15 Best Places to Go with Kids in the Washington, D.C. Area

Milestones of Flight
••• Milestones of Flight. Eric Long/NASM
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    What to See and Do with Kids in the D.C. Capital Region

    Washington, D.C. is a great place to explore with kids. Whether you live in the area or are visiting from out of town, the nation's capital has dozens of family-friendly attractions to spark everyone's interests. Plan ahead and enjoy a wide range of museums, monuments, historic sites, live entertainment and outdoor recreation. With so many choices of things to do in the region, here are suggestions for children of all ages.

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    National Zoo

    Panda at Zoo
    ••• Courtesy of Smithsonian National Zoo

    One of the most kid-friendly places to visit in Washington, D.C. is the National Zoo where you can see more than 400 different species of animals. The National Zoo is set within the beautiful Rock Creek National Park and is a part of the Smithsonian Institution. Admission is FREE! Favorite animals include giant pandas, elephants, Komodo dragons, lions, giraffes, bears and orangutans. Daily programs include animal training, feeding demonstrations, and keeper talks. The Zoo tends to be most crowded on weekends during the warmer seasons of the year. Read more about visiting the National Zoo.

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    Natural History Museum

    National Museum of Natural History
    ••• Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

    At this favorite Smithsonian museum, kids enjoy examining a wide variety of artifacts including an 80-foot dinosaur skeleton, an enormous prehistoric white shark, and a 45-and-a-half carat jewel a known as the Hope Diamond. The Discovery Room is a great hands-on display for young children. Feel the skin of a crocodile, examine the jaws and teeth of different animals or try on clothes from around the globe. Spend some time at the Insect Zoo, see live insects on display and check out the daily tarantula feedings. The museum is building a new National Fossil Hall (to open in 2019). In the meantime, the exhibit The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World is a "must see" and occupies a huge space on the second floor. Read more about the Natural History Museum.

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    Air & Space Museum

    Milestones of Flight
    ••• Eric Long/NASM

    The Washington, D.C. museum displays the largest collection of air and spacecraft in the world. Visit with the whole family and learn about the history, science, and technology of aviation and space flight. For an additional fee, there are IMAX films, planetarium shows and simulators you can climb inside and experience the thrill of flight. Children will marvel at the lifesize exhibits such as the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. The museum hosts regular Family Days that offer a wide variety of hands-on activities, presentations, and opportunities to meet pilots, astronauts, and scientists. Story times are available for kids ages 2 to 8. Museum staff and volunteers read stories about famous aviators, hot-air balloon flights, trips to Mars, characters visible in the night sky, or creatures that have their own wings. Read more about the Air & Space Museum.

    For an excursion outside of the city, visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the Air and Space...MORE Museum's location in Northern Virginia.

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    Discovery Theater

    Discovery Theater
    ••• Courtesy of Discovery Theater

    The Smithsonian's Discovery Theater, located in the Ripley Center on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is a live theater geared towards school-age children. Classic stories and folktales are told through puppet shows, storytellers, dancers, actors, musicians, and mimes. Most shows are Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The theater is accommodates groups as well as families. Read more about the Discovery Theater.

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    American History Museum

    Lincoln Hat
    ••• Courtesy of NMAH

    The  American History Museum is a great place for kids of all ages to use their imaginations and learn about our nation's history. Head to the the Spark! Lab, a hands-on science and invention center and America on the Move where you'll see how transportation shaped America. The museum hosts a wide range of family-friendly programs ranging from demonstrations and lectures to storytelling and festivals. Read more about the American History Museum.

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    Bureau of Engraving and Printing

    Money
    ••• Maria Toutoudaki/Getty Images

    Everyone loves to watch real money being printed! See how U.S. paper currency is printed, stacked, cut and examined for defects. Tours are every 15 minutes, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from September through February and from 9:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m. from late March through August. The tour lasts just 40 minutes so it is appropriate for kids of all ages. No tickets are required. Space is given on a first-come, first-served basis so arrive early or be prepared to wait in line. Read more about the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

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    Washington Monument

    Washington Monument
    ••• Rachel Cooper

    Take the elevator to the top of the memorial to George Washington, our nation's first president, and see a wonderful view of Washington, D.C. Kids love to see the city from a bird’s eye view. Junior Ranger booklets are available at the Survey Lodge Ranger Station located along Independence Ave. The Washington Monument is one of the region's most popular attractions. Free time assigned tickets are required. Advanced tickets are available. Read more about the Washington Monument.

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    Tidal Basin

    Tidal Bason cherry blossoms
    ••• John Hudson Photography

    The Tidal Basin is a beautiful place to spend a few hours in the heart of Washington, D.C. During the warmer months of the year, kids enjoy paddle boating as a break from traditional sightseeing. You can also visit the Jefferson Memorial and the FDR Memorial and learn about a few of our most prominent historic leaders. The Tidal Basin is a man-made inlet adjacent to the Potomac River. Visitors are drawn to the area because of its beauty, especially during cherry blossom season in late March and early April. Read more about the Tidal Basin.

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    Glen Echo Park

    Glen Echo Carousel
    ••• Daniel Schreiber

    This wonderful park near Bethesda, Maryland offers year-round activities in dance, theater, and the arts for the adults and children. There are concerts, demonstrations, workshops, and festivals. The antique Dentzel carousel delights children May through September. Enjoy a puppet show at the Puppet Co. or a children’s theatrical performance at Adventure Theatre. At Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region, explore nature, history, and the arts through innovative educational programs and exhibits. Read more about Glen Echo Park.

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    Six Flags America

    Six Flags America
    ••• Courtesy of Six Flags America

    Six Flags America offers a full day of fun just 30 minutes from downtown Washington, D.C. This theme park features more than 100 rides, shows and the area's largest water park. The park is open April through October. The amusement park features live entertainment and hosts special events for spring break, Mothers Day, July 4th, Fathers Day, Halloween and more. Read more about Six Flags America.

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    Pro Sporting Events

    Nationals Park
    ••• Nationals Park

    Kids love to attend live sporting events. Washington sports teams compete in a variety of national leagues including baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey, soccer, and tennis. Attending a game as a family is a great way to get kids excited about being involved in their favorite sports and activities. See the Redskins, the Nationals, the Capitals, the Wizards and more. Read more about Washington, D.C.'s Professional Sports Teams.

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    Imagination Stage

    Imagination Stage, located in Bethesda, Maryland, offers year-round productions of modern and classic plays and classes in drama, acting, dance musical theatre, and filmmaking for children of all ages. The organization also offers summer theatre camps that give campers the opportunity to take part in a full production of a musical or play. Read more about Imagination Stage.

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    Wolf Trap National Park

    Wolf Trap National Park
    ••• Courtesy of Wolf Trap National Park

    Wolf Trap Foundation and the National Park Service present 70 performances from late June through early August at the Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods in Vienna, Virginia. Family-friendly performances, including music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater are held at 10 am and 11:15 am, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Wolf Trap provides year-round concerts for all ages as well as a variety of education programs, artist master classes, special events, and a Holiday Sing-A-Long. Read more about Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

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    Nature Centers

    Turtle
    ••• Compassionate Eye Foundation/Sam Diephuis

    Nature Centers provide kids with lots of hands-on opportunities to explore our environment. From Rock Creek Park to Montgomery County, MD to Arlington, VA, year-round naturalist guided programs will give you insight into the natural habitat of the Washington, D.C. area. Story time programs introduce young children to subjects such as bird nests, bumble bees, turtles, frogs, butterflies or bats. On a guided hike, you may learn to identify common trees and plants or discover tracks, trails and other evidence of creatures that live in the forest. Read more about Nature Centers in the Washington, D.C. Area.

     

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    Roer's Zoofari

    The 30-acre zoo in Reston, Virginia, is great for small children. Skip a hectic excursion into the city and visit this suburban gem with the whole family. Get "up close and personal" with the animals and feed them too! See alligators, camels, reptiles, zebras, antelope, bison, ostrich, and lots more. Read more about Roer's Zoofari.