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DC questions again - what to do with my 6 yr-old?

DC questions again - what to do with my 6 yr-old?

Mar 24th, 2009, 10:36 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 21
DC questions again - what to do with my 6 yr-old?

We have 5 days to spare in Washington DC next week. I have the following to-do's and questions on my list:

Day 1 I want to take my son to see Washington Memorial and Lincoln Memorial, and the White House. Should we take a guided tour or can we do it by ourselves? Do you have tour companies to recommend?

Day 2 Museums! Air and Space and Natural History.

Day 3 Cherry blossom parade - is it worth to wait in the crowds? In the afternoon, we may go to museums again.

Day 4 Newseum

Day 5 Bureau of Engraving and Printing tour - do we need to book this tour in advance? It only takes couple hours, so anything else can we do on that day?

My son may not like to walk too much. So I try to group the activities. Any suggestion is welcome! Thanks!
Purpletulip is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 01:54 AM
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White house tours need to be set months in advance. Most you can do now is the Visitors Center.

What about the Zoo? He would probably like that.
tchoiniere is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 03:37 AM
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The White House tour would not be good for a 6 year old anyway, although certainly worthwhile to see the White House from the Ellipse (look for the new vegetable garden planted in the SW corner of the South Lawn). As a local and father of two little ones, several thoughts:

-Natural History Museum has dinosaur bones, a nice mammals exhibit, a new oceans exhibit, and an insect zoo, all good for kids. And they have a butterfly exhibit with a separate admission (see link below).

-Consider reserving in advance online tickets for an Imax movie at Natural History or Air and Space, or for the planetarium at Air and Space.


-There is a carousel on the Mall near the "Castle" building of the Smithsonian. After that walk through the lovely gardens located just to the left of the Castle (between the Castle and the Arts and Industries building). Also kids can get exposure to a little art at the Hirshorn's sculpture garden (sunk into the Mall right in front of the Hirshorn), and at the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden (between the National Gallery of Art and the Natural History Museum--the cafe in this garden is one of our favorite places to lunch).

-The Navy Memorial, located on Pennsylvania Ave right across from the National Archives, is good for kids because it has a big globe on the ground and relief sculptures with ships and stuff.

-I second the Zoo recommendation.

-You can go up to the tower in the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue, nice view with less hassle than the Washington Monument. If you want to do the Washington Monument, try to get tickets in advance on-line.


-The FDR Memorial is good with kids. Walk through its four outdoor "rooms" and then back along the Tidal Basin (be careful there is no railing along the Tidal Basin walkway).

-There are free performances every day in the Kennedy Center at 6 p.m. Before or after the performance, go up on the roof of the Kennedy Center for a beautiful view along the Potomac River.1


-Often-overlooked attractions that are worth stopping in as you are wandering are the National Botanical Gardens (at the SW corner of the Capitol grounds) and the National Building Museum (near the Gallery Place Metro stop, just a few blocks from the aforementioned Navy Memorial).

It's been a while since I've been to the Cherry Blossom Parade, but I don't think it gets the kinds of crowds where you need to stake out your position and wait way in advance.
DancingBearMD is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 03:42 AM
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I hope if you have nice weather your son won't mind walking, as DC generally involves a fair amount of that. Of course you can do the Tourmobile or Old Town Trolley hop-on, hop-off bus thing, but that can mean waiting in lines (which would be a lot worse for our kids than the walking). This bus might be helpful, but note the line around the Mall only runs on weekends:

DancingBearMD is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 03:57 AM
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Purpletulip, unless your son has an intense interest in either news or engraving and printing, I would skip both of those museums. The Newseum takes a long time to go through and involves lots of reading, and honestly, Engraving and Printing is just plain boring. May I suggest the Postal Museum (an often overlooked Smithsonian adjacent to Union Station?) The museum captivated our 7 year old--it's a very family-friendly museum that can be covered in a couple of hours, has plenty of hands-on opportunities, and Union Station is next door for a quick lunch.

The suggestion for the Botanic Garden is a good one, and, if you're in that general direction, the Library of Congress has a young explorer activity (plus interesting exhibits for young children.)

I second (or third?) Air & Space, Natural History, the Carousel and the FDR Memorial. They're all favorites with us.
fourfortravel is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 06:01 AM
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Some other thoughts for you-

Call your Congressional or Senator's office. They can get you tickets to the White House, Capitol, Engraving and Printing, and Kennedy Center, so that you don't have to wait in line!

Also, the Kennedy Center has a free performance on the Millenium Stage every day at 6 pm. It is always a family friendly, high quality performance. Your son would likely enjoy going up to the Kennedy Center rooftop for a view over the city as well. It is right above the Potomac River, and just below where the planes come in to land at DCA. If he likes airplanes at all he'll get a huge thrill every 6 minutes as a plane comes in to land.

For children I would highly recommend checking out the National Geographic Museum (and not Engraving and Printing or the Newseum). It is very hands-on and has lots of exhibits that a little boy (and his parents) will declare "Cool!"
erinannie is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 06:10 AM
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When my son was 6 and we lived in DC, the thing he enjoyed a lot was riding the length and width of the Metro, with the highpoint (maybe literally) the stop at the airport, where you could watch the apron traffic, etc. from the platform. Last time I was there, it had been built up enough that there was less you could see. But I'm partly saying that he'll enjoy a time out from Official Important Sites and like just riding around -- esp. if you live in a place without Metro, etc. Ditto double-decker bus, Tourmobile, etc.

Seeing the flights in and out of DC from the K. Center is good, but if you have a car, going down to the Marina south of the airport, it's even better.
HKP is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 06:20 AM
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Ditto re the Postal Museum and just riding Metro, especially the river crossing to the airport via the Yellow line -- big hits when my 5yo nephew visited me (from Kentucky, probably not so much if he lived in NYC). The Postal Museum is all about moving the mail, with examples of old planes, trains etc. (at least those were on exhibit several years ago), so quite appropriate for kids in their "cars and big equipment" phase.
kayd is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 06:40 AM
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Another vote for the Postal Museum. It's a lot of fun, and if your son is a fan of trains, right across the street from Union Station. That's a good spot for lunch.

Check the Smithsonian website for daily and one-off activities for kids. Lots of hands on and engaging stuff there.

Also, rent a paddle boat for a special view of the Jefferson Memorial and the cherry blossoms from the Tidal Basin.


I also agree that the Newseum and the Printing & Engraving might not captivate a six year old.
obxgirl is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 06:51 AM
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"Seeing the flights in and out of DC from the K. Center is good, but if you have a car, going down to the Marina south of the airport, it's even better."

At Gravelly Point park off of the GW Parkway just North of the Airport the planes fly directly over your head as they take off or (usually in our experience) land. Quite a rush, particularly close to 5 p.m. when they are just coming in one right after another.
DancingBearMD is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 10:13 AM
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Engraving and Printing is just plain boring.

My kids loved watching money being printed when they were that age.
sf7307 is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 03:13 PM
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Thanks so much for all the information!

I have decided to do the Postal Museum instead of Newseum.

I know we can't get into the White House. But is there a place for us to have a peek of the building? My son is really curious about where the president lives.

He also wants to see how the money is printed. He is not so into the zoo though. We have been to the San Diego Zoo numerous times, and he doesn't seem to be very interested.
Purpletulip is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 03:41 PM
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Also, is the DC Duck ride fun for young kids?
Purpletulip is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 03:49 PM
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There is a Visitors Center at the White House that you could go to.
tchoiniere is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 04:46 PM
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Re a peek at the White House (which, trust me, your son will have WAAAYY more fun doing than the actual tour, which was pronounced "boring" by 12-year-olds I used to take) - you can walk on Pennsylvania Avenue and look through the widely-spaced bars of the grounds fence, see the front of the White House and take a photo where the White House will be visible, if cropped, in the background.

As far as Duck Tours, my experience is that they are annoying for adults but kids love them - they will not listen to much, but they like the whistles and the stares they get from passing cars, so I would do it if I could get a discount and wanted to treat the kid.

One point - not sure where you are from, but next week will be chilly for you if you are from San Diego - you can check weather forecasts at www.capitalweather.com - they are the best for local forecasts. You may need to keep that in mind when planning outdoor activities to have a few "warm-up" spots mapped in.
DellaS is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 07:18 PM
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You get a great view of the White House from outside. I've been in Washington many times and have never taken the tour --just doesn't interest me, but the view from outside never fails to excite me. Here's what you can see:

sf7307 is offline  
Mar 26th, 2009, 05:05 AM
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I can't believe nobody has mentioned the Spy Museum. That was surely the highlight of our recent trip with grandchildren 6,8, 10, and 12. You can buy timed tickets online before going and build other things around your scheduled time. It is near the Navy Memorial and National Archives. If you walk between them, you can go through Chinatown, which may be interesting or provide a good meal. (There is a McDonald's, so if your child is not into food adventures, you can pick up something for him and you can enjoy the excellent Chinese food.)
lauraleesteakley is offline  
Mar 26th, 2009, 05:20 AM
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We had trouble getting out then 7 year old daughter out of the Museum of Natural History. She thought she needed to examine every rock & dinasour bone. She loved it. Have fun.
ferretyface is offline  
Mar 26th, 2009, 05:31 AM
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Regarding the Lincoln Memorial: My boys enjoy the memorials, and walking around outside is a nice break for them. They find the memorials (and everything else in D.C.) more interesting when they have background information. We live near D.C. and one day we did a kind of scavenger hunt on our bikes at the memorials. Your son might like some of the trivia associated with the Lincoln Memorial--it will give him something to look for. This website has a nice list. http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/15346
sbj is offline  
Mar 26th, 2009, 05:44 AM
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Pretty sure you will need reservations for the Washington Monument and the Bureau of Printing during Spring Break. 7th graders from around the country will be there. Go the the National Park Service website for reservations. Also, don't forget about Mt. Vernon! It's so beautiful and well run (not by the park service!)
brighton is offline  

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