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Take the Treasure Hunt of a Lifetime in Washington, DC

Spring is the time for vacation planning. Whether it’s a long weekend or a full week away, Washington, DC is the ideal destination for a family-friendly trip. Conveniently located two and a half hours south of Philadelphia, you won’t lose two days of precious time due to travel. And for those with younger children, the short distance minimizes the deluge of “Are we there yet?” comments. There is an abundance of activities found in the capital city for adults and children, so take time to plan ahead and pick out your must-dos. For a fun yet educational experience, consider structuring the trip as a hunt for the many national treasures to be found in DC.

Start at the country’s beginning by viewing the Declaration of Independence at The National Archives. Find the original John Hancock and teach the kids the story behind the signature. The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom also houses the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Admission to the museum is free, but advanced reservations for a specific entry time are recommended during the busy season from March through Labor Day. Allow about 90 minutes for your visit.

Practice your best rendition of the national anthem while admiring the original Star-Spangled Banner flag at the National Museum of American History. Quiz the kids on their social studies lessons as you walk through the country’s past. From presidential milestones to Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the museum pays homage to U.S. culture from the Oval Office to Hollywood. Admission to the museum is free.

One of the best ways to see Washington, DC, especially in the spring, is by foot. Some of the city’s most iconic landmarks are outdoors and open to the public free of charge. Challenge the kids to see who can find the most presidents (bonus points for spotting the Roosevelt’s dog, Fala). From The Lincoln Memorial by the Reflecting Pool to The Jefferson Memorial on the shore of the Potomac River Tidal Basin and the sprawling FDR Memorial stretching over seven and a half acres, the memorials are powerful, scenic reminders of our country’s history. If you’re interested in a guided tour, DC by Foot offers free-to-join tours at various locations. Once the tour is over, you pay what you feel like it was worth.

Take your treasure hunt to new heights on The Capital Wheel at National Harbor. Located on the banks of the Potomac River, National Harbor overlooks Old Town Alexandria and Mt. Vernon. From inside one of The Capital Wheel’s gondolas, you can see the White House, the Capitol, and Arlington Cemetery. While the ride and other attractions do charge fees, walking by the waterside and exploring the harbor is free.

The National Zoological Park has been a favorite of adults and children since it was founded by an Act of Congress in 1889. The zoo occupies 163 acres in the heart of Washington, DC, and is home to 2,000 animals of nearly 400 different species. If you don’t have time to see all of them, make the giant pandas a priority. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian gained even more attention in 2013 with the arrival of their cub Bao Bao, one of our country’s newest — and cutest — treasures.

Make plans for your Washington, DC, trip and customize your family’s treasure hunt by clicking here.