In full disclosure, we were provided with accommodations in Washington DC to make this post about a planning a family vacation to Washington DC possible. As always, opinions are my own.
Washington DC! Where a family can vacation for almost free.
This past summer we had one of our best family vacations yet when we took a family vacation to Washington DC. Not only are there so many things to do with kids in Washington DC, but also several of Washington DC’s attractions are FREE. Whether you and your kids are interested in history, historical figures, space, art, or more you will find an attraction in DC that is free and welcoming to families.
There are so many attractions worth visiting in the DC area, we couldn’t fit it all into one family vacation to Washington DC. But as our visits to DC continue, you’ll see this article continue to develop as well. If your family is planning a Washington DC vacation, please bookmark this so you can keep learning from us how to find the best area hotels, restaurants, attractions, and unique experiences.
Washington DC Hotels for Families
Stay at the The River Inn by Modus Hotels for your family vacation to Washington DC Pennsylvania!
The River Inn by Modus Hotels was our home away from home for our first family vacation to Washington DC. Our room was close enough to the attractions to make visiting them by driving or walking doable. Since street parking in Washington DC is limited we either walked or used a cab to get to most of the places we visited below. Click over to The River Inn by Modus Hotels – Family Hotel Review to read about our stay.
Washington DC restaurants
You can certainly make a meal in your inroom kitchen at the The River Inn by Modus Hotels. But we also encourage you to get out and explore Washington DC’s restaurants for families. We’re highlighting two of our favorite below. However you can get more local dining ideas from the Visit Washington DC’s tourism site for a listing of local Washington DC restaurants. The restaurants we are listing below are two great ones we stumbled upon during our visit.
Burger Beer Bourbon
The Burger Beer Bourbon restaurant is located steps away from the United States Navy Memorial, at 801 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC. After walking around in search of food, and passing a few locations that were just a bit too fancy for us we found the Burger Beer Bourbon restaurant. This location was just what we needed! The restaurant considers itself a stylish chain with creative burgers and elevated pub grub, and craft beers and bourbons for the adults. The atmosphere was fun and the staff were friendly and welcoming to our family. By the time we had gotten to the restaurant we were famished from our adventures. Knowing I likely couldn’t eat a burger there, I mentally prepared myself for a salad.
What a surprise and thrill I got when I discovered Burger Beer Bourbon had gluten free hamburgers. Just take a look below. I promise it tasted as good as it looks. The kids were pleased with the options on the children’s menu and the prices at this Washington DC restaurant were in line with what you would expect at most chain restaurants.
Burger Tap & Shake
The second restaurant we discovered, the Burger Tap & Shake, was within walking distance of our hotel, The River Inn. This Washington DC restaurant is located at 2200 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., Washington, DC. It’s similar to other burger joints that are part restaurant, part fast food. You’ll walk up to the counter to place your order and then settle in at a table while you wait for it to be ready. Drink prices start at $2. The kids menu options started at $3 and burgers start at $6 with special varieties, friends, and other options extra.
Have some family fun exploring these Washington DC family attractions
We experienced so many great Washington DC attractions for families and like we mentioned earlier, all of these activities and attractions are free, (unless noted otherwise.) From the Washington DC tourism site, we learned there are 100 free and almost free activities in Washington DC. Take a look at their list, starting with 16 free attractions for families. Here’s a brief description of the ones we visited, our thoughts, and a look at the pictures we took. As we take more Washington DC family vacations we’ll be adding to this list.
Washington DC’s National Mall
The National Mall in Washington DC includes the following monuments where admission is free: Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, FDR Memorial in white on grey background, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the DC War Memorial. The hours and special activities at these monuments vary and some have special visitor centers. We encourage you to learn more about the National Mall monuments at the National Park Service site. For the most part, the National Mall monuments are within walking distance from each other. Some are further apart than others, but all have sidewalks between them and would be relatively easy to navigate with a stroller. If you require a handicap or stroller accessible way to avoid the steps of some of the historical monuments, check with the National Park rangers who can point you to the elevators.
If your kids are collecting stamps for their National Park books or as souvenirs be sure to stop into the gift shops, where they can get a stamp for the monument at no charge. Some monuments might have more than one stamp available in case you missed a stamp on your Washington DC vacation.
- You can see our pictures from the National Mall Monuments in DC in this Facebook album.
- You can see our pictures from the World War II Memorial in DC in this Facebook album.
We spent the majority of our time at Washington DC’s National Mall as my boys were eager to achieve their National Park Service Junior Ranger badges. You can read more about their adventure in Earning Junior Ranger Badges at the Washington DC National Mall.
My 12 year old son had this to say about the World War II Memorial we visited at the National Mall.
At the World War II Memorial memorial we saw the names of countries and states fighting in World War II. We also saw plaques of what was happening in the time of World War II, such as the battle at Normandy. Finally, we saw the battles and where they took place.
It would take a few days to visit and appreciate each of the National Mall’s historical moments. We were in Washington DC for 2-3 days. We visited 6 monuments with just a brief period of time at each one.
National Air & Space Museum
It is hard to believe that the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum which is home to 23 amazing exhibits on two different floors is free to the public, but it is. Give yourself at least several hours to explore this Washington DC museum. There are shows and videos to watch, aircraft to climb through, exhibits you can touch, and experiments to try. To learn more about this free Washington DC attraction click on their site.
Smithsonian Visitor Center & Castle
As you are making your way between the Washington DC attractions, make sure you take time to visit this majestic site. The Smithsonian Visitor Center & Castle offers the information about the local monuments and museums as you would expect in a Visitor’s Center. But this Smithsonian Institute also offers two elaborate rooms with historical displays, that will certainly have you feeling like you’ve stepped into a castle from earlier times. You can learn more about the Smithsonian Visitor Center & Castle and their hours at their site. I would expect the typical visit here lasts 20-40 minutes depending on your and your children’s interest in the exhibits.
United States Navy Memorial
The United States Navy Memorial is located at 701 Pennsylvania Ave NW in Washington, DC. This two-story free museum in Washington DC gives children and adults the opportunity to learn about the United States Navy from its earlier days to the modern times. Exhibits recognize the contributions of men and women who have served in the United States Navy. Visitors can use computers to look up family members who’ve served, see how Navy uniforms have changed over the years, read about the different Naval members that have won awards, learn about the different ships and carriers of the Navy and more. You can learn more about the United States Navy Memorial at their website. The length of your visit is entirely up to you and your children. You could spend 30-40 minutes here if you just casually browse through the exhibits or longer if you read and study each of them.
Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is an art museum with free admission in Washington DC. The Hirshhorn is located on the National Mall at the corner of 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW. With indoor exhibits and outdoor sculptures the museum collects, preserves, and presents international modern and contemporary art in so many different ways, your family will enjoy the unique ways art can be created. Group tours are available. Learn more about the Hirshhorn in this video below.
Have a Historic Sleepover at the National Archives
The National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, has many exhibits and activities for kids of all ages. Visitors can see the original Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and explore other records in several exhibition galleries, the Boeing Learning Center, and the McGowan Theater. Admission is free. Now, while we haven’t explored the National Archives, yet we will be soon as we take part in one of their epic National Archives sleepovers. More details about this unique family sleepover program in Washington DC are available in our post, National Archives Sleepover ~ A Slumber Party for Tweens.
Make a visit to Washington DC your family’s next vacation.
Click over to see the rest of our Family Travel to Washington DC series for help in planning your family vacation to Washington DC. Don’t forget to pin it for later.
To arrange a feature on your location contact Jennifer Auer, Jersey Family Fun publisher.