Top 5 Reasons to Raise a Family in DC

1) DC Museums are Mostly FREE

I love history and by living here in DC, I’m able to nourish that love with all kinds of museums – many of which are free. Most people know about the American History Museum, Air & Space, and Natural History. Those are free along with about a dozen others along and near the National Mall. But we are also lucky enough to get new museums and exhibits all the time.

I was recently a chaperone on a field trip to the Planet Word Museum. The last field trip I chaperoned was to some park, and not even a good one so I didn’t have high hopes for Planet Word. But I was wrong. Planet Word was awesome. It’s the first voice-activated museum, so you talk to the exhibits and they light up. There are a bunch of different rooms where you learn about how language and words have affected our lives. Everything from how we learn our first words to a walk through library with the interactive exhibits to learning how advertisers use language to get us to buy. Planet Word is also free.

There’s also the Law Enforcement Museum which I would like to get to. Adults pay $22 here but kids up to 17 years of age are free.

2. DC Library System

I love our libraries. We have some really cool buildings. I can pick up a library book in any library I need to. I love seeing all of them from the little neighborhood libraries to the main branch at Martin Luther King. You can also have books delivered to your library of choice for pick up. There are a lot of speakers, book talks, reading and writing groups, art classes and events that happen at the library. I took the girls when they were babies, for reading time. They offer after-school classes for the kids too.

I recently took a class on how to research your house’s history and it was excellent. They shared a lot of resources and showed the attendees how to navigate the reference rooms to research various maps to see how the neighborhoods changed. I only wish I had free time because I’d be camping out here trying to piece together some history for my own home.

3. Incredible Supply of Ethnic Food in DC

I was taking the girls to Ethiopian Restaurants here in DC from the time they were babies. A lot of people here in DC are well-traveled so that’s not really a great claim to fame, but for people raising kids in areas where your own ethnic food is Italian, I’m sorry. I actually believe the variety of food here is better than in New York. DC is a melting pot and you will be able to expose your kiddos to a ton of culinary offerings. My kids aren’t as adventurous as some of their friends who eat sushi or Indian food, but I love that they have the opportunity whenever they want.

The variety of ethnic foods here isn’t limited to just dining in a restaurant either or carrying the food out. You can find a lot of small grocery which sell specialized ingredients.

4. About that Free Pre-K…

Yes, the rumor is true. DC does have free Pre-K at 3 years old. But, before you start packing up your house, it’s not super straight-forward. First, not all neighborhoods have Pre-K starting at 3 years old. You will only see that in the neighborhoods the city has defined as more “at risk,” meaning, these are kids they need to have in the schools. They may not have great home-life situations, they may not get food unless they go to school, these are all very real things to know about city living.

The next thing to know is that the seats in Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4 are offered as part of a lottery. In many areas, the seats will go to students who already have older siblings in the school. This can make the most highly desired seats difficult to come by. We did not get a seat for my older daughter when she didn’t have the sibling in school with her. But we did get a seat for the little one because her older sister was already enrolled in school.

If this is something you are focused on, please reach out to me so we can discuss this in more detail.

5. Location for Awesome Family Vacations in DC

There’s so much within an hour or two from DC that I would be remiss to not mention it.  You can get to the beaches in 2-3 hours. Bethany Beach and Rehoboth are popular with families. Then there’s skiing. This family does not ski since Jim and I are the world’s worst skiers and expect our accident-prone children to be similarly spectacular at it. Liberty is probably the most popular place since it’s 1 ½ hours from DC, followed by Whitetail which is 2 hours. Wisp is 3 hours and Snowshoe is about 4 ½ hours.

I’ve also been a huge fan of Hershey Park over the years. It’s 2 ½ hours and is super clean which a lot of amusement parks aren’t, and lots of fun for the kids. Plus, there’s the whole theme of chocolate that’s undeniably delicious.

There’s also Shenandoah Park and Skyline Drive which is amazing for hiking, outdoor activities and awesome viewing spots for the fall foliage.