One of the most popular family vacation destinations in the country, Washington DC has a lot going for it. Filled with top museums, tours, cruises, and other amazing attractions like government buildings, monuments, and memorials, there’s no end to the things you can do in DC. If you’re planning that family trip this but aren’t sure where to go during your limited time in town, consider some of our favorite attractions. They’ve been curated by industry experts who know and love DC, and know what it’s like to travel with kids. Our favorite Washington, DC family vacation ideas include:
- Big Bus DC Sightseeing Tour
- Smithsonian Museums
- Madame Tussauds DC
- George Washington’s Mount Vernon
- Washington Monuments Cruise
- Washington Nationals Baseball Game & Ballpark Tour
- DC Bike Rentals
- Capital Wheel
- National Mall & Monuments
- National Zoo
Save on Family Vacation Attraction Ideas
Regular admission to a number of these family friendly attractions are available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass. Choose as you go from top visited attractions and save up to 40% on combined admission vs paying at the gate. Learn more about our Washington DC passes, attractions and prices.
Big Bus DC Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
A great way for families to explore DC is with a bus tour. Although it’s a relatively compact city, there is still a longish distance between most of the big name attractions, and it’s easier to enjoy a guided tour than to schlepp around on the Metro all day. Choose a hop-on hop-off option like this one for the most flexibility in trip planning. You can get off when something intrigues the whole family, and hop back on when the kids get tired. It’s a win-win! Getting In: Big Bus DC tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.
If you’re looking for a unique museum among the many options in DC, the Newseum is it. It’s unlike any museum you’ve been to before, with its distinctive focus on news and news-making across time. The Newseum offers special exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of newsworthy moments across history and around the globe, like a massive piece of the Berlin Wall, fragments from 9/11 wreckage, and memorabilia from the Civil Rights Movement. You’ll also get to see fun features like daily newspapers from across the country, and a mock newsroom. Getting In: Newseum tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.
These are a big draw to locals and visitors alike. There are many different museums to choose from, like the new Museum of African American History and Culture, the popular American History Museum, and the fascinating Air and Space Museum. There are options to suit every interest, and in the, most of them have extended hours, too. So whether your kids are into art, history, science, or a little bit of everything, make sure you hit up a Smithsonian museum or two on your trip. Getting In: Smithsonian Museums are free.
Madame Tussauds DCSee the famous figures of DC history brought to life…alongside several other celebrities, of course! Madame Tussauds DC is a great installation of this popular wax works museum that is fun for the whole family to visit. Their featured exhibition in DC is the President’s Gallery, which features amazingly realistic wax replicas of all our past presidents. Snap a picture with George Washington or Barack Obama, and you’re sure to have a blast. Getting In: Madame Tussauds DC tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.
George Washington’s Mount VernonSpeaking of George, the next place on your family vacation list should be his eighteenth-century estate, Mount Vernon. Located a bit of a drive out of the city, this expansive and beautiful estate features a restored main house, immaculate gardens, and several historic outbuildings for you to explore. A visit here is a nice opportunity to immerse yourself in early American history, and to learn all about the way our first President lived. Getting In: George Washington’s Mount Vernon tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.
Washington Monuments Cruise
DC is typically swelteringly hot in the summertime months, so getting out on the water is probably a smart choice. It’s not only a convenient way to cool down, it’s also a fun way to sightsee! Hop aboard the Washington Monuments Cruise to see the city from a new perspective. You’ll get to snap photos of major sites and landmarks, from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to Lincoln Memorial and many more. Getting In: Washington Monuments Cruise tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.
Washington Nationals Baseball Game & Ballpark Tour
One of Major League Baseball’s newest stadiums is also among its most charming for visitors. This fun ballpark is a neat place to explore behind the scenes, from players-only spaces to the field itself. It’s also a nice place to take in a ball game. You can usually find inexpensive tickets and you can easily get walk-up tickets the day of, too. Sit back and relax with something from the Ben’s Chili Bowl stand and root for the Nats! Getting In: Washington Nationals Ballpark Tour tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass. Game tickets are separately priced and are not included with the pass.
DC Bike RentalsIt may be hot, but that doesn’t mean the locals aren’t out pedaling in force. While you won’t be bravely commuting to work in this heat, you can take advantage of DC’s bike friendly streets and trailways to enjoy a ride around this delightful city. Rent a bike and pedal around the National Mall, the Tidal Basin, or the city itself. It’s a nice way to sightsee while getting some exercise, too. Plus, it helps the kids burn off some of that extra energy they may have stored up. Getting In: DC Bike Rentals are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.
Another one of our family favorite activities in the DMV area is the Capital Wheel. As you slowly ascend to the top of this observation wheel, you’ll get stunning sights of the city before you, as well as the entire National Harbor. It’s a nice way to get unique photos of the city (since there isn’t a signature tall building here like, say, the Empire State Building in NYC), and is fun to boot. Plus, since you’re already in the area, you can make an afternoon of it and shop, dine, and explore this trendy neighborhood. Getting In: Capital Wheel tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.
National Mall & Monuments
Home to many of the Smithsonian Institution museums, the National Mall is the city’s central greenspace. Although you can certainly find bigger parks (Rock Creek Park comes to mind as a great place for picnicking, hiking, or running), there’s something about this famous expanse that’s well worth your time. Pedal your bike rental, throw a Frisbee, or just walk around with some overpriced ice cream and enjoy the day. Don’t forget about the many memorials and monuments that you’ll find throughout the mall, like the World War II Memorial, or the Washington Monument. All are free to visit, although the Washington Monument requires tickets. Getting In: The National Mall is free to explore.
Located inside Washington D.C.'s Rock Creek National Park, the National Zoo contains more than 400 species of animal. The National Zoo is actually part of the Smithsonian Institute and is free to the public. The zoo is quite large so we recommend planning out your visit before you arrive, you won't want to miss the most popular critters such as pandas, monkeys, sea lions, and many more. Getting In: The National Zoo is open and free to the public.
Remember to Save on Family Friendly Admission
There you go. A few suggestions for attractions and activities for your upcoming Washington DC family vacation. Regular admission to a number of these family friendly attractions are available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass. We hope you consider adding some of these fun ideas to your family vacation itinerary.