• Hanging out at the National Zoo: Make faces at the cute giant pandas; listen to the mighty lion’s roar; laugh at the playful monkeys; watch an elephant exercise; ride the solar-powered carousel. The National Zoo is essentially one big (163 acres!), family-friendly park, offering the chance to observe some 1,500 animals at play (or snoozing or eating).

  • Ice Skating at the National Gallery: The pool in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden turns into an ice-skating rink in winter. Rent some skates and twirl around on the ice, admiring sculptures as you go. Treat yourself to hot chocolate at the Pavilion Café in the garden. 

  • Paddling Your Way Around the Tidal Basin: Rent a paddle boat for four people and skim the surface of the Tidal Basin for an hour. You’ll still be sightseeing as you pedal away, in full view of the Washington Monument on the Mall, the Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr., memorials bordering the Basin, and, should you be here during cherry blossom season, the blooming cherry trees encircling the Tidal Basin. 

  • Riding a Roller Coaster, Piloting a Jet, and Sundry Other Fun Times: Relax, parents. The Smithsonian has you covered. Check out the institution’s calendar of events (www.si.edu/events/calendar#/) on any given day, and you will see a range of activities taking place morning 'til night at each of the city’s 17 museums and the zoo. Animal feedings, 3D movies, story times, age-appropriate and hands-on science/history/art activities, even sleepovers. Or you could just head to either of the two museums that offer amusement-park-like rides in simulator machines. At the National Air and Space Museum, kids can take simulated rides—inside a jet aircraft, a vintage airplane, or a spacecraft exploring the Milky Way—or experience piloting a combat plane. At the National Museum of American History, your simulated adventures feel real in futuristic, high-speed racecar and roller-coaster machines. Note: Height requirements and fees apply. 


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.