Planning a trip to Washington D.C. soon? Check out our ultimate guide to Washington D.C. with kids. This guide includes how to get there, where to stay & eat and what things to do.
It has been a little over two weeks since we got back from our Washington D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia summer vacation. Let me just say that any of these wonderful destinations are incredibly amazing on their own, but Washington D.C. stands out because of all the family-friendly museums and historical monuments available there.
By the way, all the monuments & the zoo and most of the museums in Washington D.C. are completely free! If you have a big family like mine, you truly appreciate the latter, especially when you are on a multi-city vacation. 🙂 If you are thinking of visiting this amazing family-friendly destination, we have put together a pretty handy ultimate guide to Washington D.C. with kids. So, let’s get started!
Our Ultimate Guide To Washington D.C. with Kids
How to get into Washington D.C.?
So, let’s begin with the basics and how to get into Washington D.C.? For starters, there are three international airports in the Washington D.C area and they are Washington Dulles International, Ronald Reagan Washington National, and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI). Although all these airports may vary by distance, getting into D.C. from any of them is not difficult or troublesome.
As a matter of fact, my family and I flew into BWI, where we quickly took a bus ride into the train station to take a Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) train, which took us from Maryland into Washington D.C’s Union station in under 45 mins. But what about if your flight arrives in Virginia instead of Maryland? If you arrive into Virginia, you can easily take the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) train into D.C. Also, it is worth mentioning that Amtrak also serves Washington D.C. and it also arrives at Union Station, so that can be another option for you and your family or hey, there is always Uber.
Finally, another way to get into Washington D.C. is driving yourself, while we were in Washington D.C, we saw plenty out of state license plates. While we were in D.C, we did rent a car and their highway systems are pretty straightforward, as a matter of fact, we spent much of our driving time traveling through I-95, I-295, and I-395.
Where to stay in Washington D.C.?
Let’s move on to where to stay in Washington D.C.? Before our vacation began, the first thing I did was research where to stay in Washington D.C. Although, I found many great options from highly-rated hotels, Bed-&-Breakfast (B&B’s) to vacation rentals from Airbnb and others places. Many of these accommodations near the city center didn’t accommodate our budget. Hey, this family would be traveling for two weeks!
Therefore, we extended our options to neighboring Washington D.C areas. There are many safe neighboring areas in Maryland, as well as, Virginia and the best part that most of them are close to public transportation or within a quick ride away. One more thing to note here, if you are driving into D.C. keep in mind that street parking is free after 6:30 P.M, just be sure to read the signage posted around the city.
Where to eat in Washington D.C.?
Before moving on to what to do in Washington D.C., let’ talk about where to eat in Washington D.C. Just like any other major city in the U.S, Washington D.C. is host to many different kinds of restaurants. From specialty restaurants such as Chinese, Italian, Mexican, French and so on. There are also many restaurants that you expect to find in a major U.S city serving BBQ, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and so on.
While you are out and about near the National Mall, I would suggest stopping by the Smithsonian Institution Building, known as The Castle. Yeah, you won’t miss this building. There you can enjoy some delicious light fair item plus grab one of their famous cup of joe and enjoy it in the courtyard.
Things to do in Washington D.C.
Now, let’s move on to our list of things to do in Washington D.C. But first, a little side note here, the list below will only include a handful of things to do. ‘Cause Seriously, there are so many, many, many things to do in Washington D.C. and for once, this family wasn’t able to do everything in the week we spent in the Washington D.C. area.
1. National Mall:
One of the first places on our list of things to do in Washing D.C. was to head to the National Mall. At the National Mall, you can visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.
Our family truly loved the National Mall, we actually went there a few times and every time we went it was a different experience. Anyways, the National Mall is perfect for families of all sizes, there are plenty of small food vendors and plenty of open grass areas for kids to enjoy.
2. The Smithsonian Museums:
Collectively, there are 19 Smithsonian museums, galleries and a zoo in and around the Washington D.C. metro area. Two of our favorites have to be the National Air & Space Museum and the other has to be the National Museum of Natural History. All the Smithsonian museum are spectacular and the best part is that they are 100% free to the public.
We actually spent an entire afternoon at the National Air & Space museum recreating some of my husband’s childhood memories there. Have I mentioned that my husband and his family lived in the area when he was a child? Anyways, these two museums truly offer endless entertainment and valuable knowledge. For more information on all 19 Smithsonian museums, galleries, and the National Zoo, please visit the Smithsonian Webpage here.
3. Big Bus Washington D.C. Tours:
What better way to see the nation’s Capital then from a tour bus? But not just an ordinary bus, from a double-decker open top tour bus! Hey, not only do you get a bus tour, you also get a knowledgeable tour guide. This latter portion was probably the most convenient part of taking the tour bus because our lady guide was quite knowledgeable. You can watch a small taste of our tour on the video below.
The Big Bus Company and Visit Washington D.C. tourism board, provided us with complimentary tickets to experience the Big Bus tour busses. No compensation was received.
The Big Bus Washington D.C. tour bus offers flexible sightseeing, you are able to hop on and off the bus and experience D.C. at your own pace. They offer three different routes that travel throughout the Washington D.C. metro areas. Plus, all busses offer free Wi-Fi and if that wasn’t enough, you can take your Big Bus voucher and trade it in for a Free bag of popcorn at Garrett. Yum, free treats! 🙂 Hey, they even offer a night tour, which seems pretty cool to take. For more information about the Big Bus Washington D.C tour, please visit the Big Bus Webpage here.
4. Arlington National Cemetery:
In my opinion, you cannot visit our nation’s Capitol without going to Arlington National Cemetery and that’s exactly what we did. But what is there to do at Arlington National Cemetery? Well, for starters, the history alone is worth the visit. However, it is worth visiting the gravesites of President John F. Kennedy, his wife Jackie and his brothers, Robert and Edward Kennedy.
As well as to visit the tomb of the unknown soldier and watching the changing of the guard. Although it is a somber place, I really appreciated that we could take the kids to see this historical place.
5. Visit the White House:
Last but not least on our list of things to do in Washington D.C is to visit the White House. Hey, cause when you are in our Nation’s capital, this is a must-visit, plus it is free! 🙂 On our recent visit, we took a stroll near the White House on two occasions, one day after sunset and one in the early afternoon. It was absolutely beautiful to see the White House at two different times of the day. Pretty neat experience to say the least.
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Now, tell us, have you been to Washington D.C. before? If so, chime in with your favorite family-friendly activity to do or your favorite hotel to stay at or your favorite restaurant to dine in at. We look forward to your best family-friend tips!