Washington, D.C.

Take our word for it: the scene in D.C. has never been so exciting. Once limited to fine dining, museums/monuments and bureaucrats, it’s now bursting with concept restaurants, craft brewers, serious coffee nerds, pop-up cultural events and even new museums.

Do hit up the educational offerings such as the museums and the zoo. They’re free. They offer high quality exhibits. They have kids programs. They are among the best in the world. Once you feel like a good parent, don’t miss out on the straight up pleasurable eating and drinking experiences the city has to offer.

Setting up family base camp: Capitol Hill

family travel DC

Image: Mark Trimble

Named by Thomas Jefferson, Capitol Hill began with boarding houses for members of congress. These days it’s a dynamic and diverse community of Hill power players, young families, seniors and more.


Capitol Hill, both Southeast and Northeast is in walking distance (or turbo speed metro distance) from the museums and galleries on the National Mall.

Architecture and parks

It’s a really, really pretty hood to stroll in. The colorful row houses come in all styles depending on when they were built. You’ll find 19th century manor houses, federal style townhouses, small frame dwellings, ornate Italianate bracketed houses and the late 19th century brick rowhouses with whimsical decorative elements all side by side. If you’re an architecture geek you can read up on it in the Register of National Historic Places.

It’s got a high density of parks with good playgrounds. The best two for picnics and romping are Marion Park and Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park has more shade.


In terms of eating, you’re set up with some of D.C.’s coolest new restaurants and coffee shops. Special mentions for Rose’s Luxury, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Peregrine Espresso, Pitango Gelato and Sona (Cheese) Creamery  and Wine Bar.


There are organic grocery stores on Barrack’s Row, as well as food/crafts markets at Eastern Market. While these are awesome, especially the weekday farmers market, you’re also in striking distance of D.C.’s most exciting new food venture: Union Market.

Skip the tourist crowds at Eastern Market and explore this newly revitalized space with multiple vendors (produce, bread, meat, fish), restaurants and food-themed events. It was Capitol Hill’s historic marketplace.

Finally, there’s even a kids’ boutique, Dawn Price Baby, with charming, eco-friendly clothing collections, toys, and D.C.-themed children’s books.

The Capitol Hill Historic District is bounded by Virginia Ave., SE.; S. Capitol, 2nd Street and and F Sts., NE.; and 14th Sts., SE & NE. Most of the buildings are private residences and not open to the public. Metro stops: Union Station, E. Capitol, and Eastern Market.

Field trip 1: Exploring the museums on the National Mall + family dinner on Capitol Hill

family travel dc

Image: Roberto Garcia

There are many museums to choose from. Our kids are 0-3 so we look for really hands on activities and striking visuals as opposed to scavenger hunts designed for the 6 and  over crowd.

Our favorite museums in D.C. for kids are the National Museum of Natural History, the Building Museum and the National Art Gallery. We give a special shout out to Air and Space, The National Museum of the American Indian, and Smithsonian Museum of American History.

National Museum of Natural History

family travel dc

Image: National Museum of Natural History

The start of childhood knowledge is curiosity about the natural world. Small folk learn by poking it and observing what happens.  In Natural History, they can channel this curiosity into remarkable opportunities, from dinosaurs to ocean life and butterfly rainforests.

Begin at the life-size African bush elephant in the at the 4-storey Beaux-Arts rotunda. After you pick tiny jaws up off the floor, our top exhibit pick is  “The Last American Dinosaurs,” with an all-star cast including T-rex and Triceratops fossils. You can learn about dinosaurs’ diet and environment by observing the differences in their bones, check out T-rex poop and talk about potty training, as well as learn hands-on how scientist unearth them.

Another family favourite is the Butterfly Pavilion, where your small folk get to enter a tropical garden and get up close to exotic species of  butterflies, as they flit around your head. This requires tickets (except Tuesdays), and is totally worth it. Reserve in advance.

Don’t miss the living coral reef in Ocean Hall.

The stroller accessible entrance to the National Museum of Natural History is located on the Constitution Avenue side of the building. The Museum is located at the intersection of 10th Street and Constitution Ave., NW



More coming soon. Lead image: Violet Yume

About author

Small Folk Travel

Small Folk Travel is a family travel site by mama and travel writer Taraneh Jerven. The Jerven family (two toddlers, one bun in the oven) travels incessantly. When researching our trips, we couldn't find the family travel coverage we were looking for. We did our own research. We wrote the family travel guides ourselves. Taraneh Jerven writes for international travel publishers including RoughGuides.com and DK Eyewitness Travel. We cover good stuff for discerning parents and their little ones. Often these overlap. If they don't, we take turns.

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