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Visitors’ Guide: Three Days in Washington, DC, with Kids
Trying to plan a fun-filled, kid-friendly long weekend? We have you covered.
By Mary Yarrison, Sophie Gilbert
The giant pandas are the biggest draw at the National Zoo, and kids love them, too. Photograph by Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian National Zoo.
Comments () | Published July 18, 2012

Day 1: The Mall and the White House

Breakfast: Le Bon Café

Grab a seat at one of the outdoor tables at this small Capitol Hill cafe for a plate of French toast, a waffle, or a made-to-order egg sandwich; or pick up a croissant or bagel to enjoy on your walk to a day full of sights.

AM: Tour the Capitol Building

Touring the Capitol takes a little planning. Tour slots are free and can be booked online as late as the day before; a small number of same-day tickets are available at the information desks on Emancipation Hill.

The basic tour includes a short history lesson and an introduction to the building. The House and Senate galleries are also open to visitors, but you’ll need to arrange separate passes ahead of time through your senator or representative. The Visitor Center is also open 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Saturday, and you can stop in to the exhibit hall, the cafeteria, and the gift shops any time.

Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian. Photograph by Leonda Levchuk/National Museum of the American Indian.

Lunch: Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian

We know, a museum cafeteria isn’t what you had in mind—but the stations here serve up dishes inspired by the ingredients and cooking of five Native American groups. Sample bison strip loin or mole-braised chicken prepared with herbs from the museum’s garden, or grab some chicken tenders for the kids. The full menu (including beer and wine) is available until 3 PM.

PM: The National Air and Space Museum

The most popular museum in the country, Air and Space holds the world’s largest collection of air and spacecraft along with interactive flight simulators, a planetarium, and an Imax theater. Just beyond the Mall entrance is the Milestones of Flight entry hall, which runs through the history of aviation with Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1 in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, and the North American X-15—the first aircraft to break Mach 4, 5, and 6—as well as the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia.

Don’t miss the Golden Age of Flight gallery, which includes Howard Hughes’s H-1 racer, or the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight wing on the second floor, which celebrates people who achieved significant “firsts” in flight.

If You Have Time: Ride the Smithsonian’s Carousel on the Mall

This oldest carousel in DC sits in front of the Smithsonian Castle on the Mall, and is open 10 AM to 5:30 PM daily. Rides on this beauty are a fun way to give your legs a rest.

Before Dinner: Walk Past the White House

Tours of the White House are hard to come by and must be planned well in advance, but anyone can walk by, marvel, and snap a photo in front of the famous home without prior arrangements. And across Pennsylvania from the northwest corner of the President’s lot, you’ll find the Blair House, which plays host to visiting dignitaries. Check for a foreign flag hanging by the door to figure out who might be staying inside, and maybe even catch a glimpse of his/her motorcade.

Dinner: Old Ebbitt Grill

This Washington institution provides a bit of history along with excellent oysters, a solid cocktail list, and a $7 kids’ menu. In business for 156 years, Old Ebbitt is famous in equal parts for having the best Bloody Mary in Washington and for hosting presidents Grant, Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt.


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  • Ginger

    Yes, we could use suggestions on where to stay. There will be 7 of us traveling together including a four yr. old little girl.

  • Tracy

    Any suggestions on where to stay in DC. We are a family of 4.

  • Lynda

    Thank you for these suggestions. This will be the upteenth time I've visited DC, but the first with three nieces in tow. You have really helped me to decide what to do!

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Posted at 04:18 PM/ET, 07/18/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Articles