Are you looking forward to a trip to Washington DC with your family? If yes, here is a list of things to do in Washington DC with kids. If you are a couple, there is also a lot you can do. Keep reading!
“The Capital of the Free World” and the home to the federal government, Washington, DC, is the ideal place for an amazing family getaway this holiday season.
Named after President George Washington and Christopher Columbus, the city has many attractions for adults and kids. That includes educational activities and tours, fun adventures, and even free excursions into reputed museums.
However, since there’s so much to do, you’ll need to plan appropriately before setting out to put your time in the city to optimal use. It helps you avoid mistakes when booking your tour.
I’ve penned down the ultimate guide for you to plan an amazing family getaway in Washington, DC, from booking cheap flights on tools like Scott’s Cheap Flights to creating your daily itineraries. So let’s dive in.
Step 1- Do Your Research
Do you know that there are a plethora of things to do at night in Washington, DC? Or, do you know that the Library of Congress has a children’s section or that most museums offer scavenger hunts for kids?
You can also let your family experience these walking tours in Washington, D.C. for adventure and let your kids see the different museums in the capital city.
There is so much you can miss out on if you don’t conduct proper research before leaving your home. You can easily find out what’s available and its price on Smithsonian’s official tourism website when you plan your vacation.
Similarly, while traveling with family, you’ll need to see what’s on offer so that you can plan your excursions according to your kids’ interests.
If your children have a taste for history, you can go along with them to the Holocaust Memorial Museum or the National Museum of African American History.
However, the images and content can be stirring for young children so if you think your little ones can’t handle that, look for other things to do with kids in Washington DC.
Most importantly, after you list down the places you want to visit and the activities you want to take up, make sure to check if they’ll be available during your stay.
Yes, it’ll be a bummer if you reach your destination only to find out your favorite spots are closed.
Step 2 – Plan Out the Essentials
Once you find the attractions and activities that will suit your family while you’re in Washington, DC, you’ll have to plan your essentials next. The essentials mainly include your travel bookings, how you’ll get around in the city, and your lodgings.
One of the best online options to find and book cheap flights is Scott’s Cheap Flights.
The reason you should check these factors first is that you’ll see if the trip fits your budget. Also, by looking through the essentials beforehand, you’ll be able to decide your days of stay, which will help you plan your itinerary properly.
Check Your Flights
Flights are perhaps the central aspect that eats a significant chunk out of your travel budget. That’s why choosing a cheap and accessible flight is a must when you plan a family getaway.
There are lots of flights that travel in and out of Washington, DC, daily. The district sports three airports, so you can choose airlines that land at the airport of your choice.
Choosing the airport depends on the activities you’re planning to take up that day or your budget. If you’re traveling on a budget from within the US, you should consider landing at the Baltimore Washington Airport.
The airport has a dedicated terminal for Southwest Airlines, which means the fares are usually low. On the other hand, if you want a glimpse of the monuments and an aerial view, you should plan to land at the Reagan National Airport.
Dulles International is a little far from the main city but an excellent option for those who want to set out for Udar-Hazy Center on their first day. Besides that, this airport lets in lots of direct international flights, so it’s an excellent choice for foreigners. Mainly, the airports in Washington, DC are visited by American, United, Southwest, and Delta Airlines.
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Book Your Lodgings
Next, come the hotel bookings. Where you book your lodgings will impact how easily you access your planned tourism sites and your transportation fares as well.
If you want to stay close to things to do in Washington DC at night, choose from the wide selection of hotels available near the National Mall.
You’ll find all the famous hotel chains in the area, including Holiday Inn, Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott. If you want cheaper hotels with some good facilities, you can check out the Comfort Inn or the Econo Lodge as well.
Whichever place you choose, make sure it is close and accessible to tourist sites so that you can save up on traveling expenses.
Select Your Mode of Transportation
When planning a family getaway with kids on board, traveling expenses within the city can add up quickly. In Washington, DC, you can easily avoid expensive transportation by taking DC’s MetroRail.
It quickly takes you from one end of the city to another, and you can walk to most destinations from their train stops. However, when you plan an excursion to Mount Vernon or the Udvar-Hazy Center, it’s better if you rent your car for the day.
Check out these awesome day trips from Washington DC by train.
Choose Places to Eat
Washington, DC, is well-known for its amazing culinary experiences. You can find popular chains, including Shake Shack, at every corner, and enjoy authentic meals at the Founding Farmers or the District Wharf.
Besides that, Washington DC offers the best continental food at Ben’s Chilli Bowl. When you plan out your itinerary, the ideal places to eat during the day would be at museum cades and local food trucks.
After you’re done with things to do in Washington DC at night, you can go for other high-end and wholesome dining options to end your day.
You can even buy the Smithsonian Associates Membership for your trip and avail of up to 10% discounts on all your meals at museum cafes.
Step 3 – Map Out an Itinerary
Now that you’ve got all your research work in the bag and have the essential planning for your trip, you’re ready to create your travel itinerary. Especially if you’re a US citizen, your trip to the nation’s capital will be filled with fun and educational experiences.
Things to Do in Washington DC with Kids
Besides that, you’ll find lots of things to do in Washington DC with kids, which go on to become moving, nostalgic memories for them.
Here’s a list of my favorite tourist attractions, monuments, and museums, along with an example itinerary to help you create your customized version.
White House Visitor’s Center
No one can visit Washington, DC, for a weekend getaway without touring the White House. That’s why the government center has a unique space for visitors in the Department of Commerce Building.
You can view the six exhibits present in the visitor’s section with your children. These include the First Families, symbols, interior design and architecture of the White House, and ceremonies and celebrations at the White House.
Depending on the time of your visit, you’ll be able to view limited-edition exhibitions as well.
If your kids are jumping out of their seats for adventure, you can take them to the Busch Gardens to experience the history and have fun at the same time.
The gardens are neatly divided into six sections, each depicting a country from the old European world. Besides that, there are many thrilling rides, shows, and restaurants to have a fun-filled day with the kids.
Arlington National Cemetery
If you want your family to experience history hands-on, you can take them to the Arlington National Cemetery to pay respects to the national heroes.
Their love for their nation will be genuinely replenished after visiting sites like the Tomb of the Unknowns and witnessing the eternal flame on the Kennedys’ grave.
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National Museum of Women in the Arts
This museum houses over 250 pieces of extraordinary art created by women from countries all over the world.
They also have interesting exhibits showing women in the business and fashion industries that will intrigue your sons and daughters alike.
See Related: Best Museums in the United States
National Air and Space Museum
Space and astronauts are loved by adults and children alike. That’s why visiting the National Air and Space Museum is one of the best things to do in Washington DC with kids.
Apart from viewing hundreds of artifacts, you can enjoy an IMAX film with your children depicting all the aspects of space travel.
Besides that, other thrilling experiences, including the flight simulator zone, ensure your family will have a blast.
At the National Archives, you can view all the significant documents of our country. These include the federal records, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights.
United States Capitol
It is an attractive tourist spot featuring the Chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Also, you can visit the museum of American history and art adjacent to it.
3-Day Example Itinerary
Here’s an example 3-day itinerary for you and your family that covers most of Washington DC’s popular destinations.
On the first day, you can explore all of DC’s Free Museums. Start by having breakfast at the Willard Intercontinental and visit the famous monuments on the National Mall.
After that, visit the Smithsonian Museums to learn the history of almost everything from humanity’s origin to the nation’s advent.
You can choose a place for dinner and lunch from the stalls and shops available at the National Mall.
After that, you can take a Big Bus Tour to get a night view of the monuments.
On day two, you can visit the historical sites of Georgetown. Have a traditional Washington, DC-style brunch at Farmers Fishers Bakers’ while enjoying the view of the Potomac River.
After that, head on to explore everything Georgetown offers, including the Kennedy homes and the Tudor Palace and Gardens. Following that, you can go to Pinstripes and indulge in bowling and have some late afternoon tea.
At night, you can try the impressive selection of microbrews at Pizzeria Paradiso. Then you can take a walk along the Chez Billy Sud.
On day three, you can visit the Capitol Riverfront and the Eastern Market. You can see the celebrated ballpark and go kayaking as well. If you want to spend a relaxing day, go to Yards Park and enjoy the scenic beauty.
In the afternoon, you can watch a game at Washington Nationals, followed by an exotic dinner in the neighborhood.
Trying authentic beer at Bluejacket is one of the best things to do at night in Washington DC.
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Tips to Plan an Amazing Family Getaway In Washington DC
If you want to plan a perfect vacation to Washington DC, just follow the steps I mentioned above.
Along with that, here are some tips you can try out to make your trip a memorable one.
Avail All the Free Stuff
You’d be surprised at how many things to do in Washing DC with kids are free. Some of the top-class Smithsonian museums have no admission fee.
Besides that, the National Zoo is also available without an entry fee if you’re tired of museums. Similarly, the tour of the Capitol requires no fee either.
However, all of these tours must be planned and reserved beforehand to ensure your entry on time. Make sure to make all the preparations beforehand to avail all the free stuff available.
See Related: Best National Parks in the United States
Become Early Birds
Every museum in Washington DC has different opening and closing times. So, whenever you plan to tour the Museums around the National mall, make sure to go earlier in the day.
This way, you’ll be able to visit all the tourist attractions before they close. On the other hand, monuments are often open for 24 hours. So, visit the museums first, then head out to the monuments.
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Prioritize Your Preferences
There are so many things to do in Washington DC with kids; you cannot possibly tackle everything during a long weekend vacation.
That’s why, rather than filling your schedule with irrelevant engagements, prioritize the stuff that interests you and your family.
For example, suppose your kids are space fanatics. In that case, you should take them to the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia after the National Air and Space Museum. Rather than spending your time at other museums in the area, take them to see what they’re interested in.
Create an Unusual Itinerary
If you go for the conventional tourist sites advertised by most tourist companies, you’ll face a crowd everywhere. Instead, there are many interesting places in Washington, DC, that are lesser known to the public.
For instance, the National Museum of American Indians offers meaningful information. It also has a play area for small children.
Similarly, besides visiting all the museums, you can also visit Mount Vernon and Ford’s Theatre, making it worth remembering for your family.
That concludes my guide to planning an amazing family getaway in Washington, DC. In a nutshell, the key to a great vacation lies in the information you collect about the place beforehand.
Did you know that there’s an International Spy Museum in Washington, DC? Here, you can have crazy adventures with your kids. You can also educate them about our nation’s intelligence strategies at the same time.
What I am trying to say is, create a customized tour, including everything your family will love in particular; don’t just visit the places everyone regularly does.
This will ensure that your trip to Washington, DC, is a memorable and affordable one for you and your family.