If you’re looking for the top spots in Washington, D.C., for families, we’ve got you covered. From vintage carousels to artsy hot spots, D.C. offers something for everyone. Here are some of the most family-friendly tourist sites on the National Mall as well as under-the-radar destinations that will have your kiddos pretending to be international spies or kayaking in the Potomac.
Glen Echo Park
Don’t miss the annual Family Day, a kid-centric day of magic shows, storytelling, and face painting. Founded in 1891, this historic park offers a beautiful vintage carousel and art and cultural center with classes, workshops, and performances.
Wheaton Regional Park
This kid-friendly oasis provides a little bit of everything, like a train ride perfect for tots, a carousel, ice rink, dog park, and picnic tables. Sure, it’s a bit farther out of the city than most options on this list, but it’s worth the trek.
Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole
In Reston, Virginia, this family water park offers over an acre of slides (some as high as three stories), splash areas, and a water playground. There is also a 725-foot-long lazy river for those who would prefer to relax. Toddlers should head to the gentle bubblers and pint-sized slides.
In 2006, Clemyjontri Park became Virginia’s first accessible park, where children of all abilities can have a parallel playground experience. Look for the lowered monkey bars, swings with high backs, and rubber ground surfaces so wheelchairs can roll easily.
Georgetown Waterfront Park
The Georgetown Waterfront Park provides a gorgeous view at dusk, when the lights from the Kennedy Center glow across the Potomac River. During the day, kiddos will love the 10-acre park’s splash fountain. Pro tip: You can rent canoes and kayaks from the Thompson Boat Center.
The National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the nation—not to mention it’s free!—and it houses everything from cheetahs to pandas to apes. There are also annual family-friendly events.
Mount Vernon Trail
Perfect for biking, this 18-mile paved trail stretches from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. Head over to this map for helpful parking locations, and don’t forget the water.
A stunning museum with nearly 400,000 square feet dedicated to exploring the African-American story, this museum is a must-see stop for school-aged children to learn about inclusion, injustice, and tolerance.
Sports-addicted kiddos will like the “Leveling the Playing Field” exhibit to learn how sports players fought for equality, while other exhibits teach similar stories through music or fashion. Don’t miss Explore More!, an interactive exhibit where kids can drive an antique car and search for a sunken slave ship. Pro tip: While the museum is free, its popularity means that you’ll likely need timed entry tickets.
Rock Creek Park
With 1,674 acres, Rock Creek Park is one of America’s largest and oldest city parks, so it’s worth a visit. Start at the Nature Center for ranger-led educational programs, and don’t miss the easy half-mile Woodland Trail for aspiring hikers.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Ignore the boring name and get ready for a 40-minute tour that covers how U.S. currency is printed. No tickets are required and the fast-paced tours operate every 15 minutes. If your child loves collecting coins or is a budding entrepreneur, this one’s for you.