10 Things To Do in Washington, D.C. with Kids
Looking for things to do in Washington DC with kids? Whether you are a local looking for inspiration, or are visiting DC, we have plenty of ideas for you. Below you can find a list of the top 10 things to do in DC with kids. Lots of these are actually free too!
Home to the United States government, stately monuments and to the world-class Smithsonian museums, Washington, D.C. is a must in every traveler’s list to visit. Ranked No. 1 by U.S. News as Best Historical City to Visit and No. 8 for Best Cities to Visit in the Country, D.C. is as vibrant in food and culture as it is educational.
When to Visit Washington DC with Kids
The best times to visit D.C. is during Spring and Autumn, which is around March to May and September to November. During these months, the weather is not painfully cold nor is it excruciatingly hot and humid.
There are more tourists in the springtime because of the cherry blossoms that riddle the city (more on this below) than in autumn. And with everything blooming and looking anew, it feels very refreshing to stroll down the streets of this awe-inspiring city.
During the fall, the east coast of the United States is covered with lush green canopy of trees upon trees. Beginning late September to early November, these trees turn a beautiful hue of red, orange, and yellow. Pair that with great weather, fall festivals, and schools back in session ergo less crowds, and you’ve booked yourself the perfect time to explore the capital.
How to Get Around DC with kids
Depending on your plans there are various ways to get around DC with kids.
Metro: The Metro in D.C. is a quick and reliable way to get around the city and within the D.C. Metro area, which encompasses parts of Maryland and Northern Virginia. There are several available fare options such as unlimited 1-day, 3-day, and 7-day passes for both the Metro and the bus that can be found at www.wmata.com.
Bikes or Scooters: Throughout the city, you can find rental bikes and scooters that you can simply swipe your credit card to use. Though the monuments and museums are next to each other, it still involves miles of walking so be prepared especially if you are visiting DC with kids. Remember to bring lots of water, snacks, a reliable stroller, and if possible packed lunches.
Car Rental: If you want to visit the suburbs or see more of the neighboring states such as Virginia and Maryland, you can always rent a car. Keep in mind that driving in the District itself can yield difficulty in finding parking spots on the street, and if you park in a garage, prepare to pay high prices.
Things to See and Do in Washington DC with kids
So now, you and your family have arrived in the capital of the United States during the best season; you’ve decided how to get around, be it using the Metro, a car, or Uber/Lyft; you’ve got the essentials: food, tons of water, stroller, and good walking shoes; it’s time to one by one cross off things in the list of things to do in Washington DC with kids!
1. The National Mall
The National Mall is the attraction of all attractions in Washington, D.C. and a fun thing to do in DC with kids. Stretching over two miles of mostly wide and open grassy areas, it’s surrounded by iconic federal buildings, stately monuments and memorials, and many of the outstanding Smithsonian museums. Here you can take a break from visiting the sights and have a quick picnic while taking in the grand views of the monuments.
It’s a great place to just let children run around and have fun. Often, there are even events going on at the National Mall that’s usually free to the public. It’s a great spot to watch 4th of July fireworks or Military Flyovers.
Recently, thousands of people gathered here as the city commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the Moon and watched as the Apollo 11 was projected on the Washington Monument.
2. Monuments and Memorials
While you’re letting your children be free as they squeal gleefully and run with arms open on the National Mall, slowly herd them toward the monuments and memorials.
Visit the Washington Monument and take the elevator to the top. Recognize the valiant efforts of brave men and women at the WWII memorial, the Korean War Veterans memorial, and the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial. Admire the reflecting pool and climb all the way up to the 19 feet tall Abraham Lincoln statue and take in the view of the National Mall from the steps. Afterward, make your way to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
For more info and a full list, see our post on Free Things to Do in D.C.
3. Museums and Galleries
You can’t visit DC with kids without visiting at least one of the seventeen Smithsonian museums, eleven of which are on the National Mall.
Six others and the National Zoo are located not too far away. The zoo is free and open 364 days a year and boasts Giant Pandas, Sumatran tigers, and Asian elephants.
Among the most-visited, kid-friendly, and free museums and galleries are the African American Museum, Air and Space Museum, American History Museum, American Indian Museum, Hirshhorn, Natural History Museum, Renwick Gallery, Portrait Gallery, and Postal Museum.
For an extensive list, see our post on the Best Museums for Kids in DC.
4. Passport D.C.
Passport D.C. is a free festival occurring for the whole month of May that celebrates the capital’s thriving and vibrant international culture. During the first two Saturdays in May, embassies host open houses, programs, and activities for guests young and old.
Among the embassies that participate are Afghanistan, Argentina, Barbados, Botswana, Chile, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Iraq, Japan, Morocco, Oman, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and much more.
These embassies showcase their cultures with live performances and hands-on lessons of dances, karate, music, as well as having food tastings and showing off their traditional clothing. Visit their website for more details.
5. Government buildings
What’s D.C. without its government buildings? As the hub of the United States government, you can find all the significant federal buildings that are in one way or another contribute to the functioning of the United States.
All of these buildings can be visited by the public for free, but many recommend advance reservations if you’re visiting during peak season; otherwise, expect to line up, such as at the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Supreme Court, Washington Monument (if you want to go all the way to the top), and the Library of Congress. A couple even involves more planning and requires advance reservations for tours particularly the White House and the Pentagon.
6. The Cherry Blossom Festival
The Cherry Blossom Festival pays tribute to the 3,000 cherry trees that Tokyo’s Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted to Washington, D.C. in 1912.
Over a million people celebrate this spring festival that lasts four weeks. It’s a bit tricky however, especially if you’re coming from afar, to plan too far ahead if you want to see the blossoms at its peak. The weather affects the peak blooming period, so it’s best to check the bloom watch (see link below) for updates.
Many, if not all, events are free to the public and they center on community spirit. D.C. is engulfed in not only trees, but also decors of white, light pink, and pink as the whole city celebrates. The whole family, especially children, will delight in the parade, kite-flying, cherry blossom cruises, and fun and joy just wafting in the air. There’s not a cheerier time in D.C. than during the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Georgetown is D.C.’s oldest neighborhood and a great place to visit when in DC with kids.
Sought after by tourists and treasured by locals, Georgetown offers shopping, sundry restaurants, lively night scene, scenic waterfront, an array of water activities, picturesque historic sites, and more.
Wake up early and take a family stroll along the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Make your way to the Potomac where you can kayak or rent a standup paddleboard. There’s also a mini splash area where kids can get all wet and feed ducks.
Enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the cozy waterfront restaurants, and if you’re not into retail therapy, visit historic landmarks like the beautiful Tudor Place, or let the children run around at the Dumbarton Oaks park.
You can also test your endurance as you walk up all 75 steep steps of the infamous Exorcist steps, or simply take it slow and admire the gorgeous architecture. Learn about the rich history of the Kennedys and walk in JFK’s steps during a self-guided Kennedy tour.
Stop by the many well-known bakeries for some scrumptious cupcakes. End your day at a jazz bar or a painting night at the many galleries in the neighborhood. Whatever your family is into, you’ll find it at Georgetown.
8. Watch a game at the Nats stadium.
With baseball being America’s pastime, there’s no way you can visit Washington D.C. without at least watching a game at the Nats park.
Whether you’re into baseball or not, and especially if you’re visiting from another country, you must experience a baseball game once in your lifetime.
There’s plenty of food choices at the park and there’s even a playground for the kids to get their wiggles out. Imagine thousands of fans cheering all around you and if you get great seats, there’s really nothing quite like it. For more information, visit their website.
9. Arlington Cemetery
Probably not suited for younger children, but for older kids the Arlington Cemetery is an interesting place to visit in DC. The nation’s most hallowed ground with the remains of over 400,000 service men and women limited to active duty members, Medal of Honor recipients, veterans, and their dependents.
As visitors arrive at the site, they are welcomed with rolling hills, tranquility, and an overwhelming sense of peace and gratitude that’s every bit as powerful as the realization that these rows upon rows of tombstones belong to individuals who have sacrificed for an entire nation.
On Memorial Day, witness thousands of American flags blowing in the wind and attend one of the major annual memorial services at the Memorial Amphitheater.
Throughout the year, you can visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watch the Changing of the Guard. You can also visit JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ grave site, from which you can also have a great view of Washington, D.C. Find out more about the Arlington Cemetery at on their website.
10. Go on a day trip.
As much as there is to see and do in the nation’s capital, there’s more events, activities, and spots to explore outside of the District. There are many places just within an hour away from nature trails to aquatic recreation to historical sites.
See our post: 20 Best day trips from DC.
Among the must-sees are Old Town Alexandria, the National Harbor, Mount Vernon, Museum of the Marine Corps and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Great Falls park, Assateague, the Shenandoah, and more.
So much to do in Washington DC with Kids!
We hope our list of things to do in Washington DC with kids will keep you busy! When and if you managed to visit every single destination on this list, don’t fret. The nation’s capital has so much more to offer. Go explore just a little further. Your next best thing might just be tucked one Metro stop away.
Author: Regine Orme is a writer and mother of 3 young children based in DC. She traveled extensively before children, and now continues to do so with her family. They have been living in and exploring Washington, DC for the past 7 years.