Washington DC is one of the best places to visit with kids, and this summer we plan to do it often! Now that my kids are older (6, 6 and 8), they're easier to take out for the day–no more double stroller, no more diapers, and a lot more stamina–so we plan to tackle a bunch of local sites. I'll share how we make each day trip frugal and fun.
This time, we went into Washington DC to see the Memorials that are the west-most section of the National Mall. I found a great trick to avoid the crowds on the Metro and the museum parts of town. If you come north into the city, you can exit into West Potomac Park, which runs along the Tidal Basin on the south side. There are three FREE parking lots there, and then you just walk along the Potomac River towards the memorials. We've never been to the Tidal Basin during Cherry Blossom season, so I pointed out that all these trees were pink back in March (we had odd weather this year). Now they're still pretty, just green.
As you're walking along the Potomac River, you get an amazing view of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial across the water. We even saw this family of ducks taking a morning nap! All the while, there were planes taking off overhead from Reagan Airport, just to the south. The kids thought it was cool to see the undersides of the planes and read them (they were that close!). There were also military and White House helicopters flying low. There are many spots to sit on benches or rocks and watch the boats go by, or you could even pack a picnic. My kids spied kayaks and motorboats of all sizes.
We made it to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Roosevelt, and Lincoln Memorials plus all the walking before we our kids ran out of steam. We plan to go back another time and see the Jefferson Memorial, now that we know where to park.
Another tip–any time of year, there are bus loads of tourists, and it can be intimidating to parents with small children, whether they're in a stroller or not. I avoid this by going VERY early in the morning. We try to arrive by 8:00am at the latest. You also get the coolest part of the day, and it can be dreadfully hot out on the white marble of the Lincoln Memorial.
There's a snack bar near the base of the Lincoln Memorial, but if you pack your own snacks and drinks, this is a completely FREE outing with kids.