It’s where the President of the United States calls home, along with the mighty World Bank, The Pentagon and sitting high on Capitol Hill is Congress and the Supreme Court, beacons of American democracy. All this will no doubt bore the kids to tears but little do they know, America’s most influential city is also one of the most family friendly with countless things to do in Washington DC with kids.
What makes the nations capital unmissable are the 17 museums, galleries and a zoo collectively known as the Smithsonian Institute most line the National Mall within easy walking distance of each other, offering world class interactive exhibits and captivating displays, where little minds are learning without them even knowing. Best of all they’re completely free!
- 1. Take flight at the National Air and Space Museum
- Smithsonian Castle (Smithsonian Institution Building)
- 2. Check out The White House
- Can you tour The White House as an Australian? (maybe)
- 3. Explore the Museum of Natural History
- 4. Cycle around the National Mall
- 5. Reflect at the War Memorial
- 6. Visit the iconic Lincoln Memorial
- 7. Paddle a boat on the Tidal Basin & tour the memorials
- 8. See the US Capitol Building
- 9. Relax at the US Botanic Gardens
- 10. Wander the National Gallery of Art
- 11. Take in the views from the Washington Monument
- 12. Get wild at the National Zoo
- 13. Watch & learn at the Discovery Theater
- 14. Go for thrills at Six Flags America
- 15. Dive into Americana at the National Museum of American History
- 16. Imagine at the National Museum of the American Indian
- 17. Cruise The Potomac
- 18. Go undercover at the Spy Museum
- 19. Drop into the National Geographic Museum
- 20. Discover charming Georgetown
- 21. Get the scoop at Newseum
- 22. Take it all in
- 1. Bens Chili Bowl - iconic DC hot dogs
- 2. Meat & Foods - fancy sausages
- 3. DCity Smokehouse - the best BBQ in DC
- 4. Eastern Market - foodie paradise
- 5. Bup and Pops - perfect hoagies
- 6. 2 Amys - best pizza in DC
- 7. Baked & Wired - the best cupcakes in Washington DC
- 8. Zombie Coffee and Donuts - kids can make their own donut
- 9. Cactus Cantina - family friendly Tex-Mex
- 10. Ted's Bulletin
Washington DC with kids – pros & cons
Washington DC with kids PROS: There’s much to love about Washington DC with kids, starting with it’s clean and perfectly planned grid-like city without a skyscraper in sight. There’s history at every turn, iconic landmarks, charming neighbourhoods, pristine recreational parks and monumental monuments.
Washington DC with kids CONS: Difficult to condense the attractions into a weekend visit, families can also run risk of getting “museumed out”. The summer heat is humid and stifling, the winters snowy and icy. The best time to go to Washington DC is during the Spring and Autumn season but that comes with peak tourist crowds and high hotel rates. For families that aren’t into exploring museums of any kind, have no inclination for history or uniquely American culture, DC may not be for you. Disneyland it is not (although there is a Six Flags).
Visit Washington DC with kids because: Washington DC is a brilliant family friendly city and a must see for families, dive into the significant historical sites, explore the astounding free museums and see what makes America tick.
The best things to do in Washington DC with kids
1. Take flight at the National Air and Space Museum
Address: 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA. Open 10am to 5:30pm daily
With the largest collection of air and spacecraft anywhere in the world, Washington’s National Air and Space Museum is an undeniable family favourite and a must when visiting Washington DC with kids. Here’s where you show the kids what sparked air travel or how we men were sent to the moon.
There are huge aircrafts and loads of them some hanging from the rooftops along with engaging interactive displays that traces the history of the country’s innovations in air travel and the space race, it easy to see why it’s so popular for young and young at heart. Out little aviation enthusiast adored this and what kid wouldn’t, their shiny planes of every kind.
The museum hosts regular Family Days where you can get hands-on and meet pilots and astronauts, as well as story sessions about famous hot-air balloon voyages and flights aimed at younger children.
While the museum is free to enter, their IMAX and Planetarium films do cost extra, at between $9 – $15 USD for adults and $7.50 – $13.50 USD for kids. For more info including sessions and what’s on when you’re in Washington DC with kids, check out the National Air and Space Museum website.
Washington DC with kids National Air and Space Museum – Highlights
- 1903 Wright Flyer – the first successful air craft pioneered by the Wright brothers.
- Spirit of St Louis – the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight piloted by Charles Lindberg.
- Apollo 11 Command Module – the first to land humans (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) on the Moon.
- Touch a lunar rock brought back from the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
- SpaceShipOne – the first private aircraft that can launch humans into the stratosphere and return them, making human spaceflight possible.
- Bell X-1 – proved an aircraft could travel faster than sound.
- Soviet SS-20 and U.S. Pershing II rockets -the two deadliest Russian and American nuclear warheads created.
- Northwest Boeing 747-100B – kids can step into the aircrafts upper deck and view the cockpit.
- Chicago – the first aircraft to fly around the world.
- Lockheed Vega – piloted by Amelia Earhart in 1932.
- Another Lockheed Vega – dubbed Winnie Mae made record breaking achievements including first solo circumnavigation of the world.
- Skylab Orbital Workshop – where kids can walk through the living quarters of Americas first space station.
- Douglas DC-7 – a commercial plane for American Airlines, kids are allowed to step into the cabin.
Tip for the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC with kids
- The National Air and Space Museum is accessed from the Smithsonian metro station and gets incredibly busy, early morning when it first opens is the best time to visit or an hour or two before closing, if you want to avoid the crowds.
- No strollers are allowed inside the museum, but you can park your stroller by the entrance without hassle. Just remember your valuables.
- Only in America can fast food be found within a museum, easy for families visiting Washington DC with kids. There’s the Wright Place Food Court offers McDonald’s, Boston Market, and Donatos Pizzeria. Open 10am – 5pm daily.
Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly in Washington DC with kids
So big is the collection that there is a companion facility in Virginia about a 35 minutes drive from the National Mall in Washington DC close to the Washington Dulles International airport. If leaving or departing from this terminal, it’s worth allowing an hour or two exploring the huge collection when in Washington DC with kids.
There’s really nothing quite like laying eyes on the very object that has been sent to space and back.
Consisting of two hangars with a huge amount of aircraft to see, the focus is on hands-on learning with interactive exhibits. Heres where kids can take a look from the observation tower, go on a guided tour, hear about stories of flight and space travel, learn at a science demonstration, go on a space walk around the International Space Station and ride cosmic and plane simulators.
Highlights of the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly in Washington DC with kids
- Enola Gay – the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb.
- Air France Concorde – a supersonic transport that was operated commercially, which flew at twice the speed of light.
- The Space Shuttle Discovery – one of the orbiters from NASA’s Space Shuttle program.
- Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird – a reconnaissance aircraft and the world’s fastest jet-propelled aircraft, that accrued 2,800 hours of flight time during 24 years of service.
- Sleepovers – are also organised at the Udvar-Hazy Center and kids can overnight in the hangar under planes with evening guided tours, organised activities, an IMAX screening and breakfast the next morning. Adults must accompany kids aged 8 -12 years old with a 1 adult per 3 child ratio.
TIP – Plan ahead for Smithsonian MuseumsInformation at Smithsonian Castle
Smithsonian Castle (Smithsonian Institution Building)
For an overview of each Smithsonian Museum and help in planning your visit when in Washington DC with kids. Drop into the Smithsonian Castle which serves as their national headquarters. If little kids get hungry, there is a small food court serving standard fare at affordable prices on the Ground Level.
Very helpful volunteers can provide up to date information and hand tips like where lockers are available, what is permitted in museums, baby changing areas, nursing stations and best places to eat with kids. There’s also two electronic maps to view the layout of Washington DC and it’s main attractions.
The Smithsonian Castle is an attraction in it’s own right, the 1855 red sandstone building is positioned in the centrally on the National Mall and was once home of the first Children’s Museum. Mostly guests can pay homage to James Smithson, who’s crypt is located in the building although he never visited the USA when he was alive. The founding donor of the Smithsonian Institute and he left his fortune to the United States to create “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”
A cafe, restrooms and free WIFI is also available for families visiting Washington DC with kids can take a wander around the picturesque Haupt Garden.
2. Check out The White House
Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500, USA. Website: White House.
Home to every single US President since 1801, the White House is Washington DC’s most famous residence. When in Washington DC with kids, the easiest way to check out the White House is head to the lawns outside ‘1600 Pen’ to grab a few family snaps outside the building, don’t mind the tall black wrought iron fence between your family and the President’s home which is some distance off.
The White House tours in Washington DC with kids
Tours for international visitors is tricky and it’s best to contact your embassy to see if this is possible. At a minimum, you will need to submit a request to the embassy of your home country in Washington DC at least 21 days prior to your visit.
Those fortunate to tour the White House will visit the East Room, the Green Room and the Blue Room to see where the most powerful man in the USA works inside this prestigious building.
Can you tour The White House as an Australian? (maybe)
Although the White House welcomes Australians via requesting a tour via the Australian Embassy. The Australian Embassy in Washington DC isn’t as cooperative. They have clearly stated they do not facilitate tours of the White House that it is “….not currently possible as the U.S. Department of State has NOT facilitated Embassy-sponsored public tours of the The White House since 2011”. More information from Embassy of Australian USA here.
If you are a Australian living in America, then a request can be made to your local Congressman / Congresswoman. If you have DC friends that can tour with you when in Washington DC with kids, they can make a request to their local congress representative and attach your family as guests.
Three cheers for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
If you are like most Aussies, who are visitors without a local Congressman representative, there might be a way to get in, though it’s not guaranteed. You can request a White House tour via a supportive Congressman who can apply for a White House tour on your behalf. One such person known to assist ‘foreigners’ is D.C Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Follow the instructions exactly on her request form here.
Tips on requesting a tour as a foreigner in Washington DC with kids
- Self-guided tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Therefore if you are only in D.C. on Monday, Sunday or a Federal Holiday, unfortunately no tours are available, so there is no need to apply and waste time and resources.
- Tours are approximately 20 minutes.
- Request a White House Tour 6 months to 21 days in advance, the earlier the better to maximise your chances.
- Nominate a number of dates for your White House tour and work your sightseeing around a date.
- Fill in the forms accurately, inaccurate or missing form such as DOB, full name as it appears on your passport and address, decreases your chances of getting a tour.
- Fill in a request form for each member of your family.
- You can leave the social security number blank.
- It’s most likely you will receive notification as short notice, anywhere from 1-2 weeks in advance of your visit to Washington DC with kids.
- If you are successful, follow the terms of condition of the White House tour here. There is no storage space for items and you simply cannot go on the tour if you bring prohibited items or do not have the exact form of I.D. strollers, bags, bottles, cameras and baby gear are not permitted.
- Bring quarters for lockers which are available as follows, though they cannot store strollers:
- Union Station
- African Art Museum – lockers with keys
- American History Museum – lockers with keys (various sizes) on 1st floor (Constitution Ave)
- Freer Gallery and Sackler – lockers with code lock
- Hirshhorn Museum – lockers with code lock
- Natural History Museum – lockers with keys (Const. Ave. & Mall)
- Postal Museum – lockers with keys
- Reynolds Center for Art & Portraiture – lockers with digital locks (F & G Streets)
- Udvar-Hazy Center – lockers with keys
- If you pay a tip and ask nicely perhaps one of the hotels can store your stroller and bags for you temporarily.
- Phones with cameras are now permitted for the White House tour.
White House Visitor Center in Washington DC with kids
The alternative to The White House tour is dropping into the White House Visitor Center (open 7:30am to 4pm daily) to get a glimpse into life for the first family, with old letters on display, as well as a fun activity where you have to guess who ordered what plate of food.
You don’t need long here, a nice air-conditioned reprieve for families visiting Washington DC with kids with seating and lovely soft carpeting for infants to have a crawl whilst one of the grown ups take in a few interesting exhibits.
White House Egg Roll lottery in Washington DC with kids
If you are visiting Washington DC with kids at Easter time, you can go into the lottery to be a part of the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. In addition to the roll itself, there are plenty of games for kids and the President of the United States will personally read to your children. Read more about the White House Egg Roll lottery here.
White House Gift Shop in Washington DC with kids
From First President’s bibs and onsies, Obama bubble heads, Trump T-Shirts and Hilary Clinton Figurines as well as mugs, magnets and snow globes galore, pick up souvenir of the White House here. The main reason to go is for a free photo at the Resolute Desk (President’s Desk) or a snap behind the White House podium.
Take a break at Old Edbitt Grill in Washington DC with kids
Rest weary little legs by dropping into iconic Old Edbitt Grill when in Washington DC with kids, although opened in 1983 it was relocated from the original Edibtt Grill which was established in 1857. The current American style restaurant retains much of the original charm with long dead animal trophies including a walrus, gazelle and swordfish that hang above the famous dark mahogany bar. There is also a oil painting dating back to 1900’s and along the wooden shelves above the wood panelling line a historic collection of beer steins.
It’s close proximity to the White House along with the long business hours sees a crowd of tourists, businessmen and politicians. The Bush administration made it a regular haunt and the Obama’s have booked the restaurant for private functions. There are also a string of celebrities that have dined in the comfy velour booths, taken a sip of the famous Bloody Maryland or sampled oysters from one of DC’s best raw oyster bars.
Most families are seen having a early meal in the restaurant or a casual counter meal with a tapped beer at the bar, served by friendly staff wearing collared shirts, bow tie and suspenders.
Potbelly Sandwich Shop near the White House
Address: 1701 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA. Open: 7am to 7:30pm weekdays and 11am to 6pm on weekends. Website: Potbelly website.
For lunch on the road when in Washington DC with kids, stop at one of the many Potbelly Sandwich Shops scattered throughout DC. They serve healthy and filling sandwiches throughout the day, as well as salads, soups and creamy milkshakes that will be a hit with the kids. If you’re checking out the White House then there’s one on Pennsylvania Avenue and 14 St NW see google maps here potbelly sandwich store near white house.
3. Explore the Museum of Natural History
Address: 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560, USA. Open 10am to 5:30pm daily
Covering everything from the origins of the human species to a live insect zoo, the National Museum of Natural History boasts more than 126 million artifacts on display and an absolute must when in Washington DC with kids.
In the Discovery Room there are plenty of interactive and hands-on exhibits to keep young ones entertained. There’s live tarantula feedings, an 80-foot dinosaur skeleton and hands-on science experiments, as well as a beautiful Butterfly Pavilion where you can wander amongst hundreds of different species.
While they build their new National Forest Hall (opening in 2019), there is a temporary exhibit, The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovery a Lost World, on the second floor where the popular T-Rex currently resides.
The main museum is free to enter, however the IMAX theatre which screens nature-inspired documentaries costs $9 USD per adult and $7.50 for kids aged 2 – 12 years old. The Butterfly Pavilion costs $6USD for adults and $5 USD for kids. Avoid visiting on weekends if possible as it can get incredibly busy!
Highlights of the Museum of National History in Washington DC with kids
- Mammal Hall – A huge collection of mammals displayed in life like positions, among them: an antelope is slung across a tall branch where a proud leopard rests, a giraffe with tongue outstretched reaching for an acacia leaf, a walrus about to bellow and grinning grizzly ready for a bear hug.
- Hope diamond – kids will love it for what it is, a shiny large, deep blue, sparkly diamond and parents will love the history. If this flawless blue diamond could talk it would have quite the story. The raw 112 carat uncut diamond was discovered in India and purchased by French King Louis XIV, who had it cut to 69 perfect carats. Dubbed French Blue, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were forced to surrender the diamond along with the French Crown Jewels to the Revolution Guards, where they were put on public display at Garde-Meuble. The diamond was eventually stolen and lost for decades. When it resurfaced it had been cut down to 44 carats and purchased by Henry Hope, from there it was passed through generations of British and American aristocrats until Harry Winston secured it and donated it to the National History Museum, it’s home for the past 50 years. Whilst you’re in the Gems Hall be sure to have a look around the other stunning jewels on display.
- Milstein Hall of Ocean Life – Beautifully presented displays where kids learn about which part of the world different species of marine life live, theres a large preserved fish thought to be extinct, a 94-foot fiberglass whale suspended in air, glass cabinets of giant squid and mysterious creatures that reside in the depths of the ocean.
- Insect Zoo & Butterfly House – As well as cabinets and walls of insects and bugs the museum has live displays of creepy crawlies. For a small fee, hop into the relatively small Butterfly House where a variety of butterflies flitter about or in a display of live chrysalis, waiting to be hatched.
- Discovery Room – Designed for kids aged 5-12 years, a room offering hands-on learning including: digging up for dinosaur fossils, uncovering cabinets full of specimens and examining them under microscope, assembling a Presctosuchus or hunting for animals in a replica African baobab tree.
Sleep overs at the Museum of Natural history in Washington DC with kids
If visiting Washington DC with kids in the summer the Museum of Natural History runs sleepovers for kids 8-12 years old accompanied by an adult (1 adult to 3 kids minimum). Once the museum closes and the lights are dimmed, registered guests can explore the musuem with torches in hand.
There are also organised activities, crafts and a IMAX movie to view. Come bedtime, kids roll out a sleeping bag and sleep under Phoenix the Whale in the Ocean Hall and breakfast is provided as part of the fee. Register early as spots fill up very quickly. The experience costs $135 per person or $120 as a Smithsonian Member. Unfortunately kids under 8 years old are not permitted despite accompanied by an adult. More information on sleepovers here.
4. Cycle around the National Mall
Address: Washington, DC 20565, USA. Open: 24 hours
The National Mall extends from Capitol Building to Washington Monument, a wide green tree-lined boulevard that serves as the city’s heart and soul with a central Reflecting Pool that stretches along its length. The Mall has been the site of countless notable protest movements and celebrations that left their mark in America’s history books and worth a stroll or better still a ride along it when in Washington DC with kids.
Families can explore the National Mall by bicycle, with a self-guided tour around Capitol Hill, the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool, the Korean and Vietnam Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. A fun and practical way to experience all the memorials and landmarks which dot the area, rather than lengthy walks between each.
Bike and Roll
Bike and Roll rents road bikes, kids bikes, tandems and trailers from their National Mall office at L’Enfant Plaza, starting at $10USD for two hours (kids bikes) and $30USD for 2 hours (adult bikes). Each Bike and Roll DC rental is supplied with a keyed U-lock, a handlebar bag or rack, a local map, and a helmet.
There are also other Bike and Roll bike pick up and drop of locations scattered throughout DC, convenient for families getting around Washington DC with kids.
TIP – National Mall in Washington DC with kids
- Bike and stroller stroller friendly with flat even walkways.
- The National Mall hosts the annual 4th of July celebrations, with celebrity bands, a huge parade and fireworks that ignite the night sky. It’s in the height of summer and can be a long and draining day for kids, but if you want to be a part of all the action, you need to arrive early.
- If you are visiting during March, then the National Mall hosts the annual Blossom Kite Festival which sees hundreds of colourful kites take to the sky, or if you are visiting in May, then the Cinco de Mayo Festival is another great one for the kids, where they can learn to make piñatas and join in on all the musical and dance celebrations.
- If you happen to be visiting when America’s next president steps into office, this is the best spot to witness the official inauguration take place.
5. Reflect at the War Memorial
Whilst we try to shield children from war, it’s imperative to take a visit to the sombre yet beautiful War Memorial’s when in Washington DC with kids. It’s easy to do so by taking a loop around the National Mall.
From the Washington Monument we strolled counter-clockwise around the National Monument and along the 2000 foot long Lincoln Reflection Pool passing by the DC Memorial, Korean Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and finishing at the National WWII Memorial.
As trails are all outdoors there are plenty of lawns and gardens as rest breaks for little ones and you don’t need to travel far before happening upon a vendors that sell refreshing ice blocks for a well deserved treat.
Highlights of the War Memorial’s in Washington DC with kids
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial – honours the American casualties of the Vietnam War, 58,191 names are inscribed on the black granite wall which sinks below ground level, and as you walk along, there is a deliberate intention of seeing your own reflection on the wall so that you are fully immersed within the memorial. Visitors can be seen rubbing a name of a loved with pencils and parchment paper or leaving a small tribute.
- Korean Veterans Memorial – “Freedom is not free” equally as evocative is the main tribute at the Korean Veterans Memorial, where an advance party of nineteen stainless steel soldiers 14 Army, 3 Marine, 1 Navy and 1 Air Force are crossing the symbolic terrain of Korea moving towards the American flag. It commemorates the 5.8 million Americans who served in the U.S armed services during the three year period of the Korean War. Around a reflection pool, the the numbers of dead, missing, wounded and captured are inscribed with 45,236 US casualties and 628,833 casualties of The United Nations.
- World War II Memorial – pays tribute to the 16 million who served the armed forces of the USA and honours the 400,000 who died in the war effort. It’s an expansive memorial with a grand oval plaza with a central pool and fountains, surrounded by 56 grand pillars.
Tips on touring War Memorial’s in Washington DC with kids
- There is no need to go into the death, destruction and heavy details of war with kids, have a few simple messages and brief conversations strengthening the message before the visit is enough. For us, we have had conversations on the importance of peace and freedom and touch on the sacrifice people made for our freedom. Our one takeaway is that these memorials are to thank those that have died for our freedom.
- Turn the conversation of war around and ask how we should thank the fallen and how we should behave at memorials? Ask whether we should should scream, run around or touch things? Books are also a good way to start the conversation.
- On the topic of death, my kids are curious and there are obvious questions of death and why these people had to die? Be prepared to answer the difficult questions in a constructive way, however you deem fit and age appropriate. If your kids are very young, you may not need to engage in this until they are ready. Skirt around the topic if you need until the time is right.
- Honour the sacrifice under no circumstances should people including children wade in the reflection pool.
- Gauge the attention span of your kids and break up the memorial visits between other activities or select one or two to visit rather than tackle them all.
6. Visit the iconic Lincoln Memorial
Address: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA. Open 24 hours
Located at the eastern end of the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial honours this most famous of former presidents and was the location of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech. Although it might not be so appealing for young kids, it’s worth a quick stop to see some of Lincoln’s most memorable speeches engraved in the walls and the impressive white Greek Doric columns.
TIP – Visiting Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC with kids
- You don’t need long here, take a quick selfie and get away from the masses.
- For a better feel, take a stroll at night, something safe to do. You may just get the memorial all to yourself.
7. Paddle a boat on the Tidal Basin & tour the memorials
Address: Main Avenue, Tidal Basin. Paddle boats available March 15th – Labor Day (early September).
The Tidal Basin serves as a tranquil backdrop for some of Washington DC’s most famous sights and it’s worth spending some time exploring the reservoir, particularly if you are visiting during the warmer months. The kids will love paddle boating along the Tidal Basin, which costs $14 USD for an hour (two passengers) or $22 USD for an hour (4 passengers). Paddle boats are docked near Maine Avenue everyday from March 15 through to Labor Day in early September.
If you are visiting Washington DC with kids in the spring, then the Tidal Basin ignites with the colour and fragrance of cherry blossom trees which were given as a gift by Tokyo. Take a walk along the edge of the water to soak up the scent and visit some of DC’s most important memorials – the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC with kids
The Jefferson Memorial is one of the most architecturally beautiful in Washington DC, with classical-inspired marble columns and portico, as well as a domed ceiling. It features an almost 6 metre tall statue of the man, flanked by his inspirational words.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” written by Thomas Jefferson, primary author of The Declaration of Independence.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC with kids
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial features statues of him, his wife Eleanor and his Scottish terrier Fala, all set within 7.5 acres of landscaped garden with a series of waterfalls and reflecting pools, allow 30 minutes to walk through the large memorial.
The memorial pays homage to FDR the only president to be elected four times in the era of the Great Depression and World War II.
Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington DC with kids
The final memorial was built in memory of Martin Luther King Jr., whose 9-metre tall statue watches over the Tidal Basin. There’s an inspiring wall engraved with excerpts from his speeches, as well as two stone figures depicting the “Mountain of Despair” which Luther King spoke about in his famous “I have a dream” speech.
TIP – time needed to walk the Tidal Basin in Washington DC with kids
It takes about an hour to walk around the entire Tidal Basin and the pathways are well-maintained and stroller-friendly, but prepared to take some breaks and rest weary legs. Bikes are a great idea when in Washington DC with kids.
8. See the US Capitol Building
Address: East Capitol St NE & First St SE, Washington, DC 20004, USA. Open 8:30am to 4:30pm daily (except Sundays)
Boasting a magnificent location at one end of the National Mall, the US Capitol Building is the heart of American politics. It’s possible to visit the Capitol Visitor Center which lies beneath the main building, with the option to either just look through the Exhibition Hall (no booking needed) or take a more comprehensive free tour can be booked online at www.visitthecapitol.gov.
Tours include a short film about the American dream of democracy, followed by a visit to the Crypt, the Rotunda, and National Statuary Hall.
For most kids, a few photos out the front of this iconic building will be more than enough, with fantastic views across to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
If you’re visiting the Capitol Building when in Washington DC with kids, take the time to poke your head into the Library of Congress – the largest library in the world! Although you can’t borrow books here, there are a revolving series of exhibitions on show and the Jefferson Building’s gorgeous main reading room is worth the visit itself.
TIP – US Captiol Events including 4th of July concert & fireworks in Washington DC with kids
There are numerous free tours and events that operate in the expansive US Capitol grounds. The most famous is the annual 4th of July fireworks and concert. People gather on the West lawn with picnic blanket and nibbles to enjoy a live concert by the National Symphony Orchestra and it’s all free.
Go early to nab a great spot, security checks and admittance begin at 3pm for an 8pm start and finishes by 10pm. Strollers are permitted through security and bring food as there is nothing on sale around the grounds. There are however portable toilets and when were there, people were handing out free water bottles.
There are numerous year round event at the US Capitol Building check out the US Captiol Events Calendar here and see if something suits your visit to Washington DC with kids.
9. Relax at the US Botanic Gardens
Address: 100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20001, United States. Open 10am to 5pm daily.
Located on the US Capitol grounds at the base of Capitol Hill, the United States Botanic Gardens is a beautiful spot to relax and take some well earned time out from sightseeing Washington DC with kids.
It’s the oldest botanic garden in North America, established all the way back in 1820 by congress, and is completely free to enter. It’s a relatively small garden spanning 12 acres and perfect to drop in for a stroll to break up the museums.Half of the gardens is made up of an outdoor seasonal National Garden with a lawn, amphitheater and flower gardens include flowers that attract butterflies, a rose garden and a local flora garden. There’s a large conservatory, divided into different habitat regions, as well as a Children’s Garden where the kids can get dirty digging and watering plants, all while learning about plants from across the globe.
TIP – Botanic Gardens in Washington DC with kids
There are free events organised throughout the year including guided tours, yoga sessions, a Junior Botanist program, Plant Explorers program and Children’s music class. See if there are any US Botanic Gardens events on during your visit here.
10. Wander the National Gallery of Art
Address: 6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565, USA. Open 10am to 5pm Monday-Saturday and 11am to 6pm on Sundays. Website: NGA
For budding young artists, the National Gallery of Art (NGA) should be on your Washington DC with kids itinerary, with an outstanding collection of classic and modern walks across its East and West Buildings. From Renaissance and Baroque paintings, delicate Chinese Porcelain, British and American galleries to our favourite 19th Century French impressionists. There’s a variety of different free, self-guided audio tours that will take you to some of the gallery’s most impressive works, and there’s also family workshops in their Education Studio that allow you to get hands-on with different art activities.
The Outdoor Sculpture Garden home to 26 wonderful sculptures is great for a wander with the kids before hitting another museum. Don’t miss “Graft” by Roxy Paine an enormous stainless steel tree. There’s also another shiny steel sculpture titled “Cones” by Bert Flugelman and “Virgina” by Australian Clement Meadmore.
You can wonder through exhibitions for hours although with kids its more difficult to be lost in the golden Impressionism era. For families its best to come armed with a plan to hit the highlights.
Highlights at National Gallery of Art in Washington DC with kids
Here are some of our personal favourites:
- Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son 1875t by Claude Monet.
- Self-Portrait, 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh
- The Dance Lessons c. 1879 by Edgar Degas
- In the Dining Room, 1886 by Berth Morisot
- Pont Neuf, Paris, 1872 by Auguste Renoir
- Still Life, 1866 by Heri Fantin-Latour
- Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria, Sir Peter Paul Rubens
- The Railway, 1873 by Edouard Manet
- Multiverse by Leo Villareal: – a light installement connecting the East and West Buildings
Tips for National Gallery of Art in Washington DC with kids
- Take a look at the National Gallery of Art map to plan your time there.
- If you are travelling with young children, try and time your visit to coincide with one of their 60 minute Stories in Art sessions which involve reading, exploring and hands on experimenting in the gallery, led by museum educators.
- Download the NGAkids Art Zone app with a variety of themed art play based on works around the museum. How fun for kids to create their own Still Art from one of the famous creations on exhibit.
- During the winter months, the outdoor sculpture garden turns into an ice rink, perfect for kids to get their skates on when in Washington Dc with kids.
11. Take in the views from the Washington Monument
Address: 2 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20024, USA. Open 9am to 10pm daily
The white obelisk of the Washington Monument is perhaps Washington’s most iconic landmark, visible throughout the city and rising to 169 metres.
Built in 1884 to honour the first American president, George Washington, and was (at the time) the tallest structure in the world. Around the city you’ll find this monument to be one of the tallest landmarks in DC as there is a height restriction on buildings to be no taller 160 metres. It’s an easy attraction to tick off when in Washington DC with kids although you don’t need much time admiring the monument as it’s seen all over the city.
Families can be happy enough to take a snap from a distance but the reason to visit is for the panoramic views across the purpose designed city by taking the glass elevator to the observation deck. It’s free to do, but you need to get a timed entry ticket, which are distributed on a first-come/first-serve basis at the Washington Monument Lodge.
If you don’t want to arrive early to secure a same day ticket, you can book in advance on the National Park website, for which you’ll be charged a small fee of $1.50 USD per ticket.
The Washington Monument is stroller-friendly, but keep in mind that you can’t take in any bulky handbags or large backpacks, and they don’t provide lockers for storage. Most families including us parked our strollers near the entry without it being lost or stolen, just take valuables like wallets, phones and cameras with you.
12. Get wild at the National Zoo
Address: 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA. Open 9am to 6pm daily (closes at 4pm during winter months). Website: National Zoo.
Set within the Rock Creek National Park, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo there’s more than 400 different species of animals from across the globe, including giant pandas, giraffes, lions and elephants, with a strong focus on research and education, all completely free and one of the best things to do in Washington DC with kids.
A favourite feature of the zoo is the Orangutan Transport System (or “O” Line) which sees orangutans swinging high above, as well as live feeding demonstrations and animal training sessions.
You can reach the National Zoo on the Red metro line to the Woodley Park-Zoo Metro stop or it’s a 3.5 mile (approximately 17 minute drive) from the National Mall to the zoo.
Highlights for National Zoo Washington DC with kids
- See the cuddly pandas – there’s an indoor Panda House and an outdoor area that remains open until 2pm. Queue early as these guys are hugely popular especially with a new panda cub Bei Bei.
- The Kids’ Farm House is an interactive animal barn animals with cows, alpacas, donkeys, ponies and also rare breeds like the Ossabaw Island hogs and San Clemente Island Goats. Kids are able to pet the cows and donkeys as well as groom ponies. Kids can also learn where food comes from with interactive displays, a pizza garden themed playground or take a ride on carousel near the Kids Farm.
- American Trail – the newest area to be renovated, the trail takes animal lovers past Californian sea lions, gray seals, bald eagles, wolves, ravens and river otters. There’s also a small shallow tide pool perfect for little kids to cool off in the summer months (bring a spare change of clothes).
- An amazing new addition is the Asian Elephant exhibit compromising of a state of the art indoor facility with heated floors, rubber or sand flooring and wading pools as well as an outdoor area that offers varied terrain, play spaces, trails and bathing pool.
- Great Cats – see the lions and tigers on the hill in a large and naturally designed enclosure. Popular as there has been a littler of seven lion cubs recently arrived at the zoo.
- Great Apes & Other Primates – The zoo has six lowland gorillas including a beautiful silverback by the name of Baraka. This part of the zoo is also home to gibbons, organutan, lemurs and black howler monkeys.
- Reptile Discovery Centre – the large indoor building is home to a variety of reptiles including snakes, lizards, frogs, crocodiles and iguanas.
TIP – National Zoo in in Washington DC with kids
- During peak summer days and particularly on weekends it gets absolutely packed. Go on opening to avoid crowds or an hour or two before closing. Grounds are open at 8am – 7pm daily, and you can take a walk around the ground before entering the exhibits.
- If you visit during the winter months, the zoo hosts a Zoo Lights exhibition which sees many of the zoo’s most popular animals illuminated in twinkling lights, together with ice sculptures.
- The zoo occupies 163 acres, sensible footwear, plenty of water and for little ones a stroller is recommended. The zoo offers flat trails and stroller parking bays.
- When you arrive by train, get off at Cleveland Park and walk downhill to the Zoo; head downhill again on departure, to the Woodley Park Zoo station.
13. Watch & learn at the Discovery Theater
Address: National Mall, 1100 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA. Website: Discovery Theater
Run by the Smithsonian Museum in the Ripley Center on the National Mall, the Discovery Theater puts on live shows that are specifically designed for school-age kids. There are a variety of shows at at a small fee, from puppet shows, reptile demonstrations, mimes, dance performance and live music all with a focus on education and entertainment.
Most of the shows are on during the week at 10am and 11:30am, and tickets cost around $8 USD for adults, $6 USD for kids 2-12 and $3 USD for under 2s.
Shows are not scheduled every month for more information about what is currently showing when you’re in Washington DC with kids and book tickets, check out the calendar of events.
14. Go for thrills at Six Flags America
If you want to escape the sightseeing and museums for a day of theme park fun, then head to Six Flags America also known as Six Flags Maryland, located 15 miles or approximately 35 minutes drive from the centre of Washington DC.
Occupying 131 acres, there’s more than 100 rides designed for kids of all ages, as well as live entertainment and an immense water park if you’re visiting in the hot summer months. The only problem you may have is that kids are likely to want to come back from more rather than tour more museums. Best to end on a high with six flags when visiting Washington DC with kids.
Top rides and attractions at Six Flags America near Washington DC with kids
- Looney Tunes Movie Town – perfect for the little kids some without height restrictions where young kids (2-6 years) can go without parents including: Elmer Fudd’s Balloon ride, Foghorn Leghorn train and Pepe Le Pews mini tea cups. There’s also an indoor play space and a stage show with Looney Tunes characters.
- Whistlestop Park – more fun for the younger kids with low height restrictions of 92 cm – 116cm (kids 2-6 years) some accompanied by adult, rides include: Whirly Birds, Happy Junction Train ride, Up Up and Away ferris wheel and a scenic train and bus ride. There’s also a playground and splash zone in the summer.
- Mild rides – kids accompanied by parents may enjoy the milder riders of the carousel, bumper cars, flying carousel, shipwreck falls (flume ride) and tea cups.
- Thrill rides – perhaps the reason why this place is so popular is for the crazy coasters and huge array of thrill rides including: Apocalypse, Batwing Coaster, Dare Devil Dive, Ragin Cagin, Voodoo Drop, The Jokers Jinx, Superman ride of Steel and wooden roller coaster Roar minimum height restriction at 122 cm (for kids around 7+ years)
- There’s also a huge waterpark attachedt to the park with lazy rivers, splash playgrounds, a wave pool, wading areas and loads of waterslides from gentle slides for little ones to slides that twist, plunges, spins and zips.
TIP – Six Flags America near Washington DC with kids
- Plan ahead before you go. Check out the Six Flags America map here.
- Lockers are available for rent at the main gate entrance, Coca-Cola Freestyle™, Nitro areas and Hurricane Harbour (by the water park). It accepts dollar notes and credit cards and operate with a digital pin passcode.
- Tickets are about $20USD cheaper if you buy online at , starting from around $43 for an all day pass (kids under 2 are free).
- Discount tickets can be found in the USA, RetailMeNot Six Flags is a good site to check for discounts, they may or may not work depending on the park and date, but worth a check. Also check supermarket coupons for a discount code.
- Flash Pass is sold at the Flash Pass Center, allowing guests to queue virtually for popular rides and be notified when it’s their turn. There are categories of flash passes, platinum reduces wait times by up to 90%, Gold by up to 50% and regular pass allows guests to use the virtual queue.
- Life jackets are free to use at the water park.
- A wristband can be obtained from the Main Street Service Center to check height and review ride restrictions, this is also a good meeting point if kids get lost.
- There’s little shade at the park, pack a hat, sunscreen and water bottle.
15. Dive into Americana at the National Museum of American History
Address: 14th St and Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA. Open: 10am to 5:30pm. Website: National Museum of American History
From inventions to transportation and important historical figures, the National Museum of American History delves into the country’s heritage and tells a story of it’s bright future and admission is free.
Their Spark! Lab and Q’Rius education center, provides hands-on science exhibitions to keep young mind’s busy, with lots of family-friendly demonstrations, such as using printing presses, looking through telescopes and storytelling sessions that will help bring the history to life.
If you are visiting with little ones the Wegmans Wonderplace is designed specifically for kids under 6 years. There’s a kid-size Julia Child’s kitchen to cook in, hidden owls to find in the Smithsonian Castle and self-directed organised activities based around the museums treasured artifacts.
Admission is free and open every day except Thursday and Christmas Day from 10am to 4pm. Except on Weekends and Federal holidays where a timed tickets are required for each 30 minute session.
Highlights of National Museum of American History in Washington DC with kids
- Star Spangled-Banner – absolutely worth a visit when in Washington DC with kids is he original Star-Spangled Banner. The huge American flag that flew above Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the American national anthem.
- Abraham Lincoln’s Top Hat – worn by the president on the night he was assassinated.
- The First Ladies – chronicles the history and roles played by First Ladies for the past 200 years, with displays of their gowns and other personal items.
- Ruby Slippers – See the sparkly ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz
16. Imagine at the National Museum of the American Indian
Address: 4th St & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA. Open: 10am to 5:30pm daily. Website: National Museum of the American Indian
The US has a rich and mostly tragic history with the American Indians and there are important and significant stories to be told. However, the National Museum of the American Indian side steps the linear history and rather showcases a vast array of Native American artifacts like woven baskets, ceremonial tools and art, focussing on the equally diverse groups of American Indian’s life, culture and beliefs. Still, the narrative is worth a quick look around when in Washington DC with kids.
The building itself is beautiful, a curvilinear form designed as if sculpted from the wind and surrounded by an artificial wetlands. Inside there is the cylindrical Lelawi Theatre which features a film celebrating the diversity of Native Indian’s way of life, there’s also The Potomac Atrium which hosts performances of music, dance and cultural events.
The lack of history maybe the reason why the National Museum of the American Indian is one of the quietest museums, however it’s worth a look as s kids will love the displays and wide open space.
Particularly family friendly is imagiNations Activity Center where kids can step inside a full-size tipi, look inside traditional Indian homes, play on musical instruments, try on various styles of Native clothes. Hands-On activities include playing on traditional music in the purpose built music room, learn to weave a basket as well as other art projects.
Entrance is free, try and coincide your visit with a Sunday when the museum hosts family storytelling sessions at 11:15am.
TIP – Teast American Indian food at Mitsitam Cafe
The Mitsitam Cafe at the museum is renowned for their delicious food, incorporating native cooking methods and ingredients into their menu and it changes with the seasons just as it did for America’s first people. While many of the selections are quite refined, they also do buffalo burgers and beef tacos that will satisfy young bellies.
There’s also a espresso bar offering inexpensive organic, fair-trade coffee by the Eastern Band of Cherokee.
17. Cruise The Potomac
Capture a different perspective on some of Washington DC’s major landmarks with a cruise on the Potomac River.
Departing from the Georgetown Washington Harbour, the cruise will take you past the Jefferson Memorial, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Washington Monument, the Memorial Bridge and the 14th St. Bridge, all in a comfortable 45 minutes one-way or 90 minute return journey. A nice way to end the day touring Washington DC with kids.
Though 45 minutes one-way trip is enticing, the round trip is recommended as it drops families back into Georgetown Washington DC rather than finishing up at the Alexandria City Marina on the other side of the river in Virginia.
Potomac River Cruises cost $15 USD for adults and $9 USD for kids aged 2-11 one-way.
18. Go undercover at the Spy Museum
Delve into the fascinating world of spies at the International Spy Museum, located a few blocks north of the National Mall. It’s home to all sorts of gadgets, cameras and weapons that have been integral to the undercover world and has proven to be a Washington DC with kids hit.
Kids will love the scavenger hunts which see them become spies themselves, adopting an identity and going on a covet mission as they explore the museum. Adults will love the history of spy technology, KGB innovations and the Bond Car.
Older kids 12 years and older can participate in Operation Spy an ‘immersive interactive experience’ with a group of 15 similar aged kids and a group leader, where they are to solve a secret spy mission.
Tickets cost $21.95 USD for adults and $14.95 USD for kids 7-11, with under 7s free! Operation Spy costs an extra $14.95 per child.
Shake Shack next door in Washington DC with kids
Address: 800 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004, USA. Open: 11am to 11pm.
Shake Shack is loved across the States, and the DC locations are no exception. Bundle in for great burgers, fries and (of course) delicious shakes, with the frozen custard shakes a “must try”. The queues can be long, but there’s a reason why Shake Shack is so popular. If you’re visiting the International Spy Museum, then there’s one located conveniently next door, an easy treat when in Washington DC with kids.
19. Drop into the National Geographic Museum
This much-loved magazine has its own museum in Washington DC’s downtown a couple of blocks from the White House. It features exhibits on recent expeditions, the magazine’s world-renowned photography work and the scientific pursuits that they support.
It’s a small museum and you won’t need long if in Washington DC with kids in tow. It’s easily overlooked for the sprawling and free Smithsonian museums just down the road, however from time to time they hold great free exhibits that are worth a pop in such as i.e. discovering the Yellowstone Great Animal Migration.
Also free to view is the light box photography exhibit and there are occasionally guided tours and organised activities. Otherwise admission to exhibits are $15 USD for adults and $10 USD for kids, though it’s free for kids under 5 and accompanying adults.
Food trucks at Farragut Square in Washington DC with kids
Depending on the current exhibition, it may not be worth spending the money for the entire family to view what’s on display. Nearby is Farragut Square, walk 5 minutes south along 17th Street NW. The park offers flat paths and green gardens for kids to have a play and around lunchtimes there are a variety of food trucks for a quick and inexpensive treat.
A good option for lunch when in Washington DC with kids or a nice place to wait should a member of the family or two check out the paid exhibit.
20. Discover charming Georgetown
First established in 1751, Georgetown is a scene of manicured gardens, cobblestone streets and charming historic buildings and a must when visiting Washington DC with kids.
Families can wander through the grounds of prestigious Georgetown University, window shop between coffee breaks at the upmarket shops and restaurants along M and N Streets, explore the treelined streets, preserved Row Houses and buildings dating back to the 18th century or have a play along the waterfront where kids can splash in a water park playground and families can picnic on the pristine lawns overlooking the Potomac River.
Highlights of Georgetown in Washington DC with kids
21. Get the scoop at Newseum
A museum dedicated to news, journalism and the free press in a democratic society. Spanning seven levels, the interactive museum showcases big headlines and major new events in America and around the world. There are homages to news reporters and a slight glorification of newspapers, but the essence is fun and getting the message across that journalism is pivotal in telling important and wonderful stories.
Adults cost $22.95 and kid children aged 7 – 18 years are $13.95. Kids 6 years and under are free. Keep an eye for Newseum specials where kids are free accompanied by an adult.
Highlights of Newsuem in Washington DC with kids
- Photo exhibits including Pulitzer Prize Photographs and award winning travel images.
- 9/11 Gallery the stories reported and challengese faced by reporters.
- More light hearted news of Presidents and Their dogs, a gallery of puppy pets of Presidents.
- Berlin Wall Gallery with a large collection of the Berlin Wall.
- A display of Today’s Global Headlines from more than 80o international world news outlets.
- Kids can become a television reporter, complete with camera and teleprompter.
- Play in the NBC Interactive Newsroom.
- Watch the 4-D Time Travel Adventure movie.
- The Ethics Center challenges has an interactive interactive kiosks to allow kids to tackle real-life reporting dilemmas and see how journalists and other visitors responded.
22. Take it all in
You can’t take a turn in Washington DC without stumbling upon something of immense historical importance. It’s at the Lincoln Memorial Martin Luther King Jnr made his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, the very spot is marked so not to miss it.
In the National Archives building lies America’s most significant pieces of paper, the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and The Charters of Freedom. Within the imposing building that is the Library of Congress holds a collection of 160 million books including 6,000 of founding father Thomas Jefferson’s.
On the hill of Mount Vernon stands George Washington’s preserved plantation estate which includes his slave quarters where 318 slaves were kept and never freed in his lifetime. Across the Potomac River is the Arlington National Cemetery where JFK is buried as well as American servicemen from every U.S conflict since the Civil War.
There is much to explore in Washington DC with kids, plan ahead, read, explore and take it all in.
Must Eats in Washington DC with Kids
Washington DC’s food scene is on fire although I’m told it hasn’t always been the case. The multicultural hub combined with neighbourhoods with distinct personalities creates a wide array of food options. Here we skim the surface to find family friendly must eats in Washinton DC with kids, though there are many excellent cuisines and wonderful restaurants, here are the most iconic to DC:
1. Bens Chili Bowl – iconic DC hot dogs
Founded in 1958 by Ben Ali his restaurant weathered many storms including the 1968 riots and gradual economic decline of the neighbourhood, the landmark restaurant remained open and as the area has been gentrified, Bens Chili Bowl continues to serve it’s famous chili dogs, half-smokes and milkshakes. Although Ben passed away, the restaurant remains in the family under management of his sons, look out for the mural of Obama and controversial choice of Bill Cosby around the East wall.
Note a half-smoke is a sausage created in and synonymous with Washington DC. The hot dog is spicier, thicker than a regular sausage and contains half pork and half beef smoked with a variety of herbs and spices. Kids may not like the spice and opt for the regular all beef dog and oozy cheese coated fries.
Not the most visually appetising it’s about the urban culture and the unique flavour and easily a favourite with families in Washington DC with kids.
2. Meat & Foods – fancy sausages
Famous for their handmade sausage, the small no frills store offers gourmet hot dogs with flavours such as salt and pepper chicken, mild itialian, tumeric and chicken or the firm favourite, the DC hot dog icon the half smoke finished with simple condiments like chilli, onions, mustard, sauerkraut and pickle.
3. DCity Smokehouse – the best BBQ in DC
Address: 1540 North Capitol St NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA. Open: Tuesday – Saturday 12pm-9pm. Sunday 12pm-6pm and closed Monday’s. Website: DCity Smokehouse.
What once was a small hole in the wall BBQ smoke house with only five seats, the DCity Smokehouse has grown to be DC’s most loved BBQ restaurants. As well as BBQ platters of brisket, chopped pork, pork belly and turkey. If there aren’t any seats, grab some takeaway and head somewhere more picturesque to eat, there isn’t much around the neighbourhood.
There is the DC favourite half-smoke hot dog, BBQ meat sandwiches of every combination, smoked wings and BBQ ribs and tips. Sides include fried onion rings, spicy collard greens, coleslaw and chili. The low key, laid back family style restaurant perfect for a family feed.
4. Eastern Market – foodie paradise
The historic Eastern Market on Capitol is a foodie’s paradise , with local cheeses, fresh seafood, meats, baked goods and flowers for sale. It’s been trading since the late 19th century and is an important part of the local community.
While you’re exploring all the fresh goodies and gourmet treats, don’t miss the blueberry pancakes at the Market Lunch which have a reputation that precedes them.
TIP – Eastern Market in Washington DC with kids
If you visit on the weekend, there’s also a street market, selling arts and crafts next door, together with live music and street performers.
5. Bup and Pops – perfect hoagies
Famous for it’s hoagies and American style sandwich made of a long roll filled with meat, cheese, and salad. Order an iconic Italian Hoagie with some fresh kettle chips and a dill pickle. There’s a large assortment of homemade pickles and relishes to accompany stacked sandwiches, soups, salads and the kids favourite spaghetti bolognese.
A cozy, homely family friendly restaurant serving up simple and affordable tasty sandwiches. Worth a pop in when in Washington DC with kids for lunch or they even deliver locally.
6. 2 Amys – best pizza in DC
Address: 3715 Macomb St NW, Washington, DC 20016, United States. Open: Sun Noon – 10pm, Mon 5 – 10pm. Tues-Thurs 11am-10pm. Fri & Sat 11am – 11pm. Website: 2 Amys.
Extremely tasty pizza, and ever since the first bite into 2 Amy’s speciality Neopolitan pizza, it’s something I still long for and no pizza has lived up to the taste. It’s a simple wood fired pizza with a light, thin and slightly charred base that oozes buffalo mozzarella topped off with fresh basil. A must-eat when in Washington DC with kids.
They have a delicious pizza menu which inlcludes a Puttanesca with tomato sauce, rapini, fresh mozzarella, garlic and anchovy a Stuffed Pizza with ricotta, grana, salami, prosciutto, pancetta and fresh tomato or kids can choose their own toppings made to order finished off with a side of golden potato frittata’s.
7. Baked & Wired – the best cupcakes in Washington DC
Address: Baked & WiredOpen: Mon-Thurs 7am -8pm, Fri 7am-9pm, Sat 8am-9pm, Sun 8am-8pm. Website:
Cupcake mad locals have their own personal preference for where the best donuts are in DC, but at the top of most lists is Baked & Wired.
8. Zombie Coffee and Donuts – kids can make their own donut
Like cupcakes, the best donuts in DC is also a contentious issue District Doughnut and Astro Doughuts & Fried Chicken tops most lists but the fancy pants gourmet donuts are no contender to being able to make their very own donut flavour. Don’t let the childish name fool you, Zombie donuts are heavyweights for the title of best donut in DC and known for a good cup of coffee too.
Make a myriad of combinations first choose a coating, plain, glazed, lemon glaze, cinnamon sugar, strawberry or chocolate icing and pick your own toppings like fruity pebbles, crushed Oreos, sprinkles and M&Ms to name a few.
9. Cactus Cantina – family friendly Tex-Mex
For Tex-Mex food within a fun and colourful environment, take the kids to Cactus Cantina in Cleveland Park. There’s everything from hot tamales to barbecued quail, with big servings and a vibrant atmosphere. The kids will love watching the glassed-in tortilla making machine while they are waiting for their food, while mums will be content with one of their legendary margaritas!
10. Ted’s Bulletin
Address: 505 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003, United States. Open: 7am to 10:30pm daily. Website: Ted’s Bulletin.
Ted’s Bulletin in Capitol Hill serves up quintessentially Americana food within retro surrounds. There’s lots of great burgers to choose from (including a peanut butter bacon burger!), as well as homemade pop tarts that will indulge your children’s sweet tooth.
Where to stay in Washington DC with kids
When it comes to staying in Washington DC with kids, location is key. We’ve trawled DC to find only the best hotels for each Luxury, Mid-Range and Budget options taking into consideration safety, proximity to the Smithsonian Museum or access to the Metro for the main attractions, family friendly facilities where rooms welcome more than one child and if there is a pool, even better:
The following best prices links are affiliate links to Tripadvisor using the links to book a hotel means we receive a small commission and you are not out of pocket for anything.
There’s no obligation and you are more than welcome to book with your preferred hotel provider.
Luxury hotels in Washington DC with kids
JW Marriott Hotel Washington – great value family luxury
If you want to stay just steps away from the White House and minutes walk to all the Smithsonian museum in a luxurious family friendly hotel, then splash out at the JW Marriott Hotel in Penn Quarter. Modern elegant rooms and suites have great vistas of Washington monuments and spacious to comfortably sleep a family. If there is only one child, then the five star hotel is quite affordable.
Central DC hotels with pools are hard to find, at the JW Marriott Hotel, there’s also a large indoor heated swimming pool to keep the kids happy all year round. I
Two connecting rooms for a family of four from $544 AUD. Great value if you are two adults travelling with one child, as only one standard room needed priced from $270 AUD.
Sofitel Washington DC – affordable French sophistication in the heart of DC
Address: 806 15th Street NW, Washington DC
Modern french sophistication, spacious family rooms and suites and a superb central location combined with affordable accommodating up to four members of the family in luxuriously appointed Superior Rooms makes the Sofitel Washington DC quite possibly the best family friendly luxury in the nations capital.
The rooms are elegantly furnished with modern decor mixed with a touch of 1920’s Paris, offering luxuries such as marble bath, feathertop beds, rain shower and Lanvin toiletries. There is also the creature comforts and modern technology including flat screen TV, WIFI and Bose sound system.
For additional room families can choose between two connecting double rooms or a the 475sq.ft./44m² Junior Suites have sliding doors separating the bedroom and living room / kids room.
Superior rooms sleeping four from AUD $458 including breakfast, $580 AUD for a Junior Suite including breakfast or two connecting Double Rooms for a family of four from $841 AUD.
Mid-Range hotels in Washington DC with kids
Holiday Inn Washington DC-Central/Whitehouse
The Holiday Inn Washington-Central is located a couple of blocks from two Metro stations, a short and inexpensive cab or Uber ride, if you are so inclined its’s a good 20 minute walk to the National Mall. It also has a rooftop pool open in the summer month and a restaurant on-site.
Quadruple rooms are available for families and they are light, bright and modern with free WIFI and flatscreen TV.
Rooms from $281 AUD peak season for family of four. Click here to view best prices.
Capitol Hill Hotel
Address: 200 C St. SE, Washington DC.
An affordable family friendly hotel in a perfect location, moments walk to the main attractions, restaurants and entertainment and a block from the metro. Spacious refurbished family rooms and suites are equipped with a kitchenette and comes with complimentary WIFI. Great value for money for a family of four in a safe and appealing neighborhood.
Family room sleeps four from $240 AUD peak season. Click here to view best prices.
Budget hotels in Washington DC with kids
Hampton Inn & Suites Washington DC – Navy Yard
Address: 1265 First St SE, Washington, DC
Great value for money hotel featuring beautifully refurbished french provincial style large rooms with high ceilings. Located right next to the Nationals Park home of DC’s Washington Nationals baseball team. Some rooms even offer views of the Potomac River whilst others offer views into the stadium.
Located in the old Navy Yard, it’s a safe location, with the metro station a few minutes walk away or a quick and cheap Uber or cab ride into the National Mall and the Washington DC attractions. The area is being gentrified and there is a construction going on with complaints concerning noise.
Queen rooms sleeping four (connecting rooms available) from $150 AUD. Click here to view best prices.
Comfort Inn Downtown DC / Convention Center
Prime location in Washington DC Downtown with shops and restaurants are nearby, Dupont Circle a short walk away and DC’s National Mall a quick cab or uber ride. There’s also a Metro stop a few minutes walk which takes families to all the main attractions of DC.
Comfort Inn Downtown DC / Convention Centre also offers complimentary breakfast, WIFI and warm cookies in the evening, the hotel also has a shared microwave, small gym and a laundry. All the little things to make families feel more at home.
Rooms are clean, comfortable and have essentials like a room safe, mini fridge and flatscreen TV as well as some nice touches like a choice between hard or soft pillows and premium bedding.
Quad Share double rooms which sleep peak rates from $191 AUD. Click here to view best prices.
When to go
The Summer months of June through to August are the peak tourist season in Washington DC, when domestic visitors are on their long annual holidays and the 4th July celebrations bring large holiday makers onto the National Mall.
Temperatures can be hot and sticky and hotel prices are at their peak. Prices are greatly reduced during the low season Winter months of December through to February, although you’ll have to brave the freezing cold temperatures.
Best time to goto Washington DC with kids
Autumn and Spring are great times to visit, when the crowds have subsided and the temperatures are more favourable.
In Autumn from September to November families can see the city beautifully coloured with the changing leaves.
In Spring from March to May is glorious with Cherry Blossom Festival ( late March/early April) and beautiful sunny days without the humidity and influx of visitors.
Getting to Washington DC with kids
Flights from Australia to Washington DC with kids
The most direct route from Australia’s east coast to Washington DC is with American Airlines and Qantas, with return flights from Sydney (connecting in Los Angeles) starting from around $1500. You can fly for slightly cheaper with Air New Zealand and United Airlines, stopping in Auckland and Houston, but the transit time is longer. Children’s fares (2-12) are around 80% of the standard economy fare, while infants under 2 incur a small surcharge.
Airports in Washington DC
Washington DC has two major international airports – Ronald Reagan International Airport (DCA) and Washington Dulles International Airport – make sure you check which airport your flight arrives and departs from as there is a big distance between them.
The Ronald Reagan International Airport is the most convenient, located just a few kilometres south of the downtown area but most leave from Washington Dulles.
Metro from airport into Washington DC with kids
The easiest way to get into the centre of Washington DC is on the elevated metro rail system, with a station connected to the concourse level of Terminals B and C. There are metro rail fare card machines located at all entrances and elevators available if you are traveling with strollers. The cheapest way to ride the metro is with a SmarTrip card which you can purchase inside the station, meaning that no fare will be more than $6USD. Children 4 and under ride free, while those over 4 pay an adult fare.
Uber or Taxis from airport into Washington DC with kids
Alternatively, just jump in one of the taxis located in the ranks outside the terminal, which should cost only around $10USD into the centre.
Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is located much further out, around 40 kilometres to the west of the city centre.
You can travel into the centre using the metro, which at the moment doesn’t run all the way to the airport (but will do in the near future). At the moment you need to get on one of the airport coach services which will drop you at the West Falls Church Metro Station, from there ride the metro into the city centre (about $16USD per person). If you don’t want to transport your luggage between services, you can also take the 5A metro bus into the downtown area, which takes around 50 minutes and costs $6USD per person.
The simplest, but most expensive, way of getting from Dulles into the city centre is with a taxi, costing around $75 USD.
An UberX + Car Seat is estimated at $47-59 USD or SUV, if you have your own car seat a regular UberX is $37-49 USD.
Shuttle Bus in Washington DC with kids
There’s also an option of a shuttle bus into town, sharing with other passengers in a mini-bus, there are two operators who pick up in different locations. There are different services, non-stop services are limited to 1-3 passengers and do not shuttle and stop at each passengers hotel. Prices from $59 USD for a family of four.
Getting around Washington DC with kids
Metrorail and Metrobus in Washington DC with kids
Washington DC’s public transport system is safe, clean and reliable, connecting all corners of the city by both bus and rail. Most hotels are located near metro stations and there are usually elevators if you are exploring the city with a stroller. The metro system operates from 5am to midnight on weekdays and from 7am to midnight on weekends.
The easiest way to pay for fares on either the metro rail or metro bus system is using a SmarTrip card which can be bought at all metro stations. You can load a selected amount onto the card, then just swipe it onboard. SmarTrip cards incur a lower fare than buying individual tickets, and can also be used on the DC Circulator.
Fares depend on the distance traveled, ranging from $2.15-5.90USD during peak times (5-9:30am and 3-7pm) and $1.75-3.60 outside of peak times. Kids 4 and under travel free, but unfortunately you need to pay full fare for those over.
Uber & Taxis in Washington DC with kids
All of the taxis in Washington DC are metered and it’s quite an economical way to get from A to B if you don’t want any hassles. They all accept cash, credit and debit cards as payment, and you can download the DC Taxi Rider app to your phone to check fares and estimate distances and times before you hail down a taxi .Estimated taxi cab fare from Dupont Circle (North West) to the middle of National Mall from $19 USD.
Uber is also widely used throughout Washington DC and can be booked through their smartphone app. Estimated fare from Dupont Circle (North West) to the middle of National Mall from $15 USD with Uber + Car Seat available. Unlike cabs, its law for kids riding in Ubers to have a car seat and as they are a bit more expensive to ride, it’s also a little fiddly to get multiple car seats if there are multiple kids, so getting around town might only afford you a few dollars discount.
DC Circulator in Washington DC With kids
The DC Circulator is a bus system operating from Union Station and one of the cheapest ways of getting around the city, with each ride costing just $1USD. There are 6 different routes to choose from, including around the Adams Morgan neighbourhood, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Woodley Park/Cleveland Park, U Street and Capitol Hill. There’s also a National Mall route where you can jump on/jump off at all of its major monuments and attractions, with buses leaving every 10 minutes.
Strollers are welcome onboard (and the driver will “kneel” the bus on request) and you can find more info about routes at www.dccirculator.com.
Have you been to Washington DC with kids?
Have you been to Washington DC with kids? Any tips or things that we’ve missed? Please reply below: