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After our family vacation to San Diego for winter break, we wanted to take a road trip for our spring break. I hadn’t visited Washington, DC with the kids yet, so we decided to drive the 7-8 hours from Boston to DC for a few days. There are so many fun things to do in Washington DC with kids, and we had a great time.
We stayed for 4 nights – I’d probably recommend at least 5 if possible. Although there are many hotels located right in Washington, DC, we opted to stay at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Maryland. It was less expensive than staying right in the city, and we enjoyed the activities within National Harbor.
We planned our trip at the last minute, but I’d definitely recommend booking well in advance if possible. There are some things to do in DC that you need to contact your member of Congress for. Those require some advance notice.
Things to Do in Washington DC With Kids
National Harbor is a relatively new spot in the greater Washington DC area, featuring hotels, restaurants, shops, and an outlet mall. Since our hotel was located in National Harbor, we spent our first afternoon there.
The highlight for my kids was the Capital Wheel. Although the view wasn’t that spectacular (it’s a little too far to see much of DC), my kids still really enjoyed the ride. It’s pricey though, but a fun experience. Be sure to stop at the Peeps store in National Harbor, if your kids love those marshmallow treats.
Admission to the Smithsonian Museums is free, and therefore is a great option with kids. It’s nice to be able to visit a museum knowing that you’ll be able to leave and return whenever you’d like. During our visit, we went to several – the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History (my personal favorite), and the National Air and Space Museum (my kids’ favorite).
As with most family-friendly museums, they tend to get more crowded as the day goes on, so plan accordingly. We found it easiest to start at the top floor and move down, so be flexible with your plan. Because you don’t have to pay, it’s worth checking out any of these museums as you think you and your kids may enjoy.
See the Monuments/Memorials
My son is learning American History in school this year, and was so excited to check out all of the monuments and memorials. We saw them in two separate trips. The first day, we had a cab driver drop us off at the Lincoln Memorial and we walked to the National Mall, and on our last day, we parked at the Tidal Basin and walked around.
Mount Vernon is located about 30 miles away in Virginia, but is definitely worth the visit. We went on a relatively quiet day, but it definitely can get busy. When purchasing your tickets, you’ll be given a specific time that you can tour the home. If you purchase your ticket online in advance, you’ll have more options to choose your time.
The grounds are absolutely beautiful, but the highlight for us was the wreath ceremony at Washington’s tomb. Several times a day, they perform a small ceremony and place a wreath in the tomb where President Washington and his wife Martha are buried. We arrived at the tomb prior to the ceremony, and my son was chosen to participate.
You can also see several different movies about Washington and the Revolutionary War, which my kids really enjoyed. Expect to spend at least half a day at Mount Vernon.
International Spy Museum
The privately-owned International Spy Museum does charge an admission fee, but is absolutely worth the visit if your kids like learning about spies. My 8 and 10 year old children loved it. Note that it is moving, and will be in the new location in May (our photo above is from the original location). Read our full review for more information.
Tour of the US Capitol
Tours are offered on a complimentary basis, but you’ll need to contact your member of congress to get on the list. You can find out more information here.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Complimentary tours of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are offered daily with some exceptions. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so you’ll want to line up early.
Tour the White House
Like the US Capitol tours, you’ll need to contact your member of Congress for a tour of the White House. Requests are taken up to 3 months in advance but no less than 21 days. There are a limited number of people who can be accommodated, so be sure to get your request in early.
If you aren’t from the US, you’ll need to contact your country’s embassy in DC to make a request.
Have you been to Washington, DC? What were the highlights of your trip?