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5 Must See Sites in Washington DC with Kids

Our nation’s capital is a must-see destination for family travelers. No matter what your interests are, Washington DC has something for you, whether you like the great outdoors, history, culture or museums, it’s all here for you to explore.

Our 3-day trip to Washington DC was packed with fun-filled adventure from start to finish. We saw all the major sites as well as the White House. The first time I went to DC was in college with some friends. We went down during spring break to see some crew racing and the cherry blossoms. I fell in love with DC on that trip and have wanted to go back ever since. Well, I finally got my family down there and boy were they glad we went.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC
The girls in front of the Lincoln Memorial

First Must See Site – The National Mall and Capitol Building

Being the mom that I am and loving the history of the United States I had to include the monuments, Capitol and the White House. These were a must see. We also stopped by the Ranger Station near Lincoln’s Memorial and picked up a Junior Ranger booklet for the girls to work on while seeing the monuments, click here to get your copy. Walking among the monuments was more moving then I think Clint or I thought it would be. We had to explain what each of the monuments was for to the girls but they did understand why we have the memorials. Their profound statement was “why do we have war anyway?”

The National Mall

Evelyn had been studying Abraham Lincoln in school and had memorized the first half of the Gettysburg Address. She was thrilled (and surprised) when we walked up to Lincoln’s Memorial and said: “there it is!” It was quite funny like someone was teasing her that is wasn’t actual Lincoln’s speech.

Starting out at the National Mall, from Lincoln’s Memorial to the Capitol Building is a little over a 2-mile walk but oh so memorable. Just walking by you can feel the significance of each memorial. Enjoy the walk or take a nighttime bike ride, either way, take in the National Mall.

WWII Memorial, Washington DC
World War II Memorial

The Washington Monument offers a tour but was closed for renovations when we went. However, I’m sure it is well worth the price of admission to go in and see the views of the city from the 500-foot level of the tower. They have exhibits on two floors with historic and modern photographs of Washington and how the monument was designed and built. As well as exhibits about the city, named after our first president, was designed. Certainly, work a look.

Washington Monument, Washington DC
The Washington Memorial
The Capitol Building
Capitol Building, Washington DC

No visit to Washington DC is complete without a visit to the Capitol Building. Inside the Capitol, you can take a tour. You can also get a workbook for little kids to do during the tour to keep them engaged, click here for K-2nd graders. For upper-level elementary kids, click here. For 11-year-olds and older, click here. The tours are interactive and really gives you an understanding of what the Capitol is about and what happens here. I think our favorite rooms were the crypt in addition to the Rotunda. I couldn’t stop looking up in the Rotunda!

Capitol Building, Washington DC
The ceiling of the Rotunda
Capitol Building, Washington DC
The gallery of the Rotunda

Second Must See Site – The White House

White House, Washington DC

Visiting the White House was definitely a highlight of our trip. To visit you must contact your state senator to request a visit. You can request a date anytime between 3 months and 21 days in advance of your trip. It wasn’t difficult it was just part of my planning and I’m so glad I put this on our itinerary.

We entered through the East Wing and were able to see the China room as well as the Library, Vermeil room, East room, Green, Blue, and Red rooms and State Dining room. You exit through the front entrance where cars can drive up to. You’ve seen this entrance when Presidents are receiving guests to the White House. The tour is self-guided but there are secret service agents around to answer any questions you might have. It’s an amazing building, I just wish we could have seen the Oval Office! However, it wasn’t included on the tour.

White House, Washington DC
Entering the White House
White House, Washington DC
Walking up to the the White House
White House, Washington DC
The China Room
White House, Washington DC
The Library
White House, Washington DC
The East Room
White House, Washington DC
The State Dining Room which can seat 140 guests
White House, Washington DC
Under the Presidential Seal
White House, Washington DC
Leaving out the front entrance

Third Must See Site – The Smithsonian

Smithsonian, Washington DC
Our future pilot

After all this history we hit the museums but not just any museums, interactive museums! The Smithsonian is amazing for kids! It will have your kids looking around the next corner to see what else there is to explore. The Smithsonian is free so don’t miss it, even if you can only give it an hour or two. We enjoyed the planes, space shuttle capsules, but the rockets the most. My kids are always the ones to raise their hands when there is a presentation and there was no exception. However, I don’t think Ainsley was too happy with what she got to hold. She looks upset. LOL, kids.

Smithsonian, Washington DC
I think Ainsley wanted to hold the earth, not the moon

Fourth Must See Site – The International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum, Washington DC
Spy Weapons

The International Spy Museum is worth a full day on anyone’s itinerary. They’ve moved since we visited but luckily they still have plenty of places to eat right around the museum. We got our hands stamped, left for lunch then went back to finish up. You will be amazed at all the exhibits. The kids will be thrilled with how interactive the museum is. They get to solve mysteries and puzzles, break secrets codes and messages in addition to BEING part of the exhibit. It’s a real thrill!

International Spy Museum, Washington DC
Some gift?
International Spy Museum, Washington DC
Read the caption

The museum also has a huge amount of spy weapons and some ‘memorabilia’ to look at. Take this gift to the US Ambassador from the children of Russia. Some gift? I won’t spoil the thrill of this museum for you as adults, but you will be surprised to see what famous people are highlighted inside. You’ll have to go for yourself to find out who is in there though and what they did. Don’t miss the gift shop. My kids found a few new book series to read.

International Spy Museum, Washington DC
James Bond’s car

Fifth Must See Site – The National Zoo

National Zoo, Washington DC
Panda’s eating dinner

If only for the Pandas and nothing else the zoo is worth the time to go plus it’s free to get in. We went late in the day during Panda feeding time and we weren’t disappointed. They were happily eating their bamboo while we visited. A few even got sleepy and took a nap. The elephants were fun to watch as well and the kids certainly got a kick out of the exhibit showing how much an elephant eats and in one day. The leopards were sleeping when we were there but close to the fence so we got a look at them in the grass. The animals are amazing, go have a look.

National Zoo, Washington DC
Baby elephant

I also wanted to let you know of a great gluten free restaurant we found in Washington DC. Wicked Waffle was a wonderful afternoon stop for us. Having most of the menu gluten free made it even nicer. In other words, Evelyn had her choice of waffle. She had her favorite, of course, Nutella and bananas. We all enjoyed the afternoon treat and I recommend you stop by when you’re in Washington DC.

Wicked Waffles, Washington DC
Afternoon snack, yum!

Pin for Later

Are you planning a trip to Washington DC? What are you looking forward to seeing the most?

If you like this adventure check out Riding the Rails with Rail Explorers.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Lisa Manderino

    I lived in DC for a year and it was so amazing! We tried to do as much as possible but I still feel like there was so much more we missed!

  2. Jen

    We live in the DC area and love taking day trips to the zoo, and the botanical garden is a must see.

  3. Jen

    We live in the area and love taking day trips to the zoo, and the botanical garden is a must see. Glad you enjoyed the visit!

  4. Shirley

    I grew up in Maryland, just 45 miles from DC. We went there all the time when I was a kid and loved it every time we went. Your suggestions are perfect!!

  5. Shannon Delaney

    This looks like a great place to take my grandchildren one day! Thank you for sharing.

  6. James

    Thank you for this guide. What a great variety of photos and good ideas.

  7. Heather

    We loved DC. It is one of my favorite places to visit. There is so much do and most of it is free! The zoo was amazing.

  8. Lori Nielsen

    I love these ideas! I didn’t take kids when I went, but I would like to go back with my grandkids and try the spy museum!

  9. Louise

    I have not been back to DC forever. Need to do that again soon.

  10. Cynthia

    These are such helpful tips. Like you I haven’t been to DC except in my single years. Your suggestions are super helpful with planning. I’m going to pin for later. ❤️

  11. kmf

    Washington DC is one of my favorite cities and a perfect destination for families. Great photos and a good tip about planning in advance if you want to visit the White House.

  12. Missy

    I have not been to Washington DC yet. I look forward to it. I liked the story about the bug in the wood carving.

  13. Amanda

    We were in DC two weeks ago. I didn’t know you could still get into the white house. I am kicking myself for missing that! They stopped doing tours after 9-11 and I didn’t know they started them again. Thanks for sharing! I will have to plan that next time.

  14. Charles McCool

    Nice DC places. We loved taking our kids to the US Botanic Garden, especially at Christmas. Union Station is also fun for children.

    1. Leeanne

      We’ve been to a few botanic gardens whiling traveling but we didn’t make the one in DC. I guess we’ll have to put it on the list for our next visit. We have to go back since the Washington Monument was under construction when we were there. All train stations are fun for me since I studied architecture in school. Grand Central in NYC is amazing.

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