Washington, D.C. has been a top family vacation destination for generations, and it’s easy to see why. From the important political landmarks to the trove of kid-friendly museums of the National Mall, the United States capital city has enough to fill any vacation itinerary. Kids of all ages are sure to love touring the prestigious Capitol Building, seeing pandas up-close at the National Zoo, and entering the world of James Bond at the International Spy Museum. After booking a charming Washington D.C. vacation rental, venture out to enjoy the nine best attractions to visit with kids during your trip to the historic city.
1. Visit the White House
Even when it’s not open for tours, the White House is a must-see for any Washington family vacation. After snapping a few photos in front of the President’s home, kids can spot fun features such as the White House beehives, the Blair House hosting important visitors from around the world, and the First Lady’s vegetable garden. If you get really lucky, kids of all ages are sure to enjoy spotting the President’s helicopter touching down in the West Lawn.
2. Explore the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Once you’ve finished marveling at the 13-foot bull elephant in the central area, start exploring to see more than 126 million pieces ranging from the legendary Hope Diamond to dinosaur skeletons. Older kids can participate in live science experiments and watch a film in the IMAX theater, and little ones are sure to love walking through the Butterfly Pavilion and watching the staff feed the live tarantulas. For more fun for your tiny tots, visit the Q?RIUS jr. discovery room to let them color, read a children’s book, and view objects such as rocks and butterfly wings under a microscope.
3. Spark Imagination at the National Air and Space Museum
Take a short walk to the next Smithsonian museum on the National Mall to explore the largest collection of spacecraft and aircraft in the world. Here, kids of all ages can watch space films in the IMAX theater, try their hand at flight simulators, and gaze at stars in the planetarium. Some of the pieces on display include the Spirit of St. Louis that Charles Lindbergh flew, the command module from Apollo 11, and the Bell X-1 that broke the sound barrier.
4. Check Out the National Museum of American History
Interactive exhibits, hands-on activities, and display items such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Harry Potter’s cloak make this museum a family favorite of the National Mall. Tiny tots can ride a model tugboat and play in a kid-sized Julia’s Kitchen in Wegmans Wonderplace while older kids can become great inventors at Spark!Lab. Remember to stop by the Welcome Center to see what interactive activities are scheduled for the day.
5. Ride the Carousel Between Museum Visits
While you can always take the Metro back to your vacation rental to grill in the yard for a break from the hustle and bustle, you can also stroll the grounds of the National Mall to soak up the sun. Younger kids are sure to have a blast choosing their animal to ride on the carousel while parents kick back and rest their legs.
6. Encounter Exotic Animals at the National Zoo
More than 2,000 animals call the National Zoo home, including two giant pandas, African lions, and Sumatran tigers. Kids young and old love walking through the 15,000-square-foot rainforest recreation, watching the chimps’ antics at the Great Ape House, and spotting sea life in the 55,000-gallon aquarium. Little ones always enjoy petting the animals at the Kids Farm.
7. Become a Reporter at the Newseum
More than just an all-ages museum about the history and importance of the press, this interactive museum offers tons of hands-on activities for kids of all ages. Here, kids can become news reporters, reading their own news stories from a teleprompter before they air in the NBC Interactive Newsroom. They can also watch the 4-D Time Travel Adventure film, watch documentaries in one of the 15 theater rooms, and view traveling exhibits from around the world.
8. Go Undercover at the International Spy Museum
Kids can channel their inner James Bond at this unique museum featuring artifacts and exhibits such as cipher machines, weapon concealment devices, and photos taken by real spies. You can also view a model of the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger and watch archival footage related to the world of espionage. One of the biggest attractions of the International Spy Museum is the hour-long Operation Spy experience in which older kids can step into the shoes of a spy to locate the device needed to trigger a bomb.
9. Take a Tour of the Capitol Building
While tours of the White House are tough to come by, you can book a free tour of the Capitol Building online from the comfort of your Washington vacation rental as little as a day before your visit. The educational tour and history lesson present some interesting facts to ponder while families walk through one of the most important buildings in the nation. If you want your kids to get a little more learning in their Washington vacation, you can also tour the Senate and House galleries, although booking these tours requires going through your senator or representative.
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