Discover the Best Family-Friendly National Park Service Sites in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is the home of our government. With numerous museums, monuments, memorials, and historic sites, the city is a destination for travelers from all over the world.

As a family, you can take advantage of the educational and fun opportunities offered by the National Park Service sites in Washington D.C.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

What makes Washington D.C. family-friendly?

Washington D.C. is a great destination for families with a variety of attractions and activities that can appeal to all ages.

Here are some reasons why Washington D.C. is a family-friendly travel destination:

  1. Free museums: Many of the Smithsonian museums in D.C. are free to visit. This unlocks access for families to explore art, science, history, and culture without breaking the bank.
  2. The National Zoo: This very special zoo is also free to visit and has over 2,700 animals to see!
  3. Monuments and memorials: Washington D.C. is home to numerous monuments and memorials which can be a great opportunity for families to teach and learn about American history. What greater place to tell the story of Lincoln than at the steps of his memorial as your children’s jaws hang in awe of its magnitude?
  4. Outdoor spaces: There are plenty of parks and outdoor spaces in D.C. where families can picnic, play, and relax. Although much of your days may be spent enjoying world-class museums, rest assured that the National Mall offers families plenty of green space to run off their wild energies!
  5. Family-friendly attractions: D.C. has a variety of attractions that are geared towards families including the International Spy Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of Natural History. There are also numerous tours and sightseeing options that are designed with families in mind.
  6. Walkability: D.C. is a very walkable city which makes it easier for families to explore the city on foot. The Metro is also a convenient way to get around, and many attractions are located near Metro stops.

Washington D.C. offers a mix of educational and entertaining activities that can appeal to both kids and adults.

Both access and travel within the city are largely affordable which makes it a great family-friendly travel destination. Do note that it is a more expensive metro area, so staying in local hotels or accommodations may require the bulk of your budget.

Family-friendly National Park Service Sites in Washington D.C.

National Mall and Monuments

The National Mall is a vast open space that stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol building. The most iconic monuments and memorials including the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, are located on the National Mall.

The monuments offer a great opportunity for families to learn about the history and significance of each site.

Start your day with a visit to the Lincoln Memorial where you can climb the steps and take in the stunning views of the city. From there, head continue your walk along the National Mall to the Washington Monument, the towering structure that serves as a symbol of the city and the country.

These icons of our capitol will remain in your children’s memories for a lifetime, and it will give them context for many future lessons and scenes of significant events.

Smithsonian Museums

Washington D.C. is home to the Smithsonian museums. These free museums are some of the most famous museums in the world.

They museums cover a wide range of subjects, from art and culture to history and science.

The National Museum of American History, National Air and Space Museum, Museum of The American Indian, National Museum of African American History & Culture, and National Museum of Natural History are three of the most popular museums for families.

At the National Museum of American History families can learn about the history of the country, from its founding to the present day. The museum has a wide range of exhibits such as George Washington’s uniform to the First Ladies’ Inaugural Gowns.

The National Air and Space Museum is a must-visit for families with kids who are interested in aviation and space travel! The museum has a vast collection of aircraft and spacecraft as well as interactive exhibits and simulations.

The National Museum of Natural History offers a fascinating look at the natural world from dinosaurs to diamonds.

And for special, cultural histories of our great nation, enjoy the relatively new Museum of The American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Tidal Basin Loop Trail

Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin is home to numerous memorials that commemorate the lives and achievements of famous figures such as the Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thomas Jefferson.

The Tidal Basin is a beautiful and peaceful area that surrounds the basin of the Potomac River. It is home to several monuments commemorating these great figures in American history.

Families can enjoy this two-mile stroll around the Tidal Basin and visit the memorials, the cherry blossom trees, and the famous Floral Library.

War Memorials

Although the subject of war is always heavy, and children must remain respectful during the visits, no trip to Washington D.C. would be complete without visiting the World War I, World War II, and Korean War memorials.

Depending upon the children’s ages, parents may communicate the gravity of these special places and explain why it is always important to honor those we have lost at war.

President’s Park

The President’s Park, also known as the White House, is an exciting place for anyone to see. At this location, families can visit the White House Visitor Center and collect and complete a junior ranger activity book.

For those who would like to tour the White House, you must submit a request through your state representative at least three weeks in advance of your preferred date.

(We are currently unclear how challenging this opportunity may be; however, we will update this post later in the fall after our attempt to gain access to a full tour.)

Washington D.C.

Non-National Park Service places to visit

The National Arboretum is another special Washington D.C. destination offering free admission throughout the year. It is not run by the National Park Service, but it is run by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Another very important museum to share with your children is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum of Washington D.C. Although it showcases another inhumane and painful part of our world’s history, its images and teachings may help children understand the “why” behind so many of the World War II Memorial headstones.

The National Archives Museum is home to our nation’s founding documents, so this destination desrves time on any Washington D.C. itinerary. Its Boeing Learning Center offers frequent, child-centered events to help relay the importance and meaning behind the archives.

Be sure to visit the U.S. Capitol’s wonderful visitor center and exhibits (to schedule a tour, click HERE,) and walk the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building. There is so much to appreciate at these special sites!

Final Thoughts

Washington D.C. is a fantastic destination for families looking to explore the National Park Service sites. From the National Mall and monuments to the numerous other museums and destinations for learning, arts, and culture, we view our national’s capitol as a must visit destination for all families.

Please let us know what Washington D.C. sites are most special to YOU!

For more special NPS sites, head north and check out New England’s top six National Park Service locations.