I’ve been to D.C. before on a girl’s trip and we took advantage of the nice restaurants and rooftop bars overlooking the White House and it was a blast. Visting D.C. on a quick weekend trip with kids looks a little different. Our family trip gave me a new appreciation for the history and beauty of D.C. and our great nation. If you only have a few days to explore D.C. with the family here’s some must-dos while you’re there.
You can’t go to D.C. and not visit any monuments or memorial sites. Many are within walking distance of each other so it makes it easy to visit many of the sites in a short amount of time.
We started our monument tour at the Washington Monument. The 555 feet structure was built to honor our first president and it is quite a sight. You can walk the grounds, get a great view of the Capitol, or you can go to the top for a bird’s eye view of the city. If you want to go inside just be sure to get your tickets prior to your visit. They do not accept walk-ups or day-of-ticket purchases. After visiting the Washington Monument, you can walk down to The National Mall , “America’s First Yard,” to get a closer view of the Capitol or other nearby monuments.
World War II Memorial If you walk from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial you will come upon the WWII Memorial. From the National Park site: Through stone architecture and bronze sculptures, the World War II Memorial recognizes the ways Americans served, honors those who fell, and recognizes the victory they achieved to restore freedom and end tyranny around the globe.
Lincoln Memorial My favorite monument of all. Not only is its majestic marble statue honoring Abraham Lincoln a must-see, but the steps to the memorial witnessed many history-making moments such as the ‘I Have a Dream speech. It’s a beautiful structure that reminds me of ancient Roman times with the large marble columns and grand stairs leading up to the temple where Abe Lincoln is enshrined forever. The view of the Mall and the Washington Monument is spectacular at the top too!
Vietnam Veterans Memorial This memorial site is within close walking distance to the Lincoln Memorial. My kids were most touched by this memorial because they could read the names of all those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives protecting our country.
White House You can’t go to D.C. and not see the White House. My kids were most excited to see this historic building that houses all of our presidents. They were surprised to see it sits right in the middle of the city and seems small compared to its surroundings. We also got a glimpse of the President returning to the house as we were leaving.
Now on to the museums. There are so many amazing museums in D.C. and you’d need many more days to experience them all. Due to lack of availability and some closures due to Covid and refurbishing we didn’t have many to chose from during our visit. Pro tip: Make sure you plan in advance and get your tickets early. Some museums sell out months in advance. Our top choices were The Smithsonian, The Air & Space Museum, The African American Museum, and the International Spy Museum.
We were only able to get tickets to the International Spy Museum but it was perfect for the kids. Once we arrived they said you need two hours to complete the tour, however, I would plan on more like 4-5 hours.
From their site: At the International Spy Museum, you get to go undercover to test your spy skills at seventeen different digital and physical interactives spread throughout the Museum’s permanent exhibitions over two floors. You’ll be challenged to remember your cover identity, stay undercover, and participate in activities ranging from cracking codes to crawling through an air duct and spying on other “spies.”
The museum was incredible, very interactive, and super cool to learn about spies around the world. The best part was seeing all the spy gadgets and technology used from decades ago up until recently. It’s amazing what they can do with little cameras and microphones!
Once you’re done with all the historical sites, I highly recommend you head over to the Capitol Riverwalk. There are many restaurants nearby and you get a scenic view of the city and river.
Speaking of restaurants, here are a few we got to check out and others that were recommended to me as being kid-friendly.
My last recommendation is to visit Georgetown. Not only is it a beautiful and very European feel, but there are wonderful little shops and eateries to explore throughout the entire neighborhood.