Best Washington DC musuems for kids

15 Best Museums In DC For Kids (Cool Musuems For Kids In DC!)

Are you looking for the best museums in DC for kids? Perfect! There are so many museums in DC to choose from.  

We actually lived in Washington DC and visited all the amazing museums!  There are a lot of National Smithsonian museums kids will love. And the best part is these are free museums in DC!   Making it a perfect family adventure! 

In this post, we are going to break down kid-friendly museums in DC based on age. We will start with the best museums in DC for kids ages 10 and up.  Followed by the museums for kids in DC that cater to kids ages 5 and up. And lastly, some of the best DC museums for toddlers. 

Let’s explore all the best museums for kids in DC! (These will include both free museums in DC and those that cost an additional amount)

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Washington DC Free Museums for Kids

Museums for kids in DC

In this post, we are going to give you a list of free museums in DC as well as ones that have an admission price. Let’s begin by answering a few questions you might have about visiting the museums in Washington DC. 

Are Washington DC Museums Free?

Maybe you have heard that most of the National Smithsonian DC museums are free. You are correct!  There are some amazing museums in Washington DC that are paid for by the taxes of the American people….meaning they are free for the public. 

Do I Have to Get Tickets for the Free Museums in DC?

Good Question.  There are some locations that require a reservation with a timed entry.  I will list if this is necessary below. 

Why Do Some Places Charge for Tickets When it is Supposed to Be a Free DC Museum? 

There are a few places like the National Archives and the Fords Theater that will charge a minimal fee.  These pre-purchased tickets will allow you to skip a line or be admitted into a museum that is not available if you just walk up.  They guarantee you a spot. 

Top DC Museums for Kids Ages 10 and Up

Museums in DC for kids

I have three suggestions for Washington DC museums for kids ages 10 and older.  These are great for teens and older kids.  

Museums in DC for Kids10+

  • Spy Museum
  • Holocaust Museum
  • Ford’s Theatre

1. Spy Museum

Best DC Museums for Kids

The Spy Museum is one of the best museums in DC for kids, tweens, and teens.  We have children ranging from 7 – 15 years of age.  My 10 and 13-year-old hands down enjoyed this museum the most. 

Admission

Adults and Kids: Prices depend on the day of the week you go.  Prices range from $15 to $30. 

Unfortunately, this is not a free museum in DC for kids but it is worth it! You will want to purchase your ticket ahead of time, especially during the busy season and holidays.  There are specific times listed on your ticket that you will need to arrive.  

The Spy Museum is included on the Sightseeing Pass.  If you are planning on doing more than one attraction, it might be worth looking into. 

Interactive Experience 

This is a very interactive museum.  You will be given a new Identity and mission.  You will be asked to memorize certain key facts that you will need as you progress through the museum.  There are kiosks in each area where you will learn more information about your mission and the task that you will need to complete.  

It is such a cool museum to explore and hands down worth paying the admission price.  Sometimes it is hard to pay for museums in DC when so many are free. I highly recommend taking your older kids to the spy museum.  

2. The Holocaust Museum

Best Museums in DC for teens - Holocaust Museum

The Holocaust Museum is a free Museum in DC.  However, you will need to reserve a ticket well in advance. 

This is not a museum in DC for kids that are younger.  There are some very graphic images and unfortunately tragic things that happened during the holocaust that are shared in the museum.   

There are protective walls that will restrict younger kids from seeing some of the more graphic exhibits but just be aware that this museum is best for ages 10 and up.  

I would have some deep conversations about what happened so your older kids and teens are aware of the solemnity that exists at this museum.  

My Experience

As a kid I was obsessed with WWII, I wanted to read everything I could to learn about it.  I visited this museum for the first time when I was 19.  I was overwhelmed by the exhibits even at that age.  I did take my toddlers when we lived there but they were so little they didn’t understand or view areas that are more heartbreaking. 

 

3. Fords Theatre

Musuems in DC for kids Ford Theater

The Ford’s Theatre is a free museum in DC however, you will want to purchase a ticket ahead of time ($3) to secure your spot. Certain tours allow you to visit the museum or have special park ranger question and answer sessions. 

I think it is important for older kids to understand how Abraham Lincoln died and have that conversation.  The assassination was a horrible event in American history.  

Our Experience

We were able to attend a session with a park ranger who shared many insights into how and why this event occurred.  My younger kids were very bored.  My older kids enjoyed it.  I would say if you do bring younger kids make sure the museum is included in your timed session. 

Best Museums in DC for Kids 5 and Up

museums for kids DC

Most of the free museums in DC for kids are great for everyone in your family. Washington DC is a family-friendly vacation. 

Best Museums in DC for Kids 5+

  • American History Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • Air and Space Museum
  • Native American Museum
  • Bureau of Engraving and Printing
  • Arlington House (not on the Mall)

Almost all of these DC museums for kids are located right on the mall. This is perfect for kids because it means less walking! 

4. American History Museum

Dc Museum for kids'

The American History Museum is a fun museum in DC for kids. My kids had a blast. 

The bottom floor on the right side (if you are coming in from the Mall) is the best floor for kids.  It is the transportation exhibit.  It is so interactive and hands-on your kids will not want to leave. We actually went twice on our most recent trip to DC.  

There is another fun area where you can pretend to be the president and give famous speeches.  My kids had a blast doing that.

National Museum of American History

Hours: 10:00 am -5:30 pm

Admission: This is a free museum in DC.

5. Natural History Museum

Best DC museums for Toddlers

The Natural History Museum is huge! Each section in this museum offers something your kids will love.  

One of our favorite sections is located upstairs.  There is an area with a cave full of different bugs on display.  There are lots of hands-on exhibits.  We also love the butterfly biosphere.  It does cost to enter, but it is so cool to see the butterflies. 

My kids were super impressed. It is one of the best museums for kids in DC.  Private family tours are available. 

Natural Museum of Natural History

Hours: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Admission: This is a free museum in DC.

6. Air and Space Museum

DC Museums for Kids

The Air and Space Museum is one of the best DC museums for kids. There is plenty of space to run around and explore.  

The Air and Space Museum is getting a complete makeover.  Part of the museum will re-open on October 14th, 2022.  The rest will be complete by 2025.  

There are so many cool exhibits that center around planes and space.  I think most kids will love this museum, especially those that love these subjects.  We have been several times and enjoyed the exhibits, I am excited to see all the improvements and changes when they are done.

National Air and Space Museum

Hours: 10:00 – 5:30 pm

Admission: This is a free museum in DC. However, you will need to reserve a timed entry pass.

7. Native American Museum

DC Museum Kids - Native American

The Native American Museum is located right along the Mall.  These museums located in this area are convenient to get to. This is nice if you are touring with kids.  Less walking is best! 

The Native American Museum was actually pretty cool.  There is an area designated just for kids.  There are fun interactive experiences.  This kid’s area is a perfect place for younger kids. Now, when we went they limited the number of kids that can enter at one time.  Just be aware you might have to wait in line to get into the kid’s area. 

Older kids will enjoy the other exhibits.  I would say this is a perfect DC museum for toddlers if you head straight to the play area.  It is also a great museum in DC for kids of all ages. 

National Museum of the Native American

Hours: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Admission:  This is a free museum in DC.

8. The National Archives

free museums in DC for kids - National Archives

I really didn’t think the National Archives would be a great place to bring the kids.  However, my sister’s family wanted to go with her teens.  We decided to tag along and check it out.  

My 7-year-old was in heaven. He loved seeing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  In fact, he insisted he needed a copy from the gift shop of each document.  

There is a small exhibit but for the most part, the National Archives displays the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. 

The National Archives

Hours: 10:00 am – 5:30pm

Admission: This is a free museum in DC. You can purchase tickets ahead of time to guarantee your time and not wait in line. However, when we went in the summer time we did not have to wait and were able to enter without any trouble. 

9. Arlington House - Arlington Cemetery

Musuems in Dc for kids ARlington House

The Arlington House is located in the Arlington Cemetery.  It is a cool museum in DC for kids to visit. You can learn about Robert E Lee and more about the Civil War.  

Our Experience

We tried to walk and see all the sights at the Arlington Cemetery.  It is not worth it! If you have kids take a trolley tour around to all the different stops.  Your kids will enjoy the house but also the changing of the guard is a neat experience. 

Arlington Cemetery

Hours: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
 

Admission: This site is a free “museum” in DC. However, there are many tours you can purchase that will include transportation.

Best DC Museum for Toddlers

Best DC Museum for Toddlers

There are so many fun museums in DC for kids but in this next section not only will your big kids love it but your little ones will have fun too.

  The Best DC Museums for Toddlers

  • National Children’s Museum 
  • National Postal Museum
  • National Building Museum
  • National Zoo

10. National Children's Museum

Best Children's Museum in Washington DC

The best children’s museum in DC is located near the White House.  This is one of the best places to take younger kids and toddlers.  

There are so many fun exhibits and hands-on activities.  This is one of the best children’s museums in Washington DC.  There are science-based learning areas as well as fun art and innovation exhibits to play with. 

What makes this one of the best DC museums for toddlers is that there are entire sections specifically for infants and toddlers to play. 

National Children’s Museum

Hours: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm

Admission: $15.95

11. National Postal Museum

DC museums for toddlers Postal Museum

When we lived in the area, this was our favorite DC museum for kids.  It is great for toddlers and kids of all ages.  It is not located near the mall so you will have to make a special trip away from the main hustle and bustle to check it out.

There are so many crafts and fun things your kids can make at this museum.  Plus there are lots of fun exhibits your kids will love. 

It is a kid-friendly DC museum that is worth a visit if you have time. 

National Postal Museum

Hours: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Admission: This is a free museum in DC.

12. National Building Museum

Best Museums for kids in Washington DC - Building Museum

The building museum can be hit or miss. The reason for this is special exhibitions are brought in.  Some are geared towards kids and others are not.  

If your kids love Lego building, engineering, or have an interest in building projects this is a great museum in DC for kids.   

When my kids were toddlers they put out huge soft blocks to build.  Things change all the time at this museum, so you will want to check out what the current exhibitions are.

National Building Museum

Hours: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

Admission: $10 adults $7 kids

13. National Zoo

Zoo Smithsonian Museums for kids

The National Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country.  It might not be a museum but it is a National Smithsonian for kids  It is a little off the beaten path. 

You can take the metro from the Mall to get to the zoo.  There is a very steep hill you will have to push your stroller up to get to the entrance, so be prepared.  Toddlers and kids both love visiting the zoo.  

The National Zoo

Hours: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm

Admission: This is a free “museum in DC” or Zoo.  You need to reserve tickets ahead of time.  

Best Kid Friendly Museums in Washington DC Area

DC museum kids - Natural History

Two of my most favorite DC museums for kids are actually not located in DC proper. 

Kid Friendly Museums in the Washington DC Area

  • Mount Vernon (Alexandria) 
  • National Air and Space Museum – Udvar-Hazy Center (Chantilly)

14. Mount Vernon

Best Museums for kids in DC - Mount Vernon

I want to start by saying I love Mount Vernon.  It is one of my favorite places to visit in all of the Washington DC area. 

My kids had a blast when we went last.  Not only is Mount Vernon a historical site where you can see George Washington’s’ home and property, but there is also an impressive museum.  

We love the museum.  There are interactive exhibits that help kids learn about the tough choices George Washington had to decide during the Revolutionary War. It is presented in a fun way your kids will love. 

There are also shows and even a kid’s area (which wasn’t open when we went last) But in the past there were doll houses and fun things for little kids to do.

Getting to Mount Vernon

Unfortunately, there is not a convenient Metro stop near Mount Vernon.  You will have to rent a car or you can purchase a  Day Tour to Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon

Hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Admission: Adults $28 Youth $15 (5 and under are free)

15. Chantilly Air and Space Museum - Udvar- Hazy Center

Museums for kids in DC - Chantilly Air and Space

Now there is an air and space museum located on the Mall near the capitol, this Air and Space Museum is in Virginia. They are both part of the National Smithsonian and are listed as the same museum in two locations. 

This location is near Dulles Airport, so if you plan to fly into this airport, stop by this museum before heading into Washington DC. 

The Chantilly location in my opinion is better.  There are huge airplanes and spaceships on display.  You can walk around and learn about the different planes and when they were in operation. 

This is one of the best Smithsonian museums for kids.  

Air and Space Museum – Chantilly

Hours: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Admission:  This is a free museum in DC. (Parking is $15)

Are you Ready to Visit the Museums in DC for Kids?

Museums for kids in DC - SPY

Hopefully, this list of free museums in DC for Kids will help you plan an amazing trip to DC. Also, the museums that do have an admission cost are pretty amazing as well.  There are so many great options for museums for kids in DC. 

Tips for DC

Getting around DC can be tough with kids, it is a lot of walking.  Make sure to plan ahead!

Also, remember that most museums close at 5:00 pm. Visiting the monuments at night after exploring the museums during the day is really fun! 

Facebook Group

If you have any questions about upcoming trips, come join me in my private Facebook Group This group is a place where you can ask any question about your upcoming trip and help others plan their trips.  It is also a place where I put travel deals.

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8 Comments

  1. I remember visiting the Holocaust Museum as a kid. It is SO hard, and yet SO important. I’d definitely love to see the Chantily air and space museum!

  2. We’ve been to D.C. many times, but get so involved in the Smithsonian Museums and the Zoo that we rarely have time for much else. I didn’t know the Spy Museum existed! It’s now on my list: thanks for sharing!

  3. The Natural History Museum is a cool museum to see. I enjoy the hands on areas.
    I would agree with you that the Mount Vernon is on the best museum list.

  4. I was supposed to go to DC with my sister a few weeks ago but something happened and all of our plans got changed. I’m going to save this for when the plan gets rescheduled. Thanks!

  5. The Native American and the spy museum would be my first choice! These look like really fun museums with or without kids! Fantastic list, it will help you plan your time in DC. Very well done!

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