A Visit to Washington DC with the Kids
A few years back, I decided a visit to Washington DC with the kids to celebrate my daughter’s 8th birthday in early November would be fun. I was right, it was hands down one of my MOST favorite family trips. It was full of delicious food, educational adventures, and connectivity as a family, and we all fell in LOVE with DC. So much so that I decided to share my family’s experience in this story/guide to the beautiful district of Columbia.
So, Why Did We Visit Washington DC?
My daughter decided about a year ago that she’d like to tour all 50 states in the country before she turns 17, so while DC is not a state, it’s still an important part of our country, and wanted to check it off our list. We love to vary how we travel, sometimes in our van, maybe an Airbnb/VRBO, or hotel! Regardless, the District of Colombia was our next stop! So, fasten your seatbelts and enjoy this ride to the federal city.
What Did We Do In DC? Well, A Lot
On getting to DC, we stayed at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center, but we took long walks around the district to take in the views – DC has impressive scenery. We brought our daughter’s scooters along so they wouldn’t have to walk as much. We had an excellent time in DC, and it all started with a tour of the White House.
A Tour Of The White House
My daughters have always wanted to visit The White House. I’d been once before as a child, but being there as a parent was an exhilarating experience for me. One of our favorite books at the time was Pets of The Whitehouse, seeing a lot of pictures of the beautiful building, making the next natural step, seeing it in person! I loved seeing it through their eyes. At the entrance of the white house, the officials give all kids a Junior Ranger Club Packet. It contained fun activities for the kids to try out, games, pictures, and a white house PETS scavenger hunt since there are many paintings and photos of the presidential pets giving context to the experience and making it more interactive. *here is a website with a complete list by state of Junior Ranger Opportunities
Going into the white house, we went through the east wing, the china room, and a few others along the way; the docents or guards are there, and you can ask them questions, which we love to do. A few selfies later and an almost finished Junior Ranger booklet, we weren’t done yet. We wanted that BADGE! You can head over to the White House Museum to find the rest of the clues and receive your badge.
*You should know that to book a tour of the white house, you need to contact your congressman or congresswoman via email to make a public request to the white house for you. The request must be made at least 21 days before your visit, but it’s advised to send the request as soon as possible because there are limited slots; I reached out at least three months prior and did not hear back until approx 7-10 days before our visit.
Other buildings like the capital building require the same request, and you should ensure to get a request in for all the facilities if you can. Just in case you can’t get into the white house.
We Went On A Junior Ranger Badge Experience
After the White House, we were HOOKED! My girls were so excited to receive the first badge that they wanted to do more! So, while in DC, I went on a junior ranger badge experience at the National Mall, Ford’s Theater, and The Peterson house. The National Mall, Ford’s Theater and The Peterson House are all currently under the administration of the National Park Service, and they are fun and educating.
We visited several places in DC, and talking about them one after the other will eventually bore you. Instead, I came up with a list of places to visit whenever you find yourself in DC. Let’s check them out.
Kids and Family-Friendly Places To Stay in DC
Of course, you can’t go to DC without having a place to stay. My family remained within the walkable area to the white house, but here is a list of family-friendly areas to stay on your visit to DC.
The best family-friendly location to stay in Washington DC is around the National Mall. The area is home to several tourist attractions, museums, statues, and historical buildings. You can visit the Supreme court, the National Air and Space Museum, the White House, etc.
The National Mall also has fantastic nightlife as the monuments are lit up at night, creating the perfect environment for a late-night walk. It’s the ideal location for families in DC for the first time.
This is another excellent place for a family to stay in DC. The area has a very picturesque setting making it ideal for pictures and sightseeing. It is particularly affordable and close to tourist attractions, buildings, and offices. If you are planning a long-term stay in DC, Capitol Hill is the place for you because the area boasts of local and exotic markets and shops to get supplies at affordable prices.
George town is one of the oldest areas in Washington DC. This is the perfect place to stay if you are interested in old buildings, picturesque backgrounds, and ancient architecture. However, it’s not even the beautiful environment of George town that pull people there. It’s the fun family events that go on around the area. Fountain and water parks, picnics, rides, games, and the like make George town the perfect place for a family to stay on their visit to DC.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Washington DC?
You should know that the spring and autumn seasons are the best times to visit DC. Summertime is usually sweltering, meaning you won’t be able to tour the streets or take in views. The winter season is good too, but the cold can hinder some experiences. However, if you visit DC in the winter months, you will love the skating rinks in George town.
My family and I went in early November (autumn). Though the weather was cool then, DC wasn’t busy, making it a fantastic experience.
Now that you know where to stay and the best time to visit the federal city, let’s check out the exciting things to do in DC!
Fun Things To Do In Washington DC
DC has many different things to try out for families visiting the area. Here are the best of them:
This isn’t just any random bus. I’m talking about a tour on the double-decker bus, which often has audio or a live guide giving details about all the spots you’ll be seeing en route. Make sure if you do this, you bundle up if you’re there in the fall; it gets cold at night! These buses are enormous, and I bet your kids wouldn’t want to get off.
2. Visit the International Spy Museum in DC
My girls LOVE “being spies.” The gadgets, dark shades, cool accents, and “sneakiness” They even give themselves codenames, lol. If your kids are anything like mine, Spy Museum is a great place to spend an afternoon, especially if it’s cold or rainy outside. There are several floors to the building but the spy stories and gadgets that fill the first and second floors are probably the most fun.
3. Visit the US Mint
If you have ever wanted to see or learn how coins are made, this is the place to visit. The US mint is saddled with the responsibility of producing, storing, and managing the movement of coins in the country. Like other places in this guide, the US mint is another fun and educational experience for your family to try out in DC.
The Washington Monument is a 555-feet building located within the National Mall in DC. It is undoubtedly the tallest building in the area, and the best part is you can take an elevator to the top floor to get a fantastic view of every place across DC. Now that is something fascinating to look forward to.
The museum is next to the National Mall, and it opens six days a week. The complete tour around the museum is free. The memorial museum hosts the documentation, history, pictures, and study of the holocaust. You should know that this is an intense experience, I’ve been 3-4 times in my lifetime (my kids have not gone yet), but the content can take its toll on adults and kids alike. I wouldn’t advise this experience for kids less than 12 years old.
The national museum is a tourist attraction, particularly for kids. If your family goes to DC without paying a visit to the museum, you’ll be missing a lot. The museum houses several natural artifacts, prehistoric objects, and a 45-foot North Atlantic Whale replica. The sights in the museum are surreal.
Animal life? The national zoo has it all. The zoo houses big cats, reptiles, giant elephants, birds, gorillas, monkeys, and many other animals. This is one place your kids are sure to love.
The Best Way To Get Around In Washington DC?
Honestly, the best way to get around in DC is by walking. This way, you get to enjoy the scenery of DC as you walk past every curve and street. For kids, though, it would be an ordeal if you made them walk everywhere. This was why my husband and I brought our kids’ scooters along. It’s also advised to stay within your area, so walking to and from your hotel is easier. If you like to visit other places in your area, you can always take the bus.
Places To Visit Around Washington DC
Washington DC has amazing sceneries and monuments, but the surrounding areas around DC also boast some lovely places, shops, restaurants, and sights. So on your way out of DC, take a detour and check out some of these places.
Mount Veron is about an hour’s drive from Washington DC. It’s the home of the first US president, George Washington. At Mount Veron, you’ll see many gardens and the grave of George Washington. Visiting Mount Veron would be a learning experience for your kids to know more about America’s political history.
Located less than 17 miles from DC is the Great walls park. This area is perfect for hiking, sightseeing, and pictures. The site is a large span of land containing several clifftops, trees, animals, and most importantly, the ever-clean water.
Colonial Williamsburg is a town that is regarded as the largest living museum. This place is less than a 90-minute drive from DC, and it features a different lifestyle. The town was rebuilt to mimic what America looked like during the years of revolution. Beating drums, horses, carriages, 18th-century fashion, and firework displays will take your breath away.
As a lover of cities, Much like I shared in my 25 best things to do with kids in New York City, Washington DC can be the perfect place for a family trip. DC boasts tall towers, historical buildings, statues, monuments, and natural settings that will leave you in awe. So, whenever you are planning a family trip, ensure to consider the federal city of DC.