Best DC Museums by Age (and Parental Tolerance)

DC is no stranger to museums. In fact, there are about 70 Washington, D.C. museums and galleries in the district. Families can entertain their kids for over a year’s worth of weekends without ever leaving D.C.

Not every museum is right for every age group though. Some of the city’s museums tackle tough events in history, or just don’t cater to the younger crowd. We’ve pulled a few of our favorites for every age group, so you can have a great time when visiting the Washington DC museums with kids.

DC Monuments and Memorials

Even better, we are also telling you, the parent, which museum you will like with your kids. Let’s face it parents, we don’t ALL want to sit in kiddie museums on our day off.

Washington DC Museums for Preschoolers

DC Museums

Smithsonian National Zoological Park

OK, so this is not a traditional DC museum. We are including it anyway because really, what kid doesn’t love a zoo.

The Smithsonian National Zoo is best known for its panda exhibit, which is part of an international breeding program. In 2019, the zoo sent it’s last panda cub, Bao Bao, back to China to breed, joining his sister Bei Bei in a program that helps diversify the panda population and grow their numbers.

Have no fear mom Mei Xiang and dad Tian Tian are still in the panda exhibit. We are all anxiously awaiting to see if Mei Xiang has a new cub.

The zoo is also home to elephants, apes, reptiles, and mammals from across the globe. Make sure you head to the Kids’ Farm for hands-on activities with the animals and vegetable gardens. There is also a playground here if your kids need to jump and climb for a bit. You will pass the historic carousel on your way. Yes, you can stop for a spin around, for a fee.

DC Museums

NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM

Airplanes and rocket ships—do you really need to say more to get a toddler out the door?

The National Air and Space museum is actually in two separate locations. The original National Air and Space Museum is downtown, but it has a counterpart, the Udvar-Hazy Center, which is basically a big hanger out by Dulles airport that is filled with aircrafts, like the space shuttle Discovery, the Concorde Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

The downtown museum has a “How Things Fly”exhibit that is the best place to start with younger children. This hands-on exhibit allows kids to touch and sit in an airplane, push buttons and find out just how these massive vehicles get into the sky.

An online counterpart to this exhibit is a fun way to prep kids for a visit or continue their flying education at home.

DC MUSEUMS FOR GRADE SCHOOL KIDS

DC Museums

National Museum of Natural History

Dinosaurs are the biggest draw for families heading to the National Museum of Natural History. There is an updated exhibit to wander, so make sure you stop in.

Other reasons to bring your kids include a look at the Hope Diamond and a walk through the butterfly house. Warning- the gem section is massive. You could spend your entire visit just looking at rocks and minerals.

The Sants Ocean Hall, an interpretive exhibit may be best known for the 45-foot long North Atlantic Right Whale hanging from the ceiling, but it brings the biology, geology and anthropology of these waters to kids through 647 marine specimens and models, hi-def videos and ever changing exhibits that highlight different aspects of our planet’s waterways.

photo via Smithsonian NMAH

National Museum of American History

As children dive into their U.S. history lessons, the National Museum of American History is a great place to connect those in-school lessons with actual artifacts from that time. The museum is home to Abe Lincoln’s top hat and the original Star-Spangled Banner.

Families can pick up a self-guided tour sheet at the museum that includes games, facts and questions to spark more interest in the exhibits.

The youngest members of the family will love the Spark!Lab and Wegman’s Wonderplace. Kids ages 6-12 can get hands on at Spark!Lab where creating, collaborating, exploring and inventing are encouraged through activities like making a skateboard or figuring out how to adapt a vehicle so you can drive it with no legs.

In Wegman’s Wonderplace, children ages 0-6 can cook their way through a child-size replica of Julia Child’s kitchen or captain a tug boat. This exhibit is free, but you do need a timed ticket to enter this Washington DC museum.

DC MUSEUMS FOR TEENS AND TWEENS

DC Museums

International Spy Museum

Step into the secret world of spies. Test your spy skills at interactive stations, and check out over 200 spy gadgets, weapons, cameras, vehicles and tech. Walk through the history of spies going all the way back to the Trojan Horse and the Civil War, or simply test your skills at making and breaking codes.

The KidSpy Zone on the museum website is filled with activities to get kids excited about their visit and continue their spy education long after they get home.

Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is a place that everyone, no matter your age, should visit. However, it can be a very intense, hard to understand experiences for younger children, similar to the 9/11 World Trade Center Museum and Memorial in NYC.

Parents of children under age 10 should be very careful. Be prepared to answer hard questions before you bring little ones.

Every guest is given an identification card that brings you through the life of someone who was in the holocaust. By the end, you learn if that person survived or not.

Throughout the three floors of the exhibit—Nasi Assault, The Final Solution and Last Chapter– families will see a model of the Auschwitz Crematorium, a powerful room piled with the shoes of people who were killed in the concentration camps, and learn the stories of the people from across Europe who tried to rescue Jews.

Looking for a Washington DC Hotel? Check out the following!

Need a car? Get the best rental car rates HERE.

PIN IT FOR LATER!

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links we will receive a small commission.


Washington, D.C. Travel Resources

Your Washington, D.C. vacation doesn’t have to be stressful. We’ve got the resources you need to plan your trip and make the most out of your time in the city and surrounding area. If this is your first time to the capital region, check out our Washington, D.C. trip planner and itineraries.

For transportation, check out our D.C. driving guide and our guide on how to ride the metro. For those flying in, you’ll want to read our guides to BWI, DCA and IAD airports.

Dive into our things to do in D.C., which is always being updated and evolving to make sure you have the latest and greatest activities to fill your checklist of things to do. Don’t forget about food, the real reason we all travel, right? Our Washington, D.C. restaurant guide will get you started and lead you into neighborhoods full of delicious treats.

For more resources, check out our pages on Baltimore, Richmond and beyond.

Where to Stay in Washington, D.C.

Budget: When it comes to Washington, D.C. budget hotels, prices vary depending on the season. In the middle of October, a four-star hotel could be under $150, while in December it may be over $400. At any given time of year, though, Hotel Hive is a safe bet for value when it comes to resting your head. If you are looking for a hostel, Hi Washington D.C. Downtown is well located for exploring all of the D.C. museums, restaurants and bars at the fraction of the price of a hotel. Check rates and availability here.

Mid-range: Every USA hotel chain can be found in Washington, D.C., but stay at the St. Gregory Hotel when you want a local touch. The modern, light-filled rooms will welcome you to the city, whether you are in a studio or suite with wraparound terrace. The hotel is walking distance to Georgetown, the National Mall and Embassy Row, making it easy to explore without a rental car. Check rates and availability here.

Luxury: You are spoiled for choice when it comes to luxury hotels in Washington, D.C. We love cozying up at the Graham Georgetown, a sweet little boutique hotel in one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city. Check rates and availability here. Major hotel brands like The Fairmont, Mandarin Oriental, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons Hotel Washington D.C. and St. Regis Washington D.C. all have outposts here as well. If you want something a bit more historic, we recommend The Jefferson, Washington D.C. Ninety-nine rooms in this luxury boutique hotel bring together an attentive staff, petite spa, and the Michelin-starred Plume restaurant with all of the history you could hope for when you are in the nation’s capital. Check rates and availability here.

Family-friendly: We always gravitate towards the Kimpton hotels whenever we are traveling with kids. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington D.C., once the General Post Office building, is located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood just four blocks off the National Mall near the National Gallery of Art. Price point is mid-range, depending on the time of year you visit. Parents will love the nightly wine events and evening nightcap perks as well as complimentary coffee and a tea bar each morning. Kids will love that they can borrow a fish friend for their stay, and that there is always a treat on hand that they can enjoy, and the robes are just their size. Kimpton also has adult and child-size bikes to borrow so you can cruise around town during your stay. Check rates and availability here.

Planning a Trip to Washington, D.C.? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

Whether you are traveling domestically or coming from an international destination, travel insurance is a must for anyone coming to Washington, D.C. You will be exploring both inside and outdoors; hiking may even happen if you get adventurous. You could find yourself on a Segway or bike tour. The city is highly populated and accidents and crime do happen. This is not to scare you, but to prepare you for what could occur when you are checking out the free museums, exploring neighborhoods, finding the best food and learning about the local street art. Should something happen, travel insurance has you covered. Check rates and availability here.

We recommend and use Allianz Travel insurance. Our family is covered under a household plan, but their individual plans are just as robust if you are a solo traveler or a couple looking to get away. I’ve been a customer for more than five years and have always been in good hands with the Allianz team.

Get your travel insurance quote for your DC trip here.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links we will receive a small commission.

Washington DC Tours

Scroll to Top
shares