Calling All Young History Buffs! Experience The Best Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions On Your Next Vacation!

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Lincoln Memorial at night

Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions US Capital

Visiting our nation’s capital is a rite of passage for every American. As a result, the Washington, D.C. area offers family attractions that are unique, interesting, and educational for everyone.

American History Museum DC

Families with kids learning about the United States of America and democracy will eat up visiting these Washington, D.C. area family attractions.

National Harbor

That is to say, my kids are HUGE American history buffs and Washington, D.C. was their dream destination.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington D.C. Area Family Attractions Tidal Basin

While we missed the famed cherry blossoms (except for ONE tree) we did see museums, monuments, buildings, and all historic sites our eyes could absorb in five days.

FBI Police Car

Balancing Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions And City Visit

We picked a centrally located hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. (at the midpoint of The Mall). This allowed us easy access to all city attractions. With this in mind, plus the goal of not moving our car, we planned the outside area visits on our way there and back.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Mount Vernon

George & Martha Washington’s Home: Mount Vernon

Our first stop was Mount Vernon, the Virginia home of George & Martha Washington. This beautiful, huge property (once 8,000 acres!) is nestled right on the Potomac. In addition, it is the most popular historic estate in America. Also, if you like historical movies, you’ll recognize Mount Vernon from the movie “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.”

Our mansion tour taught us George Washington was an innovative farmer who changed his crops to control the narrative. Also – he liked green and loved wallpaper – the high-tech rage of his time. We also learned some behind the scenes movie secrets and that the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (a private, non-profit organization) swooped in and saved Mount Vernon from ruin in 1858.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions National Harbor

Gaylord National Resort & The National Harbor

With a car full of hungry bellies, we headed over to the National Harbor for some amazing waterfront dining, spectacular aerial views, and retro desserts.

We enjoyed a fantastic meal (including Maryland’s mascot the crab cake) at McCormick & Schmick’s overlooking John Seward Johnson II’s famous sculpture “The Awakening” as the sun set.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions The Capital Whee

Followed by our first glimpse of Washington, D.C. from the top of the 180-foot-tall Capital Wheel.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Replay 80s Lounge

Finally, we capped off our perfect night at Gaylord National’s 80s-themed rooftop lounge: Replay at Pose Lounge for insane milkshakes and retro arcade games.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Replay Pop Up 80s Lounge Gaylord National

Gaylord National Resort is not only stunning but also offers seasonal family-friendly activities all year long.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions

With full bellies and drooping eyelids, we headed into Washington, D. C.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Ford’s Theatre

Ford’s Theatre

We began our family exploration of Washington, D.C. family attractions with Ford’s Theater. Here, on April 14th, 1865, during a performance of the show “Our American Cousin,” Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. The course of history was changed by a six inch single shot Derringer pistol.

This excellent museum chronicles the highlights and legacies of Lincoln’s presidency, the events leading up to that fateful evening, and what came next – both immediately – and for the next 157 years.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Ford’s Theatre

History buffs can enjoy a self-led tour through the museum and theatre, then walk across the street to the Petersen House (where Lincoln died the next morning) and aftermath exhibits. The pocket-sized murder weapon – found on the floor of the President’s box that night – is on display at the museum as well.

My kids loved the interactive chronicling of Booth’s manhunt, which ended with his capture two weeks later at Garrett’s Farm. I loved the 35 foot tower of books highlighting how Lincoln’s popularity continues today.

Ford’s Theatre is still a cornerstone of live theatre with many upcoming performances.

We continued our Lincoln theme that night with a visit to his memorial.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions NMAAHC

NMAAHC

Our next stop was The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. This museum was amazing.

The museum tour began three floors below street level in pre-slavery Africa, in the year 1400. Next, it outlined the sickening and shocking ways Africa became the hub of slave trading for hundreds of years.

The ascending exhibit continues up 609 years of history – highlighting African Americans’ vital contributions through all of America’s wars, the Civil Rights movement, and cultural contributions, culminating in a huge 2009 image of President Barack Obama’s inauguration as the first African American President of the United States of America.

Upstairs, you’ll find contemporary African American contributions to TV shows, art, movies, music, and more. Every corner of this museum greeted us with important artifacts – including one of Rosa Park’s dresses and a Greensboro lunch counter stool.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum was the most requested stop on our Washington, D.C. area family attractions list. This interactive museum grabbed our attention immediately by immersing us into spy culture upon arrival.

Around every corner you’ll find a kiosk to register your intel, chart your course, and complete your mission. There are places to climb for optimum surveillance and places to assess your agility and strength determining your spy ability.

My kids did not want to leave this museum thanks to the interesting history and super cool spy artifacts. I loved learning about the importance of women’s contributions to spying throughout the decades, how important simple observation is, and how spies have impacted wars by secretly moving information across borders.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions White House

White House Tour

As avid presidential trivia buffs one of the highlights of our trip was our White House tour. The moment tours reopened, my husband contacted our Congressman for tickets.

Swearing in White House Junior Park Rangers

Not only was this self-guided tour super cool, but my kids loved getting sworn in across the street as Junior Park Rangers.

First Ladies Exhibit DC

More Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions

Since we strived to do it all, we also visited the National Museum of American History (for the First Ladies inaugural gown exhibit and Dorothy’s ruby slippers), the Library of Congress (for the Gutenberg Bible), the Supreme Court, the Capitol, our Congressman’s office, the National Archives, and all the monuments.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Poke DC

Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Includes Foodies!

We ate so well in Washington, D.C. and enjoyed outdoor dining everywhere thanks to the perfect April weather. We loved Zaytinya and Farmers Fishers Bakers for dinner and LOVED Poki DC for lunch.

Washington DC MLK Memorial

Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions After Dark

While the historical and Presidential monuments are special any time you visit, I especially liked them lit up at night. Our post-dinner walks around the Tidal Basin made our trip super special.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Washington Memorial at night

Arlington National Cemetery

Since my history buff kids love cemeteries as much as museums, our final stop (pun intended) before heading home was Arlington National Cemetery across the bridge in Virginia to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Farmers Fishers Bakers Washington DC Georgetown Harbor

Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions: Bring Good Walking Shoes!

In conclusion, chock full of so much of everything, the endless Washington, D.C. area family attractions list offers something for everyone – no matter the age.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions The Shaw

Most importantly, my best piece of advice is bring good shoes. We walked over forty miles! In addition, if you’re looking for a tour company – I loved the choices Historic America Tours offered including their Soul Food Saturdays.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions Washington Memorial

*Above all, be sure to check museum and attraction websites in advance. Many are free and open to the public, but some require advanced ticketing.

The Mint Chip Mama - Top Washington, D.C. Area Family Attractions The Capital

 

Published by Stacey Wallenstein

Stacey Gish Wallenstein created The Mint Chip Mama blog in 2013 to share her love and passion for giving children meaningful life experiences and helping moms like her navigate the challenges and benefits of raising children in the New York metropolitan area. Before becoming a full-time mom in 2010, Stacey spent the better part of the preceding decade as a high-end customer relationship management (CRM) professional for some of the most well-known brands in the hotel, luxury, fashion, and beauty industries, such as Harrah’s Entertainment, Chanel and Christian Dior, Inc. She managed customer loyalty programs for thousands of clients around the country and created social media strategies for a span of industries including healthcare services, restaurants, consumer packaged goods, specialty foods, local attractions and retail locations. After 13 wonderful years in Manhattan (the last three of which spent as a city mom), Stacey and her husband moved to Long Island in 2014, where they now reside with their three children (12, 8, and 5). There, she is a founding member of her local Parenting Center, which provides classes and coordinates events designed to educate and inform parents while fostering an environment of support and friendship within the community. Stacey is also an active PTA member ((including a former & current PTA president) as well as a Girl Scout troop leader. Her musings on motherhood, Manhattan, the suburbs, and more can be found here and on Facebook at The Mint Chip Mama. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Stacey has been active in the New York area alumni organization for nearly twenty years, serving as a board member on the school’s University of Michigan Alumni Club of New York City. She also holds a Masters in Psychology from The New School in New York City. For more updates, follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

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