WASHINGTON, D. C. - Washington, D.C. is packed with spectacular gems to fit any family vacation, and AAA editors have designated a select list of locations as Top Picks For Kids.
To select their top picks, AAA editors became kids again. With an eye toward finding options for tots to teens, they visited and played at countless attractions touted as kid friendly - many designated as AAA GEMs, offering a Great Experience for Members - along with notable restaurants and events.
KIDS UNDER 13
National Museum of Natural History: From the trumpeting African elephant in the center of the rotunda to the life-size humpback whale suspended in Ocean Hall, there's no shortage of ooh and ahh worthy exhibits. Kids will especially love the dinosaur skeletons and the up-close encounters with multicolored members of the order Lepidoptera at the Butterfly Pavilion. In 2012, the National Museum of National History attracted 7.6 million visits and as of February 2013 had already attracted 810,776 visits.
National Mall: Let the kids run off the excess energy at the National Mall, then take a spin on the Smithsonian carousel in front of the Arts and Industries Building. The painted ponies may be faded, but this vintage merry-go-round with its tinkling calliope music remains an old-fashioned pleasure.
Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium: This is a great place to learn about the animals that live in the park's 2,000 acres of woodland. The center's Discovery Room has plenty of hands-on activities, and a beehive behind a glass on the back wall offers a first-hand view of these industrious insects at work.
National Postal Museum: Not just a resting place for old postage stamps, the National Postal Museum has interactive exhibits that enable you to do things like create and send postcards or take a seat in a mail-delivering stagecoach. In 2012, the National Postal Museum had 321,953 visits and 45,915 for January and February 2013, according to the Smithsonian.
Georgetown: Georgetown will appeal to fashion-conscious guys and gals. It is packed with trendy clothing stores and delicious eats.
Hard Rock Cafe: Burgers, fries, music and memorabilia is what makes the Hard Rock Cafe such a fun place. Each location has its own unique pieces of music history.
Washington Monument: Although seismic repairs resulting from earthquake damage in 2011 have suspended the elevator ride to the observation room at the 500-foot level until sometime in 2014, you can still admire this iconic obelisk and fly a kite on the expansive grounds.
National Air and Space Museum: At the National Air and Space Museum you can contrast the Wright Brothers' prototype flying machine with futuristic-looking spacecraft like the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia and SpaceShipOne. At the How Things Fly gallery, kids can build paper airplanes, conduct science experiments and climb into the cockpit of a Cessna 150. In 2012, the National Air and Space Museum had 6.8 million visits according to the Smithsonian. The total number of visits for January and February 2013 is 542,229.
National Cherry Blossom Festival: The 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March 20 to April 14, celebrating springtime in Washington and offering star-studded opening ceremonies, a parade with lavish floats and giant helium balloons, and of course the spectacle of Japanese cherry trees in full bloom. The cherry trees attract millions of visitors to Washington, D.C. according to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc..
Lincoln Memorial: Abraham Lincoln presided over some of the most tumultuous years in American history, and the Lincoln Memorial is a fitting memorial to the 16th president, who was assassinated just six days after General Robert E. Lee's surrender ended the Civil War. In 2012, the Lincoln Memorial had 6,191,361 visits according to the National Park Service. That year it was the sixth most visited place of the National Park System.
National Zoological Park: Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, a roughly 65-year-old Asian elephant named Ambika, friendly giraffes, entertaining prairie dogs as well as the Kids' Farm donkeys, goats and rabbits are some of the popular zoo residents. In 2012, the National Zoo had 2.3 million visits and a total of 79,212 visits in January and February 2013 combined.
AAA's Top Picks for Kids are currently available for 19 U.S. cities coast to coast, including New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Selections are separated into categories that include options for kids under 13, teens and kids of all ages.
AAA Editors' Top Picks for Kids can be found in the AAA.com Travel Guides, the downloadable AAA eTourBook guides available at AAA.com/ebooks.