Family Guide to Washington, DC

We fell in love with Washington, DC on our family’s first trip to the city last year. Since then the kids have been begging to go back. There are so many monuments and historic buildings to see that it most definitely warranted another long weekend in Washington, DC. We love that this city is alive with the history of our nation both past and present.

National Archives

The National Archives is home to the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. They are on permanent display in the Rotunda. Located on the same floor is the interactive Public Vaults exhibition. Here you have the opportunity to view thousands of original records including President Lincoln’s telegrams, historical photographs, treaties, maps and other fascinating documents. As you can imagine this is a very popular destination for visitors coming to our nation’s capital.

Pro Tip: While entrance is free, you can avoid the long lines by reserving a visit time. In my opinion, it is well worth the $1.50/person to be able to walk right in past the crowds.

Smithsonian Zoo

The Zoo is yet another great free thing to do while you are in Washington, DC. The park is hilly so plan on wearing comfortable walking shoes so that you can fully enjoy the day. There is one large path that winds through the Zoo with smaller paths branching off. If you enter in from Connecticut Avenue keep in mind there is that there is a free Guest Shuttle, running on a continuous loop, that will pick you up at the end and bring you almost back to the very beginning. Of course, the Pandas are the biggest attrac on, but don’t miss all of the other amazing animals. If you like orangutans, check out the Think Tank.

Pro Tip: The Zoo rents single and double strollers.

National Building Museum

Good design matters and that is not lost when you enter the National Building Museum. The soaring Great Hall makes quite a statement when you enter the building. We were most impressed by the House & Home exhibit that allows you to travel back in time and see how our housing has evolved.

Pro Tip: Allow enough time to visit the Play Work Build and Building Zone areas. Younger kids will love this hands-on experience.

The Newseum

It is true, we visited the Newseum last time we were in Washington, DC. However, this huge museum is worthy of a second trip! It has state-of-the-art theaters, tons of hands-on exhibits, activities and changing displays. Our teens have been studying a lot about the Civil War in recent years and that has piqued their interest in President Lincoln. We lucked out being able to view the current exhibit “President Lincoln is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination”. This exhibit showcases seven editions of the New York Herald chronicling newspaper’s coverage of his assassination as the news was being reported.

Pro-tip: Don’t miss the 4-D Movie! This film has so many cool visual effects, kids and adults of all ages will enjoy it.

Escape Room Live

Have you ever dreamt of being a Special Agent on assignment? Is your family good with puzzles and riddles? Then put the Escape Room Live on your Washington, DC must-do-list. This real-life exit game is designed to test your ability to solve a mystery and escape before time runs out. Your adventure begins with a staff member providing your group with your agent’s backstory and a few basic room rules. We liked that the storyline required you to solve multiple puzzles in order to decipher the codes to unlock your next clue, and eventually let you out of the room. While working together as a team, we used our collective brainpower to solve the riddles. Staff members are watching you through hidden cameras and with time running out, a voice came on over the loudspeaker asking if wanted a hint, which was met with a collective ‘no’ from our family. We were determined to solve the mystery. In the end, we did not escape but we were so close. It didn’t really matter, though, we had a great time.

Pro Tip: Reserve Room 3 if you are a family of 4-5. You will be the only ones in there.

Getting Around

Although many tourist attractions in Washington, DC are within walking distance from one another, you may find that you want to give your feet a break or desire to visit something on the outskirts of the district. We used the Metro the entire four days we were there. It is simple to navigate and it gets you around town much faster than using a cab.

Pro Tip: If you will be using the Metro for several days in a row it pays to look into the various farecards and pass options. Plus kids under four ride free with an adult!

Where to Stay

The Kimpton’s Hotel George is just one block from Union Station. From there you can hop on the Metro’s red line. The hotel is also adjacent to the Capitol Building and walking distance to the National Mall. The proximity to so many things in Washington, DC makes it a win-win in my book. But that is not all, this luxury property offers complimentary WiFi, a $10 Raid the Mini Bar credit (for Kimpton Reward Members) and has a complimentary wine hour every evening from 5:00-6:00pm.

Pro Tip: They are super kid friendly. When you make your reservations, ask for a goldfish to be delivered to your room!

If you only have one day to spend in Washington, DC, check out this itinerary we created to help you make the most of your time there.

Disclosure: While The Kimpton Hotel George offered us a media rate and Destination DC provided complimentary admission to some attractions, no other compensation was received for this review. This post reflects the honest opinion of my experience without outside influence.

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