Travel with kids gets exciting when you head to Washington, D.C. There are so many things to do in DC with teens that you might want to plan an entire week to explore. Don’t stress though; you can still see a lot in just a day or a weekend.
While you are sure to hit up the Smithsonian museums and maybe even the Library of Congress during your trip, don’t forget to make sure your itinerary appeals to teens and your kids aren’t getting dragged around the entire time. As a teen who grew up in DC, I love to play tour guide for my friends and family when they make the trip to D.C.
1. Shopping Georgetown
Georgetown is located in Northwest DC and has many shops and restaurants looking over the Potomac River and lined down M Street. Some of my favorite shops include Relish, Billy Reid, Cusp, Lynn Louisa and Madewell, just a few examples of the stores and boutiques you will love poking around, all located in the Georgetown neighborhood.
Plan time for shopping, walking along the river, enjoying Georgetown restaurants and discovering the history of one of D.C.’s oldest neighborhoods. Just don’t skip Wisconsin Ave, which has its own batch of shops and treasures as well.
2. South Block
South Block is an adorable Açaí shop located near the Potomac River in Georgetown. After a morning of shopping or a walk along the river, South Block is both delicious and fast. Many people take their açaí bowls to go and head to the riverfront for a healthy snack and pretty views down at Georgetown Waterfront Park.
3. Picnic on the National Mall
On nice warm days, the National Mall, which runs along the Lincoln Memorial, past the Washington Monument and up to the U.S. Capitol, acts as the perfect picnic spot with plenty of room to spread a picnic blanket, fly a kite and play soccer. The Mall is lined with the beautiful Smithsonian Institution, manicured green grass and monuments on both sides, a perfect back drop for photos or a game of frisbee too.
4. Grab tickets to a Nationals Baseball Game
During the spring and all summer long, Nationals Park is a great place to spend your afternoon or evening. Tickets can be very cheap and the stadium is filled with a wide variety of food options. Nats Park, home of the 2019 World Series champions, always hosts a lively game with an energetic crowd. Keep an eye out for giveaway nights and ask your hotel concierge for any ticket deals they have heard about before you buy.
5. Enjoy a Washington Capitals Hockey game
During the winter and spring months, catching a Washington Capitals hockey game is a great way to spend your evening with some of D.C.’s most passionate fans. Capital One Arena is located in Chinatown/Penn Quarter, and surrounded by countless dinner or lunch spots. Grab tickets and chant along with the crowd; just don’t ever cheer for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Nation’s capital!
6. 9:30 Club
The 9:30 Club is a concert venue in northwest DC. The venue holds a smaller crowd, with a dance floor normally filled with people in front of the stage and room for standing in the upper balcony. A wide variety of artists visit this venue, and we love it for the more intimate concert experience you get with the band or artist.
7. The Anthem
The Anthem is located down at the water front on the Wharf. This newer event venue has a large standing room only floor in front of the stage and upper balcony seating as well. Grab dinner at any number of restaurants located on The Wharf, including Kith and Kin, before the show. Check out our favorite cherry blossom hotels too, which are all located in or near the Wharf.
8. Best DC Bike Trails
All throughout Rock Creek Park, which starts in northwest D.C. and goes through the center of the city, you will find great hiking and biking trails This beautiful park spans miles of the city and the greenery can be a nice escape from the urban jungle. Washington, D.C. cycling trails allow you to wander throughout the city and even into the suburbs without worrying about traffic too much. Check out the C&O Canal trails, Capital Crescent Trail, Bethesda Trolley Trail, and more across the city and in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.
9. Tour the U.S. Capitol Building
Walking through the Nation’s Capitol is one of the most fascinating experiences you can have in D.C. Take a guided tour through the Rotunda and the Hall of Chambers to get up close with our nation’s political system, both past and present.
The Capitol steps are perfect for photos and you can get a great view of the National Mall. If you plan on touring inside of the capital, make sure you book a tour ahead of time, especially in the summer and during school breaks when D.C. is more crowded. You can not get past the visitor’s center without a ticket.
10. Paddle boat around the Tidal Basin
Paddle boating the Tidal Basin in early April cannot be beat, especially during the peak of pink cherry blossoms season. However, throughout the year paddle boating up to the Jefferson Memorial is a lot of fun. From the paddle boats you can see MLK Jr. Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument.
Paddle boats and Swan boats can be rented on the dock opposite the Jefferson Memorial. Note that you can not rent boats on the 4th of July, Columbus Day, Christmas, and New Years Eve.
11. Union market
Union Market located in Northeast DC is a collection of vendors selling a wide variety of food all joined in one large building. Throughout the market you can find almost every type of food you crave. Outdoor seating allows you to sit and enjoy your meal when the weather is nice. And yes parents, you can buy beer and cocktails to consume on the premises.
12. Night time tour bus
D.C. is stunning at night, which is why your kids will love taking a nighttime bus tour of the city. Each lasts anywhere from 2-4 hours at a wide variety of prices (around $60). It’s an easy way to learn the history of the city without too much effort. Seeing the monuments at night when there aren’t a ton of people around is a very unique and fun experience.
If you would rather walk or bike, there are several monuments and memorials tours available that cater to your interests and time constraints. We always check Viator.com for special deals.
13. Rock Creek Cemetery
While visiting a cemetery doesn’t sound like a fun time, the Rock Creek Cemetery is filled with history you can walk through and discover. Stroll the hillsides and through the park for a peaceful walk not many take when they visit Washington, D.C.
14. Play at Kennedy center
The Kennedy Center is a gorgeous theater that sits on the Potomac River near Georgetown and the Lincoln Memorial. The upper deck has an amazing view of Georgetown, planes flying in and out of Reagan National Airport, and the sunset over the water is gorgeous. Don’t miss seeing a Broadway show while in town, or experiencing the magic of the Washington Ballet. You can also enjoy free concerts and explore The REACH, an interactive theater space, learning center and a public incubator for the arts.
15. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Holocaust Museum might not be the first place you add to your list when you are planning a day of things to do in D.C. However, this museum is one of a kind and an experience every teenager should have at least once. Keep in mind that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum can be a hard one to get through. You will walk through very difficult subject matter being discussed and seen in a way your kids just don’t get in a text book.
The museum recommends that only kids over the age of 9 visit the museum, some sections they should be over age 13. So basically, if you have teenagers, this is a must, but be ready to talk through the exhibits, videos you will see from the camps, and stories you will hear of people who did and did not escape this horrific period in our world’s history.
Need more museums, including the city’s natural history museum (great for teens and younger kids)? Check out our guide to DC Museums by Age.
16. The Wharf
The Wharf is a newer area of the city, located down in Southeast D.C., looking over the Washington Channel. The are loads of restaurants, coffee bars and shops, all with amazing views. Grab some take out from the fish market, and sit around the outdoor fire pits with Washington Capitals themed Adirondack chairs. At night, you can go see a show at the Anthem, or pick up a s’mores pack to enjoy a gooey treat as the sun begins to set over the water.
17. National Museum of African American History and Culture
The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016, having sold out ticket sales for months (even a year!) after it’s grand opening celebration. This museum features different collections of both African American artists and historical artifacts that connects visitors with the history and culture of African American citizens across the country. While there are still time tickets available, you can now enjoy walk-in weekdays when you don’t need a ticket to enjoy this architectural marvel that still draws in big crowds just across the street from the Washington Monument.
18. Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is the tallest building in the Washington D.C. area, and located at the heart of the National Mall. Take an elevator 555 feet up for terrific views of the entire District.
You will need a ticket, bought through the National Parks Service, but don’t be discouraged. You will pay a nominal processing fee for your ticket, which is really a means of crowd control for the monument. No ticket is needed to wander around the outside of the Washington Monument day or night.
19. International Spy Museum
The International Spy museum, located at L’Enfant Plaza in Southwest D.C., walking distance from the Wharf, great for a day of interactive fun. The museum provides a place for people of learn about past and present spy life.
The new building has way more space to explore, interactive exhibits that make spy culture come to life, and is geared towards tweens and teens visiting D.C. or who live locally and are obsessed with espionage. This is not your average museum of “old history.” Yes, you will experience the past, but you will also learn about present day investigations. James Bond geeks will also get their fix in an entire exhibit dedicated to the famous man who liked his martinis shaken, not stirred (FYI- you never shake a martini. It’s just now how it is done!)
20. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is located on the D.C. National Mall. It is filled with real planes and different pieces of rockets and spaceships. The hanging aircrafts are visuals that will leave you looking up during the majority of your visit. Different rooms bring you through the history of flying, from cargo to commercial planes, into space and beyond.
The Air and Space Museum is perfect for families with kids of different ages, as exhibits speak to both teens and toddlers who love to fly. For even more air and space crafts, head out towards Dulles International Airport to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the Air and Space Museum annex where they house the REALLY BIG rockets and airplanes.
21. Lincoln Memorial and Reflection Pool
The Lincoln Memorial is a D.C. bucket list spot, while also being the perfect place to take photos. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial you can see from the reflecting pool all the way to the Washington Monument. Sit on the steps, enjoy a snack and watch the hustle and bustle of the city go by. This is where history has happened, not to mention where Forrest Gump supposedly hung out when he went to Washington, D.C.
22. DC United Game
The new Audi field located at the southwest waterfront just south of Nationals Park is where soccer fans go to cheer. The field has food options that are not offered at any facility for sports in D.C., so even if you aren’t the biggest soccer fan, you can enjoy yourself. The DC United Soccer Team has been an up and coming team in recent years and their fans help get the whole crowd chanting and on their feet.
23. Smithsonian National Zoological Park
The National Zoo is located in Rock Creek Park and is open year round. Summers can be hot and crowded, which is why I love to visit in the spring and fall. Even a winter stroll is fun when you get to hang our with pandas and elephants.
The Zoo stretches across 163 acres and has mall sorts of animals you will want to meet. Buffalo, red pandas, snakes, spiders, flamingos and even catfish and cows are ready and waiting to meet you. There is a historic carousel for kids to ride, and plenty of learning stations to get to know the animals better.
One fun event they offer is the “Snore and Roar,” an over night camping adventure at the zoo. At the “Snore and Roar” you get to pitch a tent and sleep on the lawn while listening to the lions roar and even get a behind the scenes look at the animals. You do need tickets for this special event, so stalk the National Zoo website for dates and details.
24. Comet Pizza
Comet Pizza is a pizza shop in Northwest D.C. Kids of all ages love to hang out here because they offer ping pong tables in the back. The pizza is tasty and the ping pong is a lot of fun.
While you wait for your pizza, pop into the Politics and Pros bookstore just next door. You don’t have to love ping pong to come here either. Just do some people watching, meet a few locals and enjoy a D.C. slice.
25. Georgetown cupcakes
Georgetown Cupcakes started in D.C., but after several TLC and Food Network appearances has now gone nationwide. The main cupcake shop is located on M street in the heart of Georgetown and is perfect if you are looking for a sweet snack or need to pick up a dessert for a lot of people. They also have a location in downtown Bethesda, MD, as well as other locations across the D.C. region you won’t want to miss on a family vacation.