Tag Archives: Best Things to do with Kids in DC

Where to Go & What to Do Around DC During Winter Break 2019

Skate under the stars (and over the Potomac) at The Wharf



If you’re going to be in town over the Winter Break from school, you’ll likely be looking for activities to keep the whole gang happy (and that includes us parents)! Hence, I’m bringing back this guide once again, but with updated info and some new inspiration.

Many of these ideas are already on the blog, but sometimes a little guidance for what’s best at certain times helps. Among the recommendations are holiday activities that keep the spirit going a little longer, exhibits and shows that are hot tickets right now, outings that take advantage of the season, adventures to keep your gang active no matter what the weather, and places and experiences that kids who are in school all day can’t get to easily, and movies (an obvious one, but I’ve included quick links).

Of course, the rest of the blog is packed with suggestions if you want even more options. So, whether you’re enjoying a staycation or visiting from out of town, you should have no problem keeping the kids (and yourself!) entertained during the time off — or on, depending how you look at it. 😉 Happy Winter Break!

Holiday-Inspired Happenings

Special Exhibits & Museums

#OptOutside

Show Time

Indoor Action

See Some Sports

Must-See DC

Day Trips

Screen Time

Extra Tips




Holiday-Inspired Happenings

Continue the holiday celebration at Enchant

Enchant
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Through December 29
Admission: Varies by Date, time, and age

There’s been a lot of buzz about the new holiday attraction at Nationals Park — and I think it’s deserving. The world’s largest Christmas light maze and market is dazzling and delightful and really captures the spirit of the holidays. Purchase tickets here, and read a KFDC review of it, including tips for visiting, if you haven’t already.

Chanukah, Oh Chanukah
Where: Around the DMV
When: Several Dates
Admission: Varies by activity

Chanukah begins during Winter Break this year all of its eight days occur within it, too. There are several activity going on to celebrate the Festival of Lights, many of them menorah lightings — including the National Menorah Lighting on the first night — as well as family programs. View details on all of them in the Holiday Guide here.

Season’s Greenings
Where: U.S. Botanic Garden | National Mall area, DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

If you haven’t yet made it to Season’s Greenings, the annual holiday exhibit at the U.S Botanic Garden, you still have time to go — and it’s one that all ages will love. The Main Garden features Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials, including a new botanical inspired Union Station. But the highlight is in the East Gallery: The garden railway model train display never fails to impress and enchant with intricate, imaginative designs. This year’s Gardens of America-themed exhibit features structures from botanic gardens around the U.S. — all made from plant materials, of course. Be sure to tour the rest of the plant collections while you’re there — all are lovely to view, and walking among the flora indoors kind of feels like you pulled a fast one on the weather gods.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
When: Through December 31
Admission: Online – $18/adults, $9/ages 6-11, free/ 5 & under

They do it up for the holidays at George Washington’s old digs. During the day, tour the Mansion, watch historic chocolate-making demos, and meet Aladdin the Camel. FYI: Mount Vernon is open every day of the year, including Christmas and New Year’s Day!

Magical Holiday Express
Where: B&O Railroad Museum | Baltimore, MD
When: Through December 31
Admission: $18/adult, $17/senior, $12/age 2-12, free/B&O members


At a venue dedicated to locomotives, you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. Trains are magical during the holidays, and the museum invites all aboard the B&O’s Magical Holiday Express, a spectacular celebration in the B&O Roundhouse devoted to trains of all sizes and shapes, holiday festivities, and a winter wonderland of family fun and activities. There is something to see and do every day at this annual holiday event!

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: Through January 1
Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra

National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s also plenty to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Most of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly tree lightings, the Potomac Express train offering rides for guests, photo ops with Santa, indoor snowfalls, fountain shows, and more. (Read about a KFDC experience there during a Christmas season past.)

* Find even more holiday happenings in the KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC!



Special Exhibits & Museums

Visit the Newseum before it closes its doors for good

Newsflash: Museum on Deadline
Where: Newseum | Near Navy Memorial, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $24.95/adult, $14.95/ages 7-19, free for 6 and under

The deadline is nearing! The museum dedicated to all things news and journalism (and one of my personal favorites in DC) is closing its doors on December 31, so get there while you can — I highly recommend it! Much of the collection is better appreciated and understood by older children, so while they have off from school is a good time to take advantage of an outing there. Read more about the Newseum in this KFDC post. And (look for a deal) on admission!

AURORA: The Spirit of Northern Lights
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: Through January 5
Admission: $16-20/adult, $13-15/senior, $8-10/child

The winter exhibit at ARTECHOUSE celebrates the season with digital art installations inspired by the aurora borealis, all of them interactive and beautiful, the icy blue, purple, green, and occasionally soft yellow colors giving everything an ethereal feel. Guests walk through arctic scenes, including an ice cavern, frosted forest, and dancing lights. They can grow leafless winter trees, guide snowballs, and make snowflakes with their own movements detected by sensors. As Sasha aid, “It makes me feel like I have powers!” Get 20% off 2 adults + 2 children Sundays through Thursdays within bar hours (it includes hot chocolate).

Becoming Jane
Where: National Geographic Museum | Downtown DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $15/adult, $12/seniors & students, free/5 & under

In this hands-on, transportive multimedia exhibition celebrating Jane Goodall’s extraordinary life and work, you’ll explore her early years through iconic images and a multiscreen experience and venture on a 3D exploration of Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park, where she did her famous behavioral research on chimps. You’ll also see a life-size hologram of Dr. Goodall, enter a replica of her research tent, and learn about her current role as a leader in community-centered conservation and youth empowerment. And before you leave, you will find out what you can do today to make a positive impact in the world.

African American History & Culture
Where: National Museum of African American History & Culture
When: Daily, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free

This phenomenal museum is a must-see on the National Mall. And right now during off-peak season, you can walk right in without tickets. Timed entry passes are still required on weekend, though, and there are none available for awhile. (If that’s when you want to go, you can try for same-day online passes –they are released at 6:30am, Saturday and Sunday.) Before you go to the museum, read this KFDC guide for visiting with kids.

Q?rius
Where: National Museum of Natural History | National Mall, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The interactive and experiential learning space is designed for kids ages 11 and up (though some younger ages could enjoy it, too). During winter break, it opens earlier at 10am (instead of 2pm). Visitors can view up close — and in many cases handle — real artifacts and specimens from the museum’s collections. For really little ones, there is Q?rius Jr: A Discovery Room for more age-appropriate exploring. And, of course, there’s the whole rest of the museum for everyone. Read the KFDC take on Q?rius.

Mission: Fun
Where: International Spy Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $24.95/age 13+, $14.95/7-12, free/6 & under

If you haven’t been to the Spy Museum at its new L’Enfant Plaza location, this is a great time to check it out!
Go undercover to explore the intriguing world of espionage. Discover tricks of the trade, view gadgets used to keep secrets and disguises to hide identities, and learn about some of the most famous spies and their missions.



#OptOutside

A lovely, cool-weather hike at Scotts Run Nature Preserve

Ready, Set…Hike!
Where: Around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by locale

If you agree with the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” like I do, there are no excuses for not getting outdoors during winter. And a great, easy way to do so is on a hike. Hit the trail in places with scenic views, tramp and explore history at interesting locales, and enjoy a day of active fun. This post has a a bunch of recommendations for good walks in the woods and other places with the kids.

Let There Be Lights
Where: Around the DMV
When: Evenings through
Admission: Varies by locale

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are are a staple of the season and some continue to shine into January. Visit one of several parks or gardens (or the Zoo!) in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. While some you tour by car, others you can walk through for a truly enchanting experience. See where you can see the lights around the area.

Grounds for Play
Where: Playgrounds around the DMV
When: Daily
Admission: Free

Kiddos can burn some energy and get some fresh air at one of many awesome area playgrounds. Beauvoir, Clemyjontri, Watkins Regional Park, Hains Point,Cabin John Regional Park, Wheaton Regional Park, plus loads of DC Parks and Rec locations, and many more in NoVa and Maryland are great places to swing, climb, run, slide, romp, and even more!

Ice It Up
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by rink

Enjoy a quintessential winter activity: Ice skating under the sky! Take in art as you skate at the Sculpture Garden; glide over the Potomac on The Wharf’s cool rink; circle around Washington Harbour as you enjoy river views; meander along the Figure 8 path at Canal Park; or do some shopping then skate at Pentagon Row, Veteran’s Plaza, Rockville Town Square, or Reston Town Center. This post has details on alfresco (and indoor) ice skating options in the area.



Show Time

Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Peter Pan and Wendy will dazzle the whole fam

Peter Pan and Wendy
Where: Sidney Harman Hall | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Through January 11
Tickets: $35-120/adult, $35/14 & under (find discounts)

Bold, budding scientist Wendy Darling dreams of earning a Nobel Prize. When Peter Pan arrives at her bedroom window, she takes a leap and leaves finishing school behind, chasing adventure among the stars. Facing down fairies, mermaids, and the dastardly Captain Hook, Wendy, Peter, and their friends discover the power of standing up together for what’s right. J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan is reimagined for a new generation of theatregoers. This beloved tale of adventure and wonder is sure to delight adults and children alike this holiday season. Recommended for ages 5+.

The Velveteen Rabbit
Where: Adventure Theatre | Glen Echo Park
When: Through January 1
Tickets: $20.50

Margery Williams’s classic toy story gets a vibrant retelling in this brand new adaptation. When the Child gets the Rabbit for Christmas, she is at first disappointed in her gift. But as the two quest and adventure through her storybooks, both Rabbit and Child grow and care for each other. And they discover that love is the greatest force in the Universe and can make impossible things Real. Recommended for all ages.

The Snow Queen
Where: Synetic Theatre | Crystal City, VA
When: Through December 29
Tickets: $15-35

Just in time for the holidays, Synetic presents a whimsical, family-friendly adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved fairy tale, The Snow Queen. Join Gerda, a little girl with gumption, a magic mirror, and a quest to save her best friend, as she sets out on a life-changing journey that takes her over mountains and across distant lands to the Snow Kingdom. Once there, she harnesses her inner-strength and wit to defeat the coldest threat of all.

Singin’ in the Rain
Where: Olney Theatre | Olney, MD
When: Through January 5
Tickets: $54-$99 (find discounts)

The greatest movie musical of all time comes to life on the Mainstage and for once, rain during the holidays is guaranteed to make you smile. Comden and Green’s ingenious tale of Hollywood’s transition from the silent era is buoyed by the thrill of live singing and dancing to some of the greatest songs in the American canon including “Good Mornin’,” “Make ‘em Laugh,” and “Moses Supposes.” Olney’s biggest production of the year is certain to impress Broadway regulars and enchant kids meeting this musical for the first time. If this were a film it would be rated G.

Step Afrika’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center | H Street NE, DC
When: Through December 30
Tickets: $25-45

Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show is a KFDC fave! This fun, family-friendly performance will have you stomping your feet and clapping your hands to energetic beats from Step Afrika! and special guest, DJ Frosty the Snowman. The show features friendly, furry characters, plus there is pre-show instrument-making workshops, photo ops, and even a dance party. It is so much fun for both kids and adults and great entertainment even after the holiday has past!

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Where: Imagination Stage | Bethesda, MD
When: Through January 5
Tickets: $15-35

Leap through the wardrobe and into a winter wonderland in this dance-based adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s treasured novel from the Chronicles of Narnia. A remount of Imagination Stage’s Helen Hayes award-winning 2012 production, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tells the story of four siblings who journey from war-torn England to a magical land frozen in eternal winter, where the powerful lion Aslan leads them on a journey to discover their destiny. Music, modern dance, and breathtaking puppetry tell a story of love, sacrifice, and redemption. Recommended for ages 5+.

Jersey Boys
Where: National Theatre | Downtown DC
When: December 17 – January 5
Tickets: $39-99 (find discounts)

They were just four guys from Jersey, until they sang their very first note. They had a sound nobody had ever heard… and the radio just couldn’t get enough of. But while their harmonies were perfect on stage, off stage it was a very different story — a story that has made them an international sensation all over again. Go behind the music and inside the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons in the Tony and Grammy Award®-winning true-life musical phenomenon, Jersey Boys. From the streets of New Jersey to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this is the musical that’s just too good to be true. Recommended for ages 12+.

My Fair Lady
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 17 – January 19
Tickets: $39-159 (find discounts)

From Lincoln Center Theater comes “a sumptuous new production of the most perfect musical of all time” (Entertainment Weekly), Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady. Director Bartlett Sher’s glowing production is “thrilling, glorious and better than it ever was” (The New York Times). Boasting such classic songs as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a “proper lady.” But who is really being transformed?

Squeakers & Mr. Gumdrop
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 27-31
Tickets: $12

Arts on the Horizon’s show will be at the Atlas at the end of December and is a perfect activity with littles ones, recommended for ages 2-5… One snowy winter morning, Mr. Gumdrop prepares for his annual holiday party! When an unexpected and curious mouse appears, Mr. Gumdrop’s routine is thrown for a loop. Can these two wildly different characters work together to get the holiday preparations done in time? This nonverbal, imaginative production captures the magic of making new friends and sharing ideas to accomplish big goals.​



Indoor Action

Climb the day away at The St. James

Super, Awesome, and Amazing Fun
Where: The St. James | Springfield, VA
When: Daily
Admission: $15-$23 (find discount)

The Super, Awesome, and Amazing (that’s what it’s called) 30,000 square foot activity center in the St. Jame sports complex is filled with all kinds of climbing structures, trampolines, and obstacle courses. Kids can don harnesses and clip onto wires to climb, rappel, and navigate walkways 20 feet above the ground. They can bounce, flip, and execute acrobatic moves. They can swing from bars and on large platforms and crawl through tunnels. Essentially, every element in the space is conducive to active fun, and there is something for kids from toddler to tween ages to enjoy. Admission is $15 Monday – Thursday before 3pm. After 3pm and on Friday & Saturday, they are $23/hour.

Mountains of Fun
Where: Badlands | Rockville, MD
When: Tuesday – Sunday, 9am – 6pm
Admission: $20/child, $12.50/toddler, $5/adult

Enjoy all kinds of indoor adventures at Badlands Play Space. From active fun to creative explorations to learning experiences to relaxation options, the facility has it all. They also have a cafe to get a bite to eat while you’re there and where adults can hang out while they watch their kids play (if kids are old enough to playon their own). Best for children about preschool age to 10.

Reach New Heights
Where: ClimbZone | Laurel, MD
When: Daily, 10am – 8pm
Admission: $25/child, $12/toddler (find discount)

The enormous facility is filled literally floor to ceiling with colorful themed climbing walls and moon bounces. Climbers can ascend Mt. Rushmore, reach the Jolly Roger on a pirate ship, conquer a game of Tetris, shimmy up a giant guitar, scale Jack’s bean stalk, negotiate a rope wall, and experience peak fun on a variety of other climbing areas.

Play in the Zone
Where: ZavaZone | Rockville, MD & Sterling, VA
When: Daily, 10am – 6pm
Admission: Starts at $19.50

Guests have their pick of fun at this indoor adventure park for ages 5-105. There are ninja courses, ropes courses, trampolines, climbing challenges, zip lines, and more under one soaring roof. Usually just open in the afternoons during the week, morning time slots will also be available during Winter Break week.

Spring Time
Where: Flight Trampoline Park | Springfield, VA
When: Daily
Admission: Starts at $12

Kids of all ages can jump, play, even flip for joy at Flight Trampoline Park. The huge space resembles a skate park, with an industrial look of exposed pipes and cinder block walls sprayed with graffiti. But where you’d find ramps, rails, and concrete to facilitate skills and tricks, there are trampolines instead. Be sure to check the schedule for any special jumping times, and buy tickets/sign waivers in advance online to avoid a line there.

* Find even more places for active indoor play here!



See Some Sports

Cheer on our local (or visiting) teams!

Wizards
Where: Capital One Arena | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 28 & 30, January 1 & 3
Admission: Ticket prices vary

The Wizards have a few home games over the break, so catch some exciting action on the court. They host the New York Knicks on December 28, Miami Heat on December 30, Orlando Magic on January 1, and Portland Trailblazers on January 3.

All Caps
Where: Capital One Arena | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 21, 27 & 31
Admission: Ticket prices vary

Hockey fans can see the Caps play a couple games. The Tampa Bay Lightening will be here on December 21, the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 27, and the New York Islanders on December 31.

Hoops, NCAA-Style
Where: Universities around the DMV
When: Throughout the break
Admission: Ticket prices vary

With so many universities in the area, there’s always some good college hoops action going on. Here’s where you can check out schedules and look for tickets:
University of Maryland (Go, Terps!)
George Washington University
Georgetown University
American University
Howard University
George Mason University



Must-See DC

Take in views of DC from the top of the Washington Monument

A Monumental Experience
Where: Washington Monument | National Mall, DC
When: Daily, 9am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The Washington Monument recently reopened after being closed for repairs, so you can once again go inside for a tour and to take in DC views. You can order advance reservation tickets online for a nominal processing fee. Same-day, free tickets are also be available on a first-come, first-served basis daily starting at 8:30am at the Washington Monument Lodge, located on 15th Street NW, between Madison Drive NW and Jefferson Drive SW.

A Local & National Treasure
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Monday – Saturday
Admission: Free

Explore the largest library in the world and one of DC’s most iconic attractions. Not only does the Library of Congress have a whole great space dedicated to kids, it is a trove of knowledge, art, history, and culture — and the public is welcome to enjoy it all, and for free! Open Monday through Saturday, 9am – 4:30pm.

Tour the Capitol
Where: U.S. Capitol Building | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Daily, 8:30am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free

Take a tour of the U.S. Capitol! You can usually get on a guided tour day of, but even if you can’t there are still plenty of interesting exhibits and statues to see in the Visitor’s Center. A tour lasts about an hour, and includes a short film, walks through the The Rotunda and National Statuary Hall, and a peek into the Old Congress Chamber. Before you go, be sure to read these guidelines on what you can and can’t bring with you. KFDC Tip: You can walk through an underground tunnel to get to the Library of Congress and make it a bigger outing on the Hill.

Abe’s Last Days
Where: Ford’s Theatre | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 9am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free – $3

Ford’s isn’t just a place to catch live entertainment. The site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination highlights its historic significance through exhibits about the president, the circumstances surrounding his assassination, and that fateful night at the theatre. The National Historic Site features a museum, theatre walk-throughs and a presentation, and guests are welcome to explore it all. Best for about ages 8 and up. Reserve tickets online in advance for $3 or get them at the Box Office for free.

Tour the Memorials
Where: National Mall & Tidal Basin, DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Be a tourist in your hometown (unless you’re visiting, then just be a tourist). Take the opportunity to visit the many memorials on the Mall and around the Tidal Basin. Not only are the structures themselves marvel-worthy, there’s a lot to be gleaned from them, too. Learn about some of our country’s presidents and leaders — George, Abe, Tom, FDR, & MLK — from displays, park rangers, and in the Visitors Centers. And walk or bike among them all to add some exercise (and extra fun) to the venture!



Day Trips

Go big at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore

Charm City, Hon!
Where: Baltimore, MD
When: Daily
Admission: Varies by locale

Zip up I-95 for some fun in our sister city, where there are lots of great places to spend a day off. Play the day away at Port Discovery. Explore the exhibits and loads of hands-on activities at the Maryland Science Center. See some of the quirkiest, coolest art around at the American Visionary Art Museum. Get an eyeful of the underwater world at the National Aquarium. Tour the historic ships moored at the Inner Harbor. Or learn about Baltimore’s early business days at the Museum of Industry.

Hit the Slopes
Where: Around the region
When: Through winter
Admission: Varies

A fun, active way to take advantage of winter: Skiing! There are a bunch of ski resorts within a few hours’ drive that are great for young, newbie skiers (and veteran swooshers, too). SkiPA is a good resource for finding slopes to suit your crew, and if you have a 4th or 5th grader, be sure to sign up for the SnowPass that offers free skiing opportunities. Some resorts to check out, both with or without the pass: Liberty, Whitetail, Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, Bryce, Snowshoe, and Wisp.

Go Underground
Where: Luray Caverns | Luray, VA
When: Daily, 9am – 7pm
Admission: $27/adults, $23/seniors, $14/ages 6-12, 5 and under free

Behold the spectacular underground world of stalagmites, stalactites, and other amazing limestone formations in the massive cave system at Luray. Afterward, make your way through the Garden Maze or check out vintage rides in the Carriage and Caravan Museum. Admission does not include attractions beyond the cavern. KFDC Tip: Be sure to make a pit stop before going into the caverns, because it can be a long walk out to a restroom, and once you’re out, you may not be able to go back in.

Art & Maritime Explorations
Where: Calvert County, MD
When: Daily, except Christmas
Admission: Varies by locale

Make a day of it in Calvert County, where you can visit a couple of places for fun, fascinating, hands-on adventures. Annmarie Sculpture Garden is full of artistic delights. Tour beautiful works, both indoors and out, play in the Fairy Lolly, and create some of your own art with inspiration from all you see there. Hours are 9am – 5pm in the gardens, and admission is $5/adult, $3/ages 6-17, free/5 & under. Also out that way is the Calvert Marine Museum, where you can see interesting exhibits, including display cases full of fossils and artifacts, plus live fish and other creatures. There’s also a play area and a real lighthouse to tour. Hours are 10am – 5pm, and admission is $9/adult, $4/ages 5-12, free/4 & under.



Screen Time

Catch cool, often educational films (and wear some rad glasses) at an IMAX movie

(I)MAX Out
Where: Smithsonian IMAX Venues | National Mall, DC/Chantilly, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: $9.50/adult

See a movie on the really big screen. You’ve got your choice of IMAX films playing right now. The Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater in the Air & Space Museum on the National Mall, the Airbus IMAX Theater at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA, are showing the following films that kids can enjoy: Journey to Space 3D, Aircraft Carrier: Guardians of the Sea 3D, D-Day: Normandy 1944 3D, Secrets of the Universe, Apollo 11: First Steps Edition, Superpower Dogs 3D, Jumanji: The Next Level, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (opens 12/20). Tickets are $9.50/adult, $7/child ($15/adult, $13.50/youth for Star Wars). Of course, plan for some time before or after to explore the museums, too. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and admission to both is free.

In Theaters Near You
Where: Cinemas around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by theater

There are a bunch of movies out now (or opening soon) that are good for families with both young children and t(w)eens. Here are quick links for them:
Frozen II
Jumanji: The Next Level
Cats
Knives Out
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Spies in Disguise
Little Women




Extra Tips
* If you’re looking specifically for ideas for foul weather days, see The Great Indoors list or the round-up of Indoor Playgrounds
* And for where to enjoy time outside, check out The Best Places to Spend a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids
* Sometimes you just need a place to hang out for awhile, so why not make it a stunning one?
* The Smithsonian Event Calendar is always worth checking before you head to the museums or the Zoo
* Look for deals and discounts on CertifiKid, Goldstar, and TodayTix.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2019, 2020, All ages, Chanukah, Christmas, DC, Destination from DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Holidays, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Park, Playground, Seasonal, Special Event, Sports, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

The 2016 KFDC Guide to Summer in DC

Summer in the city

Summer in the city



The timing couldn’t be better to bring back this annual guide. The sun is shining brightly, blue has returned to the skies, and the mercury is rising — and we’ve got a nice stretch of this ahead. Quash any doubts that were starting to creep in… DC is going to have a summer!

Ah, summer. The time of year to shift gears — from close-toed shoes to sandals, jeans to shorts, red wine to margaritas. It’s when play dates extend well into the evening, a dip in the pool counts as a bath, and the folks at the neighborhood water ice shop know the kids by name.

It’s also when we can enjoy some of DC’s best activities. Music and movies in the open air, special fests and feasts, water-inspired recreation, and bonus attractions at everyday places are just some of the joys of the season.

And while summer may not officially begin for a few more weeks, Memorial Day weekend is when it kicks off in my mind, and it also marks the start of many seasonal favorites. So, unpack the swimsuits and flip flops, get out the blender for margaritas (smoothies for the kids), and get ready to have some summer fun!

Outdoor Pool Season
Play in the Sprays
Water Parks
Summer Concerts
Festivals
Big Screen Under the Stars
Museum Programs & Seasonal Exhibits
Movies, Storytimes, & More
Mini Trains, Carousels, Mini Golf, & a Ferris Wheel
Children’s Theatre
Summer Sports
Crab Feasts
Seasonal Experiences


Outdoor Pool Season
Nothing says summer like swimming under the sun, and there are plenty of public pools in the area where you can jump in for free or a small admission fee.

  • DC outdoor public pools will open on Saturday, May 28, from 12 – 6pm and will be open weekends only through June 12, as well as Memorial Day, Monday, May 29. Starting June 18, they will open daily, though all pools are closed one day a week for maintenance, so be sure to check the schedule before you go. And note that they will open earlier on weekdays this year, at 11am! (And some open even earlier than that for lap swim.)
  • For outdoor swimming outside of the city, Montgomery County outdoor public pools will open on May 27 through Labor Day — the Department of Recreation website has locations and hours.
  • In Northern Virginia, Arlington’s Upton Hill has a whole water park for guests to enjoy, and Alexandria has several places where the public is welcome to swim. Be sure to check the website for hours, as they vary from pool to pool.


A refreshing run through the sprays at Georgetown Waterfront Park

A refreshing run through the sprays at Georgetown Waterfront Park


Play in the Sprays
Kids can run through fountains and splash around at many area spraygrounds. Several are within the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, but some of the best are built right into the urban landscape, making the concrete jungle a cool place to hang out during the hottest months.

  • Georgetown Waterfront Park, right next to the Washington Harbour, has a fountain with arcing sprays that makes for a fun, refreshing way to cool off on a hot, summer day. The rest of its pretty green space along the Potomac is a great place to hang out, too.
  • The Yards Park is a favorite for many in the city with two levels of super fun sprays, a wading pool and wall of water (essentially a water fall between the levels), plus a great scenic location on the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard
  • Canal Park in the Navy Yard is great for all ages with both a gentle, shallow fountain that is perfect for really little ones to enjoy, plus a bigger fountain with lots of sprays for more enthusiastic play where the ice rink is in the winter.
  • Starting May 28, DPR Spray Parks will be open for the season, but hours vary by location, so be sure to check the website for hours.
  • Some of the area’s most popular spray parks — Lyon Village Park, Hayes Park, and Drew Park — can be found in Arlington.
  • The interactive fountain in Downtown Silver Spring plaza is open daily from 10am – 8pm. While my kids have never played there, I recall seeing very happy youngsters playing in the sprays on the colorful mosaic design during my lunch breaks when I worked at Discovery. It always looked like a blast.
  • The fountain in the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza located at 14th and Park Road, NW is a great place to cool down on a hot day, with many sprays that surge up from a pretty, circular tiled surface. Do a little shopping while you’re there — Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and many other big retail stores are right there — and plan to grab a bite at one of many kid-friendly eateries around. And don’t miss a chance to stop in the Museum of Unnatural History at 826DC.
  • The Fountain on the Square at Rockville Town Square welcomes kids to splish splash from May to September. It’s open Monday – Saturday 11am to 9pm and Sunday 12-8pm, but it’s turned off for maintenance at certain times during the week, so be sure to check the schedule before you go.
  • One of the newest to the sprayground scene, the fountains in the Mosaic District welcome all to play in the sprays that jet up from concrete. Surrounded by retails and restaurants, you can make a day of it there with some shopping and eating, too. Plan to go on a Tuesday with little ones when you can also enjoy Stories from Strawberry Park at 10-11am.


Water Parks
Giant water slides, wave pools, waterfalls, sprays and splash pads…this is the stuff kids’ summer dreams are made of. There are actually several water parks around the area offering many of these attractions, just about all of them opening Memorial Day weekend for limited hours, until they open daily in a few weeks. Here’s a quick list — visit the websites for more details.


Rockin' on the Riverfront is a great start to a summer weekend

Rockin’ on the Riverfront is a great start to a summer weekend


Summer Concerts
Free music in the fresh air has become a staple of the season, and there are opportunities to enjoy just about every genre regularly at outdoor venues all around the DC-Metro.

  • The Capitol Riverfront Friday Concert Series at Yards Park begins May 20 with the Tour de Fat Festival and will run through September 2, presenting a new band each week on the boardwalk stage overlooking the Anacostia River. Along with the free music, food and beverages are available for purchase. (This year there is, unfortunately, a new NO BYOB policy). I recommend getting there early, so the kids can play in the fountains before the concert starts at 6:30pm. And on a hot summer day, it’s nice to continue the water fun even while the tunes are playing — you can still hear them from across the park!
  • Experience live music amid art at Jazz in the Garden, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s free concert series, every Friday from 5:30–8:30pm. The first performance of the season is May 27, rain or shine, and there will be weekly shows through September 2. Spread out a blanket, pack a picnic dinner or purchase food and drinks there, and enjoy the sounds of a variety of jazz artists. Note: Adult drinks are available from the pavilion; BYO alcohol is not permitted.
  • The U.S. Air Force Band 2016 Summer Concert Series kicks off May 12 with a Chamber Players performance at The Lyceum. After that, you can catch free concerts all summer long at locales around the DC-Metro area, including iconic spots like the Air Force Memorial, Capitol steps, and Sylvan Theater on the Washington Monument grounds. Show times vary so be sure to check the U.S. Air Force Band website for the complete summer schedule.
  • All summer long, families can enjoy a variety of free fun at Rockville Town Square. Concerts for all ages on Friday evenings began May 6 and will run through September 30 — enjoy live music, good food, and beverages from 6:30-9:30pm.
  • In Silver Spring, Downtown Live! brings free music every Friday evening to the Fountain Plaza 6:30-8:30pm. Enjoy everything from pop to jazz to R&B to classic rock weekly May 20 through August 26.
  • Rock at the Row returns to Pentagon Row Thursdays through August 25. From 7-9pm, all are invited to the lounge on the new plaza for food samples and craft beer in the VIP section or to gather at one of the outdoor cafés while enjoying live music, giveaways, and merchant specials.
  • The U.S. Botanic Garden is bringing back the American Roots Music Concert Series every Thursday 5-7pm, June 2 – October 20. Celebrate American roots with Americana and folk, country, blues, jazz, and even zydeco outside on the Conservatory Terrace.
  • You can kick-start your weekends at Tysons Corner Center’s Fresh Artists Concert Series, co-hosted by 94.7 Fresh FM and powered by Intelsat. Featuring “Fresh Artists,” the series has a little something for everyone. Grab a blanket and enjoy performances ranging from ballet to blues, folk to funk, poetry to pop. This will run from June 3 – July 26.
  • Get a nice dose of nature as you listen to live tunes at Potomac Overlook Park in Arlington on select Saturday evenings June 4 through August 27. The free, family-friendly performances take place on a stage in the woods surrounded by trails to explore. And the nature center — with snakes, turtles, owls, hawks — is open, too.
  • Enjoy music in Northern Virginia parks! The Fairfax County Park Authority presents their Summer Entertainment Series, a summer-long calendar of shows, concerts and movies appropriate families held in local parks. Bring a picnic dinner, blankets, and lawn chairs to enjoy the best local and regional entertainers.
  • Strathmore, the North Bethesda performing arts center, will host free outdoor concerts every Wednesday from July 6 – August 24.
  • Carter Barron Amphitheater’s annual concert series takes place amid the woods of Rock Creek Park. While most shows are free, a few require admission. The 2016 lineup has not yet been announced, but check the website for an update soon!


Ren Fest and all its pageantry begins in late summer

Ren Fest and all its pageantry begins in late summer


Festivals
Several stand-out events are anticipated around the area this time of year, celebrating everything from music to art & culture to neighborhoods to food.

  • Get folksy at Glen Echo Park June 4-5, when the 36th Annual Washington Folk Festival showcases the diversity of traditional music in Washington. All of the artists hail from the DC area, but cultures from around the nation, as well as the world, will be represented through music, dance, crafts, and stories. The public is invited to enjoy the free festival that is renown in the folk community.
  • It sounds like a grown-ups-only event, but the Vintage Virginia Wine & Food Festival offers plenty of family fun, too. Taking place June 4-5 at Bull Run Park, festivities include wine tasting (of course), chef demos, food truck fare, live music, and a whole family-friendly area with activities especially for kids.
  • Imagination Bethesda, an annual festival occurring in the heart of its namesake city, is all about children. On June 4 from 10am – 3pm, Woodmont & Elm downtown will be lined with activity tents offering tons of fun for kids — arts & crafts, face painting, games, etc. There will also be live entertainment, food from local restaurants, and more. Admission is free.
  • The DC Jazz Festival presents a variety of performers at venues all around the city from June 10-19, but the most family-friendly of them actually precede the main event. Jazz n’ Family Fun Days will take place June 4-5 with free shows for all ages at The Phillips Collection.
  • Attend one of the biggest summer barbeques around June 25-26 as the National Capital Barbeque Battle returns to pit some of the nation’s best barbequers against each other as they compete for big prizes. The reward for attendees: Samples from all the entrants (plus, more food), live music, cooking demos, kids’ fun, and more.
  • Every summer, the National Mall becomes stomping grounds of folks from around the globe to celebrate living cultural heritage and community traditions at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This year’s event will run from June 29 – July 4 and July 7-9, celebrating Basque culture and heritage and the Sounds of California.
  • The lotus and water lilies in full bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are such a ravishing sight it calls for a celebration. Along with the spectacular display of flowers, the annual Lotus & Water Lily Festival will feature traditional Asian and African dancing and drumming, gardening workshops, park tours, arts & crafts, face painting, and other family-friendly pursuits on July 16.
  • The annual Del Ray Music Festival is always a popular event. On July 23, count on a celebration of the Alexandria community with a day of food, games, and lots of kids’ activities along with a varied line-up of live entertainment.
  • On July 16, a 1,000-foot slip ‘n’ slide will be the centerpiece of Slide the City, an all-day party in Tyson’s Corner that also offers live music, entertainment, and vendors. Sliders must be 5 years old and 46″ tall. Tickets prices go up as the event gets closer, so reserve yours soon.
  • It might run into fall, but it starts in August, so I’m counting the Maryland Renaissance Festival among the summer fun. Plus, it’s one of my very, very favorite annual events (more confirmation on that here). The merriment begins August 27 and will continue every weekend through October 23. Go. Just go.


Big Screen Under the Stars
Outdoor movies have become a DC summer tradition in the last few years with films al fresco in several neighborhoods. Even better, all of them are FREE! (*Before you make plans to enjoy any of the series, be sure to check schedules, as some movies may not be appropriate for children.)

  • “Choose your Own Adventure” is the theme of this year’s NoMa Summer Screen, so mark your calendars for Raider of the Lost Ark, Princess Bride, Jumanji, E.T., and a bunch of other family-friendly flicks. The series begins June 1 and will run weekly on Wednesdays until August 17. There will also be Family Film Night with movies for littler ones on June 21, July 19, and August 16. Sponsored by REI (coming to the NoMA soon!), the series will take place at NoMa Junction at Storey Park (1005 First Street NE). Get there to picnic at 7pm, and the movie begins at dark. See the list of films on the website.
  • See Your favorite stars beneath the stars at the Capitol Riverfront’s Canal Park Outdoor Movie Series. Catch films every Thursday evening at sundown from June 2 through August 11.
  • National Harbor’s Movies on the Potomac started their Sunday night film series for families on May 1and will runt through September 25. Movies are shown on the plaza screen beginning at sunset, usually around 8:30pm.
  • Bethesda Outdoor Movies will bring five days of flicks al fresco to downtown at the corner of Norfolk and Auburn Avenues from July 26-30.
  • Catch Films in the Park at the Mosaic District every Friday from June 3 – August 26 with a lineup of family-friendly films.


Spy fairy houses and more artful delights at Annmarie Sculpture Gardens

Spy fairy houses and more artful delights at Annmarie Sculpture Gardens


Museum Programs & Seasonal Exhibits

  • First there was indoor mini-golf, then it was a giant maze, last year it was the awesome BEACH. This summer, the National Building Museum is riding the seasonal wave and bringing ICEBERGS to the Great Hall. The immersive installation will emphasize current themes of landscape representation, geometry, and construction, as visitors ascend a viewing area inside the tallest berg, traverse an undersea bridge, relax among caves and grottos. Admission is $5/youth member, $10/adult member and $13/youth non-member, $16/adult non-member. Open July 2 through September 5.
  • The National Gallery of Art’s Stories in Art Drop-In Series returns this summer after a hiatus during museum renovations. Geared toward ages 4-7, this fantastic program introduces kids to art and encourages them to use their imaginations as they discover different works. This season will explore the Netherlands as they “meet” Dutch artists and investigate their paintings and sculptures. Read a KFDC review of the program from a few years back (we’ve been since, and it was just as good!).
  • Annmarie Sculpture Garden is enchanting any time of year, but it’s especially so in the summer when the fairy and gnome houses are on display. The adorable collection of little whimsical abodes for sprite-like creatures have all been selected from many submissions in an annual fairy house building contest. And they are just fantastic. Created by all ages, individuals and groups, each one has a different theme, but together they are a brilliant showcase of imagination and craftiness.
  • During the warm months, little ones can flex their green thumbs in the outdoor Children’s Garden at the U.S. Botanic Garden — they can dig in dirt, water plants, and explore a cute little Bamboo Forest. The rest of the USBG’s outdoor gardens are great to explore, too!
  • You can walk amid a garden of butterflies at Brookside Garden’s amazing Wings of Fancy exhibit. It’s back after being closed last summer during renovations. The seasonal display featuring live butterflies and caterpillars from all over the world opened in April and will welcome visitors through September 25, 10am – 4pm. Admission is $8/ages 13 and up, $5/3-12, free ages 0-2 (admission to the rest of Brookside is free). Read about a KFDC experience at the exhibit.
  • At Smithsonian’s National Zoo, you can get up close and view a 12-foot-long shark, 16-foot-long parrot fish, an 8-foot-wide octopus, and a 20-foot-long coral reef — all made completely of plastic debris collected from beaches. “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea,” a collection of colorful and dramatic sculptures of marine animals, represents more than 315 billion pounds of plastic in oceans today and underscore the need for wildlife conservation. It will be on view May 27 through September 5. Admission to the exhibit and the Zoo are free.
  • Every year, the Newseum offers the Summer Fun Deal. From July 1 – September 5, there is no admission fee for kids ages 18 and under. The promotion waives the $12.95 regular entrance charge for youth with one paid adult admission, senior admission, or Newseum membership (a benefit to ages 7 and up, as kids 6 and under are always free). Up to six kids can enter free with the offer. Read a KFDC take on the Newseum and look for a deal on adult admission here.


Movies, Storytimes, & More
Families movies at local theaters are a great way to stay cool and keep kids entertained when the weather heats up. And several seasonal programs keep little ones engaged with storytimes and more interactive fun. Even better, they’re all free or super cheap!

  • The Regal Summer Movie Express presents flicks for kids on many Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 10am. Admission is just $1. Be sure to check the website for the film schedule and theater locations, as it doesn’t run at all theaters every week.
  • Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Ashburn welcomes families to Kids Camp, a movie series that is inexpensive ($1-3) and benefits local charities, to boot.
  • National Harbor hosts free family activities every Wednesday through September 28. From 10-10:30am enjoy Family Fitness classes. At 10:30am, there will be cartoons on the jumbo screen and a rotation of weekly activities provided by the Prince George’s County Fire & Police Departments and story time by the Urban Pirates.
  • Join Cathedral Commons for Mornings with Mommy & Daddies, Too!, a free interactive program for children of all ages on the second Wednesday of each month from May through September. Meets at Newark Street at Wisconsin Avenue.
  • Mommy and Me (and Daddy, Too!) programs take place each third Tuesday of the month 10am -12pm at Rockville Town Square. Active learning and creative play includes story time, arts and crafts, sing-a-longs, prizes and more.
  • From June 1 – September 28, Kids Corner on The Plaza at CityCenter welcomes little ones for outdoor story time, singing, and fun with DC Public Library.


Go for a spin on the carousel at Watkins Regional Park

Go for a spin on the Antique Carousel at Watkins Regional Park

Mini Trains, Carousels, Mini Golf, & a Ferris Wheel!
These extra delights bring even more fun to several parks around the area that are already great outdoor places to hang with the kids.

  • Watkins Regional Park opened its attractions on a limited schedule in early May, but come Memorial Day weekend, they can be enjoyed for extended hours almost every day of the week. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10am – 7pm; Sundays 12–7 pm, closed Mondays except May 30 (Memorial Day), July 4 (July Fourth Holiday; closes at 4pm) & August 30 (Labor Day).
  • Cabin John Regional Park opened its Miniature Train on weekends only back in April, but as of June 1, it’ll be operating daily 10am – 7pm through August. After that, hours will be limited, so check the schedule.
  • The Miniature Train and Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel at Wheaton Regional Park started taking guests for spins in early April on weekends and will be open daily June 1 through August 28 (limited times after that). Hours are 10am – 6pm Monday to Friday, and 10am – 7pm Saturday & Sunday.
  • The Clemyjontri carousel has been running on weekends since April, but will be offering rides daily starting May 31 on weekdays 9:30am – 1:00pm and weekends 9:30am – 6:30pm.
  • The RIO Express Train and Carousel at RIO Washingtonian are open 3pm – dusk on weekdays, 11am – dusk on weekends through June 19. After that, they’ll open daily 11am – 9pm. Rides are $3.
  • Kind of like a London Eye of the U.S., The Capital Wheel at National Harbor is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of DC. The 42-gondola ride (all closed and climate-controlled with room for 8) soars 180 feet above the Potomac River waterfront, offering vistas of the White House and Capitol, the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, and more amazing sites. Ticket prices start at $15. Read more about it here.
  • Burke Lake Park’s Mini Train and Carousel are open April to October, daily from Memorial Day – Labor Day 11:30am – 5:30pm. The park is free to access for Fairfax county residents. For non-county residents, the park is free on weekdays and has a $10 entrance fee on weekends/holidays for a car or large capacity van. Carousel rides are $2-3, and train rides are $3-4.


A setting as great as the entertainment at Children's Theatre in the Woods

A setting as great as the entertainment at Children’s Theatre in the Woods


Children’s Theatre
All the world’s an outdoor stage at these venues that present entertainment especially for children throughout the summer.

  • From late June through early August, Wolf Trap presents Children’s Theater-in-the-Woods, over 70 family-friendly performances at 10am Tuesdays through Saturdays. Amidst 117 rolling wooded acres and nestled in a shady grove, the stage is set for lively adventures in music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater. All of the productions are recommended for children between Kindergarten and 6th grade, though I think kids even younger can enjoy them, too (mine have). Read a KFDC review of the series from a couple of summers ago.
  • Backyard Theater for Children, Strathmore’s summer theater series brings live music and fun to kids – all outdoors under a big tent. Weekly performances take place every Thursday at 9:30am and 11:30 from July 7-28. Admission is $8, free for ages 2 and under.
  • See a Shakespeare play in the park! The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company presents Shakespeare in thr Ruins at the Picturesque Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City this summer. Romeo and Juliet, running June 10-19., is a unique production that has the audience travel with the actors and the action as the story unfolds outdoors on multiple sets in the ruins at the park — comfy shoes recommended for traveling around with the play. From June 24 – July 24, The Three Mustketeers is a one-stage show, perfect for a picnic performance with the whole fam. Even better, kids are free (two for every adult). Advance reservations are recommended as tickets are limited.


Boys of summer

Boys of summer


Summer Sports
Some of the season’s best action takes place in ballparks, stadiums, and arenas thanks to our local sports teams. Here’s where you can join the fan clubs.

  • A day at Nationals Park is all it takes to understand why baseball is America’s favorite pastime. Catching a Washington Nationals game is one of our family’s preferred ways to enjoy a nice summer (or spring) day (or evening), anyway. The excitement extends well beyond the diamond with games and activities in the park, a playground for kids, the Racing Presidents, fun in the stands, and more. Before you go, check out these tips on doing a Nats game without breaking the bank. And I highly recommend the Jr. Nationals Kids Club for children 12 and under. Just $20 gets them membership, which includes Nats swag, plus a coupon book with offers for free meals, BOGO tickets, a ballpark tour, and all kinds of discounts. Even a few months into the season, it’s still worth it!
  • Tennis, anyone? The Washington Kastles, the DC franchise of World TeamTennis, will bring some on-court thrills to the Smith Center, where Kastles Stadium is located, August 1-13. For some background, see this post and this one from a few years back.
  • Whether you’ve got a little soccer fan in your fam or not, DC United matches are fun experiences for all ages. And since games only last 90 minutes, it’s not too long for antsy young spectators. Be sure to check for any pre- or post-game activities for kids.
  • Can’t stand the heat? Head to the Verizon Center to see the Washington Mystics (w)hoop it up on the basketball court. Tickets start at $19.
  • Swing up to Charm City to see the Baltimore Orioles play. Camden Yards is a beautiful ballpark, and you can head to the Inner Harbor before or after to make a day of it up north.
  • If the Nats or O’s aren’t in town, or you want to see baseball on a smaller scale, you’ve got several great options around the area. Take ’em out to the minors at a Bowie Baysox, Potomac Nationals, or Aberdeen Ironbirds game. Summer collegiate team Bethesda Big Train is also very popular for non-majors baseball action.
  • Women’s pro soccer team, Washington Spirit, plays in Germantown. Per a KFDC reader, “you get affordable tickets and concessions, picnic seating behind the goal, a really intimate, family-friendly environment and top-level soccer.”


Blue crabs, one of the best treats of the season

Blue crabs, one of the best treats of the season

Crab Feasts
Easily one of the best activities during summer in Maryland and neighboring areas (this is where I get non-DC-centric because I have to give credit where it’s due). Here are some suggestions for places to get ’em, though the “best” is always a subject for debate.


Explore the river with the Anacostia Watershed Society on a Paddle Night

Explore the river with the Anacostia Watershed Society on a Paddle Night


Seasonal Experiences

9 Comments

Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC