Combine fun with learning for a perfect day out with the kids this summer. D.C. promises no shortage of opportunities to get out of the house and play, with cheap and free options the whole family will love. Head out with the family for a little fun and excitement once school lets out at the best places to spend a summer day in D.C.
Smithsonian Institution Building
1000 Jefferson Drive Southwest
Washington, DC 20560
Start at the Smithsonian Institution Building before checking out the surrounding museums. The Castle, as it is called, houses the Smithsonian Information Center and a permanent exhibition called Smithsonian Institution: America’s Treasure Chest. Stop by Castle Café for free public WiFi, and then head to the other museums for the day. Check out the special Smithsonian guide for visiting with kids online beforehand, and when you get there be sure and watch the 10-minute orientation video before you start. Interesting venues for the kids include the Air and Space Museum’s How Things Fly, the Natural History Museum’s Geology, Gems and Mineral Hall, and the Postal Museum’s What’s in the Mail for You!
Smithsonian National Zoo
3001 Connecticut Ave. Northwest
Price: free/$16 parking/$22 for more than three hours
The National Zoo, considered by many to be one of the best zoos in the world, is a great place to learn more about the animal world. The zoo houses around 400 species, many of which are endangered, for a total of 2,000 animals. Popular animals at the zoo include the Sumatran tiger, the North Island kiwis, Asian elephants, gorillas and, of course, the giant pandas. Parents who want a bit of time for themselves should bring the sitter and enjoy Brew at the Zoo as well.
The National Mall
Between Independence and Constitution Avenues from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial
After you are done with the museums, take the kids to the National Mall. The Mall is a work of civic art, a huge open expanse, an oasis the midst of one of the busiest cities in the world. On one side is the Lincoln Memorial, then the long reflecting pool in front of it full of fun duks for the kids. After the reflecting pool comes the Washington Monument. At a right angle to the monument is the White House, and in front of it, a strip of the National Mall, at the end of which is the U.S. Capitol. Rest in the shade of the huge trees next to the pool, and take advantage of vendors selling water and ice cream. There are also public water fountains spread out over the Mall.
800 F St. Northwest
Washington, DC 20004
Price: $19.95 for adults/$13.95 kids 7 to 17/free kids 6 and younger
There’s something at the Spy Museum for the whole family. Teenaged boys and girls as well as the young at heart may enjoy the Aston Martin DB5 from James Bond’s “Goldfinger.” It comes loaded with license plates that change by themselves, jets and an ejector seat. The display on disguises is also a fun exhibit. Note that strollers are not allowed inside, but baby backpacks are fine for exploring everything this exciting museum has to offer.
2700 F St. Northwest
Washington, DC 20566
Price: free performances at 6 p.m. in the Grand Foyer
Kennedy Center offers free performances every day at 6 p.m. in the Grand Foyer for a great time for the whole family. Don’t miss out on performers from around the world, who stand ready to encourage kids to pursue and understand the arts. If you get hungry, go to Terrace Level for lunch dining on plenty of kid-friendly options. Finally, check out Arts Edge before you go, Kennedy Center’s free digital learning platform for arts education.
During the day, Tanya Gupta is a development finance professional. By night she blogs about the development, technology, academia and her city. Her personal web page is at techtanya.com. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.