There are so many wonderful museums for children in DC that I knew we needed them all in one place! After 12 years living in the area, below are details on my top 20 museums for kids, and 17 of them are FREE. A note for 2022: Make sure to check each museum's website for up-to-date opening hours info as many are operating at different schedules.
Table of Contents:
Museums for Children in DC - On the National Mall
1) National Museum of American History - Smithsonian Free!
About: Wonderful mix of historical and current artifacts with some of the best kids areas of all Smithsonian museums. Everyone in your group will find something to "ooh and ahh" about at this fascinating museum! Highlights include the original flag Star-Spangled Banner, First Ladies Collection, Muppets, huge locomotives, trucks and cars, and Julia Child's kitchen. There's just so much to explore!
Mom Tip: Currently the kids play areas, Wegman's Wonderplace and Spark!Lab are closed but there are so many other exciting exhibits for kids. Highly recommend “Places of Innovation” where you travel to the Bronx to learn DJing, Silicon Valley to make your own icon on an old Mac, and other spots around the country.
*This museum is massive and doesn't have a kid's guide. I created a downloadable Family Trip Guide for the American History Museum if you want a stress-free family visit!
Address: 1300 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
2) Air and Space Museum - Smithsonian Free! Most visited museum in the country!
About: The most visited museum in the US is incredible with kids! Kids of all ages will love learning through exhibits and wonderful hands-on activities about flight and space.
Mom Tip: Will reopen in October 2022. The Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia is open now and listed below.
Address: 655 Jefferson Drive, SW Washington, DC
3) Natural History Museum - Smithsonian, free!
About: The second most visited Smithsonian in DC is a wonderful place for kids of all ages! Main attractions include the Hope Diamond, Live Butterflies Room, and Dinosaur Fossil Hall.
Mom Tip: The minerals and gems exhibit is still so cool. The cave area and diversity of minerals and gems… it's like under-earth coral! The Garden Lounge on the 2nd floor is a great quiet place for nursing. Quiet spot with chargers, beautiful orchids, and views.
*This museum is also huge and doesn't have a kid's guide. I created a downloadable Family Trip Guide for the Natural History Museum if you want a stress-free family visit!
Address: 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
4) National Museum of African American History and Culture - Smithsonian, free!
About: Who should visit the National Museum of African American Museum History and Culture? Everyone! We visited the NMAAHC Smithsonian when my kids were 5 and 2 and then again when my kids were 8 and 5. It is such a powerful and important museum so if you are able, I highly encourage DC moms, dads, and families to visit.
Mom Tip: I wrote all my tips about options for viewing the sensitive exhibits with my kids here.
Address: 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
5) National Museum of the American Indian - Smithsonian, free!
About: One of the largest collections of Native objects and media in the world. Incredible, meaningful architecture, exhibits, and a great Food Court with food from different Indigenous groups around North America. (2022: Mitisam Food Court is currently closed but their Espresso Bar is open)
Mom Tip: The imagiNations Kid's area is currently closed in 2022 but they have some other cool exhibits kids will like. Check out Level 3 about the Inca Road exhibit. (We skipped Level 4 on the treaties as a museum staff said that was not as interesting for young kids.) And don't miss the beautiful gardens and water area around the museum outside.
Address: 4th St SW, Washington, DC 20560
6) Hirshhorn Museum - Smithsonian, free!
About: The Hirshhorn Museum is the national museum of modern and contemporary art in Washington, D.C. It is a unique circle shape with fountains in the center and fascinating art exhibits.
Mom Tip: My kids love this museum and the galleries are ever-changing. Check out their website ahead of time to see what is on view when you visit. Also, they have a separate Hirshhorn Kids email newsletter that has great activities at home or at the museum.
Address: Independence Ave SW &, 7th St SW, Washington, DC 20560
7) National Gallery of Art - Free!
About: The National Gallery of Art is one of the nation's largest art galleries, and in my opinion, one of the most beautiful spaces in Washington, D.C. I've visited this museum since my daughter was 1 month old and it continues to be one of our favorite places to go in the winter to escape the cold and in the summer to escape the heat! The West Building has works from the 11th to 19th centuries and the East Building focuses on modern and contemporary art.
Mom Tip: They have great audio guides for kids that you can use on your own phone! Includes voices and fun stories that bring the art alive. Also, don't miss the Multiverse Light Sculpture tunnel on the lower level! More tips from our summer visit are here.
Address: Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20565
8) Freer and Sackler Galleries - National Museum of Asian Art
About: These two galleries on the Smithsonian Castle campus focus on Asian art and artifacts. I love these museums because they are never busy, have beautiful surprises around each corner, and are one of the only Smithsonian that has a kids' guide at the info desk.
Mom Tip: Definitely check out the Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery!
Address: 1050 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560
9) Arts and Industries Building - Smithsonian, free!
About: The Arts and Industries Building recently re-opened after years of being closed to the public. The current exhibit is entitled FUTURES and focuses on the creative exchange of ideas and objects.
Mom Tip: I visited without my kids first but kids would love all the interactive exhibits! It is not large so you could just pop in after a visit to the Smithsonian Castle nearby or one of the art galleries (Freer, Sackler, African Art, or Hirshhorn).
Address: 900 Jefferson Dr. SW, Washington, DC 20560
10) National Museum of African Art - Smithsonian Free!
About: A hidden gem of a museum! Many people miss this museum but my kids loved it! It is the only museum focusing on African Art in the US and has so many cool exhibits ranging from West African Gold, Heroes: Principles of African Greatness, Contemporary Women Artists of Africa, and more.
Mom Tip: The Museum might seem small from the outside but it expands underground and is quite large! Ask the staff what current exhibit would be good for kids. They had great ideas when we visited!
Address: 950 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560
11) United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - Free
About: From their website: "The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history, and serves as this country’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust." I have visited a couple of pre-kids and hope to take my children when they are a bit older.
Mom Tip: Free timed-entry tickets are required so plan ahead at their website. Some same-day tickets are available online at 7 AM. Note:
Note for 2022: The exhibit "Daniel's Story" is currently closed. It presents the history of the Holocaust through the experience of one child and is recommended for children 8 and older.
Address: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024
*Honorable Mention: The Castle... not really a museum but a nice quick stop!
We love stopping into the Smithsonian Institution Building, aka The Castle! It doesn't have a lot inside but is a beautiful space, has more info about the Smithsonian organization, and has a great cafe!
Museums for Children in DC - Off the National Mall
12) National Postal Museum - My personal favorite of the museums for children in DC
About: This museum is the Hidden Gem of Smithsonians and definitely the "easiest" of the Smithsonians with kids! Excellent hands-on exhibits and the largest collection of stamps in the world. Opening March 11 Friday - Tuesday 10 AM to 5:30 PM.
Mom Tip: Easy parking garage at Union Station and be sure to validate on your way out! Also, great snack and food options at Union Station including Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, and more.
Address: 2 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
13) National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum
About: We love these museums! 2 museums in one located between Chinatown and Penn Quarter in Northwest DC. The focus is obviously on American portraits and also is one of the "most inclusive collections of American art in the world." Our favorite part is the Kogod Courtyard which was named one of the 7 architectural wonders of the world by Conde Nast magazine.
Mom Tip: Hold on to your little one's hands and step inside the 1 inch of water in the Kogod Courtyard! They also have a nice cafe to enjoy snacks. Check the website for opening hours.
Address: 8th and G Streets, Washington, DC 20001
14) National Children's Museum - one of the paid museums for children in DC
About: The newly reopened National Children's Museum "sparks curiosity in STEAM for young children under the age of 12." They have exciting exhibits from Innovation Sandbox, Dream Machine play structure, Data Science Alley, and Little Movers area for infants and toddlers. Tickets are $15.95 for ages one and older, including adults and you choose either the morning session from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM or the afternoon session from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM.
Mom Tip: The closest parking garage is the Ronald Reagan Building which is right next to the museum. Park in the Atrium north parking area (green signs) for the entrance nearest to the museum.
Address: 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004
15) International Spy Museum - one of the paid museums for children in DC
About: Learn all about espionage and intelligence at the high-tech International Spy Museum. We went with a friend for my daughter's birthday and it was such a cool experience! You start with a secret identity and a badge uncover clues and accomplish missions as you walk through the museum. Tickets are $26.95 for ages 13-64, $16.95 for ages 7-12, and Free for ages 6 and under. There are also discounts for Seniors, the Military, and College.
Mom Tip: L'Enfant Plaza Mall is next to the Museum and there are tons of great kid-friendly food options there for after a fun day of espionage!
Address: 700 L'Enfant Plaza, SW Washington DC 20024
16) Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center - Chantilly, Virginia
About: The Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center located near Dulles Airport is absolutely huge! It is a 17-acre facility with multiple aircraft and space shuttle hangars. If anyone in your family loves things that fly, this is the place to be! I wrote about our recent visit here and our favorites included the Discovery Space Shuttle, Visitor Overlook of the Restoration Hangar, and the 3rd level walkways.
Mom Tip: This museum is free entry but parking does cost $15 per car. (But free after 4 PM!) The IMAX Theater is open now but the Observation Tower is currently closed in early 2022.
Address: 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy, Chantilly, VA 20151
17) National Building Museum - Some parts are free but Kids' Area has a fee
About: Incredible space to experience with your kids between Penn Quarter and Chinatown. The Great Hall, Museum Shop, and Gun Violence Memorial Project are free but the other exhibits and kid area cost $10 per adult and $7 for ages 3-17.
Mom Tip: The Play Work Build Kids area is SO cool for kids! My daughter loved going when she was a toddler. It is a very limited capacity in 2022, with only 20 kids. Includes supersize lincoln logs, light-up magnets, and giant blue building materials.
Address: 401 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001
18) National Geographic Museum - One of the amazing Museums for older Children in DC
About: The National Geographic Society is headquartered in DC and has a museum of always-changing exhibits. I went years ago but have tickets to go again next month and will update this section. Emphasis on wildlife photography and exploration.
Mom Tip: I will update!
Address: 1145 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
19) Planet Word - one of the newest Museums for Children in DC
About: An "immersive language experience located at the historic Franklin School." I can't wait to check this out with my kids soon and will update when we go. Great reviews on Instagram by local DMV blogger Cassandra here.
Mom Tip: I will update!
Address: 925 13th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
20) Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum - free!
About: A hidden gem often overlooked by tourists! Located right across the street from the White House, the Renwick Gallery focuses on contemporary craft and decorative arts. They have had incredible exhibitions from Burning Man to New Glass Now.
Mom Tip: There is a beautiful entry and stairs to take pictures on when you first enter. But if you have a stroller or wheelchair, the elevator is behind the entrance.
Address: 1661 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006
*Honorable Mention: The National Zoo!
While the National Zoo is not technically a museum, I have to add it here because it is such a wonderful place for kids in DC! World-famous for pandas, it is also a research institution with the goal to save species.
I put all my tips after a dozen trips to the National Zoo in this free Family Trip Guide which you can access here after signing up for my email newsletter.
Full List of the Museums for Children in DC
- American History Museum
- Air and Space Museum
- Natural History Museum
- African American History and Culture Museum
- Museum of the American Indian
- Hirshhorn Museum
- National Gallery of Art
- Freer and Sackler Galleries - National Museum of Asian Art
- Arts and Industries Building
- African Art Museum
- Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Postal Museum
- Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum
- National Children's Museum
- International Spy Museum
- Air and Space Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia
- National Building Museum
- National Geographic Museum
- Planet Word
- Renwick Gallery
- Honorable Mention - The Castle Smithsonian Institution Building
- Honorable Mention - The National Zoo