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Family at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall - Free family-friendly things to do in Washington, DC

Free Things to Do: Family-Friendly Washington, DC



The nation’s capital is filled with free family activities and things for kids to do.

There’s no shortage of free things to do in DC with kids, as well as family-friendly events that won’t cost a cent. From kid-friendly attractions to cool activities that the entire family can enjoy, the nation’s capital is a great destination for a vacation any time of the year. We’ve put together some of the best things to do in DC with your kids, so read on to start planning for your trip to the District!

As you plan your family's seasonal excursion, please make sure to check out our travel status update and what's open and reopening in the city.

01

Visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (commonly known as the “FDR Memorial”) honors the 32nd president of the United States and is composed of four “rooms” which represent each of his four terms as commander-in-chief. Bronze sculptures of the president, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and his trusty canine and First Pet Fala (who is very photogenic) are also featured.

02

Take advantage of free museums on the National Mall

To go with its monuments and memorials, the National Mall features a great, family-friendly lineup of free museums. Choose from a wide range of experiences, from showing the kids classic art to marveling at the wonders of aviation and our natural world. Upcoming reopenings include the National Museum of African American History and Culture (May 14), the National Portrait Gallery (May 14), the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery (May 14), the National Gallery of Art (May 14), the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (May 17), the National Museum of the American Indian (May 21), the National Museum of American History (May 21) and the Smithsonian's National Zoo (May 21).

03

Experience the Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial, which honors the 16th president of the United States, is one of the National Mall’s most popular attractions. The majestic monument to Abraham Lincoln contains a 19-foot tall statue of the man, as well as an inscription of his most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address. Check out our our guide to the memorial to learn more about its incredible details.

04

Fly with the stars at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Opened in 2003, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center serves as a partner facility to the National Air and Space Museum. Located at 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway in Chantilly, Va., just minutes from Washington Dulles International Airport, the Center consists of two hangars—the Boeing Aviation Hangar and the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar—which house dozens of aircraft and spacecraft. Some of the most notable include the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde and the space shuttle Discovery. Visit the museum's website for info on timed entry and safety protocols. 

05

Watch planes take off and land at Gravelly Point

Pack up a picnic – we’re going to Gravelly Point. Located in Arlington County, Virginia at the end of a runway at Ronald Reagan International Airport, this spot has plenty of space for lunchtime. The entire family will also be amazed by planes landing in front of them and taking off overhead.

06

Pay witness to athletic brilliance at the National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Champions’ exhibit

The entire family can appreciate some of the greatest athletes in American history at the free-to-enter National Portrait Gallery, which reopens to the public on May 14. Through portraits, artifacts, memorabilia and video, you can marvel at feats by some of the most dynamic sports figures the country has ever seen, stars that transcended sports and became part of the country’s story. For information regarding timed entry and safety protocols, visit the Gallery's website.

07

Animal watch at the National Zoo

A trip to the Smithsonian's National Zoo, which reopens to the public on May 21, is a must for families visiting DC, and an essential experience while there is a trot down the Asia Trail. You’ll be able to pay a visit to giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. Be sure to take a peek at their tiny neighbors, the red pandas, too. Your exploration doesn’t stop there, though: the Zoo features more than 1,500 animals across 300 different species in total. As you plan your visit, make sure to review the Zoo's info on timed entry and safety protocols on its website.

08

Witness the power of language at Planet Word

Everyone in the family can immerse themselves in the power of language at this exciting museum. Planet Word features an array of galleries, including Words Matter, which showcases how language can have an incredible impact on lives. The Spoken World amazes visitors by highlighting the diversity of language around the globe through speakers and signers of 31 different languages. The museum also features Speaking Willow, an interactive sound installation by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Admission is free and make sure to visit the museum's website for ticket info and safety protocols.

09

Check out the First Ladies Collection at the National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History, which reopens on May 21, recognizes the impact first ladies have had on the United States, as well as their style, with a display of inaugural gowns and evening dresses from the past 100 years. The museum also houses one of the most identifiable presidential accessories – the top hat that Abraham Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theatre the night he was assassinated. For information regarding timed entry and safety protocols, visit the popular museum's website.

10

Marvel at the Hirshhorn Museum’s Sculpture Garden

While the Hirshhorn's museum and plaza remain closed for the time being, you can still wander through the whimsical Sculpture Garden, which is open daily from 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The 1.3-acre garden is sunk 6-14 feet below street level and features works from multiple artists, including Auguste Rodin and David Smith.

11

Take in the beauty of nature at Rock Creek Park

DC’s Rock Creek Park – which is made up of 1,754 acres of National Park Service land from northwest DC into Maryland – is a popular retreat for the city’s outdoor enthusiasts. Lush greenery, miles of trails and picnic areas and gorgeous forestry make this space a must-see for families looking to add recreation to their DC visit.

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