One of my favorite recent weekend getaways was a day trip to Washington DC. We spent only six hours in DC, but we stayed busy there! I had heard that the city is expensive to visit, but many activities were affordable. If you are going on a Washington DC day trip, you can find plenty to do on a budget. 

4 Things Children Will Enjoy Doing On A Budget-Friendly Day Trip To Washington DC 

Whether your children are old enough to appreciate all that Washington DC offers or are simply tagging along with you, you can find many fun things to do. In the nation’s capital, children will marvel over the interesting museums and memorials that seem straight out of a history book. Not only are many activities free, but they are also one-of-a-kind experiences that you can’t find anywhere else. 

Visit Museums And Art Galleries

First, if you are going on a day trip to Washington DC, you can get free admission to all Smithsonian Museums. Not only are the museums an inexpensive activity, but they are also fascinating to explore! With most museums having open hours from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., you could spend all day exploring the different museums.

Our first place to visit was the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History. To see everything on the three floors of the museum, you could spend hours here! We enjoyed seeing the life-size replicas of animals. 

At the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History, you can see life-size replicas of wild animals!

At the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History, you can see life-size replicas of wild animals!

Another interesting exhibit was the Bone Hall. My daughter was very interested in this anatomy exhibit. From apes to sea creatures, you can see many animals. For an interactive experience, download the Skin & Bones app. You can scan a code in front of each animal exhibit to see the skeletons come to life.

Download the Skin & Bones app when you visit the Bone Hall at the National Museum of Natural History for a unique, interactive experience.

Download the Skin & Bones app when you visit the Bone Hall at the National Museum of Natural History for a unique, interactive experience.

Next, stop by the National Gallery of Art. We were lucky to find parking directly in front of the building, although you had to re-fill the parking meter every two hours. The incredible thing about the National Gallery of Art is that at no cost, you can see some of the most well known works of art in the world.

At the National Gallery of Art, see masterpieces, such as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edward Degas.

At the National Gallery of Art, see masterpieces, such as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edward Degas.

We enjoyed the current Della Robbia sculpture exhibit as well as many highlights of the current collection. Much of the art was religious and appropriate for children to see. My daughter was impressed by the talent and hard work that went into making the art.

Eat At The Food Trucks At The National Mall 

Although Washington DC is known for its incredible food, you can get good kid-friendly meals on the go at food trucks. At the National Mall, food trucks line the road. From organic chicken tenders to ice cream, you can find food that children love. You can also find many different types of foods to please the whole family. Whether you grab a park bench or have a picnic on the lawn, children will enjoy the experience, and you won’t have to worry about taking your children out to a nice restaurant.

You can grab a quick, budget-friendly meal with children in Washington DC at the food trucks at the National Mall!

You can grab a quick, budget-friendly meal with children in Washington DC at the food trucks at the National Mall!

After eating lunch at the food trucks, we had dinner at Cuba Libre, which was more expensive, but it had a great ambiance and delicious food. If you’re visiting Washington DC for the day, you have many incredible options for dining. 

See The Sunset From The Lincoln Memorial

Before getting back in the car to head home, see the sunset from the Lincoln Memorial. As the sky changes colors, it lights up the Washington Monument. With the reflection lighting up the water, the view is incredible.

Since my daughter has read about Abraham Lincoln, she enjoyed seeing his memorial. From the impressive statue to the thought-provoking words on the wall, she gained memories she’ll have forever.

When children learn about history in school, they appreciate having connections to the material they study. With a day trip to Washington DC, children can better understand the significance of the first presidents who helped build our country.

Do A Self-Guided Driving Tour For Your Children

Finally, before you drive home you should drive around the major sites one last time. Check out all of the monuments, even if you can’t get up close to them. This is a good way to think about where you would want to visit next time.

Since my daughter has read so much about the White House, it was her goal to see it. We didn’t have time to schedule a visit in advance, but we were able to briefly drive by before heading home. 

Have you had a fun, inexpensive day trip to Washington DC with children? Share your ideas of place to go in the comments!

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Theresa has been writing since 2010 in magazines and online. Her lifestyle and parenting expertise has been featured in publications, including ShopSmart and Scholastic. She earned an M.Ed in Elementary Education from Vanderbilt as well as a BA in History from Flagler College, and she is a certified teacher.

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