Traveling with children is challenge, even in Washington DC. It’s one thing having to listen to them complain on how much walking they’re doing, but also finding places and activities that will hold their interest, while teaching a little history along the way. When planning a family trip to Washington DC, I’ve found the following museums and tours to be a great hit with both parents and kids.
Smithsonian Institute: It’s local humor to many of us living in the DC region to have visitors say they want to take aday to visit the Smithsonian. Our response is ‘which building?’ Many are surprised to learn the Smithsonian Institute is comprised of 19 museums and the National Zoo. With children, it helps to focus on the three most popular, take at least a day in each if time permits – the National Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum and the American History Museum. From dinosaurs to the Wright Brothers’ Plane … from moon rocks to Dorothy’s ruby slippers, these museums teach and entertain children with many eye-opening discoveries. If you plan ahead, the web sites for each of the museums offers scavenger hunt ideas to make a child’s visit more interactive and fun.
Mt Vernon: If your kids are fans of the movie National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, consider taking the special hour-long walking tour that includes behind-the-scenes information about the areas where the movie was filmed and how these locations were used during George Washington’s time. It’s a unique perspective of how history continues to entertain and teach us about the present and the past.
National Aquarium: Not to be confused with its newer sister facility, the aquarium, located in downtown DC is theoldest aquarium in the country, with an unlikely home in the lower level of the Commerce Building. This dark space caters to over 200 species of fish and animals including alligators, piranha, shark, eel and Japanese carp. Newly renovated, the aquarium offers a 45 minute program of unique and engaging animals allowing for a brief pause to a busy tour day in the city … and in the summer it’s a welcome place to cool off!
The International Spy Museum: Opened in 2002, this newest public museum is the only one solely dedicated to espionage and skull duggery. Featuring the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display, many of these objects are being seen by the public for the first time. Both interactive and educational for both adults and kids, the museum focuses on human intelligence and shows the role spies have played in world events throughout history.
Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum: Before you roll your eyes, this world famous museum franchise has become a great addition to teaching history. The Presidents Gallery, a new exhibit, displays all 44 US Presidents in an exciting, educational and interactive environment. Comprising of fourteen highly themed immersive rooms, The Presidents Gallery is the only place in the world where people can see and interact with every presidents’ likenesses in 3D. With a focus on the history of the presidents, this exhibit was developed in accordance with the US Department of National Social Studies Standards and National Council for the Social Civil Rights Movement Studies Standards.
Ford’s Theatre Campus: Comprising of three buildings (Ford’s Theatre, Peterson House and the Center for Educational Leadership) within walking distance of Madame Tussaud’s, the campus traces the story of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, assassination and legacy. Whether considering a brief visit or the full experience, Ford’s will deepen your appreciation and understanding of America’s 16th president. Beginning with a self-guided tour in the theatre exploring Lincoln’s presidency, you can view the Presidential Box where Lincoln was shot, and other rare artifacts like the derringer John Wilkes Booth used. Across the street at Peterson House were Lincoln died, you can learn about the people who were with Lincoln during his final hours, along with a visit to the newly constructed Center for Education and Leadership to explore additional exhibits focusing on the aftermath of the assassination and the how the hunt for John Wilkes Booth left and lasting impact on Lincoln’s legacy, and how we protect our president today.
Join us next week, our final week on DC, as Juliet continues to explore our historic capitol city.
All pictures courtesy of the websites listed. Please visit those websites for additional information.