Best Things to Do With Teens in Washington DC: 12 Unforgettable Activities in DC

by Jen
Best Things to Do With Teens in Washington DC
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Discover the best things to do with teenagers in Washington DC in our comprehensive guide. From interactive museums and historic landmarks to outdoor adventures and cultural experiences, we’ve curated a list of activities that will engage and excite teens. Get ready to explore the capital city’s most teen-friendly attractions, ensuring a trip that’s both fun and memorable.

As a parent, you know that traveling with teens is all about finding that sweet spot – activities that are cool enough to keep them engaged, yet enriching enough to feel worthwhile. And guess what? DC has got you covered!

Imagine strolling through the vibrant streets of Georgetown, where trendy shops meet historic charm. Picture your family marveling at the awe-inspiring monuments that light up the night sky, creating memories that will last a lifetime. DC isn’t just a hub of politics; it’s a playground for the curious and adventurous.

From the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian museums, where wonders of science, history, and art come alive, to the thrilling espionage tales at the International Spy Museum, there’s something in DC to ignite the spark in every teen. And let’s not forget the great outdoors – kayaking on the Potomac, hiking through scenic trails, or biking along the iconic National Mall. DC’s blend of urban excitement and natural beauty is unmatched.

But it’s not all about sightseeing. DC’s cultural scene is buzzing with energy – from live music at legendary venues to captivating performances at historic theaters. And for the sports enthusiasts, the city’s vibrant sports culture offers an electrifying atmosphere at every game. Let’s dive into the best things to do in Washington DC with teens and discover why this city, situated on the vibrant East Coast, is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be uncovered!

The top places to visit with teens in Washington DC right now

Best Things to Do With Teens in Washington DC

Exploring Washington DC for teens offers a world of exciting and educational experiences. From iconic museums and historic sites to thrilling outdoor activities, the city caters to the adventurous spirit of young adults. Join us as we uncover the top attractions and hidden gems that make DC a must-visit destination for families with teenagers.

1. Discover the Wonders of the Smithsonian Museums

Dive into a world of discovery at the Smithsonian Museums, a top pick for fun things to do in Washington DC with teens. These museums are not only free but offer a vast array of exhibits that cater to diverse interests. Whether your teen is a budding historian, an aspiring scientist, or an art lover, there’s something here to spark their curiosity.

Start your journey at the National Museum of American History. Here, teens can see the flag that inspired the national anthem and explore exhibits that bring American history to life. Next, head over to the National Air and Space Museum. It’s a haven for those fascinated by flight and space travel. From the Wright Brothers’ plane to the Apollo 11 Command Module, this museum makes science thrilling. Remember, it can get busy, so planning your visit during off-peak hours can make the experience more enjoyable.

Use the Smithsonian’s mobile app to plan your visit. It includes maps, guides, and even self-guided tours, making it easier to navigate the museums and find exhibits that interest your teens. Incorporating a visit to these museums into your list of things to do in Washington DC with teens ensures an educational yet exciting day out.

Exploring National Museum of American History is one of the best things to do with teens in Washington DC.
Discover the National Museum of American History—where teens encounter the inspiring flag and vibrant historical exhibits.

2. Explore Historic Georgetown

Embark on a journey through Georgetown, where history and modern vibes meet. This charming neighborhood is a treasure trove for families, making it one of the top Washington DC activities for teenagers. Stroll along the cobblestone streets, lined with chic boutiques and cozy cafes, perfect for a family day out.

Georgetown’s blend of urban and natural landscapes offers something for everyone. Teens will love the trendy shops on M Street, where fashion and fun finds await. For a touch of nature, wander along the serene C&O Canal, a peaceful escape from the city buzz. Don’t miss the chance to kayak on the Potomac River, offering unique views of DC’s landmarks.

Plan your visit to include both shopping and outdoor activities. Start with the bustling streets and wind down with a relaxing walk or kayak ride. Georgetown’s diverse offerings make it a must-visit for families exploring DC with teens.

Explore Georgetown, a historic-modern haven for families with teens.
Explore Georgetown, a historic-modern haven for families with teens.

3. Uncover Secrets at the International Spy Museum

Embark on a captivating adventure at the International Spy Museum, a unique highlight among Washington DC teenager activities. This museum offers an immersive experience into the life of a spy, making it a hit with teens.

As you enter, the museum draws you into a realm of secret missions and undercover operations. Each exhibit is a blend of history and interactive fun, where teens can engage in spy games and learn about the world’s most famous spies. The museum’s hands-on approach keeps the adventure engaging and educational.

Teens will be thrilled by exhibits like the iconic Aston Martin DB5, famous from the 1964 James Bond film “Goldfinger,” which revolutionized the concept of the spy car. The museum’s mission goes beyond showcasing gadgets. It delves into the successes, failures, and ethical challenges of the intelligence world. Interactive experiences allow teens to engage with the complex realities of espionage, making every visit both educational and exhilarating.

Experience the International Spy Museum, an immersive spy adventure perfect for teens.
Experience the International Spy Museum, an immersive spy adventure perfect for teens.

4. Experience the Thrill of Kayaking on the Potomac

Invite adventure by kayaking on the Potomac River, a refreshing way to see Washington DC from a different perspective. This activity is perfect for families seeking active things to do with a teenager in DC. Glide along the water, paddling past famous landmarks, and enjoy a unique view of the city’s skyline.

Kayaking on the Potomac offers a blend of tranquility and excitement. It’s an opportunity for teens to connect with nature while exploring the city. Whether you’re beginners or seasoned paddlers, the river accommodates all skill levels. Rental services are available, making it easy to gear up and get on the water.

Opt for a guided tour if you’re new to kayaking. It’s a safe and informative way to enjoy the river. Plus, guides often share fascinating stories about the city’s history, adding an educational twist to this fun activity.

Potomac River offers a serene waterway flowing past landmarks and skyline.
Potomac River offers a serene waterway flowing past landmarks and skyline.

5. Cheer on Local Sports Teams

Get into the spirit of the city by attending a thrilling sports event, a must-do for families visiting Washington DC. Whether it’s baseball, soccer, basketball, or hockey, the city’s vibrant sports culture offers an electrifying atmosphere that teens will love.

Catch a game at Nationals Park, where the energy of baseball fans is contagious. Soccer enthusiasts can enjoy a match at Audi Field, home to DC United and Washington Spirit. For basketball and hockey, head to the Capital One Arena to see the Wizards or Capitals in action.

Check the sports schedules in advance and try to secure tickets early, as games can sell out quickly. Incorporating a visit to a sports event into your itinerary adds a lively dimension to your trip. It’s one of the fun things to do with teens in Washington DC, offering a chance to bond over shared excitement and cheer on local teams.

Feel the buzz at Nationals Park during a baseball game with enthusiastic fans.
Feel the buzz at Nationals Park during a baseball game with enthusiastic fans.

6. Stroll Through the Enchanting National Arboretum

Embark on a nature-filled adventure at the National Arboretum, a serene escape in the heart of Washington DC. This sprawling landscape offers a peaceful retreat with its diverse collection of plants and impressive displays, like the historic Capitol Columns.

The Arboretum is a haven for nature lovers and photographers alike. Wander through the Bonsai Exhibit, marvel at the Asian plant collections, and enjoy the vibrant colors of seasonal blooms.

Wear comfortable shoes and bring a camera. The Arboretum is vast, and you’ll want to capture the picturesque scenes. Plan your visit during different seasons to see the changing beauty of the gardens. A visit to the National Arboretum is one of the fun things to do in Washington DC for young adults, offering a blend of outdoor exploration and stunning natural scenery. It’s an ideal spot for those looking to unwind and connect with nature.

Exploring the National Arboretum is one of the best things to do with teens in Washington DC.
Explore the National Arboretum, a nature-filled oasis featuring the historic Capitol Columns.

7. Capture Memories at the Iconic National Mall

Immerse in the heart of American history by visiting the National Mall, a quintessential experience in Washington DC. This expansive park, lined with iconic monuments and museums, offers a journey through the nation’s past and present.

The National Mall is one of the prime places to go in Washington DC with teens. It combines outdoor activity, historical exploration, and stunning views, making it a must-visit for families. Here, teens can connect with history, enjoy the outdoors, and create lasting memories against the backdrop of America’s most famous landmarks.

Start at the Lincoln Memorial, a symbol of unity and hope, and then make your way to the Washington Monument. Along the way, you’ll encounter the Reflecting Pool, a perfect backdrop for memorable photos. Each monument tells a story, making the National Mall not only a place of learning but also of reflection. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water, as exploring the National Mall involves a lot of walking. Early morning or late evening visits offer cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. It’s easy to see why this is among the prettiest spots in DC.

Explore the National Mall, featuring iconic monuments and museums, for a deep dive into American history.
Explore the National Mall, featuring iconic monuments and museums, for a deep dive into American history.

8. Revel in the Excitement of Live Music and Theater

Experience the vibrant cultural scene of DC by diving into its live music and theater offerings. The city’s array of venues, from grand theaters to intimate clubs, provides a rich tapestry of artistic performances that are sure to captivate teens.

For music lovers, the legendary 9:30 Club and The Anthem host a variety of artists, offering an up-close experience with favorite bands. Theater enthusiasts will find Broadway-quality productions at places like the Kennedy Center and Arena Stage, where compelling stories come to life on stage.

Incorporating live entertainment into your visit is a great way to experience Washington DC fun activities. It’s not only entertaining but also enriches your trip with cultural depth and artistic flair. Whether it’s the thrill of a concert or the magic of a play, these experiences are sure to leave lasting impressions on young adults.

Check performance schedules in advance and book tickets early, as popular shows can sell out quickly. Exploring different genres can be a fun way to discover new interests and talents.

Illuminated view of Kennedy Center against a dark sky, showcasing its architectural brilliance.
Illuminated view of Kennedy Center against a dark sky, showcasing its architectural brilliance.

9. Explore the Wonders of Mount Vernon

Step back in time at Mount Vernon, the historic estate of George Washington, located just outside Washington DC. This beautifully preserved landmark offers a glimpse into the life of the first U.S. President and the people who lived and worked on the estate.

Mount Vernon is one of the essential things for young adults to do in DC, offering a mix of history, education, and stunning scenery. The estate includes the iconic mansion, lush gardens, a working farm, and museum exhibits. It’s a place where history feels alive, and every corner tells a story.

Allocate enough time to fully explore the estate, as there’s much to see. The “Enslaved People of Mount Vernon Tour” is particularly insightful, offering a deeper understanding of the estate’s history. Also, check for seasonal events that might be happening during your visit. Visiting Mount Vernon is more than a historical excursion; it’s an immersive experience that connects young adults with America’s past in a tangible and thought-provoking way.

Visit Mount Vernon, a beautifully preserved estate that provides a glimpse into George Washington's life.
Visit Mount Vernon, a beautifully preserved estate that provides a glimpse into George Washington’s life.

10. Navigate the Mysteries of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Engage in a profound educational experience at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, one of the most significant places in Washington DC. This museum presents a powerful and moving tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, offering a deep insight into this tragic chapter of history.

Among the things to do in Washington DC under 21, a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum is essential for its historical and educational value. The exhibits are designed to not only recount the events of the Holocaust but also to encourage reflection on the moral and ethical questions it raises. Teens will gain a deeper understanding of the impact of hatred and the importance of human rights.

Prepare your teens for the emotional intensity of the museum. It’s a place for quiet reflection and learning. Free timed-entry passes are required for some exhibitions, so plan ahead and reserve your spots online.

Explore the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum—a poignant tribute offering deep insights into this tragic history.
Explore the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum—a poignant tribute offering deep insights into this tragic history.

11. Marvel at the Wonders of the National Air and Space Museum

Elevate your DC adventure by visiting the National Air and Space Museum, a place where history and innovation soar. This museum is a treasure trove for those fascinated by aviation and space exploration, making it a must-visit for families and science lovers.

The museum houses iconic exhibits like the Wright Brothers’ airplane, the Apollo 11 Command Module, and a real lunar rock. Teens can immerse themselves in the stories of early flight, space missions, and the future of aerospace. The interactive displays and realistic simulators offer an engaging and educational experience, bringing the thrill of air and space travel to life.

Check out the museum’s planetarium shows and IMAX theater for an enhanced experience. These features offer breathtaking views of the universe and are a big hit with teens. The National Air and Space Museum stands out as one of the top things to do for teens in Washington DC. It’s a place where curiosity takes flight, and the wonders of the universe are just a visit away.

National Air and Space Museum is a soaring hub for aviation and space buffs.
National Air and Space Museum is a soaring hub for aviation and space buffs.

12. Discover the Charm of Old Town Alexandria

Step into a world of colonial charm and modern flair in Old Town Alexandria, a picturesque neighborhood just a short distance from Washington DC. This historic area, known for its well-preserved 18th and 19th-century architecture, offers a delightful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Stroll down the cobblestone streets, explore unique boutiques, and savor delicious meals at cozy cafes and restaurants. The waterfront area provides stunning views of the Potomac River, perfect for a leisurely walk or a scenic boat tour. Teens will enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and the chance to snap Instagram-worthy photos at every turn.

When pondering what to do in Washington DC, a trip to Old Town Alexandria should definitely be on your list. It’s a place where history meets modern-day charm, offering a relaxed yet engaging experience for families with teens. Visit the Torpedo Factory Art Center to see artists at work in their studios. It’s a great opportunity to appreciate local art and maybe even find a one-of-a-kind souvenir.

Exploring Old Town Alexandria is one of the best things to do with teens in Washington DC.
Old Town Alexandria is a charming historic district with preserved 18th and 19th-century architecture.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Things to Do With Teens in DC

Explore our FAQ section for insights on Washington DC activities for teenagers. These questions are posed from travelers like you, offering helpful tips and ideas for a family-friendly adventure in the nation’s capital.

Why should students visit DC?

Washington DC is a fantastic destination for students because it’s a living classroom. It offers a unique blend of history, culture, and politics. Students can see the U.S. government in action, visit iconic monuments, and explore world-class museums. The city’s rich historical narrative, from the founding of the nation to contemporary times, makes it one of the best things to do with teens in Washington DC. It’s an educational and inspiring trip that brings textbook lessons to life.

Is Washington DC a good trip for kids?

Absolutely! Washington DC is not only educational but also incredibly fun for kids. The city is filled with interactive museums like the National Air and Space Museum and the International Spy Museum, which are both engaging and informative. Outdoor activities, such as kayaking on the Potomac or exploring the National Zoo, add to the excitement. There are plenty of things for 18 year olds to do in Washington DC, making it a versatile destination for families.

What are some unique experiences for teens in Washington DC?

For teens looking for something beyond the usual tourist spots, Washington DC offers several unique experiences. They can participate in a mock Congress session at the Capitol, enjoy interactive exhibits at the Newseum, or explore the vibrant street art in neighborhoods like Shaw or Adams Morgan. The city’s diverse culinary scene, including food tours and international restaurants, is also a hit. These experiences provide a deeper, more local perspective of the city.

Can teens visit the monuments and memorials at night?

Visiting the monuments and memorials is among the best things to do in DC at night. The illuminated landmarks, like the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, offer a peaceful and awe-inspiring experience. Night tours are available, providing a safe and informative way to see these iconic structures. It’s a magical experience and definitely one of the best things to do with teens in Washington DC, offering a different perspective of the city’s beauty.

Night view of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Night view of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

What outdoor activities can teens enjoy in Washington DC?

Washington DC is not just about museums and monuments; it also offers a range of outdoor activities. Teens can enjoy biking along the scenic paths of Rock Creek Park, paddle boating in the Tidal Basin, or hiking in the nearby Great Falls Park. During the spring, the Cherry Blossom Festival is a beautiful outdoor event. These activities offer a great way to enjoy the city’s natural beauty and are perfect for active families.

Are there any educational programs specifically for teens in Washington DC?

Yes, Washington DC offers several educational programs tailored for teens. Many museums, like the Smithsonian, offer special workshops and internships. The U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court offer educational tours that provide insights into the American legislative and judicial systems. These programs are not only informative but also engaging, making them a great addition to the list of things for 18 year olds to do in Washington DC.

How can teens explore Washington DC’s cultural scene?

Teens can dive into Washington DC’s cultural scene by visiting the city’s diverse neighborhoods, each offering its own unique vibe. Areas like U Street and H Street NE are known for their live music and theater performances. Art enthusiasts will love the murals in the District’s alleyways and the contemporary art at the Hirshhorn Museum. Exploring these cultural hubs is a fantastic way for teens to experience the city’s vibrant arts scene.

What are some budget-friendly activities for teens in Washington DC?

Washington DC offers many budget-friendly activities for teens. Most of the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo offer free admission. Walking tours of the National Mall, visiting the memorials, and exploring the city’s diverse neighborhoods are cost-effective ways to enjoy the city. Seasonal events like the National Cherry Blossom Festival or outdoor movies in the summer are also free and fun for families. These activities make the city an affordable yet exciting destination.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Washington DC With Teens

Washington DC stands out as a vibrant city packed with experiences that cater to the interests and curiosities of teenagers. From the educational treasures of the Smithsonian museums to the thrilling outdoor adventures like kayaking on the Potomac, the city offers a diverse array of activities.

Whether it’s exploring the historic streets of Georgetown, marveling at the monuments by night, or immersing in the cultural richness of the local neighborhoods, there’s something in DC to captivate every teen. Overall, the best things to do with teenagers in Washington DC are those that combine learning, fun, and unforgettable experiences, creating memories that families will cherish for years to come.

The top things to do with teens in Washington DC for all types of travelers
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