100 Things To Do in DC with Kids Before They Grow Up

Visit the home of George Washington in Virginia. Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon
Visit the home of George Washington in Virginia. Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon

Check out these amazing things to do in DC with kids—including attractions, events, activities, museums, and more—that every DC family really must experience!

The days are long but the years are short when it comes to raising kids. And with so many things to do in DC and nearby with kids, it can be hard for families to decide exactly how to spend their time in and around the nation's capital.

To help you make the most of your precious family time, we've compiled a list of the top 100 things to do in DC with kids before they grow up. In a city bursting with museums, parks and playgrounds, play spaces, and more, you'll certainly never get bored. Get out, explore, and see just how many activities you can cross off our fun list before childhood whizzes by.


Money-Saving Tips For Exploring DC

The DC area is full of fun, free things to do with kids, from free museums (including the famous Smithsonian institutions) to free nature centers to free summertime events like outdoor movies and concerts. Find them all in our Guide to Free Things To Do in DC with Kids.

Top Things To Do In DC for Visitors

While our list was written with kids growing up in the DC area in mind, it’s also a great list for families visiting our nation's capital, since it’s packed with iconic things to do in DC with kids. Here are more helpful roundups for anyone visiting Washington, DC:

Top Attractions in DC for Families

3 Days in DC with Kids: Ultimate Itinerary by a Local Mom

Best Things To Do In DC with Kids By Age

Top Things To Do in DC with Preschoolers

Top Things To Do in DC with Teens and Tweens

And Now...

100 Top Things To Do in DC With Kids

1. National Mall

Get up close to all of the monuments and memorials at the National Mall, then visit them again at night for a whole different experience! FREE

2. National Museum of African American History and Culture

Explore Smithsonian's massive National Museum of African American History and Culture. FREE

Things To Do in DC with Kids: Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Like all Smithsonian museums, the National Air and Space Museum is free to enter.

3. National Air and Space Museum

See historic airplanes—including one Amelia Earhart flew—at Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. FREE

4. Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Head to the Air and Space Museum's outpost in Chantilly to see the Space Shuttle Discovery or a Star Wars X-wing Starfighter. FREE

5. The White House

Write your member of Congress to score tickets for a self-guided tour of the White House. FREE

6. Mount Vernon

Go back in time to experience what life was like at George Washington's beloved home.

7. National Zoo

Get up close to giant pandas, lions, and many other animals at DC's Zoo: the Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. FREE (There is a parking fee.)

8. Arlington National Cemetery

Visit presidents' graves, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Military Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Volunteer to lay wreaths in December. FREE

Things To Do in DC with Kids: Fourth of July fireworks
The Fourth of July fireworks look breathtaking above the DC monuments. Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service

9. Fourth of July Fireworks

"Oooh" and "aaah" over the annual Fourth of July fireworks at the National Mall. FREE

10. International Spy Museum

Let loose your inner James Bond at the International Spy Museum.

11. Rock Creek Park

Explore Rock Creek Park, an oasis in the middle of the city. Be sure to visit the nature center, one of several free nature centers near DC. FREE

12. United States Botanic Garden

Immerse yourself in nature at the United States Botanic Garden. FREE

13. Indoor Playgrounds

The DC area is teeming with fantastic indoor playgrounds for kids of all ages.

14. National Portrait Gallery

See the country's only full collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House at Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. FREE

15. DC Cherry Blossoms

Head to the Tidal Basin—or one of several other places to see the cherry blossoms—in the spring for an explosion of white and pink. FREE

Things To Do in DC with Kids: Washington Nationals baseball game
Cheer on the Washington Nationals at Nats Park. Photo by the author

16. Washington Nationals Game

Root, root, root for the Washington Nationals at the family-friendly Nationals Park. Be sure to sign your kids up for the Jr. Nationals Kids Club.

17. Georgetown

Stroll around DC's oldest neighborhood, founded in 1751. Be sure to spend some time on the waterfront. FREE

18. US Capitol

Make a reservation online to take a tour of the Capitol building. FREE

19. National Museum of the American Indian

Explore an Amazonian stilt house, build a giant igloo, and do other hands-on activities at the imagiNATIONS Activity Center at Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. FREE

20. National Museum of American History

See gowns worn by First Ladies, the American flag that inspired the national anthem, and so much more at Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. FREE

21. US National Arboretum

Stroll through the gorgeous gardens of the US National Arboretum, which look different in every season. Be sure to visit the Washington Youth Garden. FREE

Things To Do in DC with Kids: Clemyjontri Park
Kids of all abilities can have fun at Clemyjontri Park. Photo courtesy of Fairfax County, Virginia

22. Clemyjontri Park

Spend the afternoon at this fully accessible playground in McLean, Virginia, one of many amazing destination playgrounds near DC. FREE

23. Gravelly Point Park

Lie on a blanket at this Arlington, Virginia park to see planes flying right above your head as they land at and take off from Reagan National Airport. FREE

24. National Postal Museum

Climb aboard a historic railway mail train and a modern mail truck at Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. FREE

25. Old Town Alexandria

Walk the brick-lined streets of the King Street Mile shopping hub, stroll the waterfront, take a ride on the free King Street Trolley, and soak up centuries-old architecture in this circa-1749 neighborhood that was George Washington's adopted hometown. FREE

26. Gadsby's Tavern Museum

Explore this Old Town Alexandria tavern and hotel that were frequented by George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other notable people in the late 1700s.

27. White House Easter Egg Roll

Enter the online lottery to try to score tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll. It's not an easy feat! FREE

28. Great Falls Park

Watch the Potomac River build up speed and plummet down Great Falls, a breathtaking waterfall in this national park in McLean, Virginia.

Things To Do with Kids in DC: Kennedy Center
Catch a family-friendly show at the iconic Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Photo courtesy of the Kennedy Center

29. The Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center hosts many shows geared toward young audiences, as well as rotating exhibits.

30. National Museum of Natural History

Marvel at the massive dinosaur fossils at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. FREE

31. Peterson's Ice Cream Depot

Indulge in delicious homemade ice cream and play outdoor games at Peterson's Ice Cream Depot in historic Clifton, Virginia. Then visit one of the other must-try ice cream shops near DC.

32. National Children's Museum

Play, learn, and explore at the National Children's Museum.

33. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Bring older kids and teens to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for a sobering look at the Holocaust. FREE

34. MedStar Capitals Iceplex

Go ice skating at the Washington Capitals' practice facility in Arlington, Virginia. On most days, you can even watch the team practice!

Things To Do with Kids in DC: District Wharf
Many special events like the Running of the Chihuahuas take place at the Wharf. Photo courtesy of the Wharf DC

35. District Wharf

Play bocce, search for historical markers, eat at great restaurants, and watch boats drift by at District Wharf. FREE

36. Chessie's BIG Backyard

Play on a fully accessible Chesapeake Bay-themed playground, ride a carousel, and explore a 2,160-square-foot children's trail—complete with a sound garden and spinning rocks—at Chessie's BIG Backyard in Franconia, Virginia. FREE

37. Our Special Harbor Spray Park

Enjoy spray features, bubblers, water tables, and more at Our Special Harbor Spray Park, or another of the local splash pads and sprinkler parks. FREE

38. Embassy Tour

Participate in the Around the World Embassy Tour each May to visit international embassy buildings and experience the music, dancing, food, and culture of other countries. FREE

39. Petting Zoos

Pet and feed all sorts of animals at Leesburg Animal Park in Virginia, Clark's Elioak Farm in Maryland, or one of several other animal farms and petting zoos near DC.

40. National Menorah

Take part in the lighting of the National Menorah on the White House Ellipse. FREE

41. National Archives

See the founding documents, including the Constitution, at the National Archives Museum. FREE

Things To Do with Kids in DC: free swimming pools
Make a splash at one of DC's free swimming pools. Photo courtesy of the DC Department of Parks and Recreation

42. Free Swimming Pools

Learn to swim or just cool off at the many free public swimming pools in DC. FREE

43. Burke Lake Park

Ride a train and carousel, play a round of mini golf, and do countless other activities at this nearly 900-acre park in Fairfax Station, Virginia.

44. Ford's Theatre

Visit the theatre where Abraham Lincoln was shot, a national historic site. You can also see a live show!

45. Watkins Regional Park

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to this Wizard of Oz-themed playground at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. FREE

46. National Harbor

Soar 180 feet above the Potomac River on the Capital Wheel, ride a carousel, and do other fun activities at this waterfront area in Maryland.

47. Outdoor Concerts at Wolf Trap

Catch an open-air performance at Wolf Trap's Children's-Theatre-in-the-Woods in Vienna, Virginia.

48. Supreme Court

Explore portions of the Supreme Court building and attend a 30-minute Courtroom Lecture to learn the functions of the Supreme Court, the building's history, and the Courtroom's architecture. You can even attend court sessions, though it's recommended that you don't bring young children.

Things To Do with Kids in DC: Six Flags America
Are your kiddos brave enough to tackle the roller coasters at Six Flags America?

49. Six Flags America

Satisfy your inner thrill seeker at this theme park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Or, splash your way through Hurricane Harbor's many slides and pools.

50. George Washington Memorial Parkway

Take a scenic drive, bike ride, or walk along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. FREE

51. National Gallery of Art

Develop your kids' appreciation of art, from classical to postmodern, at the National Gallery of Art. FREE

52. Ninja Warrior Gyms and Obstacle Courses

Challenge yourself at one of these awesome ninja warrior gyms and obstacle courses near DC.

53. Planet Word

Explore the world of words at Planet Word, the world's first voice-activated museum. Marvel at a 22-foot talking word wall, enter a magical library, sing karaoke, and much more.

54. National Building Museum

Get creative at PLAY WORK BUILD at the National Building Museum.

55. The Nutcracker

Seeing the Washington Ballet perform The Nutcracker at the Warner Theatre is an unforgettable experience in itself. Meeting the dancers at Family Day, or having tea with the Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy at the Willard InterContinental Hotel's Nutcracker Tea Party, is downright magical.

Things To Do in DC with Kids: Ben's Chili Bowl
Dig into an original chili half-smoke hot dog at Ben's Chili Bowl.

56. Ben's Chili Bowl

Since opening in its original location on U Street in 1958, Ben's Chili Bowl has become a DC institution beloved by countless celebrities. Ben's is famous for its half-smoke hot dogs, burgers, fries, and—of course—chili.

57. Super, Awesome & Amazing

Climb structures, conquer a ninja obstacle course, splash at a water park, and more at this 30,000-square-foot indoor play place at the St. James Sports Complex in Springfield, Virginia.

58. Wild Water Parks

Glide along a lazy river, sail down water slides, swim in a wave pool, or simply splash around at one of a dozen cool outdoor water parks near DC.

59. Dentzel Carousel

Go for a whirl on this 1921 carousel in Glen Echo Park. It's on the National Register of Historic Places and one of only 135 functioning antique carousels in the country. Or, try one of several other great carousels in the DC area.

60. National Museum of the United States Army

See Army vehicles, weapons, and more at the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. FREE

61. Epic Corn Mazes

Don't let fall pass you by without getting lost in one of the amazing corn mazes in the DC area.

62. Theodore Roosevelt Island

Hike, see wildlife, and picnic at this more than 90-acre park. FREE

Things To Do in DC with Kids: Leesylvania State Park
Feel the sand between your toes at Leesylvania State Park. Photo courtesy of the author

63. Parks with Beaches

DC may not be near the ocean, but you'll certainly feel like you're seaside at one of the area's many parks with beaches along lakes or rivers.

64. Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill is one of the most famous restaurants in DC, in part because of its location across the street from the White House. Founded in 1856, it is also one of the city's most historic venues: it's DC's oldest saloon, frequented by several presidents including Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt.

65. Gnarly Skate Parks

Practice ollies, kickturns, and heelflips at one of a dozen kid-friendly skate parks near DC.

66. Tudor Place

Tour this historic house in Georgetown to hear stories of six generations of Martha Washington's descendants, as well as the enslaved and free people who lived and worked there for two centuries.

67. Experience Christmas at Gaylord National

Build gingerbread houses, see ice sculptures, meet Santa, and lots more at this Christmas wonderland at National Harbor's Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.

68. Discovery Theater

Catch a kid-friendly performance at Smithsonian's Discovery Theater.

69. Canal Park

Splash in the dancing fountains in summer, ice skate in winter, and enjoy performances and events at this park along the Capitol Riverfront. FREE

Things To Do in DC with Kids: Smithsonian Folklife Festival
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is one of the area's most famous festivals.

70. Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Immerse yourself in various cultures at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival each July. FREE

71. KID Museum

Transform your kids into builders and creators at Bethesda, Maryland's KID Museum.

72. American Girl Store and Cafe

There are only 10 locations of this beloved store and cafe across the US, and one of them is at the Tysons Corner Center mall in Virginia.

73. National Law Enforcement Museum

Experience the life of a law-enforcement officer at the National Law Enforcement Museum.

74. Children's Science Center

Perform all sorts of science experiments at the Children's Science Center in Fairfax, Virginia.

75. Library of Congress

Visit the largest library in the world and the oldest federal institution in the country, founded in 1800. Explore Thomas Jefferson's personal library, see the Gutenberg Bible, and lots more. FREE

76. National Book Festival

Celebrate books at the Library of Congress's annual National Book Festival. FREE

77. Museum of Illusions

Have mind-bending fun at the Museum of Illusions Washington.

78. Brookside Gardens

Delight in nature at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. FREE

Things To Do in DC with Kids: ZavaZone
ZavaZone is just one of many fun trampoline parks near DC. Photo courtesy of the author

79. ZavaZone Trampoline Park

With trampolines, obstacle courses, climbing structures, and more, ZavaZone is the perfect indoor place for kids to burn off energy. Or, try one of the other awesome trampoline parks near DC.

80. President Lincoln's Cottage

Visit the home Abraham Lincoln lived in for more than a quarter of his presidency.

81. National Aquarium

Get up close with more than 20,000 aquatic animals at Baltimore's National Aquarium. Stay the day to explore the rest of the Inner Harbor.

82. Pumpkin Picking

Pick the perfect pumpkin at one of the many great pumpkin patches near DC in October.

83. East Potomac Mini Golf

Try for a hole-in-one on the oldest continually operating miniature golf course in the country, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Then head to one of the DC area's other fun mini golf courses!

84. Washington Commanders Game

Head to FedExField just north of DC to cheer on the city's NFL team, which was renamed the Washington Commanders in February 2022.

85. Gunston Hall

Tour the Lorton, Virginia home of Founding Father George Mason.

86. Museum of the Bible

Enjoy tons of interactive features at the Museum of the Bible.

87. Go Camping

Pitch your tent under the stars at one of these nearby campgrounds.

88. Dumbarton House

Get a feel for 19th-century Colonial America at Dumbarton House in Georgetown.

Things To Do in DC with Kids: kayaking
Take to the water on a kayak during the summer months. Photo courtesy of the Atlantic Kayak Company

89. Kayaking, Canoeing, and Paddleboarding

There are plenty of places near DC to hit the lake or river on a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard.

90. Port Discovery Children's Museum

Let your imagination run wild at this Baltimore children's museum.

91. Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden

Meander through Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. FREE

92. Dulles Golf Center

Play a round of mini golf or take a swing in the batting cages at Dulles Golf Center & Sports Park in Virginia.

93. Torpedo Factory Art Center

Take a stroll through the nation's biggest collection of working artists' open studios under one roof in Alexandria, Virginia. FREE

94. Yards Park

Enjoy dancing water fountains, free family-friendly performances, outdoor movies, and more at Capital Riverfront's Yards Park. FREE

95. Manassas National Battlefield Park

Visit a Civil War battlefield in Manassas, Virginia. FREE

Things To Do in DC with Kids: Maryland Science Center
Learn and play the day away at the Maryland Science Center.

96. Maryland Science Center

Get hands on at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore.

97. Cox Farms

Hit up the Cox Farms Fall Festival in Centreville, Virginia for a corn maze, giant slides, a hayride, and tons of other fall fun.

98. Dazzling Christmas Lights Displays

If you love Christmas, DC is one of the best places to be. There are so many holiday lights drive-thrus and Christmas light shows—as well as spectacular neighborhood Christmas lights displays—you'll have trouble fitting them all in! Try to cross a few off your list each year.

99. Snow Tubing

Take a day trip to go snow tubing at a resort near DC.

100. The Family Drive-In Theatre

Watch a movie from the comfort of your car at this classic drive-in in Stephens City, Virginia, about 90 minutes from DC.

And if this isn't enough fun things to do in DC, and its surrounding metro areas, don't miss our always packed daily events calendar.

An earlier version of this article first published in 2018 with reporting by Christine Mooney.

All photos courtesy of the locations unless otherwise noted