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100 Free Things: Family-Friendly

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For even more ideas for family fun in DC, check out our DC Cool Kids page.

1) Watch the National Zoo’s conservation efforts firsthand along the Asia Trail. Pay a visit to giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian - and of course, their new adorable offspring, Bao Bao - and take a peek at their tiny neighbors, the red pandas.

2) See the stars in Rock Creek Park at the only planetarium operated by the National Park Service. Tours of the night sky are free.

3) Explore an exhibition and create an art project to take home through the Freer & Sackler Gallery's Imaginasia family programming.

4) See the National Mall with DC by Foot, a walking tour company that gives free, kid-friendly tours (gratuity recommended) infused with games, fun facts and trivia. Tours include the Arlington Cemetery Walking Tour, the Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour and the Twilight Washington Bus Tour.

5) Take pictures with Fala, the famous presidential pooch, at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

6) Make money (or see money being made) with a free tour of the Bureau of Engraving & Printing. During the peak season (March-August), first-come, first-served same-day tickets are required. The ticket office opens at 8 a.m.

7) Putter to East Potomac Golf Course for a round of miniature golf. Players 18 and under pay $5 per game. Gorgeous views of the Potomac River and planes roaring into National Airport are gratis.

8) Play pilot in a mock cockpit at America by Air, an exhibition on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum.

9) Walk among living butterflies at the National Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Pavilion ($6 for adults, $5 for children). Tuesdays are free, but timed-entry tickets are required. They are available at the Butterfly Pavilion box office beginning at 10 a.m. every Tuesday.

10) Teach kids about history at the National Museum of American History. See the original “Star-Spangled Banner” that inspired our national anthem, explore the history of the American presidency and check out Dorothy’s red slippers in the permanent exhibition National Treasures of Popular Culture.

11) Step foot inside the National Building Museum and admire the massive great hall. Take a photo standing beside one of the 75-foot-tall Corinthian columns for a sense of scale of the enormous atrium. In addition to free admission into the hall, look for occasional free festival days. Admission is required for galleries and exhibits.

12) Let kids roam free at Friendship Park (aka Turtle Park), DC’s most popular playground, located in the city’s American University Park neighborhood. Little ones love the huge sandbox, which is always full of toys.

13) Make a visit to Fort Washington, Md., home of National Harbor and the Capital Wheel, a ferris wheel overlooking the Potomac River. Kids 11 and under can ride the Wheel for $11.25, while persons 12 and up can take a spin for $15. Not ready for the ferris wheel? The Carousel at National Harbor reopened in 2014 and $5 will net you unlimited rides.

Take a ride on the Metrorail system to give kids a taste of a train ride and a break from the summer heat. Day passes are a great value at $9, and the Metro travels all over the city. For a ride dependent on people power, rent a four-person paddle boat ($19 an hour), weather permitting at the Tidal Basin.

14) Fly a kite next to the Washington Monument for a great family photo.

15) Give kids an inspiring lesson in freedom with a stop at the National Archives to view John Hancock’s John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence.

A pair of giant pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are surely the National Zooâs most popular attraction. Admission is free.
A pair of giant pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are surely the National Zoo’s most popular attraction. Admission is free.
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