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19 Kid-Friendly Attractions & Hands-On Museums in Washington, DC

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Lobby

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.

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.

1 National Museum of Natural History

Henry the Elephant at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - Free museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC

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.

2 National Geographic Museum

@tinyhumansofdc - Child at National Geographic Museum in Dupont Circle - Museum Off the National Mall in Washington, DC

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.

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3 International Spy Museum

Visitors in the Decision Room at the new International Spy Museum - Museums and attractions in Washington, DC

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.

4 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.

5 National Museum of American History

Star Spangled Banner Exhibit at Smithsonian National Museum of American History - Washington, DC

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.

6 National Children's Museum

Child playing at the National Children's Museum - New mid-friendly museum in Washington, DC

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.

7 National Air and Space Museum

@adventuresarewaiting - Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at National Air and Space Museum - Free Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC

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.

8 National Gallery of Art

@ericabakerphoto - Family at the National Gallery of Art East Building on the National Mall - Free museum in Washington, DC

The National Gallery of Art welcomes families to attend workshops featuring an interactive guide and hands-on art activities in the Education Studio in the East Building. Younger kids (ages 4-7) will enjoy Stories in Art, which involve reading, exploring and experimenting.

9 National Building Museum

@fight4olddc - National Building Museum in Washington, DC - Museum Off the National Mall

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.

10 National Museum of the American Indian

@ginablove1 - Child at Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall - Free family-friendly museum in Washington, DC

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.

11 National Postal Museum

@preparingforpeanut - Child in Smithsonian National Postal Museum - Museum off the Mall in Washington, DC

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 kid-friendly itinerary before you embark.

12 Renwick Gallery

@nittanypanda - Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery in Downtown - Free museum in Washington, DC

Take the kids to the Renwick Gallery, which hosts the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s incredible collection of decorative art, and start an entirely new conversation between kids and art.

13 The White House Visitor Center

@adventure_chill - National Park Service Junior Ranger program at the White House Visitor Center - Free museum experiences in Washington, DC

The White House Visitor Center has several charming interactive exhibits. Activities include guessing who ordered from various plates of food on display, watching a film about the presidency and reading letters from children to past presidents.

14 The Phillips Collection

The Phillips Collection - Museums in Washington, DC

The Phillips Collection provides families with a free set of interactive, kid-friendly cards called the Discovery Pack that feature works of art in the collection. Kids can use the cards as a guide to touring this innovative modern art museum.

15 U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum - Washington, DC

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.

16 National Law Enforcement Museum

Visitors interacting with exhibit at the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, DC

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.

17 Madame Tussauds Washington, DC

Oval Office at Madam Tussauds Washington, DC - Family-Friendly Museum in Washington, DC

Madame Tussauds is home to the stars, from musicians to sporting greats to all U.S. presidents. The whole family will enjoy interacting and snapping selfies with the museum’s incredibly authentic wax figures.

18 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.

19 Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building

Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building at Sunset - Washington, DC

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.

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