Heading to the nation’s capital this spring? Explore the city like a local with these family- friendly activities.
With 17 free area museums and galleries, and even a zoo, the Smithsonian Institution offers the ultimate way to entertain your entire family. You can scratch a different itch every day: Start with the butterfly garden at the National Museum of Natural History (the garden is free on Tuesdays), say hi to the giant pandas at the National Zoo, then spring for rides in the interactive flight simulators ($10 per person) at the National Air and Space Museum.
Don’t let the serious name fool you: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has much to offer even the youngest family members. This spring brings kid-centered To Sail Around the Sun, a show that blends storytelling, film, music and dance to illustrate the changes of the season; one-man spoken-word show Mouth Open, Story Jump Out; and Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood, an adventure told through animation, music and theater.
Head to The District by Hilton Club to meet “George,” illustrated (and stuffed) eagle with the inside track on the best places to visit in the city. Let him take your family on a guided tour of D.C.’s most famous sites, from the cherry blossom trees to the U.S. Capitol and the White House. Leave time to stop at Olivia Macaron along the way; one taste of the blood orange, Fruity Pebbles or Champagne macarons will show why they were voted the best in the city.
Sate your appetite and soak up some history at the same time. Teddy & The Bully Bar is a tribute to the 26th president, complete with cowboy-tastic faux taxidermy. The seasonal menu sources local produce and includes bison and wild boar for grown-up palates, but your little ones will enjoy the house-made cornbread and fried chicken.
Have several hours to fill? Head to 1,700-acre Rock Creek Park. With a nature center, planetarium, horse center, golf course, tennis courts and more, there is something outdoorsy for nearly everyone. Help the rangers feed the snakes, then pick up tickets to a free astronomy program or take a horseback riding lesson or a pony ride. Hike or bike the 32 miles of trails, rent a kayak or book a space in the picnic grove.
5 Tips to Keep Your Kids Engaged While Traveling
Involve them. Helping to plan will get them excited about the trip.
Create travel journals. Notebooks, markers and old-school disposable cameras will serve you well.
Lean on tech. Never underestimate the power of an iPad full of new apps, such as NPS National Mall, a free guide to this must-travel part of the city (free for Android and iPhone).
Slow down. Leave time for naps, snacks and spontaneous play now, avoid meltdowns later.
Stay wisely. Let your hotel help; choose a kid-friendly location, like The District.