Things to do in Washington D.C. with Kids
No matter what time of year you visit, there are tons of great things to do in Washington D.C. with kids. We chose to visit in the summer, when the crowds are typically higher, as is the temperature. Luckily there are lots of AMAZING museums to visit to escape the heat. Another popular time of year to visit Washington D.C. is in the spring where you can see the world famous Cherry Blossums. Check out this post for more: Washington DC Cherry Blossoms Guide for Families.
We stayed north of Washington D.C. near Gaithersburg, Maryland. Unfortunately, our hotel wasn’t as great as the reviews claimed it was so I won’t even discuss it. However, it was on the red metro line, making it easy to take the train into Washington D.C. My husband has a major problem with ever having to pay for parking. So anyway he can avoid that makes him much happier. I do think that if I were returning to Washington D.C. again I would stay right in the city or at least much closer. Also, I would suggest visiting DC in the springtime for the better weather, and also the Cherry Blossom Festival.
The metro in Washington D.C. is super easy to navigate and is clean! We are accustomed to the NYC subways, so almost anything is better. The second day we were visiting was a Sunday and parking is free in Washington D.C. on Sundays. We had early breakfast reservations in D.C. on Sunday so we drove into the city and easily found street parking.
What we saw…
Being only a two-day trip we decided to stick to all free attractions to make it easier. Considering most things are free anywhere this had zero effect on our plans!
In the past, we have visited quite a few zoos, but this one was high on my bucket list. We got there around 10 AM and it was already quite busy and honestly super muggy and hot (not surprising for the month of July). I had to remind myself that the zoo was 100% free so even if we weren’t here long it was worth it!
Luckily despite the humidity and crowds, we had a great time seeing the animals. My girls’ favorite animals were the pandas and elephants. Of course, I didn’t get a picture of any animals but got a snap of the girls on the carousel (which was not free). However, they loved this carousel because of the wide variety of animals they could ride on, not just horses! Overall we probably spent 3 hours at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. I do think we could have spent longer there if it were less busy and hot. Also, our family was hungry and the food was super expensive in the zoo so we grabbed lunch outside the zoo near the metro station!
Honestly, the girls (ages 2 & 6) had no interest in seeing most of these iconic Washington D.C. sites. This part was more for us as adults. The girls can at least say they’ve been there and saw them and can go again when they are old like us and care. After the zoo, we took a train downtown to first see the White House. I wasn’t even sure which side was the front or back, but after googling it I figured it out. It was super packed in front of the white house and was a good place to keep my two years old in her stroller (other than letting her loose for a quick picture).
The back of the White House was no less busy if anything it was even more difficult to walk past to get a good view. It was probably also that it was about 2 PM on a Saturday in the middle of the summer. The front of the White House was way less packed when we walked passed the following morning before 9 AM.
After seeing the White House, the Washington Monument was only a short walk from there. We just hung out in the shade of the monument and didn’t bother going to the top of it. Again, the girls were impressed with the size of the structure but that was about it. Our youngest daughter (2 years old) did enjoy seeing all the airplanes constantly flying overhead taking off from the nearby airport.
If you stand up next to the Washington Monument you can see an awesome view of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. This was one thing I’ve always wanted to see, so we walked the length of the pool down to the Lincoln Memorial. Alongside the reflection pool, there was a path in the shade that was nice to walk in since it was so hot out. Even if we tried we never could have packed enough water to drink as we walked around this day. Fortunately, there were many carts selling water for as little as a dollar each!
The Lincoln Memorial is on the opposite end of the reflecting pool as the Washington Monument. The stairs leading up to the memorial were very packed with people relaxing in the shade. We found a place to leave the stroller at the bottom so we could walk to the top to see the memorial. We took a quick picture at the top and headed back down the stairs. The girls definitely had more fun climbing and jumping down the stairs than they did look at the statue of Abe Lincoln. But hoping they will look back on the pictures when they understand who he is and appreciate it!
Of all the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C. (not including the zoo) we chose two to see with our two young girls. The first one we went to was the National Air and Space Museum. We arrived at the museum a little after opening and there was already a huge line out the door. The line was for a good reason though since they require everyone to go through security before entering. We strolled through the museum while the girls checked out the airplanes and spacecraft hanging above and on display. We also caught a show in the planetarium, called Dark Universe, which they girls only somewhat enjoyed. On certain days they offer a more kid-friendly planetarium show which I wish had researched beforehand.
The girls’ favorite part of this Smithsonian museum was the room with all the interactive exhibits. I am thinking this is true for most kids, but for my girls, if they can actually touch something it is way more fun! Luckily this whole room was for kids (and adults alike) to interact and learn about everything to do with air and space. My older daughter got to see how much she would weigh on the moon and different planets, which she thought was hysterical.
My younger daughter got to go inside an airplane which is never easy to get her out of things like that. Other exhibits in this room the girls enjoyed were the one on airspeed, measuring your reaction time, and guessing the weights of different materials. We were tempted to stick around for the paper airplane show but the girls were hungry and there is no food allowed in the museum!
Overall we probably spent about 2 hours here at this museum. I could see the girls enjoying many of the other exhibits when older. But I love that they enjoyed the interactive section so much!
The last museum we visited in D.C. was The National Museum of Natural History. We arrived around 3 PM and there was a line out the door but it moved quickly. I think if we were here earlier we would have enjoyed it more. The museum was incredibly packed and was tricky to navigate with the stroller (had a napping toddler in tow). The four of us skimmed through the first and second floor looking at the animals and dinosaurs. We were only in this museum for about an hour and we would love to visit again during a less busy time.
I am so happy we got the recommendation from a fellow blogger friend Do DC With Kids, to visit Yards Park. Being that the heat index was 90+ degrees this was a perfect place for the family to cool off. The girls spent a good hour running through The Dancing Fountains having the time of their life. There was also a huge canal basin and waterfall. This was pretty much a giant “pool” with less than a foot deep of water. This park was wonderful for just relaxing and letting the kids run around. Everything was super clean at this park. If we didn’t already have dinner plans this would have been a perfect place for a picnic! Next time 😉
Where we ate…
When we explore a new place one of our favorite things to do it find awesome restaurants. In D.C. we didn’t have a ton of time so just picked a few. We also restricted our choices to casual dress codes since we knew it was going to be so hot and we would be walking around all day.
This restaurant is a block from the White House and is the oldest saloon in Washington D.C. The restaurant is very large inside but I would still make a reservation which you can do only for parties of 5 or less. The wait staff and greeters at this restaurant were extremely friendly and accommodating. The food was quick and fresh. The menu had a huge variety making it easy for even the pickiest of eaters to choose from. This was by far the largest children’s menu I’ve ever seen – even my two had a hard time deciding.
We went to Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom for breakfast. We made reservations here as well which was smart because the waiting area was packed full! No kids menu here but not needed! Portions were huge so if I could go back and order again I’d have my girls share something! It also didn’t help that we got the beignets to start which were a meal on their own! The food here was great and we all ate way too much because it was so good.
Jaleo was all Spanish tapas and there was absolutely no kids menu here. My girls can be very picky but they ordered the chicken fritters to share and ate enough bread to feed a small army. We love trying unique places to eat but it can be tricky with the kids at times. We also made reservations here but it wasn’t very busy we probably didn’t need them so could be a good place to walk in. The food here was excellent and the server was a great help answering our questions about the menu. I was happy to hear there are more locations around the United States so we can visit again! P.S. Don’t forget to order some sangria here – you can thank me later 😉
I couldn’t explore an entirely new city and not get dessert just once. Thanks to an amazing recommendation from someone I love to follow, Global Munchkins we had to try this cookie place! Captain Cookie and the Milkman was a perfect way to end our trip to D.C. We had a hard time choosing which cookies to get so we got a sample of 6 and also shared a container of milk. The chocolate chip cookies were our favorite – they were still warm and were so yummy!!
Overall our trip into Washington D.C. felt like a success. With only two days we sure saw a ton of iconic sites and our girls had a great time! I would love to head back here for another visit. I would most likely wait until our kids are even older so it is a whole new experience for them!