Washington D.C. is the epicenter of our country’s politics. It is also full of amazing architecture, free museums, and great food. I am fortunate enough to live a short 20 minute train ride away. We love to explore this vibrant city. With summer coming, plan a day trip or a weekend to DC with your tween, teen or anyone in-between for family fun and history.
There are an abundance of places to explore in D.C., so if you are planning a trip to our nation’s capitol, you do have to plan ahead for what you will do. Some things, such as monuments, won’t take an entire day but many museums are a full day trip. The district can be a very expensive place to park. Fortunately, my kids love taking the train into Union Station and then we walk or take the METRO train depending on where we are heading for the day. No parking fees!
All of the places I am sharing that we visit are FREE. Did you know that Washington D.C. is home to more free monuments and museums than anywhere else in the country?
If you are going to visit in the spring or fall, visit the National Zoo. We tend to stay away in the summer because it can be really hot. My girls have been coming here since they were 3 years old. The pandas are our favorite exhibit at the zoo. These playful guys are always good for a laugh. The National Zoo has many beautiful spots to enjoy a picnic lunch as well. We love visiting here because we disconnect from our devices and re-connect with the nature around us. As we know, getting tweens and teens to disconnect is a real feat. I promise your kids won’t care about the phones when they visit this zoo.
Pack a picnic, fill a bag with outdoor lawn games and head to the National Mall. If this isn’t the perfect backdrop for a day spent outdoors as a family then I am at a loss. Did you know the National Mall is called America’s Front Yard? Why not use that yard to play all day?
Library of Congress
Are your children avid reader? Take them to the ultimate library. The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. My girls were first interested in visiting after we watched the Nicolas Cage movie “National Treasure.” Taking them into this awe-inspiring building was amazing. They could not wrap their heads around just how many books there are. I wish I had captured their jaws dropping to the floor when they saw it for the first time.
Monuments to Photograph
If your teen is a lover of photography, this is the city to visit. Around every corner there is something awe-inspiring to photograph. We love to visit the memorials at night, as they are the backdrop for gorgeous photos. My 16-year-old loves to photograph the Lincoln Memorial. Another great place for photos is the Washington Monument. You can have fun and take some great silly photos from the ground with the monument as a backdrop.
Speaking of memorials, Washington is a fantastic city for history lessons of every kind. The Jefferson Memorial sits on the tidal basin of the National Mall. You can get a great view of the memorial in the summer months by renting paddle boats just on the opposite side of the tidal basin. The newest memorial is the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. My 7-year-old asked why Dr. King didn’t have a statue sooner because he made his special speech for everyone there.
Visiting these monuments and memorials sparks questions your kids wouldn’t normally ask. While I didn’t have an answer for my daughter’s question about Dr. King’s memorial, we did discuss how important what he did was for this country. On the other side of the National Mall is the Lincoln Memorial, the site where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. While you may think you are looking at a bunch of statues, they all commemorate meaningful moments in U.S. history. My kids love U.S. history and this is one of their favorite things to do in all of Washington D.C.
No visit to Washington D.C. is complete without a visit to a Smithsonian Museum. With a family of U.S. history lovers we tend to visit the American History Museum quite a bit. We love the First Ladies exhibit. It explores the important role that our Presidents’ wives have played in history. As a mother of young girls, I think this is very important to share with them.
Other Smithsonian Museums we enjoy are the Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. I hope this gives you an idea of great things to do in Washington D.C. with your tween and/or teen during your visit.