More Free, Family-Friendly Activities Around D.C.


Renee Sklarew, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C., shares more free, family-friendly activities in and around Washington, D.C., with us.

One of the best reasons to visit Washington, D.C., is that there are so many free, family-friendly activities. Many involve the Smithsonian Museums that do not charge an entry fee, while others are part of the National Park Service. Take the family, and explore these American treasures.

See the American Presidents at the National Portrait Gallery

At the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, walk through the Hall of Presidents, where you can see paintings and sculptures of many American Presidents and First Ladies, including George Washington, John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln. Then let the kids run around a bit in the expansive Kogod Courtyard and Café.

See the Stars at the Rock Creek Nature Center

Every Wednesday at 4 p.m. and weekend days at 1 and 4 p.m., visit the Nature Center in Rock Creek Park’s Planetarium, where you can learn about the galaxy, solar system, and the stars. It’s free! While you’re there, take a short hike on the Woodland Trail to see the Horse Center and Barn.

Family friendly activities in Washington, D.C.

Learn about the Bald Eagles at the National Arboretum

Year-round, the National Arboretum is the home of two American Bald Eagles, known as the President and First Lady. They nest in a tulip poplar tree in Mount Hamilton. You can check them out on the Eagle Cam strategically positioned below the Arboretum’s Azalea Collection. Join the monthly Full Moon Hike, and visit the Bonsai Museum to see the tiny, fully grown trees in the Japanese Garden.

Make a Science Discovery at the National Museum of Natural History

Check out Q?rius Junior, a program where children 10 and under can handle fossils, skulls, and minerals; build skeletons; pet animal skins; examine a crocodile’s teeth; and look through a microscope as they learn about the natural world.

Smithsonian Museum

Henry, the (stuffed) elephant in the Museum of Natural History

Family-Friendly, Free Performances at the Kennedy Center

Take a seat in one of the most beautiful theaters in the world to see a variety of performers take a bow every night at 6 p.m. on the Millenium Stage at The Kennedy Center. The performances run the gamut from local bands, poetry readings, a children’s choir, a dance company, the symphony orchestra, a soprano, or folk music. Check the calendar for details; no tickets are required.

Make a Masterpiece at the National Gallery of Art

Kids love making art, and no place is more inspirational than the magnificent galleries of the National Gallery of Art. Family Workshops include a conversation in the galleries followed by a hands-on studio art session. Join the free sessions on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.

Climb the Rocks around Great Falls

Hike to Great Falls Park, a National Park with entrances on the Virginia side and Maryland side. Both have their assets, and both provide an opportunity to follow their winding paths consisting of boardwalks over protected wetlands and narrow bridges that cross above roaring rapids. You’ll pass lots of climbing-friendly boulders. At the end of the path you come to the magnificent Potomac River waterfall, where you’ll often see kayakers and lots of native birds, including eagles and egrets. (There is a minimal charge for parking at Great Falls Park.)

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