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A dance circle in the middle of a museum floor. Curved seating frames the circle and there are children around it.
Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
LightRocket via Getty Images

The 30 best things to do in Washington, D.C., with kids

Your guide to surviving parenthood in the nation’s capital

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Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
| LightRocket via Getty Images

With a plethora of attractions, easy-to-use transportation, and some of our country’s top museums, Washington, D.C., should be on every family’s must-travel list. But determining which sites to see—and what to do when you get there—can be downright overwhelming.

If you’re looking for the top places in Washington, D.C., for families, we’ve got you covered with this handy map. From vintage carousels to artsy hot spots, D.C. offers something for everyone. We’ve catalogued the most important tourist sites on the National Mall as well as under-the-radar destinations that will have your kiddos pretending to be international spies or kayaking in the Potomac. Around the holidays and during spring break are great times to visit.

Whether you’re a longtime local or a first-time visitor to our nation’s capital, here are the 30 best things to do with kids.

Traveling to other cities with your kiddos? Don’t miss Curbed’s maps of the best family activities in Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Austin, and New York City.

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1. Clemyjontri Park

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6317 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA

In 2006, Clemyjontri Park became Virginia’s first accessible park, where children of all abilities can have a parallel playground experience. Look for the lowered monkey bars, swings with high backs, and rubber ground surfaces so wheelchairs can roll easily.

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2. Glen Echo Park

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7300 MacArthur Blvd
Glen Echo, MD

Founded in 1891, this historic park offers a beautiful vintage carousel and an arts and cultural center with classes, workshops, and performances. Don’t miss the annual Family Day, a kid-centric day of magic shows, storytelling, and face painting.

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3. Georgetown Waterfront Park

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3303 Water St NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 895-6000
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The Georgetown Waterfront Park provides a gorgeous view at dusk when the lights from the Kennedy Center are glowing across the Potomac River. During the day, kiddos will love the play areas and open space.

Trees with fall foliage along a river. There are large buildings in the background. Corbis via Getty Images

4. Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

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3001 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, D.C.

The National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the nation—not to mention it’s free!—and it houses everything from cheetahs to pandas to apes. There are also annual family-friendly events like Boo at the Zoo and ZooLights, a must-see for holiday lights in December.

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5. Mount Vernon Trail

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Mount Vernon Trail
Alexandria, VA

Perfect for biking, this 18-mile paved trail stretches from George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. Head over to this map for helpful parking locations, and don’t forget the water.

In the foreground is a lawn and a tree. In the distance is a body of water. Shutterstock

6. Rock Creek Park

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Beach Dr NW
Washington, D.C.

With 1,674 acres, Rock Creek Park is one of America's largest and oldest city parks, so it’s worth a visit. Start at the Nature Center for ranger-led educational programs, and don’t miss the easy half-mile Woodland Trail for aspiring hikers.

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7. Wheaton Regional Park

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2000 Shorefield Rd
Wheaton, MD

This kid-friendly oasis provides a little bit of everything, like a train ride perfect for tots, a carousel, ice rink, dog park, and picnic tables. Sure, it’s a bit farther out of the city than most options on this list, but it’s worth the trek.

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8. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

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301 14th St SW
Washington, DC 20228
(202) 874-2330
Visit Website

Ignore the boring name and get ready for a 40-minute tour that covers how U.S. currency is printed. No tickets are required and the fast-paced tours operate every 15 minutes. If your child loves collecting coins or is a budding entrepreneur, this one’s for you.

9. Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

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1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560
(844) 750-3012
Visit Website

A stunning museum with nearly 400,000 square feet dedicated to exploring the African-American story, this museum is a must-see stop for school-aged children to learn about inclusion, injustice, and tolerance.

Sports-addicted kiddos will like the “Leveling the Playing Field” exhibit to learn how sports players fought for equality, while other exhibits teach similar stories through music or fashion. Don’t miss Explore More!, an interactive exhibit where kids can drive an antique car and search for a sunken slave ship. Pro tip: While the museum is free, its popularity means that you’ll likely need timed entry tickets.

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10. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 488-0400
Visit Website

Kids eight or older can learn a lot at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. Head to Daniel’s Story, a permanent exhibit that explains the Holocaust from a child’s point of view and don’t miss the end of the exhibit where children can write messages to other visitors about their experience.

11. International Spy Museum

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700 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 393-7798
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For families that enjoy a bit of intrigue, head to the International Spy Museum. Best suited for kids seven years and older, the interactive KidSpy Zone lets you explore fun games and learn to talk like a spy. The museum opened in a newly constructed building in L’Enfant Plaza in 2019.

12. Smithsonian National Museum of American History

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1300 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000
Visit Website

History moves way beyond boring at this museum, where a collection of three million artifacts are brought to life through top-notch exhibitions. Younger kiddos should head to the hands-on spaces Object Project and Wegmans Wonderplace, while kids aged 6-12 will love becoming inventors at Spark!Lab.

13. Smithsonian Discovery Theater

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1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 633-8700
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Located in the Ripley Center on the National Mall, the Discovery Theater is an interactive experience for school-aged children. You can expect weekday puppet shows, music, storytelling, and even mimes.

14. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000
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Head to this Smithsonian museum to see giant dinosaur skeletons and fossils, the world’s largest faceted aquamarine gem, and live butterflies and insects. And while older kids will get the most out of the educational exhibits, younger kids shouldn’t miss the hands-on Discovery Room.

People stand in front a large statue of an elephant in the Main Hall of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.
Visitors at the Main Hall of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
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15. Hains Point

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Ohio Drive SW
Washington, D.C.

Hains Point, at the southern tip of East Potomac Park, is a waterfront park between the main branch of the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. Enjoy views of the river and plenty of green space and trails for picnics or biking. You can also watch planes taking off and landing at Reagan National Airport.

A path with trees that have pink blossoms on both sides. Shutterstock

16. National Gallery of Art

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6th & Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20565
(202) 737-4215
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The massive collection—think everything from Byzantine altarpieces to pop art—at the National Gallery of Art might seem more geared towards adults, but kids can still have a great time. Stop by the Education Studio in the East Building for an interactive guide and hands-on art activities, and don’t miss story times and other family-friendly program offerings.

17. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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600 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-2214
Visit Website

If your kiddo loves to search the sky, this is a don’t miss. The Air & Space Museum boasts the world’s largest collection of airplanes and spacecraft distributed between 23 galleries. Kids can explore what it’s like to be an astronaut, experience flight simulators, marvel at iconic aviators, and enjoy planetarium shows.

The interior of the National Air and Space Museum. There are various aircrafts and spacecrafts on display in a large room with many windows and a skylight.
An aerial view of the National Air and Space Museum.
Shutterstock

18. National Building Museum

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401 F St NW
Washington, D.C.

The National Building Museum always has something to offer. Every summer in the Great Hall there is a larger-than-life, interactive installation designed by famous architecture firms. At other times, families can enjoy exhibits like the Building Zone, a hands-on introduction to the building arts for those under six. (Note: The museum will temporarily be closed for renovations from December 2, 2019 until next spring.)

19. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

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4th St SW & Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000
Visit Website

There are plenty of hands-on activities at this top-notch museum; start by diving into ancient cultures at the ImagiNations Activity Center. Kids will have a ball playing drums, listening to a story, and earning badges by playing an interactive quiz show.

The exterior of a museum building. The exterior is undulating and has horizontal rows of windows. Getty Images/iStockphoto

20. United States Botanic Garden

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100 Maryland Ave SW
Washington, D.C.

Time to smell the roses ... and pretty much any other flower and plant you can think of. At the Botanic Garden, families can get an inside look at one of the oldest continually operating botanic gardens in North America. In spring and summer, a seasonal Children’s Garden lets kids explore plants in bloom and play with gardening tools.

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21. Smithsonian National Postal Museum

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2 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 633-5555
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Kids love getting mail of their own, so it’s no wonder the National Postal Museum is a hit. Check out this kid-friendly itinerary and don’t miss the chance to make your own stamp design or meet Owney the Dog, the mascot of the Railway Post Office.

22. Canal Park

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200 M St SE
Washington, D.C.

While offering one of the best ice skating rinks in the D.C. area, Canal Park also comes with three acres of seasonal markets, dancing fountains (in the summer), and family events. The Northern Block of the park is perfect for picnics and lawn games, while the Middle Block comes with benches with A/C power for laptops and mobile devices. The Southern Block is also worth a visit if hungry as there are a variety of places for eating.

23. The Yards

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301 Water St SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 465-7093
Visit Website

This recently constructed riverfront park offers loads of retail and restaurant options, but the highlight is the riverfront views of the Anacostia. You can also have a picnic on the grass.

A group of women with children in strollers walking from a modern bridge over a river. The Washington Post/Getty Images

24. Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion

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Anacostia Dr SE
Washington, D.C.

Relax by the water, exercise at the fitness station, or check out the skating pavilion (open in the summer). This is one of Washington, D.C.'s largest parks—and it’s all free—spanning over 1,200 acres, so you're bound to find a place to unwind without having to worry about crowds.

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25. United States National Arboretum

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3501 New York Ave NE
Washington, D.C.

Adults will love seeing the columns that originally supported the old East Portico of the Capitol building and a 390-year-old bonsai tree that survived an atomic bomb. But kids should visit the U.S. National Arboretum for the Washington Youth Garden, a one-acre demonstration garden—complete with a stage and sand boxes—where they can learn about, dig, and even water the plants.

26. Bladensburg Waterfront Park

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4601 Annapolis Rd
Bladensburg, MD

Located on the Anacostia River, this waterfront park is perfect for the younger set who want to get active. Families can canoe, kayak, bike, take an interpretive river boat tour, fish off the pier, and explore the many hiking trails. Even in the winter it’s a good spot to stretch your legs and do some bird-watching on a sunnier day.

27. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

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1550 Anacostia Ave NE
Washington, DC 20019
(202) 692-6080
Visit Website

Enjoy some natural beauty with your family at this gorgeous national park within the city limits. Budding artists can try drawing or painting the waterlilies and lotuses that fill the place. Watch out for various species of birds and other critters, too.

A woman and child look out over a marsh area. CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

28. Fort Dupont Ice Arena

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3779 Ely Pl SE
Washington, DC 20019
(202) 584-5007
Visit Website

Could the next Simone Biles or Michelle Kwan be in training at this longtime ice skating rink in Southeast? Maybe! The arena offers lessons and hosts both skating and hockey competitions. It’s the only full-sized public ice rink in the District.

Two young girls skate at an ice skating rink. One holds her leg up above her head. The Washington Post/Getty Images

29. U.S. Capitol Sledding

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First St SE
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 226-8000
Visit Website

When it snows in D.C., there are few more iconic D.C. activities than sledding on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. But it wasn’t always this way: Sledding there was only legalized in 2016. Make memories with the little ones in the shadow of Congress.

Getty Images

30. Southwest Duck Pond

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This gem in D.C.’s Southwest quadrant is a tranquil place where your kids can watch dozens of ducks waddle and wade. There’s also plenty of seating where adults can relax and read. Afterward, you can walk a few blocks over to the Wharf development and enjoy the waterfront.

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1. Clemyjontri Park

6317 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA

In 2006, Clemyjontri Park became Virginia’s first accessible park, where children of all abilities can have a parallel playground experience. Look for the lowered monkey bars, swings with high backs, and rubber ground surfaces so wheelchairs can roll easily.

6317 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA

2. Glen Echo Park

7300 MacArthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD

Founded in 1891, this historic park offers a beautiful vintage carousel and an arts and cultural center with classes, workshops, and performances. Don’t miss the annual Family Day, a kid-centric day of magic shows, storytelling, and face painting.

7300 MacArthur Blvd
Glen Echo, MD

3. Georgetown Waterfront Park

3303 Water St NW, Washington, DC 20007
Trees with fall foliage along a river. There are large buildings in the background. Corbis via Getty Images

The Georgetown Waterfront Park provides a gorgeous view at dusk when the lights from the Kennedy Center are glowing across the Potomac River. During the day, kiddos will love the play areas and open space.

3303 Water St NW
Washington, DC 20007

4. Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

The National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the nation—not to mention it’s free!—and it houses everything from cheetahs to pandas to apes. There are also annual family-friendly events like Boo at the Zoo and ZooLights, a must-see for holiday lights in December.

3001 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, D.C.

5. Mount Vernon Trail

Mount Vernon Trail, Alexandria, VA
In the foreground is a lawn and a tree. In the distance is a body of water. Shutterstock

Perfect for biking, this 18-mile paved trail stretches from George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. Head over to this map for helpful parking locations, and don’t forget the water.

Mount Vernon Trail
Alexandria, VA

6. Rock Creek Park

Beach Dr NW, Washington, D.C.

With 1,674 acres, Rock Creek Park is one of America's largest and oldest city parks, so it’s worth a visit. Start at the Nature Center for ranger-led educational programs, and don’t miss the easy half-mile Woodland Trail for aspiring hikers.

Beach Dr NW
Washington, D.C.

7. Wheaton Regional Park

2000 Shorefield Rd, Wheaton, MD

This kid-friendly oasis provides a little bit of everything, like a train ride perfect for tots, a carousel, ice rink, dog park, and picnic tables. Sure, it’s a bit farther out of the city than most options on this list, but it’s worth the trek.

2000 Shorefield Rd
Wheaton, MD

8. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

301 14th St SW, Washington, DC 20228

Ignore the boring name and get ready for a 40-minute tour that covers how U.S. currency is printed. No tickets are required and the fast-paced tours operate every 15 minutes. If your child loves collecting coins or is a budding entrepreneur, this one’s for you.

301 14th St SW
Washington, DC 20228

9. Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

1400 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560

A stunning museum with nearly 400,000 square feet dedicated to exploring the African-American story, this museum is a must-see stop for school-aged children to learn about inclusion, injustice, and tolerance.

Sports-addicted kiddos will like the “Leveling the Playing Field” exhibit to learn how sports players fought for equality, while other exhibits teach similar stories through music or fashion. Don’t miss Explore More!, an interactive exhibit where kids can drive an antique car and search for a sunken slave ship. Pro tip: While the museum is free, its popularity means that you’ll likely need timed entry tickets.

1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560

10. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024

Kids eight or older can learn a lot at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. Head to Daniel’s Story, a permanent exhibit that explains the Holocaust from a child’s point of view and don’t miss the end of the exhibit where children can write messages to other visitors about their experience.

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW
Washington, DC 20024

11. International Spy Museum

700 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20024

For families that enjoy a bit of intrigue, head to the International Spy Museum. Best suited for kids seven years and older, the interactive KidSpy Zone lets you explore fun games and learn to talk like a spy. The museum opened in a newly constructed building in L’Enfant Plaza in 2019.

700 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20024

12. Smithsonian National Museum of American History

1300 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560

History moves way beyond boring at this museum, where a collection of three million artifacts are brought to life through top-notch exhibitions. Younger kiddos should head to the hands-on spaces Object Project and Wegmans Wonderplace, while kids aged 6-12 will love becoming inventors at Spark!Lab.

1300 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560

13. Smithsonian Discovery Theater

1100 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024

Located in the Ripley Center on the National Mall, the Discovery Theater is an interactive experience for school-aged children. You can expect weekday puppet shows, music, storytelling, and even mimes.

1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Washington, DC 20024

14. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
People stand in front a large statue of an elephant in the Main Hall of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.
Visitors at the Main Hall of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Shutterstock

Head to this Smithsonian museum to see giant dinosaur skeletons and fossils, the world’s largest faceted aquamarine gem, and live butterflies and insects. And while older kids will get the most out of the educational exhibits, younger kids shouldn’t miss the hands-on Discovery Room.

10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20560

15. Hains Point

Ohio Drive SW, Washington, D.C.
A path with trees that have pink blossoms on both sides. Shutterstock

Hains Point, at the southern tip of East Potomac Park, is a waterfront park between the main branch of the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. Enjoy views of the river and plenty of green space and trails for picnics or biking. You can also watch planes taking off and landing at Reagan National Airport.

Ohio Drive SW
Washington, D.C.

16. National Gallery of Art

6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565

The massive collection—think everything from Byzantine altarpieces to pop art—at the National Gallery of Art might seem more geared towards adults, but kids can still have a great time. Stop by the Education Studio in the East Building for an interactive guide and hands-on art activities, and don’t miss story times and other family-friendly program offerings.

6th & Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20565

17. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560
The interior of the National Air and Space Museum. There are various aircrafts and spacecrafts on display in a large room with many windows and a skylight.
An aerial view of the National Air and Space Museum.
Shutterstock

If your kiddo loves to search the sky, this is a don’t miss. The Air & Space Museum boasts the world’s largest collection of airplanes and spacecraft distributed between 23 galleries. Kids can explore what it’s like to be an astronaut, experience flight simulators, marvel at iconic aviators, and enjoy planetarium shows.

600 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560

18. National Building Museum

401 F St NW, Washington, D.C.

The National Building Museum always has something to offer. Every summer in the Great Hall there is a larger-than-life, interactive installation designed by famous architecture firms. At other times, families can enjoy exhibits like the Building Zone, a hands-on introduction to the building arts for those under six. (Note: The museum will temporarily be closed for renovations from December 2, 2019 until next spring.)

401 F St NW
Washington, D.C.

19. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

4th St SW & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560
The exterior of a museum building. The exterior is undulating and has horizontal rows of windows. Getty Images/iStockphoto

There are plenty of hands-on activities at this top-notch museum; start by diving into ancient cultures at the ImagiNations Activity Center. Kids will have a ball playing drums, listening to a story, and earning badges by playing an interactive quiz show.

4th St SW & Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560

20. United States Botanic Garden

100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, D.C.

Time to smell the roses ... and pretty much any other flower and plant you can think of. At the Botanic Garden, families can get an inside look at one of the oldest continually operating botanic gardens in North America. In spring and summer, a seasonal Children’s Garden lets kids explore plants in bloom and play with gardening tools.

100 Maryland Ave SW
Washington, D.C.

21. Smithsonian National Postal Museum

2 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

Kids love getting mail of their own, so it’s no wonder the National Postal Museum is a hit. Check out this kid-friendly itinerary and don’t miss the chance to make your own stamp design or meet Owney the Dog, the mascot of the Railway Post Office.

2 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002

22. Canal Park

200 M St SE, Washington, D.C.

While offering one of the best ice skating rinks in the D.C. area, Canal Park also comes with three acres of seasonal markets, dancing fountains (in the summer), and family events. The Northern Block of the park is perfect for picnics and lawn games, while the Middle Block comes with benches with A/C power for laptops and mobile devices. The Southern Block is also worth a visit if hungry as there are a variety of places for eating.

200 M St SE
Washington, D.C.

23. The Yards

301 Water St SE, Washington, DC 20003
A group of women with children in strollers walking from a modern bridge over a river. The Washington Post/Getty Images

This recently constructed riverfront park offers loads of retail and restaurant options, but the highlight is the riverfront views of the Anacostia. You can also have a picnic on the grass.

301 Water St SE
Washington, DC 20003

24. Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion

Anacostia Dr SE, Washington, D.C.

Relax by the water, exercise at the fitness station, or check out the skating pavilion (open in the summer). This is one of Washington, D.C.'s largest parks—and it’s all free—spanning over 1,200 acres, so you're bound to find a place to unwind without having to worry about crowds.

Anacostia Dr SE
Washington, D.C.

25. United States National Arboretum

3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, D.C.

Adults will love seeing the columns that originally supported the old East Portico of the Capitol building and a 390-year-old bonsai tree that survived an atomic bomb. But kids should visit the U.S. National Arboretum for the Washington Youth Garden, a one-acre demonstration garden—complete with a stage and sand boxes—where they can learn about, dig, and even water the plants.

3501 New York Ave NE
Washington, D.C.

26. Bladensburg Waterfront Park

4601 Annapolis Rd, Bladensburg, MD

Located on the Anacostia River, this waterfront park is perfect for the younger set who want to get active. Families can canoe, kayak, bike, take an interpretive river boat tour, fish off the pier, and explore the many hiking trails. Even in the winter it’s a good spot to stretch your legs and do some bird-watching on a sunnier day.

4601 Annapolis Rd
Bladensburg, MD

27. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

1550 Anacostia Ave NE, Washington, DC 20019
A woman and child look out over a marsh area. CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

Enjoy some natural beauty with your family at this gorgeous national park within the city limits. Budding artists can try drawing or painting the waterlilies and lotuses that fill the place. Watch out for various species of birds and other critters, too.

1550 Anacostia Ave NE
Washington, DC 20019

28. Fort Dupont Ice Arena

3779 Ely Pl SE, Washington, DC 20019
Two young girls skate at an ice skating rink. One holds her leg up above her head. The Washington Post/Getty Images

Could the next Simone Biles or Michelle Kwan be in training at this longtime ice skating rink in Southeast? Maybe! The arena offers lessons and hosts both skating and hockey competitions. It’s the only full-sized public ice rink in the District.

3779 Ely Pl SE
Washington, DC 20019

29. U.S. Capitol Sledding

First St SE, Washington, DC 20004
Getty Images

When it snows in D.C., there are few more iconic D.C. activities than sledding on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. But it wasn’t always this way: Sledding there was only legalized in 2016. Make memories with the little ones in the shadow of Congress.

First St SE
Washington, DC 20004

30. Southwest Duck Pond

Washington, DC 20024

This gem in D.C.’s Southwest quadrant is a tranquil place where your kids can watch dozens of ducks waddle and wade. There’s also plenty of seating where adults can relax and read. Afterward, you can walk a few blocks over to the Wharf development and enjoy the waterfront.