Washington D.C., the children’s capital
Beyond the big decisions, recent political developments and gravitas of the Capitol and the White House, Washington has a whole world of hidden adventures for children to explore. We suggest the best things for families to do in the US capital, where you can travel for 42,500 Avios (return trip).
1 International Spy Museum
Opened in 2002 and renovated in 2019, the International Spy Museum is a sensational stop for any visitor to Washington D.C., but it can become an unforgettable adventure if you take the kids. With a collection of more than 7,000 artefacts – including the ice-pick that killed Trotsky and an Enigma machine – and an interactive design, the museum offers a tour of the history of espionage from classical antiquity to the Cold War. The most entertaining part of the tour is its immersive experience, which let visitors take on a covert identity to assess their abilities as secret agents. It’s less than half an hour from the Capitol and purchasing tickets well in advance is recommended.
2 Smithsonian National Zoological Park
The Smithsonian National Zoological Park is not only one of the most famous zoos in the United States, but also one of the country’s oldest. It is part of the famous Smithsonian Institute, the largest academic and museum institution managed by the US government. The facilities are home to some 2,100 animals from hundreds of different species, including impressive ones such as lions, American bison and alligators to ‘cute’ ones, such as kangaroos, Pallas’s cats and others, along with alpacas, cows and donkeys located in an area specially designed for children to enjoy: the Kids’ Farm. The zoo is located northwest of the city. Although entry passes are free, it is best to book them in advance as the same-day passes available on site are limited.
3 United States Botanic Garden
Located right in the Capitol complex, the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) was founded in 1820. It boasts some 26,000 different plants, both indoors and out. The Children’s Garden is open from spring to autumn. Here, kids can immerse themselves in the universe of plants in a space designed just for them. They can use child-sized tools and the plants they will explore are small, so they can plant, water and enjoy them in their own Botanic Garden, which includes a structure that imitates the architecture of the complex’s largest building, the Conservatory. Admission is free and opening times are usually quite flexible.
4 Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park – a 7km-plus urban park established by an Act of Congress in 1890 – is a short 15-minute drive from the National Mall. It was the third national park created in the US. Inside, families can escape the bustle of the capital thanks to an endless number of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in Rock Creek Park, ranging from hiking one of its 52km of trails to horseback riding, golf and tennis. There are also kid-focused indoor ideas, including activities at the Rock Creek Planetarium or a visit to Pierce Mill, which is more than 200 years old.
5 Hillwood Estate
Thanks to her love of Russian Imperial art, Marjorie Merriweather Post – one of the best-known American businesswomen and philanthropists of the 20th century – created a collection of 17,000 objects that can be visited today at her Hillwood Estate mansion. Inside are curiosities such as a portrait of Catherine the Great and two Fabergé eggs, along with Cartier jewellery and the wedding crown of Empress Alexandra. There’s an audio guide created for children between the ages of 8 and 12 that tells the stories of the pieces using the voices of characters from Russian history. Hillwood Estate is located very near to Rock Creek Park and is equally perfect for those who wish to take in art and culture and those who want to enjoy nature in within European-inspired gardens.
6 National Building Museum
The National Building Museum is just ten minutes by foot from the National Mall. It is a fascinating place for families to enjoy the marvels of engineering and architecture. The most striking feature of this museum is its Corinthian columns; their diameter of 2.4m and 23m height make them some of the largest in the world. The Play Work Build exhibition is designed for children. Here, kids can not only visit the museum’s toy collection – whose oldest pieces date back to 1860 – but also play, creating small constructions or totally remodelling the space. Purchasing tickets in advance is also recommended.