Things to Do in Washington DC with Kids

Washington DC is one of our favorite long-weekend getaways since it’s only about six hours from our house. There are SO MANY different things to do in Washington DC with Kids – and a lot of it is free! – so we never get tired of going! We make it a point to see or do something new when we’re in town, but we always make time for some of our favorites.

Washington DC with Kids

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

gravestones at Arlington National Cemetary

The largest military cemetery in the US, Arlington National Cemetery, is the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members and their families. As a military family, ANC is very near and dear to our hearts. While many would balk at the idea of taking small children there, we found it to be the perfect opportunity to talk about our country’s history as well as discuss (and practice!) how we show respect for the deceased. ANC conducts roughly 30 funerals on a typical weekday, so it is imperative that you’re quiet and respectful throughout the cemetery. Some areas, like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, require silence which we practiced many times, well in advance.

We’ve explored ANC on foot, making sure to see both the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the JFK Gravesite and eternal flame, but next time we’re there, I plan to do one of the Arlington National Cemetery Tours for a more comprehensive experience. Now that Jacob is buried at Arlington, I foresee many visits in our future.

kids at Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery

Consider volunteering with Wreaths Across America if you have the time and are visiting on the third Saturday in December (December 17, 2022, for this year). This fantastic organization ensures that a wreath is placed on each and every gravestone at Arlington and 2500 other military cemeteries around the country. Their mission statement: “REMEMBER our fallen US veterans. HONOR those who serve. TEACH your children the value of freedom.” is near and dear to our family. Volunteers of all ages are welcome and highly needed! Registration, which is required, starts around Veteran’s Day on their website.

rows of graves with wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery Washington DC

Arlington National Cemetary is a beautiful place year-round, but there’s something extra special about it during the holidays. I can only imagine what it looks like with a fresh blanket of snow.

TOUR THE MEMORIALS IN WASHINGTON DC WITH KIDS

kids at Jefferson Memorial at night

Washington DC is FULL of monuments and memorials like the Washington Monument and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. While you can definitely see many of the most popular ones on foot, a guided tour offers far more information and saves your feet! We did the DC at Dusk tour through USA Guided Tours on one of our last visits, and it was phenomenal! Over the course of three hours, we saw many of the highlights of Washington DC on our combination bus/walking tour and learned so much about the local history from our guide.

smiling girl touring memorials in Washington DC

While not nearly as popular (crowded) as the other memorials, the FDR Memorial is one of my favorites. It’s on the western shore of the Tidal Basin and leads you through FDR’s four terms in office. Twenty-two quotations from during his presidency are engraved in the granite walls of the memorial.

Washington Monument and cherry blossoms

And if you time your visit just right (late March, early April), you’ll be treated to gorgeous, pink cherry blossoms throughout the city. The best place to see them is at the tidal basin near the Jefferson, FDR, and MLK memorials.

FORD’S THEATRE HISTORIC SITE

Lincoln video at Ford's Theatre

Ford’s Theatre is an absolutely exceptional stop in Washington DC – I’m honestly not sure why it took so long for us to visit. A small museum goes through Lincoln’s presidency, the Civil War and then culminates with his assassination. Right now, museum tours are self-guided, and advanced $3 timed tickets are required.

We were all shocked to see the size of the gun that John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate President Lincoln. And yes, that’s the actual gun! He picked a small gun because it was easy to conceal, but that meant that he only had one chance to kill Lincoln. Kids can hear stories about history over and over, but sometimes it doesn’t stick until they SEE it. And seeing the gun that assassinated a president is something they’ll remember forever.

kids at Ford's Theatre next to the Lincoln assassination box

Thanks to Ford’s Theatre for hosting us. We received complimentary tickets, but all opinions are honest and my own.

After the museum, you can walk into the theatre and see the Presidential Box where Lincoln was sitting when John Wilkes Booth assassinated him. Park rangers are available to answer questions and provide historical information about the theatre. And if you have time, did you know that you can still see live performances at Ford’s Theatre? We saw A Christmas Carol while we were in town, and it was an excellent addition to our holiday trip!

US CAPITOL

smiling kids on the steps of the US Capitol

Seeing the US Capitol up close, or even better yet, from the inside, is such a great way to expose kids to the interworkings of our government. Free tours run throughout the day, nearly 365 days a year, and while advance reservations are recommended, same-day passes are often available. However, we recommend contacting the office of your representative or senator because you can usually get a more private, staff-led tour.

SMITHSONIAN MUSEUMS IN WASHINGTON DC WITH KIDS

Spirit of St Louis at the Air & Space Museum Washington DC with Kids

With 16 museums and the National Zoo in Washington DC (11 of which are on the National Mall), there’s a Smithsonian for everyone! The National Air and Space Museum (pictured) and the National Museum of American History are two of our faves! While we love going back to our favorites, we also try and visit a new (to us!) Smithsonian Museum every time we’re in town.

THE WHITE HOUSE

White House Washington DC with Kids

Nothing screams “Washington DC” quite like seeing the White House! We’ve never been able to coordinate one of our visits with doing a White House tour but it’s definitely on our bucket list. Tour requests need to be submitted through the office of your representative or senators 21-90 days in advance of your trip though right now they’re not currently offered.

THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT

smiling kids outside the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument, part of the US National Park Service, deserves its own place on this list. Like the other monuments and memorials in Washington DC, you can walk up to and around the Washington Monument for free, but the best views are from the top of the 555-foot tower!

view of Lincoln Memorial from the Washington Monument

Tickets are required to ride the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument. To get tickets, you need to have a Recreation.gov account and head to the Washington Monument ticket page. The $1 tickets are released one day in advance, at 10am Eastern Time. In peak season, these go very quickly, so make sure you’re online right at 10am to make your reservation. If your party is larger than 6, you’ll need multiple Recreation.gov accounts in order to get enough tickets.

WASHINGTON HARBOUR

Ice skating at Washington Harbour

A huge thanks to the Washington Harbour Ice Rink for hosting us. We received complimentary tickets but all opinions are honest and my own.

The Washington Harbour in Georgetown is a great collection of shops and restaurants nestled along the Potomac waterfront, and from November-March, they have the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Washington DC! They’re open daily although specific hours vary depending on the day so make sure to check ahead of time. Skate rental is available and they have the cutest penguin skate aids for the littlest ones in your group! We had a blast skating around and it was a great change of pace from the usual museums/tours that we do in DC.

RIDE THE METRO IN WASHINGTON DC WITH KIDS

riding the metro Washington DC with Kids

Our kids LOOOOOVE using the metro/subway when we’re on vacation since we don’t have access to one here. In fact, they often comment that it’s their favorite part of our trip and I think they would be perfectly content to spend a day just riding around town and not actually “doing” anything.

There are six lines running through the Washington DC area (including Virginia and Maryland) and 91 different stations. You can check schedules and fares online as well as utilize their trip planner to ensure that you’re taking the most efficient route.

Washington DC is a great family destination for kids of all ages because there is so much to do! We’ve been multiple times with our kids, at just about every age range possible and while we’ve done a lot, we still have SO MUCH to see!!

Have you been to Washington DC before?? What’s your favorite thing to see??

USA Guided Tours | Washington DC

One of our favorite things to do in a new city (or one that we haven’t been to in a while) is take a guided tour to get our bearings and learn more about the area that we’re exploring. On our recent trip to Washington DC, we had the opportunity to partner with USA Guided Tours and check out their DC at Dusk tour to see some of the most popular monuments in the dark.

USA Guided Tours DC at Dusk

A huge thanks to USA Guided Tours for hosting us on the DC at Dusk tour. We received complimentary tickets but all opinions are honest and my own.

USA Guided Tour Washington DC

The tour kicks off at the Navy Memorial (701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW)– just look for the USA Guided Tours busses (there were several the night we did the tour).  We used Parking Panda to secure a parking spot in a nearby garage but the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro Station on the green/yellow lines is right there, too.

The climate-controlled bus kept us nice and warm on our drive through the city! Our first stop was to see the White House- while you don’t get to go super close, it’s still fun to be right there and I loved all of the wreaths on the windows for Christmas!

And since we were there right after Christmas, we were able to see the National Christmas Tree, too. With USA Guided Tours, your tour guide actually hops off the bus and continues the tour as you’re walking around the attractions allowing for even more insight and information.

Our next stop was the National World War II Memorial, which honors the 16 million who served, the more than 400,000 who died, and those who supported the war effort from home.

We’ve visited Washington DC with our kids several times and while we had to explain a lot at each memorial when the kids were little, now that they’re older, they’ve learned a lot of the information in school and the visit is so much more meaningful for them.  I would still take young children to Washinton DC, it’s just been interesting to watch their insights and understanding change over the years.

We hopped back on the bus and made our way to the Jefferson Memorial.

The 19-foot tall statue of Thomas Jefferson with the Declaration of Independence in his hand is centered within the open air dome.  Quotations from his writings are carved into the sides of the chamber.

From the Jefferson Memorial, you can see the lights of Washington DC, the White House, and the Washington Monument.  The kids loved that they were able to hop off the bus and walk around (and take pictures!) during our tour, rather than just listen and see things through the windows.

Across the Tidal Basin, we made a quick stop at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, one of the newest memorials in Washington DC.

From the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, you have a great view of the Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin.

After another quick ride, our bus dropped us off at one of my absolute favorites, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, for the walking part of the tour.  The 19 statues in the Korean War Memorial are made to look like they’re walking through rice paddies in Korea (they stand in juniper bushes and are separated by strips of polished granite).

Next, we walked to the Lincoln Memorial and took in the view of the Washington Monument and the US Capitol from the steps and saw where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood to deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Inside the Lincoln Memorial, the statue of Lincoln is 19 feet tall from his head to his feet- if he was standing, the statue would have been 28 feet tall! Our guide pointed out things that we’d never noticed even though we’ve been several times – like the “typo” in one of the inscriptions on the wall!

From the Lincoln Memorial, we walked to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to see the “Three Servicemen” statue.

And ultimately made our way to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  The Wall was designed by a Yale University student as part of a design contest and is actually made up of two 246 foot long black granite walls that meet, creating a chevron.  The names of those who died during or because of the Vietnam War are inscribed on the wall, as are those whose status is MIA.

The bus picked us up by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and we made our way to the last stop of the night. We had time to snap a few pictures near the US Capitol Building with the Capitol Christmas Tree twinkling in front before heading back to the Navy Memorial.

While the tour does not include admission into the US Capitol or the White House, it’s a great way to see both locations while also getting to see many of the monuments and memorials that Washington DC has to offer.  We had a fantastic time on our Washington DC night tour and would definitely book a tour through USA Guided Tours again- our guide was very knowledgeable and kept the kids engaged during our 3-hour tour of the monuments and memorials.  The DC at Dusk tour, through USA Guided Tours, is a fantastic way to see some of the most popular attractions in the city.  It offers low crowds, comfortable buses, and tour guides that go above and beyond.

Kimpton Hotel Madera | Washington DC

If you’re traveling with a large family as we do, finding somewhere to stay can be particularly challenging and while we could always get two separate rooms, that can be a very costly option and it’s not as fun as staying together.  When combined with the high hotel prices of a major US city, a trip to Washington DC for our family of seven can quickly get very expensive.  Enter the Kimpton Hotel Madera in the Dupont Circle area of Washington DC and their amazing Queen+Queen+Sofa Bed+Bunk beds room!

Kimpton Hotel Madera

A huge thanks to the Kimpton Hotel Madera for hosting us on our Washington DC getaway. We received a discounted stay but all opinions are honest and my own.

Kimpton Hotel Madera Entrance

The Kimpton Hotel Madera is tucked away on a tree-lined street, somewhat removed from the hustle and bustle of Washington DC but still close enough to be walkable to many of the city’s most popular sites. Only a couple of blocks from the Dupont Circle Metro Station, the hotel is a great option for those wanting easy access to public transportation.

Kimpton Hotel Madera Beds

The room has a modern feel to it but not in a pretentious way- the look is warm and inviting with splashes of color.

Kimpton Hotel Madera Bunks

There’s an alcove to the side of the room that houses the bunk beds along with a sleeper sofa and another TV.  This area is what sealed the deal for our family since the room comfortably sleeps eight- plus, how cool are bunk beds on vacation?!  Our kids played many games of rock, paper, scissors to figure out the sleeping arrangements during our stay since they all wanted a turn on the bunks!

Kimpton Hotel Madera Bathroom

The bathroom was clean and I really appreciated that the sink area was separate from the toilet/shower room since it makes it so much easier to get all seven of us ready in the morning when multiple people can use the bathroom area at one time.

Kimpton Hotel Madera Xbox

The kids LOVED the extra tv (and XBOX!) in the alcove by the sofa bed/bunk beds and it was a fun way for them to unwind in the evenings.  I cannot think of anything that would appeal to teen boys more than a tv and video games!

Kimpton Hotel Madera Robes

Another fun Kimpton touch is the animal print robes in the closet!  Every Kimpton room comes complete with robes so that you can be comfortable while you travel.  The kid-sized robes were a fantastic surprise and Ellie adored lounging around in the smallest one.

We had a wonderful time during our stay at the Kimpton Hotel Madera and would not hesitate to stay there next time we’re in Washington DC.  My only issue, and really, it’s a minor one, is that the lobby is so small and can only comfortably accommodate a handful of people at a time. Our family alone filled all of the available seats in the lobby and while normally that’s not an issue, it was pouring rain during our entire stay and we used our vehicle instead of public transportation which meant that we (along with lots of other people) waited in the lobby for the valet.  This wasn’t a make it or break it issue for our family but if you enjoy relaxing in the hotel lobby, just be aware that it’s really small.

Overall though, our stay was great and the design of the room worked perfectly for our large family!  The Kimpton Hotel Madera offers fantastic room configurations at a reasonable price considering the proximity to public transportation as well as the walkability to popular locations in the city making it a great option for families (large and small!) traveling to Washington DC!

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