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Things To Do With Kids In DC

Lisa offspring stand upon the Lincoln Memorial gazing across the park

Things To Do With Kids In DC

As a working parent, you learn to be efficient: taking calls while commuting to pick the kids up from school, networking at Little League, stock-piling snacks in the trunk for “those” days. It makes you excited to find memorable ways to spend precious time with your children that’s hard to come by.

I’ve lived in D.C. for 17 years, and my children have grown up here. I’ll admit, we take our amazing city for granted. There are so many things to do and see (many of them free!) that people travel thousands of miles for. A lot of these attractions combine fun with outdoor discovery and education, so why not see them with your kids? While it does help to have a child with even a tiny interest in American history, there’s plenty of family fun around this city. Here are a few must-dos:

The Monuments: You can’t come to D.C. without touring the monuments. For as long as I’ve lived here and as many times as I’ve walked the National Mall, I have a different experience each time. Some kids may get more excited about a statue of FDR’s dog than of the former President himself, but the monuments are bigger and more impressive than you’d imagine. I like to encourage my curious children to ask the Park Rangers questions. If boredom or tired legs set in, there’s always a food or ice cream truck nearby that can be a nice bribe! Here are some worthwhile specifics:

  1. Sit at the top of the Lincoln Memorial with the President behind you and look down the Mall toward the Capitol. You’re seeing about two miles of patriotism and remembrances, and it never gets old.
  2. o Find your ancestors on the Vietnam Wall, in the registry of veterans at the World War II Memorial, or at the Navy Memorial (p.s. visit the Heritage Center underground after).

Paddle boating in the Tidal Basin: Amazing views of the Monuments (particularly Jefferson) and relaxing on the water? It doesn’t get much better—or more “D.C.”. Bonus points if you go during cherry blossom season! Keep in mind that it is a seasonal activity (March - October), and if your child isn’t willing to paddle, you will break a sweat! (Note: there’s a fee for this activity!)

Ford’s Theatre: This is one of my absolute favorite places in D.C. as it combines theatre, American history, and a twinge of murder mystery! There are tours of the theatre and the Peterson House across the street (where Lincoln was taken after being shot), and a museum in the theatre basement. You need to buy tickets in advance, but it’s cheap and the money goes to the theatre’s restoration. You’ll get to sit in the theatre and listen to the story of that crazy night in 1865. By day, Ford’s Theatre is a tourist Mecca. By night, it’s still an active theatre. So if you aren’t quite ready to talk about Presidential assassination with your children, perhaps you can snag tickets to an evening show and enjoy the history quietly while your family enjoys the action on stage.

Play Catch or Picnic on the Mall: It’s the Nation’s Backyard, so why not play in it? Just like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, The National Mall is part of the U.S. Park Service. Give your legs a break from walking and play catch on the sprawling lawns. Spread out a blanket and relax with a book or snacks (but don’t interrupt the softball or kickball games that pop up after work during spring and summer!). You could walk all day and night and not see every museum or monument, but DC isn’t about burning the candle at both ends—it’s about taking it all in and being thankful for what we’ve been given as Americans.

Wolf Trap: Another part of the National Park system, The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, brings smaller acts, children’s shows, orchestras paired with film, and sing-a-longs to the Virginia suburbs. Buy lawn tickets, bring your blanket and picnic, and enjoy the show. Parking is close, and the venue is intimate. Plus, you don’t have to worry about strapping your kids in a chair for a two hour performance! It’s also fun without kids (just swap the juice boxes for a bottle of wine)!

Take in a Game: Baseball in the nation’s capital just makes sense, doesn’t it? Grab some Family Fun Pack tickets and a picture with a racing president (in the concourse along first base after the 4th inning race). There’s a large play structure in the right field concourse and a shady lounge by Shake Shack on the second level, which is a great place to hang with the kids when the sun is beating down.

Udvar Hazy: Don’t miss the Air & Space Annex, Udvar Hazy, in an old hangar by Dulles Airport. You won’t find small artifacts and memorabilia, but rather aircrafts like fighter jets and space shuttles. For kids, sometimes “big” is more impressive. Plus, give them more space to move around, and you’ve got a winner. (Note: Admission is free, but parking is not.)

Laying Wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery: There’s never a lack of family-friendly volunteer opportunities across Washington, but it’s hard to find one that touches me more than remembering our veterans over the holidays. Each December, Wreaths Across America hosts a day at Arlington National Cemetery where volunteers place a wreath at each grave. It’s an amazing way to teach young ones about giving back to those who gave so much.

 

Washington, DC
  • 'as many times as I’ve walked the National Mall, I have a different experience each time.'

  • Lisa
  • 'Sit at the top of the Lincoln Memorial'

  • Lisa
  • 'Find your ancestors on the Vietnam Wall, in the registry of veterans at the World War II Memorial'

  • Lisa
  • '...the Navy Memorial'

  • Lisa
  • '...look down the Mall toward the Capitol'

  • Lisa
  • 'The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts brings smaller acts, children’s shows, orchestras paired with film, and sing-a-longs to the Virginia suburbs.'

  • Lisa
  • 'By day, Ford’s Theatre is a tourist Mecca'

  • Lisa
  • 'Paddle boating in the Tidal Basin'

  • Lisa
  • 'Don’t miss the Air & Space Annex, Udvar Hazy'

  • Lisa
  • 'Laying Wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery'

  • Lisa

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