Taking a family trip to the nation’s capital is super exciting. There is so much to see and do, and a lot of it is free. Washington DC has a fantastic public transportation system that can take you from the airport to the city and the surrounding areas. It is a great city to visit without a car.
Even though we don’t always have control over our vacation time, there are better times to visit Washington DC with kids. Springtime (March to May) can be particularly beautiful with the pink cherry blossoms (late march to early April, which is also the time of the Blossom Kite Festival) and springtime activities. The September to November months offer crisp fall air and the beautiful changing leaves. July and August are extremely hot and humid. It can be challenging to get your children to walk anywhere in that sticky weather (although the museums are air conditioned), so summer is one of the worst times to visit. Winter brings low (freezing) temperatures, but this low tourist season also brings low hotel prices. If you visit in winter bring your coats, hats scarves, gloves and layers. If you will be visiting late November for the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, the tickets are free but are limited by lottery. The lottery opens and closes in October.
Here, we selected 5 ideas to enjoy your trip with your kids:
Catch a glimpse of Bao Bao the baby panda and two recently adopted American bison, Zora and Wilma. Get interactive at the Kids’ Farm and help zookeepers groom rare animals like San Clemente Island goats.
Admission is FREE, but entry passes are required and visitors must follow safety measures. FREE, timed Asia Trail/Panda Passes are required for giant panda viewing and can be reserved on-site on the day of your visit. For the safety of visitors, staff and animals, a limited number of Panda Passes are available each day.
International Spy Museum
The School for Spies – an exhibit featuring 200 different spy gadgets and weapons – teaches museum- goers the craft of espionage. A child can become a certified spy with high Scores on a Surveillance test.
The International Spy Museum is an independent nonprofit organization. It is open every day 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM except Saturday it is open 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM.
Tickets are available online on their website www.spymuseum.org. Limited tickets are available and advanced purchase is recommended.
National Air & Space Museum
The planetarium’s show To Space and Back illuminates how space travel has affected those who’ve made the incredible journey.
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum maintains the world’s largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts, encompassing all aspects of human flight, as well as related works of art and archival materials.
The admission is FREE.
National Museum of Natural History
Hands-on fun can be had at the Q?rius lab, a big hit with tweens and teens; the Orkin Insect Zoo; the Butterfly Pavilion and the IMAX theater.
The museum’s collections tell the history of the planet and are a record of human interaction with the environment and one another.
Open daily except December 25, 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM. Admission is FREE to the museum and programs.
Smithsonian Museum Sleepovers
Kids ages 8 to 14 (No siblings younger than 8. No adults without children) can spend the night in a Smithsonian Museum and do such things as collect clues and watch IMAX films. Thirteen Overnight Adventures Await Children at Three Smithsonian Museums: The National Museum of Natural History, The National Museum of American History and the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. Sleepovers will be held from May through August beginning at 7 p.m. and ending at 8:45 a.m. the next morning.
Ticket prices are $120 for general admission and $100 for Smithsonian Associate members. The price includes exclusive access and activities in the museum, an evening snack, interactive exploration, arts and crafts activities and a light breakfast.
All participants must pre-register by calling (202) 633-3030 or visiting www.smithsoniansleepovers.org or the Smithsonian Associates box office located in the S. Dillon Ripley Center at 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW, Suite 3077.