In a military career, you’re bound to find yourself stationed in the DC area at least once. The good news is that there is a LOT to do in Washington DC with kids. The downside is that there is so much to do, it can be overwhelming. Museums are an obvious choice, but I haven’t enjoyed my museum experiences with young children – parking is difficult, lines can be long, and the crowds can be overwhelming for little kids. Here are some alternatives you’ll want to know about:
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Glen Echo Park
In the spring and summer months, Glen Echo runs its incredibly beautiful antique carousel, with original music. The animals are magical, and tickets are cheap (around $2). It’s worth visiting Glen Echo just for this, but they also have a playground, a glass-blowing studio, a pottery studio, and a puppet theater. Plenty of room to run around, never too crowded, and a great way to spend an afternoon for not a lot of money.
In the middle of Northeast DC, there’s an oasis of calm in this Franciscan Monastery. Open to the public and free, you can come to mass here, but the real draw is the beautiful and extensive gardens. On a warm spring afternoon, this is a calming and spiritual place to bring your children, whether you are religious or not.
Great Country Farms
About an hour from DC, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Great Country Farms is one of the best places to spend a weekend afternoon. A campus of kids’ activities, it includes an extensive playground, a corn maze in the fall that will take you an hour to get out of, fruit picking during all seasons, wagon rides, mini golf, gem mining, a restaurant, and a giant jumping pillow. When you’re done, head across the street to Bluemont Vineyard.
National Children’s Museum
Newly opened this month, this new museum is all about kids. Tickets are only $10.95 per person. Be one of the first to visit before word gets out. This is sure to become a favorite spot for everyone in Washington DC with kids.
This is the most spectacular flower-picking venue in the area. Every year they plant more than 1.5 MILLION tulips and daffodils on about eight acres. My kids LOVED this place.
Seven Oaks Lavender Farm
To be completely honest, my kids got over the lavender picking part of this adventure pretty quickly. What makes this place special is that it’s geared toward kids – from the items available in the gift shop to the little craft stations (lavender sachets and more) to the snacks (lavender donuts and lemonade) to the adorable little playhouse. I couldn’t get them to leave. Nearby Warrenton has a historic Main Street that’s fun to walk through and stop for lunch.
National Capital Trolley Museum
Here’s the secret to their success: KIDS LOVE TROLLEYS. In Colesville, MD, hop on a trolley into the woods or enjoy a tour on an authentic tram. Admission includes the museum displays, a docent-led tour, and unlimited trolley rides.
Silver Maple Farm
This was a big, big win for me as a mom. Why? Because my kids spent the afternoon SNUGGLING BABY GOATS and feeding them out of baby bottles.
The Smithsonian National Zoo is wonderful, but it can be huge and overwhelming for some kids. Roer’s Zoofari has most of the same animals in a more compact space – easy to do in a couple hours. They can also ride camels, feed the animals and take a safari bus tour.
The Mansion on O Street
If ever there was a haunted mansion in DC, this would be it. With themed rooms (that you can actually sleep in), secret doors and an incredible collection of items (all of which you can buy), kids will have fun wandering around this massive maze, looking for all the secret doors (almost no one has ever found them all).