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The Best Family Washington DC City Guide!

Washington DC City Guide has done ALL the hard work so you don’t have to with this ULTIMATE Washington DC City Guide to print & use!



09 Jun | read

The beating heart of the United States, we can't wait to share with you all the fun things to do with kids in Washington DC! One of the most visited cities in the entire country, Washington DC offers a magical combination of history, beauty, incredible food and a melting pot of cultures.

Home to the White House and the President of the United States, this vibrant city has so much to offer families beyond those iconic buildings and monuments the city is famous for.

It's because of Washington DC's ability to surprise is why we're excited to share with you our Washington DC City Guide featuring our "Top 9 Family Attractions" , which are really just the tip of the iceberg in what you can find out about this exciting US destination!

So make sure check out our entire Washington DC City Guide that we've carefully put together just for you, so you know exactly how to plan your exciting family day out in the US capital!

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In this Washington DC City Guide, we share with you our top 9 things to do with kids in this amazing city, plus some VERY fun experiences that will bring out the child in everyone! 

We understand that budgets are always a consideration when traveling as a family, so also in this Washington DC City Guide we share some great FREE things to do with kids that won't break that bank account!

Getting around Washington DC without a car is really simple and easy, so we also offer up some tips to help you navigate around the city without any hassle, plus we also share some really fun facts about Washington DC that might just surprise you! 

If you want to explore a bit further out for the day, our Washington DC City Guide shares one of our favorite day trips, plus we let you know some famous faces who were born in this iconic US destination. 

So whether this is your first trip saying "Yes, take me to Washington DC"! or maybe you have lived in the capital all of your life but never took the time to see what the area has to offer and you wonder "What is there is to do near me in Washington DC?", then keep reading because we have the top 9 things to do in Washington DC with kids...and so much more!

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Washington DC was founded on July 16, 1790, and straight away became unique as it established by the Constitution of the United States to serve as the nation’s capital. Quite an honor!

However, like most political decisions, the location was decided through a comprimise - a man named Alexander Hamilton along with the northern states wanted the new federal government to assume Revolutionary War debts, and Thomas Jefferson (you know the name!) as well as the southern states wanted the capital placed in a location friendly to slave-holding agricultural interests.

In comes President George Washington who chose the exact spot along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, and its this spot that the city was officially founded after both Maryland and Virginia ceded land to this new “district,” ensuring it would be distinguished from the rest of the states.

A man named Pierre Charles L’Enfant came on board to design the city in a grid system reflective of his native Paris, at which the center would be the impressive Capitol building.

During the War of 1812, the city was nearly destroyed before it even really began, but after the Civil War the city really started to grow and thrive.

Today, Washington DC is a vibrant and culturally diverse city that is rich with international cultures, as well as African American heritage and a culture that welcomes everyone.

After more than 200 years as the nation’s capital, Washington DC has found itself as a complex and layered city with a distinctive character that makes for an amazing family day out for all!

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Once thing we love about Washington DC are the numerous free admission Smithsonian attractions and museums that are perfect for all families to enjoy - from the National Portrait Gallery, to the National Zoo and the National Museum of Natural History. There is a wealth of knowledge waiting to be absored, and it won't break the budget!

Of course, Washington DC is also filled with iconic monuments and memorials that are all a must visit on any journey. Make your way to the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument - not missing your chance to look down across the infamous Reflecting Pool. There's a postcard view wherever you turn!

Washington DC also has a deep, rich history that can be experienced in attractions such as Hillwood Historic Home & Museum and Tudor Place

With so many fun things to do in Washington DC with the family, you'll soon have that family itinerary filling up! Which attraction will you visit first?

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Did you know that 58% of the commuter trips made in Washington DC are by bike, foot or public transport? It's such a great city to get around in without a car, so here are some of your options!

Walking around DC really is one of the best ways to enjoy the city. The sidewalks are wide (and safe for kids!) so you can meander past the incredible and inspiring monuments and museums and really just take in the magic of the city.

For those in the family who prefer two wheels, the city has a number of bike rental companies that can offer you not only the bike rental but also helmets, locks and maps! Unlimited Biking is one company that has two locations across DC.

Additionally, Capital Bikeshare has over 350 stations across DC, as well as Virginia and Maryland. Here, you can access bicycles 24 hours a day and the first 30 minutes of each trip is free!

Fancy public transport? Then the WMATA has you covered. Founded in 1967 the WMATA can transport you around the city almost all day, seven days per week.

You can pay for your trips through a SmarTrip account, either by a reloadable plastic card or mobile pay and you can use this for Metrorail, Metrobus and the DC Circulator. (For specific directions in utilizing WMATA services, check out their Trip Planner)

The Metrobus offers hundreds of routes throughout the greater DC area and run on alternative fuel making it also a greener way to travel!

The DC Circulator bus is only $1 for all riders and runs along 6 routes for an easy-on easy-off journey across the District. With the Circulator you can pay with exact change, or your SmarTrip card, or even pick up a bus pass. Keep an eye out for the dedicated National Mall route! 

One place you absolutely cannot miss visiting when in Washington DC is the famous Ben's Chilli Bowl - home of the Half Smoke dogs and a whole lot of history!

Ben and Virginia Ali opened the doors back in 1958, and had since been a pillar of the Washington DC community. Located on U Street, Ben's Chilli Bowl famously stayed open during the DC Civil Rights riots, and welcome famous guests including Martin Luther King Jr, Bruno Mars, Jesse Jackson, Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama! (You can even sit in the very booth former President Obama sat in!)

Not only do they have a fascinating history, but some of the most delicious chilli and hot dogs you will ever taste!

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Our Top 9 Fun Things To Do With The Kids In Washington DC

Our Top 9 Fun Things To Do With The Kids In Washington DC

The White House is not only the most recognisable building in Washington DC, but the most famous of the country! Home of all US Presidents except George Washington (it was still being built then!), this national landmark offers free tours to the public if requested in advance - and they are worth it!

Public tours are typically available from 8am to 12:30pm Tuesday thru Saturday (excluding Federal holidays) and their tour requests are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. You have to submit through a Member of Congress and their Congressional Tour Coordinator, all details are on their website!

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Another free admission museum with the National Museum of American History, offering you a fascinating insight into you guessed it, American History! Here, you can get up close to some of the most important items that have shaped the country.

Kids can see the original Star-Spangled Banner, as well as Abraham Lincoln’s actual top hat! They can learn all about pioneering early computers to the first artificial heart and click those heels because also on display is Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz! An invaluable experience for the whole family.

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Go undercover at the International Spy Museum! Here kids can really gain an understanding of what it takes to be top secret spy through their fun and interactive exhibits.  In fact, kids can test their spy skills at seventeen different digital and physical interactives throughout the museum as they are challenged to remember their new identity, crack codes, and even uncover hidden dead drop sites!

They can also see real life espionage artifacts including the Enigma Machine, the Trotsky Ice Axe, and of course, James Bond’s Aston Martin!

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Did you know that the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum is home to the largest AND most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts in the entire world? That is why this spectacular museum is on our must see list!

This DC museum is one of the most visited in the entire country, showcasing all aspects of human flight as well as numerous works of art and archival materials. The museum operates two landmark facilities and is also is home to the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies!

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Discover the world at this free admission Smithsonian museum of natural history, where every object in their collection has a story! Kids can see the science, stories, and geography within their Objects of Wonder exhibit, and delve into the fascinating story of our planet from its incredibly fiery transformations across billions of years and explore life on Earth!

Yes kids, also at the National Museum of Natural History are dinosaurs! Come face to face with fossils of these amazing creatures that roamed the planet millions of years ago before discovering what wonders lie beneath the ocean!

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The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a free admission museum offering an invaluable and important learning opportunity for older kids and families. Here, exhibits tell the narrative history of the Holocaust through artifacts, videos as well as personal stories as well as the stories of Americans who witnessed the atrocities first hand.

A beautiful, touching and informative must visit museum in Washington DC that preserve the memory of those who suffered and encourages its visitors to reflect. 

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Tudor Place Historic House and Garden is where America's Story Lives! This beautifully preserved historic house preserves the stories of six generations - all descendants of Martha Washington - as well as telling the stories of the enslaved and free people who all lived and worked at this Georgetown landmark for nearly 200 years.

Today you can visit and enjoy guided house tours as well as self-guided garden tours, exploring and appreciating the history of this National Historic Landmark. Keep an eye out for events they host across the year too including Summer Saturdays!

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Welcome to the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post - her mansion that became a museum and today is a wonderful example of 20th century living alongside an incredibly impressive art collection and a fascinating 18th century French decorating style juxtaposted with modern touches.  In fact, Hillwood is one of Washington's most memorable homes!

Along with touring the historic mansion, a visit to Hillwood also ensures you can enjoy 13 acres of beautiful year-round gardens, including a Japenese-style garden, lawn, greenhouse and even a putting green! 

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The free admission Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery tells the story of America through the portrayal of people who shape the nation’s history, ever-changing development and culture. Did you know that the gallery is also home to the nation's only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House?

Don't miss checking out the "America's Presidents" exhibition, as well as other permanent and rotating collections. Also at the gallery you'll find programs great for kids, and adults alike and plenty of year around events to entertain!

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Famous Folk From Washington DC!

 Family Days Out: City Guide

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye (born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr) was an American singer-songwriter who really shaped the Motown during the 1960s.

His hits included Let's Get It On and I Heard It Through The Grapevine and What's Going On

Image Credit: Public Domain

 Family Days Out: City Guide

Samuel L Jackson

Samuel L Jackson is an American actor who, based on the collective box office on all his movies, is the most successful actor of all time.

His work includes Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park and the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

Image Credit: Thivierr / pinguino k

5 Fun Washington DC Facts

5 Fun Washington DC Facts

Impress your friends with your amazing Washington DC knowledge!

  • Many hundreds of millions of years ago, Washington DC was actually under the ocean! They have found fossils that confirm this!
  • Even though the White House is located in DC, local residents couldn't vote in the Presidential election until 1961!
  • Woodrow Wilson is the only US President to be buried within Washington DC. In fact, the Capitol Building has an empty crypt underneath as George Washington was supposed to be buried there, but then preferred Mount Vernon.
  • The "Washington" is named after George Washington, and the "DC" (District of Columbia) is named after Christopher Columbus!
  • Along with the US Presidents, The White House has been home to three alligators!

Top 5 FREE Things To Do With Kids In Washington DC

Tour the National Mall & Lincoln Memorial

Tour the National Mall & Lincoln Memorial

One of the absolute must-dos on any trip to Washington DC is a visit to the National Mall, the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial. The Reflecting Pool gloriously shimmers as it reflects the impressive Lincoln Memorial standing alongside it. Famously, the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln watching over all who visit.

Don't miss climbing the steps of the memorial, where you'll find the very spot that Martin Luther King Jr made his inspiring and historic "I Have A Dream" speech on the 26th August, 1963. 

Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith's America, LOC, Prints and Photographs Division

National Museum of African American Culture and History

National Museum of African American Culture and History

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum in the country devoted exclusively to the documentation and telling the stories of African American life, history, and culture. It's also a Smithsonian museum too!

Spread across 85,000 sq ft, the museum is filled with permanent exhibits as well as changing exhibits that share stories from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, through to Civil Rights movement and through to present day. An invaluable learning experince for older children.

Image Credit: Alan Karchmer / NMAAHC

Explore Rock Creek Park

Explore Rock Creek Park

It's nature in DC and it's waiting for you! The popular Rock Creek Park was founded back in 1890 and today you'll find 1,700 acres creating a haven for people as well as wildlife!  It also happens to be the third national park designated by the federal government.

Also within the grounds you'll find a nature center and planetarium, historical sites and plenty of outdoor activities awaiting those adventurous families!

Image Credit: NPS / Tony DeYoung

Smithsonian National Zoo

Smithsonian National Zoo

The Smithsonian National Zoo is one of the country's most popular zoological parks, and yes, it's free admission so everyone can visit! Within the zoo grounds you'll come face to face with over 1,500 aniimals that call this 163 acre park home. 

The zoo’s various habitats feature beautiful, weird and wonderful creatures that represent over 300 different species, and about 25 percent of the zoo’s residents are endangered which offer an inavaluable learning experience for kids on why its so important to care for our planet! Time to get WILD in DC!

Image Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo

US National Arboretum

US National Arboretum

It's all about nature at the US National Arboretum! Here, you can enjoy a number of gardens that showcase various plants, herbs and flowers and their importance to the envrionment.

Throughout the National Arboretum you'll be able to explore ferns, conifers, azaleas, plants native to Asia, perennials and even national herbs! A wonderful nature-based day out in the US capital, where the free admission ensures all who want to visit - can!

Image Credit: US National Arboretum

Washington D.C. Vacation Travel Guide!

A Fun Day Trip From Washington DC!

If you love history and small town charm, then you will love this easy day trip from Washington DC that we're going to tell you about. Take some historic sites related to George Washington's past, and mix in some Civil War Battlesites, and you will find yourself at Fredericksburg, VA!

Fredericksburg is only a short train trip away from Washington DC, costing around $9 on AMTRAK and less than 50 miles in distance. Not only is it a wonderfull historic experience for the family, but it's also stunningly beautiful so if you do have time to enjoy a day trip from Washington DC, Fredericksburg is recommended by Family Days Out!

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Of all the most famous historical facts and event about Fredericksburg you'll read, perhaps the most well-known is the story of George Washington and his mother, Mary Washington. George and Mary lived in Fredericksburg for years, and during your trip to Frederickburg you can see part of their history with your own eyes. In fact, you can visit the very homes they lived in!

Fredericksburg was also a crucial city within the Civil War. It was the location of the Battles of Fredericksburg, and it was also the very spot that a speech from President Abraham Lincoln was delivered.  Fredericksburg also has an important African American history, which can be explored through the many historic sites within the town, plus families can hear stories via through tours and educational experiences.

With all of this history, you won't be surprised to hear that the City of Fredericksburg was actually established back in 1728 on land that was originally patented by two men. named John Buckner and Thomas Royston in 1681.

The city was named for Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707-51), who was the eldest son of King George II of Great Britain (and also father of King George III!)

In fact, if you walk around the city you might notice that the older streets still bear the names of members of the British royal family! Pretty amazing!

Here’s our top 4 Fredericksburg things to do:

We hope you found this content useful! Please share with your friends, and if you have any comments, or want to let us know what we can do to further help you find fun days out with the family, then just email our team at [email protected]!

Let's get the family adventure started!

Lisa Written by

Lisa has been a content writer for Family Days Out for nearly 10 years, and a keen travel writer for nearly 20. She loves experiencing the best of a city, discovering the many things to do and immersing herself in the culture, and sharing these experiences with others through her writing.

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