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Best monuments in DC to take kids?

Going to DC for a day and a half with our kids (ages 6-11) and there's no way we can see all of the monuments in a day. We're having a hard time deciding which ones to choose and would love your suggestions! Which ones did your kids enjoy? Any ones to avoid? We want them to be fun and educational, of course!

7 Answers

answered by
peggy from Washington, DC

Crystal, you didn't say when you were going to D.C.! The heat here is oppressive in the summer so it does make a difference in everyone's energy level. I'll just give you some basic suggestions.

While walking the memorials or museums, look for a park ranger. Your children can become Junior Rangers! The park rangers have an activity book that the kids can fill out and earn a junior ranger badge! There is a National Mall App that may be helpful to have.

Keep in mind that there is a bright red bus called the DC Circulator Bus. It is only $1.00 to ride and there is one that goes between the memorials, perfect if the kids get a bit tired. Check their routes and schedules at . 

I would suggest the National World War II Memorial because it's large and the kids could actually run a bit. There are views of Lincoln, the Washington Monument and the Capitol from there. The fountains are beautiful, but they ask that we respect the memorial and not actually go in the fountains, which can be hard for kids! If you are there over a holiday you will find photos and memorabilia left behind. Great place for a bathroom stop, too!

I think it's important to see the Lincoln Memorial. It isn't too bad a walk from WWII to Lincoln. To make the walk more fun you have two options. Walk right next to the reflecting pool as you walk towards Lincoln. There are usually plenty of ducks in the water and there is something about walking along there that the kids enjoy. There is a path parallel to that but you'll find more bikers and Segway riders there, so no reason to use that path. Your other option is just a little bit off the beaten track. When you leave WWII and head towards Lincoln, go to the path on the right. It will take you to Constitution Gardens. You can follow the path straight and get to Lincoln quicker or walk around the small pond to a small island open to pedestrians. On the tiny island you will see the names of all 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. There are many ducks and very large geese walking around, something that usually keeps the kids happy. See if you can spot the lone white duck who has lived here for many years. Also, the view of the Washington Monument is beautiful and depending on the time of day, the reflection in the water makes for a beautiful photo op (see pic at top of answer)

Yes, go to the Tidal Basin. If you cross the street near the Lincoln Memorial, you will be right near the MLK Memorial From there, walk along the Tidal Basin and your next stop will be the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial which features waterfalls, quotes and sculptures. This is a fascinating memorial, so see if you can find a park ranger to help you walk through and show the kids some interesting things. Great place for a bathroom stop, too!! From FDR continue along the Tidal Basin to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Bring some snacks and sit and relax there. Enjoy the views of the water, and the Washington Monument. While in front of the Jefferson, look across the water, there is a small opening where The White House  is visible. Very cool! You may need to find a  park ranger to point it out.

Don't be afraid to do any of this in the evening. Many nights I am out there walking till midnight. There is always someone out there and plenty of tour buses, too. The bathrooms usually close at 11PM but you wouldn't be out that late, anyway.

You didn't mention anything about the museums so I am very briefly mentioning a few spots. The Air and Space Museum is massive! I suggest going in and walking through the huge atrium where there are rockets and airplanes everywhere. That's it! Leave! Unless you know of an exhibit you would want to see. You could stop in the gift shop and get the kids some astronaut ice cream before leaving ( in a packet- not actually liquid). Also, good to know, next to Air and Space is a mini McDonalds. I would advise going to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. They have very cool sculptures the kids will love. Sit and relax a bit facing the very large fountain or sit in or near the Pavilion Café where you can get a salad, sandwich, drinks or just a cupcake! Definitely go to the Museum of Natural History There are so many cool things to do there, this will be one of the kids favorite spots. There is also a Carousel on the Mall for kids of all ages! Keep in mind the memorials are open late but the museums close between 5PM and 6PM although some are open till 7:30PM on certain days in the summer. That means if you are walking along the National Mall area, there will be no bathrooms once the museums close. The nearest bathroom would be at the Washington Monument, across the street from the Mall.

Oh and depending on when you are traveling here, there are concerts at the Capitol, near the Washington Monument and other areas in the evening hours. I think the best way to travel with kids is to make many small stops and to have plenty of snacks! Food trucks are usually lined up on the National Mall on 7th Street between Madison and Jefferson but ice cream trucks are almost everywhere! Have fun

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. National World War II Memorial (attraction)
  2. Lincoln Memorial (attraction)
  3. Constitution Gardens (attraction)
  4. Tidal Basin (attraction)
  5. MLK Memorial (attraction)
  6. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (attraction)
  7. Thomas Jefferson Memorial (attraction)
  8. The White House (attraction)
  9. National Gallery of Art (restaurant)
  10. Pavilion Café (restaurant)
  11. Museum of Natural History (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Polly from Washington, DC

Kids love the Museum of Natural History because of all of the animals.  Older kids love both National Air and Space MuseumNatural History.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Museum of Natural History (attraction)
  2. National Air and Space Museum (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Washington Monument (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
angel from Florida

You definitely want to head over to the National Harbor where you can take your kids to play on The Awaking. The harbor is a family attraction with fun stores, restaurants and a park where lots of kids can play on a famous sculpture. On the Washington Mall itself, there's the Museum of Natural History and National Air and Space Museum. The National Zoological Park is also a ton of fun for the kids as well as Nats baseball games, not sure on the age of your kids but hope those suggestions help.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. National Harbor (attraction)
  2. Washington Mall (attraction)
  3. Museum of Natural History (attraction)
  4. National Air and Space Museum (attraction)
  5. National Zoological Park (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Jay from Washington, DC

Fortunately many of the best monuments are close to one another. You may want to get a hop on hop off tour bus if you have kids in tow. The monuments will be more meaningful if your children know some basic facts about each in advance. I'd make the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial and Thomas Jefferson Memorial must-sees. I think the Jefferson is the most handsome of the Presidential monuments/memorials, as it overlooks the Potomac Tidal 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Washington Monument (attraction)
  2. Lincoln Memorial (attraction)
  3. Thomas Jefferson Memorial (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Nars from Boston

I would limit to these. Lincoln memorial and Washington monument should not be missed. You will need tickets to go up the Washington monument.

Lincoln Memorial

Washington Monument

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

MLK Memorial

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Here are some other ideas:,must%20see

Have a great trip.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lincoln Memorial (attraction)
  2. Washington Monument (attraction)
  3. Thomas Jefferson Memorial (attraction)
  4. MLK Memorial (attraction)
  5. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (attraction)
1 thanks

answered first by
Tiffany from Corvallis

The view from the Washington Monument is great and it isn't necessarily a long tour (self-guided and quick once you get to the top), so check online and book those tickets ahead if they're available. They have same-day tickets too, but that means standing in potentially long lines.

It is possible to do all the monuments in a decent 2-3 hour walk if you want, but it is a lot of walking.

My girls love the fountains at the World War II Memorial. Each state is represented, so the kids can run around and find their state. That is at one end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and it's a pretty walk (with ducks and geese and squirrels) to the Lincoln Memorial which is also very impactful for kids and has great photo ops.

The Vietnam War Veteran's Memorial is close, but not "fun" or as impactful if you don't have a connection to it. You'll walk by the Korean War Veterans Memorial on your way to the Tidal Basin and pass the MLK Memorial memorial there. It's nice and the quotes on the walls are interesting as well.

May be consider paddle boats if you have time to paddle to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as it is on the opposite side of the basin. My girls preferred the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial which isn't far and is one of the larger memorials. It spans all 4 terms in office and has some sculptures that kids all love to pose with including FDR's dog. Great water features, lots of history and quotes, and fun photo ops.

So... recap: Washington Monument to WW2 Memorial to Lincoln Memorial by the Korean (but it's OK to skip if time is short), then to MLK and FDR.

There are Potomac River Cruises that go up and down the river and point out some of these things... that might be a fun idea too.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. World War II Memorial (attraction)
  2. Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool (attraction)
  3. Lincoln Memorial (attraction)
  4. Vietnam War Veteran's Memorial (attraction)
  5. Korean War Veterans Memorial (attraction)
  6. Tidal Basin (attraction)
  7. MLK Memorial (attraction)
  8. Thomas Jefferson Memorial (attraction)
  9. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (attraction)
1 thanks

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