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Top Things to Do in Washington D.C. with Kids

by Leap on July 25, 2023 Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C. is one of the best sightseeing cities you can visit. Our nation’s capital is full of historical sites, memorials, museums and beauty. There's so much to do and see in and around the city, but if you're planning a trip with your children in tow, you’ll want to balance the journey with some fun, including the top things to do in Washington D.C. with kids. Here’s how to see it all and keep the little ones interested too.

Top Things to Do in Washington D.C. with Kids

Hop along as we discover the top things to do in Washington D.C. with kids. You can take in a lot of history and have a ton of fun along the way.

Top Things to Do in Washington DC with Kids-Capitol Building with Trees

Hop On a Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Washington D.C.

A great way to get your bearings after arriving in Washington D.C. is to take a Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off Tour. Hop on and off at your convenience at any of the major attractions you want to explore on your own before hopping on the next bus to continue the tour. There are several options for a 1-Day Discover Ticket, a 2-Day Essential Ticket and a 3-Day Explore Ticket.

Visit the White House

No trip to Washington D.C. is complete without at least getting a look at the White House. You can catch a nice view of the White House from Lafayette Square (while there, take time to explore the park and statues of Marquis de Lafayette, Rochambeau and Andrew Jackson). If you want to take a public tour of the White House, you’ll have to submit a request through a Member of Congress from 21 days up to three months in advance. There are limited spaces available so you should submit a request as early as possible and read up on the rules of what you can bring and forms of ID before visiting. The good news is that the tours are free!

The National Mall

Top Things to Do in Washington DC with Kids-Natural History Museum Elephant

A trip to the National Mall is like a lesson in words starting with "M" for young children. There are many must-see museums, monuments and memorials in the National Mall, making it one of the top things to do in Washington D.C. with kids.

In terms of museums, there is something of interest for everyone in your party. The museums found in the National Mall are all free, which is easy on the vacation budget. The hard part will be budgeting your time for each one you want to explore. You’ll find the indoor/outdoor U.S. Botanical Gardens, as well as the National Air & Space Museum, various history museums, art museums, and museums of science or culture. Find out how money is made at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Even though the museum is free, you’ll need to plan ahead and have a ticket for the Currency Production Tour (kind of like a theme park Express pass) from early March through August. You can get your tour ticket at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday at Raoul Wallenberg Place. Tickets are distributed very quickly during the Cherry Blossom Festival and near holidays.

The best activities for your youngest tadpoles include a visit to the National Zoo and the carousel. Future designers and architects can create structures with blocks and other building materials at the National Building Museum. Toddlers will love getting their passport booklet stamped as they make their way through the imagiNATIONS Activity Center exhibits at the National Museum of the American Indian. Kids of all ages can get their hands dirty in the soil or get wet at the Botanical Gardens. Bring a change of clothes so you can allow the kids to dig in and immerse themselves in gardening.

Top Things to Do in Washington DC with Kids-War Memorial StatuesSome must-see memorials and monuments include the following:

The National Mall is a National Park that runs from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol steps. There are free Ranger-led walks and talks. You can find out about upcoming programs through the National Park Service. Kids can become junior rangers and earn a badge, which can make exploring the National Mall into a bit of a game.

Make Your Way to More Museums

Other great museums outside the National Mall include Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Your kids will get a kick out of taking selfies with lifelike wax versions of presidents, first ladies, and other political figures and celebrities. For art lovers, check out The Phillips Collection, which contains works of Van Gogh and Renoir. The United State Holocaust Memorial Museum is located near the National Mall. The country’s only museum of espionage — the International Spy Museum — is located in Washington D.C. Kids will love the immersive experience of becoming a secret agent.

Dive into a D.C. Ducks City Tour

Top Things to Do in Washington DC with Kids-Duck Tour Boat Passing by Capitol

Make a splash with a D.C. Ducks City Tour by land and water in a 1942 “Duck” (amphibious vehicle). The “Conducktors” will entertain you with historical facts and tales about the nation’s capital as you make your way down Pennsylvania Avenue and pass by monuments and museums before plunging into the Potomac River for amazing views. The kids will never forget the time they drove right into the water.

Explore by Bike or Segway

Top Things to Do in Washington DC with Kids-People on Bikes and Tourists in Front of Water with Washington Monument in Background.

If you're visiting in the milder months, your family can explore historical sites and shopping areas of Washington D.C. by bicycle or even Segway. There are family-friendly bike rental tours that offer tandem bikes, kid-size bikes, baby seats and trailers. Weekends make better days to ride because the routes are less crowded. You can gauge your family's stamina when choosing a rental from as short as Washington D.C. 2-Hour Bike Rental up to a Washington D.C. Day Pass Bike Rental.

If you want a more formal bike tour, the Unlimited Biking: Monuments and Memorials Bike Tour will have you cycling the entire length of the National Mall, making a circle of the Tidal Basin Reservoir, and biking down Pennsylvania Avenue. You'll get to make awesome stops along the way! There's also a Nite Bike Tour and a Sites by Segway tour!

Attend Live Events

If you happen to be in town when a headlining musical artist is touring, you'll likely find yourself at Captial One Arena or FedExField in North Englewood, Maryland. Keep an eye on our concerts page for upcoming shows.

Cheer on Local Sports Teams

Washington D.C. is home to several sports teams, including the Washington Nationals (baseball), Washington Commanders (football), Washington Wizards (basketball), Washington Capitals (hockey) and DC United (soccer).

Additionally, you wouldn't have to travel too far for a Baltimore Orioles (baseball) or a Baltimore Ravens (football) game if you wish to venture out to Maryland.

Take a Day Trip to Gettysburg Battlefield

Step into a period of American history when you visit the site of a famous Civil War battlefield and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Gettysburg is about four score and two (82) miles from Washington D.C. If you want to do it stress-free, take a Gettysburg Battlefield Tour. That way, you can enjoy the beautiful countryside on the way there. Kids will enjoy seeing the life of a soldier and touring the Visitor’s Center and the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War.

Visit Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is located across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. It is one of the most recognized U.S. burial grounds with 400,000 presidents, veterans, heroes and historical figures buried there. You don’t want to miss the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. It takes place every hour on the hour every day.

Visit a Colonial Williamsburg

A great side trip is to visit Colonial Williamsburg — about 2.5 hours away from Washington D.C. We have discounted single and multi-day tickets! Additionally, you might budget a day or two to have fun at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA. Washington D.C. gets pretty hot in the summer months, so a water park might sound pretty refreshing after all that touring!

Play at the Tidal Basin

You can balance all the sightseeing at museums and memorials with some fun outdoor time at the Tidal Basin during the warmer months. The Tidal Basin is a beautiful man-made inlet near the Jefferson Memorial and FDR Memorial. You can rent paddleboats, paddleboards or kayaks. It is especially beautiful — and poplar — during Cherry Blossom season as thousands of cherry trees line the Tidal Basin. You can walk the trail surrounding the waterway for beautiful views of the trees and iconic structures.

In addition to researching the top things to do in Washington D.C. with kids, be sure to visit our other travel posts for more tips for visiting Washington D.C. with kids. They will help you determine the best times to visit, how to tackle transportation and where to find a kid-friendly hotel. Don't forget to visit the page highlighting discount tickets and tours for Washington D.CYour family is in for some memorable learning and fun in Washington D.C. Just remember to include playtime in your activities to keep them hopping!

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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