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Free Things to Do: Family-Friendly Washington, DC
The nation’s capital is filled with free family activities and things for kids to do.
There’s no shortage of free things to do in DC with kids, as well as family-friendly events that won’t cost a cent. From kid-friendly attractions to cool activities that the entire family can enjoy, the nation’s capital is a great destination for a vacation any time of the year. We’ve put together some of the best things to do in DC with your kids, so read on to start planning for your trip to the District!
And if you're looking for even more budget-friendly family fun, save up to 40% off on popular paid attractions with the Go Washington, DC Explorer Pass. Pick up either a three, four, or five-attraction pass and experience some of the best the District has to offer!
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (commonly known as the “FDR Memorial”) honors the 32nd president of the United States and is composed of four “rooms” which represent each of his four terms as commander-in-chief. Bronze sculptures of the president, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and his trusty canine and First Pet Fala (who is very photogenic) are also featured.
To go with its monuments and memorials, the National Mall features a great, family-friendly lineup of free museums. Choose from a wide range of experiences, from showing the kids classic art to marveling at the wonders of aviation and our natural world.
The Lincoln Memorial, which honors the 16th president of the United States, is one of the National Mall’s most popular attractions. The majestic monument to Abraham Lincoln contains a 19-foot tall statue of the man, as well as an inscription of his most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address. Check out our our guide to the memorial to learn more about its incredible details.
The National Air and Space Museum boasts the world’s largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft, including Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the Wright brothers’ original 1903 flyer, astronaut space suits and a lunar rock sample. Kids will love playing pilot in a mock cockpit in the America by Air exhibit, which also features the nose of a Boeing 747 that visitors can enter.
Pack up a picnic – we’re going to Gravelly Point. Located in Arlington County, Virginia at the end of a runway at Ronald Reagan International Airport, this spot has plenty of space for lunchtime. The entire family will also be amazed by planes landing in front of them and taking off overhead.
The most visited natural history museum in the world, the National Museum of Natural History boasts an incredible rotating collection of 127 million items including dinosaur bones, the Hope Diamond, ancient Egyptian mummies and so much more. In the museum’s rotunda, you can gaze at the immense Henry the Elephant installation, a 14-foot tall African bush elephant that has been there since 1959.
The entire family can appreciate some of the greatest athletes in American history at the free-to-enter National Portrait Gallery. Through portraits, artifacts, memorabilia and video, you can marvel at feats by some of the most dynamic sports figures the country has ever seen, stars that transcended sports and became part of the country’s story.
A trip to the Smithsonian National Zoo is a must for families visiting DC, and an essential experience while there is a trot down the Asia Trail. You’ll be able to pay a visit to giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, as well as their offspring, Bei Bei. Be sure to take a peek at their tiny neighbors, the red pandas, too. Your exploration doesn’t stop there, though: the Zoo features more than 1,500 animals across 300 different species in total.
The different branches of the military have performed free concerts on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol for more than 130 years. During the summer, bring the family to “Sunsets with a Soundtrack,” a concert series from the U.S. Army Band featuring performances nearly every Friday night (June – August). The U.S. Marine Band, Navy Band and Air Force Band also perform on the Capitol's West Lawn throughout the week. Check this page for a full schedule.
The National Museum of American History recognizes the impact first ladies have had on the United States, as well as their style, with a display of inaugural gowns and evening dresses from the past 100 years. The museum also houses one of the most identifiable presidential accessories – the top hat that Abraham Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theatre the night he was assassinated.
Stare up at the stars in Rock Creek Park's Nature Center and Planetarium, featuring the only planetarium operated by the National Park Service. On Wednesdays, a special program is held for young astronomers (4 p.m.). Saturdays and Sundays feature a seasonal night sky (1 p.m.) and an exploration of the universe (4 p.m.). All programs are free to attend.