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Family Vacation Fun

For children of all ages, Washington, D.C., offers the opportunity for engaging and hands-on learning. And the educational experiences aren’t limited to American history. They also include, among many other things, science, art, storytelling and — thanks to the International Spy Museum — a little lighthearted espionage. Iconic monuments and institutions, dynamic museums and plenty of beautiful outdoor spaces make the nation’s capital a favorite for kids and a memorable vacation for the entire family.

Day

1

MORNING
  • Walk the Mall.

    Download the official National Parks Service app to help guide you around the National Mall and Memorial Parks, starting at the steps of the Capitol and including the
    Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The route spans about 2 miles.

MIDDAY
  • White House View.

    Although tours of the White House must be booked far in advance and through your congressional representative, no trip to the capital is complete without a look at the
    building that once housed Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

  • Lunch Near the White House.

    Just three blocks west of the White House, Founding Farmers is a cozy spot to refresh after a morning of sightseeing. The menu of this farmer-owned co-op is locally and
    seasonally driven and features burgers, salads and lots of meat-free options.

AFTERNOON
  • Hotel Hunt.

    After an active morning, retreat back to The Ritz-Carlton, Washington D.C. to enjoy a more restful afternoon while the kids take on the hotel’s scavenger hunt, with a special prize awarded at the finish line.

EVENING
  • Cookie Decorating Dinner.

    At nearby restaurant Firefly, a live tree grows within the dining room, and kids are given cookies to decorate while they wait for dinner. After finishing the meal, the freshly baked treats are returned to their designers to enjoy for dessert.

Day

2

MORNING
  • Take Flight.

    The National Air and Space Museum is one of the most visited museums in the world, so arrive when the doors open to peruse the expansive collection of air and spacecraft. Don’t miss the 1903 Wright Flyer and a touchable moon rock that returned to Earth on Apollo 17.

MIDDAY
  • Native American-Inspired Lunch.

    After an air- and space-filled morning, walk next door to the National Museum of the American Indian to explore the collection of Native American art and artifacts, and stay for lunch at Mitsitam Café, the museum’s popular cafeteria-style eatery. Specializing in indigenous dishes from the Western Hemisphere, seasonally changing options from fry bread and lobster rolls to tacos on yellow corn tortillas will appeal to everyone in the group.

AFTERNOON
  • Historic Afternoon.

    Ward off museum apathy and visit the National Museum of Natural History. Another sprawling museum with myriad exhibits, first-time visitors should focus on a few highlights, like the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond, as well as a live coral reef and a 45-foot whale replica inside Ocean Hall.

  • The Yards Park.

    About a 10-minute drive south, find the Yards Park and decompress over views of the Anacostia River and dancing fountains thati lluminate at night.

EVENING
  • Italy on the Anacostia River.

    Within the park, find Osteria Morini on the Anacostia River. Chef Michael White hails from New York City, where he’s known for Northern Italian cuisine that includes handmade pastas, plates of cured meats and cheeses, and wood fire-grilled steaks. There’s alfresco seating, but the walls of windows ensure a lovely river view from the
    airy space inside, too.

Day

3

MORNING
  • Bagel Breakfast.

    Before heading to the zoo, stop into nearby Baked by Yael for juice and an egg sandwich on a freshly made bagel. The shop is also known for its colorful cake pops, and after all, this is vacation.

MIDDAY
  • A Wild Time.

    One of the oldest zoos in the country, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park makes for a fun morning, especially with a visit to the playful giant panda exhibit.

AFTERNOON
  • Gelato Break.

    Locally loved Dolcezza has locations throughout the city, but head south from the zoo to the Dupont Circle outpost and refuel with a scoop or two of their house-made,
    small-batch gelato. Flavors range from the classics to the more inventive lemon ricotta cardamom and Thai coconut milk. They also serve excellent coffee, if the parents need a little pick-me-up.

  • Art for the Family.

    After savoring coffee and gelato, walk the two blocks to the Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art. Housed in a stately brick townhome, the collection
    includes over 4,000 works ranging from French impressionist to modernist. Ask for a Discovery Pack, which has cards designed to engage the whole family in the artwork.

EVENING
  • Dinner in Georgetown.

    Feel free to stop at the hotel first, or go right to dinner from the museum — Pinstripes in Georgetown is less than 2 miles away from each. The family-friendly restaurant
    has homemade pastas and wood-fired pizzas, an outdoor fire pit, and both bocce and bowling.

Day

4

MORNING
  • Breakfast with the Locals.

    A historic tavern that dates back to 1856, Old Ebbitt Grill is just steps from the White House and offers a kid’s menu to ensure that there’s something for everyone. Dine on
    classic breakfast fare among politicians and tourists alike.

MIDDAY
  • In the News.

    About a mile away, find the Newseum. Dedicated to promoting a free press and exploring the evolution of communication, the vast, interactive museum has exhibits that will engage the whole family. Touch sections of the Berlin Wall or peruse the daily front pages of 80 newspapers from around the world in the Today’s Front Page gallery. The Interactive Newsroom lets kids (or adults) step in front of the camera to fill the role of on-air reporter or anchor.

AFTERNOON
  • I Spy.

    Another interactive spot, the International Spy Museum is just a few blocks away from the Newseum. The collection of spy devices is particularly cool, with a lipstick pistol, buttonhole camera and hundreds of others. For anyone over 12, the hands-on operation spy experience makes for an adrenaline-fueled afternoon. Visit the gift shop for spy gadgets and more fun souvenirs.

EVENING
  • Bon Appétit.

    A charming and celebrated French bistro by restaurateur Stephen Starr, Le Diplomate features all the classics, from roast chicken and steak frites to beautiful plateau de fruits de mer and carafes of house wine.

  • Showtime.

    See a touring Broadway musical or another show at the National Theatre, situated a few blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue for over 180 years.

Day

5

MORNING
  • Westend Breakfast.

    Enjoy a relaxed morning at The Ritz-Carlton, Washington D.C. with breakfast at Westend Bistro, where updated bistro classics are prepared with seasonal ingredients.

MIDDAY
  • Road Trip.

    Less than 20 miles south of D.C., on the Potomac River in Virginia, is George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The sprawling estate is home to his historic mansion, heritage breed animals, a functioning reconstruction of the original whiskey distillery and the founding father’s final resting place. Hands-on activities for kids include crafts, games and a 4-D movie — all delivering an entertaining history lesson disguised as pure fun.

AFTERNOON
  • Presidential Ice Cream.

    After lunch at Mount Vernon, head north to the Dairy Godmother in Alexandria. The Wisconsin-style frozen custard shop offers an array of seasonal flavors and is beloved by locals, including the Obama family.

  • Torpedo Factory.

    As the name suggests, the Torpedo Factory Art Center was once a factory for making torpedoes during World War II. Now, the vast facility is home to working artists who display and sell their work, but evidence of its former home is on exhibit. Events and programs are scheduled throughout the year, including Art Safari, with hands-on
    family crafts and activities.

EVENING
  • Dinner on the Water.

    Stay in Old Town Alexandria for a coastal-inspired dinner at Hummingbird, with a riverfront view. Order the clambake, with a lobster tail, clams, mussels and local corn,
    and a slice of hummingbird cake or an order of milk and cookies for dessert.