If you’re looking for a place to travel with kids and want to choose a place where multiple attractions are close in proximity, D.C. is that place. The best part about D.C. is most of those sites are free, something that large families will truly appreciate. My wife and I traveled here with our 7-month-old and we found places that suited all of us. If you’re staying in the downtown area or anywhere near the U.S. Capitol, you will be able to walk to the various tourist sites. If you’re staying outside the city and are driving in, I recommend using an app such as Park Whiz or Spot Hero and parking at a nearby garage for the duration of the day. There is also metered parking available but they have two or three-hour limits.
Day 1- National Mall Area
Our first stop was the Washington Monument. It’s the tallest building in D.C. and it’s a great starting point or meetup point because you can’t miss it. The immediate area surrounding the monument was fenced off since it was getting some type of facelift. Nonetheless, it’s an iconic structure and the field surrounding the monument is perfect for a picnic or flying kites.
Continuing on our path, the second stop was the World War II Memorial which was a short walk to the west. The Memorial itself was awesome but the highlight of our time here was the presence of WWII veterans.
Prior to coming here, I had only seen 2 or 3 WWII vets in my life. It was really cool to see an entire group of men and women who served our country decades ago. Thank you again for your service! After spending about 25 minutes here, we continued on to the Lincoln Memorial.
The Lincoln Memorial is the most popular among all the memorials and you will find people here even past midnight when the Lincoln statue is illuminated. As you enter, the first floor will have information on the Civil War and its impact on the country. The second floor is where the statue of Lincoln is situated. They do have elevators if you are unable to climb the stairs or have a stroller.
When you climb the stairs and look towards the east (the path we came from), you get an amazing view of the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
After spending a solid 40-45 minutes here, we walked over to the Korean War Veterans Memorial and then the Martin Luther King Memorial.
The MLK memorial is right next to the Tidal Basin and you have to walk south off of Independence Ave. The next stops were the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
The Jefferson Memorial is a beautiful building that was influenced by the Pantheon of Rome. If you’re in D.C. during early April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, this is the place to be. If you want to get a visual of our walk from Washington Monument to Jefferson Memorial, the map below shows our path as we went from place to place. I’d budget around 3 hours if you really want to experience all the monuments and take pictures.
By the time we were done seeing all the memorials, it was time to get my restless 7-month-old son to the hotel so he could take his usual nap. After dinner, we walked to the South Lawn of the White House at night to take a few pictures.
No matter who is in office, the White House is just a beautiful building. I prefer the night view as there is a certain elegance in the dark backdrop. Once we were finished taking pictures here, our first day was in the books.
Day 2 – Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and Lincoln Memorial at Night
Mother nature did not want to cooperate with us on our second day in D.C. and we had to deal with rain and thunderstorms so that took most of the outdoor attractions out of the picture. Fortunately, D.C. has a lot of excellent indoor attractions as well so we took advantage of this and visited the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. There are some fascinating exhibits at this museum and it’s also an interactive museum with hands-on activities that kids will enjoy.
You should budget at least 1.5 hours for the Smithsonian if you want to comfortably see everything. After dinner, the rain had mostly stopped and many people had recommended walking up to the Lincoln Memorial at night. The Washington Monument reflects off the pool and it makes for an amazing picture.
Day 3: Capitol Hill and Smithsonian Zoo
During the early afternoon, we walked to the Capitol Building
Unlike all the other sites we had visited in D.C., the Smithsonian Zoo was a 12-15 minute drive from our hotel in downtown. Like all the sites we had visited thus far, this one was also free of charge. And for a free zoo, it really had a lot to offer.
We saw lions, tigers, cheetahs, gorillas, giraffes, elephants, and various other animals. This is another place that is perfect for kids and offers something for people of all ages.
Other Places of Interests to Consider
Since we were here for 3 days with a 7-month-old, it was going to be impossible to see everything we wanted in that short window. If you are going to D.C., also consider visiting the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, and the Sackler Gallery. The National Museum of Archives is home to the Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and The Emancipation Proclamation. All these attractions are free and if you are so inclined, you can leave a small donation when you enter or exit. D.C. is a wonderful city with no shortage of things to do and places to see. It’s a very walkable city and a great place for budget travelers who get to experience world-class attractions at no cost.