACH at the Kennedy Center honors President Kennedy's commitment to the arts. The REACH transformed the Kennedy Center from primarily a performance space to provide more room for arts education and community events. Check out their calendar to find a family-friendly event or spend some time wandering the grounds. Don't miss the reflecting pool! 

94. The National Archives in DC is a must-do for history buffs. In the soaring rotunda visitors can gaze at the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights and Magna Carta. Check out their events calendar for family-friendly events that turn little ones into history detectives. 

95. Fletcher's Cove is a hidden boathouse in Georgetown. With access to both the Potomac River and the C&O canal it's a great place to go paddling, row boating, canoeing and kayaking. Head out on your own or take a guided tour. For those who prefer to stay on land, Fletcher's also rents bicycles. 

96. Whether you live in DC or are just passing through it's good to shop local! Everything sold at Made in DC is made by a resident of the DC area. It's the best place to find something unique, something that celebrates DC, or your new favorite, snack, t-shirt or toy. 

97. National Geographic is best known for their stunning magazines. Those in-the-know also know that the National Geographic Museum is not only a place to see some of National Geographic's famous photos up-close it['s also a great family museum that showcases many of the topics covered by National Geographic in a fun and accessible way. Past exhibits have centered around Jane Goodall, ancient Egypt, and studying animals in the wild. 

98. Roer's Reston Safari lets visitors get up-close and personal with animals. This Safari has two parts. First, hop in your car to take a self-guided tour to see bison, llamas, deer and more. These animals will wander right up to your car for a treat. Then, head over to the zoo to visit with barnyard animals. Feed sheep and see goats, zebu and more! 

99. The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in DC is a magnificent place to explore for families of all faith traditions. The monastery has lovely gardens that are more than a century old featuring replicas of sacred shrines from around the world. Visitors can also tour the monastery itself. The highlight of a visit for many is the extensive underground catacombs. 

100. Take a mule drawn boat ride down the C&O canal. This truly 19th Century experience takes visitors on a scenic trip through Great Falls while they learn about those who lived and worked along the C&O canal in the late 1800s. Boats leave from the Great Falls Tavern.

—Jamie Davis Smith

photo: Jared Short via Unsplash


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