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12 Ways to Experience an Epic Family Getaway in Washington, DC
Free museums, espionage adventures, sightseeing tours and more 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.
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.
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.
DC has 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, learn about the history and impact of the Bible at the Museum of the Bible or step inside the Sixth and I Synagogue to catch a concert.
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.
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.
If you’re looking for a truly remarkable vantage point of the DC skyline, consider setting sail with Entertainment Cruises. 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 Wharf, one of the city’s hottest destinations for dining, shopping and entertainment.
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.