Spending summer with the kids in Washington DC? There’s so much to see and do in the USA’s capital city, from visiting the President’s home to watching pandas frolicking at the zoo. You can even take the little ones to see Harry Potter’s wizard robes and Lincoln’s famous hat in the National Museum of American History.
Here’s our round-up of the best budget-friendly summer activities in Washington DC that’ll keep the whole family busy…
SEE GIANT PANDAS AT THE ZOO
There’s an impressive 400 species of animals to see at Washington DC’s Smithsonian National Zoo, and best of all, it’s absolutely free to enter. The zoo is set in the gorgeous Rock Creek National Park and is home to giant pandas, elephants, lions, giraffes, bears and orangutans, to name a few. There are daily feeding sessions, animal training shows and zookeeper talks to keep everyone entertained. Plus, regular events take place throughout the summer, including ZooFari – a food festival with complementary food and beverage tastings and live entertainment.
Yellow Loop Route, Stop: National Zoo
CATCH AN OUTDOOR SHOW OR SCREENING
Summer in Washington DC is all about glorious sunshine and warm weather. The city lines up plenty of outdoor film screenings and performances for the whole family to enjoy. Head to Georgetown for the annual Sunset Cinema screenings, which take place on a stunning spot next to the Potomac River. In 2018 the theme is ‘movies that rock’ and all the showings are musicals, with classics like Footloose, Dirty Dancing and Grease in the line-up.
For a classic American movie experience, head to the drive-in theatre at Union Market. It costs just $10 per car to join in, and the family-friendly film selection includes Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Lion King.
You’ll also find free musical performances on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol over summer, plus open-air Memorial Day and Fourth of July firework celebrations too.
Red Loop Route, Stop: Union Station
Yellow Loop Route, Stop: Georgetown Harbor
Washington DC lines up an impressive array of museums with collections to wow the whole family. Head to the National History Museum and you’ll find an 80-foot dinosaur skeleton and a giant African elephant. There are also plenty of hands-on interactive displays. Kids can dress up in outfits from across the globe, and feel the texture of animal skins and teeth (replicas, of course).
The National Air and Space Museum is the number one choice for space and sci-fi fans. It holds the biggest collection of space craft and out-of-this-world memorabilia. Astronaut suits, lunar rocks and one of the first ever spaceship models to name a few. And, the National Museum of American History is the one for pop culture, history and film fans. The exhibits include Dorothy’s red slippers from the film The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter's Hogwarts robe from the Harry Potter film franchise, and Abraham Lincoln’s famous top hat.
Red Loop Route, Stop: Air and Space Museum
Red Loop Route, Stop: Natural History Museum
Red Loop Route, Stop: American History Museum
Over summer, the Washington DC National Theatre puts on free programs and interactive performances for kids, featuring music, dance and puppetry. It’s on every Saturday morning at 10am, and perfect for children aged 4-10 years, but older siblings are welcome too. It’s best to reserve tickets one week before the performance to bag a spot, but you can also get walk-in tickets 30 minutes before the show starts on a first come, first served basis.
Red Loop Route, Stop: Union Station
The US President’s abode is Washington DC’s most famous attraction. Snap a selfie outside the gates of the famous house and see if you can spot the President’s helicopter flying into the grounds. With a bit of advanced planning, you can even take a public tour inside the historic house.
If you’re an American citizen, you can make a public tour request for yourself and your family through your member of Congress. Submit your request three months in advance and no less than 21 days prior to your visit to grab spaces on the tour. And, if you’re an international visitor, you can contact your home country’s embassy in Washington DC to request a tour.
Red Loop Route, Stop: White House
And that’s not all. There’s so much more to discover in Washington DC – stunning parks, farmers markets and the Fourth of July fireworks on the National Mall. You can even catch a Washington National’s baseball game. What are you waiting for? Start planning the full Washington DC itinerary for your trip.