Washington DC: Top 10 for Families

I have been to DC five times in as many years. I have traveled solo, with groups, and with teens. There is a lot to see and do and for free! A family on a long weekend can navigate their way through the best of the best and here is my top locations!

All of these are free and with a few notes:

  • If you plan to go to the African American or Holocaust museums I *highly* recommend booking online through their respective websites. The cost is $1 for Holocaust and free for African American at this time but it guarantees you a time slot to visit these popular spots! 
  • If you bring the littles to some locations, be patient if they can't fully appreciate them and take time to explain along the way! 
  • All the museums listed here are in the National Mall area and are walking distance from one another (Holocaust is the furthest away).  I recommend also doing a monument tour if you are unfamiliar with the area, there are many in town so it's easy to find an affordable one. 
  • Also, note that you can get great views of the Washington Monument from all over the National Mall so you don't need to plan separately for that one! 

1. The National Zoo Pandas
You can see the entire zoo, including these incredible creatures, in about 3 hours at a leisurely pace! Perfect place to start or end your day!

2. The Museum of African American History & Culture
This is the newest and best! It is split in two parts: culture and history and is designed to draw in everyone who come into the space! It is so wonderful and so well done! I spent about 4 hours here not including the very tasty food court meal I had. I actually missed my tour bus back to our hotel and  had to take a Lyft and still wasn't done! This place is not to be missed!

3. Air and Space Museum
I moved this further up the list than I would personally put it because while it I awesome to see the Wright Brothers plane, I am happy with a walkthrough here where I know many (most) people could spend an afternoon here. 

4. Martin Luther King Jr Monument
Breathtaking. The most beautiful monument and you could spend a solid hour admiring the monument, reading the quotes, and walking around this area. As pictures, dusk is the perfect time for this monument.

5. World War II Memorial / Lincoln Memorial (tie)
You can often find these on tours together and they are not to be missed. I do like the Jefferson Memorial but if you were planning a DC weekend these two fit right in. The Lincoln Memorial is great for pictures and admiring the mall and the statue (and searching for the errors in the carvings). My favorite part is standing where MLK Jr gave his "I have a dream" speech. The World War II memorial is another memorial that is worth taking time to wander and admire. I think 45 minutes to an hour at each are a good amount of time. 

6. Shaved Ice from National Mall Food Trucks
I don't know if it is because I have always visited DC in summer and craved something sweet and cold or if they are truly as divine as they seem in my mind. Either way, enjoy for a small fee (I highly recommend rainbow). 

7. Museum of American History
So many fun things to explore here! I think the time I spent here only was surpassed by my time in the African American history museum! There are so many historical and pop culture artifacts here that there is no doubt everyone in your group will find something to be excited about! 

8. Museum of Natural History / Museum of Native American History (tie)
This museum is easily visited in an afternoon of museum hopping. You can walk from here to the American history, Air & Space, and African American history museums in one afternoon. If you break down your visit to visiting these (don't forget grabbing a sno-cone) and then taking a cab or Lyft to the Holocaust museum, you can conquer them all in one day. That would leave on a weekend trip a whole day for monuments and the zoo. That being said, this is a good place to start geographically. The exhibits are excellent and the setup is wonderful!

9. National Holocaust Museum 
I have been trying to explain my reasoning without giving away the best of the bet as far as these museums but I feel like I need to explain how heavy it is here. You can feel something as you walk through here and view the exhibits. It is one part hope and one part despair and there are moments that your heart feels torn. I wouldn't bring my kids here until they are all teens and can understand what they are seeing.

10. Vietnam and Korean War Memorials
These are wonderful and beautifully profound but I have witnessed multiple times frustrated parents because their kids were wanting to play or be silly. I don't see the need to hold your kids back from here but I do think that a conversation may be needed for many and a little extra patience from adults.