Washington DC City Guide – What to do, see, eat, and visit on a trip to Washington DC with children. Museums, attractions, and plenty of things to do.
I get a lot of questions about what to do, see, and most importantly eat when visiting DC. Now that we have said goodbye after living there for two years, I feel like I can answer this with some credibility. We have done a lot in our time here, and these are some of my favorites.
(I am thinking about adding city guides as a new feature. Boston and Providence will most likely be next, so if you have spots that I need to visit, send me an email and let me know.)
Most of these are kid-friendly and moderately priced. Remember that we are talking DC, so “moderate” is relative.
Old Town Alexandria – Old Town is adorable and King Street is fun for shopping and a walk. You can take a stroll, have dinner or a drink, and take a walk along the water. We lived in Alexandria and spent most of our time here.
Pizza Paradiso – Not only great pizza, incredible homemade bread, and my favorite salad (mozzarella, olives, thinly shaved red onion, oranges), but the beer list is so big that it is hard to choose. Kid friendly and good for lunch or casual dinner.
Virtue Feed & Grain – Another kid-friendly place that has good burgers, salads, and every entree I have ever had has been delicious. We have been here with the kids and on dates. Always good and a really cute atmosphere. It’s not a bad idea to make a reservation for dinner.
Pop’s Ice Cream – A must stop every time we are in Old Town. So. Many. Flavors. All are made in the store, and worth waiting in line.
Hank’s Oyster Bar – We go to Hank’s at least once a month or more for Sunday brunch or lunch. The kids love this place and it is so cute inside. It looks deceiving from the outside, but there is plenty of room in the back. They have a great burger if you aren’t a seafood lover.
Bittersweet – Great for breakfast or weekend brunch. But even better is in the evening when they serve Mexican food. The chef studied in Mexico City and the food is the real deal. You need to check, I don’t think that they serve it every night.
Kingstowne – We lived in this neighborhood, and there were a few things that will be missed.
Top Golf – Think bowling alley meets driving range meets sports bar. The balls have chips inside and you run them through a tubey thing, and then aim for the colored rings. You get points and it is so much fun. You can eat at your stall or in the restaurant area. Kids and adults both love this place. I had one of the Wes’s birthday parties here and it was one of my favorite parties ever.
House of Dynasty – People brave serious amounts of traffic to eat here. Really delicious Chinese food and tiki drinks. Also very dangerous to live walking distance from. On weekends, it is a good idea to make a reservation. This restaurant is crazy busy, and the take out area is like nothing I have ever seen in my life.
Baytna – I eat here at least once a week, if not more. Think Chipotle-stlye service, but really good Mediterranean food. I get a chicken kabob salad and it is so fresh and more often than not they cook the chicken to order. Every now and again we order fries and dip them into the garlic sauce. You won’t be kissing anyone after, but if you are a garlic lover like we are, it is a must.
Grounded Coffee – I have worked from this coffee shop and written many, many posts while drinking coffee and nibbling on their homemade treats at one of the back tables. My favorite is their soup. I love their lemon chicken soup and chicken peanut.
Around the District – We got into the city as much as we could. There is so much to do and see. I think that everyone should make the trip at least once in their life to visit our nation’s capital. It really makes you feel patriotic and proud to be American.
Baked & Wired – the best cupcakes in a cupcake town. And trust me, I’ve tried All. Of. The. Cupcakes. One of my biggest peeves is to see the line around the block at Georgetown Cupcake when two blocks away is a hidden gem with some of the best baked goods that have ever passed my lips. I think that people are starting to catch on because there has been a line the last few times I have been there, but it goes quickly, and trust me, totally worth it.
Farmers Fishers Bakers – Around the corner from Baked & Wired in Georgetown, Farmers Fishers Bakers has a great weekend brunch. It is a buffet, but they pass things through the restaurant throughout the morning. Fresh from the oven cinnamon rolls, mini shrimp and grits, whatever the chef feels like making. Brunch is serious business here, make a reservation, and make it early.
Union Market – TaKorean and Red Apron Butchery make the trip worthwhile, but there are lots of pop-ups that show up here. You can buy fresh breads, get an ice cream cone, and shop for flowers and produce after lunch.
Oyamel – If you like authentic, upscale Mexican food, you will love Oyamel. Little plates made for sharing, and the best margaritas in town. A fun place for a date night. Oyamel is one of the many great restaurants by Jose Andres here in DC.
Zaytinya – Another from the Jose Andres group, this one focuses on Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese food. Small plates, amazing drinks, and really, really fun.
Sweetgreen – Sweetgreen is a newer chain, in just a few cities, and is a quick salad and juice lunch spot. They use organic and local and I love how creative their salad choices are. But my standby is the Kale Caesar. Thankfully, there are Boston locations. I can still get my fix.
Range – If you are a Top Chef fan, this is a must. Range is a restaurant by Bryan Voltaggio and is different than most restaurants in that it is set up by station. Raw bar, rotisserie, salamari, bakery, and wood fired hearth. It also has the second best bread basket in the world (the first being Commerce in New York City). People make fun of me for ordering chicken when we go out, but I love it, and I really love the one here.
The POV Rooftop Bar at the W – The best views of the capital can be found here. To your left you see the Washington Monument, in front, The White House. A perfect date night drink stop before dinner.
Old Ebbit Grill – This restaurant is a piece of DC history. It is around the corner from the White House and originally opened in 1856. We have eaten here many times, the food is traditional, but good. I like lunch or brunch here. One Thanksgiving, my family was in town and we hung out at the bar for a little bit after walking around the sites. The waiter spoiled our kids at a table and we enjoyed an afternoon beer in peace. I will never forget it. Thank you kind waiter.
Shake Shack – If you ask my kids were their favorite place to go in DC is, they will all immediately say Shake Shack. A lot of times we will go on a Sunday, after a spin around a museum. It is close to the Smithsonian’s. I’m not sure if it is walking close, but there aren’t a lot of options near the museums, so it is worth a short cab ride. Really good burgers, hot dogs, and shakes.
Hill Country Barbecue – It might seem like a weird place to get good BBQ – in the middle of Penn Quarter, but believe me, it is good BBQ. Ordering is a little like an episode of Seinfeld, but it is a fun experience. The sides are delicious (especially the corn pudding) and the PBJ cupcake is a favorite with my boys.
Things to see – If you are bored in DC, it is really your own fault. I feel like we really went out of our way to visit everything, but there are still many things that we did not get to. There are that many.
You could spend at least 3 weeks just in the Smithsonian Museums. They are free, and during the peak seasons, they are really busy. The best times to go are during the winter months. The beauty of living here was that we could go for an hour or two and head home. We didn’t need to rush through or cram as much as we could in.
The National Museum of American History is the one that we visited the most. Julia’s Kitchen is one of my favorite places on the planet. There are so many pieces in here that are priceless American treasures. Every time we went, I found something new.
The Natural History Museum – Dinosaurs and the Hope Diamond. Unfortunately, the fossil exhibits are closed until 2019. But, there are lots of bugs to look at, and my personal favorite, Egypt.
Air and Space is a must. The one in the National Mall is great, but the larger exhibits are too big and are in the Udvar-Hazy Center. If you really want to impress your kids (and your husband) make the trip to the one out by Dulles. Yes, it is a trek, but I promise, worth it. My husband still talks about seeing the Space Shuttle Discovery in person.
The National Gallery of Art was a surprise hit with my kids. They really enjoyed walking around and looking at the collections. I was not expecting them to like it as much as they did. They also have a gelato shop that is a nice rest stop, this is a really big museum.
The International Spy Museum – The is not a free museum, but if you are into spy movies or espionage, you need to visit. I loved this museum, it is amazing to see how high tech we are now as compared to lipstick cameras. You can even climb through the air vents.
Newseum – This is not the most kid-friendly museum because there is a lot of reading involved, but really interesting. You learn about the history of the press and media and how we interact with it today. I particularly liked the JFK exhibit that they had last summer. The pictures were beautiful, but the stories of how they were restored was absolutely fascinating to me. The film was destroyed in the World Trade Center during 9/11. They restored the personal images of JFK and his family during his campaign to the presidency using just the contact sheets.
The Washington Monument – Probably my favorite thing to look at in DC. In fact, I did a personal project about it during our time here. They just reopened it to the public and unfortunately I was not able to get to the top. I suggest getting tickets way in advance, they are sold out for months. You can try for a day of ticket if you get to the box at 7:30am.
The rest of the monuments – Lincoln, MLK, Jefferson, WWII (my husband’s favorite). All of them – you just have to.
A few that I didn’t get to that I wish that I did – Rasika. I love Indian and I have only heard amazing things about this restaurant. DBC, I would have liked to try a doughnut or two. Birch & Barley. Never got to it.
So that’s it. My list of things to do, see, and eat in DC. Feel free to add any favorites in the comments below.