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Family-Friendly Tours in Washington, DC
Explore these ways to tour the nation’s capital that are sure to make your kid smile.
One of the great reasons to visit DC with children is the number of activities that are either affordable or completely free. Most are easily accessible, especially if you plan ahead. Here are some edutainment activities guaranteed to leave an indelible impression on both you and your child. And if you're looking for even more fun, get up to 40% off on popular paid attractions with the Go Washington, DC Explorer Pass.
Tours on foot
As you explore the National Mall, know that the National Park Service (NPS) has Park Rangers on duty that offer free, interpretive tours, ready to impress your kids with the impressive American history that is depicted on the Mall. NPS keeps a schedule of tours that you should be sure to check before you embark.
Teens and tweens will enjoy the Spy in the City program, hosted by the International Spy Museum. The interactive experience includes the use of a portable GPS and asks kids to wear their best “spy gear”. Make sure to bring headphones for the kids, and children younger than 16 must be accompanied by a parent. If it’s a better day for exploring inside, consider Operation Spy instead. Advanced reservations are recommended; tickets are available on the Spy Museum website.
Nearly every Smithsonian Museum offers docent-led interactive tours. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History guides offer daily tours and events, and you can even watch a tarantula feeding!
On weekend mornings at 9:45 am, take a “Highlights” tour at the National Zoo, where topics like animal care and the protection of wildlife habitats are discussed in detail. Plan a trip around a Smithsonian Sleepover, an unforgettable experience that includes tours, games and crafts. Offered at the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of American History and the Natural History Museum, the sleepovers are designed for kids between the ages of eight to twelve (must be accompanied by one parent). And if you're looking for a more personalized museum-going experience, the whole family will enjoy private, guided tours of a number of Smithsonian museums from Washington, DC Urban Adventures.
There are many tour guide services in DC, and each has their own area of expertise and price range. Many of these guides offer both private and group tours led by experts who have studied the city’s history and enjoy storytelling.
DC by Foot offers tours with no upfront fees, but instead asks visitors to pay what they think the tour is worth. DC Insider Tours offers themed and personalized museum tours. Fiat Luxe Tours offers private guides who speak multiple languages that will work with you to customize the route and sights. DC Design Tours offers historical walking tours of the nation's capital with a focus on architecture, urban planning and design.
Tours with transportation
The District also features plenty of bus, trolley, segway and boat tours. Big Bus Tours' British-style double decker open air bus is popular with families, and allows guests to pay one fee to hop on and off at various locations, then reboard later. Offering tours in multiple foreign languages and live commentary, the Big Bus ticket also includes free admission to Madame Tussauds.
Old Town Trolley Tours has multiple vehicles and different routes from which to choose, including moonlight tours, when the monuments and memorials are at their most beautiful. DC Ducks conducts tours in amphibious vehicles that travel by land and water.
Marveling at city sights on a Segway is also an option. City Segway Tours leads tours via individual motorized scooters. After an orientation and lessons in the art of riding a Segway, a guided tour of eight or less people are ushered around the National Mall with stops for photo taking and history lessons. Limited to ages 16 and over, this is a memorable way for your older teens to experience the nation’s capital.
If your family loves to bike, both Bike and Roll offers abbreviated, manageable tours via bicycle. Ask about their tandem bikes, trailers, baby seats and child-sized bikes. The best days to ride are in the summer and on the weekends when the route is less crowded; both allow time for stopping at historic sites.
Families who love to eat will enjoy one of the delicious food tours operating in the DC area. DC Metro Food Tours explores several neighborhoods known for their parade of noteworthy restaurants, including Capitol Hill, Georgetown, U Street, Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan. If your family loves Italian food, then try Mangia Food Tours, which focuses on Italian cuisine at four stops in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Or try a curated food tour with Carpe DC Food Tours and try local dishes in iconic DC eateries.
Tours by boat
Stretched along the Potomac River, DC is a fun place to go for a boat ride, especially when you catch a view of a monument from the water. While onboard you may pass a few paddle boarders or college crew teams. There are plenty of companies that offer waterfront tours and activities in the District, including family-friendly boat tours from Potomac Riverboat Company and Entertainment Cruises.