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Washington DC with Kids: What to Do and Where to Stay

While there are plenty of amazing places within easy driving distance of the Northeast—and no shortage of things to do—there’s something special about a visit to the nation’s capital, especially as a family trip. That’s particularly true, of course, if your kids are interested in U.S. history. In fact, on a recent trip to DC, I was happily surprised by just how much my first and fourth graders had retained—especially that 6-year-old!—and they were equally as thrilled to see some of what they’d learned up close. 

If you’re planning a trip—or just looking for inspiration for a future visit—we’ve got some ideas of what to do while there:

First, find a place to stay:

Waldorf Astoria Washington DC

If you want to be within walking distance of some of DC’s most popular sites, then a stay here—where spots like the National Archives and National Museum of Natural History are under a 10-minute walk— will do the trick. Located right on Pennsylvania Avenue, the hotel has lots of room options, including one-bedrooms suites and the two-level Waldorf Townhouse, which includes its own entrance. Not to miss: Head to the top of the clocktower—a hallmark of the former Post Office building that the hotel now occupies and a great way to take in the entire city.

The Morrow Hotel

For a hotel that’s a bit outside the hustle and bustle, consider this property, which opened in 2022, and offers easy access to those must-see sites, while welcoming travelers to the NoMa neighborhood. We stayed here on our most recent trip and loved our room—two roll-away beds fit perfectly for our elementary schoolers and the bathroom was large—as well as the super friendly staff. There’s a great rooftop bar, Upstairs at The Morrow—definitely try the Sicilian Lemonade—as well as the French brasserie, Le Clou, on the main level. There’s plenty within walking distance too, including CR Noma, where we had a delicious brunch, and Union Market, for lots of food and shopping options.

Hotel AKA Alexandria

Opened last year, this hotel is just a quick 20 minutes from DC, but gives you a chance to explore Alexandria, Virginia and be even closer to Mount Vernon, should you want to make a stop with the kids to check out George Washington’s home. The hotel itself, which has a sleek, understated vibe, offers both rooms and suites, including a two-bed deluxe room. If you prefer a stay in DC proper, opening this April is Hotel AKA Washington Circle. Located in the Foggy Bottom/West End neighborhood, there are suites that feature outdoor space and kitchenettes.

Then, fill your days with…

A tour of the monuments

Whether it’s your first time in DC or your fifth, visiting the various monuments that dot the city—from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial to the WWII Memorial—is a must, especially with kids. To tour the inside of the Washington Monument, you’ll need to reserve tickets in advance—or queue up super early to snag same-day tickets. Keep an eye on the National Park Service’s Calendar of Events, which include tours and talks.

A slice at We, the Pizza

If you’re craving pizza, head to We, the Pizza, a casual and fun spot with two DC locations that’s perfect for toddlers up through teens. Along with standard favorites, there are some specialty pies here, including Bacon Me Crazy, with two types of bacon, and The Greek Pie, with feta and Kalamata olives, along with vegan options. Round out your order with wings and salads.  

A visit to The International Spy Museum

The name alone will intrigue most kids—and once there, there’s lots to do, too, with great exhibits and even a chance to take part in an “undercover mission”. The museum is geared towards kids over 9, but they offer a great breakdown on what to see and what to skip with the younger set. You’ll need to purchase tickets and reserve a time ahead of your visit. Fun fact to impress the kids: The museum is in the Guiness Book of World Records for being “the largest espionage museum in the world in terms of collection size.”

Dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill

After a long day of touring, tuck into a table at this DC landmark—founded in 1856, it’s considered to be the oldest saloon in the city. The restaurant is now within walking distance of the White House, making it a great stop for lunch or dinner. Along with oysters and a raw bar for the adults, there are kid-friendly options ranging from burgers to pasta, plus a specific kids menu. Brunch is also available on weekends—and we hear the Chesapeake Eggs Benedict are a must.  

A stop at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

All of the Smithsonian museums deserve a visit at some point—the National Zoo is a win, particularly with toddlers and preschoolers—and on our most recent trip, we opted for the National Air and Space Museum. Over two floors, you can check out everything from exhibits on the Wright Brothers’ first flight to the solar system and more, along with a planetarium show. Entry is free, but timed tickets are required. And if you wind up visiting on a busy day, like my family and I did, we found the line to enter moves pretty fast.

An afternoon at the National Children’s Museum

If you’re worried younger kids might not be up for some of the other museums in the city, this one is sure to please. There are lots of cool exhibits, including the Dream Machine, a climbing structure that spans three floors, as well as another dedicated to engineering games. A note for weekday visitors: The museum is closed on Tuesdays.

Ice cream at Ice Cream Jubilee

Strolling through Georgetown? Make a point to stop at this ice cream spot, which just opened its latest location—there are two others in DC and Virginia, with more on the way—in the picturesque DC neighborhood. They have flavors like strawberries and cream and salted caramel, plus a slew of seasonal options, like cherry blossom cheesecake and carrot cake for spring.

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