Washington DC Guide for Families
Washington DC is an amazing city and it was easy to fall in love with the area. With free museums, a free zoo and stunning buildings it was such a family friendly place to explore.
You are spoilt for choice with the vast variety of museums in the DC area. The buildings that host the museums are impressive and relatively close together so they are easy to walk from on to the other.
The first place we headed was the Museum of Natural History which was full to the brim of amazing exhibits and hands on activities. The children loved the dinosaurs, the animals from around the world and under the sea, the butterflies and the photography of amazing creatures and events.
The National Air and Space Museum was another huge hit with the kids. The space area was huge with rockets and space craft. We walked through a space rocket to see how astronauts live while in space, there was an astronaut outfit that could be touched and a guide talked the children through what each part of the suit was designed for. The kids especially loved the hands on activity zone which was also a nice place for adults to sit back and watch the kids experiment.
Next to the Space area is the Air and Flight section of the museum. Tommy was especially fascinated with all the planes and the history of flight.
The International Spy Museum was a huge hit with the boys (big and little). This museum does have an entry fee but under 6 are free. The museum was interactive with tasks to complete and activities to do around the museum and inside each room. The boys spent two hours here and came out on a high!
Opposite the Spy museum is the American Art museum which Polly and I enjoyed while the boys were being spies.
We also spent a few hours in the Hirshhorn Museum which had sculptures and modern art and the American History Museum which was amazing but we were a little museumed out by this time.
The Zoo is also free! Yes that is correct we were amazed and pleased. We caught the train to the zoo which easy to do and walked the 10mins to the entrance. The suggestion is to use the Cleveland Park metro train stop as the walk is flat and then we used the Woodley Park stop when heading back to DC as the walk is down hill from the zoo. We arrived towards the end of the day as we wanted to stay for Zoo Lights which is a Light Display around the zoo during beginning late November. We wished we had arrived earlier as many of the animals were bunked down for the night. We did however discover that some of the rooms were opened and heated! We had a blast watching the monkeys and their antics.
Washington Monument Area
We walked from our hotel to the Washington Monument and the surrounding areas. This is a serene and peaceful place to be. There are many War Memorials and Veteran Memorials. The walk along the reflecting pool was lovely with thoughts of Forrest Gump springing to mind and also the kids loved spotting squirrels. We walked up the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial which is such an iconic piece of American History.
White House at Christmas Time
We were in DC in December which meant it was very cold but there was Christmas decorations everywhere. We especially loved the National Christmas tree that is located in front of the White House. The tree was spectacular and there were miniature trees around the main tree with handmade decorations from each USA state and territory.
We didn’t go into the White House but saw many people lined up for the tours but these need to be planned well ahead of time.
A sombre place to visit but such a moving and spiritual journey that the children still mention today. We watched the changing of the guards at the Unknown Soldier. This was such a sight and highly recommended. The headstones seem endless and the whole place is so quiet and everyone is respectful and reflective while visiting.
Getting to DC and travelling around
We landed in Baltimore which was an hour from DC. There seemed to be limited information on travelling from the airport to DC. We decided on a taxi to take us straight to the hotel. There were other options but with the 5 of us the taxi seemed the best way to travel. This cost us approx. $80US.
Travelling around DC was easy with many options. We used the train a few times to get us to the zoo and to Union Station which is a spectacular building and worth a visit.
There is also a bus called the DC Circulator which costs $1 each passenger and circles around all the main tourist attractions and museums. We hopped on at the Lincoln Memorial.
We stayed in the W Hotel which had the most remarkable location. We were walking distance to most of the city and close to public transport. The hotel was so funky and we felt spoilt here. There was a roof top bar and restaurant which we went up for the view over the city. Highly recommended.