Family Living

D.C. Must-Dos: A Summer Bucket List for Families

Family Living | May 19, 2017

As our Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C. is a popular tourism destination for people around the world who want to see The White House, the United States Capitol, and wide array of national memorials and monuments. But, in case you didn’t know, the city’s culture goes far beyond government-related events and activities. For locals wanting to make some fun family memories this summer in Washington, D.C. area, here’s The Gardner School’s bucket list of attractions and places of interest to explore in and around the city.

Celebrate Fairfax!

Northern Virginia’s largest community-wide celebration arrives June 9-11, 2017. Experience the Celebrate Fairfax! festival with the family and enjoy the fascinating sights and sounds of more than 300 exhibitors, food vendors, and interactive activities. Celebrate Fairfax! showcases live concerts on eight stages, Innovation Health Children’s Avenue, a petting zoo, the Fairfax County Karaoke Championship, carnival rides, and great festival foods. Another fun free activity for kids is the Fairfax Express Trackless Train Ride. There’s also nightly fireworks, which are a highlight of the festival, and one of many great family programs. Early bird tickets are now available, and don’t forget to check out the festival’s Groupon offer!

D.C. Public Library Summer Reading

The Washington Nationals sponsor the D.C. Public Library’s Summer Reading Program, which offers families hands-on workshops, fun performances, and opportunities to win prizes. Cool off from the summer heat by diving into some great books with your children!

Friday Night Live

At Friday Night Live, families can enjoy a variety of live concerts throughout the summer. Recently voted a “Must See” in Fairfax County, Friday Night Live is free and held on the beautiful Town Green in Downtown Herndon.

Frying Pan Farm Park

Frying Pan Farm Park, located in Fairfax County, has a variety of attractions of both a historic and recreational nature. The park preserves and interprets a 1920s through 1950s farm, agricultural process, and rural community life. Park admission is free, and families can add on some enjoyable experiences like horseback riding, wagon rides, carousel rides, and a country store.

Georgetown Waterfront Park

Part of the Georgetown Historic District, Georgetown Waterfront Park is a 10-acre national park in Washington, D.C. that stretches along the banks of the Potomac River. Families can enjoy many features of the park, including a splash fountain, rain gardens, a labyrinth, and more. From rowing, cycling, and nature walks, there are an abundance of park activities to enjoy the outdoors during summer.

Luray Caverns

Luray Caverns, originally called Luray Cave, is a commercial cave just west of Luray, Virginia. Coined as the most popular caverns in Eastern America, families can enjoy guided tours along well-lighted, paved walkways that journey through cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings 10-stories high, towering stone formations, and natural wonders at every turn. Admission is free for children ages 5 and under.


Here’s the scoop: The Nicecream factory, located in Arlington, Virginia, is a group of young, passionate sweet toothers who are changing the way we eat ice cream. At Nicecream, you watch as real ingredients are added and your ice cream is crafted fresh before your eyes through liquid nitrogen. Not only will your family enjoy a tasty, sweet treat, but you’ll be wowed by the process!

Smithsonian Institution

Famously known as the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, the Smithsonian Institution offers families 11 museums and galleries on the National Mall and 6 other museums and the National Zoo in the greater National Capital Area. From art to aerospace to animals, the Smithsonian has something fun for the whole family!

Urban Pirates at National Harbor

Join the Urban Pirates in National Harbor, and climb aboard a pirate ship for an exciting swashbuckling adventure! Kids can learn to dress, talk, and play games like a true pirate. Special summer rates on family adventure cruises can be found by visiting the website.

U.S. Botanic Garden

Located on the Capitol grounds, the United States Botanic Garden is a living plant museum that informs visitors about the importance, and often irreplaceable value, of plants to the well-being of humans and to earth’s fragile ecosystems. Children can nurture their curiosity, creativity, and discovery through several fun programs and activities at the garden. There’s even a children’s garden that gives kids a chance to get hands-on in a courtyard garden, where they can gently explore plants in bloom and play with gardening tools to learn about plants. Admission is free!

Washington Nationals Baseball Game

What better place to enjoy America’s favorite pastime than in America’s capitol city! Take the family out to the ballgame by attending a Washington Nationals Major League Baseball game at National Park, and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the game. Parents can check out special opportunities for kids by visiting the Nationals Kids site.