Category Archives: Weekdays
Spring Break has begun in the DC area, so you may be in need of some extra reminders of all the great activities there are to do around the area to keep your kids entertained over the next few weeks — depending on when they’re off from school. And if some of this sounds familiar, that’s because a version of this post has been published in many previous years, but it’s been updated to reflect what’s going on now.
Many of the ideas here are already on the blog, but sometimes a little guidance for what’s best at certain times helps. Among these recommendations are special and seasonal activities, exhibits and shows that are currently running, and outings that take advantage of the (usually) great spring weather.
And, of course, the rest of the blog is full of 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!) happy during the week off — or on, depending how you look at it. Happy Spring Break!
We all know about the many incredible museums located along the stretch of National Mall between the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument. In fact, just the collection of Smithsonians and National Gallery of Art could easily provide an ongoing museum fix. But if you don’t get off that well trodden path every now and then, you could miss out on some other amazing exhibits and experiences that aren’t as well known. And while some of them require an entrance fee unlike those go-to places, they shouldn’t be counted out because of it (and you can keep them in mind for special occasions). Here is a round-up of some museums in DC that may not be in your regular museum rotation — but should be. (And I didn’t forget National Portrait Gallery/American Art and National Building Museum, just know know they are already well loved.) Happy Museum-ing!
National Museum of the U.S. Navy
Where: Entrance at 11th & O Streets SE | Navy Yard, DC
When: Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm & Saturday, 10am – 4pm
One of the coolest museums in DC is one that many people don’t even know exists. Located on the Navy base in Southeast DC, the National Museum of the U.S. Navy is a trove of fascinating artifacts, stories, and art that illustrate the history and impact of the Navy over hundreds of years. See everything from large and small parts of ships to actual weapons used in war to whole submarines to photographs to war memorabilia. Models of all kinds of naval vessels are so intricate, you keep finding new details to examine. There’s a great exhibit about baseball and its relationship with the Navy. A few interactive elements like periscopes to peer into for river views outside and control boards with buttons to push and levers to pull add some extra engagement, especially for kids. Access to the base and museum requires visitor passes, which can be obtained at the Visitor Center. Be sure to read this post with more information about visiting.
KFDC Tip: Plan on a meal The Yards, where there are many dining options a short walk away.
Where: 925 13th Street NW | Downtown DC
When: Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free with passes
The museum all about language has three levels of exhibits, most of them interactive, all of them engaging, interesting, and fun. There are elements that will delight all ages, though tweens and older will get the most out of it, having more grammar lessons under their belts and generally better comprehension. Play word games, explore languages across the globe, experience the most magical library ever, paint with words, recite a speech, joke around, sing karaoke, and so much more. While admission is free, you generally need to reserve tickets in advance.
KFDC Tip: A limited number of day-of, walk-up passes are available on the half-hour.
National Postal Museum
Where: 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE |Union Station Area, DC
When: Friday – Tuesday, 10am – 5:30pm
As I said years ago, I like to think of the National Postal Museum as a locals’ secret, overlooked by tourists and overshadowed by its counterparts on the Mall. I’ve also always recommended the museum as a particularly great one to visit with young children. It isn’t huge, so it’s not overwhelming for little ones. Plus, there are numerous interactives and big installations — all of it showcasing the history of the mail and U.S. Postal System — that appeal to both children and adults.
KFDC Tip: The museum is conveniently located next to Union Station, so you can also grab lunch and get there easily via Metro (Red Line).
National Children’s Museum
Where: National Children’s Museum | Downtown DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $15.95/age 1+
The National Children’s Museum, located within the Ronald Reagan Building, features an array of STEAM-inspired exhibits that offer kids all kinds of cool ways to engage, learn, and exercise creativity. Just about all of the exhibits are interactive with lessons in science, math, and even social justice at their cores presented in fun, kid-relatable ways. And there is often at least one big traveling exhibit, like the current Thomas & Friends there through May 15. The museum is geared toward children up to age 12, and there are areas especially for littles.
International Spy Museum
Where: International Spy Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $26.95/age 13+, $16.95/7-12, free/6 & under
A visit to the International Spy Museum takes you on an “undercover mission” to explore the intriguing world of espionage. Start by assuming a secret identity and get a briefing on being a secret agent before touring the exhibits and testing their spy skills. This is a museum that appeals to both kids and adults with state-of-the-art multimedia installations and many interactives. 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. The museum is recommended for ages 9 and up, but younger kids could probably enjoy it, too, with the help of parents.
KFDC Tip: Don’t miss the gift shop! With all kinds of spy games, gadgets, and other related products, it’s like a bonus area to explore at the museum.
National Geographic Museum
Where: 1145 17th St. NW | Downtown DC
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $15/adult, $10/ages 5-12, $12/military & senior, free/under 5
Recently reopened after closing for nearly two years due to Covid, the National Geographic Museum is one to keep on your radar. Located within the organization’s headquarters downtown, the museum is a reflection of Nat Geo’s work that explores and examines aspects of the world that are both fascinating and significant, sharing discoveries and telling stories in a variety of compelling ways. Stunning photography, a signature of Nat Geo, is always on display. And special exhibitions often are full-on experiences that utilize multimedia and interactive installations to educate, enrich, amuse, and wow guests. (Get a glimpse of some, from the incredible Titanic exhibition to Real Pirates to Spinosaurus to Birds of Paradise and the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization to Monster Fish to Photo Arc and CROCS to Earth Explorers — yes, we’ve been to a lot of them over them years!)
Where: Ford’s Theatre | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 9am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free – $3
Ford’s Theater isn’t just a place to catch live entertainment. The site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination highlights its historic significance through a museum featuring exhibits about the president, the circumstances surrounding his assassination, and that fateful night at the theatre. Along with the museum, a visit to the National Historic Site includes theatre walk-throughs and a presentation, and a self-guided tour of Petersen House across the street. It’s best for about ages 8 and up. (Younger children certainly could go, but older kids probably would understand and get more out of the experience.) Reserve tickets online in advance for $3 or get them at the Box Office for free.
Where: 1238 Maryland Ave. SW | Southwest DC
Admission: $24/adult, $17/age 4-15, free/under 4
ARTECHOUSE has made its mark on the DC art scene with exhibitions that fuse art and technology, and encourage visitors to not just view it, but experience it. The digital works always include striking floor-to-ceiling projections on walls (and sometimes the floors, too) in the spacious main gallery with more installations in side rooms. It’s beautiful and immersive, often inviting visitors to interact with and manipulate the art through movement detected by sensors. Many of the exhibits celebrate the seasons with themes that reflect the time of year in some way or are inspired by current times, which adds some extra interest. Get a glimpse of the current Transient: Impermanent Paintings and some past exhibits here, here, here, here, and here.
KFDC Tip: Look for a discount on admission here.
Where: 1600 21st Street NW | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Tuesday-Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Admission: Pay what you wish
Its smaller size and beyond-the-Mall location make the Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle a great place for an art experience with kids, the space being easy-to-navigate with generally less crowds. Plus, the permanent collection contains contemporary and modern pieces that appeal to young museum-goers as well as some famous works to help introduce kids to the masters. There’s a Family Gallery, where specially-selected artworks are displayed at children’s eye-level with kid-tested conversation prompts right on the walls. You can also pick up packets at the front desk that offer tips for exploring the museum with kids. Read more about the Phillips in this KFDC post and this one.
Where: Independence Ave. & 7th St. SW | National Mall, DC
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Okay, so this one isn’t off the beaten path in a literal sense given that it’s right on the National Mall. But, figuratively, it is a diversion from most parents’ go-to Smithsonians. There was a time that I even thought the collections and exhibits at the Hirshhorn were over my kids’ heads, but that changed many years ago with Suprasensorial. In fact, many of their favorite, most memorable exhibit experiences have been at the Hirshhorn. There was Pulse inspired by heartbeats, Ragnar Kjatansson‘s wonderfully evocative works, and of course Yayoi Kusama’s oh-so-popular Infinity Mirrors. The museum also keeps little art-goers in mind, featuring Art Carts on select dates that provide materials for kiddos to get creative. (And, hopefully, they’ll be bringing back the story time sessions that were offered pre-Covid.)
KFDC Tip: Don’t miss the sculpture garden outside!
Where: Foxhall/Palisades, DC
When: Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Suggested donation $10/adult
The small art museum in DC’s Foxhall-Palisades neighborhood is perfect for an art fix with kids that’s gratifying without being overwhelming. Inside, you can view works from the 19th and 20th centuries from celebrated artists that include Monet, Picasso, Miro, and Calder. But the five-acre outdoor area is what will really excite kids with all kinds of large-scale installations that are beautiful, interesting, even quirky and fun. There is a fountain/pool with seating and sculptures around it, a small patch of woods with art and a trail that loops around, and a grassy expanse with works that you’ll all enjoy. There’s even a piece “climbing” on the side of building, another snaking up a tree, and one that plays solar powered music. Timed-entry tickets need to be reserved in advance.
KFDC Tip: Plan on lunch or an ice cream treat at Jetties before or after — it’s located right down Foxhall Road and they have delicious sandwiches, salads, and scoops!
Folger Shakespeare Library
Where: 201 East Capitol Street SE | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Temporarily closed for renovations
You don’t have to be a huge Shakespeare enthusiast to enjoy the Folger Shakespeare Library, but if you are a fan of The Bard, you will love it. along with a theater that presents Shakespearean plays and other productions, the attraction on Capitol Hill contains the world’s largest collection of materials relating to the poet and playwright. While a lot of it probably appeals mostly to adults, there are displays and activities especially for kids, like a book rack for young readers, a Prop Drop for dress up, fun photo ops and art prompts, and occasionally special exhibits. Pre-Covid there were regular workshops for families, so fingers crossed they will be back when the Folger reopens (it’s currently closed for renovations, but I’m including here for when visitors are welcome again).
KFDC Tip: Make it a bigger outing and pair with a visit to the Library of Congress right on the next block or a visit to Eastern Market just a few blocks away on 7th Street SE.
Mansion on O Street
Where: 2020 O St. NW | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Tours start at $26.50
The Dupont Circle destination isn’t your typical museum. In fact, I’m not sure it even really is a museum, but they call themselves one, so I’m including it here. The Mansion on O Street 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, it contains 100 rooms, many of them open for visitors to explore. You can locate secret doors, see outrageously fabulous themed rooms, and browse a trove of secondhand treasures The mansion is filled literally floor to ceiling with the most eclectic collection of, well, just about everything collectible. There are books, autographed instruments, kitchen items, paintings, all kinds of knick knacks, and so much more. The kicker: Nearly all of it is for sale! It’s one of DC’s most stunning spaces (imo) and a place that delights both kids and adults.
What’s your favorite off-the-beaten-path museum in DC? Let us know in the comments!
If there’s one activity to put on your must-do list sometime over the next week and a half, it’s The REACH Winter Lanterns at the Kennedy Center. In celebration of the Lunar New Year, the grounds overlooking the Potomac will glow with beautiful illuminations — around 100 lanterns, all of them crafted by Chinese artisans, made up of 10,000 LED lights. It’s breathtaking and delightful all at once, with luminescent scenes of cute, dazzling creatures and pretty flora. And it’s all free for the public to enjoy.
Stroll along the paths to view the Coral Reef, Panda Grove, Mushroom Forest, Flower Path, Butterfly Garden, and Flamingo Lagoon, all of them featuring a variety of animal and plant shaped lanterns.
And on select dates, Winter Lanterns Plus will offer extra activities. Featuring China from Thursday – Sunday, January 27-30, guests can take photos with Tiger and Panda characters, write letters to the National Zoo’s pandas, make wishes for 2022, and enjoy refreshments. And February 3-6 will have Korea-inspired activities, including photo ops with Korean mascots, a traditional costume display, and wish-making for 2022. Freebies and refreshments for sale will be available both weekends, too. There are tables on the Plaza with heat lamps, where you can enjoy them.
The closest, most convenient parking is in the Kennedy Center garage — it’s a flat rate of $25. There is also parking at the Watergate garage, which is just across the street, for about $15/two hours. There is street parking nearby, but it’s always tough to get a spot in that area. (And when you consider the event is free, paying a bit for parking isn’t so bad.) The closest Metro station is Foggy Bottom on the Orange/Blue line.
Make a plan to go, and in the meantime, view more scenes from the fantastic exhibition!
The REACH Winter Lanterns
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom DC
When: January 27 – February 6, 5:30-9:30pm