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Loaded with historical sites and fun museums connected by wide boulevards and parks, Washington DC is a favorite family destination. Visiting sites like the White House and the Capitol Building brings history books to life for kids. We took a family vacation to Washington DC over Fourth of July, and I have to say, although it was very hot, being in our nation’s capital on Independence Day brought patriotism to a whole new level. And, outside the fireworks show, there were lots of fun things to do with kids. Here’s what we did along with some other fun ideas.

DSCF0069The kids loved touring the United States Capitol Building. On the tour, we visited the original congressional hall where the kids learned the history of our government and imagined senate sessions, the Rotunda, Statuary Hall and more. The kids were especially impressed by the soaring Rotunda and the paintings, some of which they remembered from their history books at home. They also liked hearing the stories of who the statues were and what each person did to help shape the U.S. As they had been to Hawaii just a few months earlier, they loved spotting the statue of King Kamehameha.

DSCF0066We visited on a holiday, so our congressional representatives were not around. But, if you are visiting on a weekday, call or email your Senator or Representative as far ahead of time as possible. They can help you arrange a tour and will sometimes take time to meet you and show you their offices. Be sure to ask for gallery passes as well so you can see Congress in action. Just down Constitution Ave, the kids loved reading the actual Declaration of Independence and learning about our country’s founding at the National Archives.

Stroll down a few blocks to the White House where you can join a tour. It’s also fun to stand out front and watch people. Our kids were feeling politically passionate, so they made protest signs to hold up. It showed them that their voices do count. They also met a lady who has been protesting for decades…sleeping in a tent in front of the White House.

DSCF0097The 19 museums of the Smithsonian Institution offer something for everyone. It’s fun to let each member of the family pick one to visit. Our kids loved learning about the Wright Brothers and aviation history and checking out the Apollo 11 command module and touching a moon rock at the Air and Space Museum. I thought the American History Museum, which houses artifacts like Washington’s uniform and Jefferson’s desk was an iconic piece our country’s capital. Other cool family museums at the Smithsonian include African Art Museum, American Indian Museum, Natural History Museum, the National Zoo and the Postal Museum.

Take a break in your day and relax by the reflecting pools on the National mall as you soak in the sun (except in summer when it is too hot to be in the sun) and the views of the Washington Monument. Or take a cruise down the Potomac River where you can see sites such as the Kennedy Center and the Jefferson Memorial. For more adventurous families, rent kayaks in Georgetown and paddle along the Potomac.

Other fun activities and museums include:

– See money being printed at the Bureau of Engraving & Printing

– Be James Bond for a day at the International Spy Museum

– Get spooked on a ghost tour in Old Town Alexandria

– Learn about how news is delivered to your TV at the fabulously interactive Newseum

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