So, you want to take your kids to Washington, DC. But, keeping the kids entertained in a hub of news and politics seems impossible. What you might not know is DC holds gems that will literally make your kids jump for joy. After you’ve booked one of these hotels in Washington DC, it’s time to entertain (and, yes, educate) your kids at the best attractions.
International Spy Museum
What child hasn’t dreamt of being a secret agent? At the International Spy Museum, their dream can become a reality. The museum features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts in the world on public display. As the kids wander through the museum, they’ll learn about the craft, practice, history, and modern use of espionage. The goal of the museum is to provide a global perspective on the hidden profession of spying that has shaped history.
Kids can take part in two interactive spy experiences. Operation Spy is a live action spy adventure, with your kid as the spy. It’s a one-hour mission that’s sure to give your children an adrenaline rush. The other interactive spy experience is Spy in the City. Here, pairs of kids are given a GPS unit that sends clues, codes, audio intercepts, and more to complete a secret mission. This mission is recommended for kids 10 and up who want to walk outside on the streets of DC to sight-see like never before.
Watch planes at Gravelly Point
Just a stone’s throw from the District is the perfect grassy knoll for a picnic and fun for kids. The entire family will love sitting next to the Potomac River and watching the planes take off and land from Ronald Reagan International Airport. There’s even a bike path along the river that takes you from Theodore Roosevelt Island to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
The Smithsonian: With 19 museums, there’s something for everyone Let's go
O. Orkin Insect Zoo
While the idea of an insect zoo might give you the creeps, it’s sure to entertain your kids. The O. Orkin Insect Zoo is located on the 2nd floor of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Visitors can observe live insects and watch volunteers conduct tarantula feedings. The Insect Zoo volunteers also allow kids to touch and hold insects as well as answer any inevitable questions they will have.
The zoo is home to 15 exhibits highlighting different aspects of the wonderful world of arthropods. These exhibits focus on 4 major concepts: definition, diversity, ecosystem inhabitants, and research. Within the exhibits are over 65 species of live arthropods and preserved specimens. When the kids’ patience run thin with the traditional exhibits, they’ll be delighted with the interactive displays, touch-it carts, videos, and live feedings.
National Geographic Museum
1145 17th St NW
Open daily: 10 a.m – 6 p.m.; closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
Tickets: Adults, $15; Children 5-12, $10; Children under 5 – free.
Explore the world through the National Geographic Museum and its interactive exhibitions and infamous photography. The Museum provides a global perspective from renowned explorers, photographers, and scientists to protect the natural world’s resources and animals. 100% of the proceeds from exhibitions and events goes back to the National Geographic Society’s nonprofit educational, conservation, and scientific work.
If your family has never been on a “duck boat,” they are in for a treat. DC Ducks takes your family on a 90 minute tour in an original WWII DUKW amphibious vehicle. During the war, the vehicles were used to carry supplies back and forth to ships that weren’t able to port. The DUCKS are fully restored, yet maintain a nostalgic charm.
One thing is for sure, the DUCKS are unlike any vehicle you’ve ridden in. It’s half tour bus and half boat, but all fun. The tour begins at Union Station where you’ll drive through the National Mall to see DC’s most famous monuments. You’ll also drive by the sprawling Smithsonian Museum campus. Then you’re amphibious vehicle dives into the Potomac River for a new view of the monuments. The boat returns to land at the Ronald Regan Washington National Airport where you’ll drive right under jet’s approach patterns.
An insider’s guide to Washington D.C.’s hidden gems Secret spots
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
301 14th Street SW
Kids will love watching the rolling presses print actual money, stack and cut them and examine them for defects. However, it’s first-come, first-serve basis so get there early. Tours are every 15 minutes and last about 45 minutes. There are seasonal changes to the hours: Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from September through February and from 9:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m. from late March through August.
Smithsonian National Zoo
Grounds: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admittance 4 p.m.); 7 p.m. closing in summer* (last admittance 6 p.m.)
Exhibit Buildings: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 6 p.m. closing in summer
Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo has no admission prices. It’s a short walk from the Cleveland Park metro station and then you just walk right in. What if it rains? Is there plenty of shade? Those and other questions can be answered in the National Zoo’s FAQ.
The Giant Pandas are the most popular exhibit. As of January 2018, one male and one female Giant Panda are on loan from China (Tian Tian and Mei Xing, plus one young male panda Bei Bei.) Eventually, the offspring will move to a conservation center in China. Bei Bei will travel there in 2019.