Summer is in full swing and for a parent it can be hard to navigate camps and an unsettled schedule while our children are taking a much-needed break from their school routine. With our kids eager to jump into new and exciting summer fun, there are plenty of options to create a memorable and constructive outing within the city, and without cutting into your summer travel budget.
National Gallery of Art – Art Investigators
6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565
Hours: Mon–Sat 10am–5pm; Sunday 11am–5pm
Housing a substantial collection of classic western art, and the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the States, the National Gallery of Art and its six-acre sculpture garden makes a great diversion anytime.
But this summer, the museum offers a free drop-in program for children ages 4-7. The hour-long Art Investigators class includes a book reading, exploring specific gallery artwork and various hands-on activities. The artists children will analyze and “investigate” this summer include Georgia O’Keeffe, Wassily Kandinsky and Sam Gilliam. Check times here.
Rock Creek Park Planetarium
5200 Glover Rd NW, Washington, DC 20015
Hours: Wed-Sun 9am-5pm
Yes, the only Planetarium in the National Park Service is located in the heart of our city, and is completely free. As part of the park’s Nature Center, the facility also houses exhibits on area plants and animals, and includes a children’s Discovery Room.
Every Wednesday at 4pm until August 30th, a free Young Planetarium show offers children ages 4-7 an introduction to astronomy. On Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm, a park ranger guides a free tour of the night sky using the Spitz Planetarium software. Call ahead to reserve your spot.
Movie Night at the Capital River Front
200 M St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Hours: Movies start at sundown
This free event is located near the Navy Yard Metro Station. Enjoy classics like Grease and new releases like Moana and La La Land while lying under the stars, check the schedule here. Also check out Gordon Biersch for a great family friendly dinner located down the street just before the show.
Find other locations and dates for free DC movie nights at dcoutdoorfilms.com.
An annual free and very kid-friendly celebration of aquatic plants and global culture. The festival kicks off on July 15th and a variety of concerts, walks, tours and even night paddles are available to all throughout the week. Activities specifically for kids are set up throughout the park and a variety of food vendors are on site.
National Building Museum
401 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Hours: Mon–Sat 10am–5pm; Sunday 11am–5pm
This one isn’t free (adults $16, kids $13), but it’s well worth making a trip with our kids this summer. Always a kid-friendly favorite for its Building Zone, Write on the Wall, and other elaborate hands-on exhibits, the museum’s Great Hall presents Hive this summer.
The main feature is made out of 2,700 wound paper tubes, reflecting architecture of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis among other classic structures. Hive-related concerts, performances, and activities for children of all ages are available on the museum’s calendar.
The Georgetown Waterfront
3303 Water St NW, Washington, DC 20007
Take a trip to the Georgetown Waterfront on a sunny day and find yourself walking along the Potomac River. Have a picnic on the open grass and play in the water fountains along the river. Don’t forget to grab yourself one of DC’s finest cupcakes at Baked and Wired!
The Key Bridge Boathouse offers pedal boating ($30 an hour, for four passangers) and kayaking ($16 an hour single kayak, $22 an hour double kayak for two adults and one small child). Kayaks are available for children age 8 and up.
Visit the National Zoo
3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
Located just a few steps from the Woodley Park-Zoo Metro Station this all-year-round free family fun spo. Take a look at the Giant Panda Cam, visit the Kid’s Farm, and watch elephants graze on the Elephant Trails.
Be sure to bring a towel and a swimsuit for your young ones this summer. The American Trail Tide Pool is open for shallow wading until September 30. Other times to keep track of during your visit (check the daily calendar to confirm):
Kid Farm Daily Demo: 11am-1:30pm
Meet a Small Mammal (Small Mammal House): 10:30-10:50am
Elephant Training: 11-11:20am
Seal and Sea Lion Show: 11:15am-11:35am