Welcome to America’s Front Yard, Washington DC. The Nation’s Capital Has Much To Offer All Discerning Teenagers From All Walks Of Life!
Guest Post by Kate Howard. Edited by Family Globetrotters.
Kate is a mother and wife who loves visiting DC. As a long time resident in Washington DC, Kate enjoys helping people plan their family DC trip and finding the best ways to save money with her website: www.hotelsneardcmetro.com
When one thinks of visiting the USA, Washington DC is perhaps not on everyone’s top 5 destinations. With rivaling destinations like New York City, LA, Miami and Hawaii, It’s easy to push DC down the list of places to visit. But the Nation’s Capital is a little melting post of things to do for teenagers. In fact, there are so many different activities to do in DC that it can be a little overwhelming. From educational to active, it can cater to everyone in the family but the trick is you need to know where to look. So to take advantage of everything DC has to offer, here are 15 attractions and activities your independent teen will love.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #1
Scavenger Hunt. Viator offers an online scavenger hunt tour for $15 that will take you to major DC sights and monuments by unravelling clues and riddles. With smartphones perpetually glued to their hip pockets, this is the perfect excuse for your teenager to use their devices as they test their knowledge.
Your kids can display their problem-solving skills and team up with their parents, or for a little more fun make teams pitting parents vs. teens or teen and parent vs. teen and parent! See who wins while you explore the National Mall, monuments, and historic DC areas to find out who can decipher the clues faster. You could also make it more interesting by betting something simple like who gets to choose dinner or deciding the next DC activity. The treasure hunt is a 3-mile walk and there’s no time limit, so you can take your time solving the clues and grab some lunch or explore the area during your search. Don’t forget to bring a charger or your portable power bank.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #2
Hop on a Bike. Nowadays, DC has a multitude of bike rental stations. If your teen likes cycling, get a day-long bike rental for $8 and take advantage of the main trails and paths. Keep it easy by biking throughout the National Mall or enjoy the scenic trails along the Potomac River. DC is very bike friendly, and biking over the Key Bridge can take you into Arlington which opens up more places to explore. During the spring, take a loop through the monuments and see the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossom trees throughout the park and along the water for an awesome photo opportunity. The picturesque views are rewarding and it’s a great activity to work up an appetite.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #3
Eastern Market. Eastern Market is a large indoor and outdoor farmers market with an impressive amount of specialty foods and talented chefs serving up their unique culinary delights. If you have a teenager with a sweet tooth, make sure you check out Ma’ Brown’s, whom locals consider a master baker. She is renowned for her chocolate covered cake and incredible pies! Or if you’re in the mood for something savory, try Puddin’ for good ol’ Southern comfort food. Po Boys and gumbo are always a great combination.
On Sundays, The Eastern Market also showcases craft artists selling their creations outside. It is also transformed into a mini arts festival with live music as you peruse handmade paintings, crafts, jewellery and more!
WASHINGTON DC TIP #4
Baseball. For all baseball loving families, take a trip to the neighbourhood of Navy Yard and catch a Washington Nationals game at Nationals Park. Tickets to the game are affordable and Navy Yard is easily accessible by the green line on the Metro. The atmosphere at the game is awesome with tons of fans coming in all over to watch some baseball. It can get crowded but ultimately it’s worth it for a fun daytime or night time activity.
Before going in for the game, come in a little earlier to explore the surrounding area. It offers an amazing array of food; I highly recommend trying TaKorean for delicious korean tacos whilst you can enjoy strolling in the beautiful parks overlooking the river.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #5
Water Activities. The Potomac River is the fourth largest river along the Atlantic coast and the 21st largest in the United States. It runs over 383 miles from Fairfax Stone, West Virginia to Point Lookout, Maryland and drains 14,670 square miles of land area from four states and Washington DC. There are quite a few major waterfront communities branching out from the river but my favourite is Georgetown. Georgetown is one of DC’s most interesting places to shop and dine and one of the many gateways to popular water activities.
Through Boating DC, you can paddle for an hour or for the whole day and they provide you with life jackets, paddles, cushions and some safety basics. Perhaps the most common paddling that is undertaken is kayaking or canoeing but they do have an interesting array of other activities. You could get on a pedal boat for 4, a swan boat for a good laugh, sailing if have good coordination, hydro biking for a good work out and of course paddle boarding if you have excellent balance. This makes for good wholesome fun for the entire family.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #6
Shopping. For all the shopaholic teenagers out there, head down to Tyson’s corner. The area is easy to get to by metro and there are two malls called the Tyson’s Corner Galleria and Tyson’s Corner Center. The galleria is more upscale with expensive brands and the center is massive with over 300 stores. For the kids that are simply too kool for school, you’ll find stores that you wouldn’t typically find in a regular mall. There are many specialized brands opening their signature store here, including electronics.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #7
Mansion on O Street. According to founder H.H. Leonards Spero, the Mansion on O Street in the Dupont Circle historic district of Washington D.C.is a way of life, not a business. The Mansion may be considered to be a small private luxury hotel and club, conference center, and museum, where they combine art, architecture, literature and inspiration to craft an exhilarating, entertaining experience.
With the mantra of “Everything is possible. Dare to be different”. The Mansion is certainly an absolute must on any family’s itinerary. This would appeal to teenagers with eccentric and avant garde tastes, those who have an affliction for art and culture and definitely for anyone who may love a little secrecy and mystery.
The Mansion is a big building of over 100 spaces filled with interesting art, collectables, priceless ornaments and antiques. It is also home to over 70 infamous secret doors and passageways that come in the form of false walls, portraits and bookcases which would make the experience all the more exciting. Don’t forget to check out the museum.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #8
Newseum. The Newseum will really appeal to teens who have an interest in journalism. This interactive museum is a great experience and has tons of interesting exhibits on print, photography, history, journalism, politics and freedom of speech. This museum has various exhibits detailing the difficult challenges of journalism, momentous occasions in history, a wall dedicated to journalists who passed away due to their work and more. It’s a solid reminder of the importance of accurate and dedicated reporting of the truth.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #9
National Spy Museum. If your teenager is a big James Bond and espionage fan, the National Spy Museum is worth a visit. Located in the Chinatown area of DC, the National Spy Museum is a widely popular attraction for all ages.
The museum reveals the history and changes in espionage, both as a practice and a culture. Learn about previous spies and the difficult missions they were involved in, and see the interesting technology they used to gather information. You’ll see cool gadgets like the first mini camera, Bond’s spy car and famous spies throughout history. Amongst other exhibits, you can also partake in spy activities in different sections of the museum. Just don’t blow your cover!
WASHINGTON DC TIP #10
Library of Congress. For all book lovers, a visit to the Library of Congress is a must. The building is beautiful and the library itself is breathtaking with millions of rare and common books lining the shelves. This is actually the largest library in the world for both shelf space and books. Here, aside from a great photo opportunity, you’ll also be able to see many historical documents and literature throughout the United State’s history. You can find this building by the Capitol Building at the eastern end of the National Mall.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #11
Holocaust Memorial Museum. This is a sombre but incredibly poignant place to visit. It is a great opportunity for your teen to learn about the Holocaust and WWII. They can learn about the challenges and the travesties of the Holocaust, and the effect it has had to people persecuted by the Nazi regime. It’s important to impart this greater message of confronting hatred and promoting human dignity whilst being able to also pay their respects. Understandably we all have different beliefs, religions and cultures but we felt that this was an important addition to be made to the list.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #12
Georgetown. Georgetown is a great area to explore with your teenagers. It offers tons of great shopping with a mix of high end brands and boutiques, as well as a plethora of food options (the famous DC Cupcakes can be found in Georgetown). For our American friends, if your teen is getting ready to look at colleges, Georgetown University is located on the western portion of Georgetown and has an amazing campus to tour. For great picture opportunities take a walk along the C&O Canal.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #13
Zoo. Does one ever really outgrow a good zoo? A visit to the Smithsonian Institute’s National Zoo in Woodley Park may just be on the cards. The zoo is free to the public and houses over 1800 animals across 300 different species, including the ever-popular giant panda family of three and the young cheetah cubs. As entry is on the house, it can get a little crowded so do try and get here early.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #14
Arlington Cemetary. Teens who like history, anything to do with the military and prominent historical figures will be fascinated and humbled by visiting Arlington Cemetery. This military protected cemetery is the burial site of many influential and brave people who died in the line of duty. The cemetery has over 4,000 graves, including John F. Kennedy’s and his wife. Other attractions include the changing of the guards and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated to soldiers who couldn’t be identified. The cemetery is also a popular location for a long walk to enjoy the many different species of trees and the scenic views.
WASHINGTON DC TIP #15
Smithsonian Museums. As part of the world renowned Smithsonian Institution which is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, the Smithsonian Museums must form part of your sightseeing agenda. No trip to DC would be complete without seeing these free museums.
Most of these museums are in the National Mall, but there’s also the Udvar-Hazy museum, an extension of the Air and Space Museum located near Dulles Airport. As for the National Mall, the most notable museums are the Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History and the American Art Museum. The Smithsonian museums have a wide range of specializations that will appeal to your teen’s interests, whether it’s science, history, politics, engineering or art.
Washington, DC is a wonderful city to visit in the United States, and the vast number of activities and attractions can provide a full day of fun. No matter what interests your teen may have, DC can deliver something engaging and fulfilling.
Do you have any other activities or attractions to add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!
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