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 attractions.
And if you're looking for even more kid-friendly fun, you can save big on popular attractions, museums and so much more with Washington, DC’s best city and attraction passes.
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. Tickets are required, 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 interactive elements at the museum. Admission fills up quickly; get your tickets in advance online.
U.S. Botanic Garden
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
Joining the ranks of DC's top kid-friendly museums in January 2020, the all-new National Children's Museum welcomes visitors with its Dream Machine, a three-level jungle gym with climbing areas and huge slides, plus large-scale, cloud-like balls lit up with colorful LEDs. Tickets are required for admission.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
The National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center offers an impressive soup to nuts experience about all things air and space travel. The hangar-like museum houses dozens of aircraft and spacecraft, including the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde and the space shuttle Discovery. Kids can strap into a fighter jet simulator to do barrel rolls, while visitors can also experience an on-site Observation Tower where they can watch planes land and take off at nearby Washington Dulles International Airport. While visiting is free, on-site parking requires payment.
National Gallery of Art
The free-to-visit National Gallery of Art welcomes families for all kinds of unique programming. On any given week, you could attend an artist conversation or bring a sketchbook as you learn about featured artists and works. Check out the museum's list of family activities for inspiration during your visit.
National Building Museum
Kids can discover architectural wonders at the National Building Museum, the country’s only cultural institution dedicated to the build environment. The Play Work Build exhibit gives everyone a chance to be their own construction crew with small or large-scale foam blocks. While entering the building is free of charge (and worth the experience), exhibits require tickets.
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. Take a live and interactive virtual field trip with museum educators.
National Postal Museum
At the National Postal Museum, kids can create a stamp using their own design, write and mail a postcard, sit in the cab of a postal truck, ride in a stagecoach and sort packages like folks in the mail room. Check out the museum’s activities for both kids and adults before you embark.
The White House Visitor Center
The Phillips Collection
The Phillips Collection provides kids 18 an opportunity to explore America's first museum of modern art for free. There, they can enjoy a variety of coloring and activity pages, as well as tutorials. Young guests may want to partake in Phillips Plays Gallery Games prompts or get hands-on with a scavenger hunt through the museum. Learn more about ticketing for adults, students and seniors.
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. Timed entry tickets are required and if ordered online, will amount to a $1 surcharge.
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 Friday – Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Paid admission is required. Active or retired law enforcement officers can enter free on Saturdays.
National Portrait Gallery
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. Explore a variety of online programming for families.
Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building
Check out a family-friendly live performance at the Ripley Theatre next to the Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building. Be sure to peruse the website in advance to purchase tickets and find show information.The historic Arts and Industries Building opened to the public for the first time since 2004 with its new exhibition, FUTURES, in honor of the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary.
Planet Word is the world’s first voice-activated museum and brings language and words to life with immersive and interactive exhibits for all ages. Visitors can deliver a famous speech, watch a library book come to life, sing karaoke tunes and more. The museum also offers a variety of virtual programs. Tickets can be reserved for free in advance, although donations are appreciated.
The Mansion on O Street & O Street Museum
The only museum of its kind, you'll search for secret doors (the Mansion has more than 80 of them!), find your way through themed rooms and discover covert passages to a world never experienced at The Mansion on O Street & O Street Museum. You'll be walking in the footsteps of presidents and freedom fighters, historians, authors, artists, musicians, athletes and scholars. Ongoing family-oriented events include O'Kids Playdates, Family Fun Nights and Secret Door Experiences.