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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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Clemyjontri Park

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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.

A post shared by A bella_clara (@abella_clara) on

Glen Echo Park

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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.

A post shared by Lisa Said (@lisasaidz) on

Georgetown Waterfront Park

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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

Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

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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.

A post shared by Sean Bamman (@seanbamman) on

Mount Vernon Trail

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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

Rock Creek Park

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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.

A post shared by Brad Roebke (@bradroeb) on

Wheaton Regional Park

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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.

A post shared by Evin (@freckledpast) on

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

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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.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

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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.

A post shared by NMAAHC (@nmaahc) on

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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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.

International Spy Museum

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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.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History

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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.

Smithsonian Discovery Theater

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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.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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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.
Shutterstock

Hains Point

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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

National Gallery of Art

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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.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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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

National Building Museum

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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.)

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

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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

United States Botanic Garden

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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.

A post shared by Hans Zhong (@hans.zhong) on

Smithsonian National Postal Museum

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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.

Canal Park

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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.

The Yards

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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

Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion

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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.

A post shared by Arnav Sonic Shah (@sonicskates) on

United States National Arboretum

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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.

Bladensburg Waterfront Park

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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.

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

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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

Fort Dupont Ice Arena

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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

U.S. Capitol Sledding

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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.

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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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Clemyjontri Park

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.

A post shared by A bella_clara (@abella_clara) on

Glen Echo Park

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.

A post shared by Lisa Said (@lisasaidz) on

Georgetown Waterfront Park

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.

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

Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

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.

A post shared by Sean Bamman (@seanbamman) on

Mount Vernon Trail

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.

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

Rock Creek Park

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.

A post shared by Brad Roebke (@bradroeb) on

Wheaton Regional Park

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.

A post shared by Evin (@freckledpast) on

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

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.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

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.

A post shared by NMAAHC (@nmaahc) on

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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.

International Spy Museum

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.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History

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.

Smithsonian Discovery Theater

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.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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.

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

Hains Point

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.

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

National Gallery of Art

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.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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.

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

National Building Museum

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.)

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

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.

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

United States Botanic Garden

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.

A post shared by Hans Zhong (@hans.zhong) on

Smithsonian National Postal Museum

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.

Canal Park

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.

The Yards

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.

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

Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion

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.

A post shared by Arnav Sonic Shah (@sonicskates) on

United States National Arboretum

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.

Bladensburg Waterfront Park

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.

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

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.

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

Fort Dupont Ice Arena

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.

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

U.S. Capitol Sledding

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.

Getty Images

Southwest Duck Pond

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.