10 Great Reasons to Visit Washington DC With Your Family

There are many reasons to visit Washington DC with your family. Its history is intriguing and the sights and museums will keep your family busy for days. I can say for sure that our family loved our visit to the nation’s capital.

There’s a lot more to DC than you probably realize. Here’s 8 reasons why you should visit Washington DC soon.

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1. THERE’S SO MUCH TO SEE AROUND THE NATIONAL MALL

The National Mall and the Washington Monument

For such an important city, Washington DC is not very big. It doesn’t really sprawl like some other major US cities and is very compact as a result. This makes it an excellent walking city.

If you wanted to, you could reasonably spend 2 or 3 full days just on the National Mall and surrounding area and still have plenty of things left to see. What this means for families is that its relatively easy to get around. For your first trip to Washington DC, you could concentrate your visits to the National Mall area and simplify your trip immensely.

If you’re using public transportation (highly recommended because parking is a headache) it’s easy if you’re coming back to the same general area. This means there’s less stress about getting lost and it’s easy to become familiar with the area.

Of course the National Mall is a main tourist area so it’s well served by all manners of public transport at various times. At the same time with so many monuments and museums up and down the National Mall you’ll never get bored in this area.

The National Gallery of Art on the National Mall

2. THE SMITHSONIAN MUSEUMS ARE FREE

The National Air and Space Museum

If you’re traveling with your family, costs can quickly add up. The focus is often on how to visit Washington DC on a budget while still having an amazing vacation. It helps to find out that the majority of the attractions that you would love to see are free. Washington DC has perhaps the finest collection of museums in the country and a lot of them are free.

This is also helpful because if you’re traveling with small kids in your family, they don’t always stick to your closely crafted itinerary. Hunger may strike at unexpected times. Sometimes the attraction seemed like a good idea initially, only to arrive and 15 minutes later they’ve seen all they need to see and they’re ready to go!

Since the museums are free, it takes a bit of the sting out of adjusting plans or leaving early. You can also take a sample approach where you can check into several museums just to see what they’re all about, stay for a bit and move on to the next. Again very helpful for short attention spans and also for just figuring out what everyone likes.

With disparate tastes and interests, the whole family will find something that they will like with the dozens of museums available in Washington DC.

All of the Smithsonian Museums are free. That collection alone totals 17 museums so there’s quite the variety to choose from. The full list is here.

3. IT’S AN INCREDIBLE LEARNING EXPERIENCE

Washington DC is a place that’s so full of history, it seemingly pours out of every corner and side street. Merely walking along the streets, going through the residential areas and observing the wonderful architecture can give you a glimpse of times of centuries past.

The atmosphere and character that these storied structures possess helps paint the picture and tell the story of the nation’s capital. For children, it’s an awesome place to be to simply soak up the atmosphere and history that Washington DC exudes.

Learning the nation’s history from books is a good foundation and good way to learn facts and information. It’s another thing entirely to actually be there. To walk the streets, to see the sites and experience it all personally.

Visiting Washington DC may foremost be a family vacation, but what it often turns out to be is a field trip, and a tremendous educational experience unlike anything that you can ever read in a book.

Kids at the Smithsonian Museum of National Museum of American History

And that’s before you even step foot inside one if city’s many museums. Again, reading the information in a book is one thing.

To see actual artifacts and displays, many of which are interactive, is another thing and leaves quite the impression on a child’s (and adults) mind. After a visit to Washington DC they likely won’t view American history or learning the same again.

4. SEE A PERFORMANCE AT THE JOHN F. KENNEDY CENTER

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

One of the most iconic performance venues in the country sits proudly on the banks of the Potomac River. The elegant white walls that encase this structure are quite well known.

On trips to Washington DC many think to book a tour of the Kennedy Center and that is definitely something that should be considered. What if, however, you could see a performance at this venerable building? For a family the price would likely be prohibitive, unless of course the performance was free!

A great series that the John F. Kennedy presents is the Millennium Stage series of performances. These performances take place every day at 6 pm and they are free. It’s an incredible experience to not only step into this building, walk down the Hall of Nations, the Hall of States or the Foyer North, but to be able to sit and enjoy an actual performance.

The performances typically last an hour (again, great for young families), but are great. Make sure to check out the Millennium Stage Kennedy Center calendar of performances here.

Of course, there are many other performances that take place at the center. You can check their official website for detailed information about other performances and pricing.

5. VISIT THE NATIONAL GALLERY

National Portrait Gallery

Of the long list of Smithsonian Museums, this museum can be overlooked since it’s not on the National Mall like some of the more well known museums. Well that’s all changed. The National Portrait Gallery highlights now includes the Barack Obama and Michelle Obama portraits. This museum is now in the spotlight, and for good reason.

Portrait of Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery

Even though it’s not on the National Mall, it’s not far from it and it’s worth the trip to come and see the portraits of Barak and Michelle Obama. Remarkably, all of the portraits are quite captivating, particularly the president’s gallery. This area walks you through history from George Washington to Barack Obama.

Some well known presidents are featured (Abraham Lincoln). There are also many others that have slid into the shadows of history. They are on full display along with interesting information that frame their time in office.

This is another example of history in action. Children will read and learn about many of these men, but to see the portraits in person completes the picture (see what I did there) and makes for an awesome experience for school aged children.

6. SEE THE SUN SET AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL

Shadows from the sun setting on the Lincoln Memorial

When you visit DC you inevitably go visit the Lincoln Memorial. And for good reason. It’s an amazing monument that has an amazing view of the National Mall down past the Washington Monument and clear down to the Capitol Building.

Most people think of visiting during the day to get a good look at the monument and then to see the surrounding areas including the Reflecting Pool. That is a good way to approach your visit to the Lincoln Memorial.

What I have found fascinating is to visit in the evening just as the sun is beginning to set. With so much focus on the main hall that holds the statue of President Lincoln, most visits to the Lincoln Memorial only include the front of the monument. This often includes the main area and the steps.

What’s often missed is that the main platform goes all around the monument. When the sun is setting the view is magnificent. As you walk along the northern end the light filters through along the side of the building and through the columns casting spectacular shadows.

Making your way to the rear of the building, the setting sun splashes golden light against the white marble of the monument and the view is breathtaking.

The light projects through the columns and on to the rear wall of the monument. It’s the perfect place to sit and appreciate the sun set and/or take some really fun family photos with the help of the sun and casting shadows.

7. VISIT THE WHITE HOUSE

The White House

This is probably number one on everyone’s list when they visit Washington DC. For as many times as it’s seen on television and as much as it’s talked about, there’s always a lot of anticipation when it comes to getting to see the White House.

While you can get some great views of the White House from the northern gates, you can also apply for a tour of the White House! Being able to actually be inside the presidential residence would be a great addition to any DC itinerary.

While you don’t have to make many plans to see the White House, there’s a process for being able to go on a tour, so make sure you check the website and see all that is needed to apply. The best view of the White House is from the northern side; however, the view from the south is also nice and is the one that’s most familiar.

8. VISIT THE SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL HISTORY MUSEUM

Smithsonian Museum of National Museum of American History

This is one of the premier museums in the Smithsonian collection. It’s conveniently located on the National Mall not too far from the Washington Monument. The museum is massive and holds countless artifacts and displays highlighting the history of the United States.

Since the subject matter is so varied, this will likely be a good option for families because you’ll find something that everyone likes. Like all Smithsonian Museums, the admission is free. Make sure that you schedule a good amount of time to fully enjoy this museum.

9. ENJOY THE INCREDIBLE FOOD SCENE

Washington DC is known for it diversity and culture and one of the results of that is a tremendous food scene. It is the home to a range of international communities. This means that there is a great variety of ethnicities represented in the food scene as well, from Ethiopian to Vietnamese to Caribbean and everything in between.

Our family was delighted to find a great Vietnamese restaurant, named Sprig and Sprout which served one of the best bowls of pho that we’ve ever had. We still talk about it till this day.

There is also great diversity in the types of establishments that are available. From fine dining to food trucks, DC has it all. This range of options is perfect for families who are looking for good food but not always in an overly formal setting. It’s fun to experiment by checking out different neighborhoods which often will have their own flavor.

10. CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

There is a seemingly never ending list of festivals and events that draw people to the nations capital every year, but this is one of the most popular. If you are able to visit during the spring, you should try to visit during the Cherry Blossom Festival. These beautiful blossoms are on full display and attract people from all over.

The Tidal Basin is transformed by the countless blossoms literally springing to life and blanketing the area with their lovely colors. For photographers this is the perfect time to visit Washington DC. Even if you don’t consider yourself a photographer it’s a great time and place to take some family pics.

Besides seeing the blooms, the festival itself is a great activity for the family with activities geared towards kids and families.

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT WASHINGTON DC

Whether you come for the museums, the history, to see the White House or any other reason, you’ll likely leave DC with an amazing experience. It’s an especially fun city for families to visit. Our family definitely enjoyed our most recent trip to DC and I’m sure that your family will also. Before you go, make sure you have packed everything that you need for your family trip to DC!

There are plenty of other reasons to visit Washington DC. If you have others, feel free to share in the comments below.

Author

  • Jeremiah Pittmon

    Jeremiah Pittmon is a published travel writer and photographer from Cleveland, Ohio. Passionate about exploring the world with his family, he finds inspiration in all types of travel. Through his blog, smilesonarrival.com, and social media channels, he shares captivating experiences and valuable tips for families who love to travel.

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10 Great Reasons to Visit Washington DC With Your Family
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