Boating in DC
So, the Potomac River isn’t known as the most pristine of waters. But touring it via kayak is a surprisingly fun outdoor family adventure that breaks up the museum visits and trips to historical sites in the best way. This outfitter makes it easy to rent kayaks, as well as canoes, row boats, hydro bikes, etc. And conveniently, they have a handful of waterside hubs.
National Museum of Natural History
1000 Constitution Ave. NW, National Mall
As a whole, the Smithsonian museums are first rate, but doing them all isn’t feasible (or really all that entertaining for the littles). If you’re choosing just one, we recommend the Museum of Natural History. And if you’re not too squeamish, take the kids to the museum’s insect zoo, a fan-favorite permanent collection.
555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Downtown
Just outside the National Mall near the National Gallery of Art, the super interactive Newseum is cool for adults and kids. The museum opened in 2008 and centers around groundbreaking moments in media history. Their best known exhibits are a 9/11 gallery, featuring the broadcast antennae from the top of the WTC; the Berlin Wall gallery, which is home to one of the largest pieces of the wall outside of Germany; and their collection of Pulitzer Prize photographs dating back to 1942.
Monuments + Memorials
Almost too obvious to include, but unlike many other popular tourist destinations in other American cities, seeing the monuments and memorials in D.C. is really such an iconic, impressionable experience, and one that kids remember. Absolutely walk the National Mall and check out as many of the big ones as you can, including: Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans wall. And in terms of government buildings, touring the U.S. Capitol is an interesting, behind-the-scenes sort of activity if your kids are on the older side, but it’s best to plan advance (see how here).
122 Blagden Alley NW, Downtown
Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th St. NW, Downtown
Aside from being a great place to stroll, the National Mall is lined with the amazing (and free) Smithsonian museums. We particularly love the National Gallery, chock full of contemporary and Modern art, and the National Air and Space Museum, a fun and interactive place for kids and families.
W Washington D.C.
515 15th St. NW, Downtown
Converted from the historic Hotel Washington, this now modern meets Renaissance hotel has one of the best views in the city, so even if you can’t stay, go for a drink on the P.O.V. rooftop bar. Known for their flash factor, this particular W includes a Jean Georges steakhouse, J & G, and DC’s very first Bliss Spa.
The Hay Adams
800 16th St. NW, Downtown
The Hay Adams is as classic a hotel as you’ll find in D.C. It’s named after John Hay (who served as personal secretary to Lincoln, U.S. Ambassador to the U.K., and Secretary of State) and Henry Adams (historian, Harvard professor, grandson of President John Quincy Adams and great-grandson of President John Adams)—who both lived in homes where the hotel now stands. Many historic details (like original wood paneling) have been preserved, but the building also underwent major renovation in the early 2000s to make a stay there feel all the more luxurious. And kids tend to be impressed by the location—you’re literally steps from the White House, blocks from the National Mall, the Smithsonians are nearby, and the panoramic views of it all are pretty awesome.
Off the Record
800 16th St. NW, Downtown
Tucked away in the basement of The Hay Adams hotel, this grown-up lounge offers a taste of old Washington. Everything seems like a little secret down here amidst the alcove seating and sinful red velvet hues. We’re sure the staff, who make some pretty killer cocktails, have overheard an important story or two.