Our Washington DC kids museum guide collects all of the best family museums around the city and suburbs, along with parent reviews.
Discover the children's museums DC families love, plus all-ages picks with interactive exhibits and hands-on experiences that make them especially kid-friendly.
Share your tips for visiting any of these DC museums and help fellow parents looking for a new favorite!
Fairfax Station Railroad Museum
Lisa R: This historic railroad station played important roles in the Civil War, Battle of Bull Run, and in the surrounding community. Today it houses exhibits and events related to local history and railroading. Rotating model train exhibits, ranging from G to T scale, are displayed here at least once a month, with bigger special exhibits scheduled several times a year. Families particularly love the annual holiday train show, which fills the entire station grounds.
National Geographic Museum
Lisa R: The National Geographic Museum is great for all ages and features a wide range of changing exhibitions, from interactive experiences to stunning photography exhibitions featuring the work of National Geographic explorers, photographers, and scientists.
White House Visitor's Center
Lisa R: No trip to D.C. is complete without a trip to the White House visitor center, where guests get a behind the scenes peek at the private residence of every president since John Adams. Attractions within the center include 90 artifacts from the White House collection, interactive touch screens, and a short video. Kids can download a Junior Ranger activity kit before visiting in order to earn a Junior Ranger Badge from a Park Ranger. The outside grounds and gardens also contain many monuments. Public garden and White House tours can be arranged with additional planning.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Lisa R: This important cultural institution celebrates the richness and diversity of the African American experience through photos, videos, and artifacts pertaining to black history. Here you'll find Nat Turner’s bible & Michael Jackson's fedora among exhibits that take a deep dive into history, culture, race, and social justice. Kids particularly identify with the exhibits that explore sports, music, and culture through history.
National Museum of American History
Lisa R: This history museum devoted to collecting, studying, and exhibiting objects from the US's diverse history has plenty to capture the imagination, including the American flag that inspired the national anthem. Touchscreens rented from the information desk include several guided multimedia tours, including one geared to kids 6-12 and another for preschoolers. Kids 6-12 love the museum's Spark!Lab full of experiments related to the museum's collections. Wegmans Wonderplace, for 0-6yrs, is a 1700 sf play space where kids engage with history through imaginative play and changing activities.
Lisa R: Visit with life-like wax recreations of all 44 presidents, pop-culture icons, and other important contemporary and historical figures at the D.C. branch of this 250 year old institution. Kids and parents love posing with exact replicas of their heroes and snapping pictures that will make their friends do a double take. Each statue is accompanied by facts about the person, so visitors of all ages are likely to learn something new.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
christadiserio: You could take a week to view all of the natural wonders in this natural history museum that houses the Hope Diamond, a room with live butterflies, and even a live coral reef. The museum's collection of gigantic dinosaur skeletons, human remains, fossils, meteorites and more is nothing short of impressive.
International Spy Museum
Lisa R: This is the only public US museum to provide an in-depth look at the world of espionage. Visitors view a wide variety of spy artifacts from around the world and deep dive into stories about spies from real life and pop culture. Interactive exhibits include a life-like, spy mission in the museum (12 yrs +) and a GPS guided tour of D.C. (10 yrs +). The museum regularly hosts family-oriented events like a monthly KidSpy program, museum sleepovers, camps, and festivals.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Lisa R: This museum devoted to three centuries of American Art offers a floor by floor list of must-see pieces for families with children as well as periodic family-friendly events. Kids particularly like peeking in on art conservators at work in the Lunder Center and attempting a scavenger hunt in the Luce Center, where more than 3,000 works of art are stored.
Arts and Industries Building & Mary Livingston Ripley Garden
Lisa R: Opened in 1881 as the first United States National Museum, exhibits here helped form the modern idea of museums in general. The impressive and innovative building was built with the goal of providing "fresh air and natural light" throughout and includes a 2.5 acre roof and 900+ windows. Although the interior is now closed to the public, kids love the historic carousel located just outside and picnicking in the Mary Livingston Ripley garden.
National Gallery of Art
Lisa R: This treasured fine art museum has tons of free family programs designed to enhance observation and thinking skills and inspire curiosity and wonder in their youngest visitors. Families enjoy their family films, all-age drop-in art making workshops and Art Investigators series for kids 4-7. On any day, kids can enhance their visit with a themed guide full of activities or a family audio tour. The museum's gelato bar with quick bites and casual outdoor cafe with views of the sculpture garden are fun treats. The massive fountain in in the sculpture garden is an ice rink Nov-March.
Lisa R: Programs and exhibits at the Newseum are created with the aim of "strengthening civil society through First Amendment & Media Literacy Education". At a time when fact is increasingly difficult to separate from fiction, the Newseum stresses the importance of the first amendment and teaches kids how to find reliable facts when conducting research.
National Building Museum
Lisa R: This museum, housed in a historic building, encourages visitors to consider how the built environment shapes our lives and communities. All exhibits include kid-friendly aspects like touchable house walls and paper models. Kids particularly like the Building Zone play space and creating giant structures in the Play Work Build exhibit. Thematic activity kits can be purchased at the information desk.
National Air and Space Museum
Lisa R: Visit the 1903 Wright Brother's flyer and touch and actual moon rock at this museum devoted to man's mission to conquer the skies. Kid-friendly demonstrations and talks lasting 20-25 minutes are given in different galleries throughout the day. An Imax Theater, planetarium, VR and flight simulators, and a real life observatory excite kids and grown-ups alike, while daily story times are perfect for quick, low-key, visits with 2-8 year olds.
National Museum of the American Indian
Lisa R: This museum advances knowledge and understanding of Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere through high quality exhibits, cultural programs, and youth education. It houses the largest collection of native artifacts in the world. Visitors of all ages love the hands-on imagiNATIONS Activity Center where they can learn how native people used natural materials to invent and inspire objects we still use today. Tour an Amazonian stilt house, weave a basket, or unwind in the story corner.
United States Botanic Garden
Lisa R: You'll find rare and incredible plant specimens from all over the world within the conservatory and on the grounds of the US Botanic Garden. Programs here serve all ages, starting with infants accompanying their parents on "Snugglers" tours. At all times of year, kids can check out activity kits from the information desk to help enhance their visit. The seasonal Children's Garden lets kids use simple gardening tools while learning about what's in bloom.
National Postal Museum
Lisa R: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night" kept America's early postmen from completing their rounds. Learn their stories & more at this museum inside the historic D.C. City Post Office where you can walk a Colonial post road, ride in a stagecoach, and visit a small post office from the 1920's. Vehicle-loving kids flock to the full-size freightliner semi-truck, mail planes, stagecoach, post truck & rail car. Hands-on activities include designing your own stamp, a mail sorting challenge, and tracing the route historic letters took to reach their destinations.
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Upparent collects community-submitted recommendations and reviews, and any ideas that are shared reflect the opinions of individual contributors.