35 Fun Winter Activities in DC for Kids and Families

There are plenty of places to go ice skating in the DC area. Photo courtesy of the Pentagon Row Outdoor Skating Rink
There are plenty of places to go ice skating in the DC area. Photo courtesy of the Pentagon Row Outdoor Skating Rink

Winter in the Washington, DC area can be a parenting challenge in the best of times, but there's no stopping us. We at Mommy Poppins DC are here to help you keep boredom at bay during the colder months with some fun winter activities. And we're confident that with everything Washington, DC has to offer, even the most finicky kids will remain entertained until the warmer weather returns in April.

So enjoy, be careful out there, and don't forget to check our events calendar regularly for more fun winter activities and events in the DC area as they develop. And remember, subscribe to our FREE newsletter for the best events, ideas, and happenings delivered right to your inbox.

Be sure to check with all venues for their COVID guidelines and requirements before heading out. Many places in DC now require guests to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test. Some venues are reducing their hours or capacities due to the latest COVID surge, and some events are being canceled.

Outdoor Winter Activities for Kids and Families

Winter Activities in DC for Kids: Sledding at Capitol Hill
Enjoy sledding excitement in the shadow of Capitol Hill. Photo by Valerie Hinojosa/Flickr

1. Sledding by the U.S. Capitol

What could be better than an afternoon of sledding in the shadow of DC's historic district? Since 2016, outdoorsy families have been able to go sledding down Capitol Hill. It can get crowded, but there's usually plenty of room for all.

2. Go Ice Skating

Ice skating is one of the most popular winter activities, and there are plenty of places to skate in the DC area. Glide around the ice at one of these ice skating rinks in DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland. Some of them require booking ice time in advance, so check the details before heading out.

3. Have Fun at The Wharf

The Wharf has re-energized the DC area. Tour the Potomac River harborfront with the kids and enjoy hot drinks around a private firepit on Transit Pier, or roast s'mores at the Camp Wharf firepit and Airstream trailer in District Square. There are also plenty of great shops and restaurants to check out.

4. Honor Martin Luther King Jr.

What better time to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial than on MLK Day itself on January 17, 2022? The memorial to the civil rights icon is near the National Mall. Families can also participate in the MLK Day of Service by helping to clean up the Mount Vernon Trail.

Have a safe snowball fight with DC's resident experts. Photo courtesy of the Washington DC Snowball Fight Association/Facebook

5. Have a Snowball Fight

The Washington DC Snowball Fight Association promises an old-fashioned outdoor donnybrook once snow hits the capital area. Join a "battle" or start one of your own with family or friends. We've been assured it's kid-safe and COVID-regulation compliant.

Winter Activities in DC for Kids: Chinese Lunar New Year Parade
Ring in the Year of the Tiger at the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. Photo courtesy of dcparade.com

6. Celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year

Celebrate the Year of the Tiger at the DC Chinese Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown on Sunday, February 6, 2022.

7. Take a Stroll Through the U.S. National Arboretum

Winter can be a gorgeous time to visit the 446-acre U.S. National Arboretum. Many shrubs have berries or blossoms that visitors won't see in other seasons, and evergreen trees such as pine, cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees abound. Be sure to stop by the on-site Washington Youth Garden. Admission is free.

8. Explore Mount Vernon

Whatever the weather, a visit to Mount Vernon is always worthwhile. What better time than on Presidents Day or on George Washington's birthday, when admission is free? Get tickets for a mansion tour so your family can warm up indoors for a bit.

Winter Activities in DC for Kids: Snow tubing
Take a day trip to go snow tubing. Photo courtesy of snowshoemountain.com

9. Hit the Slopes

Take a day or overnight trip to one of these snow tubing or skiing spots near DC to participate in one of the most classic winter activities there is. Don't forget hats and gloves!

10. Take a Winter Hike

Bundle up, go out in nature, and get some exercise! Head to a national park like Rock Creek Park (free every day) or Great Falls Park, hit one of the kid-friendly trails at Theodore Roosevelt Island, or try a state park such as Mason Neck State Park in Lorton, Virginia or Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

11. See DC's Famous Monuments and Memorials

With thinner crowds, winter can be a great time to visit the National Mall and Memorial Parks. Bundle up and check a bunch of the monuments and memorials off your list. Hint: Climbing or jogging the steps at the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial can warm you up quickly!

12. Watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade

Celebrate the contributions of the Irish to America at DC's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday, March 13, 2022. The route travels along Constitution Avenue NW between Seventh and 17th streets NW.

Indoor Activities for DC Kids and Families this Winter

Winter Activities in DC for Kids: Smithsonian
Check out the Bell Nexus Air Taxi, part of the Futures exhibit at the Smithsonian Arts + Industries Building. Photo courtesy of the museum

13. Visit a Smithsonian Museum or Two (or Three!)

The Smithsonian's 23 museums, galleries, gardens, and zoo are open with reduced hours and are free every day. Some of the best Smithsonian museums to visit with kids are the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of American History, and the Museum of Natural History.

14. Learn and Play at a Children's Museum

Visit the recently reopened National Children's Museum in DC. Or, take a trip to Baltimore to check out another of our favorite destinations, Port Discovery Children's Museum.

15. Go Sleuthing at the International Spy Museum

Let your child unleash their inner spy at the International Spy Museum, located at L'Enfant Plaza in DC. This unique destination puts kids in the shoes of spies embarking on an undercover mission.

Winter Activities in DC for Kids: Lincoln's Cottage
Winter is a great time to visit President Lincoln's Cottage. Photo courtesy of President Lincoln's Cottage, Facebook

16. Check in at President Lincoln's Cottage

Visit the historic site in northwest DC where President Lincoln made some of his most significant decisions and developed the Emancipation Proclamation. Advance ticket purchase on the website is strongly recommended.

17. Hop on a Big Bus Tour and Play Tourist

Think you know all there is to know about DC? Climb aboard a Big Bus and prepare to be surprised. The nighttime tour is especially magical this time of year, and buses run Thursday through Sunday. On warmer winter days you can opt to sit outside on the top deck.

18. Blow Off Steam at an Indoor Play Space

If your kid has the wiggles and it's too cold for the park or playground, head to one of our 10 favorite indoor play spaces in the DC area.

19. See Artists at Work

The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria is home to the nation’s largest collection of working artists’ open studios under one roof. Stroll through, watch the artists while they work, and see some of their finished products on display. Be sure to visit the Alexandria Archaeology Museum on the third floor to see artifacts from Alexandria's past. Admission is free!

20. Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

A visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum will help teach older kids about a painful era in human history as well as celebrate the strength and survival of the human spirit. Remember the Children: Daniel's Story, an interactive exhibit geared towards young people and their families, tells the story of one family's experiences during the Holocaust from a boy's perspective. Admission is free.

21. See a Live Show

The DC area offers many opportunities to introduce kids to the theater. Try one of the Kennedy Center's performances for young audiences, a show from the George Mason University Center for the Arts' Family Series, or a performance at Imagination Stage in Bethesda or Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo.

Winter Activities in DC for Kids: Planet Word
Marvel at Planet Word's 22-foot talking word wall. Photo courtesy of Planet Word

22. Learn About Language at Planet Word

Planet Word, the world's first voice-activated museum, includes interactive exhibits that bring words and language to life in fun ways. Kids can marvel at a 22-foot talking word wall, deliver a famous speech using a teleprompter, enter a magical library, sing karaoke, and much more. Admission is free.

23. See the Nation's Founding Documents

Visit the National Archives Museum to see the original and founding documents of the United States, including the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. Admission is free.

24. Play a Round of Indoor Mini Golf

While the DC area's outdoor mini-golf courses are closed, there are plenty of places to play putt-putt indoors. Try Monster Mini Golf in Chantilly, Virginia and Columbia and Gaithersburg, Maryland, or Glow Golf at ShadowLand Laser Adventures in Alexandria, Virginia.

25. Go to the Library

Visit your local library to borrow books and to learn about upcoming events for kids and families, many of which are currently being offered virtually. Or, head to the largest library in the world—the Library of Congress!

26. Root for the Home Team

If your family loves basketball, take them to a Washington Wizards game. If hockey is more your speed, cheer on the Washington Capitals in person. Both teams play at Capital One Arena.

27. Experience the Life of a Law Enforcement Officer

The National Law Enforcement Museum is the only national museum dedicated to the history of American law enforcement. It includes a variety of immersive exhibits and over 100 interactive elements. Teens will love the Driving Simulator and Decision Making Simulator for ages 13 and older. Each quarter, the museum hosts a Family Fun Day with free admission, family-friendly activities, performances, and demonstrations.

28. Become a Scientist

Visit the Children's Science Center in Fairfax, Virginia, a small museum where families can explore STEM concepts through hands-on exhibits, activities, and experiments. Or go all-out and head to the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore.

29. Explore the National Museum of the United States Army

See Army vehicles, weapons, and more at this museum in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, which opened November 2020. Admission is free.

30. Take A Mommy & Me Class

Learn to cook, dance, swim, and more at one of these top Mommy & Me classes in the DC area.

Winter Activities in DC for Kids: Kennedy Center 
Pandas, sea creatures, and more light up REACH at the Kennedy Center. Photo courtesy of REACH Winter Lanterns, Facebook

31. Visit the REACH Winter Lanterns

From January 27 through February 26, 2022, the REACH at the Kennedy Center will be all aglow with roughly 100 lanterns in the shape of pandas, flowers, sea creatures, and more. The lanterns, made up of 10,000 colored LED lights, were all crafted by Chinese artisans. Enjoy Lunar New Year freebies, character photo ops, and refreshments on certain evenings.

32. See Dinosaurs

See 75 model dinosaurs, some standing over 25 feet tall and 60 feet long, up close at Dino Stroll at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

33. Escape with the Kids to an Escape Room

While escape rooms are all the rage, they're usually geared towards teens and adults. But Escapology in Fairfax, Virginia offers all five of its themed escape rooms in Kid Mode for ages 7 to 14. Parents can relax in Escapology's cozy lobby while the kids solve puzzles and clues to work their way out of the room.

34. Go on a Jack Frost Scavenger Hunt

At Gaylord National Resort's Winterfest, families can search for clues throughout the resort to solve polar puzzles, then stick around for a free laser light show in the garden atrium.

Winter Activities in DC for Kids : National Aquarium
The National Aquarium is only one reason to visit Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Photo courtesy of the National Aquarium

35. Visit Sea Creatures

Head to the National Aquarium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor to get up close to more than 20,000 aquatic animals.

Writers James Smith, Drew Kristofik, and Jennifer Marino Walters contributed additional reporting.

Places featured in this article:

International Spy Museum DC

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

George Mason University Center for the Arts

National Museum of the United States Army

The Kennedy Center - The REACH Plaza

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
Peach Fuzztival
Great Country Farms - 9:00 AM Pick
Kidz Korner @ Old Town Square
Old Town Square - 10:30 AM Pick
Lake Anne Cardboard Boat Regatta
Lake Anne Plaza - 1:00 PM Pick
Explore! Children's Festival
The Modern at Art Place - 1:00 PM Pick
Summer Saturdays at Tudor Place
Tudor Place Historic House & Garden - 5:00 PM Pick
Neighborhood Guides
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