Family Travel to Washington D.C.

For the long Memorial Day weekend, we decided to do our second Home Exchange with a family from Washington D.C. When I think of D.C., I don’t think of it as a “family friendly” city. There’s lots of walking, a lot of museums and not a lot of playgrounds. Not the greatest combo for families. With some research, we chose what we felt were the most kid-friendly and interactive places for to visit for our 9 and 4 1/2 year old girls.


Some things you should bring when you are visiting Washington D.C.:

  1. Your walking shoes. There is a lot of walking and the metro isn’t as extensive as you would think. You can walk, cab it, take the metro or the bus.
  2. An umbrella stroller.  If you have kids under 5-years old, this is a must. People might give you the That-Kid-Is-Old-Enough-To-Walk look, but they’re not the one walking with your kid. When in doubt, just bring the stroller. You and everyone in your family will be happier.
  3. Backpacks full of snacks and water. Like any major city, D.C. is expensive. Bottles of water can run $3, to $4 for an ice cream. Bringing your own snacks is good for your wallet and is even better when your kid is hungry and you need something in a pinch.

Below, is what we did for our two full days. I included the time we spent on each activity, to help you plan your own itinerary.


9:30 – 11:15 a.m. D.C. Ducks Tour. This is a 90-minute tour that the family will enjoy. The tour takes place in an authentic WWII amphibious vehicle, which means the tour takes you on land and on water. The kids will be amazed at how the “bus” can swim. The “captain” will take you around the city rattling off historical events, which may just go over your kid’s heads, but don’t worry, it’s still a great activity. Tip: Make the DC Ducks Tour the first thing you do on your trip. You will see the city at a glance and will help you orient yourself.


11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lunch. The tour starts and ends at Union Station – which is perfect because you can have a quick and easy lunch at the Union Station food court after the tour.

1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This is a must-see for families especially those who have kids interested in planes, space and rocket ships. Because it’s part of the Smithsonian, there is free admission. When we were there, the kids exhibit was “How Things Fly”. The exhibit had hands-on activities demonstrations throughout the day that taught the four forces of what makes things fly. Even Michael and I learned a few things. Tip: Don’t force the kids to see the entire museum. It’s huge and most kids can only spend 2-hours here. Afterwards, splurge  on one of the ice-cream carts right outside the exit to give the kids some energy to walk the 15 minutes to the next activity.


4:00pm – 5:30pm The International Spy Museum. My husband found this super-interesting interactive museum. Each person adopts a “cover identity”, learn about 50 years of spy technology, and the history of spies. Tip: The end of the exhibit discusses 21st century weapons of mass destruction, If you think your kids are  too young or sensitive to this material, walk past it. The very end of the exhibit dumps you into the museum gift shop (of course), so set an assigned budget per kid before you get there. There is a lot of fun stuff to buy, so be ready. We gave each of our girls $7 to spend which was more than enough.

5:45 p.m. Dinner at Gordon Biersch. We had dinner at this restaurant which is directly across the street from the Spy Museum. Gordon Biersch is a nice(r) restaurant but has a kids menu and crayons. Food was delicious, portions were perfect and most importantly, the girls loved their macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese dinners. That’s all we could ask for. Tip: If the weather is nice, make sure to get a table outside. Also, there’s a Marriott Courtyard around the corner, which makes hailing a cab home or back to the hotel very easy.


10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Again, part of the Smithsonian, so admission is free. There are many scheduled demonstrations throughout the day, so plot your route at the beginning so you can see everything. When you visit in the summer, go first thing in the morning, so it doesn’t get too hot. Luckily, there are many indoor air-conditioned exhibits, trees that provide shade and benches to sit on. The zoo also has these awesome “misters” throughout the park to help you keep cool! Tip: Bring your stroller and your walking shoes. The zoo is on a hill: you’ll be going down-hill on the way in; but on your way out, you’ll be going up hill. And yes, its tiring. Also, no need to spend $2 on the map. Just take a picture of the map with your Smart Phone.


3:00pm – 4:00 pm Georgetown Cupcakes. Yes, the line is long. But, this is one of those things that you do when you are a parent and your daughter REALLY wants to go to Georgetown Cupcakes because she is a big DC Cupcakes fan. So, we waited on line for about 45 minutes. The cupcakes are delicious, but the smile on our daughter’s face really made the wait worth it.


5:30 Dinner at Clydes of Georgetown.  This is a short walk from the Potomac River and Georgetown Cupcakes. It’s a D.C. institution and has great service, a kids menu and crayons. The girls were very impressed with the waiters carrying three or four plates of food on their arm at one time.

If you have any favorite family places to go to in Washington D.C. let me know! This is definitely not our last trip to our nation’s capitol.