DC Itinerary Planning: 5 Days in Washington DC with Young Kids

DC Itinerary Planning: 5 Days in DC with Kids

One of the aspect of vacation planning for our family is hours I spent reading, researching and agonizing over our itinerary planning. Just because we have a list of things to do in the destination doesn’t mean we can just sit back and relax. It’s even more important to have a good planning for a trip to Washington DC with kids. So I realized that my time that I have spent on our itinerary planning can be given back to you, our readers. I hope it will help you in your own planning for your next family vacation to Washington DC.

DC Itinerary Planning: Five Days in DC with Kids


Children ages at the time of travel: 7 and 5 years old

Time visited: Spring 2009

DC Itinerary:

Day 1: Travel day and DC by Night


DC Itinerary with Kids Tidal Basin


To save on our trip to Washington DC with kids, we loaded up the car and head north on the 10 hours road trip from Georgia. We arrived in DC late afternoon and after we checked-in, grabbed our dinner, we didn’t waste anytime to explore Washington DC. A quick metro ride from our hotel in Chrystal City transported us to the Tidal Basin area just in time to enjoy the night time stroll during the Cherry Blossom festival week.

Day 2: Museums and Clock Tower


DC Itinerary with Kids: Smithsonian Castle


In the morning, we started out early and planned to spend the day in the National mall area. So the first stop was the Smithsonian Castle, where we had some to enjoy coffee, grab a map to plan out the rest of the day and shopped for our souvenir. Most museums open at 10 AM but make sure to check about the admission requirement especially if you plan to visit DC during the peak season like spring break or holidays. Many museums will require tickets. Those tickets will be free but you still need to reserve or wait in line to get your tickets.

The museums we planned for today was the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of American History with a lunch break in between. Since the Natural Museum of Natural History is right across the lawn from the Castle, we strolled across the Mall to the museum right when it opened.


DC Itinerary with Kids: National Museum of Natural History


Arriving early allowed us to enjoy the museum before it gets too crowd. We spent a good couple hours in there. The National Museum of Natural History is truly a great place for toddlers and young kids. With so many exhibits for them to touch and explore, we had to literally drag them out of the museum.


DC Itinerary with Kids: National Museum of Natural History


Our next stop was the Old Post Office building. Since we didn’t want to wait in line to go up the Washington Monument, we opted for the other best place to have the view of Washington DC. If I had the crystal ball to see into the future and knew that the Washington Monument will be closed due to earthquake damage, we might suck it up and wait for the chance to go up the Washington monument.

But that’s not to say that our experience at the Old Post Office tower is anything but awesome! We took the elevator up to the top of the tower and enjoyed amazing clear view on the bright blue sky day of Washington DC. It was also fun for kids to see the tower clock up close.

By then, it was lunch time and the Old Post Office food court at the ground floor was perfect place for us to enjoy lunch on a budget. The food was good and the people watching was fun.


Washington DC with Kids American History-3


With energy from lunch and ice cream, we trekked our way to the National Museum of American History. But by now, the kids had been up since 8 AM and been walking around since then. So we knew their limit were near. We checked with the visitor center desk for the family guide and how to maximize our time at this huge museum. The family guide to America on the Move is perfect for family with limited time. The guide provided fun and interactive ways for kids to both enjoy and appreciate the exhibit. It turned out Mr. Z chose National Museum of American History as one of his favorite during our family trip to DC. Go figure! Boy with wheels.

Then it was time to head back to the hotel. I had purchased restaurant.com certificate to Ted Montana Grill for this trip. A little bit of planning will help save on our vacation budget. We knew we will have to eat out so why not save on those dinner. Plus, we have always loved dining at Ted Montana Grill so it was a familiar dinner to end a full first day in DC with kids.

Day 3: The Capitol and DC by Foot Tour


DC with Kids- Capitol Tour-1


After a quick break from the Capitol, we were back at it for a full day of fun. The day started early and we had high hope for a fun tour of the Capitol and DC by Foot tour of the memorial and monument later in the evening for our fourth day in DC.

But thing didn’t go according to plan and there was nothing we could do about it when we missed our Capitol tour by 5 minutes and after waiting in line to get the walk-in tickets, the fire alarm set  off and everyone had to evacuate the building. So there it went out morning of Capitol tour ended up with evacuation. We just took the opportunity to check out the Union Station nearby and had lunch at the food court. There are several food courts within the downtown DC area that are perfect for family on a budget. These budget friendly food options in DC were not only great way to save on our vacation but also great for providing different options for picky eaters.




But the day was saved by the evening of fun and educational tour from DC by Foot a free, tip based walking tour in DC. The tour lasted about 2 hours and we started from the Washington monument all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.

It was a long day for us but the kids did extremely well. We walked back to the metro station and headed back to our hotel for a great night of sleep.

Day 4: The National Zoo


DC with Kids Itinerary Planning: The National Zoo


Another break from the National Mall and all the museums in DC but still part of the Smithsonian. The National Zoo is a great destination for family with kids of all ages. Who doesn’t love to see animal especially the Panda, the star attraction in the National Zoo. We originally planned for 2 stops today – the National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum. However, after a longer than planned day at the Zoo, we pushed a visit to the National Air and Space museum to the next day.

It was a great decision to relax and take it easy the rest of the day after a fun filled at the National Zoo with kids.

Day 5: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and White House


DC with Kids- Air and Space Museum-1


On our last full day in Washington DC with kids, we saved the best for last. With young kids, the National Air and Space museum is a world of fascination for them. The museum is huge and can be crowd especially during the peak season. However, things were moving along and there were so many staffs on site to help answer any questions.

If you haven’t check out their website before heading there, you can still check the visitor information center to find out about family friendly guide to help navigate the Air and Space museum for kids. Read more on our day at National Air and Space museum with kids.


Washington DC with Kids - The White House


Then after we had enough of the air crafts, space objects and various science exhibit, our brain was so full that we needed a break. So we decided to walk to the White House visitor center. Even though we didn’t secure the passes from your congressmen or representative, a visit to the White House visitor center was still fun and worthwhile. Plus we couldn’t leave Washington DC without taking the obligatory picture in front of gate of the White House.


Bonus Day: Day Trip to Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore


Baltimore with Kids_Port Discovery-3


We took a day trip out of DC to Baltimore for a fun day of Children’s museum at the Port Discovery Children’s museum. It might seem weird to decide to take a trip to Baltimore with kids when we still have so many things to do in DC with kids. First reason was we didn’t want the kids to get museum overloaded and wanted to break the trip to add a different flavor to the trip.

Secondly, we had an annual membership to our local children’s museum that had the reciprocal membership with the Port Discovery Children’s museum for free admission so there was no additional cost except the gas to go to Baltimore.

Lastly, Port Discovery Children’s Museum is considered one of the best children’s museum and is deserving so. Kids truly enjoyed every minute of our time in Baltimore.

Resources for family vacation planning to DC with kids



Have you been to DC with kids? Share with us your family itinerary or tips.


Fun Things to Do in DC for School-age Kids

Things to do in DC with kids

Finding family friendly things to do in DC with kids is easy. But choosing what your family can fit into your schedule and limited vacation time is extremely hard. We have been to Washington DC with kids a few years ago and we knew that we want to go back there again. Even with a proper planning on finding things to do with kids on our last trip, we still have a long list of things we haven’t done in DC.

So now, I’m back at it again, searching, reading, listing and planning our next family vacation to Washington DC. This time, the kids are older. They are in elementary school and they have learned a lot more about US history and all other things kids learn in school. So our list has changed from things that will entertain toddler and young kids to things that will interest tweens and school-age children. Here are our list of top things to do in DC for school-age kids.

The Library of Congress

Not that Library of Congress is not worthy of a visit if it doesn’t have the title of the world’s largest library. But with a parent of kid who obsesses with anything that holds the world title, we couldn’t miss out on visiting the world’s largest collection of knowledge. With various activities suitable for families and kids like a free guided tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building or an interactive self-guided Passport of Knowledge, who said visiting library has to be boring.

Tour of the Capitol

Kids will love to see how their government works if we are lucky and the Congress is in session. Last visit to DC, we missed our tour by 5 minutes because we miscalculated on how long it would take to go through the security check. And to make matter worse, we couldn’t get the stand by tickets because there was a false fire alarm that day. But this time, we hope we could finally get to tour the Capitol.

Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air & Space Museum

We have been to the National Air and Space Museum at the National Mall location. It was huge and kids enjoyed every minute of it. We spent almost a couple hours there touring and checking out almost every exhibits. So this visting to DC with kids, we would love to change it up and check out the biggest aircrafts and space object especially the Discovery Space Shuttle. With the location in Chantilly, the visit to Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air & Space Museum will be a bit drive so we will probably plan to explore things outside DC that day.

International Spy Museum

With so any free museums to visit in Washington DC, it might seem odd that we will want to shell out admission fee to another museum. But as we mention, the kids are older and their interests have changed. The Spy Museum will be a big hit not only for them but for us as well. Luckily, we found a deal online from GoldStar so that will help on our budget.

National Building Museum

Ok, we haven’t heard about this museum before until we read the post from local blogger in DC. And after checking out the website for more information, we know this will be another great non-traditional museum that kids will enjoy. There are free tours for historic building tour and family-friendly wonderous pension building tour. We also can’t wait to check out the family tool kit to help us learn and explore the museum in a more fun way.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Now that kids are older and know that value of money, what could be more exciting than seeing the money being printed. To tour BEP, if you go during the peak season like us, you will need to get free ticket at the Visitor Center or via your congressional office. The free 40-minute experience includes an introductory film and gallery tour of the production process.  The visitor center includes exhibits and currency products for sale.

United State Holocaust Memorial Museum

We don’t know what to expect but the kids have been learning about war history and Miss J has been reading Ann Frank book since 4th grade. So she knows that this is one museum she would like to visit. After checking out the museum website, there are several good information on how to visit the museum with kids. Make sure to pick up or download family guide before you go.

National Parks in DC

We bought National Park passport book for our kids a few years ago but after our first trip to Washington DC. So this revisit trip is a great opportunity for us to collect passport cancellation stamp from various national parks in Washington DC. At least we know we will visit The White House, Vietnam Veteran Memorial, Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and many more. We might not be able to get all the stamps but we will try to visit the ones that are close to each other.

So that’s it. Our list of things to do with kids in DC for our 4 days visit. As usual, we will use this as a guide but will also play it by ears and be flexible on the program.

Check out our list of things to do in DC with young kids from our previous visit here.


Three Fun Ways to Tour Washington DC

A city rich with many museums and monuments like Washington DC will require a good deal of planning and time to explore.  For the tourist on a time crunch, a guided tour of the city is a great way to maximize your time. Sure, you can use the tried and true “hop-on and hop-off” bus tour. But it’s way more fun to try one of the unconventional tours offered in the city.

City Segway Tours

If you want to blast through the city and enjoy all the must-see attractions while looking cool, take the National Mall Segway tour. You may even learn a few new facts to boost your water cooler knowledge.

For even more fun, you can book the evening tour; there’s less traffic, and you can get an interesting view of the monuments after dark. You can stay at the Sofitel Lafayette Square and, from there, take a metro from McPherson Square to Gallery PI – Chinatown. (meets at 624 9th Street, NW)

D.C. By Foot

Lace up and get ready for an enjoyable tour that will also give you a hearty work out. D.C. By Foot is a free tip-based walking tour that is lead by an entertaining and knowledgeable tour guide.

The tour will take you from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Now, don’t forget to stretch and stay hydrated. The meeting point is not too far from the Mandarin Oriental Washington D.C. (meets at the northeast corner of 15th and Constitution Avenue, NW)

Bike the Sites

Another way to view the sights and get great exercise is to Bike the Sites with Bike and Roll.  It is a fun way to explore the nation’s capital without wearing out the soles of your feet. There are different tours for you to choose from.

The family will enjoy a chance of bike together with Family Bike Adventures tour. Also, since there are three different meeting locations, it might be a bit more convenient. The most recently opened location is at Union Station near the Washington Court Hotel.

See my full article at Oyster Locals.

Washington DC Things To Do

Washington DC with Kids: Family-Friendly Activities during the Cherry Blossom Festival

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC is one of the best ways to spend Spring Break with your children.  This event offers many great family friendly activities for the whole family to go along with the world class selection of free museums.  If you plan to be in DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival week, check out these fun events

Tidal Basin Paddle Boat

During Cherry Blossom Festival month (Mar 10 – Apr 11, 2010) kids (and you) can enjoy the view of Cherry blossoms  along the Tidal Basin while riding a paddle boat.

Family Fun Zone from National Park Service

At the Jefferson Memorial – Each Saturday & Sunday from Mar 27 to Apr 11, 2010, the kids learn about the trees of the other national parks and practice writing in Japanese at the Family Fun Zone.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day

At the National Building Museum – Celebrate the opening ceremony of the National Cherry Blossom festival on Mar 27 with fun family friendly activities including hands-on activities, informative demonstrations, and exciting indoor and outdoor performances celebrating Spring and exploring Japanese arts and design.

National Cherry Blossom Music & Firework Show

At the Southwest Waterfront – On Apr 3, arrive early for family friendly activities and local musical group performances from 5 pm – 8 pm. Afterwards, enjoy the spectacular fireworks show from the Washington Channel. For the best view, head to East Potomac Park or Southwest Waterfront Promenade.

Both the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the L Enfant Plaza Hotel are within walking distance to the festival area.

See my full article at Oyster Locals.

Washington DC Family Travel Tips

Washington DC with Kids: Family Friendly Food on a Budget

Food at Union Station-DC with Kids

There is no doubt that when you visits Washington, D.C., you will have various choices of great restaurants. But what do you do when you just want to grab a quick bite (that doesn’t break the bank) and you have your little rascals in tow? Food courts are family-friendly and affordable alternatives to restaurant dining, and the food can be delicious! Check out these four food courts that are within walking distance of D.C. attractions:

View of Old Post Office Tower - DC with Kids

Old Post Office Pavillion – For an alternative way to view downtown D.C. that isn’t the Washington Monument, you definitely need to check out the Old Post Office tower. Afterwards, you can enjoy your lunch or dinner right there at the food court on the ground floor. There’s sure to be something for every picker eater in the family. It’s only a couple blocks from the luxury W Washington DC hotel. 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Union Station-DC with Kids

Union Station DC – This huge food court will blow your mind with the number of choices it offers for lunch or dinner. Make sure you don’t get lost in the crowd and if you can, try to avoid the rush hour, which can get pretty crowded. After the meal, kids can enjoy exploring the station while you shop at the various stores. The Union Station is only a short walk from the Hotel George or the Washington Court hotel. 50 Massachusetts Ave., NE

Capitol Hill-DC with Kids

Longworth Cafeteria – Touring Capitol Hill is a must-do for any visitor to the capitol. After a tour you can head to Longworth cafeteria, located in the basement of the Longworth House Office building. It’s a great place to rub shoulders with politicians as you stand in line for a variety of dishes. Just a couple blocks from the Residence Inn – an excellent kid-friendly hotel on the Hill. Independence Avenue and South Capitol Street

Ronald Raegan Building-DC With Kids

Ronald Reagan Building Food court – Top off your visit to the White House with a quick meal only a block away at the food court in the Ronald Reagan building. It is conveniently located within easy access to the metro station and the InterContinental The Willard hotel. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Check out my full artical at Oyster Locals.

Washington DC Family Travel Tips