Washington, DC is my favorite city with kids in the US! I am a bit biased because we have lived in the area for almost 12 years. This city is much more than just history and politics. DC has beautiful parks, free museums, world-class restaurants with flavors from around the world and incredible neighborhoods. Whether you are spending a few days in the Nation’s capital or relocating to the DC metro area, I hope the information below is helpful!
When to Travel to Washington with Kids?
DC is a wonderful city year-round but I would say my favorite seasons are Spring (cherry blossoms!) and Fall (turning of the leaves, markets). The summer is a popular time to visit but part of the city was built on a swamp and the heat and humidity are really bad in those months. If coming in July and August, be sure to sprinkle a lot of free (air-conditioned) Smithsonian museums during your visit!
Best Place to Stay in DC with Kids?
It can be a challenge to find the best family hotels in Washington, DC among all the options! Don’t worry! I’m here to help with a list of 7 my favorites for kid-friendly hotels: 6 in DC and 1 just across the river in Virginia.
My #1 recommendation is the Hyatt House at the Wharf in Southeast
Hyatt House at the Wharf is the most recommended family-friendly hotel in DC. Great outdoor pool on the roof! Extended stay hotel suites with kitchenettes, close to attractions, waterfront views and 20+ restaurants right outside the hotel’s doors. And the National Mall is only 3 blocks away!
Best DC Neighborhoods to Stay in with Kids
DC is divided into 4 quadrants radiating from the Capitol building. It is not a super large city as it is only about 10 miles wide and 8 miles long. You will usually be just a walk or Metro ride away from each attraction.
From personal experience and consulting other local parents, the top neighborhoods to stay in include:
Washington DC Area Kids Playgrounds
Hidden Gems in Washington DC with Kids
(Hidden = Known to Locals and not a lot of tourists!)
1) Fort Lincoln
Fort Lincoln Park is fantastic: history, interesting climbing structures, open spaces to run, portable restroom, parking and practically empty! It is located in the far NE corner of DC.
Fort Lincoln was one of 7 temporary earthwork forts defending DC during the Civil War. Today, there are picnic pavilions where I believe the towers were and tons of fun climbing areas. Free parking and enter “Theodore Hagans Cultural Center” into Google maps for the parking lot. Once you park, go up the stairs behind the bathrooms to find the fort!
2) Franciscan Monastery
A beautiful, kid-friendly oasis. The Gardens are so much more extensive than what I thought based on pictures. We were first greeted by a very friendly security guard. Bikes need to be left outside the gate. Then, you enter the arched walkways around the main garden of the monastery. There are beautiful mosaics and always something in bloom. More pics on Instagram here.
3) Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
The only National Park Service site that is dedicated to aquatic gardens. There are 45 ponds filled with beautiful flowers, plants and tons of turtles! 1️⃣ Parking lot gate closes at 4 PM so you must leave by 4 PM.
2️⃣ We saw a couple lotus and lily flowers but their peak will be in mid-July. 3️⃣ The bookstore is closed but they had an info table outside with Jr. Ranger Booklets and stamps. Pick up the activity books before you explore as some of the activities relate to the gardens. More info on Instagram here.
4) Kingman and Heritage Islands
Kingman Island and Heritage Island are islands in Northeast and Southeast Washington, D.C., in the Anacostia River. Both islands are man-made, built from material dredged from the Anacostia River and completed in 1916.
You can walk from the parking lot across the two bridges to both islands in 15 minutes with kids or you could spend hours exploring both islands! More video in our reel. Park at Lot 6 of The Fields at RFK Stadium. The closest parking spots near the entrance are by the bike share.
And check out one of my kid’s favorite playgrounds in DC a block away!
5) Smithsonian Gardens
You could easily pass the alley-like Smithsonian Pollinator Garden but the great thing about it traveling with kids is they always notice! It was actually a lot of fun and we ended up reading all the signs and learning a ton. (I didn’t know scout bees go back to the hive and do a special dance to show the direction of the flower patch to the others!) Reel of our visit here.
There are 13 public exhibition Smithsonian Gardens to explore!
Questions about your DC with Kids trip?
If you have a specific question for traveling to DC with Kids, please leave a comment below and I would love to help or send me a message on Instagram!