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As a parent, I constantly think of activities to fill long summer days. While I can't fill every moment with something exciting, I appreciate that DC has so much to offer.
One of the best parts about living close to downtown is the accessibility to countless activities that can turn any summer day from boring to exciting.
Here at Mom 'n Dad Co, we strive to make life easier for parents looking to entertain their kids, especially when school is out for summer. So, here's our list of the top things to do as a family in DC this summer.
Catch a Nats Baseball Game
Summer and baseball go together like peanut butter and jelly, Sonny and Cher, Thelma & Louise, you get the picture. The Washington Nationals play from spring through fall along the Anacostia River, adjacent to the Navy Yard.
I also love that there is so much to do around the stadium, so you can make a day of it. For example, you can eat at one of the many restaurants nearby or walk along the river.
You can drive to Nats stadium, but the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metro on the Green Line is about a block away, and the Capitol South Metro Station is less than a mile away.
Since games can bring thousands of visitors to the metro, ensure you allow yourself plenty of time. It’s another reason to make a day of it and get there with time to spare. Finally, if you can’t handle the heat of the summer, check out Enchant Christmas, when Nats stadium turns into a winter wonderland.
Visit the Museums and Monuments
Growing up, my grandfather had a tradition of taking my brothers and me to museums and monuments. Regardless of how many times we had seen them, he always beamed with pride as he told us the history of each one.
So, when my kids are looking for something to do, I always suggest catching the metro to visit downtown. Visiting the museums and monuments is one of the best free activities you can do during the summer, minus the cost of the metro.
If you plan on visiting the museums and monuments with kids, ensure you wear comfortable shoes, bring snacks and water, and give yourself plenty of time to visit each place. It also doesn’t hurt to lower your expectations when traveling with younger kiddos.
Some of my favorite places to visit with kids are:
- National Air & Space Museum
- National Children’s Museum
- International Spy Museum
- National Museum of Natural History
- Washington Monument
- Lincoln Memorial
- Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
Spend July 4th on the National Mall
The fireworks over the National Mall are iconic and should be on everyone’s bucket list this summer. While little kids might not appreciate the late night and loud fireworks, big kids will love the excitement and watching the sky light up.
You can see the fireworks from various spots, but they launch from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and the Iwo Jima Memorial are two popular spots to watch the fireworks.
Typically, they set off right after 9 pm, so you want to ensure you have your viewing spot before then. Also, expect road closures, so be prepared before you go.
In addition, you don’t want to miss the National Independence Day Parade, which includes giant balloons, floats, military units, drum corps, and much more.
Watch an Outdoor Movie
There’s something about watching a movie under the stars that screams summertime. Thankfully, there are several places to catch an outdoor movie after the sun goes down.
Here's an overview of several spots you can catch an outdoor movie this summer:
- Adams Morgan Movie Nights
- Cinematery - (This one is probably best for older kids)
- DowntownDC Summer Flicks
- Drive-in at Union Market
- Films at the Stone
- Library of Congress
- Sunset Cinema at The Wharf
It's always best to check individual sites before going to ensure the weather hasn't put a damper on movie night. In addition, you'll want to check the schedule for family-friendly movie nights.
Finally, remember to bring snacks and drinks to keep your little ones content during the movie. However, most venues don't allow alcohol, so it's best to check before you go.
Stay Cool at a Splash Park
I grew up in Miami, but DC rivals South Florida with its heat and humidity. So, there is no better way to beat the heat with little ones in the summer than at an area splash park.
Splash parks are a great, free way to cool off on a hot summer day; my kids love them. Here are a few popular splash parks to check out in DC:
You can check out a complete list of spray parks in DC by visiting the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Before you go, remember a towel and change of clothes, so you can do extra sightseeing after your kids get their splash on. I also recommend packing lunch and snacks so you don’t have to worry about finding a place to eat.
Wander Through Georgetown
I love the Georgetown area and find it to be one of the best ways to fill a summer day. Georgetown is full of fabulous places to eat and shop and offers a beautiful walk along the cobblestone sidewalks.
You can also check out the beautiful campus of Georgetown University, which sits near the Potomac River. In addition, no visit is complete without a stop at Georgetown Cupcake, which was made popular by the TLC television series DC Cupcakes.
Georgetown also hosts Sunset Cinema in the summer, where you can watch a movie under the stars.
Bike Ride Throughout the City
Another great activity to do this summer as a family is to bike ride throughout DC Most areas are flat and ideal for bike riding, so little legs will have an easier time. In addition, you'll find bike lanes and trails that are safe for riding.
Don't forget the helmets at home!
Paddleboat on the Potomac River
You can paddleboat, kayak, or canoe down the Potomac River and take in gorgeous DC sites, including the monuments, the Georgetown Riverfront, and Teddy Roosevelt Island's wildlife.
Boating in DC offers everything you could need for a day on the Potomac, including life jackets, paddles, cushions, and safety instructions. They also have tours, summer camps, sailing classes, and more.
Don't forget to pack your camera for fantastic and breathtaking photos!
Visit the National Zoo
Summer is only complete with a visit to the National Zoo. Free to visitors, the iconic zoo is home to roughly 2000 animals. You must reserve passes ahead of time, and you can also pre-pay for parking online or pay at the zoo.
However, members aren’t required to make reservations, and the Premier Membership pays for itself in three visits if you plan on driving. You also get discounts throughout the park on retail and food, including unlimited rides on the carousel.
While you can take the metro to the zoo, prepare for an uphill walk when leaving, which is not ideal for little legs.
Finally, bring plenty of water, and don’t forget sunscreen because DC summers can get hot. The Squirt Zone on the American Trail is the perfect place to cool off, but ensure you have swimsuits and a change of clothes for the kids.
Check Out a Local Farmers' Market
There are various farmers' markets in DC and the surrounding area, so you can plan on visiting a few throughout the summer. Visiting a farmers' market is a fantastic way to support local farmers and buy fresh produce.
Some of my favorite summer produce items include watermelon, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, strawberries, and raspberries.
Here are a few markets you can visit this summer in DC:
- Columbia Heights Farmers' Market
- 14th & U Farmers' Market
- RFK Stadium Open Air Farmers' Market
- Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market
- Eastern Market
- Capital Harvest on the Plaza
Remember to bring reusable bags to carry your goods home!
Visit the Smithsonian Folklife Festival
The 2023 Smithsonian Folklife Festival takes place June 29-July 4 & July 6-9 at the National Mall. The festival began in 1967 and has featured participants from more than 100 countries and all 50 states.
Visitors to the festival can enjoy craft and game workshops, learn about traditional recipes, sing and dance with participants, and check out chefs from across the world.
Admission to the event is free, including the various concerts throughout the festival. Since parking is limited around the National Mall, it's highly recommended you take the Metro to one of the following stops: L'Enfant Plaza, National Archives, or Federal Triangle.
The festival hours are 11 am - 5:30 pm, with evening concerts beginning around 6 pm.
Grab a Tasty Meal During DC Restaurant Week
Every summer, restaurants throughout DC participate in Restaurant Week, offering deals on their delicious foods. Past restaurants have included 1789, All Purpose, Alta Strada, Bresca, Michele's, Moon Rabbit, Passionfish, Sushi Taro, and many others.
Most participants have lunch, brunch, and dinner deals, with some only offering dinner. While some restaurants are more geared for a date night, several are family-friendly and are the perfect way to complete your visit downtown.
Listen to Outdoor Music
I thoroughly enjoy listening to music outside during the summer with my family. It's also a great way to socialize with friends and get out in the city. Since not all music is appropriate for children, I gathered several family-friendly music options for the summer.
- Jazz in the Garden
- Concert on the Avenue Series
- Friday Night Concerts at Yards Park
- Rock the Dock Concerts at the Wharf
Take a Tour Around DC
When you've checked nearly every box off your summer bucket list, then acting like a tourist for the day is always a good idea. There are several tour groups to check out, so you won't have difficulty finding one that fits your family's needs.
Here's a rundown on a few of the best tours of DC:
I enjoy the hop-on/hop-off tours because it allows everyone to take a break and have a seat for a bit while still touring DC.
Visit Historic Mt. Vernon
This summer, you can visit Mt. Vernon, the historic home of America's first president, George Washington. The grounds are open 365 days a year from 9 am - 5 pm, and admission is $28 (ages 12+), $15 (ages 6-11), and free for ages 5 and under.
Your admission ticket provides you with access to the farm, Tomb, trails, historic area, outbuildings, gardens, Education Center exhibits, and The Shop at Mt. Vernon.
On weekends, from April to October, you can also take a tour of the Distillery and Gristmill. Kids will love watching the water wheel at the Gristmill, and adults can enjoy a whiskey tasting at the Distillery.
It's highly recommended you reserve your tickets online, ensuring admittance.
There is no shortage of family summer activities in DC, but it's wise to have a plan before you head out. Some of my best childhood memories were spent on the National Mall with my family, and I look forward to creating the same with my children.
At Mom 'n Dad Co, we want to hear from you! Let us know what you plan on doing this summer with your family in DC.
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