Weekend Away

Washington, D.C. With Tweens

washington DC | family travel

My family last visited Washington D.C. three years ago, when my Gilmore Girls were a bit younger, and we fell in love with our nation’s capital. Now that the girls are older, we wanted to revisit D.C. and do things that they would enjoy at 12- and 9-years old, aka tweens.

Tweens (or pre-teens as we called it in our day) can be tough to please. They’re too young for “little kid stuff” and skeptical about anything educational. Fortunately, D.C. is full of places that get a vote of approval from kids in this slightly finicky age group.

Where to Stay

washington dc family travel | kimpton hotel monaco

The Kimpton Hotel Monaco scores major points for its location in the bustling Penn Quarter area of Downtown D.C. This boutique hotel has a fabulous location across the street from the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum,  and down the street from the International Spy Museum and the Verizon Center, not to mention it’s in the midst of shopping and great restaurants (a fantastic local coffee shop —Bakers & Barista — is right on the corner). It’s also only a 10-15 minute walk to the National Mall, The White House, and most of the Smithsonian museums.

washington DC family travel | kimpton monaco

If that’s not enough, Kimpton Hotel Monaco is sophisticated, swanky, and located in a historic Post Office building that is a Registered National Landmark. We loved the perks, such as plush zebra striped robes, yoga mats in each room, and free cocktail hour every night. My girls loved that it’s a pet friendly hotel (they even have a Director of Pet Relation on staff!) and they got to meet lots of cute pups.


What to Do

International Spy Museum

Washington DC family travel |International Spy Museum

The minute you enter the International Spy Museum, the espionage begins. You’re given a mission. A secret mission….You start off watching a film about spies and get instructions on what you’re in for on your mission. Next, you go into a room with a wall of different identities and are asked to choose one and memorize it in a short period of time. Finally, you’re on your way through the museum.

International Spy Museum features the largest collection of espionage artifacts ever placed on public display. Fans of the 007 movies, The Americans television show, or really any spy movie in general, will love this place. Kids will love learning how to crack codes, use secret listening devices, and crawl through the duct work in the building to listen to other visitors below.

washington DC family travel | International Spy Museum

Make your trip even more exciting by joining Operation Spy. The one-hour live action spy adventure for anyone ages 12 and up. Note: This is an additional cost.

International Spy Museum
800 F Street, NW , Washington, DC
Cost: Adults $21.95 or $28.95 Combo / Kids (ages 7-11) $14.95 / Under 6 free. Purchase advance tickets here


Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and  Smithsonian American Art Museum

Washington DC family travel | Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum

These two museums share space in a National Historic Landmark building- each collection has its own side, but you can walk freely through both on each of its three floors.

national portrait gallery | alexander hamilton
What’s your name man? Alexander Hamilton!

The National Portrait Gallery highlights famous Americans whose lives form our national identity. From presidents to poets, musicians to activists, you’ll leave felling truly inspired and patriotic.

The American Art Museum is the nation’s first collection of American art and includes photography, modern folk and self-taught art, African American art, Latino art, and even video games — a hit with the tween crowd.

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
8th and F Streets NW, Washington, DC
11:30 am- 7 pm daily
Free admission

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and F Streets NW, Washington, DC
11:30 am- 7 pm daily
Free admission


National Museum of American History

Washington DC | american history museum

On our last visit, the National Museum of American History was a big hit for all, so we decided to go again to see some favorites, like the hat President Abraham Lincoln wore at Ford’s Theater the night he was killed; the Star-Spangled Banner—the flag that inspired the national anthem; a section of the lunch counter from the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth; Dorothy’s ruby slippers; and the chairs Archie and Edith Bunker sat in All in the Family.

Happily, there were some new exhibits and the new Draper Spark!Lab, an interactive space where kids can be inventors, that we enjoyed on our second visit.

Other museums and places that are sure to please tweens:

  1. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: Great collection by Modern masters and a beautiful sculpture garden
  2. Newseum: A seven-level  interactive museum of news and journalism. Newseum is not part of Smithsonian, so admission will cost you over $20 for adults and $13 for kids ages 7 and older.
  3. Ford’s Theater Museum: A working theater, historical monument, world-class museum and learning center. Admission is free, but you need to get tickets in order to get in.



Where to Eat

washington DC family travel | Pi PIzzeria

If you stay in the Penn Quarter area, you can walk to dozens of great family-friendly restaurants. There’s Carmine’s, Shack Shack, Rosa Mexicana, Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, Jaleo, and Hill Country BBQ Market all in a few blocks. The place that was the biggest hit with the entire family was the District of Pi Pizzeria:

washington dc family travel | district of pi pizzeria

District of Pi PizzeriaSeriously amazing thin crust and deep dish cornmeal crust pizza. Add in a great selection of craft beers, dangerously delicious cocktails, and decadent desserts, and we all were saying we wished we had a Pi Pizzeria in our hometown. It scored bonus points with our math and pizza loving 12-year-old. Don’t miss it when you visit D.C.

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