Washington, DC for kids and families

For the under shoulder-height, there’s more spectacle, wonder and plunder in DC than in most other American cities—have a play with our guide to Washington for kids



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Treasury Building and little treasure, at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue

Treasury Building and little treasure, at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue © Chris Bourn

You love the stuffing out of them, but admit it: kids can make exploring any city challenging. Luckily, there are endless opportunities for things to do with kids in Washington, DC. Washington's downtown is compact, extremely walkable, and chock-full of family-friendly things to see, and explore. Many of the museums along the Mall, such as the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History feature hands-on children's areas and kid-focused tours, and the Potomac is dotted with superb walking and biking trails, boat tours and more.

Plus, when it comes to learning, Washington sure serves up one heck of a history lesson. Another perk: If your kid throws a tantrum, DC is used to that; just look at the clowns in Congress. For some perspective in this regard, a visit to the rotunda room at the National Archives is a failsafe pacifier—all known children descend into hushed awe in the presence of the signed copy of the Declaration of Independence and the other founding documents on display. So brush up on your history, and reintroduce yourself to the capital—and the nation—through your kids' eyes…

Fun activities for kids in Washington, DC

Glen Echo Park

Until 1968, Glen Echo was a popular amusement park just a trolley ride from Downtown. Today, it is preserved by the National Park Service (2pm weekend tours) and run by a non-profit group as a site for theater, art and dance. It also has a playground, picnic tables,

  1. 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, MD, (Goldsboro Road)
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National Museum of Natural History

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The gem at the heart of the Museum of Natural History is a state-of-the-art IMAX cinema and an 80,000sq ft brushed steel and granite Discovery Center housing a cafeteria and exhibition space. The rotunda, too, is an impressive structure, dominated by an eight-ton

  1. 10th Street & Constitution Avenue, NW
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International Spy Museum

If your idea of a fun museum experience includes adopting a cover and memorising your alias’s vitals—age, provenance, travel plans and itinerary (you’ll be asked questions later)—you’ve come to the right spot. Testing your sleuthing abilities, along with

  1. 800 F Street, NW, between 8th & 9th Streets
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National Air & Space Museum

  • Free

Air & Space tops visitors’ to-do list, year in, year out. The imposing Tennessee marble modernist block, by Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, incorporates three skylit, double-height galleries, which house missiles, aircraft and space stations. In the central Milestones

  1. 6th Street & Independence Avenue, SW
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National Zoo

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The free-admission National Zoo offers a diverting escape. Particularly during the off-season, when the paths are not cluttered by pushchairs, the zoo offers a perfect (albeit hilly) stroll, away from the bustle of Connecticut Avenue. Tree-shaded paths wind through the

  1. 3001 block of Connecticut Avenue, NW, (at Rock Creek Park)
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National Building Museum

A privately run collection, the National Building Museum produces smart, noteworthy exhibits focusing on architects and the built environment, both contemporary and historical. However, the main attraction is without doubt the building’s Italian Renaissance-style

  1. 401 F Street, NW, between 4th & 5th Streets
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  • Critics choice

The line of stands by the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance, filled with copies of today’s front pages from newspapers around the world, draws passers-by to this museum dedicated to journalism and free speech, which opened in 2008. The museum’s mission is further

  1. 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Judiciary Square Area
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Ford’s Theatre, Museum, Theatre Center & Petersen House

On Good Friday 1865, President Lincoln was enjoying a comedy in Ford’s Theatre when actor John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential box and shot him. Wounded in his dramatic leap to the stage, Booth escaped painfully on horseback, only to be killed by US troops 12

  1. 511 10th Street, NW, between E & F Streets
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