Washington D.C.


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Welcome!

Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States of America and it’s a top destination for families. Some of the best monuments, museums, historical sites, zoos, and parks in the United States are located here. Even better, many of them cost nothing to visit.

I’ve visited Washington D.C. several times, and Katie – a longtime friend and Tips for Family Trips contributor – lives just outside the city in Northern Virginia. Here are our┬átop tips and posts for Washington D.C.

6 ESSENTIAL tips for celebrating the 4th of July in Washington D.C. | tipsforfamilytrips | summer vacation | travel | National Mall | Independence Day | fireworks | 4th of July parade | A Capitol Fourth

What to do

For most people, Washington D.C. is all about the museums and monuments. We love exploring the National Mall, wandering Smithsonian museums, and touring government buildings and historic sites. Get specific tips for our favorite places and activities by clicking the images below.

I have also spent time in National Harbor, Maryland, which is a popular Washington D.C. conference location. It’s located about 10 miles from downtown D.C and it’s a walkable family destination with water taxis to Alexandria and Mount Vernon.

Tips for the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. | tipsforfamilytrips.com
3 Days in Washington D.C. with Kids

10 GREAT Washington D.C. Museums for Kids
Tips for touring Mount Vernon with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com | Virginia | Washington D.C. | George Washington | summer vacation | spring break | family vacation | travel
Tips for Touring Mount Vernon with the Family
Tips for visiting the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com
Become a Spy at the International Spy Museum
Tips for visiting the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com | Smithsonian | Things to do in Washington DC
Tips for Visiting the National Air and Space Museum
The Indoor Play Area Rocks at the National Building Museum | tipsforfamilytrips.com
The National Building Museum Indoor Play Area Rocks
Tips for visiting Ford's Theatre in Washington DC with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com | Lincoln assassination | summer vacation | spring break | Ford's Theatre National Historic Site
Ford’s Theatre – Tips for Visiting With Kids
Review of the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. | tipsforfamilytrips.com | family travel | vacation ideas
Review of the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C.

A first-timer’s guide to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C.
Tips for visiting the National Archives Museum in Washington D.C. with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com | National Mall | spring break | summer vacation | family vacation | travel | educational | Declaration of Independence | Constitution | Bill of Rights
National Archives Museum in Washington D.C. – Tips for Families
Tips for visiting the National Postal Museum in Washington D.C. It's the best kept secret in the city - fun for families. | tipsforfamilytrips.com | things to do in Washington D.C. | free | Smithsonian
The National Postal Museum is the best-kept secret in Washington D.C.
Review of the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. | tipsforfamilytrips.com | family travel | vacation ideas
Tips for Visiting Washington D.C. Monuments at Night
US capitol tours
Tips for U.S. Capitol Tours
Tips for visiting the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. with kids. This HAS to be the most beautiful building in Washington D.C.! It's a great addition to any D.C. itinerary. | tipsforfamilytrips.com | summer vacation | spring break | family travel
Tips for Families at the Library of Congress
Tips for families visiting Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia | tipsforfamilytrips.com | Washington D.C. | travel
Tips for Families Visiting Arlington National Cemetery
10 fun things to do in National Harbor, Maryland with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com | Washington DC | Gaylord National | Capital Wheel | national harbor events | national harbor md | national harbor restaurants
10 FUN things to do in National Harbor with kids

Money-saving tips

One of the best things about Washington D.C. is that so many of its’ popular attractions are free! All the monuments and Smithsonian museums cost nothing to visit. You can quickly fill your itinerary with free activities.

There are a number of activities that cost money that are worth your consideration. The big one is George Washington’s Mount Vernon. It’s worth it. We also love the International Spy Museum, Newseum and others.

You can save up to 35% on these and many other popular attractions with the Go Washington DC Card. Between Go Card and free activities, it’s easy to keep your entertainment expenses under control in Washington D.C.

6 ESSENTIAL tips for celebrating the 4th of July in Washington D.C. | tipsforfamilytrips | summer vacation | travel | National Mall | Independence Day | fireworks | 4th of July parade | A Capitol Fourth
15+ Ways to Save Money in Washington D.C.
Tips for the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. | tipsforfamilytrips.com
25 Free Things to do in Washington D.C.
Tips for touring Mount Vernon with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com | Virginia | Washington D.C. | George Washington | summer vacation | spring break | family vacation | travel
Review of the Go Washington DC Card for Families

Where to stay

There are so many hotels in Washington D.C., it can be difficult to narrow down your options. I strongly recommend booking a hotel within a block or two of a Metro station. If you can book something within walking distance of the National Mall or other top attractions, even better.

We have stayed in several Washington D.C. hotels.

  • The Omni Shoreham Hotel was located within walking distance of the National Zoo and National Cathedral. It’s a beautiful historic hotel with Rock Creek Park in its back yard. It’s located one block from the Woodley Park-Zoo Metro Station.
  • Kimpton Hotel Madera is a converted apartment building located near the Dupont Circle Metro Station. It’s a fun, walkable neighborhood, not too far from the White House. We loved the family-sized room with bunk beds for our kids. Click the image below to read my full review.
  • Hotel Harrington has an outstanding location around the corner from Ford’s Theater and a few blocks from the National Mall. We stayed here for two nights over the 4th of July. The price is right, but be aware that this historic hotel feels a little run down.
  • Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is located in National Harbor, Maryland. I highly recommend this hotel if you’re here for a conference, but do not recommend it for a D.C. vacation. There are a lot of fun things to do in National Harbor, but it’s too far from the main D.C. attractions, with no Metro access.

Renting a home or apartment through AirBnB, HomeAway or other rental sites is a good option for families in Washington D.C. It can be an affordable way to get more space and a full kitchen.

Review of Kimpton Hotel Madera in Washington D.C. for families | tipsforfamilytrips.com | Dupont Circle | Washington DC hotels | Best Hotels in DC | Where to stay in Washington DC | Washington DC for kids
Washington D.C.’s Kimpton Hotel Madera for families

Getting around

I recommend using public transportation in Washington D.C., with occasional help from Uber, Lyft or a taxi. It can be difficult to drive and park in Washington D.C., especially if you aren’t familiar with the city. It’s not uncommon to pay $50 per night to park at your hotel.

Buy Metro cards at vending machines inside the Metro stations and top them up as needed. Avoid riding at rush hour if you can because trains can be very crowded. Walking is the best way to see Washington D.C., so don’t take Metro everywhere just because you can.

Bicycling is another good way to get around Washington D.C. The city has a Bikeshare program where you can rent a bike from one station and drop it off at another for just a few dollars per day. Learn more at capitalbikeshare.com. Families with young children may want to rent smaller bikes or trailers from a rental shop. Bike rental is one of the options on the Go Washington DC Card (see Money-saving tips.)

Hop-on Hop-off bus tours are a popular way to see the city. Pay for the route you want, get off the bus whenever you like for as long as you like, then get on another bus when you’re ready. A knowledegable guide shares information about points of interest while you ride. The Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off tour is one of the options on the Go Washington DC Card (see Money-saving tips.)


Tips for using Uber and Lyft with kids

Where to eat

There are good restaurants to fit a variety of budgets pretty much everywhere in Washington D.C. Here are a few of my family’s favorites.

  • Shake Shack – This east coast burger chain is a must for those of us who can’t get it at home. Find it at Union Station, next to the International Spy Museum on F Street, Dupont Circle and Logan Circle.
  • Burger Tap & Shake – This is another great burger that you can only find in Washington D.C. The Foggy Bottom location was a short walk from Kimpton Hotel Madera.
  • Pi Pizzeria – Rumor has it that this St. Louis pizza chain opened a D.C. location because it was a favorite of President Obama. I believe it, because this pizza is truly exceptional. Find it on F Street, near the International Spy Museum and Ford’s Theater.
  • Lebanese Taverna – This restaurant is a D.C. favorite, with several locations. We’ve tried the one near the Woodley Park Metro Station, just down the street from the National Zoo. It’s family friendly, and welcoming to those who are new to Middle-Eastern cuisine.
  • Capitol Cafe – This cafeteria, located inside the U.S. Capitol Building, offers a variety of inexpensive options for families with picky eaters (like mine.) Eat lunch here before or after a tour of the Capitol, or anytime you’re in the area.

Weather and Seasons

Washington D.C. generally has mild winters and hot, humid summers. Spring and fall are the most pleasant times to visit, but you can have a good trip any time of the year if you plan for the weather.

Spring and summer are the busiest seasons, but expect crowds at the most popular attractions any time of year. I’ve visited on the 4th of July and in November in the last couple of years. November crowds were lighter, but there were still plenty of other visitors.

Washington D.C. has several special events throughout the year. The National Cherry Blossom Festival in March-April is a very popular event. There is nothing like celebrating Independence Day in July on the National Mall. Colorful fall leaves in the D.C. area rival the autumn splendor in any other part of the country. Christmas is a festive season in Washington D.C.

Click the images below to read our top tips for some of these seasonal events.

Tips for the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. | tipsforfamilytrips.com
National Cherry Blossom Festival – 6 secrets from a local!
6 ESSENTIAL tips for celebrating the 4th of July in Washington D.C. | tipsforfamilytrips | summer vacation | travel | National Mall | Independence Day | fireworks | 4th of July parade | A Capitol Fourth
6 ESSENTIAL tips for celebrating the 4th of July in Washington D.C.

Best fall foliage spots near Washington D.C.

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Image with photo and text. Photo of U.S. Capitol Building. Text: Fun Things to do with kids in Washington D.C.