Washington, D.C. is undoubtedly a city rich in history and full of attractions connected to the United States past, including museums, monuments, and art galleries.
While adults have plenty of choices, I want to give you a few ideas on how to spend a day with your children (or grandchildren and nephews) in the stunning city that Washington is.
National Zoological Park
The National Zoological Park is one of the best attractions for children in the city!
Founded in 1889, the National Zoo consists of two campuses. The one in Washington is a 163-acre (66 ha) urban park located at Rock Creek Park, 20 minutes from the National Mall by MetroRail. It is one of the oldest zoos in the U.S., and it's part of the Smithsonian Institution.
Entrance is free, while parking is 30$ per car.
The National Zoo features various mammals, including elephants, great cats and primates, reptiles, insects, aquatic animals, and amphibians, but the most famous residents are the giant pandas.
A visit to the Washington Zoo it's an excellent chance for children to admire aminals from all over the world.
So, wear your most comfortable shoes and arrive early to enjoy the park when less crowded. Timed passes might be necessary, so make sure you book your ticket online before going.
National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History, managed by the Smithsonian Institution and located on the National Mall, welcomes every year millions of visitors, gaining 13th place in the top 20 most visited museums of the world chart.
Opened in 1910, this free museum was one of the first Smithsonian buildings constructed solely to hold the national collections and research facilities. The main building only has a 325,000 square feet (30,200 m2) area dedicated to exhibitions and public space.
The National Museum of Natural History's collections contain over 145 million specimens of animals, plants, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and artifacts.
Among the exhibitions there are:
- The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, featuring the 45.52 carat Hope Diamond, the Dom Pedro Aquamarine, the world's largest aquamarine gem, and the Star of Asia Sapphire, one of the largest sapphires in the world;
- The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, housing 76 humans skulls and an interactive human family tree that follows six million years of evolution;
- The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils - Deep Time, featuring 46 "complete and important specimens" of dinosaurs including a Tyrannosaurus rex cast facing a Triceratops cast;
- The Butterfly Pavillion, filled with tropical plants and live, flittering butterflies;
- The Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals;
- The Q?rius, an interactive and educational area where both children and adults can engage with artifacts, microscopes, and interactive puzzles.
The Capital Wheel
Located at National Harbor, on the Potomac River, the Capital Wheel is a Ferris wheel that opened on May 23, 2014, features 42 climate-controlled gondolas (each seat eight people) and 1.6 million fully customizable LED lights.
The wheel has an overall height of 180 feet (54.9 m), 165-foot (50.3 m) diameter, and sits on a 770-foot-long (230 m) pier.
What better chance to take your children to enjoy a bird's-eye view of the National Harbor, the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, the Masonic Temple of Alexandria, and Prince George's County, Maryland?
The Capital Wheel is open year-round, but hours of operation might change according to the season. The ride lasts around 12 to 15 minutes, and no food is allowed inside, still is plenty of restaurants and cafes close by.
International Spy Museum
Opened in 2002, the International Spy Museum is dedicated to the tradecraft, history, and contemporary role of espionage in influencing world events and historical changes.
This museum is one of its kind and features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts, more than 750, on public display.
The permanent collection follows the whole history of espionage, from the ancient empires, through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, digging into the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolution, both World Wars, the Cold War, and present-day espionage ventures.
The best part of the museum? You can go undercover! Test your spy skills on a mission as you explore the museum's permanent exhibits playing computer games, and climb through ductwork. Since your performances during the mission are tracked, you will receive a debrief that summarizes your top spy skills.
The Museum also provides classroom lessons, resources, and activities for free, private family events, and sleepovers.
Since 2019, the museum it is located in L'Enfant Plaza.