The U.S. Forest Headquarters is definitely one of those hidden gems for families with kids. Most people don’t even know it’s there and I don’t think I’ve seen it listed in any guidebooks either…which is a shame.

It’s not even a block off the National Mall and you pass right in front of it as you head to the U.S. Holocaust Museum or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, it’s a fun little place to pop in and cool down on a hot day. Just look for the Smokey Bear cutout by the entrance.

Inside you’ll find a 1920’s rustic lodge filled with artifacts and the sounds of the forest, but one of the coolest things inside is the animatronic Smokey Bear who will greet you with a happy, “Only you can prevent forest fires!”

It’ll only take 10-15 minutes of you time to visit, but it’s worth the detour, especially if you could use a respite from the hot sun. We’ve never experienced a line to get in.

Check out their website for updated hours.