Tag Archives: DC Kids Exhibits

The Kennedy Center is Playing it Cool

A ship of shirts is the centerpiece of the Hall of States

A ship of shirts is the centerpiece of the Hall of States

I didn’t waste any time getting over to the Kennedy Center for Nordic Cool 2013, the month-long festival celebrating the cultures of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland, and nearby islands. Many of the exhibits opened to the public yesterday, and some of the offerings for children — a LEGO play space and mobile games — sounded especially fun, so Sasha and I headed over straight from school to be there for day one.

I knew that there would be many exhibits on display beyond those designed just for kids. (There actually will be 750 performances, exhibits, talks, demos, and more over the next month.) What I didn’t expect was just how cool the exhibits would be, nor just how many of them kids would find interesting, too. What was intended to be an afternoon of LEGO and game play, turned out to be an experience full of art, discovery, and fun — all of it free. Here’s a look at some of it…


The play space is easily a highlight for little kids, with LEGO Duplo tables and bricks especially for children ages 1-5. And there’s more for older kids, too: iPads loaded with games created by Nordic developers are available throughout the area offering guests a chance to try them (including Angry Birds, created by the Finnish company Rovio Entertainment). LEGO murals on the walls and a couple of sculptures are also fun to check out.



The art starts outdoors, where several wooden elk sculptures created by an artist from the Aland Islands have been erected. These lofty structures are used as hunting towers and environmental art to make the landscape fun and alive.


We encountered one of the most breathtaking works as soon as we walked into the Hall of States. A “boat” made of men’s oxford shirts (which we were told came from over 1,000 people in DC) spans much of the space. You have to see it from every angle, including from inside between the two ends, to truly appreciate it in its entirety.


In order to reach the LEGO play space upstairs, you have to walk through a few other interesting exhibits, including a showcase of Nordic design and its relationship to nature, technology, and heritage. Furniture, kayaks, a bike with child bucket in front, and other products are on display in the Northern Atrium Foyer. In the next room, decorated to look like a snowy landscape, mannequins don fashions by Nordic designers.



Beyond that is the “New-Nordic Architecture and Identity” exhibit, where five dwellings built by Nordic architects are on display. You can actually walk into and through a few of them, which was a thrill for Sasha. One even had small meandering hallways, kind of like a little maze. Dioramas by different artists from all over the Nordic region line the perimeters of the exhibit, showcasing cultural personalities from the various countries.




An entire room is dedicated to Iceland’s waterfalls, which are disappearing throughout the country, with an installation that strikes the senses. Large images of cascades slide out from a big steel frame. When you pull one out, the audio recorded as the photograph was taken plays, too, so you can hear the waterfall’s sounds. I have to warn: It’s loud and frightened Sasha, but I found it rather spectacular.



Large plywood sculptures dominate the Hall of Nations. Plywood was apparently invented in Sweden, however, these structures were created by a Norwegian architectural firm.


There are even more exhibits in the Grand Foyer — colorful glass birds dangling in windows and a display about the Nobel Prize. And there’s one you don’t even have to be at the venue to see: Northern Lights. Every night from 5:30-11pm, the facade of the Kennedy Center will be illuminated to recreate the effect of the aurora borelias — wow!

And these are just the exhibits. There are numerous other ways to experience Nordic Cool 2013 — music, theatre, and dance performances; food tastings and demos; forums; workshops; and more. You can view the schedules for all of them and purchase tickets on the website.

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Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Movies, Music, Theatre, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

National Building Museum News


I know the National Building Museum is a go-to spot for many when it comes to fun, easy outings with the kids, so here are a few events and dates to be aware of over the next few weeks:

– The Building Zone will be closed from October 15 – October 22 as it undergoes some refurbishments, including a brand new, plush floor in the exhibition, a magnetic activity table, and a Concrete Station traveling all the way from the Omaha Children’s Museum.  The Concrete Station will allow children to play and learn in a sand pit complete with shovels and sifters. The rest of the museum will still be open as these upgrades are installed.

October 20 is Girl Scout Day, a day designed especially for Girl Scouts to explore the built world through hands-on activities and talks with professionals, and to work on badge and journey requirements.  There are two sessions — sign up for the morning here and the afternoon here. Prepaid registration ($10) is required.

November 6 is the next Book of the Month session and will feature a reading of Iggy Peck, Architect, a wonderful children’s book by Andrea Beaty about a boy who loves to build (it’s been a favorite in our house for years).  The program takes place the first Tuesday of every month at 10:30am and 11:30am and usually involves a hands-on activity after storytime. It’s free with the admission to the Building Zone ($3/person).

November 14 is Homeschool Day, the first of the 2012-13 school year.  Students and their families can participate in hands-on programs that complement the curricula in art, social studies, math, science, and language arts. There are program for children ages 4-14. Admission is $10 per child, per program. Prepaid registration is required by November 12.

November 17-18 is The Wright Weekend: A Celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright and will include a workshop for kids (and accompanying adults) ages 5 and up: BARK-itecture invites families to design and build their very own doghouse to fit a stuffed dog or animal using Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture as inspiration. The workshop also include stories, crafts, and animal crackers. (Online sign-up is not yet open, but you can call 202.272.2448.)

November 18, is opening day for PLAY WORK BUILD, an exhibit that promises to enthrall kids and adults alike with a display of the museum’s world-class Architectural Toy Collection, a hands-on block play area, and an original digital interactive. Admission for non-members will be $8/adults, $5/youth, students & seniors. (Note: October 17 is a preview day for members only.)

– Finally, if your family frequents the National Building Museum fairly regularly, I highly recommend getting a Family Membership.  For $90, you get six admissions (two adults, four youth) to exhibitions per day, which practically pays for itself if you visit the Building Zone ($3/person, per visit) and other exhibits ($5-8/person, per visit) often. You also get priority registration to summer camp and discounts on birthday parties (which I’ve written about here). And I swear there’s nothing in this for me, I just think it’s a fantastic museum, and the membership is worth every penny.


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