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Washington, D.C., has some undeniably incredible and fun museums to jam-pack into a visit to America’s capital. But which options make for the best museums for kids in D.C.?
From exploring far-off worlds at the Space Museum to getting selfies with your favorite celebs at Madam Tussauds, you’ll find something for you and your mini-me during a visit to D.C.
Maybe you and your family are planning an amazing family getaway. Or perhaps it’s a last-minute business trip that came up, and you don’t have time to find someone to look after your kids, so they have to tag along.
Whatever the case, let this list of the best museums for kids in DC help with ideas for your next family visit to D.C.
- Best Museums for Kids in Washington D.C.
- 1. National Museum of Natural History
- 2. National Geographic Museum
- 3. International Spy Museum
- 4. National Children’s Museum
- 5. National Air and Space Museum
- 6. United States Botanic Garden
- 7. National Building Museum
- 8. National Museum of the American Indian
- 9. National Postal Museum
- 10. National Museum of African American History and Culture
- 11. The White House Visitor Center
- 12. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- 13. The National Law Enforcement Museum
- 14. National Portrait Gallery
- 15. Washington Navy Yard
- 16. KID Museum
- 17. Smithsonian’s National Zoo
- 18. White House Tour
- 19. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- 20. Smithsonian Discovery Theater
- 21. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
- 22. National Archives Museum
- 23. National Gallery of Art
- Other Family-Friendly Activities Around Washington D.C.
- Rent a motorized swan boat
- Visit the Lincoln Memorial
- District Wharf
- Trolley tour of the city
- Experience The Best Events In Washington, DC
- Which Smithsonian museums are the best for kids?
- Is Washington, DC, a good place to visit with kids?
- What is the #1 museum in D.C.?
Best Museums for Kids in Washington D.C.
1. National Museum of Natural History
Address: 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
Washington, D.C., is known for its rich history, and along with history come some amazing museums in all shapes and sizes. Let your children’s world, as they know it, unfold before their little eyes as they wonder what the world has to offer.
The museum recently integrated a new interactive gallery for elevated learning experiences. 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 base camp, 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.
See Related: Best Museums in the U.S. to Visit
2. National Geographic Museum
Address: 1145 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
The National Geographic Museum explores the world and highlights the need to protect and illuminate its wonder. Young adventure seekers will particularly love this museum. The exhibits are constantly changing, just as a new edition of National Geographic comes out each month.
The photographers are always featured. Displays of international scientists showcase efforts to protect the world’s natural resources and animals. Temporarily undergoing one of its regular refurbishments, the museum is closed to visitors, but the museum shop is still ready for you to explore.
If you want the most convenient stay for your visit to the museum, just a few minutes walk across the road is The Mayflower Hotel. It’s a 5-star, highly-rated spot. Also, it provides child-minding services and assistance in organizing a wide range of family-friendly activities.
See Related: Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Kids
3. International Spy Museum
Address: 700 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20024
The International Spy Museum consists of so much spy material you could fill an entire day at just this one museum! It takes you on a historical journey to the early days of espionage and the changes it experienced over the years.
Begin your time at the museum in the briefing center to receive your undercover identity. Then, let your inner child roam free as you take on your mission to explore the rest of the museum and its exhibits.
The museum features numerous gadgets from past to present and challenges your imagination regarding what spies and spymasters use in their secretive world. The museum helps make some sense of how intelligence is handled and lets you try your hand at code-cracking to see if you could cut it as the next 007.
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4. National Children’s Museum
Address: 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004
The name might be obvious, but this new museum joining the ranks of top museums for kids 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 completing a lab experiment on climate change, hear from climate change activists and heroes and learn about the effects of climate change. Make sure the kids are listening because this is important stuff!
Explore various resources available through the museum to open up and start conversations about race and equality. A good opportunity to bring in important discussions early in a supportive and interactive environment.
5. National Air and Space Museum
Address: 6th Street and Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560,202-633-2214
The incredible National Air and Space Museum is an aviation enthusiast’s dream day out. It takes a fresh look at aviation and how planes and the technology surrounding them impact our everyday lives. This incredible DC museum also offers daily programs involving science experiments.
The museum plays host to the most extensive collection of aviation and space artifacts in the world. It collects, preserves, and studies artifacts highlighting the history and science behind aviation and spaceflight. Its mission is to nurture awareness of the importance of flight to the human race.
Kids can make paper airplanes and attempt to help them take flight. They can 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.
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6. United States Botanic Garden
Address: 100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20001
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! The kids can enjoy a scavenger hunt that sends them to identify plants and get a stamp for their passports.
The Botanic Garden showcases some of the most stunning native flora in America. It highlights the importance of conserving and studying local plant life. In doing so, the Botanic Garden successfully portrays the enriching quality of plant life to society.
Many regular programs include harvest parties and expert demonstrations on tree pruning, garden-to-kitchen foods, and orchid care. Moreover, the Botanic Gardens offers expert-led field trip opportunities for school groups.
7. National Building Museum
See Related: 401 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Let the kids play architect for the day and watch them build an 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.
The ‘PLAY, WORK, BUILD’ exhibit is particularly enticing for any visit. Its focus is on helping all visitors, young and old, see how the world of imagination and play works when implementing design into the tasks of engineers and architects.
All the interactive exhibits let kids explore what it would be like to be a great builder of today’s modern world. The museum shop is a perfect opportunity to take a little of this incredible museum home with you and build your masterpieces at home.
8. National Museum of the American Indian
Address: 4th St SW, Washington, DC 20560
Explore the vast history of the ancient cultures that resided in the U.S. for thousands of years. The museum aims to foster a better understanding and social justice of native American Indian people through exhibits that both inspire and educate.
The imagiNATIONS exhibit is an instant hit with kids with its many interactive programs and play-based learning. This lively space helps children learn about indigenous people and their impact on modern-day America.
There are many educational tools for kids, including building an igloo, playing with real instruments, going inside a traditional Native home, and earning badges by playing an interactive quiz show.
9. National Postal Museum
Address: 2 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
The Smithsonian National Postal Museum in D.C. showcases the world’s largest collection of stamps. It also houses other items like post vans, postal boxes, and other postal materials older than the stamps themselves.
Your children can create their stamps using their very own designs. They can write and mail a handwritten letter (an art that is slowly dying), sit in the cab of an actual 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.
10. National Museum of African American History and Culture
Address: 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
The National Museum of African-American History and Culture is an important museum in the United States. Schedule a visit to take advantage of the opportunity to explore the history of African-American culture in American society.
This DC museum is dedicated to museum learning for all ages. A team of early childhood educators designs fun, age-appropriate exhibitions and resources for 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 to the modern day.
Make sure to check their website for more interactive learning tools for kids.
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11. The White House Visitor Center
Address: 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004
The White House Visitor Center is just a 10-minute walk from the White House itself. The center offers a window into the world-famous home of the president. Featuring around 100 artifacts of historical significance alongside intriguing archival footage, the museum suits visitors of all ages.
The museum features an inviting theatre space to watch a specifically commissioned video all about the personal stories of presidents, first ladies, and other family members throughout the years.
Play a game where you have to guess who ordered various plates of food on display. Watch a film about the U.S. presidential process and read letters written to past presidents from children.
12. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Address: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024
Rated for kids ages eight and up, this museum is a very important piece of U.S. history when accompanied by an adult.
Daniel’s Story is a permanent exhibit at the museum that tells the Holocaust experience from a child’s point of view. Children can write messages to other visitors at the exhibit’s end 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 historical events told through the victim’s accounts.
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13. The National Law Enforcement Museum
Address: 444 E St NW, Washington, DC 20001
The National Law Enforcement Museum acts as a bridge between the public and those protecting their streets. Through educationally enriching immersive exhibits and insightful programs available, the national museum aims to enrich the relationship shared between law enforcement and the general public.
In this state-of-the-art facility, American law enforcement officers are honored. Along with 20,000 memorabilia objects, these exhibits offer an inside look at law enforcement in this country in the past, present, and future.
The museum hosts many family-friendly exhibits and tours throughout the year.
See Related: Best Tours in Washington D.C. to Book Today
14. National Portrait Gallery
Address: 8th St NW & G St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Let your child and inner child run free at the National Portrait Gallery. Portraiture is the central theme at the National Gallery, where kids try to 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 own works of art inspired by the museum’s existing pieces.
Address: 736 Sicard Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
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 about 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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16. KID Museum
Address: 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004
This experimental museum offers kids of all ages the opportunity to participate in math and science programs and realize that these programs are vital to the world’s growth in the hands of upcoming generations.
The main values at the museum come from four core values: curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and compassion.
The museum wants every child’s mindset to have the ability to become empathetic and persistent problem-solvers and teammates.
17. Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Address: 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
The Smithsonian National Zoo meets some of the highest industry standards in animal care. Its commitment to caring for hundreds of different species of animals, equating to over 2,100 animals in its care, is commendable.
The zoo has a strong focus on conservation and support of a more biodiverse planet. Your kids are bound to enjoy exploring all 163 acres of this park, which attracts around 2 million annual visitors.
The zoo holds regular events such as daily animal talks and seasonal events like ‘Boo at the Zoo’ for the Halloween festivities. You could also participate in a unique scavenger hunt to gamify your visit to the zoo.
18. White House Tour
Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500
Give your children a chance to experience the U.S. Government at a young age. Check to see if your local government provides this access to the White House.
Children can write a letter to their members 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!
19. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Address: 7th St & Independence Ave. SW Smithsonian Institutions, Washington DC, DC 20560
Open daily, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is a space for all to enjoy modern and contemporary art. The great thing about modern art is how accessible it is, especially to children. The experimental nature will encourage children to make connections between unusual concepts used in contemporary art.
The museum requires 0 knowledge of art history, just an open mind and a willingness to embrace new concepts. Children can experience art through interactive movement and stories while reading aloud.
One brilliant feature at the museum for kids is its weekly Storytime. Every week, a fresh new theme for kids ages eight and below to get stuck in for a hands-on experience to make their art projects. The experience can also be super inclusive with SASL interpreters available.
20. Smithsonian Discovery Theater
Address: 1100 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
Discovery Theater is the source of live performances celebrating our world’s rich diversity and cultures. For more than 30 years, the theater has been enriching the lives of DC children with live educational performances. The exhibitions, collections, and cultural exploration available at the theatre mean there’s so much for you and your children to explore when you visit!
Each year, the Smithsonian Institution provides vast resources and connections to help present culturally accurate and entertaining programs to young children. Everyone is welcome to join, especially the young ones, “to experience heritage, science, and culture in a memorable way.”
The theatre also regularly takes to the road and presents lively shows at school assemblies, library open events, and community centers.
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21. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Address: 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566, USA
The Kennedy Center is the busiest performing arts center in the U.S. It hosts over 2,000 of some of the most captivating performances. So, you can bet that during your visit, something will be available to suit a young audience.
From outer space to unicorns and everything in between, let your children’s imaginations run wild. They can sit in amazement as they watch fictional stories come to life before their very eyes. The stage performances are among some of the best in all of Washington, D.C.
As well as having the option to watch one of its many shows, the center also houses a permanent exhibit to visit. The exhibition explores Kennedy’s promotion of the arts. It also shows how the center became a place to remember his appreciation for the importance of the arts for the people.
22. National Archives Museum
Address: 701 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20408, USA
Home to the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, a visit to the National Archives Museum is an opportunity to see the famous founding documents of the United States of America.
Including the famous founding documents, the museum also features a 17-foot interactive touchscreen table for a more hands-on experience bound to impress young minds when learning about the Records of Rights. New records are also displayed as rotating exhibits and special temporary exhibitions exploring topics such as the power of sports to embody national ideals.
Expect to spend anywhere up to 90 minutes strolling around the museum’s exhibits. Learn the importance of these documents and how they played a major role in the formation of our country.
23. National Gallery of Art
Address: Constitution Ave NW 6th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington DC, DC 20002
Head to the National Gallery of Art, where there is always a fantastic showcase of artists worldwide. Online interactive apps have been created for NGA to keep children learning, whether at the museum or not.
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 children’s education through its interactive exhibitions and provides various artworks by numerous artists.
Other Family-Friendly Activities Around Washington D.C.
Rent a motorized swan boat
Rent a swan boat for two to four people and take a trip through the Tidal Basin. 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 local monuments.
Visit the Lincoln Memorial
Check out the massive sculpture of the 16th president of the United States at the Lincoln Memorial site. This iconic sculpture provides a perfect photo-op for the children as they’re especially tiny compared to the 33-foot statue!
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 in one convenient spot.
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 American nation’s capital.
Experience The Best Events In Washington, DC
Tidal Basin cherry trees
In the spring, cherry trees bloom in bright, magnificent pink colors. Get a family portrait done with a backdrop of amazing pink hues.
This spot is a photographer’s dream. Remember to check out the National Cherry Blossom Festival, too!
Around the World Embassies Tour
Families are encouraged to visit international embassy buildings each May to experience food, dancing, music, and culture from other countries worldwide.
Fourth of July fireworks
Don’t forget the camera for these fantastic fireworks. Undoubtedly one of the biggest fireworks shows in the country, the fireworks over the National Mall are something to be seen in person. With massive colors and loud booms, this spectacle is fun for the entire family.
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. Spectators from all over the nation come to see this beautiful tree being lit.
Sledding at Capitol Hill
Take 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, you’ll enjoy a beautiful winter view of the National Mall. Both children and adults can sled down the hills with great joy!
Which Smithsonian museums are the best for kids?
The National Museum of Natural History is one of the most visited Smithsonian museums. It is a great hit for kids interested in our natural world, from looking at Dinosaur Fossils to visiting the butterfly house.
The National Space and Air Museum is also a popular option. It features hands-on, compelling exhibits to explore the realm of flight and space.
Is Washington, DC, a good place to visit with kids?
Washington, DC, is a brilliant place to visit with young kids. Interactive exhibits within family-friendly museums make for a highly enriching and memorable visit. And with other attractions in the city, like lakeside activities and seasonal events, there’s something for kids of all ages.
What is the #1 museum in D.C.?
The National Air and Space Museum is often highly rated and is a particularly popular museum in the area. The museum covers all things air travel. So, it’s great for kids who often daydream about taking to the skies.
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- About the Author
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Lisa Ward is a travel writer based in Jersey. She loves hiking and adventure travel and has hiked to Everest Base Camp and Machu Picchu, as well as through Patagonia and up several volcanoes across the world. Lisa cycled down Death Road in Bolivia, went canyoneering in Costa Rica, climbed canopies in Honduras. That school trip to Honduras sparked Lisa’s interest in the underwater world. She has since undergone basic training in biological research concerning marine conservation, most notably that of coral reefs. She is a PADI qualified Rescue Diver with a specialty in underwater photography. So far, she has dived in Jersey, Honduras, Indonesia, and the Great Barrier Reef.
After gaining her law degree and falling into the world of finance, Lisa gained a qualification in digital marketing before deciding to take the leap into writing full time. Lisa is also a trained English Language tutor with a TEFL qualification and specialty qualifications in teaching online and 1-1. Other interests include playing the clarinet, which Lisa played in orchestras from the age of 10 to 19, martial arts (black belt in karate), and quite literally anything outdoors.