Food Options near each Museum: Family-Friendly in 2023

Washington DC Museums

The 2nd most asked question I get is about family-friendly food options near the Smithsonian Museums and the National Mall.

So, today on the blog I have my top recommendations for each of the 12 DC Smithsonian Museums + 1 Zoo.

food options near smithsonian dc

Family Friendly Food Recommendations Near Each DC Smithsonian*

(*Mostly not inside the Museums!)

National Air and Space Museum:

A block and half from the Independence Ave. entrance (go down 6th St. SW and turn Right on Maryland Ave. SW) are a couple of great Family Friendly options:

Cosmo Cafe: buffet style, reasonably priced with vegetarian options

Rice Bar Capital Grill: Korean rice bowls, casual and fantastic reviews

Vie De France Bakery and Cafe: Only open on WEEKDAYS, great selection of sweet and savory crepes and bakery items. 

Natural History Museum:

There is a brand new Cafe here which is nice but I just can't recommend based on the prices and quality! Instead, I would recommend heading to the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center building which is 0.4 miles away (0.2 miles from American History if you visit there on the way) and has a ton of options in their Food Court including:

- California Tortilla

- Subway

- Great Wraps

- Kabuki Sushi and Teriyaki

- Smoothie King 

American History Museum:

Highly recommend the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center Food Court which is 0.2 miles away from the Museum taking the Constitution Ave. Exit. See Natural History Museum above for some great options there! 

National Museum of African American History and Culture: 

Again, highly recommend the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center Food Court which is 0.2 miles away from the Museum taking the Constitution Ave. Exit. See Natural History Museum above for some great options there! 

Also, the museum itself has a cool (but overpriced, I believe fried chicken was around $25!) Sweet Home Cafe is an extension of the exhibits with different African American foods from 4 areas:

- The Agricultural South

- The Creole Coast

- The North States

- The Western Range

Smithsonian Castle, Freer Gallery, African Art Museum, and Sackler Gallery (all in the same area): 

These museums are probably the most removed from good dining options so I recommend combining with another museum on this list that has better options. The Hirshhorn Museum is the closes with their delicious Dolcezza Cafe with coffee and gelato. For other options check out the Food Trucks on 14th Street or the list of restaurants near Air and Space Museum like Cosmo Cafe (0.4 mile walk down Independence Ave.) 

American Indian Museum:

This is one of the only museums where I recommend checking out the food court! It's really an extension of the exhibits upstairs. The Mitsitam Food Court(which means “Let's eat!” in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway peoples) has food stations for different regions including Great Plains, Mesoamerican, Northern Woodlands, Northwest Coast, and South America. (Open everyday 11AM-3PM)

American Art Museum/ National Portrait Gallery:

Chinatown has endless options for food! Some of our family's favorites: 

Shake Shack at 800 F St. NW

CAVA at 707 H St. NW 

Chopt Creative Salads at 730 7th St. NW 

Daikaya Ramen Shop at 705 6th St. NW (Pro Tip! This place can have 1-2 hour waits so put your name and cell phone on the list first then walk across the street to the Gallery for an hour or two until they call you! We've had some great Saturday afternoons spent like this!)

Also the Portrait Gallery has a beautiful atrium with a small (overpriced) cafe with an awesome trail mix bar!


This is the other exception to my "not recommending museum food!" I love the new Dolcezza Cafe in the lobby area of the Hirshhorn. Also during the summer, they have a seasonal pop-up cafe on the outdoor Plaza. Dolcezza was voted best coffee and the best gelato in The Washington Post and is a great treat for kids and adults alike. 

For more substantial food, check out the Air and Space recommendations as they are close too!

National Zoo:

One alternative to the overpriced food sold inside the Zoo is to go to the main entrance on Connecticut Ave and check out the many including 

- Starbucks

- Frozenyo

Duke's Counter a gastropub with burgers and high reviews!

National Postal Museum:

Dozens of food options (and shopping!) at Union Station steps away from the museum! 

Some of our favorites with kids on the Main Level including  

- Shake Shack 

- Chipotle 

- Roti 

- Chop't 

- Cava

Lower Level Food Court:


- Bojangles 

- Dunkin Donuts

- McDonald's

Renwick Gallery: 

Cosi is a great casual and family-friendly spot right across the street from the White House and a block away from the Renwick Gallery located at 1700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.