35 Fun Winter Activities in DC for Kids and Families
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
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
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
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.
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.
The National Aquarium is only one reason to visit Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Photo courtesy of the National Aquarium
35. Visit Sea Creatures
Writers James Smith, Drew Kristofik, and Jennifer Marino Walters contributed additional reporting.