Survival Tips for Visiting Smithsonians with Kids in the Summer

I think summer is one of the best times to visit the Smithsonians with kids if you are visiting or live in the area. They are FreeAir-Conditioned, and Spark Curiosity for your kids! 

But there is a flip side to summer visits…the tourists! So below are 3 Survival Tips for taking kids to the Smithsonian Museums in DC during the Summer. Let me know of your own tips in the comments below! 

Check out the Smithsonian Family Museum Guides for tons more info! (American History is Free, other Guides are $5 each or 5 for $18)

1. The MAGIC of 9:45 AM Arrival Time

This is my #1 Tip! It may seem like a small thing to arrive 15 mins before the museums open at 10, but it will make a world of difference!

1️⃣ I’ve found parking right in front of the museums on the National Mall, even in the summer busy season on a weekday. 

2️⃣ From my experience, school groups and touring buses come a little later around 11 so you get the place relatively crowdless for an hour!

3️⃣ Kids are happier in the morning and you can coax (i.e. bribe!) with lunch after you visit a few exhibits!

4️⃣ 9:45 is the sweet spot to avoid rush hour traffic if you are driving or on the Metro and get in line before more folks arrive at 9:55am.

2. Low expectations 

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC. Panorama www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/36085958805/sizes/o/ by Pedro Szekely. Under Creative Commons license.

As a mom, I have taken my kids to the Smithsonians as babies, tantrum-y toddlers and independent elementary schoolers and the best mindset tip I can share is low expectations. The wonderful thing is that the museums are free and so you are not wasting money if there happens to be a tantrum or bathroom accident. You can feel free to pop in and out of a museum for as long as it holds you and your kids interest. 

** TIP! Check out a Museum Guide or the Museum’s website ahead of time with any older kids and have them pick out 1 thing (ONE!) they are excited to explore. And after you visit that ONE thing, its a successful trip! Anything else is gravy 🙂

3. My Family Trip Guides! 

Kinda weird to mention my own product, right? But I am actually super proud of these Museum Guides for each of the top Smithsonians and want to make sure you check them out! You can download the American History Museum Guide for Free here and check out a super saver bundle here of 5 Guides + Passport for your Kids. 

I’ve received great feedback from moms and families that have used these on trip to the museums and really believe they can help set up your trip for  memory-making fun! 

“These guides are lifesavers! The Smithsonian museums have so much to offer that it can be easy to get swallowed up in the all the exhibits. These guides help me focus my visits on the parts of the museum that have the biggest impact on my kids. I especially love the “Mom Tips” – I’ve been visiting Smithsonian museums for years and didn’t know half of them! “- Elle, Mom of 4

“These guides take all the guesswork and stress out of visiting a Smithsonian museum with kids. I love the practical logistical information from a fellow mom who knows how important it is to locate food and restrooms with toddlers! I also appreciate the suggestions for what to do with different age ranges, and what to prioritize if you don’t have much time.” – Meg, DC toddler mom

Features of Family Trip Guides:

  • Created by a fellow mom, each guide is a 7 page PDF packed with ALL you need to know before you visit each Smithsonian museum with kids, including: Hours and how to beat the crowds, Transportation and best parking ideas for each museum (street and garage) and 3-4 Food options per museum
  • Specialized Tips for Each Age Groups: Visiting a museum with teens is VERY different than with toddlers! Each Museum Kids Guide is organized into these 3 groups: Babies and Toddlers (changing and nursing stations info!), Elementary Age (Fun hands on activities), Teens (Smithsonian Selfie Spots!)
  • No More Overwhelm! We love that the Smithsonians are all free and amazing BUT it means lots of crowds! Our Guides show you the best days and times to go and more tips to save your sanity taking kids to a museum: 
    • Can’t Miss Exhibits for each Smithsonian museum
    • Skip This! recommendations
    • Special Daily Activities 
    • Gift Shop Alternatives!
    • Resource page with further links for your Museum Kids!

And if you purchase a Guide or Pack, they include a Passport for your Kids to use as they go to the DC museums with your Child’s ID Page, Museum Pages and Stamps for them to earn! 


Hope these tips help you and your kids enjoy the Smithsonians this summer! Let me know in the comments where you are off to! 

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