Category Archives: Indoor Play

Explore the Power — & Magic! — of Language at Planet Word

 

Planet Word is sure to get people talking.  The museum dedicated to language recently opened in downtown DC with a mission to “inspire and renew a love of words, language, and reading in people of all ages.”  And with three levels full of interactive and immersive exhibits that engage, educate, entertain, and delight, they easily achieve that goal.

It’s a museum that can be enjoyed by all ages, but older kids probably will get more out of it than younger children, having more grammar lessons under their belts and generally better comprehension.  Owen and Sasha, 14 and 11, were great ages for it — and older teens and adults will love it, too. (In fact, I’d rank it among my favorites museums in DC!)

Listen up under the Speaking Willow

The exploration of language begins before you even enter the building.  In the courtyard next to the entrance is the Speaking Willow, a ingenious art installation designed to look like a tree, its branches dangling 500 speakers that play recordings in different languages as you walk beneath.  It’s a fantastic preview of the word and language focused fun — and magic — that awaits.

Inside, the Planet Word experience begins on the third level and flows down, taking visitors through multiple exhibits on every floor, each of them highlighting different aspects of language in creative and interactive ways.  It starts with First Words, a short video about how we first learn language as babies, a cute and fitting way to begin.

Greetings from the wall of words

Audience participation encouraged

But that’s just a warm-up for the grand introduction:  Where Do Words Come From.  Featuring a lofty wall of words that tells the story of the English language, this exhibit combines impressive state-of-the art technology, clever narration, and  some interactive fun — microphones set up in front of benches let visitors have their say, too!  The installation is complemented by graphs that illustrate the evolution of language, plus touch screens that test your knowledge, too. (Note: The museum provides stylus pens, so you don’t have to touch screens with your fingers.)

Interactive word play

Explore languages across the globe in The Spoken World

That leads to The Spoken World, a large room with a giant disco ball globe as its centerpiece with voice-activated and touchscreen kiosks placed all around it.  Here, you can listen to people from around the world speak their language and talk about what makes it unique.  You’re encouraged to speak some words, too!  This exhibit also includes more interactives along one wall, giving guests a chance to delve further into diverse languages.

Do you know?

 

A first look at the library

In a museum all about language and words, books are sure to be showcased, and that happens when you hit the second floor and enter the glorious library.  The sight of it will get you first. Lined with floor-to-ceiling wood shelves and a mirror on the ceiling, it’s a magnificent space.  But it’s what the library contains that makes it so extraordinary.  And this is where my write-up gets tricky… do I reveal the details that make it so magical, or let readers discover it themselves?  Let’s just say that books come to life in fantastic ways, and you’re in for quite a treat!

Magic awaits here

A peek into a picture

Painting with words

There’s more magic nearby that I will share:  Word Worlds lets you “paint” with words.  Dip your brush into “autumn” then run it along the wall and watch it turn into deep red and orange hues, or try “surreal” to see odd shapes and swirls.

A “surreal” scene

Watch notable speeches…

…and recite one

The rest of the exhibits on the second floor don’t include magical elements, but they let you share your charm.  After you learn what makes a memorable speech, you can recite one of your own. Find out why some jokes work and some fall flat, then test them out in a Joking Around game.  And, because words help make songs, there’s a music-focused exhibit, too — with karaoke!  (Of course, we took advantage.)

Easy to keep a straight face in the joke games 😉

Get your karaoke on

Back on the first floor you will be sold on words in an exhibit all about advertising and how language is used to make things sell.  Walk through an interactive whirl, check out ads new and old, and play games on the way.

A whirl of ad insight

Fun with Wordplay

From there, enter the Words Matter room, where you can share your own story, express yourself in a word, and enjoy a few more interactives.  Here — and in all parts of the museum, for that matter — don’t miss the words on the walls, in the doorways, even on ceilings.  You’ll see quotes from renowned writers along with phrases that have become fixtures in our vernacular.

Any guesses which is mine?

Outside voices are encouraged as you make your way through Planet Word, whether you’re interacting with elements in the exhibits, reading quotes on walls, or just expressing yourself. Some other good things to know:
* There is metered parking along nearby streets and a parking garage right next to the museum on 13th St.
* McPherson Square (Blue/Orange & Silver) and Metro Center (Red) are the closest Metro stations.
* Free lockers on the first floor let you store coats and belongings.
* As mentioned above, the museum provides stylus pens, so you don’t have to touch screens.
* Other safety precautions, like hand sanitizing stations and social distancing guides, are in place.
* You can take an elevator or stairs to access different floors.
* Tickets are free, and need to be reserved in advance, but a limited number of walk-up tickets are also available on the half hour.

 

In case it’s not evident, I highly recommend visiting Planet Word — and making it a priority.  This does take some planning. Free passes are available on a rolling, 30-day basis, which means you need to know the date you’d like to visit, and reserve tickets 30 days ahead. Of course, if you have an open schedule, you can check any day and reserve a time slot a month away.

I can assure you, it’s worth the wait.

Planet Word is located at 925 13th Street NW in Downtown DC. Hours are 10am – 5pm, Thursday through Saturday. Admission is free, but a donation is suggested.

 

Museum with karaoke?  Count us in!

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Museums, Ongoing, Weekdays, Weekend

A Blue-Hued Escape into Crystalline at ARTECHOUSE

 

ARTECHOUSE debuted their latest exhibition at the Southwest DC gallery last week, and it’s one to feel blue about — in a very good way.  Crystalline is inspired by many things, among them Pantone’s color of the year, Classic Blue, and this unprecedented pandemic year.

The exhibit’s explorations of the color connect it with earth and crystals and presents that through large scale digital images on the walls of the main gallery and smaller ones in side areas.  Just about all of it is interactive, as the images change with viewers’ motions, moving elements as you walk around or evolving into more detailed pictures as you step closer.

Blue also plays a role beyond the individual installations.  As ARTECHOUSE puts it, blue “brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit.”  The exhibit is intended to serve not just as entertainment, but as a refuge for visitors during this turbulent time.

 

And immersing into the depths of blue, even just for a little while, is a beautiful — and fun — escape from the bizarre Covid world outside.

Crystalline is running at ARTECOUSE through January 3, 2021.  Tickets are $19-24/adult, $12-15/child, $17-20/students, seniors, military & first responders (the lower price for online advance tickets, higher at the door).  Children under 4 are free.

ARTECHOUSE is taking extra measures to ensure safety in response to Covid.  Capacity is limited, guests must wear masks,  directional signage helps social distancing, there are hand sanitizing stations, and cleaning and disinfecting takes place hourly.  More details are available here.

 

 

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Filed under 2020, 2021, All ages, Art, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Exhibit, Fall, Indoor Play, Reopened, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Little Kid-Friendly Places for Indoor Play with Precaution

A COVID-era visit to the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center

[Note: This round-up was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, local mom to two young children.]

 

“Winter is coming” brings a whole new shiver this year, as parents of little balls of energy are bracing themselves for the COVID Winter. Most will bundle up and tough it out, with fingers crossed for lots of sled-able snow. Many will enter a new phase of pandemic panic shopping for indoor play equipment. For those seeking respite at indoor spaces, some local businesses have taken extra measures to open with COVID precautions. Here are six little-kid-friendly indoor places to consider as the days get colder. (Please keep in mind CDC guidelines to limit activity indoors, and masks for ages 2+.)

 

Kids Play Gallery
When: 9:30am – 2:30pm daily
Where: Gaithersburg, MD
Admission: $15/ages 1+ (more details here)
COVID policies

An imaginative play space with a tiny town of play houses suited for ages 5 and under. The space is very clean and well-maintained, with a separate, closed-off area for eating. Business hours have been reduced and private play reservations are available. Call ahead to confirm drop-in play hours are as listed.

 

Launch Trampoline Park
When: Varies by location
Where: Rockville, MD | Columbia, MD | Herndon, VA
Admission: $22+ or $13+ on Groupon
COVID policies

Kids can run, jump, and literally bounce off the walls here, expending lots of energy. My active 18-month-old has held his own here, but it’s generally recommended for preschool ages and up. With timed-entry reservations, you should have plenty of space to yourself/your family. Professional-grade sanitizing is done between sessions. Reserve time online in advance; call to reserve time if tickets purchased through Groupon.

 

OmniFun
When: 12:30pm – 7:30pm daily; closed Tuesdays
Where: Gaithersburg, MD
Admission: Starts at $11.99/age 6 months+ (more details here)
COVID policies

Recently opened in 2019 and now reopened with COVID precautions, OmniFun features a soft climbing zone, giant building blocks, an arts and crafts space, a toddler play area, and more. Now, two hour sessions are reserved in advance for up to 9 kids at a time, and groups are rotated in 40 minute intervals. Recommended for ages 6 months – 12 years.  Reserve a time sot in advance.

 

BusyBees
When: 9am – 5pm weekdays; 11am – 5pm weekends
Where: Falls Church, VA
Admission: $15/child, free/parents and ages 1 & under
COVID policies

A chain of indoor playgrounds known for cleanliness, BusyBees features soft play climbing structures, slides, and spinning rides. Currently, only the Falls Church location is open, and it is unfortunately the smallest of the three locations. The space is closed for 30 minutes every hour-and-a-half for cleaning, so plan your visit accordingly. Be sure to check the website daily for modified hours.

 

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
When: 10am – 5:30pm daily
Where:  Chantilly, VA
Admission: Fre
e with timed-entry passes
COVID policies
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum annex has found itself to be a relatively low-risk space in COVID times with its spacious facility and timed-entry passes. Little kids should be well-attended here but have the flexibility to roam and, on a slow day, maybe even run circles around the massive aviation and space artifacts.

 

Shopping Malls
While their actual play spaces are closed, malls may make it into your weekly activities rotation. They are barren right now offering wide open lanes for kids to roam and browse. Plus, hand-sanitizing stations are set up throughout. Check your local mall for updated hours and safety precautions like these. (PS: A new LEGO Store is expected to open at Westfield Montgomery mall this fall!)

 

Tips for decreased risk:
* Go weekdays at opening times or midday when some places empty out for lunch and naps.
* Call ahead to see how crowded a place is prior to your planned arrival time.
* For a more controlled environment, look for places that allow reservations for private group play times like Kids Play Gallery, My Gym or Kids Ground.

 

For more indoor spaces, see this recent KFDC post for what’s currently open.

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Filed under 2020, 2021, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Gradeschoolers, Indoor Play, Maryland, Reopened, Social Distancing, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Inside Info: Indoor Places Open During COVID

Social distancing indoors at the National Gallery of Art

 

 

More and more indoor places around the DC area are figuring out how to safely open their doors to visitors again. I’ve been to a couple of Smithsonian museums and felt very comfortable and safe with the extra measures taken for COVID — and was very happy to wander the galleries and enjoy art in person once again.  As weather gets colder and our itch for outings that aren’t outdoors grows, having some go-to indoor spots will be appreciated by many.  (But, of course, everyone should do what they’re comfortable with during this unusual and uncertain time!)  Here’s a handy list of them, and I’ll continually add to it as more places reopen.  Happy revisiting!

[Note:  As of November 21, 2020, the National Gallery of Art has closed, and all Smithsonian museums are closing on November 23, 2020 due to rising Covid-19 rates. ]

DC

National Gallery of Art (CLOSED)
When: Daily, 11am – 4pm
Where: 6th Street & Constitution Ave NW | National Mall
Admission: Free with timed entry passes.
COVID policies

National Museum of African American History and Culture (CLOSED)
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 4pm
Where: 1400 Constitution Ave NW | National Mall
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
COVID policies

National Portrait Gallery & American Art Museum (CLOSED)
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 11:30am – 7pm
Where: 8th & G Streets NW | Penn Quarter
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
COVID policies

Renwick Gallery (CLOSED)
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Where: Pennsylvania Ave at 17th Street NW | Downtown DC
Admission: Free, no passes required
COVID policies

National Museum of American History (CLOSED)
When: Friday – Tuesday, 11am – 4pm
Where: 1300 Constitution Avenue NW | National Mall
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
COVID policies

National Museum of the American Indian (CLOSED)
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 4pm
Where: 4th Street & Independence Avenue SW | National Mall
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
COVID policies

International Spy Museum
When: Daily, 10m – 6pm
Where: 700 L’Enfant Plaza SW | Southwest DC
Admission: $24.95/ adult, $16.95/age 7-12, free/6 & under | purchase online
COVID policies

ARTECHOUSE
When: Monday – Thursday, 12-8pm & Friday – Sunday, 10am – 10pm
Where: 1238 Maryland Ave SW | Southwest DC
Admission: $24/adult, $20/senior & first responder, $17/age 4-14, free/under 4 (purchase online for $5 off)
COVID policies

National Museum of Women in the Arts
When: Monday – Saturday, 10am -5pm & Sunday, 12-5pm
Where: 1250 New York Ave NW | Downtown DC
Admission: $10/adult, free/child – timed entry tickets required
COVID policies

Kennedy Center Grand Foyer and The REACH
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Where: 2700 F Street NW | Foggy Bottom
Admission: Free and passes are not required
COVID policies

Mansion on O Street
When: Daily, 11am – 3pm
Where: 2020 O Street NW | Dupont Circle
Admission: Tours start at $25 — online reservations required
COVID policies

Ford’s Theatre (CLOSED)
When: Starting October 14, Wed-Sun 10am – 1pm & 2-4pm
Where: 511 10th Street NW | Penn Quarter
Admission: Reserve timed tickets online here
COVID policies

Phillips Collection
When: Thursday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Where: 1600 21st Street NW | Dupont Circle
Admission: Free tickets released Mondays at 12pm for week
COVID policies

Planet Word
When: Thursday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Where: 925 13th Street NW | Downtown DC
Admission: Free timed entry passes required
COVID policies

 

MARYLAND

Maryland Science Center
When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 5pm, Wednesday 12-3pm (a few areas)
Where: 601 Light Street | Baltimore
Admission: $25.95/adult, $19.95/age 3-13
COVID policies

B&O Railroad Museum
When: Monday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm & Sunday, 11am – 4pm
Where: 901 West Pratt Street | Baltimore
Admission: $20/adult, $17/senior, $12/ages 2-12
COVID policies

National Aquarium
When: Sun-Thurs 9am – 5pm | Fri 9am – 8pm | Sat 9am – 6pm
Where: 501 E Pratt Street | Baltimore
Admission: $39.95/adult, $29.95/age 3-11, free/2 & under
COVID policies

American Visionary Art Museum
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Where: 800 Key Highway | Baltimore
Admission: $15.95/adult, $13.95/senior, $9.95/age 7-17, free/6 & under
COVID policies

ClimbZone
When: Mon-Wed 12-7pm | Fri 12-8pm | Sat-Sun 11am – 8pm
Where: 13200 MidAtlantic Blvd Suite 130 | Laurel
Admission: $15/age 2-5, $25/age 6+ for 2 hours — reserve online
COVID policies

Calvert Marine Museum
When: Daily, 10am – 5pm
Where: 14200 Solomons Island Road | Solomons
Admission: $9/adult, $7/senior, $4/child — reserve two-hour time-slot
COVID policies

Zava Zone
When: Thursday – Monday, hour vary by day
Where: 40 Southlawn Court | Rockville
Admission: Starts at $21.50/hour
COVID policies

Port Discovery
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm & Sundays, 11am – 4pm
Where: 35 Market Place | Baltimore
Admission: $17.95 advance purchase required
COVID policies

Baltimore Museum of Art
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Where: 10 Art Museum Drive | Baltimore
Admission: Free with timed entry passes
COVID policies

Pinstripes – Bistro, Bocce, & Bowling
When: Mon-Thurs 12-9pm/Fri 12-10pm/Sat 10am-10pm/Sun 10am-9pm
Where: 11920 Grand Park Ave | North Bethesda
Admission: Varies by game, # of people
COVID policies

 

VIRGINIA

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (CLOSED)
When: Daily, 10am – 5:30pm
Where: 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway | Chantilly
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
COVID policies

Mount Vernon – Museum & Mansion
When: Daily, 9am – 5pm
Where: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway | Mount Vernon
Admission: $20/adult, $12/age 6-16, free/under 6
COVID policies

Super, Awesome, & Amazing at the St. James
When: Thursday & Friday 1-8pm (GA), Saturday & Sunday 9am – 7pm for events only.
Where: 6805 Industrial Road | Springfield
Admission: $13/hour, $23/2 hours
COVID policies

Zava Zone
When: Thursday – Monday, hour vary by day
Where: 45685 Oakbrook Court Suite 110 | Sterling
Admission: Starts at $12/hour
COVID policies

Flight Trampoline Park
When: Daily, times vary by day
Where: 7200 Fullerton Road | Springfield
Admission: Starts at $14
COVID policies

 

Looking for indoor places that are especially great with little kids?  Check out this KFDC post!

 

 

 

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Maryland, Museums, Reopened, Social Distancing, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend