Tag Archives: Mansion on O Street

Seven Stunning Spaces in DC Where You Can Hang Out with Kids

The Kogod Courtyard, one of the prettiest indoor spots in the city


The inspiration for this post came from our visit to the National Postal Museum this past weekend. Even though we’ve been there countless times, as we were riding the escalator down to the main level, I still got that jolt of thrill mixed with delight when the vintage biplane came into view from the lofty, light-filled atrium below. And hanging out there as we made Valentines, I found myself looking up at the spectacular area around me as much as I did down at the cards I was working on.

There are some spaces that, no matter how many times you visit, take your breath away the moment you walk into them — and keep you enthralled while you’re there. Whether they awe with beautiful grand interiors, impress with unique architectural details, or amaze with eye-popping displays, the spaces themselves are as much a part of the allure of a place as the purpose of it and programs within. Even better, there are many of them around DC that make for fantastic outings with kids. Here are seven of those local stunners that should be on every parent’s radar.

National Building Museum Great Hall

It should come as no surprise that the museum dedicated to architecture and design boasts one of the most magnificent spaces in DC. The National Building Museum’s vast Great Hall is mostly an open space when it’s not hosting or being prepped for a big event or housing the annual Summer Block Party installation. This makes the gorgeous 75-foot tall marble Corinthian columns stand out even more. A fountain at the center adds to the mix, and is often a big draw for kids to toss in a coin. Four levels of galleries, classrooms, and offices surround it all, with striking archways lining the walkways of the first two. It’s a pretty spectacular place to go if you’re seeking an indoor place to hang out with kids. Soft pieces to build arches and giant Legos are often available for use if there’s a wait to get into the Building Zone, the play space for young children, and Firehook Bakery is right on premises for lunch or a snack. The exhibits are great to check out, too, especially PLAY WORK BUILD for kids. Hours are 10am – 5pm. Entry to the Great Hall is free, but admission to exhibits is $10/adult, $7/child (free for members). (NOTE: The National Building Museum exhibitions are closed until March 2020.)

Library of Congress Great Hall

Another Great Hall that induces dropped jaws is at the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The stately architecture and stunning design alone will wow visitors young and old. You could spend a lot of time there gazing up at the ornate ceilings, reading inscriptions on walls, examining sculptures and paintings and even the beautiful floors, and just wandering around marveling at it all. There are interactives where you can get information about the significance, history, and artistry of the various features. And two very popular displays are a Giant Bible of Mainz and an original Gutenberg Bible. While there is a lot to explore in the Hall, you can’t really park yourselves there. For that, though, head to the Library’s Young Readers Center, a cozy area especially for kids full of books and occasionally crafts just for them. The Library of Congress is open Monday through Saturday, 8:30am – 4:30pm. Admission is free. Read more about it in this KFDC post.

The Kogod Courtyard

Connecting the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, the Kogod Courtyard is practically a work of art itself. The roof, a wavy grid of steel and glass, not only lets in lovely light, it seems to undulate overhead, creating a breezy, mellow ambiance. Small trees and one-inch deep water scrims bring the outdoors in a bit (kiddos also love stomping around in them). And on a nice day, the shadows cast on the wall from sun pouring through the canopy of windows above make for a gorgeous scene. The Kogod is a must-stop on any visit to the Penn Quarter museums. It’s also a great lunch spot — grab a bite at the cafe there, pick up food from another eatery nearby, or BYO indoor picnic. Of course, you can also just go to hang out and enjoy the vibe. Hours are 11:30am – 7pm. Admission is free. Read a little more about the Kogod Courtyard and its surrounding museums here and here.

The Tropics at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Walking into the jungle area of the U.S. Botanic Garden is like experiencing a whole new destination. The large atrium, full of lush tropical flora — elephant ear plants, lofty palm trees, and orchids among them — along with warm temps and humidity to simulate a real jungle environment, makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the rainforest. Natural light floods through windows above and around, and a stream of water flows beneath a foot bridge. You can wander around it all at ground level or head upstairs (elevator available, too) to the Canopy Walk, a 24-foot high path that runs along the perimeter, for a bird’s eye view of the green goodness below. There are also benches around if you just want to sit and savor it all. It’s a perfect place to go on a cold or rainy day — I like to say it’s kind of like cheating the weather gods — but, really, it’s pretty awesome to visit any day. Hours at the US Botanic Garden are 10am – 5pm. Admission is free. This KFDC post has more about offerings at the USBG.

National Postal Museum Atrium

Part of what makes this space in the National Postal Museum so fantastic is the element of surprise. Located on the lower level of the Postal Square Building, you just don’t expect to see this gorgeous sunlit area with the propeller of a vintage airplane practically staring you down as you descend on the escalator to it. (I mean, it’s below ground in the middle of the building!) Needless to say, it’s an unexpected delight, especially the first time you see it, and it gets even better once you’re within. Four floors of office windows lead up to the glass-paneled roof, the sky visible beyond. Three old airmail planes hang above, and more modes of mail transport — mail truck, horse & buggy, train car, and the trailer of a semi — are showcased on the ground. And you can do more than gawk, as a couple of them even welcome guests on board. Once you’re done taking it all in, be sure to explore the rest of the museum with lots of interesting, interactive exhibits that appeal to all ages. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free. Read more about the National Postal Museum in this KFDC post.

Union Station

Even in DC’s bustling train station, you almost can’t help but be awestruck by the beautiful, opulent design of the Main Hall. The cavernous space in Union Station with soaring arched ceilings and gold-leaf patterns gets even busy travelers to stop and take it all in. There are a few kid-friendly places to get a bite to eat right next to that area. Even more restaurants and eateries, plus lots of stores for shopping are located throughout the rest of the station. While you can’t go out on the train platforms unless you’re a ticketed passenger, with 100,000 people passing through Union Station everyday, it can be fun to roam around amid the hubub or just hang out in the pretty space and people-watch. Hours for retail and restaurants vary — see the schedule here. Admission is free.

The Mansion on O Street

This one is quite different from the rest of the places mentioned here — and most places in DC, for that matter — but that’s a huge and wonderful part of its stun-factor. The decor of the Mansion on O Street consists entirely of secondhand treasures, and its four floors are filled, literally, floor to ceiling with all kinds of fabulous collectibles. You really have to see it to believe how much stuff is there. Books, art, musical instruments, housewares, clothing, and games are just some of the items you’ll find and can purchase — because all of it for sale! Even more interesting is that much of it is stored in themed rooms that also serve as quarters for guests at the Mansion, which is an inn as well as a museum and event space. Oh, and there are secret doors to search for, too, 70 of them! It all makes for one stunning space and super fun experience. Tours are available daily, starting at $25 for a self-guided secret doors hunt — book in advance online. Read more about the Mansion on O Street in this KFDC post and this one.



What’s your favorite stunning space in DC? Let us know in the comments!

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Filed under All ages, DC, Weekdays, Weekend

Scenes from a Visit to The Mansion on O Street

A small section of the downstairs salon


I’d wanted to return to the Mansion on O Street practically since the last time we visited a few years ago. The Dupont Circle destination is easily one of the neatest places in DC — a museum, inn, event space, and secondhand shop all in one. Four stories high and five row houses wide, there are 100 rooms, many of them open to explore.

A guest room filled floor to ceiling with art, books, accessories, and tchotchkes

And that’s just what you want to do the second you step inside. The mansion is filled literally floor to ceiling with the most eclectic collection of, well, just about everything collectible. There are autographed guitars donated by legendary musicians, iconic clothing like Audrey Hepburn’s dress from My Fair Lady and one worn by June Carter Cash when she performed with Johnny, lots of Beatles memorabilia, sets of fine china and not-so-fine dinnerware, tons of fancy silver animal head ice buckets, shelves and shelves of books, all kinds of art, toys and games… I could go on, but in a nutshell, name something random, and there’s a good chance it’s there. And the kicker: Nearly all of it is for sale!

Signed and donated by Willie Nelson and other greats

So, Sasha and I finally made it back there with some friends earlier this week, and it was a perfect activity on a really hot day. We all had a blast checking out the wild mix of items and trying to locate secret doors (!!!). Yes, there are apparently 70 of them, but we only found six during this tour. However, we chatted with Ted Spero, husband of H.H. Leonards, who owns the Mansion, and he told us their two children, who actually grew up there, never even found all of the doors.

A secret door leads to a hidden room

Even though I’ve written about the Mansion before, it’s such a wonderful, interesting place, I thought I’d share some more images of the fantastic spaces and amazing melange of items there. For more details, including logistics for visiting, see this post. For now, here’s a glimpse.

Books galore!

Like a rhino in a china shop?

Guess who’s concert tour set this came from?

Xylophone, matchbook collection, and a Peewee Herman doll… of course!

Shelves of cocktail glasses around the tub – nice touch!

June Carter Cash wore this dress!

Next time I’m buying one

Ted Spero, husband of owner HH Leonards, shows us a display of books that mention the Mansion on O

Imagine… John Lennon creepily watching you in the bathroom

The beautiful ceiling of the salon

She must have cleaned all 100 rooms


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Filed under 2017, All ages, DC, Museums, Ongoing, Shop, Weekdays, Weekend

This Dupont Circle Mansion Tour is ‘O’ So Cool

omansion_outside

A few weeks ago, a particular LivingSocial deal caught my eye. The offer for a Champagne Tour of The Mansion on O Street sparked some memories of a great party I attended there years ago, and I recalled what a unique, quirky, outrageous, amazing place I’d thought it was then. Plus, champagne.

So, I scooped up a couple of those deals, thinking the tour would make for a fun date sometime. But then I thought about it again and decided it would also make for a fun outing with the kids (minus the champagne…for them, anyway). Thus, I went to The Mansion on O Street website and booked two self-guided tours for them, too, for later that day.

A beautiful chandelier is one of the first of many spectacular sights

A beautiful chandelier is one of the first of many spectacular sights

A wall of photos in a downstairs room

A wall of photos in a downstairs room

The Mansion on O Street is one of the neatest places you could tour, shop, dine in, party at, even stay overnight in DC — it’s a mansion, museum, restaurant, vintage store, and hotel all in one. What makes it extraordinary, though, is the decor. Its 100 rooms are filled, literally, from floor to ceiling with all kinds interesting items, from fine china to funky collectibles. Tableware, art, books, musical instruments, clothing, games, furniture, a jukebox, memorabilia, and tons of other random pieces are among the stuff you’ll see. Even better, all of it has been donated and all of it is for sale, so if you see something you really like, it can be yours for the keeping.

Beatles memorabilia abounds

Beatles memorabilia abounds

A small sample of the many, many, many books for sale

A small sample of the many, many, many books for sale

Need a new party outfit?

Need a new party outfit?

Every piece is used to help create wonderfully over-the-top themed rooms. These rooms and suites are quarters for overnight guests, but they are also open to tour when no one is staying in them (or the guest doesn’t mind having visitors). Lennon, Log Cabin, Graceland, Amnesia, Safari, Art Deco, Beatles, Caribbean, Arcade are just some of the spaces available. (A quick glance at the price list, and you won’t be surprised to learn that many famous people, mostly creative types, have stayed there.)

Exploring the two-level Log Cabin suite

Exploring the two-level Log Cabin suite

Game of chess and hot tub, anyone?

Game of chess and hot tub, anyone?

John Lennon can join you in the loo!

John Lennon can join you in the loo!

Then there’s what you don’t see, at least not right away. There are many secret doors throughout the mansion that guests are encouraged to seek out, a mission especially thrilling for kids, of course, and fun for adults, too. Before you start a self-guided tour, mansion staff explain how it all works, so you have an idea of what to look for and where you can/cannot go. Beyond that, though, they don’t tell you much, and you are left to explore on your own. To me, this added to the excitement of the experience as we wandered around the house, “sneaking” through hidden walkways, discovering ridiculously fabulous scenes (a glass chess set in the bathroom? of course!), getting turned around and wondering if we’d already seen some places.

Too many cooks in the kitchen? Nah.

Too many cooks in the kitchen? Nah.

So much to see in the Billiards Room

So much to see in the Billiards Room

Selfie with my girl in a picture and mirror-filled hall

Selfie with my girl in a picture and mirror-filled hall

The Mansion offers a variety of tours for visitors, from self-guided tours to a Secret Door Treasure Hunt, ranging in cost from $10 to $500. The experiences don’t stop with tours; they also have special programs, including an O Kids’ Play Date (at $52, I’d save for a special occasion) and music and art gatherings. The space is also available for parties and special events. And you can dine there as well, with both lunch and dinner seatings at set prices.

I can just picture her high school years

I can just picture her high school years

Hanging in the diner

Hanging in the diner

For an everyday outing, I recommend the self-guided tour. The cheapest option is plenty fun, and you can use those saved few bucks towards an O Mansion souvenir — you’ve certainly got your pick of them! If you’re up for a little bubbly, take advantage of LivingSocial’s Champagne Tour deal. (2017 Update: LivingSocial is no longer, but you can get the Champagne Tour deal through Groupon.)

The Mansion on O Street is located at 2016 O Street NW in Dupont Circle. It’s open daily 11am – 4pm (unless specified otherwise). Tours should be booked in advance online.

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Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Museums, Ongoing, Shop, Weekdays, Weekend