Visiting DC with the kids? You’ve come to the right place! The US capital offer up valuable history lessons everywhere you look, plus plenty of hands-on fun for the wee ones, including interactive museum exhibits, exciting outdoor activities, fun shops and child-friendly eateries. The best part? Most of these kid-tested-and-approved attractions are free – unless, of course, you decide to buy yourself a souvenir.
Best museums for kids
- Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! Not to mention, dinosaurs, bugs and sea creatures – all at the National Museum of Natural History
- To infinity and…the National Air & Space Museum!
- Not just dusty text books and tattered flags, the National Museum of American History has some unexpected exhibits, including an impressive 23-room doll's house.
- Teach your children the fine art of espionage at the International Spy Museum.
- Inspire your own little Woodward or Bernstein at the Newseum.
- Join the young crowd banging drums and exploring tipis at the National Museum of the American Indian.
- Seek out local secret, the National Building Museum, and its hands-on zone where kids can stack block towers and drive toy bulldozers.
Top child-friendly experiences
- Visit the Lincoln Memorial, then chase ducks around the reflecting pool.
- See the pandas at the National Zoo.
- Splash in the fountains and curlicue through the maze at the Georgetown Waterfront Park.
- Watch global fairy tales and puppet shows at the Smithsonian's Discovery Theater.
- Pick up a junior botanist backpack at the US Botanic Garden and set out on a plant-oriented scavenger hunt.
Feeding the family
- Baked & Wired makes giant, cream-frosted cupcakes in Georgetown (and it's conveniently located near Georgetown Waterfront Park).
- Gourmet Neapolitan style pizza keeps the parents happy, while crayons keep the kids busy at 2 Amys, near the National Cathedral.
- You’d never know it from the swank décor, but Legal Sea Foods in Penn Quarter has an award-winning children’s menu, with classics like mac & cheese and slightly more highbrow fare, like steamed lobster (which is taken out of the shell then put back in, easy for little fingers to handle).
- Retro Ted's Bulletin whips up smiley face pancakes, peanut butter sandwiches and milkshakes (with a booze-spiked option for parents).
Best stores for kids
- Tugooh Toys sells eco-friendly stuffed animals and educational games amid the cupcake and ice cream shops of Georgetown.
- The store at the International Spy Museum stocks everything from mustache disguises to voice changing gadgets.
- Dawn Price Baby carries stylish stuff for mom and baby, from designer diaper bags to organic cotton layette sets.
Top tours for families
- Bike and Roll has all-ages, four-mile cycling tours that zip around the Mall and Tidal Basin. Children's bikes are provided.
- DC by Foot offers pay-what-you-want walking tours. While they're not specifically geared to kids, they are popular with families. The Mall tour takes about two hours and covers a mile; the route is stroller-friendly.
Family-friendly DC web resources
- Kids To Go on Lonely Planet's Thorntree forum.
- LP Kids on Twitter.
- Smithsonian Kids for educational games and projects, plus the lowdown on pint-sized activities at the museums.
- DC Cool Kids for activity guides, insider tips from local youngsters on things to do, and museum info.
- DC Urban Moms and Dads for active forums to post your pressing DC questions; look for the Travel Discussion and Food & Restaurants threads.
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