We recently spent a week in Washington DC and loved it! We struggled our first couple of days with a cold for one of girls and extreme jet-lag for the other, but once we got past that, we really enjoyed our time in the city. We caught up with a couple different friends and visited as many museums as possible. Below are the different places we visited along with a few thoughts and tips for each.
National Air and Space Museum
The Air and Space museum is one of my favorite Smithsonians and since we have a 5 year old who wants to be an astronaut someday, I knew that she would enjoy it as well. We were lucky enough to meet up with some friends here and even though our girls were both pretty jet lagged, we all had a good time exploring the exhibits. We mostly explored the more space-oriented exhibits, but also made sure to check out the very kid-friendly How Things Fly exhibit (you can also explore it online) where the kids could run around and play with different exhibits. London and I also watched part of a demonstration on what keeps airplanes up in the air. It was a great spot for all ages!
National Museum of the American Indian
The American Indian museum is hands down the best Smithsonian for grabbing lunch. The food is fantastic and offer different options from salmon to buffalo burgers (you can check out an official menu here). Besides having excellent food, the museum also has a great kids area. Each kid can have a little passport book and earn stamps by participating in different activities. This enables them to have some really great hands on learning about the different American Indian cultures. Our girls had fun learning how to build an igloo, learning how to weave on a giant basket, perusing colorful childrens’ books, and so much more. It’s all very interactive and a great spot for a rainy day.
We also really enjoyed checking out The Great Inka Road exhibit. My husband and one of our friends that we met up with while in DC both lived in Peru for two years while serving missions for our church. The Inca Empire is fascinating and it was so interesting learning more about them.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Another great museum for grabbing a bite to eat is the African American Museum. I had the gumbo for lunch, which was great, but the real winner was the creamy macaroni and cheese that we got for our girls.
We checked out one of the more interactive exhibits upstairs where our oldest learned stepping, and both girls played a couple interactive games that taught more about the realities of traveling before the Civil Rights movement as an African American. It was a very interesting museum and I wish we would have had more time to fully explore it.
National Museum of American History
My personal favorite exhibit at the American History museum was Food: Transforming The American Table 1950-2000. I thought it was so fascinating to see how our dinner tables have changed so much over time. Also, I loved seeing a duplicate of Julia Child’s kitchen!
The museum had two fantastic children’s areas. The first, Wonderplace, is geared more towards toddlers and preschoolers and has a mini Julia Child’s kitchen, a play farm area, blocks, and more. We visited here twice and both times our girls enjoyed it. The second, Spark!Lab, is geared towards older children and encourages them to build and try different creative activities. London loved exploring this room and we found several activities that Adeline could participate in as well.
Monuments and Memorials
It rained quite a bit our first couple of days in DC, but one of the afternoons cleared up enough for us to walk to several monuments and memorials. We made sure to visit the Washington Monument, the National World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
That was about all our girls could handle in one go (and even that was rather a lot by the end). The area is beautiful though and definitely worth a visit.
About 6 weeks before our trip, I started emailing our state representatives about booking a tour of the White House. Unfortunately, tours were all booked up already for the week we were going to be in DC, but we were still able to get a tour of the U.S. Capitol. We really enjoyed our tour and learned a ton about the building itself and our country’s history. The rotunda was definitely our family’s favorite part. The room is beautiful and has a ton of art (our girls liked finding several Pocahontas depictions).
The tour itself is rather long though and no food is allowed. Our girls were very hungry by the end and started to get a little grumpy. Overall, it was still very neat to see in person though.
National Postal Museum
The Postal Museum was a surprising favorite of ours! It’s a smaller museum and perfect for exploring for an hour or two. It’s very interactive and has tons for littles to explore.
My girls designed their own stamps, got to take home a few old stamps to start a stamp collection, practiced sorting packages, embarked on an early Pony Express trail, “rode” in both a mail carriage and giant mail truck, and so much more. I was surprised by how much I learned there as well! Definitely worth a visit and one of our top favorites from our trip.
United States Botanic Garden
The Botanic Garden was another top favorite of ours! We loved walking through the outside garden admiring the lily pond before heading inside the giant greenhouse. Our girls love plants and nature anyway, but there’s also several activities kids can participate in. Our girls each received two different Plant Passports that encouraged them to find several different plants throughout the garden. London especially loved this little scavenger hunt and then at the end, it had the girls draw one of their favorite plants that they saw.
There’s also a wonderful Children’s Garden in one of the courtyards (open seasonally). Here, kids can water, sweep, and dig along with playing in the misters. It’s a lovely spot and one we really enjoyed.
National Museum of Natural History
On our last day, we made it over to the Natural History Museum. This is such a well done museum with so much to explore! We loved the Butterfly house, learning about dinosaurs, visiting their special Narwhal exhibit, seeing all of the fancy gemstones and rocks, and so much more. We could have easily spent an entire day here.
There’s also a fun kids area, Q?rius Jr, that our girls loved. Plenty of hands on toys and activities teaching them more about dinosaurs, ocean animals, and more.
We also felt that this was the best museum to buy our kids each a souvenir. They have a huge children’s gift shop with a ton of variety. Both of our girls ended up getting small South American flutes, but there was also plenty of dinosaur things, stuffed animals, books, etc.
There’s so much to explore in Washington D.C! One spot that we really wanted to check out but wasn’t able to due to one of our girls being sick and lots of rain was Mount Vernon. Hopefully next time we can add it to our list of places to check out!
What are some of your favorite DC spots to visit with kids?