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Erin Gifford

Ashburn, Virginia

MY KIDS

My Travel Style

I like to travel with my children a few times a year, and sometimes I like to split them up to get one-on-one or two-on-one time with my kids to enjoy age-appropriate experiences for them. I like to try to take them out of the country once a year to check out different landscapes and cultures.

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The National Children's Museum

151 St. George Blvd., Oxon Hill, Maryland

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  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
Visited: 2014-01-01 | Submitted: 2014-01-07 14:33:52.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5) and big kids (6-8)

A Perfect Museum for Toddlers & Preschoolers

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The National Children’s Museum is a great place to take little ones who may not be as interested in some of the Smithsonian museums, like the National Museum of Natural History. NCM has lots of fun, interactive exhibits, like a play fire truck, shipping yard and a pizzeria. Kids can even get into character with costumes. The special Sesame Street-themed area is ideal for toddlers with plenty of structures to climb and textures to explore.

Tips for Families

You will need a car to get there, but make a day of it by exploring the restaurants and shops at National Harbor. Also, take a water taxi across the way to spend some time in Old Town Alexandria.

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Mount Vernon Estate

3200 Mt.Vernon Memorial Pkwy, Alexandria, Virginia

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  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: 2012-11-01 | Submitted: 2014-01-07 10:44:26.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5), big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

Lots of Interactive Activities for Small Children

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After a 20-minute video highlighting key moments from George Washington’s life, we headed out onto the property with our “Adventure Map of Mountain Vernon.” The kids loved this and it was such a fun, interactive way to explore the grounds of Mount Vernon. We also paid $6 for the audio tour, which included 20+ stops just for kids, which was nice. The mansion was beautiful too. Little ones will enjoy the Hands-On History Center where they can dress up and play with dolls.

Tips for Families

Look out for the “National Treasure Tour” and book this one online well in advance. I’ve been dying to check this out, which offers a behind the scenes look at where areas where the second movie was filmed, but it always sells out.

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Newseum

555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, District of Columbia

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  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: 2013-12-01 | Submitted: 2013-12-30 15:26:56.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

A Must-Do in DC

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I love, love the Newseum. It’s a fantastic museum that teaches about the history of news that is both interactive and fun. They have a lot of great permanent exhibits, like the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery and the 9/11 Gallery, which features front pages from around the world on September 12, 2001 with the first newspaper coverage of the terror attacks. I was also there recently to see the new Anchorman exhibit. Lots of fun. Loved all the props on display (Sex Panther cologne!), as well as learning about the newsmaking environment in the 1970s. Kids will also love sitting at the news desk and reporting weather from the weather map.

Tips for Families

Don't miss the touch-screens that teach what it's like to be a photographer or reporter. Also, make sure to take your turn at the Newseum TV news desk upstairs. Lots of fun.

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National Building Museum

401 F St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia

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  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
Visited: 2012-03-01 | Submitted: 2013-12-26 15:09:16.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5) and big kids (6-8)

Lots to Do for Free, Including Family Festivals

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We love the National Building Museum. I took the kids in March for the National Cherry Blossom Festival and there were so many fun activity stations for the kids, as well as musical performances. We also went at a later time and loved the LEGO exhibit. Now they have a hands-on Building Zone that’s perfect for teaching little ones about how to build. The museum is huge and they often have family festivals that they list on their website. They’re free, so they’re definitely worth tracking down.

Tips for Families

If you drive to the museum, get the free Parkmobile app for your smartphone. It will save you a lot of hassle when feeding the meters.

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National Air And Space Museum | Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

14390 Air & Space Museum Pkwy, Chantilly, Virginia

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  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
Visited: 2012-05-01 | Submitted: 2013-12-26 15:00:13.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5) and big kids (6-8)

A Great Place to Learn About Space & Flight

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While this museum is 30-40 minutes outside Washington, DC, it’s worth the trip if you have the time. Inside you’ll find full-size planes, even the Space Shuttle Discovery. The museum has a variety of interactive activities and events throughout the year. They even have story times so the littlest ones in your clan can learn more about space and flight. Look for a flight simulator and IMAX movies too. You can even watch planes come in from the observation tower.

Tips for Families

Parking is steep ($15), so make sure to pile into one car if you go for a visit.

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The Dupont Circle Hotel Washington D.C.

1500 New Hampshire Ave Nw, Washington, District of Columbia

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KID-FRIENDLY AMENITIES

  • Rollaway beds available
  • Kids stay free
  • Smoke-free property
  • Pet friendly
  • On-site restaurant(s)
  • Refrigerator in room
  • Cribs (infant beds) available


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  • Tweens (9-12)

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Visited: 2012-05-01 | Submitted: 2013-12-26 14:53:28.0 | I traveled with tweens (9-12)

Away from the Museums, But Lots to Do

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In a city packed full of history and museums, it was nice to stay just a bit away from all the tourists. The Dupont Circle Hotel is right in the heart of Dupont Circle and you’ll find lots of shopping and restaurants. Plus, it’s a short walk from the DC Improv, National Geographic Museum and Embassy Row. In the spring and summer, many people are out in the circle reading, playing chess and soaking in the sun next to the fountain. It was a nice break.

Tips for Families

The Dupont Circle Hotel is a very short walk to the red line of the Metro, so it takes just minutes to get up to the National Zoo (red line) or over to the Smithsonian museums (orange line).

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National Air And Space Museum

601 Independence Ave SW, Washington, District of Columbia

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  • Big kids (6-8)
Visited: 2011-05-01 | Submitted: 2013-12-26 14:40:34.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8)

Get There Early to Avoid the Crowds

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This is one of the most popular museums in Washington, DC, if not the most popular museum, so expect crowds and make this your first or last stop of the day. My kids loved the planes, satellites and space shuttles, and it was nice that there were so many interactive exhibits to teach the principles of flight. Plus, the IMAX movies were fantastic, and we always love a good planetarium show. You may want to purchase tickets ahead of time to avoid lines for the shows.

Tips for Families

Go early or late to avoid the crowds. Hours are extended during the summer, so check the website so you can do your best to not bump elbows with every other tourist at the museum.

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National Museum of Natural History

10th St & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, District of Columbia

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Average user rating (23 Reviews)

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  • Big kids (6-8)
Visited: 2011-05-01 | Submitted: 2013-12-26 14:34:04.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8)

Lots of Exhibits to See for Free (+ IMAX Movies)

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When you walk in the museum, you can’t help but be bowled over by the huge elephant standing in the center of the room. Then you look up and there are several floors of exhibits, everything from mammals and dinosaurs to the earth and the moon. They also have a not-to-be-missed gems and minerals exhibit featuring the Hope Diamond. You’ll find lots of IMAX movies and even a Butterfly Pavilion that’s free of charge on Tuesdays.

Tips for Families

The National Museum of Natural History is a stone’s throw from the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of the American Indian, so it’s easy to make a day of two or three of these museums. Plus, don’t forget to take a ride on the Smithsonian Carousel.

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Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum

1001 F St NW, Washington, District of Columbia

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Average user rating (14 Reviews)

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  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
Visited: 2011-07-01 | Submitted: 2013-12-26 13:16:41.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5) and big kids (6-8)

Overpriced, But the Wax Presidents are Interesting

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I’ll be honest, Madame Tussauds is over-priced. The museum is not very big and you’ll be in and out in less than an hour. We liked the wax figures of all 44 U.S. presidents. There were also interactive activities in the presidential area, which was nice, as well as fun facts about each one. Otherwise, the museum was filled with wax images of popular celebrities, like Tiger Woods and Julia Roberts. It’s nice to take a break from all the history in DC, but Madame Tussauds is really just okay at best.

Tips for Families

Save your money and go to the Crime Museum or International Spy Museum instead. Both are within a block of Madame Tussauds.

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National Museum of the American Indian

Fourth St & Independence Ave SW, Washington, District of Columbia

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Average user rating (18 Reviews)

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  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
Visited: 2011-05-01 | Submitted: 2013-12-26 13:05:24.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5) and big kids (6-8)

Good for Expanding on Classroom Learning

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My second-grade daughter was studying various American Indian tribes at the time of our visit, so the National Museum of the American Indian was a must-stop for us. Make sure to watch the 13-minute “Who We Are” movie in the Lelawi Theater. It kept the attention of the kids, which is always key. There are also several guided tours that set out throughout the day. The information desk has a free family activity guide, which is good for small children.

Tips for Families

There are very few non-food truck places to eat nearby, particularly on the Independence Avenue side of the building. Avoid the museum café. While the menu is Native American-inspired, the food is over-priced (e.g., $4.95 for a cup of buffalo chili).

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