Washington, D.C. — you may remember it as that place where you and 100 other 5th graders looked bored while wearing orange sashes. Or that seat of America’s government. Either way, our nation’s capital has a lot more to offer kids than just giant marble statues and cavernous museums — after all, politicians kiss babies around here.
If you’re looking to bring the whole family along, here are the best ways to get out of that Smithsonian wing housing geodes and get into some waterfront biking, chili dog eating, and if you have time, some statue-staring.
Tips From A Local Dad
Deloitte’s Business Experience Designer Mark Waks has called D.C. home since before he had a Beltway baby. Now that he’s a father, he Waks still gets to check out things like music festivals and historic towns — he’s just doing it with a BabyBjorn strapped to him.
- Hit the Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival: If you already crank up the kindie rock playlists, this fest is an excellent teachable moment.“This is a great annual, family-friendly music festival on Kingman Island. We can ride our bikes, bring the dog, and lay a blanket out so the little guy can roll around and listen to some great music.”
- Make a pit stop at Bayou Bakery: Are you pushing a stroller with a coffee cup in your hand? Why the hell not? “We love this awesome little shop near Eastern Market. We stop after a day of shopping or picking up fresh produce to get coffee and beignets. Capitol Hill is often referred to as “Baby Hill”, so there are always a lot of other families there doing the same thing.”
- Take a stroll on Theodore Roosevelt Island: Stop strolling D.C.’s monuments and labyrinth of Cherry Blossoms, start strolling places that aren’t packed with tourists.“This is an island just off of Georgetown that has great walking paths; most people never take advantage of it. It’s really easy to get to, it’s quiet, and there’s lot’s fresh air. And it’s hardly ever crowded, so you feel like you have it all to yourself.”
- Get Spooked at Boo at the Zoo: “If you’re visiting around Halloween, it’s definitely a good idea to check out the zoo in Northwest D.C. Kids from all over come out in all sorts of fun costumes and the zoo stays open, so kids can enjoy the exhibits and all of the animals after hours. It’s a blast for parents, too.”
- Spend an afternoon at Navy Yard: Your kids will love the looking at real life battleships along this massive waterfront park, and you can say seaman with impunity. “This place is hugely popular with locals who live in Southwest. There’s a fountain that kids are always eager to play in— and it’s absolutely okay to do so. It’s also right next to some great new, kid-friendly restaurants. One of our favorite things to do is go there before a Sunday baseball game since it’s right next to the stadium.”
- Ride bikes in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia: Sorry Georgetown, there’s a family-friendlier version just a short bike ride away. “If you’re looking for a short drive or nice bike ride — or just a little getaway from Washington, D.C. that’s still super close — King Street in Old Town Alexandria is the place to be. It’s quaint with lots of brick townhomes and walkways. Older kids can bike on their own, and for those with a baby, like us, you can take your stroller all the way down to the water. Our favorite way to get there is to bike on the Mount Vernon trail.”
- Smack in the heart of Penn Quarter, opposite the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and kid-favorite International Spy Museum.
- Housed in a grand neoclassical building, but interiors have a fun, eccentric style, and colorful clashing fabrics.
- All of the usual Kimpton hotel perks are present, including complimentary Wi-Fi, a free coffee station each morning and daily wine reception.
- Best for a family of 4 are the double double deluxe rooms, which are a spacious 475 square feet and have views of the city or courtyard.
- King and queen deluxe rooms have space for cribs but not rollaways.
- Mediterranean and Robert Mills suites are the best choice for longer stays, with queen-size pull-out sofas in separate living rooms and big bathrooms with both deep-soaking tubs and standalone glass showers.
- Lots of family-friendly perks: Child safety kits, stroller and car seat rental services, kids’ menus in the restaurant and in-room dining, welcome gifts, the “Forgot It? We’ve Got It” program and more.
- Kimpton’s signature goldfish rental service is available here — improbably, the staff will deliver a loaner goldfish for the length of your stay. (Or the length or its stay on Earth.)
- Poste is an award-winning French brasserie but the atmosphere is relaxed and kid-friendly.
- Some rooms are looking scuffed around the edges and could use an update.
- The eccentric style (animal prints galore and lots of clashing, patterned fabrics) won’t be to everyone’s taste.
- Some road noise in bedrooms overlooking busy F Street.
- Central location in D.C.’s West End neighborhood close to Georgetown, DuPont Circle and K Street.
- Rooms have modern, Asian style with low platform beds and spa-like bathrooms.
- Park deluxe double rooms fit two adults and two children, but it’s a squeeze at 336 square feet.
- Park parlor suites have separate sitting areas separate by a sliding door.
- Suites have small kitchenettes that can be stocked in advance.
- Blue Duck Tavern, an upscale seasonal American restaurant with an open-concept kitchen where kids can watch the chef in action.
- Steep discounts on connecting rooms for travelers 18 and under.
- Babies Travel Lite program lets you pre-order infant essentials to be in your room on arrival.
- Families are very welcome but as in most central D.C. hotels, most guests are here on business so the atmosphere can feel hushed.
- Blue Duck Tavern is one of the city’s top restaurants so you’ll need to book well in advance to score a table.
- Complimentary bikes are subject to availability and for a maximum of four hours.
- Georgetown location walking distance to the neighborhood’s restaurants and bars, but just 12 blocks to the White House.
- Choice of 222 rooms in the East Wing (overlooking the C&O Canal and Rock Creek Park) or West Wing (with views of 29th Street and the courtyard).
- Popular business travelers and families visiting students at Georgetown University.
- Grand Premier Rooms are a huge 520 square feet (and up); a family of four can fit in the two-double-bed configuration.
- Rooms overlooking the courtyard are quietest.
- Kids up to the age of 18 can bunk with parents in cribs or on rollaways at no additional charge.
- Cribs, high chairs, playpens, kid-size bathroom amenities, toys, board games, Wiis, video games and more are available for families.
- Babysitting services on request (for an extra fee).
- Outdoor brunch at Seasons restaurant during the summer months.
- Designated smoking rooms on the 6th floor.
- Kids are welcome in the 60-foot-long lap pool but may be competing for lane space with serious swimmers.
- Tucked off the main road within earshot of the highway, not on one of Georgetown’s charming cobblestone streets.
Breakfast spot that gets busy but shouldn’t be missed for kid-friendly eats and cinnamon rolls the size of your head.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
D.C. institution for chili, hot dogs, burgers and more on U Street.
Hop the metro and head just outside the city center for tons of good food and cool shops in this converted warehouse setting.
Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza
Casual Penn Quarter joint for Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza.
Popular Penn Quarter spot from chef Jose Andres for delicious meze and alfresco dining in the summer.