Washington, DC with Kids – Tips and Kid-Approved Places

We just returned from a short, wonderful vacation with family in Washington, DC. Free of scheduled nap times, the extra bags and strollers that come with babies and toddlers, we really enjoyed this trip with our children ages 11, 9, and 6.

There is so much to see in DC it can be overwhelming to know what to do and where to begin. My kids and I sat down to talk about our trip and gave “kid-approved” rating and highlights of the things we saw. We are in no way travel experts, but I hope this post will offer a few tips and ideas if you are heading to DC.


Library of Congress


WWII Memorial

Our MUST-SEE Recommendations:

Botanic Garden

A few suggestions of PLACES TO EAT…

Our family ate at Ted’s Bulletin four times on this trip. It’s a great family restaurant. They serve breakfast and lunch, and have a wide variety of choices. We have many different diets in our family- gluten-free, vegan- and we were all able to find something to eat and enjoy. The service is excellent. (And they make homemade pop tarts which are a delicious treat!)

Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian

“Mitsitam” means “Let’s eat!” in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway peoples. The museum’s Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe enhances the museum experience by providing visitors the opportunity to enjoy the indigenous cuisines of the Americas and to explore the history of Native foods. The Cafe features Native foods found throughout the Western Hemisphere, including the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso America and the Great Plains. Each of the five food stations depict regional lifeways related to cooking techniques, ingredients, and flavors found in both traditional and contemporary dishes. Selections include authentic Native foods such as traditional fry bread and corn totopos as well as contemporary items with a Native American twist—think buffalo burgers!” – National Museum of the American Indian Website

We had lunch here twice! (When we find something that works, we stick with it. 🙂 ) The first time I had a chilled cherry soup with three-sisters salad. The second time, I had vegetarian chili with fry bread!! (Ahhh, fry bread, where have you been my whole life?) The food was delicious and it wasn’t as crowded as other museum cafes.



1.) Make a tentative daily schedule of the places and things you want to see.

2.) Many museums have floor plans, exhibits, and maps online. Download and print museum maps ahead of time. Some museums list their must-see exhibits and offer additional educational items to print. As attention spans decreased and weariness increased, I was glad I took the time to look over the maps and buildings so I could direct my crew to what we wanted to see and save energy.

3.) Even though we used Google Maps for walking directions when needed, a printed copy of the National Mall was helpful . I used this one from the National Park Service.

4.) Some buildings and tours require prior arrangements and reservations. The U.S. Capitol Vistor’s Center offers advanced reservations. I would highly recommend contacting the offices of your representatives and senators for booking a tour. We had an excellent tour by one of Representative Ruiz’s staff members. If you you are hoping to see millions of dollars being printed, tickets are available and required for a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Admission is free but tickets are on a first come basis. The ticket booth opens at 8:00 AM (click the link for more information.) United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Archives offers advanced tickets.

5.) Save some money by bringing and refilling a water bottle. And if visiting DC in the spring or summer, be sure to pack a raincoat or umbrella for showers and pop-up storms.

NOTE: you will need to go through security at every museum at least once (sometimes multiple times.) Pack a light bag and help keep the security line moving by taking off backpacks and unzipping bags for security guards to easily look through items.

6.) The Metro, Public Transportation, and Uber saved time and tired legs. You can purchase a SmarTrip card online or in the Metro stations.

Museum of the Bible
Washington Monument from WWII Memorial

Tot-Time Tuesday- Traveling Time- Screen Free Ideas

Tot-Time Tuesday Traveling

We went on a short family trip over the weekend.  I knew that we would be spending a bit of time in the van- about 3 hours each way. Although the kids would have been thrilled to watch movies the whole time, I wanted at least one way of the trip to be completely screen-free. With a little research and a few Pinterest searches, I came up with some ideas.

Here is what we did…

Tot-Time Tuesday- TravelingTimes

We started our trip off with a quick trip to Wendy’s (no fast food judgments-LOL.) My son found a creative (and disgusting) way to entertain himself. I also had plenty of other healthy snacks on hand. Granola bars, dried fruit, pretzels, almonds, and Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks. The fruit snacks were a hit. I rarely buy them so they were a treat for the kids to eat.

tot time tuesdy dressup tot time tuesday dressup 2

The Kid’s Meals came with a toy (King Julien’s crown) which provided about 5 minutes of entertainment.  And since we like to “Move it, Move it”….

Music and Traveling

We had some great music to listen to in the van. Yes, we are that family! We sing loudly and “dance” in our seats. Recently, my son has started to demand “MUCK” “MUCK” (translation “music, music”) from his car seat and we are happy to oblige with a “please” and “thank you.”

Our top music album choice this weekend was TOBYMAC’s ***THIS IS NOT A TEST*** This album was just released August 7th. It is a great collection of soulful dance and pop music. With family friendly and uplifting lyrics, it is hard not to move or be in a good mood listening to it.

Check it out! http://tobymac.com/

Coloring on a Car Trip

I was surprised at how long coloring occupied my little guy. Before the trip, I printed out free coloring pages of some of my son’s favorite things- tractors and monster trucks. I put them all on a clip board and handed him one crayon at a time. I was afraid to give him more than one as the whole crayon box would have been poured out. This was also a great time to practice and reinforce color recognition. “Oh, you want a GREEN crayon.” “Sure, here is a GREEN crayon.” It is amazing how much learning is done naturally.


For my older girls, I found some fun car bingo sheets. We are still working on reading skills, so I loved the one from Stuck On You. This BINGO sheet had pictures AND words. It was simple and clean looking.  (link below)

Click to access cartripbingo.pdf

For older kids try: http://www.free-puzzles.net/travel-games-for-kids/printable-games/scavenger-hunt/scavenger-hunt.pdf

Gold Balls and Pipe Cleaners

We did not get to use this in the car but we used it in the hotel. I found this idea online and modified it for my family. I purchased practice golf balls and had a bunch of pipe cleaners. The kids stuck the pipe cleaners through the holes (fine-motor skills) and created “creatures.”  Or try to lace one pipe cleaner through all the holes. I tried but couldn’t do it.  Even my husband got in on the fun. 🙂

pipe cleaners pipe cleaners and golfballs

I was prepared with other ideas but we did not have a chance to use them. I came across some cute and great resources on Dating Diva’s site . http://www.thedatingdivas.com/tara/the-road-trip-date

Their Road Trip FINAL QUESTIONNAIRE  was great but the questions were geared for a husband and wife trip. I came up with my own questionnaire that could be used with the whole family. (See PDF below.) It’s going to be a great way to get the family talking on our next road trip. Something to look forward to on our next adventure!

Road Trip Family Questionnaire
Click below for PDF

Road Trip Family Questionnaire