Hands down, DC is one of the best places to go sightseeing, whether you’re vacationing or staycationing. Free museums, the easy-to-navigate Metro system, and iconic, breathtaking architecture make me happy to call DC home.
Marching around in our sultry summer heat with four kids in tow, however, leaves me sweaty, cranky, and dreaming of an Alaskan cruise.
Some of my favorite DC moments with my kids have been while taking a well-deserved breather. There are lots of websites telling you the best places to tour with kids. I’m here to tell you about my favorite places to STOP TOURING for 5 and take a rest. Your feet and your sanity will thank me. Your kids might even thank me. But if they stop whining at you for a few minutes, really, that’s all the thanks I need.
World War II Memorial
The World War II Memorial is located on the National Mall, at the east end of the Reflecting Pool, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It’s a beautiful plaza with a large pool and majestic fountain, columns, triumphal arches, and perhaps, most importantly, long curving, cool granite benches. The views are spectacular in all directions. Bonus points for the two Kilroy Was Here carvings that you can send your kids in search of.
The United States Navy Memorial
The United States Navy Memorial is located at the Archives Metro station, on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, between 7th and 9th. It’s close to the National Archives and the Newseum. This spot also has beautiful bubbling fountains and cool stone benches. There is a bronze statue of The Lone Sailor, a representation of the world’s oceans on the ground, and engraved quotes by famous Navy men, like “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.” You’ll be ready to steam on after you’ve paused for a few minutes here. Bonus points for the Starbucks directly across 7th Street.
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Located next to the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, the Sculpture Garden is one of the most peaceful spots in DC. It includes what I think is the most beautiful fountain in the city. (In the winter, it’s converted into an ice rink.) There are pathways, gorgeous plantings, and large, colorful sculptures by the likes of Miró, Calder, and Lichtenstein. On summer Friday evenings, there are jazz concerts from 5-8:30. Bonus points for the adjacent Pavilion Cafe with seating in the garden, where you can get a delicious bite to eat and even a glass of wine!
Ulysses S. Grant Memorial
The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial is on the west side of the Capitol Building facing the Capitol Reflecting Pool and the National Mall. It’s next to the Botanic Garden. There are three marble and bronze statues, with the largest in the center of Grant on his horse, Cincinnati. The marble steps leading toward the Reflecting Pool are one of the best spots on Capitol Hill to take a load off and contemplate the view over the 6-acre pool and the long view of the Mall. Bonus points for the photo op. It’s one of the most popular places for groups to assemble and take pictures with the Capitol in the background.
The Einstein Memorial is located on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences, on Constitution Avenue, NW, near 22nd Street. It’s close to the Vietnam Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. The large bronze statue of a seated, kindly-looking Einstein is located in a quiet grove of holly and elm trees. You can rest your tired tootsies on the granite steps right next to the big guy himself, while your kids climb in his lap. Bonus points for this trick: Have your kids stand in the center of the semi-circular memorial. Einstein appears to be looking right at them. If they talk to him, their words will be amplified, but only they can hear the effect.