When you’re looking for things to do in Washington, DC with kids, the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum and the national monuments and memorials come to mind. But there is plenty to see and do beyond the National Mall. Keep reading for our list of favorite things to do with kids in the DMV.

1. The White House isn't just where the President lives it's also the People's House! This means it's open to the public and it's a must-do when visiting DC. You won't be able to visit all areas of the White House but you can visit the East Wing and the residence with some advance preparation. Contact your Congressional representative at least 21 days in advance of your visit to schedule a tour.

2. After checking out where the President lives swing over to Capitol Hill. There, you can walk the Capitol grounds and see the Capitol's majestic rotunda for yourself. Reservations are recommended to visit the Capitol Visitor's Center For an even more in-depth look, contact your Congressperson or Senator in advance of your visit for a tour of the Capitol itself.

3. Just a short walk from the Capitol is the Supreme Court. The Court is usually open to the public on weekdays with no reservations required. Even if you can't get inside it's worth a stop to take a photo on the Court's iconic stairs. 

4. DC is one of the few places in the United States you can see pandas. They are even more adorable in person. Be sure to visit the National Zoo to catch a glimpse for yourself. While at the zoo be sure to explore the rest of Asia Trail, play in the Pollinator Playground and seek out your favorite creatures from tigers to bald eagles. Admission is free! 

5. We are getting closer to the day where anyone might be able to travel to space. Until then visit the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum to get an up-close look at rockets, space science, and hands-on exhibits about how things fly. 

6. To see an actual space shuttle you will need to travel to the Udzar-Hazey Center, the Air & Space museum's satellite location near Dulles airport. The Udzar-Hazey center also houses a Star Wars X-Wing fighter. The Udzar-Hazey Center hosts regular family-friendly events so keep an eye on their events calendar.  

7. For those who prefer learning about the land, the National Museum of Natural History is a must-do. The Museum of Natural History is home to an impressive collection of dinosaurs but don't miss the indoor butterfly habitat and hall of gems while you are there! 

8. Visit National Harbor and Gaylord National Resort. It's easy to spend a day or two exploring National Harbor. Take a ride on the Capitol Wheel to catch great views of the city, shop and dine and spend time diffing on the beach. National Harbor frequently hosts special events like a Lantern Festival, outdoor movie, jazz festivals and more. Make the most of your visit with a stay at Gaylord National and experience an indoor laser and lights show in an impressive atrium, a family-friendly rooftop bar with incredible sunset views and augmented reality games. 

9. No trip to Washington, DC is complete without a visit to the National Mall to see the monuments. See the monuments for free by foot or book a tour by Segway, bike, or trolley. The monuments are magical at night so consider visiting after sundown if your kids can stay up past dark.

10. Go deep undercover at the International Spy Museum.  Learn essential spy skills like crawling through mock air ducts to eavesdrop and designing outfits for undercover agents.

11. Explore Rock Creek Park. DC is home to over 1,500 acres of national parkland. Spend a few hours or a few days exploring all this park has to offer.

12. Thanks to an arcane law that prohibited selling or disposing of parts of the Capitol removed during a 1958 renovation anyone can now visit the Capitol Stones. It's not easy to find the stones' "secret" location but it's actually just a short walk down a well-trodden path. Many children enjoy climbing on the stone but be careful!

13. Great Falls Park has some of the best natural views in the DC area. The Billy Goat Trail is one of the most popuar trails to tackle with kids. 

14. Roosevelt Island is a fantastic natural place to explore with kids just minutes from the National Mall. Explore on your own or join a ranger-led program

15. At United States Botanic Garden you can experience the jungle, the desert and see rare and endangered plants under one roof. Be sure to check out the outdoor Children's Garden and the canopy walk that give you a bird's eye view of the plants.

16. The National Arboretum is a huge oasis in the city. The highlight for many visitors is seeing the old columns from the Capitol Columns dating from the 1800s now sitting in a grassy knoll. Don't miss the extensive bonsai exhibit and state trees. 

17. Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens is one of DC's best kept secrets. The former home of the heiress to the Post Cereal fortune is now open for exploration. Take a kid-friendly tour of the stately mansion but stay for the expansive gardens including a Japanese garden, lunar lawn, French parterre, putting green, and more. Bring a picnic or grab something to enjoy at the estate's café. Keep an eye out for the heavy French and Russian influences throughout inspired by Mrs. Post's time accompanying her husband to his assignments as an Ambassador.  

18. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is an expansive garden featuring lotus blooms and lilies. Don't miss the boardwalk trail that is stroller-friendly.

19. The C&O Canal served as a 185 mile shipping and transportation route along the Potomac river for over 100 years. See a small part of it on your own or through one of the many events held along the canal. You can even take a boat ride along the canal. More adventurous families can even book a stay in a preserved canal house.

20. Brookside Gardens features acres of gardens and an extensive conservatory. There is something for everyone with an Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden, and the Woodland Walk. The Formal Gardens areas include a Perennial Garden, Yew Garden, the Maple Terrace, and Fragrance Garden. Check their website for seasonal events, such as Gardens of Light in the winter and the Wings of Fancy live butterfly exhibit in the Spring. 

—Jamie Davis Smith

photo: Jared Short via Unsplash


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