Washington D.C. is a great place to visit with kids and most attractions combine learning with fun. While there are attractions that delight toddlers and preschoolers, many are oriented to older kids and adults. It’s our experience that children need to be 8-10 years old to get the most out of the National Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum, for example, and a year or two older for art galleries and monuments. Here are our recommendations for the five best places to go with kids in Washington D.C. :
To get oriented consider the 90-minute DC Ducks tour abroad a renovated WWII amphibious vehicle. Ducks leave Union Station every hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., roll through the Mall, then plop into the Potomac River near Georgetown and cruise down to Gravely Point, under the national Airport flight path. Note that the tours run only from mid-March through October, and only if weather permits. Every child receives a “quacker” whistle as they board the DUCK Mobile and is welcome to quack away throughout the cruise.
National Zoological Park is an absolute stunner of a zoo, emphasizing the animals’ natural environments so that many roam large enclosures instead of pacing in cages. The most popular exhibits include the recently renovated Asian elephant house; the great apes; the white tiger; the cheetahs; and the giant pandas, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang in their new 12,000-square-foot habitat, complete with Chinese-style mist and rocky landscapes. A visit to the zoo is lots of fun for all age groups from preschool to young adults.
The International Spy Museum is where spycraft meets Austin Powers, or rather James Bond. Since the CIA headquarters across the Potomac in Langley is not offering tours this privately owned museum provides a look at the tradecraft, history and contemporary role of espionage. It features more than 400 artifacts dating from Biblical times to the modern age of terror. We recommend this museum for grade school kids, teens and young adults. Watch real money being made! One of D.C.’s most popular attractions is the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and kids love this place. Visitors look down and gape at printing presses that crank out the dough and at pallets of greenbacks in various stages of completion. If you want to see where money is made plan on arriving early. In early spring and summer, get to the ticket booth before 8 a.m. to avoid disappointment. The 35- to 45-minute guided tour is much fun for grade school kids, teens and young adults.
The National Air and Space Museum draws nearly 10 million visitors a year. Visitors can touch a moon rock and gaze up at the Wright Brothers’ plane and the Spirit of St. Louis, which Lindberg flew across he Atlantic in 1927. Everywhere you look is another full-size wonder. The museum is free, the IMAX theaters, and planetarium shows are not. This museum is best enjoyed by kids age 8 and up.