Traveling With Kids to DC

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Fun Things To Do with Kids When Touring the Mall in Washington, D.C.
by Laurel Smith (Road Trip Mom)

My kids were 12, 10 and 7 when I took them with us for a visit our Nation's Capital.  Here a a few of the fun things we did when we toured the Mall in Washington D.C.  We recommend you try these too:
Give the kids a camera

Give each of the kids their own disposable camera to use during your touring. 

Let them capture their own memories with their own eye. You may be surprised at what they find meaningful. My kids spent a lot of their shots taking pictures of the ducks in the reflecting pool on the mall, and of the cute black fox squirrels that were hopping around everywhere.


Have fun with your cameras and, take some goofy perspective shots. My kids had a great time doing this. 

Take a picture of them "holding up" the Washington Monument. Or have it coming out of their head like a hat. 

Or just get an interesting perspective shot by squatting down low and looking up at your child with a tall monument in the background.


Money Honey
Unless they have had a lot of history lessons, most kids don't understand the real meaning behind most of the monuments. Help make it more meaningful by explaining briefly so that they can understand and make it age appropriate. Show them that these things are important, and in fact, we want people to remember them which is why they are shown on most of our money! 

Break out your wallet and give everyone a penny and show them the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the penny. Then have them look very closely to see if they can find the statue of President Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial on the penny (see photo at right). Most kids are amazed at the teensy tiny image of the statue on the penny since they have never noticed it before! Show them that this same image is also on a $5 bill.  Be sure to get your money back. Kids have a way of trying to use your enthusiasm for thier own profit (my kids sure tried anyway!)

Hands On Fun
Many of the monuments are ok to touch. A tactile experience helps children remember the experience and really take it all in. 

Washington Monument tour
There used to be a long line outside the Washington Monument of people waiting to tour inside.  Now days you need to have a ticket that tells you what time you can go in, and they only give out a limited number of tickets per day. The ticket kiosk is at the base of the hill near the monument and opens early in the morning. The tickets are free, but once the tickets are gone for that day, that's it so stop and pick some up first thing when you get to the Mall.

Ice Cream Break
Visiting all the major monuments in one day was like going on a long hike. In fact, it was exactly like a long hike. We started at the Vietnam Memorial, then proceeded around to the Lincoln memorial and made our way around. I recommend making a planned stop for an ice cream break about half way through. I also recommend carrying everything in a backpack and bringing a stroller for smaller tots.

Wave Hello to the President
Even if you don't see him personally while you are there, keep your eye out for secret service guys and point them out to your kids. As you walk down Constitution or Pennsylvania Avenue, be sure to have everyone stop and "wave hello" to the Pres in his house. Explain that the White House is the president's home and his office where he also works.

Smithsonian Museums
Be careful not to overdo it with young children by trying to see too much in one day. We went to about one museum per day which was just about right.  The Smithsonian Museums are all free to attend, so if you get tired, you can leave without feeling like you didn't get your money's worth. The food there is expensive though, so you may want to backpack in some sandwiches like we did. 

If you get tired of the fake "cute" poses kids usually make for pictures, let their personalities shine through during photo ops.  For example, photographing a big bear at the Museum of Natural History?  Let everyone show their bear side. Have fun and make memories at the same time.

TIPS for the Museums:

  • The museums were VERY crowded on the days we went. Summer is most likely the most popular time of the year. If you are worried about losing your toddler in the crows, you might want to consider a Harness Buddy especially if you've got an escape artist or a run-away child. They can store their water in the cute little backpack and have their hands free to explore while you keep a firm grip on them in a crowd.
  • Souvenirs

  • T-shirts and souvenirs are usually much cheaper at the corner stands than they are in the gift shops, so don't pass up a good opportunity to get everyone a T-shirt to remember their fun. Photos make the best souvenirs, so don't forget to actually have some prints made from your digital camera when you get home I recommend Snapfish -- You can upload your pictures from your computer and they mail you your prints. It's a great deal and you don't have to make a trip to the store. Also, use the opportunity to make the best souvenir ever - a photo memory book. See mine!
  • Essentials to Carry

  • Water bottles! Have at least a full bottle of water for each person. Snacks - food is expensive and often at the end of long lines, so to eliminate whining, bring food! Sunscreen -don't leave home without it.


Most of all, enjoy your time together with your kids while enjoying the sights!

~ ..· ´¨¨))   -:¦:- 
        ¸.·´  .·´¨¨)) 
      ((¸¸.·´  ..·´   Road Trip Mom -:¦:- 
     -:¦:-    ((¸¸.·´* 

Laurel Smith is a former schoolteacher and mother of three who has logged thousands of road trip miles both as a kid and a mom.  Visit her website for more than 101 travel games and activities for kids at


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