Exploring the D.C. Area With Kids

by Lucy Dale

At first glance, Washington, D.C., may not seem like the ideal place to take children on vacation. Though the city is full of national monuments, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam War Memorial, many of these can seem dull and uninviting to children. However, our nation's capital has made special efforts over the past few decades to make history come alive for children, and exploring this area with your kids can provide you all with a vacation rich in both natural beauty and education.

Step 1

Make a list of your tourist interests, and a parallel list of your kids' interests. You may be interested in seeing monuments, such as the Lincoln, Washington or Jefferson memorials, or government buildings, such as the Capitol building or the White House, while your kids may enjoy spending time at the zoo or discovering new topics, such as space travel (which they can do at the National Air and Space Travel Museum). Circle activities from both lists that overlap or that share common ground. Some activities may appeal to both you and your children: For example, depending on time of year, Washington has a wide variety of themed parades, from one celebrating George Washington's birthday in February to the Cherry Blossom parade in April, the Caribbean Carnival in June and the Scottish Walk in December.

Step 2

Make at least one activity a day a kid-centered one. Your children will be more likely to enjoy adult activities if they also have time to explore the city on their terms. Therefore, look at geographical groupings of activities. Find activities that you enjoy near the National Zoo, such as exploring the nature preserve, so you can blend your interests. Kids will also enjoy museums with exhibitions and activities devoted especially to them: The Museum of Natural History, for example, has an Insect Zoo, while the Bureau of Engraving and Printing lets children watch actual money being made, and the Washington Navy Yard shows kids a variety of submarines and other equipment.

Step 3

Find kid-friendly adaptations of adult activities. Kids can come along to some of your favorite destinations and explore your activities if you make them accessible: For example, when visiting the Washington monument, take the elevator to the top to see a panoramic view of the city, rather than just enjoying the view from the base. Other monuments that can be kid-friendly include Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, where youngsters can explore what life was like more than two centuries ago. Similarly, rather than going on a guided tour, consider a bike tour or other active trip that will keep your kids physically active and occupied.

Step 4

Give your kids a treat by taking them to a theme park or another completely kid-centered destination, especially if they get stir-crazy after one too many historical monuments. A Six Flags franchise is less than 30 minutes from downtown D.C., and can make an exciting -- if shriek-filled -- half- or full-day excursion. On the other hand, Enchanted Kingdom in Beltsville, Maryland, a short ride from D.C., has magic shows and workshops that will delight a variety of ages.

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