Best Family Fun in Washington DC, Maryland & Virginia

The Capital Region is a great place for everyone in the family. There are kid-friendly museums, zoos, theme parks and fun activities ideal for every generation — any season of the year. Find year-round family-friendly holiday ideas and attractions in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. 

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Play Outside

Beautiful scenery and lots of exciting things to do make for unlimited family-friendly adventure in Virginia’s great outdoors. The Discovery Ridge Adventure Center at Wintergreen Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains offers thrills for the whole family including skiing (of course), a bungee trampoline, zip line, summer tubing, a climbing tower and even a mechanical bull! Primland Resort is an open-air paradise with amenities for the entire family — like paddleboarding, horseback riding, golfing and tomahawk throwing — while theme parks like Williamsburg’s Busch Gardens or Richmond's Kings Dominion offer acres of entertainment for the entire family.

When it comes to getting outside, there are plenty of fun family things to do in Maryland. Venture to Kent Island and cycle the Cross Island Trail for inspiring views of the Chesapeake Bay. At 5 miles (8 km) long with points of interest throughout, it’s an easy family ride. Across the bay in Annapolis, Sandy Point State Park offers swimming, hiking, fishing and boating. Meanwhile, at Assateague Island National Seashore, wild ponies frolic in the tides.

And kid-friendly DC is waiting to delight with hop-on, hop-off narrated tours on open-top buses, along with Segway and bike tours. How many kids can say they’ve ridden on a mule-driven barge? Yours can if you take the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal boat ride departing from the Great Falls Tavern Visitors Center. Don’t miss the National Zoo (it’s free!) where the whole family will grin ear-to-ear at the sight of exotic animals, educational demonstrations and the zoo’s famous giant pandas.

Step Back in Time

There’s no shortage of historical places and artefacts in the Capital Region. In Maryland, learn about the history and culture of the Chesapeake Bay region at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. Or, visit Baltimore’s National Great Blacks in Wax Museum — one of the only wax museums in the country dedicated to the preservation of African American history.

Explore life as an early American colonist at Jamestown Settlement. Tour a recreation of a Powhatan Indian village, the James Fort and ships that transported the colonists to Virginia in 1607. Go further back in time at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, where everyone in the family will find thrills in dinosaur skeletons and watching scientists work in their labs.

The extensive collection of Washington, DC’s Smithsonian Institution alone would take weeks to explore. From pterodactyls and First Lady fashions to Gabby Douglas's leotard and the world’s only remaining Sopwith Camel, travel through aeons of history at these 17 museums — for free! You can even have a family adventure at their Smithsonian Sleepovers! Tiptoe into the International Spy Museum to marvel at more than 200 spy gadgets, weapons, cameras and technology. After picking up a few tricks from studying stealthy measures throughout the ages, test your ability to make and break codes.

Learn & Experiment

Looking to sneak in some learning on your Virginia family holiday? Discover four floors of hands-on exhibits designed to inspire creativity and curiosity at Amazement Square in Lynchburg. Paint on the walls, rock out on stage or create a rainstorm over the city. Harrisonburg’s Explore More Discovery Museum encourages kids aged 2–11 years to learn through play. Everyone will have fun exploring exhibits like the Science Lab, TV Studio and the Imagination Playground.  

High on the list of family things to do in Maryland is a visit to Hagerstown’s Discovery Station. LEGO robotics teach kids coding skills, while an astrophysicist takes you on a journey through the objects scientists find in space. View one of the world’s largest model railroads complete with miniature villages, mountains, a circus and even an erupting volcano at the Roads and Rails Museum in Frederick.

The National Building Museum in Washington, DC features a Building Zone where kids can drive a bulldozer, build a house and learn how engineers construct architectural wonders. And explorers of all ages will have a blast at the National Geographic Museum.

What's better than family fun? FREE family fun! Check out this handy list of our 15 favourite free things to do in the Capital Region.