Family Vacation in Washington, D.C.

Why Every Family With Teens Should Have Washington, D.C. on their Vacation List

It’s all about a learning experience in the midst of an incredible city when vacationing in Washington D.C. with teens. I know many school groups take kids to visit the nation’s capital, but every family should experience it together, too. Not only is Washington D.C. one of the most affordable cities to visit, but you can really pack a lot into just a few days. Public transportation is easy to navigate and the city is compact enough to get around. With great food, great shopping, and great sites everyone has something to look forward to. A family vacation in Washington, D.C. is one the whole family will remember.

Washington D.C. National Capital

When to Travel to Washington D.C. with Your Teens

Having visited Washington D.C. in each of the seasons, I can make the case for any of them. In winter, over the holidays, there are special exhibits to see without the crowds. In spring, the cherry blossoms are such an incredible display and well worth wading through the crowds. The summer, although it can get hot, you can step into museums to cool off (for free!). In fall the weather cools, but the school groups pick up. The bottom line-it’s always a good season to travel to Washington D.C. with your teens.

How to Travel to Washington D.C.

There are three airports available to the D.C. area, Reagan, Dulles, and Baltimore. For many, an East coast road trip is always an option, too. If you plan to stay within the district you won’t need a car as walking and public transportation will get you everywhere. It should come as no surprise that traffic can be a bear in the greater D.C. area, so having a car can become irritating. However, if you plan to do a few activities outside the district you may want to have one available.

Where to Stay in Washington D.C. During Your Family Vacation

First you need to decide if you will stay within walking distance of the top tourist sites OR if you will save some money and stay further away with excellent access to public transportation. This is just a matter of personal preference. I will break up this section into those two contexts with a few suggestions in each.

Stay Inside the District with your Teens

  • AKA White House: Excellent for families and just 1.2 miles from the National Mall and the White House. A modern aesthetic with spacious rooms and extra amenities like laundry service and extra help with restaurant deliveries. Located near Orange, Silver, and Red Metro stops.
  • Embassy Suites/Convention Center: An all-suites, family friendly hotel with free breakfast located near Green, Red, and Yellow Metro stops.
  • Hampton Inn & Suites/Naval Yard: Steps away from the baseball stadium and a Green line metro stop, and just a mile from the National Mall. Free breakfast included.
  • Willard Intercontinental: Luxury hotel in the heart of the district and close to everything a first time tourist would want to see.
  • Mandarin Oriental: Located within walking distance of the monuments, a luxury spa available and rooms with water views. This would be an excellent choice during cherry blossom season.

Stay Outside the District with Teens

  • Hyatt Regency or DoubleTree in Tyson’s Corner: both located near a Silver line Metro stop, shopping and airport access.
  • Hyatt Centric Arlington: located within walking distance of an Orange and Silver line Metro stop.
  • Hilton Alexandria Old Town: if you are looking for shopping and a less touristy vibe Old Town may be a great base. Located near a Yellow Metro stop and a Starbucks in the lobby!
  • Omni Shoreham: a family friendly hotel located very close to the National Zoo and steps away from a Red line Metro stop. Fun fact-we have stayed here and while we were there President and First Lady Obama stopped in causing quite a stir!

Washington D.C. Museums/Monuments

Jefferson Memorial lit up at night with reflection in the tidal pool

We have been to Washington D.C. so many times that I have lost track, but one thing we always do is visit one or two tourist highlights. One incredible thing about a Washington D.C. family vacation is that much of what you will do is FREE. The Smithsonian hosts museums of art, history, culture, and science that have no entry fees. They are great for families who have teenagers with a variety of interests and limited attention spans. On the other hand, you could do a deep dive and spend an entire day inside one museum.

There are a few museums that work well for teenagers that may not translate for younger kids. Consider the International Spy Museum and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, although obviously different in scope. All monuments are free to the public and bring an incredible history lesson to anyone who visits. We love the nighttime monuments tour for a fun perspective, perfect for teens!

Sporting Events Great For a Family Vacation in D.C.

No matter the season you are visiting, the vibrant sports community in the D.C. metro area is always ready to entertain. In the fall you can visit FedEx Field to watch football or to RFK Stadium to catch a professional soccer match with DC United. In the winter months head over to the Capital One Arena to watch the Washington Wizards play basketball or the Washington Capitals play ice hockey. For spring and summer months you won’t want to miss the Washington Nationals play baseball at Nationals Park. Watching live sporting events adds another element to a family vacation.

Washington D.C. Family Foodie Scene

Teenage girl under Chinatown arch in Washington D.C. at night

Because the city is the very definition of a melting pot you can find ANY flavor or cuisine you could possibly imagine. There are hundreds of excellent restaurants ranging from a hole in the wall to luxury dining experiences. We have loved taking our teens to Washington D.C. on a vacation because they can explore so many types of foods. Check out this list of restaurants to get you started. If your teens are foodies, we would highly encourage a food tour. Stop by Eastern Market for a local market experience, beyond the buzzy tourism.

Other Notable Experiences for Teens in D.C.

Kennedy Center of Performing Arts is not only an amazing place to witness a capital sunset, but it’s one of the top arts centers for booking amazing features. The African American History Tour is highly regarded and a perfect way to engage your kids in connecting history with current day social issues. Creatives will love the Maggie O’Neill Art studio, which highlights pop impressionist pieces. Go on a hunt for murals located across the city and wander the many neighborhoods of the city.

Outdoor Activities for Your Family Vacation in Washington D.C.

Stone bridge in Rock Creek Park, Washington D.C.

For another city perspective try a D.C. Duck tour or a City Cruise and get out on the waterways. There are a wide variety of walking, segway, and biking tours to see the monuments and historical sites around the city. Another popular tour is the photography safari, which is great for teens who love the creative space. If you want to experience nature close to the city, make your way to Rock Creek Park. Arlington National Cemetery and Mount Vernon are a must for every family, rich in history but also rich in beauty. The Yards Park is a great spot in summer to cool off a bit.

Shopping with Teens in Washington D.C.

If you are traveling with a gaggle of teenage girls who love to shop til they drop, there will be no shortage of locations to do so. Georgetown and Dupont Circle are two areas that appeal to younger crowds. Both of these areas area filled with boutique clothing, funky bookstores, and gift shops. Within Georgetown is a design district called Cady’s Alley with shops for lighting, furniture, household goods and more. Old Town Alexandria has a host of unique shops perfect for a special gift or piece of artwork. Pentagon City offers a typical large mall experience with over 150 stores.

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