10 Things to Do in Washington DC with Toddlers

Enjoy the Best Acivities for Young Children in the Nation's Capital

Monuments in Washington DC
••• Matt Frankel/Getty Images

Exploring Washington DC with a toddler can be challenging, but fortunately, the most popular attractions for young children offer a lot to hold an adult’s attention too. The National Mall has plenty of pedestrian-friendly areas where you can have a picnic and enjoy the scenery. Many of the museums have hands-on exhibits for families providing a fun and interactive environment for all ages. Be sure to pace yourself and build in naps and rest into your itinerary. The following guide provides suggestions of the top things to do with toddlers in the nation’s capital.

  • 01 of 10
    US Capitol Building, National Mall and Northwest Washington at sunrise from Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA
    ••• Danita Delimont/Getty Images

    While visiting the iconic landmarks requires a lot of walking, young children can easily move around as you marvel over the historic sites of Washington DC. The monuments and memorials are beautiful and even the youngest visitors can appreciate these national treasures. Take your time and enjoy the majestic views of the nation's capital.

  • 02 of 10
    NMAH Wonderplace
    ••• Courtesy of the NMAH

    Wegmans Wonderplace is an interactive Smithsonian exhibit designed specifically for children ages 0 to 6 with age-appropriate activities. Young children can cook their way through a kid-sized Julia Child’s kitchen, find the owls hiding in the Smithsonian Castle, and captain a tugboat based on a model from the museum's collections. The space is closed on most Tuesdays. On holiday weekends, timed tickets may be required. 

  • 03 of 10
    The Carousel on the National Mall
    ••• Jason Colston/Getty Images

    Toddlers love to ride the carousel on the National Mall and it provides a great diversion from traditional sightseeing. The carousel is located near the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building and is open year-round, weather permitting. Enjoy the views and make a special memory for your whole family. 

    More Carousels: National Harbor, Glen Echo Park, and Wheaton Regional Park

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    Play Work Build
    ••• Kevin Allen/NBM

    The immersive, hands-on installation is designed for young children and fun for all ages. It features molded foam blocks of all shapes and sizes and an original virtual block play experience. The exhibition combines a presentation of the Museum’s world-class Architectural Toy Collection, a hands-on block play area, and an original digital interactive that allows visitors to fill an entire wall of the exhibition with virtual blocks—and then knock them down.

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  • 05 of 10
    Andean bear at Smithsonian National Zoo
    ••• Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Zoo

    The National Zoo is one of the best destinations for young children in Washington DC. The 163-acre zoological park is home to more than 400 different species of animals and offers many hands-on opportunities to get up close to your favorites. Admission is free and there are many special programs available throughout the year. To avoid crowds, visit on a weekday when older children are in school.

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    Adventure Park USA: Theme Park in Monrovia, Maryland
    ••• Adventure Park USA in Monrovia, Maryland. Courtesy of Adventure Park USA

    Indoor playgrounds and amusement centers offer a variety of activities for kids of all ages. They are great places to visit on cold, hot or rainy days. The Washington DC area has a wide variety of indoor play spaces.

  • 07 of 10
    Big Bus Tours
    ••• Courtesy of Big Bus Tours Ltd

    The double-decker bus tour offers great views of the White House, the Capitol, the national memorials, National Cathedral, Arlington Cemetery and more. This is one of the best sightseeing tours to enjoy with kids because they can take in the sights from the open top deck.

     

  • 08 of 10
    Kalorama Park
    ••• Kalorama Park. Courtesy of Kalorama Park

    The Washington DC area has lots of green spaces to enjoy the fresh air and outdoor recreation. Have a picnic and allow your child to run, jump and play in the capital region. See a guide to the best playgrounds in Washington DC. 

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    Rock Creek Park Boulder Bridge
    ••• Rock Creek Park. © Rachel Cooper

    Nature Centers provide kids with lots of hands-on opportunities to explore our environment. Year-round naturalist guided programs will give you insight into the natural habitat of the Washington, DC area. Check the schedules and look for programs geared toward young children.

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    Story Time Washington DC
    ••• Story Time at the Library of Congress Young Readers Center. Courtesy of Library of Congress

    Story hours are a great opportunity to engage children in reading at an early age. Public libraries offer story hours and special programs to introduce young children to books, rhymes, music and other fun activities.