4 Sites to See at the National Mall in Washington D.C.

The National Mall consists of several iconic monuments and memorials that span over 1000 acres. They are open 24 hours a day, although Park Service Rangers are typically there from 9:30am-10pm. They are all free and our children had a great time visiting. There is a lot of walking involved so plan to either park close, take a Taxi, public transportation or even rent a bike. Whatever you do to get to the National Mall, if you have little legs with you plan accordingly! Pack snacks, water and wear good shoes.

1.Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Our kids had a blast running around the Washington Monument grounds, jumping off benches and just chasing each other.

View of Lincoln Memorial from Washington Monument  Flags Washington Monument

The view of the Lincoln Memorial is beautiful. After all the walking you’re likely to have done, rest up on nearby bench and enjoy the views of the many iconic D.C. landmarks.

Same Day Tickets for Washington Monument

There are two ways to get tickets to go inside the Washington Monument. Every person age 2 and older needs a ticket. Block out at least an hour for this.

1) Reserve online for small fee of $1.50 per ticket 3 months in advance. There is a limit of 6 tickets and they go fast! We suggest reserving them as soon as your are able.

2) Same day tickets are available at the Washington Monument Lodge (pictured to the left) at 2 15th St NW, just in front of the Monument. Tickets are distributed on a first come/first serve basis beginning at 8:30 am (although lines start to form much earlier, 7 am in the Summer) and are limited to 6 per person.

2. Lincoln Memorial 

Lincoln Memorial with kids

After we visited the Washington Monument, our next stop was the Lincoln Memorial. This is about a 20 minute walk (depending on how fast little legs can go) from Washington Monument.

Lincoln Memorial Washington D.C. Washington Monument View from Lincoln Memorial

3. Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial Sunny Day Jefferson Memorial at Night

Whether you go during the day or at night (or both!) the views and spirit felt when visiting this monument that honors the author of the Declaration of Independence is awe-inspiring .

Washington Monument from Jefferson Memorial  Jefferson Memorial with Kids

We were blown away with kindness. On the evening we went it began to rain. Although our kids had ponchos, a very kind woman came up to us and insisted we keep her umbrella to stay dry. So sweet.

Jefferson Memorial Thomas Jefferson Memorial Statue

We chose to drive over to this monument and park in the adjacent lot. It is a little bit of walk from the parking lot to the Memorial, but there was a lot more parking available here than near Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.

4. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

We drove over to view this monument and had an easier time finding a parking spot here as well. There is a special spirit as you read the many quotes just behind this statue. The view of the Potomac and Thomas Jefferson Memorial are also awesome.


There are several other memorials you will pass as you explore the National Mall. There are ample bathrooms throughout the mall (essential for young kids 🙂 ) and spots for buying snacks.

What are your tips for exploring the National Mall?


National Gallery of Art with Kids

The National Gallery of Art was high on our list of must-see places while we were in DC. It may seem daunting…er crazy…er ambitious…to take children to an art museum, but we really had a wonderful time. First, you should know there are two buildings that make up the National Gallery of Art–the (historical) West and (recently renovated) East building. Both are free to visit. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Start by visiting the information desk and pick up any of the Family Guides the museum offers.  They are ideal for children 6+. Be sure to bring pens or crayons with you. We suggest picking up the Collection Highlights (West Building) map from the Information Desk as well. Depending on how much time you have, and how long you think you’re kids will last, this will help you to hit the main art pieces in a timely and efficient manner (and trust us–if you try to see every piece, you will be there all day). We blocked out around two hours and that seemed about right for our 5-, 7-,and 10-year-olds. We were able to view all the pieces we wanted to and then some. A little prep work will also help make this a more meaningful experience for your children. Our kids’ school has a “Meet the Masters” program that covers many of the artists we saw. In addition, we also checked out some books from our local library.

Van Gough

Fountain at the National Gallery of Art Monet Art DC

Degas in DC

East Building

The East Building is a short walk from the West Building. It is home to more contemporary and modern pieces (like Picasso). Highlights for us from both buildings included: Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Georgia O’Keeffe. Visit here for a list of artists found at the museum and links for PDFs with more information about them.  One last tip: give your kids a snack before your visit. There are some cafes throughout the museums as well, but ‘hangry’ is a real thing–so prevention is key 🙂

What are your tips and tricks for visiting the National Gallery of Art with kids?


Moon at the Air and Space

Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

The Smithsonian Institute is made up of 19 museums and galleries as well as the Zoo. Most of them are free and open nearly every day of the year. We were able to visit a few of them and had a great time!

Touching a piece of the moon Air and Space in DC

The Air an Space Museum ended up being one our kids favorite museum (except for the Zoo). We could have stayed here all day! Hours are 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. daily, with extended hours in the summer. There really isn’t parking, so we suggest taking public transportation. Otherwise plan to circle the block a few times until a spot opens up 🙂 Just don’t forget to pay for it. There are hundreds of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, rockets and pretty much anything related to air and space.

Moon at the Air and Space

Touching a real piece of the Moon was the highlight for sure!

Having fun at the Air and Space in DC Air and Space

There are many hands-on exhibits, including aircraft for kids to sit in.

Air and Space Air and Space

Kids at the air and space in Washington DC

Block out at least two hours for a trip here, although you certainly could stay more or less depending on your time schedule. This gift shop was also quite fun as they had lots of little space items, like a pen that can write upside down and space ‘ice cream.’



View of the White House from the street

D.C. Historic Sites

1. The White House

The White House Water fountain

A must to visit when in D.C. The first time we came really was incredible. We tried to get tickets to tour this historical and iconic site. It was our ‘we’re willing to drop everything/anything’ to tour this place. We applied in advance (no more than 3 months and no less than 21 days) through our local congressman, but unfortunately the three days we submitted for tours were denied 🙁 Next time maybe!

The White House The White House at night

If you have time, try to visit during the day and at night. It’s amazing both times.

2. U.S. Capitol

Kids at the capitol, Washington D.C. Kids at National Capitol

While we didn’t have enough time to take a tour, you can find information for booking one here. It is definitely on our ‘next time’ list!

3. Library of Congress

library of congress

We were so glad we made time to explore the Library of Congress. The Library is open Monday through Saturday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Walking Tours are free and during peak visitation, the Library also offers free Family Tours that are ideal for kids ages 6-14. Check in with the desk located on the ground floor to see what is available. We took our own walking tour (it was definitely off-peak the day we went) and the kids had fun doing the little activity booklet (pictured below) the Information desk gave them.

Kids at the Library of Congress gutenberg bible library of congress

Want a library card?  You can find all details here including preregistering for one!

ceiling library of congress Library of Congress in DC 

4. The National Archives

National Archive National Archive

Oh- we LOVED the Archives. Our kids could have explored this all day. Photography is not allowed in several parts of the building, including The Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights, found in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. It was something we won’t soon forget, viewing these historical documents. During off peak, there was about a 20 minute wait to see these. Plan for much longer during peak season. We enjoyed the many documents, photographs, letters and other records found in the Public Vaults section of the Archives. Block at least 2 hours, although you certainly could spend more or less depending on your schedule.

5. Supreme Court

Before walking through the Supreme Court, we ate breakfast in the Cafeteria. It was really fun for our kids to eat a yummy breakfast here! There are lots of options from a hot meal (made to order omelets, eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage etc.) to muffins, yogurt, bagels, fresh fruit, cereal, etc. Definitely something for everyone and everyone gets exactly what they want.

Supreme Court Dining Room  Supreme Court Cafeteria

Kids at the Supreme Court  Supreme Court Model

There is a model of the Supreme Court our kids enjoyed looking at. You can also walk upstairs (the architecture is gorgeous!) and view courtrooms.

US Supreme Court Session


Upstairs they also hold lectures open to the public. Find more information on dates, topics & tickets (if necessary) here. 

(Note: A lecture might not be the most appropriate thing to do with young children, however teens and adults may find certain topics interesting.)




6. Arlington National Cemetery & the US Marine Corps War Memorial

What beautiful and sacred grounds! This is definitely a must when in D.C. You can either drive or take public transportation to Arlington National Cemetery. We choose to drive, as there is ample public parking available for a small fee of $1.75 per hour for the first three hours (and $2.50 per hour after the initial three. We were only there about 2 hours and were able to see everything we wanted to).  After going through security, there is an information desk inside the Welcome Center. Here you can pick up a map that will show you the many different points of interest. Note that Arlington Cemetery is very large and much of it is on a hillside. There are shuttles available if you prefer to get around that way (when you exit the Welcome Center, you will see the first stop to your left). We choose to walk and our kids did great. It was a rainy, but warm day. There were many field trips going on, but other than that was not crowded at all. Hours vary depending on the season (8am-5pm or 8am-7pm), and it is open 365 days of the year. Restrooms are located inside the Welcome Center as well, so plan accordingly with young kids 🙂

  Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 

We started with The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This was very memorable for our children.

Eternal Flame Eternal Flame 

We visited President John F. Kennedy’s grave next and the Eternal Flame.

Arlington Cemetery

Iwo Jima

We finished with the US Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. Based on an iconic image of the second flag-raising on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II, the US Marine Corps War Memorial is dedicated to “the Marine dead of all wars and their comrades of other services who fell fighting beside them.” nps.gov  The Memorial is open year-round, from dawn to dusk. There is parking surrounding the memorial and we’ve never had a problem finding a spot. It is closed certain evenings in the summer, so plan accordingly.

7. Other Notable Buildings

National Treasury  FBI Washington DC

Department of the Treasury and the J. Edgar Hoover Building (Headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation).   Both offer tours but you must apply several weeks in advance through your local Congressmen.


What other historical landmarks do you like to visit when in D.C.?




Mount Vernon with Kids

Mount Vernon is a MUST when visiting Washington D.C. It is about a 40 minute drive from The White House- and with the gorgeous fall leaves, some good blue grass music we found on a local radio station, the Potomac River running right next to us at times- it was a memorable fall day. We recommend blocking out at least 2 hours for this off season, and 3 during peak!


There is a very special feeling when you step on the grounds of Mount Vernon. It was easy to see why General Washington preferred his estate to the White House.  Ticket prices vary depending on different packages, add-ons etc, but basically Children ages 5 & under are free, Youth ages 6-11 are $10, Adults are $20 and Seniors 62+ are $16. Member of the Military, Veterans and their dependents also get a $3 discount with ID. If you order your tickets online in advance, there is also a discount. It is open 365 days per year, although different parts of the estate may be temporarily closed for renovation at different times. Be sure to check their website for the latest closures.


When we walked through the doors, we were immediately greeted by the friendly staff. Our children were each given an Adventure Map. There were different questions and we had to visit certain exhibits to hear or find the answer. They had a lot of fun with this, so make sure to get grab one for each child!



Just past the entrance is this beautiful model of Mount Vernon. We had so much fun looking at this and inspecting each and every room (a few are pictured below).


  Mount Vernon

The next stop- Mount Vernon! The walking trails are gorgeous, even on a drizzly day.


Photography isn’t allowed inside the estate, but it was very cool to walk through. Your guide can point out which furniture pieces were actually owned by General Washington. It goes rather quickly and although you aren’t able to walk inside every single room with the general ticket price, you’ll still get some amazing views and insights to what life was like then (for an additional fee, you can upgrade to a VIP tour to walk in some of the areas that are closed off). The view from the piazza of the Potomac River is breathtaking. We loved the many stories shared about General Washington. Standing where he once stood made everything so much more real.


After the tour of the estate, we walked around the grounds and checked out the many different rooms outside of the estate including the Kitchen, Smokehouse, Vehicles etc.


The kids had so much fun finding the final clue for their Adventure Maps.


We also visited The New Tomb, the final resting place of George and Martha.


After exploring everything outside, we headed back to the main building to tour the museum. We cruised through it, although once we got to the family gallery, we spent almost an hour exploring the many hands-on exhibits. We had it all to ourselves that day, but were told that during busy times they limit each family to 20 minutes to make sure everyone has a chance to play.


Mount Vernon does have many place to eat at, and after all that walking you’ll probably be hungry. To see all the dining options, click here.

Overall, Mount Vernon is a very family-friendly place to visit if you’re planning a trip to Washington D.C.


Ford’s Theatre – Washington, D.C.


Ford’s Theatre was an amazing stop on our trip and we would highly recommend it! We learned so much about President Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency, his last day, and the effects his assassination had on our country. If that sounds like a bit much for young kids, well–it was a lot to learn. BUT all of our kids (ages 10, 7, and 5) LOVED it. They each took something different away and multiple times since our trip, they have talked about it and asked questions about it. In fact, recently our five-year-old came home from Kindergarten so excited that they had learned about President Lincoln that day and she knew exactly who he was.

Tickets are free in person on the same day, and every visitor needs a ticket, but we suggest reserving them online ahead of time (about 3 months in advance) for $3.00 per ticket. We went at the end of September, definitely off season and not at all crowded. However, in the summer months it gets VERY crowded, so plan accordingly. Entrance times are every half hour beginning at 9 a.m. and they absolutely will not let anyone in after 4:30 p.m. Plan to block out approximately 2 hours for this. Also note that not every ticket time gives you access to all four sites (the Museum, Theatre, Petersen House, and Aftermath Exhibits). We really had a lot of fun at all four so we would also suggest you choose a time that allows you access to them all.


The tour begins with the museum in the basement of Ford’s Theatre. Here you’ll learn different facts about Abraham Lincoln, the USA and the events leading to his Presidency.


After that, they will open the doors leading to the Theatre. As you walk along through this hallway (pictured above) it has an outline of President Lincoln’s day as well as John Wilkes Booth’s day. It’s very interesting so take time to compare and read.


When you enter the Theatre, you will notice that there is an American Flag over one of the private boxes just to the right of the stage (pictured above). That is the box President Lincoln was sitting in the evening of April 14th. You can sit above in the balcony (we sat here and had a great view!) or below and listen to a National Park Service Ranger briefly tell about President Lincoln and the assassination. It was very interesting and our kids actually sat still and listened to the entire speech.


After that, we crossed the street and toured the Petersen House, where President Lincoln was taken after he’d been shot. This was a very quick self-guided tour, and very interesting as well.


The Aftermath Exhibits immediately follow the self-guided Petersen House tour. Our favorite thing was this book tower (pictured above). It gave us goosebumps as we looked at the many books written about this beloved president.

panda bears at national zoo

Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Located in the heart of D.C. and spanning over 163 acres, the National Zoo is a must when visiting the nation’s capital. Admission is free and it’s open every day of the year except December 25th. Hours vary, depending on the season–but the grounds are open from at least 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. We blocked out nearly a full day for this and were there nearly six hours. We LOVED going off peak: the grounds were nearly empty and the animals were very active. Maps of the zoo do cost money, so consider printing yours at home in advance or download the app.

panda bears at national zoo in dc

The pandas were at the top of our list. They were so fun to watch!

lions at national zoo

We also loved visiting the lions.

national zoo carousel

And a ride on the Conservation Carousel brought lots of smiles.

elephants at national zoo

The elephants, like the pandas, have both an outdoor and indoor viewing area.

kids at national zoo  family at national zoo

national zoo DC


The zoo has a variety of dining options. We chose to eat lunch at Mane Grill and found lots of healthy options (like quinoa bowls, grilled protein items, wraps, fruit bowls, string cheese, etc.) in addition to the standard kid meal options. You can also bring your own food into the zoo.

We used public transportation (the Circulator) to get to the zoo–it dropped us off  just a few blocks away at the Woodley Park stop, an easy but uphill walk . You can also take the Cleveland Park stop, which is the same distance as Woodley Park but without the uphill walk. Public parking is available but is extremely limited and is a flat rate of $22 for the day.

The Circulator ended up being our favorite way to get around during the day–it’s only $1 per person and kids 5 and under are free.  The drivers were super helpful in getting us where we needed to go, and there was a stop right by our hotel. We found in the evening, when traffic increased, it was a bit slower, but still offered many convenient stops that we didn’t mind the slightly longer ride, plus our tired feet needed the rest! Check out the Circulator’s website for all the stops, hours, and more.