With a plethora of attractions, easy-to-use transportation, and some of our country’s top museums, Washington, D.C., should be on every family’s must-travel list. But determining which sites to see—and what to do when you get there—can be downright overwhelming.

If you’re looking for the top places in Washington, D.C., for families, we’ve got you covered with this handy map. From vintage carousels to artsy hot spots, D.C. offers something for everyone. We’ve catalogued the most important tourist sites on the National Mall as well as under-the-radar destinations that will have your kiddos pretending to be international spies or kayaking in the Potomac.

Whether you’re a longtime local or a first-time visitor to our nation’s capitol, here are the 25 best things to do with kids.

Traveling to other cities with your kiddos? Don’t miss Curbed’s maps of the best family activities in PhiladelphiaBostonDetroitAtlantaChicagoMiamiLos AngelesSeattleSan FranciscoNew OrleansAustin, and New York City.

1. Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole

1400 Lake Fairfax Dr
Reston, VA 20190
(703) 471-5415

Visit Website

In Reston, Virginia, this family water park offers over an acre of slides (some as high as three stories), splash areas, and a water playground to top it all off. There is also a 725-foot-long lazy river for those who would prefer to relax. Toddlers should head to the gentle bubblers and pint-sized slides.

2. Clemyjontri Park

6317 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA

In 2006, Clemyjontri Park became Virginia’s first accessible park, where children of all abilities can have a parallel playground experience. Look for the lowered monkey bars, swings with high backs, and rubber ground surfaces so wheelchairs can roll easily.

3. Glen Echo Park

7300 MacArthur Blvd
Glen Echo, MD

Founded in 1891, this historic park offers a beautiful vintage carousel and an arts and cultural center with classes, workshops, and performances. Don’t miss the annual Family Day, a kid-centric day of magic shows, storytelling, and face painting.

4. Georgetown Waterfront Park

3303 Water St NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 895-6000

Visit Website

The Georgetown Waterfront Park provides a gorgeous view at dusk when the lights from the Kennedy Center are glowing across the Potomac River. During the day, kiddos will love the 10-acre park’s splash fountain. Pro tip: You can also rent canoes and kayaks from the Thompson Boat Center.

Shutterstock

5. Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

3001 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, D.C.

The National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the nation—not to mention it’s free!—and it houses everything from cheetahs to pandas to apes. There are also annual family-friendly events like Boo at the Zoo and ZooLights, a must-see for holiday lights in December.

6. Mount Vernon Trail

Mount Vernon Trail
Alexandria, VA

Perfect for biking, this 18-mile paved trail stretches from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. Head over to this map for helpful parking locations, and don’t forget the water.

Shutterstock

7. Rock Creek Park

Beach Dr NW
Washington, D.C.

With 1,674 acres, Rock Creek Park is one of America’s largest and oldest city parks, so it’s worth a visit. Start at the Nature Center for ranger-led educational programs, and don’t miss the easy half-mile Woodland Trail for aspiring hikers.

8. Wheaton Regional Park

2000 Shorefield Rd
Wheaton, MD

This kid-friendly oasis provides a little bit of everything, like a train ride perfect for tots, a carousel, ice rink, dog park, and picnic tables. Sure, it’s a bit farther out of the city than most options on this list, but it’s worth the trek.

9. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

301 14th St SW
Washington, DC 20228
(202) 874-2330

Visit Website

Ignore the boring name and get ready for a 40-minute tour that covers how U.S. currency is printed. No tickets are required and the fast-paced tours operate every 15 minutes. If your child loves collecting coins or is a budding entrepreneur, this one’s for you.

10. Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560
(844) 750-3012

Visit Website

stunning museum with nearly 400,000 square feet dedicated to exploring the African-American story, this museum is a must-see stop for school-aged children to learn about inclusion, injustice, and tolerance.

Sports-addicted kiddos will like the “Leveling the Playing Field” exhibit to learn how sports players fought for equality, while other exhibits teach similar stories through music or fashion. Don’t miss Explore More!, an interactive exhibit where kids can drive an antique car and search for a sunken slave ship. Pro tip: While the museum is free, its popularity means that you’ll likely need timed entry tickets.

11. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 488-0400

Visit Website

Kids eight or older can learn a lot at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. Head to Daniel’s Story, a permanent exhibit that explains the Holocaust from a child’s point of view and don’t miss the end of the exhibit where children can write messages to other visitors about their experience.

12. International Spy Museum

700 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 393-7798

Visit Website

For families that enjoy a bit of intrigue, head to the International Spy Museum. Best suited for kids seven years and older, the interactive KidSpy Zone lets you explore fun games and learn to talk like a spy. The museum opened in a newly constructed building in L’Enfant Plaza in 2019.

13. Smithsonian National Museum of American History

1300 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000

Visit Website

History moves way beyond boring at this museum, where a collection of three million artifacts are brought to life through top-notch exhibitions. Younger kiddos should head to the hands-on spaces Object Project and Wegmans Wonderplace, while kids aged 6-12 will love becoming inventors at Spark!Lab.

14. Smithsonian Discovery Theater

1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 633-8700

Visit Website

Located in the Ripley Center on the National Mall, the Discovery Theater is an interactive experience for school-aged children. You can expect weekday puppet shows, music, storytelling, and even mimes.

15. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000

Visit Website

Head to this Smithsonian museum to see giant dinosaur skeletons and fossils, the world’s largest faceted aquamarine gem, and live butterflies and insects. And while older kids will get the most out of the educational exhibits, younger kids shouldn’t miss the hands-on Discovery Room.

Visitors at the Main Hall of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
 Shutterstock

16. Hains Point

Ohio Drive SW
Washington, D.C.

Hains Point, at the southern tip of East Potomac Park, is a waterfront park between the main branch of the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. Enjoy views of the river and plenty of green space and trails for picnics or biking. You can also watch planes taking off and landing at Reagan National Airport.

Shutterstock

17. National Gallery of Art

6th & Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20565
(202) 737-4215

Visit Website

The massive collection—think everything from Byzantine altarpieces to pop art—at the National Gallery of Art might seem more geared towards adults, but kids can still have a great time. Stop by the Education Studio in the East Building for an interactive guide and hands-on art activities, and don’t miss story times and other family-friendly program offerings.

18. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

600 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-2214

Visit Website

If your kiddo loves to search the sky, this is a don’t miss. The Air & Space Museum boasts the world’s largest collection of airplanes and spacecraft distributed between 23 galleries. Kids can explore what it’s like to be an astronaut, experience flight simulators, marvel at iconic aviators, and enjoy planetarium shows.

An aerial view of the National Air and Space Museum. 
Shutterstock

19. Newseum

555 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 292-6100

Visit Website

Older kids will love the Newseum, an under-the-radar and interactive museum dedicated to defending free speech and the history of communication. Get ready to become a television reporter, play in a life-like newsroom, and tackle real-life reporting dilemmas to see how journalists adhere to media ethics. Plans are in the works for the museum to relocate, so check it out while it’s still in its current location.

An interactive exhibit at Newseum where visitors can pretend to be on TV.
 Shutterstock

20. National Building Museum

401 F St NW
Washington, D.C.

No matter the time of year, the National Building Museum has something to offer. Every summer in the Great Hall there is a larger-than-life, interactive installation designed by famous architecture firms. At other times, families can enjoy exhibits like the Building Zone, a hands-on introduction to the building arts for those under six.

21. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

4th St SW & Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000

Visit Website

There are plenty of hands-on activities at this top-notch museum; start by diving into ancient cultures at the ImagiNations Activity Center. Kids will have a ball playing drums, listening to a story, and earning badges by playing an interactive quiz show.

Shutterstock

22. United States Botanic Garden

100 Maryland Ave SW
Washington, D.C.

Time to smell the roses … and pretty much any other flower and plant you can think of. At the Botanic Garden, families can get an inside look at one of the oldest continually operating botanic gardens in North America. In spring and summer, a seasonal Children’s Garden lets kids explore plants in bloom and play with gardening tools.

23. Smithsonian National Postal Museum

2 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 633-5555

Visit Website

Kids love getting mail of their own, so it’s no wonder the National Postal Museum is a hit. Check out this kid-friendly itinerary and don’t miss the chance to make your own stamp design or meet Owney the Dog, the mascot of the Railway Post Office.

24. Canal Park

200 M St SE
Washington, D.C.

While offering one of the best ice skating rinks in the D.C. area, Canal Park also comes with three acres of seasonal markets, dancing fountains (in the summer), and family events. The Northern Block of the park is perfect for picnics and lawn games, while the Middle Block comes with benches with A/C power for laptops and mobile devices. The Southern Block is also worth a visit if hungry as there are a variety of places for eating.

25. The Yards

301 Water St SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 465-7093

Visit Website

This recently constructed riverfront park offers loads of retail and restaurant options, but the highlight in the summer is the dancing fountains. You can also enjoy the view of the Anacostia River or have a picnic on the grass.

26. Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion

Anacostia Dr SE
Washington, D.C.

Relax by the water, exercise at the fitness station, or check out the skating pavilion (open in the summer). This is one of Washington, D.C.’s largest parks—and it’s all free—spanning over 1,200 acres, so you’re bound to find a place to unwind without having to worry about crowds.

27. United States National Arboretum

3501 New York Ave NE
Washington, D.C.

Adults will love seeing the columns that originally supported the old East Portico of the Capitol building and a 390-year-old bonsai tree that survived an atomic bomb. But kids should visit the U.S. National Arboretum for the Washington Youth Garden, a one-acre demonstration garden—complete with a stage and sand boxes—where they can learn about, dig, and even water the plants.

28. Bladensburg Waterfront Park

4601 Annapolis Rd
Bladensburg, MD

Located on the Anacostia River, this waterfront park is perfect for the younger set who want to get active. Families can canoe, kayak, bike, take an interpretive river boat tour, fish off the pier, and explore the many hiking trails. Even in the winter it’s a good spot to stretch your legs on a sunnier day.

Washington Post/Getty Images

29. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

1550 Anacostia Ave NE
Washington, DC 20019
(202) 692-6080

Visit Website

Enjoy some natural beauty with your family at this gorgeous national park within the city limits. Budding artists can try drawing or painting the waterlilies and lotuses that fill the place. Watch out for various species of birds and other critters, too.

Shutterstock

30. Nationals Park

1500 S Capitol St SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 675-6287

Visit Website

Take them out to the ballgame. An added bonus: There’s plenty to eat at Nats Park while watching America’s national pastime play out in the nation’s capital. Be sure to read our guide to the stadium before you go.

The Washington Post/Getty Images

Source