The National Mall is an obvious – and perfect – place to begin a Washington, DC, adventure with kids. You can tour the monuments and memorials, go for a spin on the carousel, even take a paddleboat out on the Tidal Basin.
And, of course, there are the museums. The National Museum of Natural History, National Air & Space Museum, and National Museum of American History are easily standouts among the Smithsonian collection, all of them loaded with exhibits and hands-on activities that are fascinating and fun for kids and adults alike. The Hirshhorn currently has a cool, experiential exhibit, Suprasensorial, that all ages can enjoy. And the imagiNATIONS activity center at the National Museum of the American is a nice space filled with interactives designed for children.
Also on the Mall, the National Gallery of Art is popular stop. The East Building, housing the Alexander Calder’s mobiles and sculptures along with big works of pop art are often the most interesting for kids. Be sure to check the Summer Drop-in Program schedule to see if any family sessions are taking place, and stroll the moving walkway between the East and West buildings. Adjacent to the Capitol, the U.S. Botanic Garden has all kinds of plant collections to tour, both indoors and out. Little ones will love the tropical jungle area, playing in the Children’s Garden, and seeing the current Savage Gardens exhibit.
Don’t miss the museums off the Mall. The National Building Museum is magnificent for both its grand interior and fun offerings – along with a children’s play area and Lego exhibit, they just opened an indoor mini golf course. The National Postal Museum, with lots of interactive exhibits and an easy-to-explore space, is a nice outingwith kids. You can also take adavtange of the Newseum’s Free Kids Summer Fun Deal – all guests ages 18 and under get in free with one paid adult admission (recommended for ages 6 and up).
If you’re up for some outdoor fun, head to the National Zoo. It’s a further out, but easily accesible via Metro. Cool off with some play in the sprays and fountains at Georgetown Waterfront Park and Yards Park. Both offer scenic river views, space to run around and relax, and water features that welcome kids to play. And the National Arboretum is a bit off the beaten path, but if you have a car, it’s a glorious place to spend a day outdoors.
For evening entertainment, enjoy art and free music in the fresh air at Jazz in the Garden. The summer series takes place every Friday from 5-8:30pm in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. You can also catch a free concert at the Yards Park on Fridays from 6:30-8:30pm. Or see a free show indoors on the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage every evening at 6pm. Check the schedule to see what’s playing during your visit.
And these are just the tip of the iceberg! For even more ideas for family recreation in Washington, DC, visit the KidFriendly DC website.