Kid-Friendly Activities in the Nation’s Capital
Over 20 million visitors a year flock to the nation's capital to see its famous landmarks, from ground-level parks to the Washington Monument standing at 555 feet high, and museums. While there definitely is an educational and historical aspect to many of the sites, there are many places in Washington D.C. that offer activities (and some learning) for all-ages, making it an ideal family vacation destination. If traveling with kids, mix some of our suggestions in your itinerary to help avoid boredom, snoozing, or worse, complaining, the whole time.
International Spy Museum
The title says it all—this museum is dedicated to the long and illustrious history of spies and stealing and concealing secrets. In fact, this museum has over 750 items on display, the largest collection of espionage artifacts in the world. Learn about espionage dating back to Greek and Roman times, how covert missions helped shape history and even present-day situations. Your kids will become engrossed in the photographs, interactive displays, and videos explaining nifty gadgets and various spy techniques.
Once inside, you’ll adopt a cover identity and learn why they’re so important to agents the world over. In your role, you can learn about code-making and breaking, celebrity spies through history, and how spies get their training. Stop at the spy store after your visit to get your own gadgets such as glasses that can see behind you or various surveillance equipment. Make sure you’re not the target of any missions!
United States Botanic Garden
This free outdoor plant museum allows you to explore the grounds and see hundreds of varieties of plants and flowers, some very rare. There are many activities tailored to kids of all ages. At the entrance, "passports" are available for younger kids, where they walk through the Conservatory and learn about the parts of a plant and which plants are edible. Each passport activity is 30-45 minutes and can be treated as a fun expedition.
Kids 9 and older can participate in a program to become Junior Botanists. You will check out a Junior Botanist Adventure Kit, which is a backpack full of adventure sheets, and work in teams to explore the gardens and learn about the inner workings of plants and their different uses. Once completed, they can receive an Apprentice Junior Botanist badge. Check with the visitor desk to ask if any free 45-minute tours are available. If there aren't any, you can take use your cell phone to learn about the gardens and plants for a self-guided audio tour.
Georgetown Waterfront Park
Perfect for an outdoor adventure, this park boasts stunning views of the Potomac River. Within this 10-acre park, you can kayak down the river, bike with the family along the banks, or have a picnic in a shady area. The seemingly endless green space is also dog-friendly, so you might run into some friendly pups during your visit. Watch a sunset on the river steps or let the kids splash around in the fountains when it’s hot outside.
National Air and Space Museum
If you’re going to go to one major museum with the kids, make it this one. They will spend hours exploring the interactive exhibits, touching gadgets, and getting hands-on with materials used to send us to space.
Within the expansive museum are missiles, aircraft, and even space stations! Kids (and you) can touch a lunar sample from the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. The best part? It’s completely free!
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