Washington D.C. is a unique city because it wasn’t founded in the usual way. Instead, it was founded in 1790 based solely on the authority of the Constitution of the United States. While it’s not the oldest city in America, not by a long shot, it’s rich with symbolism, history, and exciting sights and sounds that must be experienced.
Fortunately, most of the activities on offer cater to both kids and adults, so it’s perfect for family vacations. Washington D.C. has several top attractions, including Smithsonian museums and attractions, the International Spy Museum, the Beauvoir Outdoors Playground, the National Museum of American History, and more.
Washington D.C. is literally packed with family activities and the tourism industry is almost always in full swing in our nation’s capital. The reality is, even if you stay for a week, you’re not going to be able to catch everything, so we’ve listed the best family things to do so you can at least get the cream of the crop.
Get a Little History
If you’re bringing little kids along, history is probably not going to be on their top list of things to do. Fortunately, when you visit Washington D.C., history is a lot more fun than opening up a textbook.
The National Museum of Natural History
This should be one of the first things on anyone’s to-do list, especially if you’re on vacation with your family. This museum is absolutely gigantic, housing 126 million specimens that include just about everything you can imagine, from culture to prehistoric, including meteorites.
There are plenty of interactive experiences here as well, which will more than occupy your kid’s attention and you as well.
International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum offers a lot of fun for the whole family. When you first enter, each of you will be given a “secret” identity, along with an undercover mission to conduct as you tour over 140,000 square feet worth of spy history.
At the National Museum of Natural History, there are plenty of interactive exhibits to visit, where you can solve codes and work out the hidden meanings in coded messages, all while playing your own little bit of role play as well.
The Washington Monument
No visit to D.C. is complete without a visit to the Washington Monument. At 555’ in height, it’s an impressive obelisk that seemingly serves as the nexus of all things Washington D.C. You can ride the elevator up 500 ‘of the 555’ monument and take in a breathtaking view of the city.
Sights and Sounds
Washington D.C. is not just a place to hunt down museums and spend a lot of time in crowded areas. The surrounding countryside is breathtaking and you would be remiss to deny yourself or your family some of these beautiful locations.
The United States National Arboretum
The US National Arboretum is operated by the Department of Agriculture and it’s basically a massive garden that is completely available to the public. You’ll find some seriously good imagery for your cameras to capture here, including botanical collections, and carefully cultivated and manicured gardens.
The variety here is compelling and seeing what the Department of Agriculture has built and maintained here is an unforgettable experience.
The Hirshhorn Art Museum and Sculpture Garden
If you feel like getting a little art appreciation in with your sightseeing, this is the place to be. It’s basically a massive, outdoor garden filled with art sculptures from a variety of artists all over the world.
There are over 12,000 pieces of art to be found here so even if you spent an entire day, you won’t be able to fully appreciate everything it has to offer.
Beauvoir Outdoors Playground
If you have younger kids along for the ride, the Beauvoir Outdoors Playground is a must-stop location. It’s a completely outdoors playground with rope bridges and swings, jungle gyms, a zip line, plenty of standard slides, and swings.
Not only is it a fun playground for kids, but it’s also an aesthetic marvel to just look at and enjoy. This isn’t your typical playground and adults will have just as much fun taking in the sights as the kids will play. Be forewarned, it’s only open until dusk, which is a vague enough time that it might close well before the sun actually sets.
Places to Eat
No vacation would be complete if you didn’t have a few restaurants on the menu and, as it happens, there are plenty of delicious cuisines in the heart of D.C. that the whole family can enjoy.
Ice Cream Jubilee
Located on SE Water Street, Ice Cream Jubilee is one of the more popular spots to stop in at. They’re also a seasonal restaurant, offering desserts to match the season. However, you can get their world-famous caramel popcorn regardless of the time of year.
You can enjoy some of the best ice cream treats you’ve ever had while overlooking the river below. Aesthetically speaking, this is one of the nicest spots to sit down and eat in the city.
Menomale Pizza Napoletana
If pizza is your thing, you’ve never experienced it quite like this. Menomale isn’t like your local Cici’s. These are real pizza makers that hale from Italy, so your idea of a pizza and theirs are two entirely separate things.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean they slack on taste and variety. If you love Italian food, you’ll love Italian pizza in all of its forms and varieties, including ingredients that are all imported from Italy.
Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe
The last stop on our “food” to-do list is Mitsitam. Although it is labeled as a “casual” cafe, the food will strike you as anything but. The best part is that the menu is seasonal, so matter what time of year you visit D.C., the menu will have something new, including dishes from Mesoamerica and South America.
All Things Considered
There are a ton more things to do in Washington D.C., especially when it comes to family activities. Aside from the above-listed stops, there are more museums, historical points of interest, kid-friendly activities, and restaurants than we can possibly count.