8 Things to Do in Washington, DC with Kids

America’s capital city is an obvious draw for history buffs, but there are also loads of things to do in Washington, DC with kids. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of visiting this city is that it’s extremely affordable. Believe it or not, most of Washington DC’s major museums and monuments are free to the public. Let’s take a look at eight of the greatest things to do in Washington, DC with kids.

1. Visit Exotic Animals at The National Zoo

seals at The National Zoo, Washington, DC

First off, Washington DC is home to one of the nation’s oldest zoos. Founded in 1889, the National Zoological Park is officially owned by the Smithsonian Institution and contains well over 2,000 animals. Just a few of the most popular residents of the 163-acre National Zoo include an Andean bear, a bald eagle, zebras, lions, and, of course, giant pandas.

Employees at the National Zoo work hard to educate the public on their conservation efforts and the endangered animals housed here. By the way, you could always re-live the fun of visiting this zoo by checking out these three live webcams online. The National Zoo has cameras on its lion, giant panda, and elephant. You’ll find the National Zoo at 3001 Connecticut Avenue.

2. Awaken Your Inner Detective At The International Spy Museum

visiting International Spy Museum, one of the things to do in Washington DC with kids

A visit to the International Spy Museum is one of the most entertaining things to do in Washington, DC with kids, especially if your children love espionage and mysteries. As the name suggests, the International Spy Museum houses a wide array of gadgets used by American spies over the years.

Besides learning about spies of the past, all guests get the opportunity to take on a fictional identity and learn what it takes to live the life of a double agent. There are plenty of interactive exhibits throughout this exquisite museum to keep your little James Bonds and Bondettes content for hours.

The International Spy Museum is at 800 F Street NW within walking distance of the Metro Center Station.

3. Marvel Over Pre-Historic Artifacts At Museum of Natural History

Museum of Natural History Rotunda

Although the name might sound lame, the National Museum of Natural History is on all major lists of things to do in Washington, DC with kids. Owned by the Smithsonian, this Natural History Museum is perfect for children interested in dinosaurs and pre-history. Indeed, one of the most impressive sites at this museum is a massive T-Rex skeleton.

For boys who love icky bugs, there’s a special insect area here where you can see all kinds of creepy crawlies. For girls who love jewelry, the world-famous 45.52-carat Hope Diamond is a permanent part of the Natural History Museum’s collection. This museum is in the National Mall at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue.

4. Take A Stroll Through The U.S. Botanical Garden

U.S. Botanical Garden, Washington, DC

One of George Washington’s dreams was America’s capital city to have a botanical garden on par with those found in Europe. In 1820, Congress realized Washington’s dream with the creation of the U.S. Botanical Garden. Today, the Botanical Garden welcomes well over 750,000 tourists annually and is hailed as one of the world’s finest botanical gardens.

The three main areas of the Botanical Garden consist of a conservatory, the actual National Garden, and Bartholdi Park. In addition to the breathtaking rose garden and regional garden, you’ll find a butterfly garden and an amphitheater in this world-class attraction.

The U.S. Botanical Garden is conveniently located by the Capitol Building at 100 Maryland Ave SW.

5. Check Out Interactive Exhibits At The White House Visitors Center

The White House Visitors Center, Washington, DC

What’s a trip to DC without visiting the White House? While you can’t actually go inside the Oval Office, you can see some impressive artifacts in the free White House Visitors Center. Your kids can use a touchscreen to learn more about the White House. There’s also a short movie here designed to help your children better understand the history of this important building.

Anyone who actually wants a tour of the White House has to go through a more lengthy application process. You’ll find more information about the White House tour on NPS.org. The entrance to the Visitors Center is at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

6. Get Your Cameras Ready For Madame Tussauds Washington, DC

Jackie Chan and Denzel Washington

There’s no better place to get some awesome pics for your Facebook feed than at Madame Tussauds in Washington DC. From George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama and Donald Trump, you’ll get to take pictures with some of America’s most famous leaders in this world-renowned wax museum.

Besides presidents and first ladies, you’ll also get to take pictures by wax figures of media celebrities like Stephen Colbert and Larry King. Your kids are sure to have fun posing with their favorite celebrities in this unique museum.

Madam Tussauds’ DC venue is at 1001 F St NW, which is very close to the International Spy Museum.

7. Fly Off To The National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

No list of fun things to do in Washington, DC with kids would be complete without mentioning the popular National Air and Space Museum. About 6 million tourists from around the world visit the National Air and Space Museum every single year and it’s currently listed as the top museum in DC on TripAdvisor.

The National Air and Space Museum boasts the world’s largest collections of aviation and space exploration equipment. There are plenty of interactive exhibits you and your little astronauts can explore to learn the long history of aviation from the Wright Brothers to Mars exploration. There’s also a wonderful IMAX movie that you can check out for a small fee.

The National Air and Space Museum is conveniently located on the National Mall at 6th and Independence Avenue.

8. Enjoy Spectacular Views Atop The Washington Monument

Washington Monument Panorama

Along with the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the Capitol, the Washington Monument has become one of the classic symbols of Washington DC. Laborers began work on this monument in 1848 and didn’t complete it till 1888.

At approximately 554 feet in height, this massive obelisk dedicated to President Washington is the world’s tallest stone monument. You should be aware, however, that you won’t be allowed to take the elevator up this structure until the National Park Service has completed renovations in 2019.

One of the most memorable things to do in Washington, DC with kids is book a trip to the very top of the Washington Monument, so keep a close eye on the National Park Service’s website to hear when this structure will re-open to the public.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, Washington DC is far from the boring bureaucratic city it’s often portrayed as in the media. There are plenty of fun and free things to do in Washington, DC with kids. Definitely don’t put off a vacation to Washington DC with the family this year. You’ll be surprised how much your children learn from a trip around this historic city.

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