Washington DC is one of the most popular travel destinations in the United States, and for good reason. This historic city offers a wealth of educational and interactive experiences for families, from the Smithsonian Museums to the National Mall and Monuments. With so much to see and do, planning the perfect family-friendly itinerary can seem daunting. But with a bit of preparation and some insider tips, you can create a week-long itinerary that will keep the whole family engaged and enthralled.
Planning Your Week in Washington DC
Before you start planning your itinerary, it’s important to set some parameters to ensure you don’t go over budget. Consider how much you can realistically spend on accommodations, transportation, food, and activities. Once you have a budget in mind, you can start planning the rest of your trip.
Setting a Budget for Your Trip
One of the best ways to save money on your trip to Washington DC is to book your accommodations well in advance. Look for hotels or vacation rentals that offer family-friendly amenities, such as pools and complimentary breakfasts. Many hotels offer discounts to families, so be sure to shop around.
Another way to save money is to plan your meals ahead of time. Look for restaurants that offer happy hour specials or discounts for kids. You can also pack snacks and drinks to take with you on your daily adventures to save money on food costs.
Choosing the Right Time to Visit
The best time to visit Washington DC is in the spring or fall, when the temperatures are moderate and the crowds are thinner. This is also the time when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, making for a beautiful sightseeing experience. Summer can be hot and humid, while winter can be cold and snowy. Keep in mind that the National Mall and Monuments can become very crowded during peak travel season, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
If you’re visiting during the summer months, consider taking advantage of the many outdoor activities available in the area. There are plenty of parks and gardens to explore, as well as outdoor concerts and festivals.
Finding Family-Friendly Accommodations
When it comes to finding family-friendly accommodations, you have several options. In addition to hotels, consider vacation rentals or apartments that offer more space for families. Look for amenities such as free breakfast, swimming pools, and laundry facilities. Or, if you’re planning to visit in an RV like we did, check out Cherry Hill RV Park or a little further away is the Fredericksburg KOA which is where we stayed and LOVE it!
Another option is to stay in a nearby suburb or town and take public transportation into the city each day. This can be a more affordable option and also allows you to experience more of the local culture.
Using Public Transportation and Navigating the City
Washington DC is a walkable city, but public transportation is also an affordable and convenient option for families. Consider purchasing a SmartTrip card, which can be used on buses and Metro trains. Be sure to download a map of the Metro system ahead of time so you can plan your routes and transfers.
When navigating the city, be sure to take advantage of the many free walking tours available. These tours provide a great way to see the city and learn about its history and culture. You can also rent bikes or take a Segway tour for a unique sightseeing experience.
Overall, Washington DC is a great destination for families looking to experience history, culture, and fun. By setting a budget, choosing the right time to visit, finding family-friendly accommodations, and using public transportation, you can have a memorable and affordable trip.
Must-See Attractions for Families
Washington DC offers a plethora of must-see attractions for families, including the National Mall and Monuments, Smithsonian Museums, the National Zoo, and the U.S. Capitol and White House. Here are a few tips for making the most of your visit:
The National Mall and Monuments
The National Mall is a 2-mile-long historic park that spans from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. It’s home to many iconic monuments, including the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Consider taking a guided tour to learn more about the history and significance of these landmarks.
As you walk along the National Mall, you’ll experience a sense of awe and reverence for the history and culture of the United States. The Washington Monument, standing tall at 555 feet, is a symbol of the nation’s first president and the values he stood for. The Jefferson Memorial, with its beautiful neoclassical architecture, honors the third president of the United States and his contributions to the country’s founding. And the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, opened in 2011, pays tribute to the civil rights leader and his legacy of equality and justice.
The Smithsonian Museums offer a wide range of educational and interactive exhibits for families, from the National Air and Space Museum to the National Museum of American History. Admission to the museums is free, although some special exhibits may require tickets.
The National Air and Space Museum is a must-see for families interested in aviation and space exploration. You can see the original Wright Brothers’ airplane, the Apollo 11 command module, and even touch a moon rock! The National Museum of American History is another popular museum, with exhibits on the history of the United States, including the Star-Spangled Banner and the First Ladies’ Inaugural Gowns.
The National Zoo
The National Zoo is home to over 2,000 animals and offers a range of family-friendly activities, from animal encounters to feeding sessions. Be sure to check the zoo’s website for daily activities and schedules.
At the National Zoo, you can see animals from all over the world, including giant pandas, lions, and elephants. The zoo is also committed to conservation efforts, with programs to protect endangered species and their habitats. Kids will love the interactive exhibits, such as the Kids’ Farm, where they can meet and feed farm animals like goats and cows.
The U.S. Capitol and White House
The U.S. Capitol and White House are two of the most iconic landmarks in Washington DC. While tours of the White House require advanced booking and security clearance, tours of the U.S. Capitol are available to the public and provide a fascinating glimpse into the history of American politics.
The U.S. Capitol is the seat of the legislative branch of the United States government. Tours of the Capitol include visits to the Rotunda, the Crypt, and the National Statuary Hall, where each state is represented by two statues. You can also visit the House and Senate galleries to see Congress in action. The White House, located just a few blocks away, is the official residence of the President of the United States. While tours of the White House are limited, you can still admire the building from the outside and take a stroll through the surrounding gardens.
Overall, Washington DC is a city full of history, culture, and excitement. With so many must-see attractions for families, you’re sure to have a memorable and educational visit.
Educational and Interactive Experiences
In addition to the must-see attractions listed above, Washington DC offers a range of educational and interactive experiences for families. Here are a few of our favorites:
The International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum offers a range of exhibitions and interactive experiences that provide an inside look into the world of espionage. Guests can test their spy skills, see real-life gadgets used by spies, and learn about the history of spying.
At the International Spy Museum, visitors can also learn about the role of espionage in modern-day politics and how it has evolved over time. The museum has a collection of over 7,000 artifacts related to spying, including a lipstick pistol and a shoe with a hidden knife.
The National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum is a favorite among families, offering a wide range of exhibits and interactive experiences related to aviation and space exploration. Don’t miss the chance to see the Wright Brothers’ plane, or to experience a simulated space launch. Our favorite airplane in the museum was the SR71 Blackbird, followed closely by an experimental aircraft called the Story Little Gee Bee a.k.a. the Story-Eyerly Experimental Aircraft.
The National Air and Space Museum also has a planetarium where visitors can learn about the stars and planets in our solar system. The museum also has a collection of over 60,000 artifacts related to aviation and space exploration, including the Apollo 11 command module and the Spirit of St. Louis plane flown by Charles Lindbergh.
The Newseum is dedicated to the history of journalism and free press, offering a range of exhibits and interactive experiences that help visitors understand the role of the media in shaping our world. Don’t miss the chance to see the front pages of newspapers from around the world, or to try your hand at being a news anchor.
The Newseum also has a collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs and a 4-D theater that shows a film about the history of news reporting. Visitors can also learn about the history of the First Amendment and how it protects the freedom of the press.
The National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History offers a range of exhibits and interactive experiences that showcase the history and culture of the United States. Don’t miss the chance to see the original Star-Spangled Banner, or to explore the interactive exhibits related to technology and innovation.
The National Museum of American History also has a collection of over 1.8 million artifacts related to American history, including the first American flag and the top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln on the night of his assassination. The museum also has interactive exhibits where visitors can learn about the history of American music and the civil rights movement.
Washington DC offers an incredible array of family-friendly activities and experiences. By planning ahead and using these insider tips, you can create the perfect itinerary for a week-long family vacation in this historic and fascinating city.