For every family with a babe who’s up right at the peak of dawn, the warmer weather is a welcoming start to the day. Put aside the Legos and cartoons and entertain your morning bun in a fun and local way. Get to know D.C. before the crowds swarm in with our list below.

dcskyline-cc-Brian Talbot-flickr

photo: Brian Talbot via flickr

Watch the sunrise
Bring breakfast and spread a picnic basket on the lawn surrounding the Marine Corps War Memorial. Situated atop a hill, the spot is great for watching the sun come up over iconic D.C. spots, such as the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. Plus, there’s plenty of room for kids to run off that early morning energy.

Open: 6 am to midnight
Cost: Free

Arlington Ridge along the axis of the National Mall (Arlington, Va)

lincolnmemorial-cc-Francisco Antunes-flickr

photo: Francisco Antunes via flickr

Speaking of icons…
Good thing our tots are natural alarm clocks. Beat the crowd at the National Mall by getting there early. Walk through history starting at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, wind through the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and National World War II Memorial and plan your steps to reach the Washington Monument at 9 am, when the ticket office opens, to score a ride up the 555-foot obelisk.

Open: 24 hours
Cost: Free


whitehousetour-cc-The White House-flickr

photo: The White House via flickr

Wake with the White House
Self-guided tours of the White House start at 7:30 am, Tuesday through Saturday, but getting access requires planning in advance. Submit a request through your member of Congress as early as six months in advance but no less than three weeks ahead of time. Exhibits on famous residence’s architecture, furnishings, social events and more, make this immersive cultural lesson worth the effort.

Open: Tue.-Thu., 7:30 am-11:30 am; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 am-1:30 pm (excluding federal holidays or unless otherwise noted)
Cost: Free

White House Visitor Center
1450 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. (Federal Triangle)

Clemyjontri Park-cc-Ryan Sandridge-flickr

photo: Ryan Sandridge via flickr

Run wild
Get to the doors of the award-winning, two-acre Clemyjontri Park right at 7 am, where the lack of a morning crowd will give your monkey more space to dangle from bars, climb myriad structures, navigate a maze and swing on all kinds of wings. Designed to accommodate all physical levels, the park also has a carousel for $2/ride starting at 9:30 am, and a train ride ($3/rider) that leaves every 20 minutes starting at 10 am.

Hours: 7 am to dusk
Cost: Free

6317 Georgetown Pike (McLean, Va_


photo: Valerie via flickr

Animal action
Chances are your little animals aren’t the only ones up early and ready to go. The National Zoo grounds open at 6 am (that’s not a typo), giving first-come visitors a chance to see giant pandas, lions, elephants and much more without fighting crowds.

Hours: 6 am to 8 pm
Cost: Free

3001 Connecticut Ave. (Woodley Park)

easternmarket-cc-William F. Yurasko-flickr

photo: William F. Yurasko via flickr

Get errands out of the way
Pick up fresh veggies, fruits and meats at Eastern Market, a D.C. destination since 1873. On weekends, hundreds of local artists set up shop in the surrounding plazas to sell original works and jewelry. Rebuilt after a fire in 2009, the market buzzes with life on the weekends with entertainment, live music and more.

Open: Tue.-Fri.,7 am-7 pm; Sat., 7 am-6 pm; Sun., 9 am-5 pm
Cost: Free (minus what you buy at the market)

225 Seventh St. (Capital Hill)


photo: 3ric15 via flickr

Take to the water
Rent a kayak, canoe, rowboat or pedal boat as early as 6:30 am at Lake Needwood, a 75-acre area that is part of Rock Creek Regional Park. Fishing is allowed and the Boat House has poles, hooks and bait, too. Plus, each June, the Rock Creek Park Regional Park lake offers an annual Kids’ Fishing Day for ages 3 to 15 ($10).

Open: Varies by season, check website here.
Cost: $10/hour or $35/day for kayaks, rowboats and canoes; $8/30 minutes for pedal boats

Lake Needwood Boat House
15700 Needwood Lake Circle (Rockville, Md)

firstwatch-cc-Jessica Rossi-flickr

photo: Jessica Rossi via flickr

Fuel up
Breakfast is the most important meal, so why not get to it fresh at FirstWatch, a daytime café that customizes plates to your liking. The kids’ menu includes plate-size pancakes, eggs or French toast and a drink for about $5. Adults can choose from seasonal specials or a variety of omelets, griddle goodies and lighter fare. Bonus: Free newspapers and wifi for the parents, an allergy-friendly menu and all day breakfast, even if you get there at 2 pm.

Hours: 7 am-2:30 p.m.

What are your ideas for an early morning activity? Share them in the Comments below!

— Stephanie Kanowitz