The whole family with love the National Museum of Natural History. (Photo: Alamy)
Washington, D.C.’s miles of museums, jam-packed with history, culture and entertainment, are the perfect place to spend a city-bound vacation — for adults anyway. Add in a couple of kids and the idea of winding through exhibits with quiet voices, reminding little ones to keep their hands to themselves, may feel like too daunting a task.
Fortunately, these five D.C. museums were made with you in mind. From spies and butterflies to a very impressive stamp collection, there is truly something for everyone. (Oh, and loud voices are A-OK, too).
National Museum of Natural History
Most well-known for its dinosaurs and the Hope Diamond, the National Museum of Natural History was probably already on your list of must-sees. But what you may not have included is a trip to the museum’s Butterfly Pavilion.
Head to the second floor for a chance to walk through a rainforest-like oasis while butterflies from all over the world dance about your head (and, if you’re lucky, land on it!).
The pavilion is always staffed with knowledgeable butterfly experts who will not only answer every butterfly question you have but also help you track down your favorites.
The International Spy Museum
It’s not surprising that a museum about espionage, secrecy and keeping things hidden has tucked itself several blocks from the National Mall.
While bucking the typical hushed museum atmosphere, the International Spy Museum features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts. That includes a wristwatch camera that long predates today’s fancy smartwatches, a transmitter tucked into the heel of a shoe and a lipstick pistol.
But the fun really goes down at the museum’s various kids’ programs. Operation Spy sends teens on a mission through the museum to track down a thief while Spy in the City takes groups out into D.C. to uncover a world of espionage. Toss in a spin through the Bond Villains exhibit and you can classify this museum mission a success.
National Postal Museum
Were you planning to skip this one, too? While the postal service may not seem like the most exciting thing to learn about on vacation, the National Postal Museum is another local favorite.
Little truck-lovers will adore the museum’s collection of mail trucks, trains and planes. Burgeoning stamp collectors will ogle screens displaying more than 50 oversized stamps. And everyone can try their hand at creating their own stamp designs.
The National Building Museum
Also located off the National Mall, the National Building Museum might feel like something you can skip in favor of real war planes or the Declaration of Independence.
But locals will tell you that this museum, dedicated to architecture, engineering and design, is one of the district’s most kid-friendly hot spots.
The museum’s Building Zone, on the main level, is a well-stocked playroom for the littlest museum-goers, offering LEGO, construction trucks, a doll house and a life-sized “green” playhouse.
Admission to the zone is timed, and you may have to wait a bit before entering, but the area just outside its doors is often scattered with large blocks to keep everyone entertained.
You may even have trouble convincing the kids to enter when it’s your turn!
For older ones, PLAY WORK BUILD on the museum’s second floor is an interactive building experience with blocks large and small, model structures and a digital screen designed to draw out all of your creative design ideas.
Committing your family to a museum tour can feel a bit risky, but at Mount Vernon, the variety of tours make it undeniably the way to go.
Do your kids like puppies? The All the President’s Pup Tours not only features the first president’s dogs, but also introduces visitors to the estate’s current canine residents.
How about movies? The National Treasure Tour goes behind the scenes of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.” And if all else fails, head for the river and take the Sightseeing Cruise.