Tag Archives: Children’s Activities in DC

February is Black History Month: Here’s Where to Celebrate it with Kids Around DC

Barack Obama will be a subject of Portrait Story Days this month at the National Portrait Gallery


February is Black History Month, and there are so many great events and activities throughout the DC area to celebrate it. Museum programs (including an entire museum), special events, tours and exhibits, live entertainment, story time sessions, and more will be enlightening and fun for all ages. Here’s where many are happening over the next few weeks.

Tour the NMAAHC
Where: National Museum of African American History & Culture
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

This museum is the best place to learn about black history and culture in America. September through February, which is off-peak season, you can get in on weekdays without tickets, but timed entry passes are still required for weekend admission. They are available online on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 6:30am until they run out. Be sure to read the KFDC Guide to Visiting the National Museum of African American History & Culture with Kids before you go.

Portrait Story Days
Where: National Portrait Gallery | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Most Saturdays & Sundays, 1-4pm
Admission: Free

Drop in to the Portrait Gallery to listen to a story from friends at the DC Public Library about a notable person featured in the collection and complete a hands-on art project. All through February, the program highlights black Americans in honor of Black History Month — this year, Rosa Parks, Barack Obama, Frederick Douglass, and Michelle Obama will be in the spotlight. Read more about the program and museum here.

Museum & Memorial Tour
Where: African American Civil War Museum | Shaw, DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Take a tour of another museum dedicated to the contributions of the 209,145 members of the United States Colored Troops. The African American Civil War Museum tells the stories and preserves for posterity the historic roles these brave men of African, European, and Hispanic descent played in ending slavery and keeping America united under one flag. A rich collection of artifacts, documents, primary sources, and technology create a meaningful learning experience for families, students, Civil War enthusiasts and historians about the period from the American Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond. Be sure to stop by the nearby African American Civil War Memorial, too.

Library Programs
Where: Public Libraries throughout DC
When: Throughout February
Admission: Free

The DC Public Library proudly celebrates Black History Month during February with all kinds of programs — author talks, lectures, arts & crafts, and story times. Visit the website to see what activities are going on at a location near you.

Jim Crow on Streetcars
Where: National Trolley Museum | Colesville, MD
When: Through February, Saturdays & Sundays, 12-5pm
Admission: $10/adult, $8/child

In recognition of Black History Month, the Museum presents this temporary exhibit. Learn about the nature of segregation aboard the cars in 19th century New York, the efforts to black the practice as it developed across the South, and the eventual success in opening employment opportunities.

Frederick Douglass House Tour
Where: Frederick Douglass Historic Site | Anascostia, DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: $1

Learn about the life of Frederick Douglass on a guided tour is his historic house — it’s the only way to see the inside. Rangers guide interpretive tours of the house every day at the scheduled times (listed on the website). Tours cover the first and second floors and last about 30 minutes.

Lunch and Learn: Black History Month
Where: Sully Historic Site | Fairfax, VA
When: February 5, 12-1pm
Admission: $5

When Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week in 1926, he wanted schools and other organizations to study black history. The week of recognition has since grown to Black History Month. In honor of this month, learn about the enslaved people who made Sully their home during the 18th century. The program includes a visual presentation and hands-on elements. Bring your lunch and your questions, as discussion is welcome. For ages 12+.

African American Pioneers in Aviation and Space
Where: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center | Chantilly, VA
When: February 8, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free, but parking is $15

Join the Air & Space museum as they celebrate African American History Month by revealing past pioneers and giving families the opportunity to inspire the next generation of innovators in aviation and space. African Americans have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to flight and space exploration despite the overwhelming obstacles they had to overcome. Enjoy guest speakers as they share their personal tales of triumph, participate in hands-on activities that will challenge families to be pioneers in space and aviation, and hear inspiring stories of African Americans who have overcome challenges and refused to be hidden figures.

The “Lives Bound Together” exhibit focuses on slavery at the Mount Vernon estate

The Slave Memorial & Exhibits
Where: Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: $20/adult, $12/ages 6-11, free/5 & under

Make a point to see these on a visit to George Washington’s estate. The memorial is located approximately 50 yards southwest of George and Martha Washington’s tomb, on a bluff above the Potomac River. A gray, truncated, granite column which represents “life unfinished” is the center of three concentric brick circles. The three steps leading up to the column are inscribed, respectively, “Faith,” “Hope” and “Love” — the virtues that sustained those living in bondage. The exhibit Lives Bound Together explores the personal stories of the people enslaved at Mount Vernon while providing insight into George Washington’s evolving opposition to slavery. (Note: The mansion at Mount Vernon will not be open to visitors through February 9, and tickets are 25% off during that time. The rest of the exhibits and grounds are still open!)

Show What You Know: African American Inventors
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When: Select dates in February
Admission: $17.95

Head to the children’s museum in Baltimore for all kinds of kid play, including this fun game being offered during February: Test your knowledge in this museum floor game show. Match and learn about famous inventions from African American men and women throughout history. Play with others for the chance to win multiple prizes! Read more about Port Discovery in this recent post.

African Fabric Workshop
Where: Museum of Industry | Baltimore, MD
When: February 8, 10-11:30am
Admission: $10/adult, $5/child

Celebrate Black History Month with an intergenerational workshop on the meaning behind African printed fabrics led by Baltimore-based designer Akos “Sunday” Regal. Register in advance! The fee includes museum admission for the day (open 10am – 4pm), the 90 minute workshop, and a fabric swatch to take home. Read more about the Baltimore Museum of Industry in this KFDC post.

Into the Great Unknown: African American Adventurers and Explorers
Where: Discovery Theater | National Mall, DC
When: February 11-13
Tickets: $3-8

Leadership, courage, and adventure take center stage in this inspiring Discovery Theater original. From Matthew Henson, co-discoverer of the North Pole, to astronaut Mae Jemison, meet a century’s worth of bold men and women who challenged the Western frontier, the highest of mountains, and the vastness of outer space—and triumphed. In the histories and heroism of these explorers and adventurers, young audiences find models to help them reach their own highest goals.

The Snowy Day & Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats
Where: Adventure Theatre | Glen Echo, MD
When: February 14 – April 5
Tickets: $23 (find discount)

Ezra Jack Keats’ was a pioneer in children’s literature as his stories were the first to break racial barriers, and his stories are perfectly timed to come to life on stage at Adventure Theatre starting this month. This beautiful show follows the character of Peter and his friend Archie around the neighborhood in four of Keats’ beloved tales, The Snowy Day, Whistle for Willie, Goggles!, and A Letter to Amy. Renowned for his tender personality, the character of Peter faces relatable everyday challenges to which children of all ages will find delightfully entertaining.

Black History Month Family Day
Where: Woodlawn Manor | Sandy Spring, MD
When: February 8
Admission: $5-7

Bring the entire family out to celebrate African American Culture. TThe event will feature presentations and hands-on activities for children, taking place inside Woodlawn Manor. Limited tickets sold day of program at the Visitor Center, so sign up in advance.

Young Portrait Explorers: Martin Luther King Jr.
Where: National Portrait Gallery | Penn Quarter, DC
When: February 24, 10:30-11:30am
Admission: Free

Join the National Portrait Gallery to learn about Barack Obama in a program that touches on art and history through storytelling. For toddlers up to age 5 and their adult companions. Registration is required. Class size is limited — register in advance! Parents and guardians must remain with their children.

Frederick Douglass Annual Birthday Commemoration
Where: Various locations | Anacostia, DC
When: February 15
Admission: Free

Join the National Park Service as they celebrate the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass as well as the Centennial of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Following the Opening Ceremony at Anacostia High School Auditorium (1601 16th Street SE), there will be special themed house tours at Cedar Hill and an art program in the visitor center. There will also be programming at the Anacostia Arts Center and Anacostia High School that will include guest lectures, an exhibit by the DC League of Women Voters, and performances in the lobby.

National Philharmonic Black Classical Music Pioneers
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: February 22
Admission: $89/adult, free/age 7-17

This concert highlights the works of African American pioneers of classical music… Wild Strumming of Fiddle, by Wynton Marsalis (born 1961), comes from a remarkable 12-movement work that fuses jazz and symphonic music to create a dizzying array of sounds, rhythms and melodies. The Violin Concerto No. 1 (1939) by Florence Price (1887-1953) is a highly accomplished work in the models of the European classical concerto, by the first African-American woman to be widely recognized as a symphonic composer. The Lyric for Strings (1946) by George Walker (1922-2018), the first African-American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, is a work of intimate beauty. The Symphony No. 1 (1930) by William Grant Still (1895-1978) is the first symphony written by an African-American composer. Its subtitle (“Afro-American”) points to the unique style of the work, which includes elements of blues and jazz. Recommended for ages 7+.

Going the Distance
Where: Discovery Theater | National Mall, DC
When: February 20-28
Tickets: $3-8

Race to the finish line at Discovery Theater with two black Olympians who changed history! Soaring music and the exhilaration of world-class sorts motivate us to greatness in this vivid portrayal of the lives of Jesse Owens and Wilma Rudolph. Join them as they them overcome childhood illness, infirmity, and poverty to become the world’s fastest man and woman, winning the greatest honor in all athletics: the Olympic gold medal. The John Cornelius II score speaks to the heart and soul of the winner in all of us.

Black History Month Winter Walking Tour
Where: Woodlawn Manor Park | Sandy Spring, MD
When: February 29, 10am – 2pm
Admission: $8

Take a guided tour of the grounds and buildings of Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park and discover the role enslaved labor played on this 19th century farm. Explore how the enslaved could have nature for escape and evasion while seeking freedom. This guided tour includes exterior space and a natural trail. Participants are recommended to dress to be in the elements. Best for ages 8+. Register in advance.


Leave a Comment

Filed under 2020, All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Outdoor, Special Event, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Scenes from the 2019 Season’s Greening Exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Up close and personal with a model of a topiary flamingo


The U.S. Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to visit any time of year, but it gets the most attention during the holidays when its annual Season’s Greenings exhibit is on display — and for good reason. Featuring the most delightful train display, models of DC landmarks in the festively decorated conservatory, plus concerts and extended hours, it’s one of the best ways to enjoy some holiday fun around DC.

The highlight, especially for kids (and the kid in all of us adults) is the garden railway, which is always beautiful, whimsical, and uniquely crafted from plant materials. This year’s theme is America’s Gardens with recreations of structures — conservatories, fountains, and sculptures — from botanical gardens around the country. See the Canopy Cathedral Treehouse from Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania (random fact: I worked there when I was in high school), the Science Pyramid from the Denver Botanic Gardens, the World’s Largest Concrete Garden Gnome from Iowa’s Reiman Gardens, the USBG’s own Bartholdi Fountain, the Biltmore Conservatory, Topiary Flamingos from Ohio, and many, many more fantastically imaginative works. The model trains zipping through it all adds another layer of whimsy and delight.

Try to get a close look to see how the individual leaves, seed pods, stems, and other plant parts are placed to create the works — it really is impressive. Stand back, too, to take it all in and appreciate the mini botanical wonderland.

Once again, in the main Garden Court you can also view Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials as well as poinsettias and other vibrant flora. And be sure to stop in the West Gallery where there is a 26-foot Christmas tree with its own model train whizzing by recreations of DC row houses — all made of plant materials and based on real homes on Capitol Hill and Georgetown.

For more holiday magic at the Botanic Garden, there are concerts Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when hours are extended until 8pm. This is my favorite time to go. The music adds extra spirit and it’s lovely to see the exhibit and plant collections illuminated by colorful lights. Plus, there’s usually no wait to get in then.

Be aware that lines to get in do get long, especially on weekends and when kids are on Winter Break from school. Your best bet for avoiding a wait is to go on a weekday before they’re off for the holidays (think after school activity) or on one of the Tuesday or Thursday evenings in December.

And if you get there and the line is just too long, there is more than just the Seasons Greenings exhibit to enjoy. Explore the plant collections, both inside and out, and pick up a Plant Hunt guide, so the kids can search for specific species. And be sure to check out Patrick Doherty’s amazing Stickwork Sculpture Installation in the National Garden. Bartholdi Garden, also part of the USBG right across Independence Avenue, will also be festively decorated this year.

Season’s Greenings opens on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, and runs through January 5, 2020, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Hours are 10am – 5pm daily (and noted 8pm closings on Tuesdays and Thursdays in December). Admission is free. Get more of a glimpse in the photos below, but definitely plan a visit there to enjoy it all in person!















3 Comments

Filed under 2019, 2020, All ages, Annual, Christmas, DC, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Holidays, Seasonal, Special Event, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Make Your Own Holiday Cards at the National Postal Museum’s Annual Workshop!


Looking for a unique, fun, and meaningful way to bond with your family this holiday season? The National Postal Museum’s Annual Holiday Card Workshop is a perfect opportunity for just that! Visitors of all ages can enjoy the free, open-house event that will be held on Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8, 10am – 4pm.

The museum’s card making workshops are a KFDC favorite, and I highly recommend going if you haven’t yet been to one — or even if you have. They provide a beautiful, bountiful spread of patterned papers, postage and rubber stamps, gems and other 3-D embellishments, special cut-out scissors, washi tape, stickers, markers of every color and more. Guests can follow their own creative instincts, choosing whichever supplies they would like to design one-of-a-kind greetings for any holiday, or even just a wintery “Hello!”


The workshop takes place in the Postal Museum’s lower-level Atrium, which is full of various postal mail transports from over the years, including a real train car, semi-truck (that kids can climb in and pretend to drive), a horse-drawn carriage, and airplanes hanging from the ceiling. It’s quite a stunning space! And thanks to Smithsonian Gardens, the Atrium will be decked out in festive foliage to help get everyone in the holiday spirit.

The layout of the card-making stations and supply tables encourages sharing, friendliness, and a sense of community. We always enjoy meeting and chatting with our table mates, and the fun, creative vibe always has everyone in a good mood. The museum’s pleasant staff and volunteers are also available to answer questions, provide examples of completed cards, or help in any other way.

For many, a handmade gesture can mean much more to a friend or a loved one than a store-bought gift. What better way to get into the holiday spirit than taking the time to express your love and gratitude with a heartfelt greeting?

*As a special treat this year, the U.S. Postal Service’s Operation Santa will be featured at the event. Each year, hundreds of thousands of letters sent to Santa from children and families arrive at Post Offices around the country. Most letters ask for toys and games. Some ask for basic necessities. Some ask for help for themselves and their loved ones. USPS Operation Santa makes it possible for individuals and organizations to adopt these letters and send responses and thoughtful gifts in Santa’s place.

Annual Holiday Card Workshop
Where: National Postal Museum | 2 Massachusetts Ave NE, WDC
When: December 7-8, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free


This post is sponsored by Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, however, I only promote events, places, and programs that I genuinely believe in and think will be of interest to KFDC readers.


.

2 Comments

Filed under 2019, All ages, Annual, Art, Christmas, DC, Free, Holidays, Museums, Seasonal, Special Event, Weekend, Winter

Tips for Visiting Smithsonian Museums with Young Children (Ages 0-6)

[Note: This is a Guest Post contributed by Jennifer Liao, local mom and founder of Family Trip Guides. As my own kids are now well past the little kid stage, Jennifer brings a fresh take on navigating the National Mall’s museum scene with younger children.]

I started taking my kids to the Smithsonian museums as a tactic to survive the long summer, but it turned into the highlight of the season! We set a goal to visit all 12 Smithsonian museums with my then 2- and 5-year-old and made a passing grade of 8 over the summer and finished this past year. At first, my goals were to escape the suburbs and enjoy the free, world-class museums, but I wasn’t prepared for how much we would grow to love our visits! Now my kids regularly ask which museum we’re going to this week: The Dinosaur One? (Natural History), the Vehicle One? (Postal Museum), or the Inventions One? (American History).

Channeling Julia Childs at Wegmans Wonderplace in the American History Museum

The museums sparked so much curiosity and wonder in my kids that it became contagious. They were excited to share with kids and adults alike about what they discovered that, by the end, we were bringing neighbors with us on our museum trips. I started to get lots of questions from my friends about taking kids into DC by themselves, where to park on a weekday, and food options outside the museums. So, I started texting my tips to friends, which turned into emails, then ultimately created Family Trip Guides for the top five museums.
I love lists so below are: 1) My 3 favorite things about visiting Smithsonians with young kids, 2) Trip tips, and 3) Favorite museums for this age.

Exploring the African Art Museum

My 3 Favorite Things about Visiting Smithsonians with Young Kids

1. Following Their Wonder: I LOVE watching kids’ faces light up when they explore something new! I often follow behind my children when we first enter a gallery and listen to their oohs and ahhs and have them lead me to what they want to explore. Most recently, in the African Art Museum right behind the Smithsonian Castle, my 3-year-old was so transfixed by the beautiful gold exhibit from the Wolof in Senegal, commenting that one necklace looked kind of like a cupcake!

2. Free = No Pressure/No Guilt: All the Smithsonian museums are free which relieves a lot of the pressure to “see everything.” If you need to leave because of nap time or a tantrum, you have a guilt free pass to do so. We used to live in Chicago where the Field Museum is $26 for the basic admission per person so you wanted to get your money’s worth, i.e. you stayed awhile, even if the kids were no longer into it. The Smithsonians can be a great pop-in destination whether you live nearby or not.

3. Connection: Visiting a museum with younger kids requires a lot more attention for the parent or caregiver (why is Obama’s portrait at toddler-touch-level at the Portrait Gallery?!), but it leads to incredible moments of connection with your child. My kids help me live in the moment and see the wonder in the nature, art, and artifacts.

Don’t miss the Volunteer Carts for extra exhibits (and stickers!)

My Top 3 Trip Tips for Visiting Museums with Little Kids

1. Go at the Right Time: Parents and caregivers all know that timing is everything with this age group. Pick the time when your child will be the least tired, hungry, and overstimulated. For my kids, that’s in the morning, but I know some parents who visit museums after an afternoon nap. I aim to get to the museum right at 9:45am to get parking close to the museum (often right on the National Mall!) and get in line five minutes before the museum opens at 10am. This is my “magic time” before a lot of the school and tour groups seem to arrive around 11am, and tourists later in the afternoon. It gives my kids a couple of hours to enjoy a much less crowded museum and make a clean exit for lunch, either a picnic on the Mall or at an eatery close by. (I have 20+ food options categorized by each museum on my blog.)

2. Go to a Little-Kid Friendly Museum: There are 12 museums and an amazing National Zoo as a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum complex in the world! All of them are special and wonderful in their own way, but for this age group, I would highly recommend focusing on the most kid-friendly of them (see below), especially if you will need good changing tables and nursing areas.

3. Avoid the Gift Shop: Confession time… my kids have never been to a museum gift shop! I think my daughter knows they exist, because we had to walk by one and I diverted her to another gallery. We really avoid the gift shop because, as all parents know, it can be a drawn-out negotiation that takes time and energy I’d rather be spending on the exhibits. So, instead, I have included Gift Shop Alternatives for each age group and for each museum in my Guides. A few ideas for little kids: If you’re near the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall, take a ride on the historic Carousel — for $3.50 the only dilemma is which animal to ride. If you’re at Natural History or Air and Space Museums, ask the information desk where the Volunteer Cart is for the day — they might be giving out free stickers. If you’re near the Postal Museum, get a food treat at Au Bon Pain, Shake Shack, or another place in Union Station.

Start a stamp collection at the National Postal Museum!

My 3 Favorite Smithsonian Museums with Young Kids

1. National Postal Museum: This was the surprise favorite of our whole family during our summer challenge and definitely the “easiest” of the Smithsonians with kids. It has wonderful hands-on exhibits and the largest collection of stamps in the world — and they let you take a few to start your own collection! My 3-year old son calls this the “vehicle museum” because it houses a real train, a stagecoach, and an 18-wheeler truck to climb all around. The museum is located right next to Union Station, making it perfect for metro, parking, and dozens of food options from Shake Shack to Chipotle! 

2. American History Museum: This museum has so much to offer for all ages, plus the best enclosed play area for smaller kids. Wegman’s Wonderplace feels like a real museum (because it is!) with paintings and artifacts behind child safe glass and at their eye level. It is created for ages 0-6 and includes a kid-friendly bathroom, a nursing room in the back corner, a volunteer-staffed gate to keep kids inside, and an amazing kid-sized replica of Julia Childs’ kitchen! (Note: Wegman’s Wonderplace is closed Tuesdays.)

3. American Indian Museum: I love this museum because our kids don’t have much interaction with Native American cultures, and the museum does a great job at welcoming kids to learn more. We love the kids’ area called the imagiNATIONS Activity Center on the 3nd floor and The Mitsitam Food Court (which means “Let’s eat!” in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway peoples). It’s an extension of the museum with foods from different regions. (Note: imagiNATIONS is closed Mondays.)

I hope something in all these lists sparked interest in taking your kids (or neighbor kids!) to one of the amazing national treasures we call Smithsonian Museums.

Thanks so much, Jennifer!

KFDC community, what are some your favorite Smithsonian Museums? Let us know in the comments below!

* * * * *


Jennifer Liao is a mom of two curious kiddos in Fairfax County who unabashedly loves museums. She created FamilyTripGuides.com to help other families have great visits with their kids. She also loves cooking with her husband and long bike rides.






3 Comments

Filed under Babies, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Gradeschoolers, Guest Post, Indoor Play, Museums, Preschoolers, Toddlers, Weekdays, Weekend