Explore Washington D.C.

Things to Do With Kids in D.C.

Washington, D.C. draws families each year for good reason. 

Family Friendly D.C.

History, art and culture abound, making the nation’s capital an engaging educational experience. Plus, free museums and sites appeal to cost-conscious parents looking for a budget-friendly vacation. The city’s public transportation system—with stops at many popular attractions—makes getting around with kids easy and affordable.

With its wealth of artifacts and free admission, the Smithsonian’s many museums are always a popular choice for families with children. But exploring beyond the Mall yields pleasant surprises as well. Life-like wax figures at Madame Tussauds, colorful children’s productions at Imagination Stage, an Art Deco carousel at Glen Echo Park and real-life spy stories at the International Spy Museum add to the mix of kid-friendly things to do in D.C.

Word to the wise: Plan to do plenty of walking and, when possible, leave the car at the hotel.

International Spy Museum

Site dedicated to the craft, practice and history of espionage around the world. Artifacts like a WWII German Enigma cipher and an East German camera for seeing through walls. Exhibits on spy rings of World War II, Cold War spy games, intel training. Interactive activities like real-life-based hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Madame Tussauds

Touchable wax figures and photo ops with The Beatles, Madonna, Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth, Stephen Colbert, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Marilyn Monroe, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Presidents Gallery with all U.S. presidents plus first ladies Kennedy, Clinton, Obama. Hours vary. Check website for exact times.

Natural History Museum

Exhibits tracking the natural world since prehistoric time (anthropology to zoology). In the Rotunda, taxidermic African elephant Henry in a replica Angolan habitat. Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals (Hope Diamond), Ocean Hall, Hall of Human Origins. Butterfly Pavilion ($6.50-$7.50; Tu free with timed tickets).

Glen Echo Park

Former amusement park, now home to art, glass, photography and silversmith studios, theater companies, puppet shows. To do: dance nights with lessons (swing, waltz, foxtrot, etc.) at the 1933 Art Deco Spanish Ballroom. Dentzel Carousel ($1.25) May-Sept.: W, Th-F, 10 am- 2 pm., Sa-Su 11 am-5 pm, tours Sa-Su 10:30 am.

Mount Vernon

George Washington's hilltop home by the Potomac River, with 14 rooms furnished per a 1799 inventory. The first couple's tomb, gardens, a blacksmith shop, 16-sided treading barn, reconstructed slave cabin. High-tech Ford Orientation Center  and Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. Fred W.

National Zoological Park

Founded in 1889, a 163-acre zoo with more than 2,000 animals like giant pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang plus female cub Bei Bei. Elephant Trails exhibit with a wooded exercise trek. Asia Trail with giant sloths and clouded leopards. American Trail with North American species (sea otters and seals).

Imagination Stage

The Mid-Atlantic region’s largest children’s theater organization presents inventive shows geared to toddlers (who participate with a suitcase full of props) and older kids. An on-site store stocks creative toys and gifts.

Air and Space Museum

Under renovation; check website for open exhibits. World’s largest collection of aircraft and space vehicles (Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, Bell X-1, 1903 Wright Flyer).

Nationals Park

The LEED Silver home field of the Washington Nationals (“Nats”), D.C.’s Major League Baseball team. The stadium, which flanks the Anacostia River, opened in 2008 and features a wide range of popular amenities, from a free bike valet and local concessions to a lounge for nursing mothers.

American History Museum

With five million visitors annually, this museum is one of the Smithsonian’s most popular. As a repository for the country’s cultural, scientific and technological heritage, it holds a collection of more than three million fascinating artifacts, including Thomas Jefferson’s desk, Kermit the Frog, Julia Child's kitchen, a piec