Tag Archives: Kid Friendly Activities in DC

Scenes from The REACH Winter Lanterns at the Kennedy Center


It’s time to ring in the Year of the Rat, and there are a bunch of fun ways to do so around DC (see the latest Weekend Round-Up for details on several). The Kennedy Center has already begun the celebration with The REACH Winter Lanterns, a wonderful exhibition of about 100 stunning illuminations. Crafted by Chinese artisans, the display is made up of 10,000 colored LED lights, including the Chinese Four Symbols and 12 Zodiac Signs, Panda Grove, Mushroom Garden, Floral Garden, and Jellyfish Lagoon — all of it delightful and so beautiful.

Along with the lanterns, there are more activities to enjoy. When Sasha and I visited, there was a Beijing Opera make-up demo, panda photo ops, traditional costumes to try on, a calligraphy station, and a paper lantern making workshop. Food trucks are there for bites, and outdoor seating areas warmed by heaters provide a place to eat them.

A special Family Day on Saturday, January 25, will have free fun for all ages from 1:30-4:30pm. Activities will include arts and crafts, a traditional costume photo booth, zodiac stickers, demonstrations of sugar painting and wood block printing, magic shows, and more. Plan to stick around for the Winter Lanterns, which begins at 5:30pm. And the Beijing Bamboo Orchestra is the Millennium Stage performance that evening at 6pm.

The REACH Winter Lanterns will be on display select dates through Sunday, February 2 — this weekend through Sunday, January 26, then Thursday, January 30 – Sunday, February 2. It begins at 5:30pm each evening except for January 26, when it starts at 4pm. All of it is free, though parking at the Kennedy Center is $23. You can try for street parking nearby (though difficult to find a spot), so pubic transportation (nearest Metro is Foggy Bottom) is recommended. And all of the lanterns are outdoors on The REACH campus, so dress warmly! Other activities, however, take place inside.

Here’s more of a glimpse of it all…



















Leave a Comment

Filed under 2020, All ages, Art, DC, Exhibit, Free, Holidays, Outdoor, Special Event, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Mission: Explore the New Spy Museum at L’Enfant Plaza

You never know who’s watching at the International Spy Museum


The International Spy Museum was pretty stealth about the transition to its new location at L’Enfant Plaza. The former venue in Penn Quarter closed at the start of 2019, then seemingly while we weren’t watching… poof! The beautiful, new building was complete and welcoming visitors in July.

Between summer travels then the start of school and a busy fall schedule, we didn’t make it there to check it out until a recent day off from school. But when we finally did visit, it made for a fun and, of course, intriguing outing for Sasha, her friend, and me for a few hours.

The new Spy Museum is much like the old one in that it showcases the fascinating world of espionage, and visitors discover it all on an “undercover mission.” What’s new and different is the breadth of the exhibits that extend to present times and generally cover much more. Not only is the state-of-the-art space twice as big as the old one, there are many more displays, multimedia installations, and interactives that are engaging for a wide range of ages.

Get a secret agent identity

Learn about spies from past times

Apparently, not all vodkas are what they seem…

Once you get your secret identity and watch a short video about being a secret agent, the museum is open to tour on your own throughout the 4th and 5th floors of the building. It starts on the 5th with “Stealing Secrets,” “Making Sense of Secrets,” and “Covert Operations.” There are large installations featuring several spies during different points in history. Exhibitions focus on tools of the trade and what it takes to be a good spy. Some of the updates include exhibits about the capture of Osama Bin Laden, a comparison of Kennedy and Krushchev, and stories about World War II operations. All of them include interactive elements that enhance the exhibits and let visitors put their spy skills to use.

Create a disguise

Craft secret messages

Be part of Operation Neptune Spear, the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden

On the 4th floor, exhibitions include “Spying that Shaped History” and “Uncertain World.” The former illustrates the impact of intelligence on history through a variety of exhibits including some that recreate spy locales from the past, a theater highlighting films about espionage, and underground operations to escape East Berlin. The latter explores modern responses to threats, from interrogation to surveillance, and how they should be handled. A whole exhibit about cyber security is part of this, including an “infinity room” reminded us all of Artechouse.

Watching vintage hidden camera footage (and videoing it on an iPhone)

Infinite cyber

Some of this might sound sophisticated for young museum-goers, but it’s presented in a way that makes it interesting for them with interactive elements like cracking codes, creating digital disguises, games that test their knowledge, and experiences that put them spy situations. And, yes, they still can crawl through the air duct!

They air duct never gets old

The museum is recommended for ages 9 and up, but I saw children even younger enjoying the hands-on activities with the help of parents. When you go, be sure to exit via the stairway, not the elevator. With glass walls, the atrium-like space offers fantastic views and makes for nice photo ops.



The International Spy Museum is located at L’Enfant Plaza, just south of the Smithsonian Castle, in Southwest DC. Metro is probably the easitest way to get there — the L’Enfant Plaza stop is on the Blue, Orange, Yellow, and Green lines. Hours are 10am – 6pm daily. Admission is $24.95/age 13+, $14.95/7-12, free for ages 6 and under. You can save $2 on adult admission when you purchase online.


Leave a Comment

Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Museums, Weekdays, Weekend

A Celebration of Artes de Cuba at the Kennedy Center



Sometime from now through May 20, plan for a visit to the Kennedy Center to experience Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World. The festival is a celebration of the Cuba’s “artistic richness,” showcasing it through a variety of live entertainment, art exhibits, hands-on activities for kids, fashion, films, and more.

Performances will include everything from ballet, flamenco, and modern dance to plays reflecting Cuban culture to jazz, orchestra, and a mix of other music by Cuban artists. There are both ticketed and FREE shows — every evening at 6pm, you can enjoy complimentary entertainment on the Millennium Stage as well as acts later in the evening on Thursday and Fridays See the festival schedule for details on all of the upcoming performances.

You don’t need a set time or tickets to enjoy the art exhibits or activity stations on display around the venue. The installations by a few different Cuban artists are fantastic to view, especially in the Hall of Nations and Hall of States, where the works are imaginative, quirky, and beautiful. Who knew old coffee pots, forks, stacked pots, and enormous vats could make for such marvelous art? Ot that giant spheres of bones, beans, bark, and silverware, all created as commentary on issues of today’s society, would be so compelling to examine from varying angles?


Be sure to take kids to the River Terrace, where Hybrid of a Chrysler combines an old automobile and wings of plane. And upstairs in the Nations Gallery, there is a whole family activity area designed in collaboration with the American Natural History Museum in New York. Kids can learn about Cuba’s geologic history through a variety of interactive stations. There are coloring tables, opportunities to get an up-close look at native creatures, dominos, Cuban wildlife games on iPads, and maps featuring Cuba’s national parks and baseball teams. There’s also even more art on that level, like Cuban movie posters and baseball-inspired paintings, and large installations.



One of those installations is the Cubano Club at the Terrace Gallery, designed to capture the spirit of jazz and the Afro-Cuban culture. Plan for a grown-up night out to enjoy free performances and cocktails for purchase in the transformed space — both will be available on Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30pm – midnight during the festival.

A few events that children will especially enjoy, all free and happening on Saturday, May 12: A Drum Beat Parade, talks about Cuban Natural Wonders by scientist Dr. Ana Luz Porzecanski, and Batucada for Cuba: From Brooklyn to Brazil, a drumming performance on the Millennium Stage.



The Kennedy Center presents Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World through May 20, 2018. More details about the free exhibits and the performance/event schedule are available on the website.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2018, All ages, Art, Date Night, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Live Entertainment, Movies, Music, Special Event, Spring, Theatre, Weekdays, Weekend

Scenes from the Lotus and Water Lily Bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

The lotus flower rising and blooming above the murk symbolizes enlightenment and spiritual awakening in Buddhism



Of all the big annual blooms that occur in the DC area, the lotus flowers and water lilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens may just be my favorite one. Not only is the sight of the bursting pink, white, and peachy hued flora absolutely breathtaking, its secluded location — the park is located in an unexpected part of Northeast DC just blocks from the buzz of 295 — makes it a glorious oasis of beautiful nature in the city.

The bloom begins early to mid summer and peaks around the middle of July. It’s just about hitting that point right now, and we visited yesterday to take in the spectacular scene.

The annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival t0 celebrate it all is happening this Saturday, July 15. (Note: This post is from 2017!) It’s a fantastic event that we try to attend every year with activities for kids; cultural dance performances; gardening workshops; and park tours.

No matter when you go, this bloom is one you have to see. And while this time of year is the most colorful at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, a visit there is great any time (but a hat, sunscreen, and bug repellent recommended if you go now). You can read more about the park and get logistics for visiting in this KFDC post. In the meantime, here are images from our outing there yesterday for a peek at the peak… okay, more than a peek, but it’s so beautiful, I couldn’t decide which pics to post!

A close look at a seed pod



Dragon flies don’t feed on lotus, but lay eggs in water plants and perch on them



A sea of lotus flowers



Have your camera ready – photos ops abound!



Pouring water to watch it roll right of the lotus’ superhydrophic leaves



As Sasha noted, the great blue heron is like a celebrity and park visitors the paprazzi



Cattail sprouts up along the ponds



A view from above



Pickerwelweed adds a pretty pop of purple (and some p alliteration)



Turtles are a common sight in the waters



The giant leaves are just as amazing to see as the flowers



One last shot of the gorgeous scene



Oh, just one more… last one, I promise!



Leave a Comment

Filed under 2017, All ages, Annual, DC, Festival, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend