You may not see Washington, DC as a family-friendly holiday destination at first glance. But look closer and you’ll find this political powerhouse ranks right at the top for the best family-friendly US cities.
It’s one of the most walkable cities in the USA
With a population of just 600,000, Washington, DC is smaller than most major capital cities, making it easily navigable on foot, by bike or via its easy Metro system.
This is great news for families. Not only can you save on public transport fares, it means the whole family can feel freer. The city is really spacious, so you won’t feel like your children’s pushchair is clogging up the pavement and you can explore the city at your own pace.
It has some of the best city playgrounds and parks
Washington, DC has some of the best city parks and playgrounds in the US. Check out Rock Creek Park, a leafy oasis that spans around 2,000 acres and is packed with things for families to do. Take a guided walks along its heritage trails and learn about the flora and fauna at the Nature Centre. Go stargazing at the Planetarium, enjoy horse riding or simply relax over a family picnic. For playgrounds, the American University Park neighbourhood and Friendship Park (also known as Turtle Park) are some of the best.
Its museums are out of this world
After New York, Washington, DC has the best selection of museums in America – great news for families on holiday. Its famous Smithsonian Institution comprises 19 museums and ranges from The Air and Space Museum to the American History Museum. So you’ll find something to suit every age and interest. Many of them hold interactive exhibitions, special family days and childrens’ story reading sessions. For a double dose of entertainment and education, visit the Butterfly Pavilion and Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History and the interactive news on TV at Newseum, where you can become real-life reporters!
Many attractions in Washington, DC are free
Eleven of the Smithsonian Institution’s museums are free of charge, which is great news for families who like to pop in and out of attractions as they please. Plus there’s no worry about buying a family ticket that ties you into one place, and dents the bank account! Those museums that do charge entry sometimes run special offers, even free admission, for children. Check out their websites for more info.
There’s a fantastic Zoo
A fantastic zoo makes for a fantastic family holiday right? And Washington, DC’s National Zoo is home to an amazing 2,000 animals and 400 animal species. The zoo offers loads of special family attractions such as children’s educational classes, Snore and Roar sleepovers and keeper-led family tours. Don’t miss the family of four giant pandas on the Asia Trail. Oh, and this Zoo is free to visit too.
Kids can become park rangers for the day
Ever fancied becoming a park ranger on your holiday? You can in Washington, DC. All of its National Parks, key memorials and monuments take part in the Junior Ranger Activity Program, which allows kids to pick up stickers and badges as they take guided or self-guided tours across the city. Visitwww.nps.gov/webrangers for more info.
It has a great range of family hotels
You will find a fabulous collection of purse-friendly hotels in Washington, DC which are great for families. Our favourite ‘kid-centric’ hotel is the Omni Shoreham. It’s moments away from the National Zoo and pint-sized guests receive milk and cookies and a special backpack upon check-in.
It’s great for outdoor recreation and quirky adventures
Washington, DC is located on the Potomac River and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal so it’s a great city to hit the water! Enjoy a fantastic range of outdoor activities such as paddle boating, kayaking and ‘bike and boat’ tours. Daring families can head out of the city to the Shenandoah River for some exhilarating whitewater tubing and rafting. Back on dry land, you can take cycle or Segway tours of the national monuments, or food tours of Georgetown. Fancy a spook? The ghost tours of Lafayette Park and Washington, DC’s most haunted houses are quirky ways to explore the city.
It’s great for sports fans
From the Redskins and the Nationals baseball team to the Capital’s ice hockey and Washington Wizards basketball team, the city has live sporting events on tap. A trip to see the baseball is seen as a day out for the whole family here. You’ll often get hot dogs and other refreshments included in your ticket and the little ones will love the mascot race and lively atmosphere. Kids aged 4-12 may even get the chance to meet some of the pro players.
It’s great all year round
Washington, DC has very distinct seasons so families can always choose a time of year to suit them. Springtime is one of the most popular seasons to visit when the famed cherry blossoms erupt into life. The sunshine in summer is glorious and the majority of indoor attractions and hotels have air-con, plus their summer evenings are great for outdoor concerts and attractions. The autumn time boasts beautiful fall foliage and the city is beautiful at Christmas when it’s bedecked in festive decorations.
Few cities in the world are as welcoming to kids as Washington, DC – your only problem will be narrowing down what to see and do!