75 Free Fun Things To Do in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia with Kids

Enjoy storytime each Wednesday at the Hirshhorn. Photo courtesy of the Hirshorn Museum
Enjoy storytime each Wednesday at the Hirshhorn. Photo courtesy of the Hirshorn Museum

DC-area families sure are lucky: From free museums and nature centers to amazing playgrounds and fun festivals, there are so many free things to do with kids in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. That means visitors from out of town can also have a fabulous family vacation full of historic and cultural experiences, nature, and play time without breaking the bank.

Here is our ultimate list of 75 free things to do with kids in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. For even more ways to have fun without reaching into your wallet, check out our guide to Free Things To Do in DC with Kids.


Unless otherwise noted, all of the items on this list are located in Washington, DC.

Be sure to visit the African elephant at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Photo by Kelly Verdeck, via Flickr

Free Museums in and Near DC to Visit with Kids

1. National Museum of Natural History

From the iconic African elephant and dinosaur displays to an exhibit on Ancient Egyptian mummies, this Smithsonian museum houses a collection of more than 145 million specimens. There are also plenty of fun family programs, including Play Dates for ages 0-5 on most Tuesday mornings.

2. National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum reopened eight new galleries in October 2022, nearly four years into a seven-year, $1 billion renovation. They include a planets gallery, exhibits on the Wright Brothers and early flight, and more. The museum currently requires visitors to reserve timed-entry passes online.

3. Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center — Chantilly, VA

The National Air and Space Museum's outpost in Chantilly displays thousands of aviation and space artifacts and aircraft in two large hangars. These include the Space Shuttle Discovery, a Concorde, and even a Star Wars X-wing Starfighter. Though admission is free, parking costs $15.

4. National Museum of African American History and Culture

Learn about the history, community, and culture of African Americans at this fantastic Smithsonian museum. More than 3,000 objects on display include a stool from the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins, a dress worn by Rosa Parks, and Chuck Berry's red Cadillac convertible. Free programs for kids include online educational talks and downloadable activity booklets.

5. National Museum of American History

In December 2022, this Smithsonian museum launched its Entertainment Nation exhibit featuring all sorts of pop-culture and sports memorabilia. Families can also see the actual American flag that inspired the national anthem, a five-story dollhouse, and so much more. Plus, there are two hands-on spaces just for kids: Wegmans Wonderplace for ages 0-6 and SparkLab! for ages 6-12.

6. National Postal Museum

At this Smithsonian museum near Union Station, kids can climb aboard a historic railway mail train and a modern mail truck, design their own stamps, recreate the path of mail, and participate in many other hands-on activities. Baseball fans will especially love the Baseball: America's Home Run exhibit, on display through January 2025.

7. National Museum of the American Indian

The imagiNATIONS Activity Center at this Smithsonian museum is a must-visit for families. It features hands-on activities like basket weaving, igloo building, a life-sized tipi to explore, and lots more. There are also plenty of other exhibits kids will enjoy throughout the museum.

8. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

This Smithsonian museum and its outdoor sculpture garden captivate kids and give them a great first experience with contemporary art. On Wednesdays, the museum hosts a popular storytime that explores a new artwork each week, complete with a hands-on activity.

9. National Gallery of Art

Whether they're paintings, sculptures, or drawings, some of the most iconic pieces of art are housed in this museum. Don't forget to explore the outdoor Sculpture Garden and check out the museum's family programs.

10. National Portrait Gallery

This Smithsonian museum houses the country's only full collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House. There are also more than 20,000 works in the museum's collection. Check out the free weekend workshops and other family programs as well.

RELATED: Best Museums for Kids in the DC Area: Children's Museums and Family-Friendly Museums

The 22-foot talking word wall at Planet Word will leave little ones in awe. Photo courtesy of Planet Word

11. Planet Word

Planet Word, the world's first voice-activated museum, includes interactive galleries and 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, explore a magical library, sing karaoke, and much more.

12. National Museum of Asian Art

Explore two art galleries—the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—exhibiting over 45,000 pieces of Asian art at this Smithsonian museum. The museum also hosts free art workshops and events for kids and families.

13. National Museum of African Art

With over 11,000 pieces in its collection, visitors are invited to celebrate the beauty and diversity of Africa's art at this Smithsonian museum. The museum also offers several activities for home for kids and families on its website.

14. National Archives Museum

Head into the famed Rotunda of this museum and come face-to-face with the original founding documents of the US, including the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. In the public vaults, visitors can also listen to audio recordings from the Oval Office, read telegrams sent byAbraham Lincoln, and explore interactive exhibits.

15. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Though this museum is best suited for older kids, its exhibit Remember the Children: Daniel's Story is geared towards young people and their families. It showcases one family's experiences during the Holocaust from a boy's perspective, bringing visitors into realistic environments where they can engage with items and places from the boy's world.

16. National Museum of the United States Army — Fort Belvoir, VA

This museum celebrates the history of the US Army through various immersive exhibits. Army vehicles, uniforms, and more are on display. At the museum's Experiential Learning Center, which is full of hands-on activities for kids of all ages, children ages 4-8 can do crafts on weekend mornings from 9am-12pm.

17. National Museum of the Marine Corps — Triangle, VA

Explore the history of the US Marine Corps at this museum full of immersive exhibits. The highlight for kids is the Children's Gallery, which features hands-on experiences such as walking through a World War I trench, peering through periscopes, trying on uniforms, and more. The museum also offers children's programs including Family Days, Preschool Play Dates, and Gallery Hunts.

18. Library of Congress

The largest library in the world—and the oldest federal institution in the country, founded in 1800—the Library of Congress also serves as a museum with more than 170 million books, maps, photos, newspapers, and other items in its collection. Visitors can explore Thomas Jefferson's personal library, see the Gutenberg Bible, and lots more. Timed-entry passes must be reserved online.

19. Historic Blenheim and the Civil War Interpretive Center — Fairfax, VA

Historic Blenheim, a brick farmhouse built in 1859, includes more than 125 signatures, pictographs, games, and thoughts left on its walls by Union soldiers during the Civil War. In the Civil War Interpretive Center, visitors can learn more about the war through an illustrated timeline, artifacts, soldier biographies, and more.

RELATED: Free Things To Do Indoors in the DC Area: Indoor Places to Play on Cold and Rainy Days

Watch the Washington Capitals practice up close at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. Photo courtesy of the Washington Capitals Facebook page

More Free Indoor Things To Do in DC with Kids

20. Washington Capitals Practices — Arlington, VA

The Washington Capitals NHL team practices at MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, and their practice sessions are free and open to the public. Take young hockey fans to watch their heroes hone and display their skills up close.

21. Storyville — Baltimore and Woodlawn, MD

The Rosedale and Woodlawn branches of the Baltimore County Public Library are home to Storyville, child-sized villages filled with books, toys, and activities for kids ages 0-5. Each village includes a pretend grocery store and mailroom, a puppet stage and theater, a home living area, a construction zone, a library, a baby garden, and a toddler area. Storyville is closed on Sundays.

22. The White House

Seeing the White House from the outside is cool in itself, but you can also write to your member of Congress to request free tickets for a self-guided tour. Note that while tours are wheelchair-accessible, strollers are not permitted.

23. US Capitol

Schedule a free tour of the US Capitol building online. Led by a professional tour guide, you'll visit the Crypt, the Rotunda, and National Statuary Hall. The Visitor Center also has interesting exhibits, including the Democracy Lab, where kids can participate in hands-on learning activities.

24. US 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.

25. Torpedo Factory Art Center — Alexandria, VA

This Old Town Alexandria waterfront landmark is home to the nation’s largest collection of working-artists’ open studios under one roof. Stroll through the center's three floors, watch the artists at work, and see some of their art on display. Be sure to visit the Alexandria Archaeology Museum to see artifacts from the city's past.

26. The Kennedy Center

You don't have to buy tickets to a performance to enjoy the Kennedy Center. The Center hosts various free events and exhibits, many of them kid-friendly. The Hall of Nations, which displays the flags of every country with which the US has diplomatic relations, is breathtaking unto itself.

27. Hidden Oaks Nature Center — Annandale, VA

The indoor area of this great little nature center features a small play structure, a reading nook, dress-up costumes, several live animals, and plenty of hands-on activities for kids. There is also an outdoor natural play area called Nature Playce with climbable logs, rocks, and things to build, as well as woodland trails. Hidden Oaks is just one of nearly a dozen free nature centers near DC.

28. American Girl Washington, DC — Tysons, VA

There are only 10 locations of the beloved American Girl Store and Cafe in the US and Canada, and one of them is at the Tysons Corner Center mall in Virginia. Kids are welcome to play with the dolls and play sets on display for as long as they'd like, but beware—leaving the store without making a purchase may be impossible!

RELATED: Destination Playgrounds in the DC Area

The playground at Watkins Regional Park has a Wizard of Oz theme. Photo courtesy of playlsi.com

Free Outdoor Things To Do in DC with Kids

29. Watkins Regional Park — Upper Marlboro, MD

Follow the yellow-brick road (or I-95) to the magical Wizard of Oz-themed playground at Watkins Regional Park. Kids can slide down a giant pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers, climb on Emerald City-like towers, and play in Auntie Em’s playhouse. The park is also home to the free Old Maryland Farm, where kids can interact with farm animals and explore exhibits.

30. National Mall

People come from all over the world to see the memorials and monuments at the National Mall. How lucky are DC families to have them right at their fingertips? Once youve seen them all during the day, take the kids back at night to see them all lit up. Then grab a bite nearby at one of these kid-friendly restaurants near the National Mall.

31. National Zoo

Smithsonian's National Zoo is free to enter every day (just reserve entry passes online) and is home to more than 2,700 animals. Families can see lions, tigers, elephants, and more. When you need a break from the heat, cold, or rain, head to one of the indoor exhibits like the Great Ape House, the Small Mammal House, and the Reptile Discovery Center.

32. Frying Pan Farm Park — Herndon, VA

Kids can hang out with horses, chickens, peacocks, rabbits, sheep, goats, cows, and pigs at Kidwell Farm, Frying Pan Farm Park's recreation of a '30s working homestead. Wagon rides and farm tours are also available. Once they've had their fill of the farm, kids can play on the playground and ride the 1920s carousel.

33. Arlington National Cemetery — Arlington, VA

Visit presidents' graves, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Military Women's Memorial, and more at Arlington National Cemetery. In December, volunteer to lay wreaths at the popular Wreaths Across America event.

34. United States Botanic Garden

See flowers and plants from around the country and the world at the US Botanic Garden, which features both an indoor conservatory and outdoor gardens. Stop by the Children's Garden from spring through fall, where kids are encouraged to touch the plants and dig in the dirt. During the holidays, Season's Greenings is a can't-miss event.

35. Manassas National Battlefield Park — Manassas, VA

Take young history buffs to visit this Civil War battlefield, where you can view exhibits in the visitor center and hike on trails through the battlefield. There are various programs for kids, too.

36. US National Arboretum

Stroll through the gorgeous gardens of the US National Arboretum, which look different in every season. Be sure to visit the one-acre Washington Youth Garden, which includes pollinator and sensory gardens, a food production area, and a Nature Explore classroom where kids can engage with agriculture and farming.

37. Franconia Family Recreation Area — Alexandria, VA

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 the summer, cool off at the Our Special Harbor sprayground.

38. Wheaton Regional Park — Wheaton, MD

Wheaton Regional Park is home to both a fantastic playground, renovated in 2020, and Brookside Gardens, a free botanical garden that we love. Brookside Gardens' highlight for kids is its Children's Garden, where little ones can play in an old farmhouse, "cook" in a pretend kitchen, learn about Maryland's natural history, and more.

39. Rock Creek Park

This national park in the city offers loads of free activities for families, from hiking trails and playgrounds to a fantastic nature center. The Rock Creek Park Nature Center features a Children's Discovery Room, exhibits on local plants and animals, live animals, a bird observation deck, a "water-wise" garden, and the only planetarium run by the National Park Service.

40. Green Spring Gardens — Alexandria, VA

Green Spring Gardens is a great place for kids to get hands-on with nature. In addition to various children's and family programs, there are three gardens designed with little ones in mind—the Children's Garden, the Discovery Garden, and the Wildlife Garden. Families can also enjoy trails, ponds, and rotating art exhibits.

RELATED: Top Attractions in DC: The Best Things to See and Do with Kids

Outdoor movies in the summer are only part of the free fun at District Wharf. Photo courtesy of Wharf DC

41. District Wharf 

There are so many fun, free activities for families at this waterfront destination. Play bocce, search for historical markers, splash in the fountain in the summer, watch boats drift by, and take part in various free events like summer movies and concerts.

42. Clemyjontri Park — McLean, VA

With over two acres of play space, this fully accessible playground features play structures with slides, monkey bars, and balance challenges, as well as a variety of climb-on toys including cars, buses, planes, and animals. There are also dozens of swings and a maze. It's one of our favorite destination playgrounds near DC.

43. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

Run by the National Park Service, Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens is full of nature trails, ponds, gardens, wildlife, and more for families to explore. Kids can even become junior rangers!

44. Gravelly Point Park — Arlington, VA

Lie on a blanket at Gravelly Point Park to see planes flying right above your head as they land at and take off from Reagan National Airport. They get so close, you'll feel like you can reach out and touch them!

45. Skate Park at RFK Campus (Maloof Skate Park)

Pro skater Geoff Rawley designed this 15,000-square-foot, one-of-a-kind skate park for skaters of all ages and skill levels. The park includes a replica of DC's famed Freedom Plaza. Skateboards, roller skates, and in-line skates are welcome, and parents can watch from the built-in bleachers. It's one of a dozen great skate parks near DC for kids and families.

46. Huntley Meadows Park — Alexandria, VA

With its protected wetland habitat, Huntley Meadows Park is one of the DC region's best places for wildlife viewing. You can see herons, frogs, turtles, snakes, beavers, and more. The flat two-mile nature trail—a combination of paths through the woods and a raised boardwalk over the wetland—is stroller accessible. The visitor center features educational exhibits and children's programs.

47. Georgetown Waterfront Park

This 10-acre park along the Potomac River is the perfect place to stroll, play, picnic, and take in incredible views. Kids love to sit on the waterfront steps and feed the geese and ducks, wind their way through the labyrinth, and explore the rain garden. In summer, they can splash in the fountain that features large arcs of water and is especially pretty when lit up at night.

48. DC Cherry Blossoms

DC'a famous cherry blossoms are absolutely breathtaking, and families flock from all over the world to see them. Thought there are several great places to see the cherry blossoms, the Tidal Basin is the most well-known (and beautiful).

49. Kingman and Heritage Islands

These natural parklands on the Anacostia River in northeast DC are home to more than 100 species of birds, mammals, and other wildlife. Families can enjoy heavily wooded trails, bridges spanning the river, and wildlife-rich wetlands.

50. Theodore Roosevelt Island

This 90-acre park pays homage to the 26th president and conservationist. There's an easy two-mile loop trail offering views of the Potomac River, the Georgetown Waterfront, and the DC skyline with a combination of boardwalks, paved paths, and packed-dirt trails. The hike culminates in a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt that includes a statue and quotations.

RELATED: 25 Fun Things To Do in Fairfax, Virginia with Kids

There's lots for families to explore in Clifton, Virginia. Photo by Bob Sivinski for Mommy Poppins

Interesting Neighborhoods Near DC for Families to Explore

51. Clifton, VA

This charming small town that's been around since the 1700s has historic homes for families to see, an 1860s red caboose for kids to peek inside, and an adorable playground next to a delicious homemade ice cream shop. Families can also search for wildlife at the Webb Nature Sanctuary and hike through Hemlock Overlook Regional Park at no cost.

52. Old Town Alexandria — Alexandria, VA

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.

53. National Harbor — National Harbor, MD

Sure, there are plenty of ways to spend money at this town on the banks of the Potomac, but there is also lots of free fun to be had. Families can frolic in the sand at the mini beach, go on an art scavenger hunt to find historical statues, play on the playground, or attend one of the many free festivals and events that take place.

54. Kensington, MD

Though this historic town is best known for its downtown Antique Row, it is also full of free family fun. Stroll past homes that are over 100 years old, play in quaint parks and playgrounds, go train-spotting in an old-school railway station, and take a reading break in the adorable Noyes Library for Young Children.

RELATED: Visiting Washington, DC's National Mall and Memorial Parks with Kids

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival draws many visitors each summer. Photo courtesy of the festival 

Free Festivals and Annual Events in DC for Kids and Families

55. Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Through cultural performances, workshops, food, and more, the popular Smithsonian Folklife Festival aims to spark curiosity of various cultures and nurture human connection. It takes place each July on the National Mall.

56. Library of Congress National Book Festival

The National Book Festival, typically held each August, brings together bestselling authors and thousands of book fans for author talks, panel discussions, book signings, and more. The lineup includes children's authors and activities.

57. DC State Fair

The annual DC State Fair showcases the talents and uniqueness of DC with contests, a pet parade, exhibitions by local vendors, workshops, and more family fun.

58. H Street Festival

This popular festival is a whopping 11 blocks long with 14 staging areas. It features tons of music, dance, youth-based performances, interactive children’s programs, food, and more.

59. Fiesta DC

Celebrate Latino culture from across Central and South America at the annual Fiesta DC, which includes a parade, music, and food from several Latino cultures.

60. Jazz in the Garden

Every Friday evening from late May through early August, the National Gallery of Art's outdoor Sculpture Garden comes alive with musical performances ranging from jazz to Afro-Cuban and bluegrass. It's one of the most popular of the DC area's many free outdoor concerts for families.

61. Cinematery

Summertime also brings loads of free outdoor movies to the DC area, and Cinematery is one of the most unique outdoor movie series. Families can watch Tim Burton movies such as Alice in Wonderland and The Nightmare Before Christmas under the stars at Congressional Cemetery.

62. Around the World Embassy Tour

Each May, more than 50 embassies open their doors to visitors to share the food, art, dance, fashion, music, innovations, and goods from their countries. Past activities have included karate demonstrations, sari-wrapping lessons, alpaca petting, and more.

The Great Halloween Lantern Parade in Baltimore is quite the spectacle. Photo courtesy of Creative Alliance

Free Recurring Holiday Events for DC Kids and Families

63. The Great Halloween Lantern Parade & Festival — Baltimore, MD

Every Halloween lover should experience this annual festival and parade at least once. At the festival, kids can make their own lanterns, dance, take part in a costume contest, and enjoy other activities. The parade includes illuminated floats, stilt walkers, marching bands, and more.

64. Air & Scare — Chantilly, VA

At this wildly popular event, kids can enjoy trick-or-treating, creepy crafts, spooky science experiments, photo ops with Star Wars characters, and other Halloween-themed activities at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

65. Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade — Silver Spring, MD

The only Thanksgiving parade in the DC metro area features marching bands, floats, dance groups, giant balloons and characters, and Santa Claus himself.

66. Washington, DC Temple Festival of Lights — Kensington, MD

The Festival of Lights at the Washington, DC Temple features over 400,000 lights and beautifully decorated Christmas trees. The Visitors’ Center exhibits beautiful créche displays featuring nativities from around the world and hosts many free holiday performances.

67. National Christmas Tree and Pathway of Peace

There's something quite special about seeing the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse each holiday season. It's surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees representing the US states and territories, each featuring unique ornaments created by students.

68. National Menorah Lighting

One of the most prominent public Hanukkah programs in the world is the annual lighting ceremony of the National Menorah on the Ellipse. Ticket holders get hot latkes and donuts as well as free dreidels and menorah kits, and the US Navy Band performs.

69. Greater Manassas Christmas Parade — Manassas, VA

This Christmas parade through downtown Manassas—one of the largest holiday parades in Northern Virginia—includes marching bands, floats, high-flying balloons, dancers, and more.

70. First Night Alexandria — Alexandria, VA

This popular annual New Year's Eve event features a variety of family activities, dance parties, live music, fireworks, and more. The festivities kick off in the afternoon and conclude through midnight as thousands welcome in the New Year.

71. DC Chinese Lunar New Year Parade

The annual DC Chinese Lunar New Year parade includes traditional lion and dragon dances, Kung Fu demonstrations, live music and marching bands, and more, culminating in a firecracker finale.

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

Will your family be one of the lucky ones to score tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll? Photo courtesy of The White House Archives, 2019

72. White House Easter Egg Roll

The White House Easter Egg Roll has been a DC tradition since 1878. Each year there is an online lottery for tickets, and if you're lucky enough to score them, go! Your family will enjoy games, storytime, live entertainment, and the traditional egg roll on the South Lawn of the White House.

73. National Memorial Day Parade and Concert

The nation's largest Memorial Day parade honors fallen heroes and features personal stories of those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice. The star-studded concert, which airs on PBS, has featured everyone from Gladys Knight to Gary Sinise, plus a variety of military bands.

74. National Independence Day Parade

Celebrate America's birthday at this massive parade down Constitution Ave featuring marching bands, floats, military units, giant balloons, and more, with the DC monuments as the backdrop.

75. Washington, DC 4th of July Celebration and Fireworks

The 4th of July fireworks display on the National Mall is one of the best in the nation. You can watch the show on TV, but there's nothing like experiencing it in person at least once. The fireworks launch from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

Places featured in this article:

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of American History

National Museum of the American Indian National Mall

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

National Museum of the United States Army

Historic Blenheim and the Civil War Interpretive Center

American Girl Store - Washington, DC

Arlington National Cemetery

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Franconia Family Recreation Area

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens