Tag Archives: DC Exhibits for Kids

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.


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

Journey with Earth Explorers at the National Geographic Museum

An Earth Explorer journal entry

An Earth Explorer journal entry



Want to witness animal migrations from a hot air balloon, submerse in the deep sea to study marine life, discover new species in the rain forest, or gear up for a polar expedition? These are all adventures — simulated ones, anyway — to be experienced at the National Geographic Museum’s newest exhibition.

An explorer greeting at the entrance

An explorer greeting at the entrance

Earth Explorers takes you on a journey around the globe, offering a glimpse into the work and passion of real explorers in the field. Hands-on displays, interactive installations, and Nat Geo’s signature stunning visuals are your guides in this informative, inspiring, and fun experience.

Eye-popping exhibits will thrill all ages

Eye-popping exhibits will thrill all ages

Learn more about this featured Earth Explorer

Learn more about this featured Earth Explorer

The exhibit features six stations covering different regions and types of explorations: Base Camp, Oceans, Rain Forests, Mountains and Caves, African Savannah, and Polar Regions. Each area provides a sense of the work environment in its particular setting. Video footage and photos let you see the places and wildlife that exists there. Gear on display shows you the equipment needed to do the work. And field journals from the explorers provide insight into their work — how they got started, how they approach expeditions, what impels them to probe the unknown, and advice for future explorers.

Journals reveal more about each explorer

Journals reveal more about each explorer

The view from the sub

The view from the sub

Get a bird's eye view of the African savannah

Get a bird’s eye view of the African savannah

Guests can get even more of a feel for the work in immersive installations that replicate the experiences of the explorers. Delve into the ocean in a submarine, take an aerial survey of the African savannah from a hot air balloon, study ecosystems under a tent in the rain forest, check out an Arctic cabin and learn how scientists study polar animals, and ride in an off road vehicle used in the field. These are just some of the larger interactive elements. Smaller ones, like touchscreen displays and fun, wall-mounted trivia games, abound.

Chill out in an Arctic cabin

Chill out in an Arctic cabin

Interactives are fun and educational

Interactives are fun and educational

There are so many neat details to the exhibit that you’ll feel like an explorer yourself as you go through it. You don’t want to miss something that might provide key insight into a particular region or expedition or discovery. And a unique supplement is an interactive digital experience that utilizes an advanced technology, augmented reality (AR), to bring various animals inside the exhibit to life on your iOS or Android device.

Tropical trivia

Tropical trivia

Earth Explorers is also an exhibit with all-ages appeal. While probably best for about ages 8-13 — there is quite a bit of reading and information that older kids will digest more easily — younger children will love the hands-on and immersive parts along with striking and playful imagery and video. No matter what age, it’s meant to inspire and get kids to think about what they might want to be when they grow up.

It’s given me all kinds of ideas! 😉

Earth Explorers is on view at the National Geographic Museum through September 10, 2017. Tickets are $15/adult, $12/seniors, student, & military, $10/ages 5-12, free for under 5. Museum hours are 10am – 6pm.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Museums, Nature, Tweens, Weekdays, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: February 22-26

Get a close look at the world's animals at Nat Geo

Get a close look at the world’s animals at Nat Geo


Monday – Relish in the sunny day on the trail at Riverbend Park. Make that your starting point for a 2-mile hike to Great Falls, where you can take in magnificent vistas, explore the Nature Center, and have a picnic. Or just wander around Riverbend and enjoy the Visitor Center and views there. Park hours are 7am to dusk, Visitor Center 9am – 5pm. Admission is free.

Tuesday – Zoom in on the world’s animal species at the National Geographic Museum, where two fantastic exhibitions, Photo Ark and CROCS, will engage visitors of all ages. Hours are 10am – 6pm. Admission is $15/adult, $10/ages 5-12, free for 4 and under — look for discount tickets here.

Wednesday – Check out your local library. Drop in for story time, sing-a-longs, arts & crafts, and other activities, or just go to browse for books. See this post from the very early KFDC days for a little background and quick links to libraries around the area. Hours vary by location, admission is free.

Thursday – Take a little time trip through Baltimore’s early business days at the Museum of Industry. The Inner Harbor attraction highlights the trades and people that helped build the port city through exhibits that showcase relics from the past and recreate various industry environments. Hours are 10am – 4pm (Tuesday – Sunday). Admission is $12/adult, $7/ages 7-12, free for 6 and under.

Friday – Put some colorful music in your morning at a Rainbow Rock show. The kindie band is playing at Jammin’ Java at 10:30am (doors open at 10am). Admission is $5, but you can find a discount on Certifikid). Plan on lunch there, too — the full menu will be available.




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Filed under All ages, Animals, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Weekdays, Winter

The National Postal Museum Always Delivers a Great Outing

Exciting displays in every direction in the lofty atrium

Exciting displays in every direction in the lofty atrium



I like to think of the National Postal Museum as a locals’ secret, overlooked by tourists and overshadowed by its counterparts on the Mall. Whether it really is or not, I’m not sure, but I do know that it wasn’t even on my museum radar until I took Owen to an event there when he was about two years old. I remember feeling surprised that I wasn’t aware of it before then. Part of the Smithsonian, it’s quite an interesting attraction and aesthetically pleasing space, plus it’s located in the beautiful historic City Post Office building next to Union Station where I’d been plenty of times to both send mail and eat at the Capitol City Brewery that used to be housed there.

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Mailboxes from around the world

Mailboxes from around the world

Anyway, since I became aware of the Postal Museum’s existence, it’s been a staple in our local museum rotation, as you’ve likely gathered by now from my many recommendations to visit. (A recent rainy day outing there prompted me to finally blog about it.) Like many local galleries in DC, admission is free and conveniently located — we can walk or bike there, and for folks farther out, it’s Metro accessible; and we can lunch at Union Station pre- or post-outing.

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The cab of a semi is a huge hit with kids

The cab of a semi is a huge hit with kids

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But the best features of the museum are the collections, which appeal to a wide range of ages, and are particularly compelling for kids. Presenting the history of mail and the postal process, there are big installations like old mail trucks, a train car, an airplane, and other modes of mail transport. And most exhibits contain interactive elements that keep young visitors engaged — they can explore the Pony Express, stamp letters, sort packages, create postcards, and much more.

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I also appreciate their family workshops, which are always fun and well-organized. We’ve created Valentines and holiday cards at some and attended events that celebrate milestones in mail. Most of these programs take place on weekends, but every now and then there’s something special during the week, too. Of course, I always try to keep you posted on all of them. But event or not, the Postal Museum is worth a visit anytime.

Creating Valentines at a card making workshop

Creating Valentines at a card making workshop

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The National Postal Museum is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue NE. It’s open 10am – 5:30pm daily, except December 25. Admission is free. It’s right next to Union Station, which is on Metro’s Red Line. If you drive, you can park in Union Station’s garage for about $10, though you might get lucky and find metered parking near the SEC on the east side of Union Station or even an unmetered space in the residential area just beyond.

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Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Museums, Ongoing, Weekdays, Weekend