Maybe you and your family are planning an amazing getaway. Or maybe it’s a last-minute business trip that came up and you don’t have time to find someone to look after your kids. Whatever the case may be, let this list of the best museums for kids in Washington D.C. put your mind at ease.
If you don’t have time to plan an entire itinerary especially involving kid-friendly options, let this be your guide! Find the best museums for kids in Washington D.C. But first, it is best if you create a checklist to avoid any mistake in booking a trip to Washington D.C.
There are so many options, unfortunately, I cannot list them all. But I will try my best to pack in as many as possible!
Let’s head to the nations capital and dive right in!
Short on time or cash? Check here for the best Airbnb options in the D.C. area.
Table of Contents
1. National Museum of History
Washington D.C. is known for its rich history, and along with history comes museums. In all shapes and sizes. Let the world as they know it, unfold before their little eyes as they gaze in wonderment at what the world really had and has to offer.
The museum recently integrated a new interactive learning experience for tweens and teens. This interactive space allows them to engage in real-time science experiments. Kids can watch daily tarantula feedings, and walk through the hoards of butterflies in the Butterfly Pavilion. There is also a fossil basecamp, which engages kids on topics such as fossil dating, and fossilization. This is top on the list of things for kids to do in Washington D.C.
2. National Geographic Museum
Young animal lovers will love this museum. The exhibits are always changing, just as each month, a new edition of National Geographic comes out. The photographers are always featured. Displays of international scientists showcase efforts being made to protect the world’s natural resources and animals.
3. International Spy Museum
Recently moved to a new building, this new and improved museum consists of so much spy material, you could fill an entire day at just this one museum! The kids will love taking part in a real-life Undercover Mission while exploring loads of new hands-on activities. Let your inner-child fly and become an expert spy just like the ones on television and in real life. You could really live like James Bond while inside the museum.
4. National Children’s Museum
The name may be obvious, but this new museum joining the ranks of top kid-friendly museums is the National Children’s Museum.
A massive three-level jungle gym is just the start of this newly built facility. In a virtual field trip, kids can become Climate Action Heroes. After completion of a lab experiment that has to do with climate change, hear from climate change activists and heroes, and learn about the effects of climate change. Make sure the kids are listening, this is important stuff!
Explore a variety of resources available through the museum to opening up and starting conversations about race and equity with your family members and friends.
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5. National Air and Space Museum
This incredible museum takes a fresh look at aviation and how planes and the technology surrounding them impact our everyday life. This museum offers daily programs involving science experiments.
The kids can make and attempt to fly their own paper airplanes. They have the chance to look through a real telescope with astronomy experts and see a show at the Planetarium. There is also a chance to climb inside a real airplane and ride in a flight simulator.
You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy this museum!
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6. U.S. Botanic Garden
The kids can enjoy a scavenger hunt that sends them to identify plants and get a stamp in their passports. Stop by the Children’s Garden to play in the playhouse, pump water, dig with shovels, and occasionally help a staff member plant a flower or two!
7. National Building Museum
Let the kids play architect for the day and watch them build an actual arch or truss using blocks in the Great Hall. Head over to the Building Zone where the little ones can drive a bulldozer and build a using the special tool belt and hard hat. Loads of interactive exhibitions let the kids explore what it would be like to be a great builder of today’s modern world.
8. National Museum of the American Indian
Explore the vast history of the ancient cultures that resided in the U.S. for thousands of years. There are many interactive programs at this museum making it educational and one of the many fun things for kids in Washington D.C.
There are loads of educational tools for kids, including building an igloo, playing with real instruments, going inside a traditional Native home, and earning badges playing an interactive quiz show.
9. National Postal Museum
Your children can create their own stamp using their very own design that they create. They are able to write and mail a handwritten letter (an art that is slowly dying), sit in the cab of a real mail truck, and sort packages like a real postal worker would. They even have the chance to sit in a stagecoach, like one of the real ones used when the postal system was first established. This is another great discovery on the list of things for kids in Washington D.C. Education is a great tool to get rid of boredom!
10. National Museum of African American History and Culture
An important and very beneficial museum, make sure not to miss this opportunity to explore all the history of African American culture in our society.
This museum is dedicated to museum learning at all ages. A team of early childhood educators designs fun, age-appropriate exhibitions and resources from infants to eight years old.
This massive building houses a multitude of collections and exhibitions that explore life as an African American from colonial times, all the way to the modern-day. Make sure to check their website for more interactive learning tools for kids.
11. The White House Visitor Center
With multiple interactive exhibits for kids and adults alike, the White House Visitor Center is home to a variety of activities.
Play a game where you have to guess who ordered various plates of food on display. Watch a film about the process of the presidency in the U.S., and read letters written to past presidents from children.
12. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Rated for ages eight and up accompanied by an adult, this museum is a very important piece of our nation’s history.
Daniel’s Story is a permanent exhibit at the museum that tells the Holocaust experience through a child’s point of view. Children can write messages to other visitors at the end of the exhibit to explain what they learned and how it affected them.
An exhibition for teens and young adults takes them through an interactive component that follows the Holocaust victim’s accounts through World War II. These harrowing tales are real-life events that are told through the victim’s accounts.
13. The National Law Enforcement Museum
In this state of the art facility, American law enforcement officers are honored. Along with 20,000 objects of memorabilia, these exhibits offer an inside look at law enforcement in this country in the past, present, and future. The museum hosts a number of family-friendly exhibits and tours throughout the year.
We also suggest you check out these walking tours in Washington, D.C., that you and your family might enjoy.
14. Madame Tussauds
The home of all of the stars in the U.S.! From the great sports players to musicians and all the presidents of the U.S., Madame Tussauds has fun for the entire family. Make sure to get a selfie with some of your favorite figures. These wax figures are incredibly authentic, and look like you’re standing next to the real person!
15. National Portrait Gallery
Let your child and inner-child run free at the National Portrait Gallery. Portraiture is the main theme at the gallery where kids try and understand the art form. From tracing live silhouettes, this interactive exhibit teaches kids to embrace free form art while learning techniques that are required by artists today.
Toddler-friendly stations house felt and magnetic canvases for the little ones to express as much artistic freedom as they want. Reading nooks are filled with literature for all ages. Ask the front desk if there is studio time at the Education Center, because on select weekends kids can create their art that is inspired by existing works of art.
16. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
This massive building offers guided tours that engage both kids and adults as you can watch real currency being printed right in front of your eyes. This may just make it on the list of fun places for kids in Washington D.C. Watching millions of dollars being printed can be surprisingly entertaining!
17. Washington Navy Yard
Visit the museum and learn about more than 200 years of naval history within the U.S. This includes interactive exhibits and displays that showcase naval instruments used throughout the Navy’s time.
They also have on display models, documents, and fine art all pertaining to naval work. More exhibits include model ships, undersea vehicles, periscopes, and a decommissioned destroyer. Touring the decommissioned destroyer is a top priority on the list of summer activities for kids in Washington D.C.
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18. KID Museum
This is an experimental museum that offers kids of all ages to participate in math and science programs and bring forth the realization that these programs are vital to the world’s growth in the hands of upcoming generations.
Their main values at the museum come from four core values which are: curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and compassion. The museum wants each and every child’s mindset to have the ability to become empathetic and persistent problem-solvers and teammates.
19. Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Get a close up look at some of the world’s most popular animals, as well as some of the animals that are becoming close to extinction.
Some of the online virtual classes include STEM activities, movement games and challenges, and exclusive animal videos.
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20. White House Tour
Have a chance for your children to experience the U.S. Government at a young age. Check to see if your local government provides this kind of access to the White House. Children can write a letter to their member of Congress and ask for tickets to tour the White House. These tickets can be obtained for free, but there is no guarantee of hearing back from them.
Even if the tickets are not obtained, it would still be an important experience for your child to write to their member of Congress, and who knows they might even get a response!
21. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Let your child experience art firsthand with storytime. New artworks are released every week, and storytime happens once a week. This is now an interactive storytime, done online, due to the closures of COVID-19. Children can experience art through interactive movement and stories while reading a story aloud.
22. Smithsonian Discovery Theater
Closures due to COVID-19 are an unfortunate part of life at the moment. The Discovery Theater is not currently open to the public, but is offered through Smithsonian Associates Streaming.
Discovery Theater is the source of live performances that celebrate the rich diversity and cultures of our world. Each year the Smithsonian Institution provides its vast array of resources and connections to help present, culturally accurate and entertaining programs to young children. Everyone is welcomed to join, especially the young ones, “to experience heritage, science, and culture in a memorable way.”
23. Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center is home to some of the most captivating performances for young audiences. From outer space to unicorns, and everything in between, let your children’s imaginations run wild and watch as stories come to life. The stage performances are among some of the best in all of Washington D.C.
24. National Archives Museum
Visit the National Archives Museum and see the founding documents of our country in real life. The Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, and Bill of Rights are all on display at the museum. Learn the importance of these documents and how they played a major role in the formation of our country.
25. National Gallery of Art
Head to the National Gallery of Art where there is always an amazing showcase of artists from around the world.
Online interactive apps have been created for NGA in order to keep children learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They can visit the gallery through an interactive experience and explore a variety of works from over 300 years. With eight activities to choose from, they can explore all of their artistic expressions and forms. NGA is committed to the education of children through their interactive exhibitions, and provide a wide range of artworks by a variety of artists.
Other Family-Friendly Activities Around Washington D.C.
Rent a motorized swan boat
Rent a swan boat. It’s exactly what it sounds like! Take a trip through Tidal Basin and sit back and relax while the motorized propeller on the boat takes you for a nice cruise around the basin to see some of the most famous monuments. Paddle boats for two and four people are also available.
Tidal Basin cherry trees
In the spring season, cherry trees explode into bloom with bright, magnificent, pink colors. Get a family portrait done with a backdrop of amazing pink hues. This spot is a photographer’s dream! Weddings are a popular choice among the pink cherry trees as well. Don’t forget to check out the National Cherry Blossom Festival, either!
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Fourth of July fireworks
Don’t forget the camera for these amazing fireworks. Undoubtedly one of the biggest firework shows in the country, the fireworks over National Mall are something to be seen in person. With massive colors and loud booms, this spectacle is fun for the entire family. Of course, these fireworks are going to be huge, they’re in the nation’s capital!
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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Celebrate the rich culture and history of the U.S. during the June and July festival. Explore and experience folk culture with food, music, and dance. With food, music, and dancing, what more could you ask for in a family outing?
Christmas tree lighting
Don’t miss out on this massive 75-foot tall tree at CityCenter DC. The annual lighting of the tree happens each year before Christmas, and spectators from all over the nation come to see this beautiful tree being lit.
Check out the massive sculpture of the 16th president of the United States. This iconic sculpture provides a perfect photo-op for the children. They’re tiny compared to being next to the 33 foot sculpture!
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Get the kids outside and play an oversized game of Scrabble at the District Wharf. The District Wharf is a newly constructed wharf designed with famous restaurants, shops, and a beautiful waterfront view all in one single space. It is easy to spend an entire day just at the wharf alone.
Georgetown Waterfront Park
Hop in the giant oversized “sprinkler” at the Georgetown Waterfront Park. A beautiful sprawling lawn incorporates views of the city with lush green grass and a long walkway that extends for blocks. The sprinkler fountain provides a cool arch of water during the summer months, that visitors are allowed to wade through. At night, the arches are illuminated with light, making this a popular place for night-time adventurers and a perfect photographic opportunity.
Around the World Embassies Tour
Each May families are encouraged to visit international embassy buildings to experience food, dancing, music, and culture from other countries around the world.
Sledding at Capitol Hill
Don’t miss your chance to sled down one of the nation’s most famous buildings and its hill, Capitol Hill. Or travel north to Fort Reno and sled down two of D.C.’s highest points. During a snowstorm, these hills get covered and children (and adults) can be seen sledding down the hills with great joy!
Jr. Nationals Kids Club
Sign the kids up, ages 4-12 to get a chance to run the bases around the Washington Nationals stadium! This would be a dream come true for some children (and their parents).
Trolley tour of the city
Hop on board one of the trolley tours in the city and learn about the history of Washington D.C. and how it became the nation’s capital city.
Reviewing this list, there are a ton of kid friendly activities both inside and outside the museums. There is education every where you turn in D.C.!
As I conclude this list you can see, there are loads of options for your children to make the most of their D.C. trip. Whatever you choose in your vacation in Washington D.C., make sure to check out one or many of the different museum options, for a fun, interactive, and educational experience.
Let your kids explore the nation’s truths, let them create, and learn about what it means to create as an artist. Let them gain the knowledge needed to take the next steps in this world, to become an intelligent, thoughtful human being. Take this next vacation as a learning opportunity, and a learning experience for everyone, not just the children.
I hope this list helps families gain a connection with one another and the world around them. It is never too late to keep learning something new every single day! Let our next vacations be something truly special, and vow to make the most out of every experience with true passion.