With hundreds of monuments, museums, and memorials to choose from, a visit to D.C. can quickly turn overwhelming as you try to cram everything in. Add kids to the mix and things just get even more exhausting! Luckily, the United States’ capital is quite family-friendly — you just have to know which activates will most captivate your wee ones. For a visit to D.C. that’s energizing and educational for the entire family (instead of exhausting), incorporate a trip to a few of these spots full of family fun into your itinerary:
5. National Air and Space Museum
At over 160,000 square feet, D.C.’s National Air and Space Museum can feel a bit overwhelming — kind of like space itself! Kids, however, will marvel over super cool aircrafts and spaceships, and there are opportunities for hands-on fun, too. The museum often hosts observation events, where guests can use the incredibly powerful telescopes at the museum to get a glimpse of unusual happenings in the sky, like lunar eclipses. Plus, the IMAX theater at the museum brings the joy and mystery of airplanes and space travel to vivid life; the huge screens and surround sound systems completely envelop viewers. If you’re visiting with very young ones, they’ll enjoy the museum’s “story time” series, where they’ll be enthralled by tales of trips to mars, hot-air balloon journeys, and more.
4. Tidal Basin
Toting the little ones around to all of D.C.’s monuments can be totally exhausting … but there’s one stop you can’t miss. Young families will love the Tidal Basin, with its unparalleled views of the stately domed Jefferson Memorial. Why? Two words: paddle boats. Yep, nothing will get your kids excited about monuments like the chance to paddle their way through the shallow tidal basin, powering their boats with just their feet. The Tidal Basin Paddle Boat rental company offers both two-person and four-person boats for rent. You can either paddle through the basin as a family, or split up and see who can race to the Jefferson Memorial the fastest.
3. Nationals Game
If you and kids are tuckered out from sightseeing all day, head to Nationals Park along the D.C. waterfront for an excuse to sit back and relax for a few hours. The Nats stadium is exceedingly family-friendly; your kids will love cheering on famous faces like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln during the stadium’s signature “Presidents’ Race.” On many Saturdays and Sundays, you can snag “Family Fun Pack” deals, where families can purchase seat packages that include classic baseball stadium grub like hot dogs and chips for a reduced price. And on every Sunday, two Nationals players will be on hand to sign autographs for kids before the start of the game — just make sure you get a signature voucher to participate.
2. International Spy Museum
Do you have a budding James Bond or two in the family? Then a stop at the International Spy Museum is an absolute must. Kids can put their super spy skills to the test in interactive exhibits like “Operation Spy,” where they’ll have to decode audio conversations and “escape” from a high-security compound. This exhibit is for kiddos 12 years and older, but other exhibits are more suited to the younger set. Plus, the International Spy Museum has one heck of a gift shop; eschew the typical mugs and t-shirts for souvenirs and instead pick up invisible ink, a cryptex safe, or even a Coke can that doubles as a secret storage container.
1. National Zoo
Nothing captures a child’s imagination quite like animals, whether they’re of the cute and cuddly or slimy and scaly variety. You’ll find both at D.C.’s National Zoo, located in the Northwest quadrant of the city. The National Zoo caters to kids of all ages (and kids at heart, too) with interactive exhibits and tons of hands-on activities. You kids will “ooh” and “ahh” while they get to watch zoo keepers train elephants, feed lemurs, and play fetch with sloth bears. During certain days of the week, the zoo offers “Meet a Small Mammal” activities, where zoo guests can get up close and personal with cute creatures like armadillos and naked mole-rats. The best part of it all, because the zoo is a part of the Smithsonian network, admission is totally free!