Washington D.C. is a duty station unlike any other. There’s culture, there’s history, there’s all kinds of food, and there are probably enough museums and monuments to see something new every time you go into the city!

There are many military bases in the greater Washington, D. C. area. Whether you are stationed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, or at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, visiting Washington D.D. is an easy day trip. If you’re wondering, “Where is the Pentagon located?” You might be surprised to learn it’s actually in Northern Virginia, not downtown D.C. Instead of googling “Things to do in Washington DC with kids,” check out these exciting ideas for military families.

Things to do in Washington DC with kids (or not)

1. TAKE A TWILIGHT TOUR OF THE MONUMENTS

Most of your out-of-town visitors will ask to visit the monuments. There is no city in the world quite like Washington D. C. with its wide variety of dedications. From the enormity of the Lincoln Memorial to the solemnity of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, the monuments are a sight to be seen. But visiting these symbols of America at twilight is a whole new adventure! Not only do the night lights make each monument more dramatic, but visiting at night means smaller crowds and better parking spots too. Spend an evening exploring these iconic buildings and statues.

2. HEAR AN ORAL ARGUMENT IN THE SUPREME COURT

Beginning the first Monday in October, the Court hears two one-hour arguments on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, beginning at 10 a.m. Arguments are held in two-week intervals through late April. There are longer breaks over the holidays in December and again in February.

Oral arguments are open to the public. Limited seating means first to come, first seated. Before a session begins, two lines form on the plaza in front of the building. The first line is for those who wish to attend an entire argument.  The second line, referred to as the three-minute line, is for those who want to observe the Court in session only briefly. Seating for the first argument begins at 9:30 a.m. Seating for the three-minute line starts at 10 a.m. Some cases attract large crowds, with lines forming before the building opens, so arrive early.

(Please note that all public visits have been suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions, but you can check the Supreme Court Visitor’s page to see when the building will reopen.)

3. SEE SCANDALOUS HISTORY UP CLOSE

Enjoy a tasty steak dinner at the French-American restaurant, Kingbird, in the historic Watergate Hotel. This hotel was the site of the Watergate scandal, where in 1972 administrators of the Nixon campaign broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters located in the Watergate hotel. After the administration repeatedly tried to cover up their involvement, President Nixon was eventually impeached and resigned. After your meal, head to the roof to enjoy a beautiful 360-degree view of the Potomac River and the DC skyline. The Top of the Gate rooftop bar and lounge are a perfect way to end a romantic evening.

4. “TOTO, WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE!”

There is a museum on nearly every block downtown, especially around the National Mall. One thing that sets D.C. museums apart is that the Smithsonian museums are FREE! The National Museum of American History has a collection of miscellaneous Americana to include social, cultural, political, scientific, and military displays. The actual Star-Spangled Banner, Abe Lincoln’s top hat, Julia Child’s kitchen, Archie Bunker’s chair, inaugural dresses worn by first ladies, and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the movie “The Wizard of Oz” are some of the more notable items.

The Smithsonian museums have now re-opened and are accepting visitors! Check the individual museum websites for health and mask guidelines.

5. The Space Window

Washington’s National Cathedral is the 6th largest gothic cathedral in the world, but it is unlike any church you’ll see in Europe. The church celebrates Biblical moments, prominent American leaders, and playful artwork–such as the Darth Vader gargoyle. Its most unique feature may be the Space Window. Five years after making history in 1969 as the first men to set foot on the moon, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins presented the Washington National Cathedral with a small memento–a moon rock embedded in a stained glass window. The window that would house the moon rock was a specially commissioned stained glass creation depicting stars and orbiting planets inspired by photos taken from the Apollo 11 mission. The rock, estimated to be around 3.6 billion years old, is encased in a small, air-tight, nitrogen-filled capsule to prevent deterioration. It is placed at the center of a planet in the upper half of the window which is located on the south side of the cathedral.

(The Cathedral will open to public tours during summer 2021, so call or check their website for health protocols.)

6. THE BREWMASTER’S CASTLE

The Christian Heurich Brewing Company closed down in the 1950’s, but the house is more than 100 years old. The elaborate Victorian home, which is a national landmark,  features stone arches and a tall tower. A monthly beer tasting called “History and Hops,” where visitors can have a beer while taking tours of the house, is one of the regularly scheduled public beer events.

(During COVID, the museum and house have been closed to the public, but the gardens remain open.)

7. NATIONAL BUILDING MUSEUM

This museum, housed in a beautiful building on F Street NW, is known for its unique exhibitions. Past exhibits include a Lego display of small-scale, detailed replicas of famous buildings, and a Play Work Build Zone area enabling children to construct their own monuments with soft blocks. The museum has reopened, but is selling limited tickets and designated time slots for the children’s area. 

8. VISIT THE WHITE HOUSE

It is literally the most famous house in the country. And with some advance planning, it is open for touring! Requests must be made through a member of Congress and can be submitted up to six months in advance and no less than 21 days before your visit. Self-guided tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, excluding federal holidays. Tours fill up quickly so submit your tour request as early as possible. Free White House tours are filled on a first-come, first served basis.

The White House is open, but masks are required and tickets are limited, so check health protocols before your visit.

9. Albert Einstein Bronze Statue

It’s not the famed Rocky statue or the Lincoln Memorial, but the Albert Einstein Bronze statue is fun just the same. Located across the street from the National Mall, near the Vietnam Memorial, this beloved statue was unveiled in 1979 to celebrate the 100th birthday of Albert Einstein. Reportedly, if you stand exactly in the middle of the star chart, face Albert, and speak, there is a neat echo effect.

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Carla Olivo has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel and their two children.