Planning on showing off our nation’s beautiful capitol to the family? Great idea. Washington, DC makes for a fun-filled and educational trip for kids of all ages. Here are our ten top spots…
1. Private U.S. Capitol Tour. There is no reason to wait in line for a public tour of the Capitol when there are hundreds of young interns and staff assistants eager to leave the mailroom and phones and show you around. A few months before your trip to DC, contact one of your U.S. Senators (their staffs are larger than House Members’) and arrange a VIP experience.
2. Smithsonian National Air and Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Museum. The downtown Air and Space gets all the attention and Ben Stiller movies. But this larger museum near Dulles Airport has hundreds more planes for History-Channel-obsessed husbands and acres more space for cuckoo-crazy children to run off their demons.
3. White House Tour. Yes, you CAN go right inside Barack and Michelle’s pad (well, the public rooms), and when you call that Senator’s office for the Capitol tour have them hook you up with tickets to La Casa Blanca. Note: You are more likely to strike gold if you give three-six months notice.
4. The brand new National Children’s Museum. Due to open its doors in December 2012 in the new National Harbor, you can be one of the too-cool-for-school first visitors to this long-anticipated discovery and play place for kids.
5. National Harbor Marina and Events. While you’re at the NCM with the kids, be sure to check out the attractions for families at this new development like climbing all over the big five-piece sculpture The Awakening and swinging from the Calleva Ropes Course (seasonal).
6. Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Located right next to Ronald Reagan National Airport, this historic village is packed with things to do for kids (with a whole lot less tourists than nearby DC.) Our family had a great time taking the town Scavenger Hunt for kids, which hit most of the kid-friendly attractions without anyone getting bored, and climbing all over the huge anchors in the waterfront park.
7. Mount Vernon. Alexandria is right near Mr. I-Cannot-Tell-A-Lie’s home Mount Vernon, which is super cool if you have never been. Two important additions if you went as an eighth grader: a special tour of the slave quarters make this a more realistic and important history lesson, and a new visitor’s center with a kids’ playroom for littles who couldn’t care less about 18th century traditions.
8. Washington Monuments Cruise. The easiest and most pleasurable way to show your kids those big marble testaments to democracy (and beat the often-muggy D.C. weather) is to view them from a breezy boat on the Potomac. If you have a toddler or preschooler, spring for the DC Duck tour in one of the amphibious vehicles, complete with annoying quacker noise makers.
9. Canoes on the Potomac. Outdoorsy, athletic parents and big kids with lots of energy will like renting kayaks or canoes to explore the Potomac River and paddle past Abe and Tom and the other famous sites. (My own marriage was put to the test trying to coordinate paddling a heavy canoe, so I highly recommend the more lightweight one- and two-person kayaks.)
10. Georgetown and The Tombs. Whether you are a family of a teen with Hoya hoop dreams or just a fan of luxury neighborhoods with lots of good dining and shopping, Georgetown is a great spot for subtle history (think cobblestone streets with a Coach store). Families can grab a bite at The Tombs where kids can get their burger on and Mom and Dad can have a few and embarrassingly belt out the theme song to St. Elmo’s Fire (it’s the bar where it was filmed.)
Have your own ideas of things to do in with kids in DC? Leave them in the comments!