Best Way to See DC with Kids: 9 Helpful Tips

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This article was written by Serena Morris, a mom who visited DC with her kids and lived to tell the tale.

In June, my family took a long weekend getaway to our nation’s capital, seeking fun and education. Our family consists of my husband, our six-year-old daughter, four-year-old son, a 4-month-old baby, and myself.

Visiting DC with kids poses unique challenges. With such a broad range of ages, you need to find a variety of activities to keep everyone pleased.

Here are some of the tips for visiting Washington DC with young children that we learned along the way.

1. Book the right hotel

One of the best things to do in Washington DC with a baby is to enjoy the Lincoln memorial on the National Mall

I highly recommend you take plenty of time to research your hotel. You will spend a considerable amount of time in your hotel room, especially with children. I consulted the top list on Trip Advisor and spent time reading the reviews. These reviews are particularly helpful and give you insider viewpoints.

When I was searching, there were a few qualities I wanted.

  • Cost. First, the cost had to fit the budget.
  • Location. Second, the hotel had to be close enough to the sights that it wouldn’t take too long to get to them. We decided just to drive and pay for parking, but if traffic intimidates you, you can rely on the metro, taxis, or Uber.
  • Free breakfast. Lastly, a complimentary breakfast was essential. I didn’t want to have to drive to a restaurant and make my ravenous kids wait for breakfast, and I surely didn’t want to give them fast food breakfasts.
  • Bonus points if the hotel had any amenities like a pool or arcade.

Based on all of this, Hampton Inn Alexandria and Holiday Inn Washington-Central White House are good choices for families. They fill up quickly though, so grab a room as soon as you know when you’re going to travel.

2. All of the Smithsonian Museums are free

Interior of Air & Space Museum, a top place to visit in D.C. with young kids

Museums are some of the best things to do in DC with toddlers and young kids. There are some museums that charge admission, such as the Holocaust Museum, but since we were on a budget, we picked only the free ones.

By far, our kids loved the National Air and Space Museum the best. They have a great children’s area with hands-on activities. We spent over an hour in a zone!

ⓘ TIP: Purchase a bag of astronaut ice cream. Kids think it is hilarious!

Along with not having to pay to get in, the other wonderful thing about free museums is that you don’t have to worry that your children will be bored. Stop into whatever museum strikes your interest. You may spend three hours or 30 minutes. It is all free.

Besides, if it starts to rain, museums are a terrific way to wait out the weather.

3. You need a stroller

Washington D.C. is spread out. The National Mall stretches for miles. While a young adult can accomplish it by themselves, young kids will struggle.

Getting around DC with a toddler is tiring. If you have young children, a stroller isn’t optional. Your kids will have tired legs, and you’ll be happy to push them rather than hear them whining for blocks. Whatever one you bring though, you’ll want to make sure it’s lightweight and collapsible.

ⓘ SAFETY TIP: The National Mall and museums are super crowded most days. Keep close eyes on your children!

4. Visit the Capitol Building

US Capitol and Reflection of Capitol hill Washington DC

You can take a tour of the Capitol, but the wait is long. You save time if you can email your state senator and schedule an appointment ahead of time. However, chances are your little ones won’t find the tour fun at all.

Instead, we opted to walk around the building and spend time in the visitor center. They have some great displays and plenty of free resources I snagged. We are a homeschooling family, so the free material is a bonus! The gift shops are also located in the visitor’s center.

Where to eat near the Capitol: The Capitol Grille is a great place to catch lunch. We scheduled our Capitol visit for the morning, ending right before our kids usually get hungry. We ate and headed to our next place.

ⓘ PRO TIP: The Capitol security guards will give your kids “official” police badges!

5. Don’t tour the White House

I know, the White House is a desired visit for young kids, but I knew my kids would be bored. Plus, you aren’t able to bring a diaper bag or a stroller inside. Instead, we viewed it from the outside.

There are some crazy squirrels across the street in LaFayette Square. This small park is a great place to bring a picnic lunch or let the kids relax while soaking in the ambiance of the area.

6. Do visit the Washington Monument

One of the best things to do in DC with kids is the Washington Monument and fountains on the National Mall

If there is one monument that surprises kids, it’s the Washington Monument. The sheer size wowed my kids. Once we left lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill, we followed the street down to the Washington Monument.

We opted not to ride to the top; I have a fear of heights.

ⓘ TIP: I would suggest purchasing tickets ahead of time. The lines were insanely long!

7. Take a tour by boat

There are thousands of tour options in DC. When our kids are older, we would love to do a bike tour around the capital city. Instead, we chose a boat tour with National River Tours. We scheduled the tour before dinner. That was awesome timing! The kids were tired from the day, but still awake and paying attention. Washington D.C. has an active water scene, with tons of boats passing by regularly.

ⓘ FUN FACT: The only way to take a picture of the Pentagon is by boat!

8. Have dinner on the Washington Harbor in Georgetown

Georgetown, Washington, DC skyline on the Potomac River.

Washington Harbour is the happening place to be, with live entertainment, dining experiences at assorted price points, and plenty of special activities for all ages every week.

Your family can enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk, watch the boats, and take in the nation’s iconic scenery with views of the Kennedy Center, Watergate, Key Bridge, and across the water to Virginia.

In November, the fountain transforms into the Washington Harbour Ice Rink. At almost 12,000 square feet, DC’s largest outdoor rink is open every day for public skating, and you can enjoy it until March.

9. Tour the monuments at night

There is no better way to tour the monuments than at night. If your children aren’t too tired, find a place to park and walk!

The Lincoln Memorial is breathtaking at night, overlooking the Reflecting Pool that illuminates the Washington Monument. It was one of our favorite memories, including the kids!

If they are running out of energy, a better option is an organized tour. Look for something low key and relaxing, like a trolley tour of the city’s most popular monuments like the Monuments by Moonlight Tour. The ride can be a soothing end to a busy day.

Where to eat in Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C. with young kids - view of Georgetown and Key bridge over the Potomac River in autumn

When you’re visiting Washington DC with kids, food becomes a focus. Fortunately, this huge city has no end of family friendly places to eat.

Near the Capitol Building. The Capital Grille is a suitable place to catch lunch. We scheduled our Capitol visit right before our children were hungry, then headed to our next place.

Near the White House. Old Ebbitt Grill, opened in 1856, is right near The White House. We caught lunch there on our first day. Even though it may appear to be high class, don’t be afraid to take your kids. They have a broad selection of food for kids. Plus, it is historic!

On the Washington Harbour. Our family enjoyed dinner at Tony and Joe’s Seafood Restaurant. The prices are high, but the food is worth it!

Plan your D.C. with kids itinerary

Books about D.C. for kids

Here are some related books about Washington, D.C. that your children may enjoy:

7 Best Free Things to Do in Washington DC

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Written by Serena Morris

Hi! My name is Serena. I am a mother of three children and founder of We homeschool and focus on living an active, natural lifestyle. My family loves to travel, but most of the year, you can find them at their house gardening and taking care of their small homestead.

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4 thoughts on “Best Way to See DC with Kids: 9 Helpful Tips”

  1. This sounds like the perfect family trip to DC. I want to do a boat tour and see the monuments at night. I have also heard that they do a kids storytime at the Library of Congress I think would be cool to check out.

    • Thanks for the tip, Adree. We didn’t know about the Library’s storytime before and it sounds like a really fun thing for kids. For sure they would enjoy an evening boat tour. I know we would!

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