When my kids were younger, I had no problem coming up with FREE activities to do to keep us busy on long summer days. It didn’t take much to entertain them!
Now that they’re tweens (10, 10 & 12), each has their own interests, and it can be a little trickier to find free things to do. But as a frugal mom, it’s my mission!
Whether you're a local or are planning a visit to the area, all of these sites are great for tweens and teens!
20 Free Things to Do in Washington DC with Tweens
- Walk through the Garden Primeval (a reconstructed Jurassic landscape), a tropical rainforest, and the Hawaiian Collection inside the 29,000 square foot conservatory at the United States Botanic Garden, an oasis in the city. Kids 9 and older can do the Junior Botanist program.
- Get your art on! Choose from the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, American Art, African Art, Asian art at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, or the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gallery.
- See the original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives.
- Tour the U.S. Capitol Building any day Monday through Saturday. You can reserve a guided tour online, and be sure to check the list of prohibited items. They also offer some suggested itineraries.
- Hike in Rock Creek Park, attend a ranger-led program, and visit the planetarium.
- Head up to the top of the Washington Monument. Tickets are handed out for free starting at 8:30am, but you need to get in line by 7:00 to get them.
- Hear a courtroom lecture at the Supreme Court, and tour the building on your own. You may also be able to attend a Court Session depending on the calendar.
- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a powerful and meaningful experience. It is recommended for ages 11 and up, so use your judgment. During the summer months, timed passes are required, which are handed out free when the museum opens in the morning.
- Explore history and culture at the National Museum of American History, National Museum of the American Indian, and The National Museum of African American History and Culture Museums.
- Visit the Library of Congress. If you haven’t been before, it’s an amazing building filled with history, architecture, art and of course, books! Tweens will learn a lot about the current job of the Library as well as how it came to be. See my family's review of the Library of Congress.
- Tour the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Elizabethan Theatre. On Saturdays, enjoy free family programming for ages 8-14.
- See a free performance at the Millenium Stage in the Kennedy Center, and take a guided tour of the Hall of States and Hall of Nations.
- Tour the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to see millions of dollars being printed. Tickets are free and are handed out first thing in the morning. Keep in mind that the Bureau is closed on the weekends.
- See the pandas and so much more at The National Zoo. When my family visits, we love watching the orangutans travel overhead on the O Line.
- Take a free guided tour of the Pentagon and visit the Pentagon Memorial. Reservations are required to take a tour, and you must request them 14-90 days before your visit.
- Start at the Welcome Center of Arlington National Cemetery, then observe the Changing of the Guard, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and John F. Kennedy's gravesite.
- Hike the 446-acre National Arboretum, home of the eagles watched by Eagle Cam, and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.
- Explore science at the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum (our favorite exhibit is the Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals).
- Enjoy the peace of Theodore Roosevelt Island. This is one of my family's favorite parks and such a hidden gem in the city.
- Visit the Mall and Memorial Park to see the Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial, FDR Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Korean War Memorial. If you can get your kids up early, use my tips for FREE parking and how to beat the crowds and beat the heat. Alternately, walk the Mall and the Monuments after dark. The lighting makes for a memorable experience!
I'm using this as our Summer Bucket List. It will help fill up our long days in between swim practice and swim meets, and since I do childcare in the summer, it won't cost me more having extra kids on the trip!
And if you can make the trip from DC, here are 21 FREE Things to Do in Philadelphia with your family, courtesy of my friend, Clarissa!