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12 Ways to Experience an Epic Family Getaway in Washington, DC

Family enjoying ice cream at Yards Park on the Capitol Riverfront - Family-friendly vacations in Washington, DC

Free museums, espionage adventures, sightseeing tours add up to one monumental vacation.

If you’re looking for the ultimate summer vacation for your family, look no further than Washington, DC. Whenever you visit the nation's capital, you’re bound for a memorable adventure. We've gathered together some of the city’s most popular things to do for families, from snapping photos with past presidents to eating a decidedly DC hot dog. Experience an epic family getaway with these activities in DC.

1 Uncover the world of espionage

Children at International Spy Museum - Family-Friendly Museum in Washington, DC

The International Spy Museum is one of the city’s most exciting, interactive museums – and it features the world’s largest collection of espionage artifacts on public display. Step inside and catch a glimpse of a lipstick pistol, an Enigma cipher machine like Alan Turing used to crack German codes during World War II and props used in James Bond films. Special offer: Get discounted tickets today.

2 Pose with past presidents – well, wax versions of them to be more specific
Pose with past presidents – well, wax versions of them to be more specific Madame Tussauds Washington, DC

The selfie set can have a field day at Madame Tussauds Washington, DC, a world-renowned wax museum featuring every single U.S. president in its collection of life-like figures. Stand beside six-foot-two forefather George Washington, or pose with the Kennedys. Madame Tussauds goes beyond politics with other popular figures, from teen faves like Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber to icons of the past like Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe and Marvin Gaye.

3 Bite into DC’s take on a hot dog, the half-smoke

Ben's Chili Bowl - Places to Eat on U Street - Washington, DC

DC has recently been attracting headlines for its Michelin-starred restaurants and food accolades, but one trusty standby all eaters should do during their visit is try a chili-covered half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Why Ben's? It's an historic landmark in the city, attracting celebrity diners like Bono and NBA basketball player Kevin Durant.

4 And Action: Deliver a TV news report in front of rolling cameras
And Action: Deliver a TV news report in front of rolling cameras Sam Kittner / Newseum

Step inside the NBC News Interactive Newsroom at the Newseum and deliver your very own newscast from a teleprompter. The immersive exhibit is just one of the many things you can see at the Newseum, which is a state-of-the-art museum dedicated to defending the five freedoms of the First Amendment.

5 Put your game face on with bowling and bocce

Pinstripes in Georgetown - Family-Friendly Bocce, Bowling and Restaurant in Washington, DC

Located in Georgetown, Pinstripes can turn the traditional family bowling outing into something straight out of Italy. Enjoy pizza, pinot noir (for the parents) and a precursor to American bowling, bocce ball, at this family-friendly restaurant. While the Italian word boccia translates to “bowl,” you and the kids can lace up a pair of bowling shoes and stick to the American version, too.

6 Reach for the stars at a free Smithsonian museum

Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall - Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

Washington, DC is filled with free things to do, thanks in large part to the Smithsonian Institution museums, all of which are free to visit. So what’s the most popular one? The answer is the National Air & Space Museum, which technically is one museum with two locations. Touch moonrock and admire the first American jet aircraft at the National Mall location, and then visit the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. campus to see the Space Shuttle Discovery, as well as the world’s fastest plane to ever fly, the SR-71 Blackbird. 

7 Go on a spiritual journey in the District

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception - Washington, DC

The nation’s capital also happens to be home to some of the most spectacular places of worship in the country. The largest Roman Catholic church in the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception offers free guided tours, covering its incredible architecture and history. You can also admire the flying buttresses supporting the Washington National Cathedral or step inside the Sixth and I Synagogue to catch a concert. Good to know: the Museum of the Bible will open soon in November 2017.

8 Cheer on the MLB’s Washington Nationals

Spring sunset at Washington Nationals home game - Family-friendly activities in Washington, DC

There are lots of great reasons to catch a baseball game at Nationals Park. But arguably the top reason of all is that the Washington Nationals have the best slugger in the game, Bryce Harper. Get an exclusive discount and save up to 17 percent when you buy your tickets. Just go to nationals.com/VIP and use promotional code VISITDC.

9 Get the lay of the land on a double-decker bus tour

Big Bus Tours Washington DC - Family-friendly sightseeing tours in Washington, DC

Hop on and hop off all over the District with Big Bus Tours Washington DC. There’s no better way to sightsee than with a top-deck view of everything from the White House to the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. Take any one of Big Bus’ three different routes: the Red Loop takes you through the National Mall, the Blue Loop through Arlington National Cemetery and the Yellow Loop through Georgetown. 

10 Cruise down the Potomac for a breathtaking perspective
Cruise down the Potomac for a breathtaking perspective Entertainment Cruises

If you’re looking for a truly remarkable vantage point of the DC skyline, consider setting sail with Entertainment Cruises. New-to-DC vessel the Spirit of Washington embarks from the Southwest Waterfront for dinner, lunch and brunch cruises, passing by landmarks such as the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. Get to the ship’s deck to enjoy one of the best views of the city. And when you're back on dry land, check out the countdown clock to The Wharf, which will add more than 15 restaurants, new retail and entertainment options starting in October 2017.

11 There’s amore to love when you eat family-style
There’s amore to love when you eat family-style Carmine's

Need to feed the whole family? Tried and true Carmine’s delivers, and then some. The family-style concept not only reinforces the sharing is caring mantra, but in plain terms, one heaping platter of spaghetti and meatballs or chicken cacciatore is often big enough to feed the whole family (and leave you with leftovers). Nothing brings families together quite like dessert, and the tiramisu and cannoli do not disappoint.

12 Rest up at the right Hilton hotel for you, from luxury to budget-friendly

The Capital Hilton - Hilton Hotels in Washington, DC

When it comes to settling down for the night, you have options. What's most important to you? Proximity to the National Mall? Luxury lodging? Book a Hilton hotel for your visit, and choose from 10 DC area properties.

Seeking even more family-friendly excitement in the nation’s capital. Check out these kid-friendly museums and hands-on attractions.