Explore the best of kid-friendly DC with these museums and attractions that are perfect for the whole family.
DC’s wealth of museums and attractions means there are always magical places where kids are transported from the ho-hum of touring to the “Wow!” of experiencing. Many of these sites feature interactive exhibits and entertainment to help capture the attention of even the littlest sightseer. Begin your exploring with these family-friendly museums and hands-on attractions.
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National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History offers Q?rius, an interactive learning space for tweens and teens allowing them to engage in real-life science experiments. Kids of all ages will be fascinated by daily tarantula feedings or a stroll among live butterflies in the Butterfly Pavilion. There's also the Fossil Basecamp at the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils Deep Time exhibit, an interactive area that enlightens visitors on the topics of fossil dating, fossilization and evolution.
National Geographic Museum
Animal lovers young and old will adore a spin through the National Geographic Museum. There are changing exhibits that always feature work by the magazine’s photographers, as well as displays that showcase the efforts of international scientists to protect the natural world’s resources and animals. Children under 5 are free.
International Spy Museum
Formerly a fixture in DC’s Downtown neighborhood, the International Spy Museum has moved to a new, purpose-built facility in L’Enfant Plaza, located in the Southwest Waterfront. The state-of-the-art museum offers enough spy-related intrigue and interactive family fun to fill an entire day. Not only is there lots and lots of new stuff to see, but you can take part in an Undercover Mission and discover numerous hands-on elements at the museum.
U.S. Botanic Garden
Child at United States Botanic Garden on Capitol Hill - Free living museum in Washington, DC
Visit the U.S. Botanic Garden for a scavenger hunt that sends kids off to identify plants and get their passports stamped. Stop in the Children’s Garden so kids can play in the playhouse, pump water, dig with shovels, water plants and on occasion, help the staff plant flowers.
National Museum of American History
The American Presidency, America on the Move and The Price of Freedom are all interactive exhibits in the National Museum of American History. Be sure to ask the Welcome Center about the museum’s programs that day, which may include activities like peeking through a stereoscope, using a printing press or handling a cotton gin. Don’t leave without visiting Spark!Lab, where kids can try their hand at inventing. Wegmans Wonderplace is another kid-centric exhibition (geared towards ages 0-6) that provides a wealth of interactive experiences, including a kid-sized version of Julia Child's kitchen and a tugboat that the young ones can captain.
National Children's Museum
National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall offers daily programs involving science experimentation. Kids are welcome to make and fly their own paper airplane, look through a real telescope with astronomy experts, take in a show at the Planetarium, climb in an aircraft, watch an IMAX film or ride a simulator.
National Gallery of Art
National Building Museum
Kids can learn how engineers construct architectural wonders by building an actual arch or truss using soft blocks in the Great Hall of the National Building Museum. Little ones will love the Building Zone, where they can drive a bulldozer and build a house using a tool belt and hardhat.
National Museum of the American Indian
At the National Museum of the American Indian, kids can explore ancient cultures at the ImagiNations Activity Center. Options include building an igloo, playing with real percussion instruments, stepping inside a traditional Native home and earning badges playing an interactive quiz show. Hok-noth-da for Families storytelling activities take place each Sunday from 11:15-11:45 a.m.
National Postal Museum
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
The U.S. Holocaust Museum is appropriate for children eight or older accompanied by an adult. Daniel’s Story is a permanent exhibit explaining the Holocaust from a child’s point of view. Children can write messages to other visitors at the end of the exhibit. There is also an interactive component (appropriate for teens) that follows the journey that Holocaust victims experienced during World War II.
National Law Enforcement Museum
The National Law Enforcement Museum is a state-of-the-art facility that memorializes American law enforcement and is home to 20,000-plus objects that tell the story of this country’s law enforcers, including the past, present and future. Visitors can participate in a training simulator and the museum hosts a number of family-friendly programs and tours throughout the year. The museum is open from Sunday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with hours extending until 9 p.m. on Thursday.
National Portrait Gallery
Explore exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery - Kid-friendly museum exhibits in Washington, DC
Portraiture is the theme at the museum’s Explore! exhibit, a space that uses various media to help kids understand the artform, from tracing a living silhouette to adding your own four-second snippet to a video wall. Toddler-friendly stations with felt and magnetic canvases allow for fun, colorful combinations, while reading nooks with books and face-covered building blocks round out the room. Ask the front desk if there’s any open studio time in the Education Center, where on select weekends kids of all ages can create art inspired by existing works and art movements.