Washington, D.C. is not only the seat of U.S. government; the city honorably reflects the nation’s history, especially its military story. It’s also packed with free attractions where you can bring your kids to teach the basis for your patriotism and pride.
“Children sometimes do not learn military history in the modern classroom,” says Clair Jones of Veterans Advantage, a resource site for military families in Salt Lake City, UT. “It’s important to educate your kids about the pivotal role the military has played in American history,” she continues.
Jones, who comes from a military family, manages all Veterans Advantage’s social channels. She explains, “We get at least 10 messages a week from military spouses and parents. They are looking for resources and support before, during, and after a PCS or overseas deployment.”
For parents reassigned to the Washington, D.C. area, there are multiple opportunities to acclimate your kids while teaching them about U.S. history. Many of the city’s activities are free and open to the public year round.
Show Kids a Balanced Perspective
When parents ask, Jones frequently recommends visits to age-appropriate museums and landmarks that fascinate military children. They display the U.S. military’s intended purpose. These historical sites also help them understand the important role you have in protecting the country’s freedoms and traditions.
“Patriotism for most military members is an inclusive mindset,” says Jones. “It means our country stands for freedom and is a place where people of all backgrounds can co-exist,” she continues.
Visit These Washington D.C. Sites with a Plan
When you take your kids to the five free Washington D.C. sites below, you’ll want to make the experience both interesting and educational. “Going to a museum is a fun activity, but I suggest readying a loose agenda,” advises Jones. “Have talking points to get the most out of your adventure, especially if you have young children,” she adds.
Your plan should include a list of 10 questions you’ll ask and 10 fun facts that correlate to exhibits. Most important is a plan for explaining how what they see relates to your military service. “Pride in their country and the service to do for country is ingrained in military members,” adds Jones, who lived in Washington, D.C. for a year.
National Museum of the U.S. Navy
One of 14 Navy museums throughout the country, it’s the only one that presents an overview of U.S. naval history. Part of the Naval History & Heritage Command, its artifacts, art, and exhibits educate and inspire visitors. While there, take older kids to the Cold War Museum. Double check directions to the base and learn its hours and location before visiting.
National Guard Museum
This is the only museum dedicated to the work and life of the citizen soldier. Covering the Guard from the 17th century to today are images, artifacts, and interactive exhibits that highlight the everyday people who provided exceptional service to their communities and country. Older family members should visit the 9/11 Era Gallery. Learn more about hours and location here.
African American Civil War Memorial and Museum
This museum interprets the African American experience and involvement in the Civil War. It’s the “first” national memorial to the over 200,000 African American soldiers and their 7,000 white officers. Focusing on this pivotal time in American history, the museum creates a compelling learning experience for visitors of all ages. That includes a robust primary resources collection, educational programming, and technology. Learn about events and other visitor information here.
Fort Circle Park National Recreation Trail
This landmark trail follows the chain of old military forts that protected Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. It’s not only educational, but its recreational areas are fun for the entire family. Nestled near urban environs, this 7.9-mile expanse of verdant woodland is a refreshing change. Oaks, beech, maples, and pines are home to squirrels and rabbits as well as raccoons and opossums. From the summer Junior Ranger program to free weekend jazz concerts, the Fort Circle Parks offer something for everyone.
Memorial Park on the National Mall
Dedicated to the commemoration of presidential legacies and U.S. veteran contributions, there are eight edifices there, including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and three war memorials. Visit Martin Luther King Memorial there, too. The National Park Service provides detailed maps and visitor information.
Three things to keep in mind when visiting Washington, D.C. are traffic, parking, and weather. Check all three before you make your plans. Also, make your reassignment to the area seamless with CORT Furniture Rental for your off-base housing.