Friday Question of the Day – Fun Places to take Parents Visiting DC?

Frederick Douglass Museum & Caring Hall of Fame – 320 A Street, NE

A reader sends in this one:

My parents are visiting in October, and we’re looking to expand from the normal tourist-y things. I showed my mom the post on the Hillwood Estate, and she’s really excited to check it out. Do you (or my fellow PoPville denizens) have any other suggestions? We like things that are off the beaten path, and I’m looking forward to seeing new parts of DC.

We looked at some favorite museums back in 2010. And in 2011 we looked at some favorite off the beaten track activities. So for today which museums and/or off the beaten track activities would be most fun for visiting parents?

92 Comment

  • National Arboretum. It’s sure to make your parents say, “This is DC???” It’s especially nice in October.

    • I took my mom there last weekend. She’s visited me many times but this was one thing she hadn’t been to yet. I think she liked it a lot.

    • Not DC but Great Falls has the same effect. Took my folks there and they loved it and were amazed something like that was so close to the city.

      • Great Falls on the MD side is really impressive – there are hiking trails with different levels of difficulty – take an easy stroll down the canal path or for a bigger challenge hike the Billy Goat Trail.

        Just outside of the Great Falls park entrance there’s Old Angler’s Inn – historic, beautiful, and with a great patio for a refreshing drink and snack after a hike. My parents loved doing this when they visited.

      • One of the best things about living here is that you’re within a few hours’ drive of so much. Mountains, beaches, cities, everything!

    • When you go to the Arboretum, be sure not to miss the best bonsai collection in the world.

  • Franciscan monastery!

  • saf

    Cedar Hill, if they like house museums.

    National Building Museum – take the building tour!

    What neighborhood are you in? Maybe walk a Heritage Trail, if you are close to one.

    Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

    • The National Building Museum building tour is one of the most interesting tours I’ve ever done in DC and it would definitely be a parent-pleaser!

      I think the museum has their architect-designed minigolf course operating now too.

    • OP here- I live on Capitol Hill. Any neighborhood-specific suggestions? I was thinking that Union Market and Eastern Market would be pretty good.

      • Every time my mom comes we have to take the dogs to Lincoln Park. It’s her favorite activity in the neighborhood! The Navy Yard/Yards Park suggestions are pretty local, and there’s the Library of Congress and Congressional Cemetery (I consider all these things to be within walking distance). Union Market, the Southwest Waterfront, the Arboretum, and the Aquatic Gardens are all 10-15 minute drive away and are easy to park at.

      • Congressional Cemetery!

  • Pierce Mill, Portrait Gallery programming is really interesting and usually not crowded

  • Emmaleigh504

    I took my parents on my neighborhood Circulator and they loved it. Next time they come we will try some of the other routes.

  • binpetworth

    My mom loved Hillwood, but her favorite museum thus far has been the Newseum. I think the interactivity, videos, and rotating exhibits has something for every generation.

    • The Spy Museum’s a good one too (especially for dads– lots of neat gadgety things to gawk at).

      • The National Cryptologic museum (next to the NSA on 295 halfway between DC and Baltimore) is good for anyone interested in the math/codebreaking side of things. It is free, but the hours are weird (open weekdays but not most weekends except every other Saturday). You can touch and play with a real Enimga machine, and the docents are former NSA employees who give really detailed tours.

    • msmaryedith

      My dad/stepmom and aunt/uncle all LOVED the Newseum. Their favorite museum by far.

  • The little museums near Dupont can be a good alternative to the sometimes overwhelming ones (size, crowds) on the Mall, and easier to combine with strolling a pleasing neighborhood and getting a nice lunch. I especially like the Textile Museum. Check out the Spanish steps while you’re over there!
    Also Dumbarton Oaks (museum and/or gardens).

  • President Lincoln’s cottage is a great trip — plus there’s parking. Second the National Arboretum as well. Also – the Washington DC Food tours are great, especially the Little Ethiopia one.

    • I was going to recommend Lincoln’s Cottage as well. My parent’s loved it and I believe I just saw a groupon deal for it today.

      • + The Masonic Memorial in Old Town. $5 for a really informative tour about the Masons and a great aerial view

      • Agreed. I did a Groupon for Lincoln’s cottage recently, and enjoyed it. It was nice to be a little off the beaten path (compared to all the tourist stuff on the Mall) and while there’s not a whole lot of visually stunning aspects to the cottage (it’s pretty much just the cottage), the guides are super-enthusiastic about the history of it. They focus less on “look, here’s where Lincoln sat!” or whatever and more on his ideas and the role the cottage played as a respite for him to mull over the ideas that shaped his presidency. As it’s gotten more popular, they recommend making advance reservations for the tour, a recommendation I definitely second.

  • -Dumbarton Oaks,
    -Georgetown for a stroll and window-gawking,
    -Nat’l Cathedral (especially the gardens!) and if you have time walk over to Mass. Ave. and just take a peek inside at the Russian and Greek Cathedrals

    • Also the gargoyles at Nat Cathedral! See if you can get a tour (bring binoculars), there are a lot of interesting figures and stories.

  • – Union Market, if they like food related things!
    – Eastern Market
    – National Cathedral
    – The Phillips Collection
    – Not in DC, but If you have a car available, hiking over at Great Falls, the VA or MD sides are both great
    – Kennedy Center, go over for a drink at one of the nearby restaurants and then walk out on the upper level!

  • It’s a shame that DC doesn’t have an aquarium that’s able to compete with Baltimore’s but the Zoo here is amazing. Always a good trip on a nice day.

  • If you have a car, you could check out Mount Vernon. We took my girlfriend’s parents there last time they visited and it was very nice. It’s about 30 minutes outside of DC.

    National Arboretum is a favorite of mine. I especially like the Asian collection. There are so many back trails to get lost in there, so you can bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it.

    • +1 for Mount Vernon. I’d sort of forgotten about it, but some relatives (including my 93-year-old grandmother) were visiting last October and we decided to go. Everyone loved it. If your parents are more active, you can bike the Mount Vernon trail to get there!

    • Take the Metro to Huntington and then an express bus to the estate…Just make sure to time it right. I’m not sure if there’s public transit to the distillery and gristmill though.

      You can also make a day of it and bike.

      There may also be a cruise/ferry.

  • Tudor Place in Georgetown.

  • – Hillwood is indeed gorgeous ($)
    – Dumbarton Oaks Garden ($) and Museum (free)
    – Annapolis, MD
    – Anderson House (Society of Cincinatti, free)
    – Woodrow Wilson House ($)
    – Kreeger Museum ($)
    – US Navy Museum and Ship Barry at the Navy Yard (free)

    • +1 on Annapolis. I’ve lived here for over 5 years and I feel like my parents are maxed out on DC “things to do” — Annapolis is perfect and the hotels out there can be less expensive than downtown DC.

      • +1 on maxed out on parental activities, took them to Annapolis last time they were in town and it was a good change of pace for everyone!

  • This is outside DC but my in-laws really enjoyed touring Port City Brewery. I think the DC breweries also offer tours/tastings.

  • My parents loved Union Market and the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

  • My mom loved the Mansion on O. You can do pricey brunch on Sunday then run through the labyrinth. Or — I think they still do this — you can go for half the price on Monday for leftovers. Just as delicious without the crazy scene.

  • There are a lot of good festivals going on in the fall; they’re always fun and a great thing to take visitors to. When in October will they be here?

  • When I have guests for more than 3 days I always do a non-DC thing like Baltimore Inner Harbor, Winterthur in DE or St Michaels, MD.

    “You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.

    You can go back and try again.”

    Ugh, so annoying.

  • We’ve had a great time using bikeshare when family comes to town – $7 for 24 hour rental and our guests always get a kick out of biking from point to point and making a day of it.
    My inlaws have also done the segway tour twice. It’s all the usual monuments, but doing it on a segway is novel, I suppose. It’s pricey, but they really love it.

    • One thing to be aware of when hosting out-of-town guests is that they may not be as used to biking and walking everywhere as we are. I’m a marathon walker, and sometimes I forget when making plans that 5 miles of walking isn’t fun for people in their 60’s who are used to driving everywhere. Take it easy on the old folks. 😉

      • +1. My parents act like walking a block is far (they’re in their late 60s/early 70s) and are used to driving everywhere. I told them next time I’m renting them a Rascal to ride around on!

      • Yeah, that’s one of the main reasons why I usually visit my mom at her place (an hour away) instead of her coming here. She’s in her late 60s and has mobility issues (not as severe as needing to use a wheelchair, but she has a bad knee that causes her a lot of pain when walking longer than a short distance). Trying to think of things we could do if she visited definitely reminds me how much of a walking-oriented city DC is.

  • Maybe I get tired of hauling them around DC.

  • Have you done water activities? Kayaking, canoeing, taking a river taxi to Old Town, or one of those cheap river cruise tours.

  • Took my mom to Twelfth Night at the Folger Theatre last night for her birthday. She loved it!

  • Dumbarton Oaks is a long-time favorite!
    Lincoln’s Cottage esp if you live in Petworth – and check out Rock Creek Cemetery after (Grief sculpture and others)
    A Nationals Game
    Lunch out at a great restaurant (we took out our moms to lunch at Black Salt recently)
    Eastern Market
    Fairs/Shows – went with my mom to the National Arboretum Plant sale, we both loved it; took my MIL to Crafty Bastards in the fall

  • -Union Market
    -The Zoo (a lot of new things lately)
    -Building Museum (Mini Golf now open)
    -Can bikeshare around the monuments.
    -Nat’s game
    -Truckeroo if here on one of those fridays.

  • Carter Barron

  • The most fun place I take my parents when they visit is the airport, so that they may board their flight home 🙂

  • The Lumber Shed and Boilermaker Shops near the Yards Park SHOULD be open by then. If they are, you could have lunch or dinner, stroll the boardwalk, maybe even check out Canal Park. You could also pair this with the Navy Museum and USS Barry if you plan on seeing those.

  • I know it’s already been mentioned, but my parents loved Union Market (with a stop at A. Litteri’s, of course). They also really enjoyed Congressional Cemetery.

  • I vote for The Mansion on O St. My boyfriend and I recently took our parents there and they loved it!

  • National Geographic Museum is an option most tourists don’t know about – I took a visiting friend a few weekends ago and she really enjoyed it. Also, for a non-DC day trip, Harper’s Ferry is a good option, particularly in the fall.

  • Take a boat taxi to Old Town. Wander around the Torpedo Factory, lots of little galleries and shoppes. If you drive over, definitely check out the Masonic Temple (especially on a clear day).

  • msmaryedith

    My list of family-approved places:

    – Eastern Market
    – National Cathedral (a service + check out the Bishop’s Garden)
    – Phillips Collection
    – Mount Vernon
    – monuments at NIGHT — cooler, less crowded, you can generally park relatively close, and they are lit up nicely
    – brunch at Tabard Inn
    – further afield: vineyards (I like Vintage Ridge), Annapolis, St Michael’s

  • The National Press Club

  • Hillwood Estate is honestly pretty blah. Dumbarton Oaks is a much prettier garden.

    • hillwood is more than gardens though. you can see an awesome collection of decorative art, one of the first home movie theaters, one of the first GE kitchens. an entirely pink bathroom.

  • A few more:

    Library of Congress (even if just to gawk at the Jefferson Building lobby)
    Glen Echo
    Woodrow Wilson House
    Woodlawn/Pope-Leighey House
    Heurich House
    Meridian Hill Park Drum Circle!

  • My mom is from the South and doesn’t do much walking anymore. Like someone else said about their parents- my mom got a kick out of talking with random people on the circulator bus. She really liked the wax museum, too. My brother was recently here too, and had never been to DC before. He loved everything- especially the Busboys on 14th; his favorite museum, surprisingly, was the Frederick Douglass house in Anacostia- really liked the tour, not as crazy about the immediate neighborhood! He did like walking around the Navy Yard and Eastern Market neighborhoods, though.

  • National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring. Free admission and free parking and seriously off the beaten path.

  • Sewall-Belmont House. On Capitol Hill (right by the Senate office buildings) and interesting information about the suffragist movement. It’s small, so not very daunting or time-consuming.

    If your parents happen to be really into suffragists and/or art and you have a car, the Lorton Workhouse is really interesting–former jail (where suffragists were imprisoned) and now an arts center/museum.

  • If they’re a tad more adventurous and you’ve got access to a car, I recommend the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore. While the Newseum is my favorite DC museum, the AVAM is uniquely…Baltimore. They’ve got a fancy cafe, the coolest museum shop I have ever seen, and tons of funky contemporary art. Extremely fun and a short day trip. Hands down one of the best things I’ve done outside of DC and yes, I took my parents there. 🙂

    Miss Shirley’s, a mile or two away in the harbor, has amazing breakfast/brunch, too

  • Some have mentioned Annapolis, but I’d specifically like to put a plug in for the tour of the naval academy there.

  • It’s not in DC, but the National Air & Space Museum Annex out by Dulles has a lot of great stuff to see. Old Town Leesburg is nearby and a nice place to wander around.

  • Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

    I agree on Arboretum but note the new sequestration hours.

    Nats game

    Occoquan Bay NWR

    Fort Washington


    Fast Gourmet

    Amsterdam Felafel/walk in RCP

  • Nellies to see Chris

  • Two off-beat suggestions if they like seafood:
    1. the Fish Market on the Waterfront. It’s the oldest fish market in the nation. Very fresh fish, a down-to-earth experience. It’s where the chefs buy. You can choose fish, crabs and they’ll cook ’em right up for you to take home or eat there (rustic picnic benches)
    2. Crisfield’s in Silver Spring on Georgia Ave. Old time Maryland seafood. Menu, decor hasn’t changed since they opened in the ’50s. It’s all about the seafood. Don’t expect veggie choices. But, oh, so good. Everyone falls in love with the clam chowder.

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