55 Awesome Free Things To Do in DC This Summer With Kids

Cool off at one of the area's many great splash pads this summer. Photo courtesy of Montgomery Parks
Cool off at one of the area's many great splash pads this summer. Photo courtesy of Montgomery Parks

School's almost out, summer is unofficially here, and we're on a mission to keep kids busy and having fun all summer long without breaking the bank. Luckily, there are tons of free things to do in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia this summer with kids, from free outdoor movies to free swimming pools.

Here is a list of 55 free activities for kids and families in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. How many of these free things to do in DC can your family fit in before school starts again? And don't forget: we are constantly updating our event calendar, so keep checking back for more free things to do in DC this summer with kids.


Free Things To Do Near DC in the Summer: Outdoor Movies
Watch a movie al fresco. Photo courtesy of Montgomery Parks

Free Things to Do in DC this Summer with Kids Outdoors

1. Free Outdoor Movies

Summer is the time when many local parks and downtowns offer free outdoor movies for kids and families. Pack a picnic and chairs or a blanket and enjoy a free flick under the stars.

2. Free Outdoor Concerts

Free outdoor concerts are another summertime staple in the DC area that are fun for the whole family. Check out our massive list of free summer concerts for families in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.

3. Summer Festivals and Fairs

There are tons of great summer festivals and fairs happening across the DC area, and many of them are free to enter and enjoy live entertainment, children's activities, and more. But keep in mind that rides, games, food, and other activities often cost a fee, so you'll likely have to shell out some money during the day.

4. Fun Playgrounds

There are so many great playgrounds near DC, you could probably visit a different one every day this summer and still not hit them all. But if you truly want to blow your kid's mind, head to one of these awesome destination playgrounds in the DC area. Got toddlers? Try one of these fun tot lots and toddler playgrounds near DC.

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

Free Things To Do Near DC in the Summer: Skate Parks
Skate or die, dude! Photo courtesy of Arlington Skaters for Arlington Skate Park, Facebook

5. Gnarly Skate Parks

Young skateboarders can practice their ollies, kickturns, and heelflips at these kid-friendly skate parks near DC. Some of them allow inline skates and bicycles, too. Don't forget the helmets, elbow pads, and kneepads!

6. National Zoo — Washington, DC

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, head to one of the indoor exhibits like the Great Ape House, the Small Mammal House, and the Reptile Discovery Center.

7. 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.

8. National Mall — Washington, DC

Warm summer evenings, when kids don't have to wake up early for school the next day, are the perfect time to see the National Mall's monuments and memorials all lit up at night. Grab a bite nearby at one of these kid-friendly restaurants near the National Mall.

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

Free Things To Do Near DC this Summer with Kids: United States Botanic Garden
There's lots to explore at the United States Botanic Garden. Photo courtesy of the garden

9. Gorgeous Gardens

Take a stroll through the United States Botanic Garden and the US National Arboretum in DC, both of which offer free admission and have children's gardens to explore. Other free (and lovely!) botanical gardens include Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland and Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia.

10. Family-Friendly Hikes

From well-maintained trails in state parks to lesser-known paths along creeks and through neighborhoods, the DC area is brimming with easy hiking trails for kids and families. These fall hikes near Washington, DC are also gorgeous in summer, when trees are fully green and flowers are in bloom—and many of them are free.

11. Free National Parks

Rock Creek Park and Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens are two DC national parks that are free every day. If you have a fourth-grader, signing up for an Every Kid Outdoors pass will give your family free admission to all national parks through August 31, 2024. Otherwise, you can visit Great Falls Park and other national parks for free on June 19 and August 4, 2024, two of several Free National Park Entrance Days.

12. Free Swimming Pools

Cool off and make a splash at one of these free public swimming pools in DC. Don't forget the goggles!

13. Sprinkler Parks, Spraygrounds, and Splash Pads

These splash pads, splash parks, and water playgrounds near DC are a fun, free way for kids to beat the summer heat.

14. Arts in the Parks Children's Entertainment Series — Fairfax County, VA

As part of the Fairfax Summer Entertainment Series, a different children's entertainer performs for free on select Wednesday mornings at Frying Pan Farm Park; Saturday mornings at Burke Lake Park, Mason District Park, and Ellanor C. Lawrence Park; and Saturday evenings at Sully Historic Site. Performers range from puppeteers to magicians to musicians.

15. Free Parks Playhouse Jr. Shows — Montgomery County, MD

Throughout the summer, Parks Playhouse Jr. presents free kids' shows, including music and comedy, in parks across Montgomery County.

RELATED: 22 Black-Owned Restaurants, Shops, and More to Discover in DC

Free Things To Do Near DC in the Summer: Juneteenth celebrations
DC does it up big for Juneteenth. Photo courtesy of Department of Parks and Rec in Prince George County

16. Juneteenth Commemorations

Juneteenth (June 19), the day slavery ended in the US, became a federal holiday in 2021. Celebrate it at one of many free Juneteenth commemorations across the DC area, most of which are taking place on Saturday, June 15 this year. Try Juneteenth at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, which includes family activities, performances, vendors, and more. 

17. Arlington National Cemetery — Arlington, VA

Visit the graves of US presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, astronaut John Glenn, and many other famous people at this renowned cemetery. Be sure to experience the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

18. Gravelly Point Park — Arlington, VA

Pack a picnic and head to this park to watch planes fly right over your head—so close, you'll feel like you can touch them—as they take off and land at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

19. Kids Day on the Plaza — National Harbor, MD

Enjoy free kids' activities every Tuesday at 10:30am in National Harbor from June through August. Activities include interactive storytimes, arts and crafts, meet-and-greets with police officers and firefighters, and more.

20. 4th of July Celebrations

It's no surprise that our nation's capital and its surrounding areas do it up big for Independence Day. Families can attend one of the area's many free 4th of July parades, celebrations, and fireworks shows all weekend long. The biggest one, of course, is DC's famous National Independence Day Parade and 4th of July Celebration and fireworks.

21. 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.

22. 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.

23. 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: Great Animal Farms and Petting Zoos Near Washington, DC

Free Things To Do Near DC in the Summer: nature centers
DC's free nature centers are great places to explore the natural world. Photo courtesy of Montgomery Parks

More Free Things to Do in DC this Summer with Kids

24. Free Nature Centers

Little animal lovers can get up close to reptiles, amphibians, fish, and other small animals at one of these free nature centers near DC. Many of them also offer hands-on activities, crafts, and special programs such as animal feedings, as well as outdoor trails, ponds, and more to explore.

25. Local Libraries

Local libraries offer tons of free enrichment programs for kids during the summer, including storytimes, arts and crafts, puppet shows, and more. Some require advance registration, so check the events calendar on your library's website to see what's coming up and how to join. Also ask about your library's Summer Reading Program, through which kids can win prizes for reading.

26. Storyville — Baltimore and Woodlawn, MD

The Rosedale and Woodlawn branches of the Baltimore County Public Library are also 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.

27. Government Building Tours — Washington, DC

Keep kids learning during the summer with a free guided or self-guided tour of the White House, the US Capitol, and the Supreme Court. Check the individual websites to see how to schedule your tour.

28. Free Restaurant Meals

Fuel up for all of your summer adventures at one of the many DC area restaurants with free meal deals for kids. Our list includes both national chains and local spots in DC, Maryland, and Northern Viirginia.  

29. 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.

30. Free Kids Workshops at The Home Depot

Head to your local The Home Depot store on the first Saturday of each month for free kids' workshops from 9am-12pm. Summer 2024 projects include a grill gift card box on June 1, a soccer game on July 6, and a whiteboard on August 3. Be sure to reserve your child's spot online.

31. Mall Play Areas

Mall play areas are great places for little ones to burn off energy so they'll nap in the stroller while their parents get some shopping in—a win for everyone! Check out our favorites in our list of free indoor places to play near DC.

Free Museums to Visit this Summer with Kids

All of these free museums are located in Washington, DC unless otherwise indicated. 

Free Things To Do Near DC in the Summer: National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum is in the midst of a massive renovation. Photo courtesy of the museum

32. 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.

33. 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.

34. 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 gowns worn by First Ladies, 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.

35. 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.

36. 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.

37. 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.

38. 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. 

39. 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.

40. 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.

41. 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.

42. 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.

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

Free Things To Do Near DC in the Summer: Planet Word
Planet Word offers lots of kid-friendly, interactive experiences. Photo courtesy of Planet Word

43. 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.

44. 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.

45. 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.

46. 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. The museum's Experiential Learning Center is full of hands-on activities for kids of all ages. There are also crafts for ages 4-8 and storytimes for ages 3-6 on Saturday mornings.

47. 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.

48. 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.

49. 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.

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

Free Things To Do Near DC in the Summer: Hemlock Overlook Regional Park 
Go on a family hike through Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Clifton. Photo courtesy of Nova Parks

Interesting Neighborhoods and Areas Near DC to Explore with Kids

50. Clifton, VA

This charming small town that's been around since the 1700s has historic homes 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.

51. Georgetown

Georgetown was founded in 1751—40 years before the nation's capital. That means you'll see federalist architecture, historic row houses, and cobblestone streets throughout the area. Families can also explore Georgetown Waterfront Park, visit the Dumbarton Oaks art museum and the Old Stone House (DC's oldest standing building), and play in some fun playgrounds—all for free.

52. Old Town Alexandria, VA

George Washington's charming hometown is steeped in history. View centuries-old architecture as you stroll along King Street, a mile-long street with more than 200 shops and restaurants. Other free activities include exploring the Alexandria waterfront and the Torpedo Factory Art Center, riding the King Street Trolley, seeing the Spite House (the country's skinniest historic house) at 523 Queen Street, and playing at the Armory Tot Lot.

53. National Harbor, MD

This waterfront destination is bursting with restaurants, stores, and hotels. But there are also plenty of free things for families to do here all summer long. Build sandcastles at the Beach, go on an art scavenger hunt, play on a fun playground, and enjoy one of many free summertime events for kids and families.

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.

55. 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.

Additional reporting by Christine Mooney

Places featured in this article:

Supreme Court of the United States

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center