Washington DC for Kids: Places to Go
Copyright 2011 by Ellie Van Houtte
DC is a great place for kids. So get out and explore the city and its museums, zoos, parks, festivals, and more. There are lots of opportunities for hands-on learning, and most stuff is free.
Bookstores and Libraries
826DC Writing Workshops
Carpe Librum Bookstore
Browse thousands of gently used books, CDs, DVDs, and vinyl records. All items for sale at Carpe Librum (“seize the book“) are donated by the public and all proceeds go straight to Turning the Page, in support of their family literacy programs. NOTE: Carpe Librum will be moving in December 2017 — check the website for the new location.
DC Public Library
Fairy Godmother Children's Books and Toys
Idle Time Books
Kramerbooks & Afterwords
Library of Congress
Library of Congress Young Readers Center
Politics and Prose Bookstore
Farms and Markets
Farmers Markets (DC Metro area)
Visiting and shopping at farmers markets help kids understand where their food comes from and learn a bit about healthy eating. You might get the chance to have a conversation with a local farmer and pick up a few recipes for the week's meals.
Old Maryland Farm
Historic Sites and Government Buildings
Adams Morgan Heritage Trail
African American Heritage Trail (Washington DC)
C&O Canal Boat Rides$
Carter G. Woodson Home
Before Dr. Carter G. Woodson, there was very little accurate written history about the lives and experiences of Americans of African descent. Today a National Historic Site, Dr. Woodson’s home served as the headquarters for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Dr. Woodson established Negro History Week here in 1926, which we celebrate today as Black History Month.
City Within a City: Greater U Street Heritage Trail
Civil War to Civil Rights: Downtown Heritage Trail
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site$
The Victorian house, furnished much as it was when the famed abolitionist and orator lived there, is filled with photographs, documents, and gifts from friends like Harriet Beecher Stowe and Abraham Lincoln. Check the website for information about the Junior Ranger program and to make tour reservations.
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House
Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail (Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia)
The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail is a 560-mile land and water route that tells the story of the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake Bay region. It connects historic sites in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and commemorates the events leading up to the Battle for Baltimore, the aftermath of which inspired Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem. The trail traces American and British troop movements, introduces visitors to communities affected by the war, and highlights the Chesapeake region’s distinctive landscapes and waterways.
Supreme Court of the United States
The White House
U.S. Capitol Visitor Center
Washington National Cathedral
Monuments and Memorials
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Dedicated to the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, and to the era he represents. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself...." iconic words from an iconic president. Learn more about the man, his memorial and his lasting legacy to the Nation.
Korean War Veterans Memorial
The Korean War Veterans Memorial, located just south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, commemorates those who served in the Korean War. Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.
"In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." This memorial honors the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The north and south side chambers contain carved inscriptions of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg Address. The central hall contains the solitary figure of Lincoln sitting in contemplation.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, modeled after the Pantheon of Rome, is America's foremost memorial to our third president. Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence document, first Secretary of State for the United States of America, and a complex, 19th century man with a wide ranging impact on America itself.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The memorial wall, designed by architect Maya Lin, includes the names of over 58,000 servicemen and women who gave their lives in service or are missing in action in the Vietnam Conflict. The memorial also includes "The Three Servicemen" statue and the Vietnam Women's Memorial.
First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of his Countrymen. Built to honor George Washington, once commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States, the 555-foot marble obelisk towers over Washington, D.C.
World War II Memorial
Through stone architecture and bronze sculptures, the World War II Memorial recognizes the ways Americans served, honors those who fell, and recognizes the victory they achieved to restore freedom and end tyranny around the globe.
Museums and Galleries
American Art Museum
Anacostia Community Museum
Bureau of Printing and Engraving
Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History$
Freer/Sackler Gallery of Art
Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History
National Air and Space Museum
National Building Museum$
National Gallery of Art
National Geographic Museum
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience and how it helped us shape this nation. The exhibitions and collections explore every aspect of the African American experience, covering the arts, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, athletics, and much more.
National Museum of African Art
National Museum of American History
National Museum of Natural History
National Museum of the American Indian
National Portrait Gallery
National Postal Museum
Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art
Museums and Galleries, Planetariums
Parks, Nature Centers, and Gardens
Discover the Forest: Find Forests and Parks Near You (Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia)
Find forests, parks, and outdoor activities close to home with this searchable site and interactive map.
East Potomac Park
Enid A. Haupt Garden (Smithsonian Institution)
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Varieties of exotic water lilies bloom from late May through early September. Morning is the best time to see them; the flowers close when the temperature rises above 89 degrees. Explore this beautiful wetland habitat where you can see birds, dragonflies, beavers, and muskrats.
Nature Find: Find Parks, Trails, and Other Nature Sites Near You
Explore the outdoors! Discover parks, trails, and other nature sites near you with this searchable site and interactive map.
Pollinator Garden (Smithsonian Institution)
Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium
Theodore Roosevelt Island
U.S. Botanic Garden
Watkins Regional Park
David M. Brown Planetarium$
Adjacent to Washington-Lee High School, the David M. Brown Planetarium has been serving the community for over 40 years. Throughout the season, there are public multimedia programs including “Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity,” “Magic Tree House Space Adventure,” “The Exploding Universe” and a new children’s show called “Perfect Little Planet.” Additionally, “Stars Tonight,” a live sky show that highlights the celestial sights of the coming month, is offered on the first Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium also boasts a monthly schedule of full-dome programs with lectures on topics such as NASA, science fiction, robots and more. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for both children under 12 and seniors.
Visit this state-of-the-art planetarium located in Hylton High School. Public programs include full-dome shows about astronauts, legends of the night sky, stars and other astronomical features. Music fans will love the wide variety of lyrical laser shows featuring genres such as pop and country and iconic artists like the Beatles and Pink Floyd. Check the calendar for full descriptions and schedules. Tickets for all programs are $10 each and must be purchased in cash with exact change only. Because seating at this intimate venue is limited to only 65 people, it’s highly suggested to purchase tickets early.