Touring Plan ideas

Since we have all have the hyper planning gene. Would anyone like to share their touring plan for D.C museums and monuments other attractions. We are planning on spending 4 nights during the cherry blossom festival as spring break happens to fall that week and we are within a 7 hour driving distance. We are a family of 5 kids ages 10,12, and barely 4.

We’re just starting to plan a single night in DC on our way up to NY. So far the Tours by Foot looks like a good option for us (older kids though)
We’re planning to spend most of our time on the mall and the surrounding area, plus a bit of a drive through.

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Thanks for the free tours by foot link. They seem to have kid friendly tours so I will look into that.

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We took a trip there last summer and had a car, so some of these are outside of the city/Metro line. We were also there longer, so this will probably be more than you can fit in, but these were the highlights we hit:

-Mount Vernon
-Arlington Cemetery/Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Note that on our first trip to DC in 2011, the soldier scared one of my kids because he moved so robotically. We didn’t have that issue this time around, but I wanted to mention it in case your youngest may be similarly affected; it wasn’t a fear I expected.)
-Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
-Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum (an extension of the one on the Mall, but with TONS of aircraft)
-Bureau of Engraving and Printing (tours are free, but you have to get tickets for it- we “rope dropped” the ticket window)
-Walking tour of all the monuments around the Mall- we started at Jefferson and then went to FDR, MLK, Korean, Lincoln, Vietnam, WWII, Washington
-Walked past the White House but did not tour (you have to write to your senator or representative way ahead of time)
-Ford’s Theater
-Tour of the US Capitol (we had written to our Senator and one of the aides took us on a private tour, but there are public tours available too)
-Library of Congress
-Walked past the Supreme Court (but was closed at that point so we couldn’t go in)
-Smithsonians- National Air & Space, Natural History (we didn’t make it to American History, but I would probably pick that and skip Natural History next time)
-National Gallery of Art (I could have spent a lot longer here, but the rest of my family wasn’t having it, so we did a very quick walk-through of the most famous works; the food court here is the awesome though and we ate there twice)
-National Archives
-Nationals baseball game

Things we didn’t do this trip, but I’d been to before-
-US Botanic Garden
-Holocaust Memorial Museum (when the kids are older)
-National Museum of African American History & Culture
-National Museum of the American Indian
-National Museum of American History

Of course, there are a ton of other things to see and do in DC area. The Metro is very easy to use, but it’s very walkable too- definitely bring a stroller for your little one! You’ll probably have bigger crowds than we did because of the Cherry Blossom festival, and just be cognizant of whatever protests or demonstrations could be going on as well- I’m not saying that to worry you; just something to be aware of…even if it’s just for the potential of big crowds.


There’s an Unofficial Guide for DC. I used it for a couple of week long trips there, and it was great.

My highlights: (visited w/o kiddos those trips):
**All the art museums (all are free, except Phillips near Dupont Circle, but that was my fave)
**The trolley night tour of DC history & monuments, fantastic
**Lunch at the Native American museum
**Dinner at Ethiopian and Turkish restaurants

As you can see, these are more skewed to what grownups would like. Though I think the Phillips, trolley night tour and Native American lunch would appeal to kiddos also.


DC can be done in 2 days if you move fast and don’t linger. Don’t do that. Linger! I went to college outside of Baltimore and spent a lot of time in DC. Spread the museums out (don’t do more than 2 per day) or they get full. Air and Space is the best one, but all the Smiths are excellent. If this is a once in a lifetime trip, split off with the oldest and take them to the Holocaust museum - pay for full entry. It is unforgettable.


That is a great list. Do you think its possible to see Mount Vernon in the morning and catch a museum or 2 in the afternoon?

Thanks for the tips on where to eat. Will definitely plan on lunch at the native American museum

So thus far I’m thinking of getting tickets for grand stand seating for the cherry blossom parade 10-12PM. (we probably won’t stay for the whole thing) then I just ordered some timed entry tickets to the National Archives (the only time they had was 12:45 pm) - We will probably just go into the Rotunda unless you say there are other interesting things to do there. I also reserved a 2 PM free walking tour with the DC free tours by foot for a tour of the monuments… All on Saturday…do you think this is too much? and grab lunch at a food cart?? My kids can generally handle a lot. we put in 10 hour Disney days a few months ago.

Nope, I think that sounds perfect. That’s plenty for the Archives. The Cherry Blossom festival is very beautiful and fun, hopefully they will bloom on time this year but even if they don’t it’s gorgeous.

My favorite monument is FDR, don’t miss it!

All this advice is good – my only add is a warning that the footborne crowds for Cherry Blossom Festival are epic. Do not, do not try to drive or even Uber or cab down around the mall, Tidal Basin, and Jefferson Memorial. It literally takes longer in a car than on foot, and not all roads are open so you can end up heading away from what you were aiming for!!!
Oh, my second point: I think Mt Vernon AND 2 museums downtown with littles would be tough. Also, Mount Vernon is very kid friendly, so your kids might not want to be rushed. Maybe one museum would be a better plan.
Oh also (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition…) I didn’t see the National Zoo on the list. Its not downtown but it is wonderful. You can take the metro there, but if you drive get there early because the parking lots fill very quickly. Pandas, cheetahs, elephants, and baby (maybe now adolescent) gorilla boy. If your kinds love animals, its really wonderful. But also you’ll need a stroller.

Thank you all for all your great advice. I will plan just one museum for Sunday after Mount vernon. For Monday, we arranged with our local representative for a capital building tour and passes for the house floor in the morning. Then I read somewhere to go to Eastern Market that seems to be on that end of town, possibly another museum that day. Then Tuesday we leave, but based on your recommendations wanted to either go to the zoo or the Udvar Hazy air and space on the way out of town…which one should I do?

I forgot about the Zoo. We’ve been there as well, but not on our most recent trip. Between that and Udvar-Hazy, it’s a toss up of just what interests your family more. They both have things you’re not going to see anywhere else (pandas at the zoo or a real space shuttle/a Concorde/the Enola Gay at UH) so I’d just pick one and then plan another trip to DC in the future. :slight_smile:

I also agree about Mount Vernon and one museum, not two (unless you’re just going to do a quick walk through just to see a very few specific things somewhere). MV really has expanded their offerings in recent years and it’s much more than just touring the house there. The museum there is very nicely done, and we spent longer than I originally expected. Check out as it has a lot of good info. You’re welcome. This place is well worth the visit.

I love zoos. Like, you know how little kids with all the love they can muster will yell “I love animals!”? That’s me. So I am completely biased. But the National Zoo is fantastic.

Thank you all again for all your input. It has helped me get together a great itinerary. So my last question is I’ve narrowed down the museums we would like to visit in the following order. We may not make it to all of them and we certainly will not be able to see every part of each musuem. Wanted to know the not to be missed areas in each museum according to you guys.

  1. Air and Space
  2. American History
  3. Native American (will def have a meal here if we make it)
  4. Natural History - I put this last as I heard the dinosaur exhibit is closed. Also we have been to the Natural History museum in NYC.
    Thanks again for all your help you guys are the best tour guides.

The African American History Museum now has walk up tickets during the weekdays but they go quickly. Weekends are buy ahead only. If this is on your list they release tickets to buy ahead of time online the 1st Wednesday of each month…for a while you had to plan 3 months out…more info here Plan Your Visit | National Museum of African American History and Culture

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This totally depends on the group. Pandas or the space shuttle? Both places are great!

It looks like you are covering a lot of ground. During Cherry Blossom season, i would not bring my car into to downtown. Definitely plan on public transportation. To get around the National Mall area you can take the Circulator for $1. Really helps if you are getting worn out.

ok thanks for the tip. We are staying at Embassy suites downtown convention center so I think we may be able to walk to the national mall and the use the circulator as we get tired no?