City Gems: Washington D.C. family travel guide

In City Gems, Travel, Uncategorized by Jessica McFaddenLeave a Comment

A memorable family trip to Washington, D.C. means striking a balance. You need to embrace the history and eighth-grade-class-trip-ness of it all, but you also can break away from the marble monuments to enjoy the hip, unique offerings of the United States’ capital.

As a Washington, D.C. ‘what to do with your kids’ local blogger at A Parent in Silver Spring, I’m honored to share with you how to experience both sides of the (Presidential profiled) coin when you visit with your family.

What to DO 

washington d.c. family travel guide

VIP U.S. Capitol Tour

First Street SE

Sure, you can wait in the massive line for a generic tour of the United States Capitol Building. But why wait when Members of Congress’s staff members provide weekday tours for constituents? Once you chose your trip dates, contact one of your Senators — they have larger staffs to handle tours.

washington d.c. family travel guide

White House Tour

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Hard to believe, but it is possible to take a tour right through the public rooms of the place where the leader of the free world works and lives. When you call that Senator’s office for a Capitol tour, also ask to schedule a White House tour too. Requests can be submitted up to six months in advance. If you are citizen of another country, contact your embassy in Washington, DC to process your tour request.

What to SEE

washington dc family travel guide

Washington Monuments Cruise

3050 K Street NW – Washington Harbour – Georgetown Dock

The most pleasurable, and easiest way, to see those massive marble temples of democracy is to view them from the breezy decks of a tour boat. Much like the touristy cruises along the Seine in Paris, you get a beautiful view of the sights. I like to catch my tour boats from the Georgetown Dock. Various operators mean that a boat tour leaves every 15 minutes or so from 11:30am until 10pm or so. Evening cruises are especially cool. After your cruise, Georgetown provides loads of dining and shopping options.

Where to PLAY


National Building Museum

401 F Street NW – Gallery Place

DC locals love this dream of a play-space-heavy museum for crawlers through elementary schoolers. From indoor miniature golf, a huge room of imaginative play areas, various LEGO rooms and more, your child will be in hands-on heaven.

Where to LEARN

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History  – 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – Independence Avenue at 6th Street SW

Smithsonian National Museum of American History – 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW

The three museums above are those that most people think of when they hear the words “Smithsonian.” Although there are more museums in the Smithsonian family located along the National Mall, these are the most popular and the ones that best cater to children. Since there’s no admission fee, feel free to breeze in and out and simply check out the things your family will find most exciting.

What to EAT

Good Stuff Eatery

303 Pennsylvania Avenue SE – Capitol Hill

Chef Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame has several DC-area restaurants, and Capitol Hill’s Good Stuff Eatery will provide you with one of the best burger/fry/shake meals you have eaten in your life. There is a reason that Spike has won Rachael Ray’s burger challenge! The french fries with mayo bar and hand-spun shakes are delish. Mom and dad can get a Belgian beer on a tap, often a necessity after a day spent sight-seeing with kids.

Where to SHOP

Violet Boutique

2439 18th Street NW – Adams Morgan

Mom deserves some ‘me time’ after a playing Mrs. Griswold in DC all day. Head to Violet for the on-point styles, bright colors and unique accessories. The owner prides herself on curating a collection of tops, bottoms, dresses, handbags and jewelry that are accessibly-priced (almost everything is less than $100.) Yet with every item in the store, you feel as if you are in the coolest, most high end, funky boutique of your dreams.

Are you a Washingtonian or DC-tripper? Share your recs in the comments!

Images courtesy Jessica McFadden, the Architect of the Capitol,, Violet Boutique and Lil’ El and rubyshoes on Flickr via a Creative Commons license. 

Meet the Author | Jessica McFadden

Jessica McFadden (@JessicaMcFadd) is a mom-blogging, freelance-writing, bass-cranking-in-the-minivan mother of three. She writes the award-winning local website A Parent in Silver Spring for parents in the DC area, as well as the lifestyle blog A Parent in America. Jessica has been called a mom blog must-read and featured in media such as CNN and Forbes. Her blog is also a top resource for Washington, DC area parents. Jessica has contributed to The Washington Post, Nickelodeon, TLC and elsewhere. She is also a prolific vlogger at her YouTube channel and also hosts Real Life Style with Jessica McFadden on MomTV. But her favorite gig is being a mom to Charlie, Eve and Alice.

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