5 Best New Attractions in Washington, DC Not to Miss - Family Traveller (USA)

Washington DC is a travel hot spot thanks to its rich history and political identity. Most of its famous attractions are well known, from the iconic National Mall and Smithsonian museums to the cute townhouses and weekend markets. But don't let any of that fool you into thinking this vibrant city isn't constantly evolving. In the last few years, new neighborhoods, museums and restaurants have popped up on the scene. Whether you're a seasoned history buff who's visited the city several times, or a newcomer discovering it all for the first time, add these must-see new attractions in Washington DC to your list.


Photo by Hannah Freedman

This innovative digital art space is unlike anything else you've seen. Wander through the dark rooms and take in tantalizing, shape-shifting video projections or get lost in a fun house-esque hall of mirrors. Art meets science in a brand new way, as the artists here use data and AI technology to create their unconventional masterpieces. Parents can also visit the Augmented Reality Bar (a first in the US) where your drink will come to life through a free AR app on your phone. The exhibits here rotate, so even if you've visited once you can always go back for a whole new experience.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History

Photo by Hannah Freedman

The newest museum on the National Mall is an absolute must for anyone in DC. Opening in 2016, the museum thoughtfully takes on every aspect of African American history from the sobering eras of slavery and Jim Crow laws to the lively birth of musical styles like jazz and hip hop. You could easily spend an entire day or more taking in the exhibits, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to explore. If you get hungry during your visit, stop in at the Sweet Home Café, which showcases the rich tradition of African American culinary favorites. Like all Smithsonian museums, it's free to visit, but if you're going on a weekend make sure you get a timed entry ticket ahead of time. Don't miss the stunning Contemplative Court on your way out where you'll have time to reflect on everything you've seen while surrounded by important quotes from famous African American speakers as gentle water pours from the center of the ceiling.

The Wharf

Courtesy of The Wharf

Delicious dining options, waterfront views and exciting activities all come together at DC's buzzy new neighborhood, The Wharf. Take a stroll at sunset as you watch boats bob in the Potomac, stop in at the numerous shops or rent a kayak or stand-up paddle board or see the monuments from a different perspective on a water taxi tour. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes to suit every taste. One particularly great dinner spot is Kith/Kin where Top Chef alum Kwame Onwuachi serves up mouth-watering Afro-Caribbean cuisine along with a scenic view. For dessert, head to Camp Wharf at the Fire Pit for s'moreos and slurp up shaved ice snowballs.

International Spy Museum

Photo by Hannah Freedman

Recently moved to its new location, the redesigned International Spy Museum lets kids (and those who are still young at heart) play out their CIA and double agent fantasies in real life. Learn about the history of spies and some of the most famous and interesting missions throughout history. Then, embark on your own top secret mission when you get a secret identity and put your puzzle solving and physical skills to the test throughout a series of interactive exhibits.

The Reach

Courtesy of The Reach

An extension of the Kennedy Center and its mission, The Reach just opened in September 2019. It features an outdoor stage for concerts and film screenings, flexible spaces for pop-up performances and galleries, plus  a “green roof” and 130,000 square feet of landscaping and gardens. Regular rotating activities within the Reach will include a Learning Lab that welcomes students and visitors to explore hands-on arts experiences, social events and festivals, outdoor films, art installations and exhibitions. It also connects the Kennedy Center to the city’s other memorials by a new pedestrian bridge spanning Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway.

Where to Stay

Courtesy of The Willard

While certainly not new, there's no better place to take in all the action DC has to offer than the iconic Willard InterContinental. Dating back to the 1800s and located just a few blocks from the White House and within easy walking distance to the National Mall, The Willard puts you right in the heart of the city. Teeming with history, you're in good company here. Past presidents, diplomats and foreign dignitaries have all graced these halls and rooms. Ideal for families, the hotel offers a range of rooms and suites and features a fantastic Kids Concierge to help tailor your trip and activities to the interests and ages of your children. They also have a Children's Library and a special program to engage young travelers where kids can trade newly learned historical facts for "Millie Bucks" that can be redeemed for a sweet treat at Le Bar inside of Café du Parc.

By Hannah Freedman