Our Washington, D.C. metropolitan area has lots of exciting museums and attractions waiting for us to explore, but due to hectic work and family schedules, we may not always have the time or opportunity to go. One cool way to get us to venture out is when out-of-town relatives visit. When extended family comes to see us, we get to see our beautiful cultural and diverse area come alive through the eyes of others, playing tourist in D.C. and the metro area!
Here is a sampling of some great places to take visiting relatives. Mix indoor explorations with outdoor attractions where sometimes-antsy kids can stretch their legs and use their outside voices.
Planet Word Museum – Washington, D.C.
Operational for only a little over a year, Planet Word has quickly become the city’s hottest ticket to fun with language, words and vocabulary in ways that make you stop and think. Featuring interactive exhibits and plenty of surprises and engaging pictures, sounds and objects spread out throughout three floors, Planet Word is ideal for all ages. Look for the advertising space, the wall of jokes, a clever opportunity to sing karaoke and educational opportunities to learn tidbits about many foreign languages. Planet Word is open from Wednesday through Monday. Admission is free, but reserved passes are required.
Glen Echo Park – Glen Echo, Md.
Glen Echo is a charming park with 131 years of history as a former amusement park, now serving as the hub of artistic and cultural projects. Spread out on an expansive campus, the park features a restored carousel and shows and classes offered by 13 resident artist groups, including Adventure Theatre MTC, the Glen Echo Park Aquarium, the Washington Revels theater arts organization, and SilverWorks art studio and gallery featuring the work of artist Blair Anderson, among several others. Classes and performances vary per artist group.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center – Chantilly, Va.
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, one of the 17 museums that comprise the Smithsonian Institution, offers three levels of exhibits on aviation and space. Museumgoers will be thrilled to see NASA’s space shuttle orbiter once used to conduct space missions, the Space Shuttle Discovery and the first operational supersonic airliner, the Concorde, Fox Alpha, Air France. The museum also features an observation tower, a restoration hangar and an IMAX theater.
National Children’s Museum – Washington, D.C.
This STEAM-focused, hands-on museum and science center is the perfect place for the kiddos in your group of sightseers to blow off steam while both playing and learning. They can climb into the clouds with a three-story climber and slide, explore the intersection of art and technology with familiar friends and activities from Nickelodeon, wiggle and giggle in the Dance Party Pod, learn about science through sports and more. There’s even a dedicated Little Movers free movement space for infants and toddlers to build motor skills.
Huntley Meadows Park – Alexandria, Va.
Nestled in a Fairfax County suburb is a 2.2-square mile expanse covering more than 1,500 acres of natural habitat consisting of walkable forest and open wetland areas. Featuring a curved wooden boardwalk that winds throughout the park, Huntley Meadows is home to a beautiful variety of birds, mammals and reptiles including the barred owl, beavers, turtles and a bevy of flying insects. Visitors can learn more information at the visitor’s center and are encouraged to observe the seasonal changes to the wetlands through sight and not touch.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial – Washington, D.C.
At this impressive memorial honoring the prominent civil rights leader’s legacy, learn about the man himself and the world he lived in and changed for the better. There are quotes from King throughout the memorial that provide an opportunity to stop, reflect and talk as a family about the lasting impact of his ideas, words and actions.
National Zoo – Washington, D.C.
Also a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo is located in the heart of Rock Creek Park and according to the zoo’s website is home to close to 1,800 animals representing more than 360 species. With its staunch commitment to animal conservation, the National Zoo has been caring for giant pandas for 50 years, giving zoogoers once-in-a-lifetime glimpses into their life, habitat and feeding and mating rituals. Timed entry passes are free and required for admission.
Lincoln Memorial – Washington, D.C.
Neither kids nor adults can help being impressed by the massive statue of the seated President Abraham Lincoln in a memorial inspired by the Parthenon. Stand with your visiting crew and read the engravings of the Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address, two of Lincoln’s greatest speeches; and stare at murals depicting his greatest accomplishments as president. May 30, 2022 is the 100th anniversary of this iconic memorial to the 16th president of the United States; visit the website to learn about in-person as well as virtual activities commemorating the anniversary both at this and other sites around D.C.
U.S. National Arboretum – Washington, D.C.
Are the kids ready to do some outdoor sightseeing and running around? Explore 446 acres of spectacular gardens. Visiting kiddos can look for their home state in the National Grove of State Trees. And little tourists will marvel at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, where the horticultural masterpieces seem sized just for them. Be sure to call or email ahead to set a time to visit the one-acre Washington Youth Garden, dedicated to teaching children horticultural skills and environmental awareness, as well as life skills such as team building and personal responsibility.
Personalize the Experience
Your visitors may have specific landmarks in mind that hold particular meaning for them. Perhaps they want to honor and remember a family member who bravely served in the U.S. Armed Forces in a particular war, or family members who perished during the Holocaust. Maybe they want to understand how their parents lived through a critical moment or era in America’s history, like the Depression. Think the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or the National World War II Memorial, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial or Arlington National Cemetery, just for starters.
Playing the Tourist is Fun!
The best part about having relatives visit is seeing the city through their eyes and being able to share all the iconic places to have fun and learn interesting new things, while staying connected with our beautiful area! No matter where you decide to go, be sure to call or visit online ahead to verify operating schedules and any COVID-19 protocols in place.
Parent Input Please
Each month we have a parenting-inspired question that we ask parents on Facebook.com/washingtonparent. Then we share them with you the following month!
This month’s question: What is your family’s favorite place in the Washington, D.C. Metro area to take your visiting relatives?