Family Vacation Fun
The Washington D.C.-Arlington, Virginia area is the cultural core of the United States, home of revered institutions like the Smithsonian and one-of-a-kind sites like the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a family vacation while exploring centuries of American history, with experiences catering to young and old alike.
- Landmark Breakfast.
Start your day near the White House at Old Ebbitt Grill, a Victorian-style tavern dating from 1865 that has become a local dining institution. Your family is sure to enjoy a farm-fresh American-style breakfast, with tourists, politicians, journalists and celebrities at neighboring tables.
- Monument Meander.
At the National Mall, there are nine iconic American memorials in the 1-mile green space between the Washington Monument and the Potomac River. The best way to see them is on foot, ending at the awe-inspiring Lincoln Memorial. If the family is up for it, plan for three hours.
- Kick Back.
After all that walking, give your feet a break on a 45-minute Potomac River cruise, taking in some of Washington D.C.’s most important sites — like the Kennedy Center, Watergate Complex and Memorial Bridge — from the comfort of a mid-sized river tour boat.
- Waterfront Dining.
Georgetown is one of the area’s dining, and shopping, hotspots. For dinner, head to Fiola Mare, where they specialize in Italian- and Mediterranean-style seafood dishes. The family can also enjoy the photo-worthy waterfront views.
- Market Fresh.
Every weekend since 1873, the Capitol Hill neighborhood has hosted the bounty known as the Eastern Market. Indoors, you will find meat, seafood, pasta, baked goods and cheeses from around the world. Outside, local farmers and artists sell their goods. Do not miss the legendary blueberry buckwheat pancakes at the Market Lunch counter — there’s plenty for the whole family.
- Inspiring Architecture.
The U.S. Capitol is a working office for Congress, but it’s also a national monument with a magnificent interior. Take a one-hour tour to view the exquisite architecture of the Rotunda, Crypt and National Statuary Hall.
- Presidential Lunch.
A short walk from the White House, through the famous statues of Lafayette Square, you will find the Oval Room. Enjoy modern American cuisine with Asian and Mediterranean flavors.
- A Performance to Remember.
The stately glamour of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is undeniable, and there surely will be a world-class performance happening at one of its six venues while your family is in town.
- Brunch Like a Local.
Fuel the family with brunch at Circa, in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood. Circa is a lively local chain of bistros serving creative New American cuisine.
- Artistic Delights.
Many claim the National Gallery of Art is the greatest art museum on Earth, and while that is a matter of opinion, it is surely among the top museums anywhere. It is also enormous, spread across two buildings and a 6-acre sculpture garden. Follow the Collection Highlights guide (available online or at the museum) to the West Building to view 12 masterpieces in about an hour.
- Lunch at the Station.
In 1907, Union Station started as one of the country’s first great railroad terminals. It has since gone from historic landmark to brilliant restoration, revered for its fascinating architecture and world-class shopping. Relax at any one of its 35 eateries for lunch.
- Fun French Dining.
Bistrot du Coin, a one-of-a-kind dining experience in the American capital, combines fine French cuisine with a friendly atmosphere. Order the mussels by the bucket, perfect for sharing.
- First View.
Pay a visit to the memorable Washington Monument, one of the tallest free-standing stone structures in the world at 555 feet. Perfect for a family photo op. A new and improved elevator debuts in spring 2019. Until then, entry to the monument is closed.
- The Politics of Lunch.
For a true taste of the capital, eat at the Monocle, an American steak and seafood restaurant that is a couple of blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The food and the service are top-notch, as is the clientele, which includes Supreme Court justices and members of Congress.
- Space Odyssey.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is just one of the many essential museums in the area but is a fun and engaging start, with something for the whole family. Don’t miss the moon rock, a slice that astronauts brought back from space.
- Family Feast.
There’s something for everyone on the menu at fyve Restaurant in The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City. Inspired by the Pentagon, the aptly named restaurant draws from both the diversity and bounty of its community, using seasonal ingredients procured from artisans and farmers near Arlington.
- Reverent Silence.
At the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington National Cemetery, a sentinel from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, stands guard 24 hours a day, a silent vigil to the sacrifice of all who serve. Visit for the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which happens every hour, a precise routine
done in increments of 21 steps that requires special training to execute.
- American Treasures.
For an unforgettable mash-up of American social, political, cultural, scientific and military history, you must not miss the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. You will see everything from the ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” to the American flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814, moving Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics to the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
- See the White House.
You can’t leave the Beltway area without checking this spot off your list. Tours of the White House must be booked far in advance, but no reservation is needed to admire the building’s exterior. Every U.S. president except George Washington has lived here, although James Madison’s stay was cut short when the British set the White House on fire during the War of 1812. It’s a memory that the kids won’t soon forget.
- A Final Taste.
Say goodbye to this quintessentially American metropolis with dinner at The Capital Grille. The steakhouse’s consistently excellent food, extensive wine menu and prime
location at Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street have made it a dining tradition among locals and visitors alike.