Did you know that studies show that travel has a positive impact on your kids’ personal development? Expand your family’s horizons and make a real impact on your next family vacation. We suggest a trip to Washington D.C. where there’s something for everyone, whether you have a nature enthusiast or a history buff. Read on for five ways a family vacation to D.C. will educate, inform and create life-long memories for your entire crew.

photo: Jomar on Unsplash

For Your History Buff

D.C. is one of the best places to inspire your kid's love of history. From the monuments to walking tours, the area has it all. Whatever your family indulges in during their visit, we know it'll make a life-long impact on the future generation of leaders.

An educational outing that also tires them out? It's a win-win on a walking tour of some of DC's most fun and popular sites. So lace up those walking shoes and take one of these seven family-friendly walking tours, which is a unique and personal way to get acquainted with the city.

Not sure about taking your kids to a museum? Think again. D.C. is full of family-friendly museum experiences that will influence how your kids see history, art and more. We found nine museum tours that will actually keep them engaged. Find the one best suited to your kiddo's interest by clicking here. 

A trip to DC would be incomplete without checking out at least one monument. Get your kids excited about checking out monuments with our handy guide you can see here. 

Marriott Hotels (Over 30 of Them in the Area!)

There are over 30 Marriott hotels in Greater Washington, D.C., all of which allow visitors to enjoy D.C. and Arlington, VA and the surrounding suburb cities during one trip. All hotels are located in prime locations near top attractions, or near convenient transportation such as Metro, Bike Share or Bird Scooters, so you can play all day and then have the best rest. Stay at any participating Marriott brand hotel in the Greater D.C. area to enjoy the beauty of the Capital City during this time of year. Bonus: Many of the Marriott brand hotels will be featuring complimentary kids meals with the purchase of an adult entree during the spring and summer months! 

KIDS EAT FREE w/ purchase of adult entrée. Up to 4 kids, 12 years and younger. Use promo code ZJL.

 

For Your Little Scientist

Exhausted your home city's science museums and centers? Put on that lab coat because the D.C. area is home to some of the most memorable science experiences around. Perfect for curious kids looking to expand their scientific and inquisitive minds, here are three must-visit spots that your kids will be talking about for ages.

Designed to foster a love of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (aka STEM) learning, kiddos won’t know which Children’s Science Center Lab station to stop at first. At this Fairfax, Virginia hot spot, they’ll learn all about friction, drag, chemical reaction, wind energy—and they won’t have any idea they’re being schooled because it’s so much fun. For our full review of this scientific learning center for kids click here.

Think you have the next Edison, Graham Bell, or Tesla on your hands? Let them get their tinkering fix at Bethesda’s new KID Museum, a hot spot to be that works to foster curiosity and compassion while empowering young ones to create and imagine new ideas. The best part? The “museum” is 100 percent hands-on—visitors do everything from experiment with wind tunnels and build robots to program computer games and construct cardboard skyscrapers. Check out the full run-down of this amazing new spot here.

You may jump at a spider but your kiddo is all about everything insects. Inspire her love of the creepy crawlies at one of 10 (yes, you heard that right!) awesome places for insect lovers to visit. From a butterfly pavilion to a regional park to a real insect zoo, check out these 10 places where your kids can examine insects in their natural habitat. They'll be bugging out in all the best ways possible.

photo: Hilary Riedemann

For the Creative

Whether it's banging on tupperware with your toddler or hosting afternoon craft sessions, you make it a point to feed your kid's creative outlet. Keep inspiring her artsy and creative side on your family vacation to D.C. Here are our top picks that'll make a huge impact on your child's creativity:

Creating art out of play-dough is one thing, but seeing sculptures in real life is another. Check out these sweet sculpture gardens that will inspire your kid's creative side. Bonus: they are all outdoors and the perfect way to get some fresh air and those little legs moving.

If you want to mix it up on your trip to D.C., do as the locals do with a drop-in art class. They'll get messy (not in your hotel room or home!) and the creative juices flowing. Here are our picks for the best drop-in art classes in the area. 

There's a little bit of something for everyone at the National Gallery of Art. From adult-sized mobiles to the largest blue rooster you've ever seen (seriously), this spot is a must-visit for any local or tourist. You'll be colored impressed and your kids will be chatting about their visit to the National Gallery of Art for ages. Find our guide to this artsy hot spot here.

 

 

For the Nature Enthusiast

If your kiddo is all about the flora and fauna, get in touch with Mother Earth on your trip to D.C. The area has a wide a variety of nature-themed activities for all ages and stages. Here are our picks that will make a big impact on your nature-loving crew:

You don't have to book it to a National Park to take a memorable hike. There are tons of kid-friendly trails right in D.C. There's Burke Lake Park in Fairfax Station, Virginia, a 218 acre lake where you can rent rowboats and go fishing. Or, if waterfalls are more your thing, head to Great Falls Park, which offers up a special view of the Potomac River with its cascading waterfalls nestled in the forest. Click here for 5 more kid-friendly trails in and around D.C.

Spring and summer are the perfect seasons to pack a picnic and enjoy nature. From the US National Arboretum to Theodore Roosevelt Island, your kids have never picnicked like this before. Find out where to spread out your blanket and bask under the sun by clicking here.

Bonus: Get a unique, only-in-DC perspective of all of those Cherry Blossoms this spring by packing a picnic and paddling your way around the Tidal Basin. It's also a fun way to give your quads a workout as you and your energetic crew make your way around the Tidal Basin. Wave hello to Thomas Jefferson and soak up the sun whether you choose a two- or four-passenger regular boat or a two-person swan boat made for photo ops!

For a super memorable, nature-filled outing why not try your hand at fishing? From reservoirs to man-made lakes, the D.C. area is full of places to cast a line. Here are our top fishing holes any local or visitor must check out.

Sometimes it's the quiet, low-key moments that make the biggest impact on kids. Suburban neighborhoods and gardens around the beltway offer quiet strolls and blossom photo ops for families, minus the big crowds. Try the ancient art of Sumi-e brush painting at Green Spring Garden, or relax by the Japanese pagoda at Wheaton’s Brookside Gardens, home to 30 cherry trees. Other recommended blossom respites include the National Arboretum or the Bishops Garden at the National Cathedral, and Bon Air Rose Park in Arlington, or Kenwood in Chevy Chase, where there is also a playground and small picnicking area.

For the Foodie in Training

If you love the fresh outdoors and are looking to soak up the sun while you chow down, the areas around D.C. and Arlington have loads of open air options for your fam. From pizza to pastelitos, below are some of the funnest and yummiest places to dine al fresco.

Millie’s Spring Valley
The restaurant pays homage to the stress-freebeachy Nantucket vibe and their menu is fresh California baja-styleThere’s plenty of room on the patio and, after dinner, kids will LOVE going to the ice cream window and getting their fave Gifford’s flavor with fun toppings.

4866 Massachusetts Ave., NW (AU)
Online: milliesdc.com

Union Market
Appease the whole family’s appetite for indie bites at the continuously expanding Union Market, where you can stroll the 100 (and counting) stalls of this hip food-lovers haven. 

1309 5th St., NE. (Union Market)
Online: unionmarketdc.com

Los Tios Grill
Bright, colorful umbrellas shield little ones from the squelching D.C. sun during the day, while the playground across the street is a great way to burn off some energy after the niños pequeños have scarfed down their delicious Tres Leches dessert.

2615 Mount Vernon Ave. (Alexandria, VA)
Online: lostiosgrill.com

Vola’s Dockside Grill
Located on the Waterfront in Old Town (just steps away from the Torpedo Factory Art Center), Vola’s offers seating next to the marina slips. Little ones will enjoy watching the boats come and go and seeing the airplanes make their decent into Reagan National.

101 N Union St. (Alexandria, VA)
703-935-8890
Online: volasdockside.com

Pavilion Cafe
You’ll find this cafe nestled beside a reflecting pool in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden. It’s a scenic spot to stop and enjoy a meal while visiting the Smithsonian Museums. 

7th Street and Constitution Ave.
202-289-3360
Online: pavilioncafe.com

Zen Bistro & Wine Bar

They keep it simple and delish here—Asian tapas and sushi overlooking the plaza.

1301 South Joyce St. (Arlington, VA) 
Online: zen-bistro.com

Cactus Cantina
The outdoor patio is the perfect place for your kids to nosh on chips while you sip on a frozen margarita! Before you leave, make a pit stop inside so the kids can check out the tortilla maker. 

3300 Wisconsin Ave., NW (Cathedral Heights)
Online: cactuscantina.com

 

Bonus: The Cherry Blossoms Are Coming! And with them sprouts a whole host of special family-friendly happenings around Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA. But, wait! Where did all of those trees come from? A gift to the district from the Mayor of Tokyo in 1912, roughly three thousand cherry trees surround the National Mall’s Tidal Basin, a gorgeous backdrop for your next family selfie. Coinciding with the National Park Service’s peak bloom prediction, the month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival opens Mar. 20. Celebrate the little sakuras in your life with free daily performances at the Tidal Basin plus an array of other awesome activities that will make a lifetime impact on your kids. Here are our picks.

photo: S Pakhrin via flickr

Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony

Kick-off the 2019 National Cherry Blossom Festival at the historic Warner Theatre, where you can check out world-renowned performers celebrating springtime and the anniversary of the gift of trees from Japan to the United States. The event showcases great American and Japanese talent, including Ikuko Kawai Ensemble, Yusaku Mochizuki (Mochi), and The 6821 Quintet. This is an only-in-DC event so plan your trip around this can't-miss opening celebration. 

When: Mar. 23, 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Cost: Free (advanced ticketing required)
Online: ticketfly.com

Museums Galore

From the National Museum of African American Culture and the Hirshhorn to the National Air and Space Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, it goes without saying that D.C. is a contender for the museum capital of the world (many of them are free). While you're in town visit as many as possible, or spend all day at one, learning about the world around you. During the Cherry Blossom Festival the Smithsonian American Art Museum will host a celebration of Japanese culture. A taiko drumming performance kicks off the day, followed by Japanese music and performances. Enjoy face painting, cherry blossom crafts, and a spring-themed scavenger hunt.

When: Mar. 23, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: Free
Online: americanart.si.edu

photo: National Cherry Blossom Festival

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade

The National Cherry Blossom Parade, featuring performances, giant balloons, and maybe a famous face or two, marching down Constitution Ave., marks the end of the Festival. Little ones will appreciate the up-close look at the decorated floats, marching bands, clowns, horses, antique cars, dance teams, and more! Other than grand stand seating which costs $20, the parade is free to attend.

You have one more chance to bid farewell to D.C.'s beloved Cherry Blossoms on Apr. 14. At the Anacostia River Fest, you can take a canoe out to explore the river, ride in a bike parade, or sit back and enjoy the park while listening to local musicians. The festival marks the (second) official closing of the 2018 National Cherry Blossom Festival.

When: Apr. 13, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Free; $20/grand stand seat
Online: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

Blossom Kite Festival

Harness the wind on the Family Field at the Blossom Kite Festival where you will also find music and magic performances along with flying competitions for youths and adults, Rokkaku Battles, a Hot Tricks Showdown and morefeaturing fliers from the United States and other countries. Pack your own kite, or make one at the festival!

Get some extra kite-flying practice at D.C.'s wide open spaces, like the National Mall, National Arboretum, or Navy Yards Park

When: Mar. 30, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: Free
Online: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

Petalpalooza

The Cherry Blossom Festival coins a new word, Petalpalooza, a new-ish event at one of D.C.‘s growing outdoor venues, The WharfWith kid friendly activities like T-shirt painting, performances on multiple stages throughout the day, and wait for it—a roller rink with free skating, topped off by a fireworks display (at 8:30 p.m.), we say bring it on. 

Ack! Not in town for Petalpalooza? Swing by The Wharf anyways! There's always something fun happening. Check out their calendar for details. 

When: Apr. 6, noon-9:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
Online: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

—Ayren Jackson-Cannady and Erin Lem

featured photo via robposse via flickr