Family Travel

Washington D.C. with Kids

Washington D.C. may be buttoned-up with politicians, but it's also crawling with kids — including two that live in the town's most famous residence. As a million visitors get ready to descend on D.C. for the inauguration, Kim Fredericks suggests ten ways to mix children and politics in the capital

  1. The International Spy Museum Dedicated to the world of espionage, this Penn Quarter museum delivers interactive experiences such as ‘Spy in the City,’ equipping families with GPS devices and sending them out on a mission to explore D.C.’s neighborhoods. At the museum, families can channel their inner villain at ‘Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains,’ or participate in Operation Spy and embark on a mission into the exotic fictional world of Khandar.

  2. The Library of Congress With 34.5 million books, the research arm of Congress is the world’s largest library. At the Young Reader’s Center, parents are encouraged to read aloud from a collection of non-circulating titles. The three-building complex also holds such notable works as drafts of the Declaration of Independence and George Washington’s copy of the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln’s handwritten first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation will be on display until February 18, 2013.

  3. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts On the banks of the Potomac River, this living memorial to the late President covers all the cultural bases. Show up daily at 6:00 p.m. (no tickets necessary) for free performances on the Millennium Stage. Highlights include Hansel and Gretel by the National Opera, interactive LEGO sculptures at Nordic 2013, and a Mexican puppet theater that brings to life the story of Sleeping Beauty.

  4. The National Museum of American History Part of the Smithsonian complex, this museum allows families to explore a diverse collection of exhibits in one trip. Within an hour you can view a 200-year-old flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner, gaze at the sparkly ruby slippers worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, see a piece of Plymouth Rock and meet the original Kermit the Frog.

  5. The National Zoo Spanning 163-acres of the Rock Creek National Park in the heart of D.C., the city’s zoo is free, open year-round and home to more than 2,000 animals. Walk the Asia trail to visit Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the zoo’s giant pandas, encounter cheetahs in the African Savanna and take a spin on the solar-powered carousel. You can also wander through the Kids’ Farm and meet rare San Clemente Island goats.

  6. The Planetarium at the Rock Creek Nature Center The city’s planetarium holds free shows for different age groups every weekend. The program for five- to seven-year-olds focuses on major constellations and the movement of the heavenly bodies through the night sky. For youngsters age seven and up, the show divides the time into a study of the night sky and an in-depth astronomy presentation. Families can also embark on Ranger-led programs within the park.

  7. The National Museum of Crime & Punishment The popular CSI Experience at the Forensics Lab puts participants into staged crime scenes. Budding crime scene investigators learn how to lift fingerprints, compare fibers microscopically and decipher DNA profiles as they put together evidence to solve a case.

  8. The National Mall The walking company DC By Foot gives free kid-friendly tours that combine sightseeing with games and trivia. Expert guides lead groups to key icons on the mall including the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol Building, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

  9. Bureau of Engraving and Printing Count your millions as you walk above the currency production floor of the so-called Money Factory. The free 40-minute experience includes an introductory film and gallery tour of the production process.

  10. The Newseum Budding anchormen and anchorwomen will love the ‘Be a TV Reporter’ stations in the NBC News Interactive Newsroom, where they can pick up a microphone, step before a camera and be filmed delivering a fictional news report. Videos are uploaded to a web site to be watched and shared.

1

The International Spy Museum

An interactive Penn Quarter museum dedicated to the world of espionage.

2

The Library of Congress

See Abraham Lincoln's handwritten first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation at the world's largest library until February 18.

3

JFK Center for Performance Arts

On the banks of the Potomac River, this living memorial to the late President covers all the cultural bases.

4

Museum of American History

See Dorothy's slippers from The Wizard of Oz and a 200-year-old American flag at this cultural landmark.

5

The National Zoo

Spanning 163-acres of the city, the sprawling zoo is home to 2,000 animals, including two giant pandas.

6

The Planetarium

Within Rock Creek National Park, watch in-depth astronomy presentations or help track constellations at the city's planetarium.

7

Museum of Crime & Punishment

Budding crime scene investigators can learn how to lift fingerprints at this popular interactive museum.

8

The National Mall

The walking company DC By Foot gives free kid-friendly tours that combine sightseeing with games and trivia.

9

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Count your millions as you walk above the currency production floor of the so-called Money Factory.

10

The Newseum

Kids love the 'Be a TV Reporter' stations in the NBC News Interactive Newsroom.