Smithsonians Air & Space
Smithsonians Air & Space is one of the most popular museums in the world! Anything air or space-related is housed here, from early aircraft replicas to model rockets. Kids can also see the Apollo 11 Command Module that housed Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins during the first manned lunar landing mission! Its truly striking how small this module isand it took the astronauts more than 51 hours to reach lunar orbit.
Older kids will love the museums upgraded IMAX theater, which has a new dual 4K laser projection system with a 74-by-49-foot screen, one of the largest in the Mid-Atlantic. A Beautiful Planet in 3-D IMAX is amazing, filmed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station! The most breathtaking part was seeing the cities of South Korea aglow at nightand then seeing its neighbor North Korea, which was shrouded in darkness.
Younger kids can attend the museums planetarium for a daily free show at 10:30 am starring Elmo and Big Bird! And theres storytime most Thursdays and Fridays at 11 am, and Saturdays at 11 am and 1:30 pm.
- Photo Courtesy: Nicole Ross Peirce
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Washington, D.C. museums for kids are not specifically centered around children, yet theres still an emphasis on taking an active role in learning. These museums dont have a lot of exhibits that could be seen as frightening to smaller kids, and they are well-equipped with bathrooms and places to rest and snack as well. Below, we will explore some of the best museums for kids in Washington, D.C. Also, be sure to check out our North America Travel Destinations page for more US family-friendly travel ideas!
Best Museums For Kids In Washington Dc
Categories United States
Maybe you and your family are planning an amazing getaway. Or maybe its a last-minute business trip that came up and you dont have time to find someone to look after your kids. Whatever the case may be, let this list of the best museums for kids in Washington D.C. put your mind at ease.
If you dont have time to plan an entire itinerary especially involving kid-friendly options, let this be your guide!
Find the best museums for kids in Washington D.C. But first, it is best if you create a checklist to avoid any mistake in booking a trip to Washington D.C.
There are so many options, unfortunately, I cannot list them all. But I will try my best to pack in as many as possible!
Lets head to the nations capital and dive right in!
Short on time or cash? Check here for the best Airbnb options in the D.C. area.
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Stroll The National Harbor
The National Harbor is a recent addition to the Washington D.C. Metro area. This expansive complex boasts 6 hotels, 23 restaurants, 32 shops, and an amazing marina. Its located on the Potomac River just over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Prince Georges County, Maryland. The National Harbor has wonderful views of Washington D.C. and Old Town Alexandria, and an 180-foot Observation Wheel a particularly lovely experience at sunset. The spacious marina and pier have a number of local cruises available to visitors, including a water taxi to the Washington National games. If all this wasnt enough, the National Harbor also plays host to outdoor movies, a Wine & Food Festival, a summer concert series, an annual road race, and a producer-only farmers market. Check the website for all the details. With reasonable room rates and loads of activities, you might opt for a room at one of the National Harbor hotels , with ferry rides into the Washington D.C.
A Family Travel Guide To Washington Dc
Courtesy of Washington.org
The Capitol Riverfront is a stretch of the Anacostia River thats been upgraded with cool pedestrian bridges, public art, kid-friendly water features, and plenty of restaurants.
The nations capital is full of hands-on museums, tasty food, and wide-open spaces perfect for family trips. These are the top things to doand places to staywhether its your first visit or 10th.
If you happened to grow up within a bus rides distance of Washington, D.C., you likely went on field trips to our nations capital. Perhaps, braces chattering in the off-season, you ran around the National Mall. A museum or two made the list, no doubt, as did monuments, memorials, and a class picture in front of the White House, so far in the distance that the Secret Service agents on the roof looked like ants.
While these city cornerstones remain family travel highlights, weve gathered several more in-the-know spots to add to the listmuseums that offer hands-on experiences, hikes shaded by tall maples and oaks, cultural spaces, and globally inspired food halls that attract not only weary travelers exiting I-95 but also D.C. dwellers. Your littles will navigate this new side of Washington with a smile and a renewed sense of patriotism, and you, dear parent, will enjoy yourself as well.
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Exhibits Are Now More International And Comprehensive
The new International Spy Museum journeys well beyond the Western focus of its first iteration. In total, 39 countries are featured in the museum, with spies from Asia, Europe and the Middle East all showcased. New exhibits also go into much deeper detail regarding the science, technology and analysis used in spycraft. Controversial topics, including the use of torture and secret surveillance, are also covered, with multiple perspectives shared that inspire rumination and debate.
Play At Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center is a gorgeous theater that sits on the Potomac River near Georgetown and the Lincoln Memorial. The upper deck has an amazing view of Georgetown, planes flying in and out of Reagan National Airport, and the sunset over the water is gorgeous.
Dont miss seeing a Broadway show while in town, or experiencing the magic of the Washington Ballet.
You can also enjoy free concerts and explore The REACH, an interactive theater space, learning center and a public incubator for the arts.
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Fords Theater National Historic Site
Take in American history at Fords Theater National Historic Site, the site of President Abraham Lincolns assassination. Though this attraction in Penn Quarter may not be suitable for younger children, its great for older kids who understand the history behind it. While most known as a live-performance theater, there is also a museum to complement what elementary school children may be learning in school about Lincolns life and role in American history. Families can also take a self-guided tour that offers unique and informative exhibits they showcase the highlights of President Lincolns presidency from being sworn in until the end of his life. Certainly, this is one of the best DC museums for young kids, especially those who have learned a bit of history in school.
Advance tickets are currently required to visit, and the museum and theater are open most days of the week. Check out their website for more details.
Planning A Trip To Washington Dc Dont Forget Travel Insurance
Whether you are traveling domestically or coming from an international destination, travel insurance is a must for anyone coming to Washington, D.C. You will be exploring both inside and outdoors hiking may even happen if you get adventurous. You could find yourself on a Segway or bike tour. The city is highly populated and accidents and crime do happen. This is not to scare you, but to prepare you for what could occur when you are checking out the free museums, exploring neighborhoods, finding the best food and learning about the local street art. Should something happen, travel insurance has you covered. Check rates and availability here.
We recommend and use Allianz Travel insurance. Our family iscovered under a household plan, but their individual plans are just as robustif you are a solo traveler or a couple looking to get away. Ive been acustomer for more than five years and have always been in good hands with theAllianz team.
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Eat Your Way Around The World: Union Market
Have a budding foodie in the family, or looking for a one-stop shop for a range of tastebuds? Up in northwest Washington, Union Market could call itself a national food tour thanks to 40-plus vendors. O-Ku has top-quality sushi and sashimi, as well as wood-fired meats and seafood. Shouk serves up flavor-packed Israeli street foods, many of which have a plant-based twist, like mushroom shawarmas and eggplant burgers. Save time to shop for childrens giftsmini suitcases, wooden puzzles, handmade stuffed animalsfrom Three Littles.
Smithsonian American Art Museum And National Portrait Gallery
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are co-located in one building that covers two city blocks. The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly is on the American Art side, as are works by Nam June Paik, who lets you see TV monitors as art components instead of things that display art. In the National Portrait Gallery are the new portraits of President Barack Obama , Michelle Obama and the Four Justices .
Those items are certainly worth a look, but there is also programming geared toward children 18 months to 8 years at the Explore!space story time center at the National Portrait Gallery. Your kids can learn about portraiture at 2pm TuesdayFriday. Check the online schedule for specific programs and events designed for families, but the SAAM website also has some great ongoing suggestions such as Walk on water in the courtyard. If your kids need a calm minute or two, the Kogod Courtyard is a spectacular setting for a quiet rest.
If you live in the DC area, and your daughter is a Girl Scout, look at the schedule for the exciting interactive programs for Brownies, Juniors and Cadettes, where they can earn points toward Legacy badges and Journey completions.
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Grab Tickets To A Nationals Baseball Game
During the spring and all summer long, Nationals Park is a great place to spend your afternoon or evening. Tickets can be very cheap and the stadium is filled with a wide variety of food options. Nats Park, home of the 2019 World Series champions, always hosts a lively game with an energetic crowd.
Keep an eye out for giveaway nights and ask your hotel concierge for any ticket deals they have heard about before you buy.
Get To Know Indigenous Culture And Food
National Museum of the American Indian
Public libraries all over the District of Columbia offer special programs to introduce young children to books, rhymes, music, and other literacy related activities. While story time is available virtually through the DC Public Library’s every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 10:30 a.m. , many libraries around the District also offer in-person events, so check the website to see which work best for your schedule and child’s interests.
Don’t miss StoryWalk Tuesdays at the Georgetown Neighborhood Library, Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library, or Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library, or the Take and Go Tuesday event, where you can pick up a reading packet for your pre-schooler from the Anacostia Neighborhood Library. Other events are based on the seasons and holidays like Valentine’s Day, where kids are invited to decorate cards for local senior citizens.
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The National Air And Space Museum
What kid isnt enthralled by the sun and stars, planets and outer space? This place lets your kid explore all things related to planes and air travel from the Wright Brothers airplane that was built in 1903 to an actual rock from the surface of the moon to a piece of the Apollo 11 spacecraft. Be sure to catch one of the impressive planetarium shows, ride a simulator, or explore the skies with your child by gazing through a high-powered telescope in the observatory. Theres also an IMAX theatre which features kid-friendly movies featuring favorite characters like Big Bird and Elmo.
Location: The National Air and Space Museum at 600 Independence Avenue
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. 5:30 p.m., except for December 25th.
There is certainly no shortage of museums to visit in Washington, D.C. Most of them are sure to provide an opportunity for education coupled with fun for you and your kids. For the best experience possible, keep in mind that weekends and school vacations can become quite crowded, so you might want to try to visit during the week to avoid the crowds.
Best Washington Dc Museums For Kids By Age
A family trip to Washington, DC would simply be incomplete without a visit to some of the best museums for kids of all ages. From the National Gallery of Art to more unique choices, like the International Spy Museum, DC has some of the best museums in the United States and even the world! Whether your kids are art, space, or history enthusiasts, theyll find something theyll love. Plus, you dont have to worry if youre traveling with fussy toddlers or bored teens. Here, we break down the ideal museums by kids ages to help narrow the many choices, including elementary-aged children. DC is home to the Smithsonian Museums, which are free to enter, as well as some additional ticket-based options that are worth exploring based on your time and interest. Read on for the best Washington DC museums for your family adventures with kids of all ages!
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Old Town Alexandria Virginia
Old Town Alexandria is a great family-friendly attraction. This historic village is packed with tons of things to do with kids, but with a whole lot less tourists than DC. Our family had a great time taking the town scavenger hunt for kids. It hit most of the kid-friendly attractions in Old Town Alexandria, so no one got bored. We also loved climbing all over the huge anchors in the waterfront park.
See Masterpieces At The National Gallery Of Art
The National Gallery of Art is one of the most overlooked things to do in DC with kids on the National Mall. If you are visiting the National Gallery of Art with younger children and do not know where to begin, be sure to pick up a family guide featuring just one area of the museums humongous collection.
Trekaroo families with tweens and teens also recommend the audio guide for families visiting with older children. Regardless of the age of your children, youre unlikely to see the entire museum unless you are true art connoisseurs. Thats fine enjoy what you can and return on your next visit to Washington DC.
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Picnic On The National Mall
On nice warm days, the National Mall, which runs along the Lincoln Memorial, past the Washington Monument and up to the U.S. Capitol, acts as the perfect picnic spot with plenty of room to spread a picnic blanket, fly a kite and play soccer.
The Mall is lined with the beautiful Smithsonian Institution, manicured green grass and monuments on both sides, a perfect back drop for photos or a game of frisbee too.
Build A Lego Skyscraper: The National Building Museum
While parents are sure to admire this 1887 structures impressive architecturethe National Building Museum features some of the worlds largest Corinthian columns, plus an exterior frieze depicting Civil War soldierskids will beeline to the Play, Work, Build exhibit, a permanent playscape for future engineers. Perhaps youve heard of LEGOs? They have em, as well as building blocks, construction tools, and tool-kit carts throughout the galleries. And dont miss the Architectural Toy Collection, part of a 2,300-plus-piece assemblage previously owned by an English teacher, with American classics such as Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys.
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Dc Monuments With Kids
The National Mall extends beyond the Museums to hold some of Americas most beloved monuments and memorials, beginning with the Washington Monument. Many of them are located around the Tidal Basin, a manmade reservoir that enhances their beauty. The walk around the Tidal Basin, where Washingtons famed cherry blossoms are planted, is particularly beautiful in late March-early April when the trees are in bloom. If your family likes biking, look into the Bike and Roll Tours, daily three-hour bicycle tours with stops at all of the major attractions. The $1 Circulator bus makes loops around the monuments, making the trip easier for little legs and saving energy for all kids under 5 ride free. The Memorials honor past presidents and civic leaders, as well as the nations major wars, including the Korean War, the Vietnamese War and World War II. All are open 24 hours, staffed with NPS rangers from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. to answer questions and lead programs, including Junior Ranger tours check monument websites for schedules.
Have A Picnic And Play At The Playground
The Washington, D.C., area has lots of green spaces where you can enjoy the fresh air, have a picnic, and hit the playground. In the northwestern part of the District, Turtle Park offers plenty of slides, swings, tunnels, a sandbox with turtles, and climbing structures. Theres also a fenced area with shade, benches, and picnic tables where you can have your meal.
Closer to Downtown, three-acre Kalorama Park’s recreation center hosts a summer day camp and special events for children, including seasonal parties to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and the holidays. It’s also fun to peruse the community garden with the kids during the summer and see what’s growing.
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