Tour the exhibits and make some art at the National Portrait Gallery
Monday – Go wild at the National Zoo, as there’s barely a crowd on weekdays. Check the Daily Programs schedule to help plan your outing or pick your animal visits as you go. Grounds are open 6am – 8pm, exhibit building hours are 10am – 6pm. Admission is free, though parking in the Zoo lot for non-members is $22. I recommend taking Metro to Woodley Park or Cleveland Park stations, then walking the short distance to the Zoo. You can also try parking on Connecticut Avenue or a side street.
Tuesday – Enjoy a storytime session and the gorgeous weather at Stories from Strawberry Park in the Mosaic District. The series presents live interactive performances for children ages 10 and under every Tuesday 10-11am. While you’re there, let the kids play with the life-size chess set, check out Mosaic Yards, and/or grab a bite to eat at one of the many eateries. Admission is free.
Wednesday – Catch a performance of Caps for Sale during its limited engagement at Adventure Theatre before embarking on a national tour. Showtime is 10:30am. Tickets are $19.50, but Goldstar has discount seats available. After the show, hang out at Glen Echo Park for a picnic (BYO food or grab a bite from the cafe) and some fun on the playground.
Thursday – Watch the airplanes, kick a soccer ball, have a picnic, or just hang out at Gravelly Point. The park located right off the GW Parkway next to Ronald Reagan Airport is a great place to enjoy a nice day, offering views of the river and airplanes taking off or landing right overhead. (Warning: Some kids find that part exciting, others might be frightened by the loud noise and sight of an airplane coming right at them.) Admission is free.
Friday – Join the National Portrait Gallery for some creative fun at an Open Studio Friday session. All ages are welcome to explore a different art medium each week with all kinds of neat projects. Drop in anytime from 1-6pm. Go earlier or stay after to explore the museum’s collections, too! Museum hours are 11:30am – 7pm. Admission is free. Read more about the Penn Quarter gallery in this KFDC post.
Tuesday – Stop by the Kennedy Center for some skateboarding art and entertainment. Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music, and Media is a new exhibition exploring the intersection of the skateboarding subculture and music. Head to the Hall of Nations to check out Art on Deck, a suh-weet display of custom, hand-painted, and graphically designed skate decks. And starting at 4pm, the action will be in the Kennedy Center Plaza outside, where an open skate session will be held in temporary skate park. Kennedy Center hours are 10am – 10pm. Admission is free.
Wednesday – Enjoy some tunes as the Bari Koral Family Rock Band plays a lunchtime concert for children ages 2-5 and their families. Pack some snacks and join the show in the McLean Central Park Gazebo at the McLean Community Center. Showtime is 12:30pm. Admission is free.
Thursday – Try a free dance class at the CityDance POP! Open House, where they are introducing new genres and classes for all ages at the new Tenleytown location. You can sign up to try all kinds of classes from September 8-12, including a couple of Mommy & Me sessions on Thursday and Friday. Walk-ins are welcome, but an RSVP is recommended to secure your spot.
Friday – Hit the playground at Wheaton Regional Park. Two levels of slides, climbing nets, monkey bars, swings, and more fun features will appeal to all ages and abilities. Pack lunch to eat at nearby picnic tables under the lofty trees. It’s open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.
The magnificent interior of the National Cathedral during the last Flower Mart
Monday – Visit the Washington National Cathedral, one of DC’s most iconic attractions. Both guided and self-guided tours are available, and there are lots of features like stained glass, gargoyles, and wrought iron animals that children will find especially interesting. The observation gallery on the seventh floor also showcases interesting architectural designs and stunning birds-eye views of DC. Stroll the beautiful grounds outside, and head to the Beauvoir playground, which should be open to the public since school isn’t back in session until Tuesday. The National Cathedral is open 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is $10/adult, $6/child.
Tuesday – Enjoy free admission for kids to the Newseum while you can! The Summer Fun Deal, which ends after Labor Day, waives the entrance fee for youth with one paid adult admission. The deal benefits kids ages 7 and up most, since children 6 and under always get in free, and much of the Newseum’s collection will be better appreciated by older children. Adult tickets are $22.95, but you can get a $16 deal on entry here. For a museum outing with littler ones, head to National Geographic, where the Monster Fish exhibit will fascinate with big sculptures of river creatures and fun interactives. The Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology exhibit is also great, but suited for kids ages 8 and up. Hours there are 10am – 6pm. Admission is $15/adult, $10/child, and you can find a discount here.
Wednesday – Take advantage of a summer staple and jump in at an outdoor pool before they close for the season. Check out the Summer in DC guide for info and links to public pools around the area. Hours vary by location, so be sure to check schedule. Admission to most is free (or a small fee if you’re not a resident of the District or county where it’s located).
Thursday – Walk amid a garden of butterflies at Brookside Garden’s amazing Wings of Fancy exhibit. The seasonal display featuring live butterflies and caterpillars from all over the world is sure to delight! Hours are 10am – 4pm. Admission is $8/ages 13 and up, $5/3-12, free ages 0-2 (admission to the rest of Brookside is free). Read about a KFDC experience at the exhibit.
Friday – Hang out at National Harbor. Treat kids finishing up summer break to a spin on the Capital Wheel ($15/adult, $11/25/child), let little ones ride the carousel ($7 for unlimited rides), paddle or pedal the Potomac (rates vary by boat), and more. A fun way to get there is by water taxi from Old Town Alexandria; the Potomac Riverboat Company operates daily between the two destinations at various times throughout the day — see the schedule and rates here.
Monday – Observe the 201st anniversary of the Burning of Washington at a locale connected to the event: Fort Washington Park. Kids (and adults!) will enjoy seeing the cannons and other historic sights within the grounds. Hours are 8am – sunset. Admission is $5/vehicle.
Tuesday – Celebrate the National Park Service’s 99th birthday at a Servabration on the National Mall from 10am – 1pm. Games, crafts, photo booth ops, and birthday cakes will be part of the festivities at the free event hosted by the Student Conservation Association. It’s also a fee-free day at all national parks, so you can take advantage and visit one that usually charges admission — see a list of them here. In the evening, attend a free helmet safety workshop at the National Museum of Health & Medicine from 6-7pm.
Wednesday – Enjoy what’s forecast to be a gorgeous day at River Farm. Explore the grounds and play in the gardens, particularly the adorable Children’s Garden. The American Horticulture Society’s headquarters overlooking the Potomac River in Alexandria are as sublime as they are fun. Hours are 9am – 5pm. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Thursday – Head up to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to tour the historic ships. There are four vessels that welcome visitors to explore — the USS Constellation, USS Torsk, USCGC Taney, and LV116 Chesapeake. Admission to tour one ship is $11/adult, $5/ages 6-14, free for ages 5 and under, and you can add on for just a few dollars more per ship.
Friday – Soak up the summer day at a spray park. Kids can run through fountains and splash around shallow pools at places all around area. Several are within the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, but some of the best are built right into the urban landscape, making the concrete jungle a cool place to hang out on the warmest days. Get details on a bunch of local spray parks in the guide to Summer in DC.
Stroll the beautiful gardens and tour the Cathedral at the Franciscan Monastery in Brookland
Monday – If you haven’t yet experienced The BEACH at the National Building Museum (or even if you have), head over and go for a swim! The installation taking up most of the Great Hall includes an “ocean” of nearly one million recyclable translucent plastic balls, where visitors can submerge and play. It’s the #1 must-do in DC this summer, in my opinion. Admission is $5/youth member, $10/adult member and $13/youth non-member, $16/adult non-member, and it doesn’t hurt to reserve tickets in advance. Museum hours are 10am – 5pm. And a heads-up that there could be a wait to get in, but hopefully not a long one, if so.
Tuesday – Jump the morning away at Flight Trampoline Park in Springfield, Va. This bouncy nirvana hosts Kid Flight sessions for children 46″ tall & under from 10am – 12pm Monday through Friday for $10/hour (includes accompanying adult). If you have older kids, plan to head over at noon or later, when all ages can join the fun. Rates then start at $10/hour.
Wednesday – Explore the beautiful grounds and cathedral of the Franciscan Monastery in Brookland. A DC “secret” to many, the “Oasis of Peace” welcomes visitors to stroll through the gardens and tour the church. Hours are 10am – 4:45pm. Admission is free.
Thursday – Catch a performance of Dinosaur Desperados at The Puppet Co. Recommended for ages 3-9, the production runs 50 minutes. Showtimes are 10am and 11:30am. Ticket are $10. Plan to hang out at Glen Echo after for lunch (BYO or buy at the cafe) and some fun on the playground.
Friday – Take the kids on your own archaeological adventure at Purse State Park in Charles County, Md. The locale on the Potomac is full of fossilized shark teeth and bones along the shoreline. Be sure to check the tide table before you go, as there’s not much beach at high tide. There are no concessions or facilities there, so plan accordingly. Admission is free.