Tag Archives: Family Activities in DC

Come Fourth: Independence Day Celebrations Around the DC Area

The annual July 4th Parade on Capitol Hill

 

What better place to celebrate Independence Day than in our nation’s capital? This is where the actual Declaration of Independence is housed (and will be read!), and celebrations take place among some of the country’s most iconic landmarks. But the excitement doesn’t stop there. From fireworks over the city and concerts at the Capitol to special events at George Washington’s house to neighborhood parades and ballpark fun, there are loads of ways to revel on July 4th (and 2nd & 3rd!). Here are details on a bunch of them. Happy Independence Day!

National Independence Day Parade
Where: Constitution Avenue NW, 7th-17th Streets | DC
When: July 4, 11:45am
Admission: Free

Many national holidays get a parade in DC, and July 4th is no exception. Scores of spectators always line the Constitution Avenue sidewalks to watch the procession celebrating Independence Day as it make its way from 7th to 17th Street. Marching bands, floats, giant balloons, equestrian groups, drill teams, and military units will be among the pageantry. Stake out your spot along the route early, as this event attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers every year.

Fourth of July Celebration on the Mall
Where: National Mall, DC
When: July 4, all day (and evening)
Admission: Free

After the parade (even earlier for some), the National Mall will begin filling up for a day of July 4th festivities — the Smithsonian Folklife Festival from 7th to 12th Streets, Junior Ranger activities, concerts, and more. And the grand finale of it all: Shortly after 9pm, the sky above will explode with color when the amazing iconic fireworks display begins. Fireworks will be launched from the Reflecting Pool area, so stake out a spot to watch them — on or off the Mall (see tips below for a list of places to view them).

Fourth of July at the Archives
Where: National Archives | National Mall, DC
When: July 4, 9am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Catch the annual dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the National Archives .  It starts at 10am, but doors open an 9am.  Get there early to get a good seat and enjoy entertainment by the Experience Band and Show. After that, celebrate like it’s 1776! There ill be lots of fun family activities,…meet the Founding Mothers and Fathers, design your own buttons, go on a scavenger hunt, help design the National Archives Building, and sign the Declaration of Independence yourself!

America’s Pastime
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: July 4, 11:05am (and July 1-3)
Admission: Ticket prices vary

A day at the ballpark is about as all-American as it gets when it comes to sports, and you can experience it and celebrate the holiday at Nationals Park. The July 4th game against the Marlins is part of the Patriotic Series, when the Nats wear their red, white, and blue, and there are other Independence Day themed activities. And, FYI, the series with the Marlins starts July 1, and there will be post-game Freedom Fireworks, plus more promos for the rest of the games.  Before you purchase tickets, be sure to check this post for tips to save on a Nats game.

A Capitol Fourth
Where: West Lawn on the Capitol | Capitol Hill, DC
When: July 4, 8pm; gates open at 3pm
Admission: Free

After two years, A Capitol Fourth, the annual Independence Day concert that airs live on PBS, will once again be open to the public! Grammy nominee Mickey Guyton will be hosting this year’s show, which will include performances by Gloria Gaynor, Andy Grammar, Keb’ Mo’, Daniel Criss, Rachel Platten, the National Symphony Orchestra, the U.S. Army Band, the Joint Armed Forces Chorus, and many more exciting acts. (KFDC Tip: Enjoy the show with less crowds at the dress rehearsal on July 3 – same time and place!)

An American Celebration
Where: Mount Vernon | Mount Vernon, VA
When: July 4, 9am – 5pm
Admission: $26/adult, $13/age 6-11, free/5 & under

The home of George Washington salutes the first commander-in-chief with a dazzling display of made-for-daytime fireworks during its annual Independence Day event. Visitors will be treated to spectacular smoke fireworks in patriotic colors fired over the Potomac River. The event also includes an inspirational naturalization ceremony for new citizens, military reenactments, a special wreathlaying ceremony, a performance by the National concert band and more live entertainment, and a chance to meet General Washington himself.  Get 20% off tickets with the code FBSUMMER.  See the full schedule of events here and read more about Mount Vernon here.

Fourth at the Wharf
Where: The District Wharf | Southwest DC
When: July 4, 7-10pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the Fourth of July at The Wharf with a free celebration on District Pier. The celebration includes music, a bar for adults, and spectacular views of the annual fireworks launched from the National Mall. They also offer a VIP fireworks viewing experience benefitting the USO that gives you exclusive access to the Dockmaster Building on the tip of District Pie, complete with two complimentary drink tickets (additional beverages for purchase), all-American light fare, DJ, games, photo station, and a raffle. Read more about The Wharf in this KFDC post.

Neighborhood Parades & Celebrations
Where: Throughout the DMV
When: Most on July 4, times vary
Admission: Free

Keep it close to home at a community celebration. You likely are aware of July 4th events taking place in your neighborhood or nearby, but if you’re still looking for a hyperlocal fête, here are some that are known to be good ones:  Capitol Hill (we can vouch it’s great from many years attending), Palisades, Takoma Park, College Park, Great Falls, McLean.

July 4th Celebration
Where: Armed Forces Retirement Home | Petworth, DC
When: July 4, 4-9:30pm
Admission: Free

All are welcome to join the 10th annual July 4th Celebration at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. Enjoy live entertainment, bouncy fun, a kids’ scooter parade and contest, activities for all ages, and views of the evening fireworks on the National Mall. Concessions will also be for sale and plentiful.

Fireworks Watch Party
Where: Victura Park | Kennedy Center, DC
When: July 4, 10am – end of fireworks
Admission: Free

Victura Park, the lovely outdoor area at The REACH at the Kennedy Center, will be open on July 4th to celebrate the day — and offer a great vantage point for watching the fireworks on the National Mall. Food and drinks will be available from the cafe, or you can BYO and enjoy at the picnic tables set up in the wine & beer garden area. Admission if free, and no tickets are necessary.

July 4th Fest
Where: Six Flags | Bowie, MD
When: July 2-4
Admission: Starts at $35

With amusement park fun thrown into the mix, Six Flags’ celebration will be pretty epic for kids. Along with all of the ongoing fun throughout the venue, there will also be fireworks, music, and lots of Coca Cola (sponsors of the event) on Independence Day and two days leading up to the holiday.

More July 4th Tips!
* Find good off-the-Mall suggestions for viewing the fireworks in this Washingtonian article.
* If you’re headed into DC, take public transportation! Cannot stress enough what a bad idea it would be to drive.
* July 4th specials in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.
* For more activities during the days leading up to the 4th, see the KFDC Summer Guide.
* For more July 4th events in NoVa, this article lists a bunch.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2022, All ages, DC, Holidays, Maryland, Special Event, Summer, Virginia, Weekend

Spring Things to Get Excited About Around DC

 

Spring is always a much anticipated time of year.  The emergence from cold, wintry weather, the return of color to the landscape, and the end of hats and gloves and clunky boots and extra layers are some of the reasons why.  It’s also when many of DC’s best events and activities occur or restart for the warm months.  And this year, spring’s arrival may be even more eagerly awaited, as several beloved big events that were cancelled or held virtually for the last two years will back IRL.  From big blooms and their celebrations to new exhibits and reopenings to neighborhood live entertainment to baseball and soccer to warm weather recreation to a first-time-ever opportunity, there are a lot of things to get excited about around DC this spring.  Here’s a round-up of them to help you plan for it all.  Happy (almost) Spring!

 

The Blossom Kite Festival will be back this year!

National Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Around the DC Area
When: March 20 – April 17
Admission: Varies by activity

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, running March 20 – April 12 this year, presents all kinds of fun and enriching activities over a few weeks every spring. (Well, except for the past couple of springs.) After being cancelled in 2020, then limited in 2021, the full Festival will return with all of its signature events — the Blossom Kite Festival, National Cherry Blossom Parade, Sakura Matsuri, and Petalpalooza — plus many more blossom inspired happenings around the area.  This post rounds up those particularly great for families.

Last year’s azalea bloom at the National Arboretum

Bloom Town
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Varies by locale
Admission: Varies by locale

We all know about the cherry blossoms that brighten up the land and cityscape during the season.  But there are even more big blooms to enjoy around the DC area, and they’re literally coming up soon. Magnolias, bluebells, azaleas, tulips, and roses are what you can stop, smell, see, and relish in the loveliness of during spring. This KFDC post has details on where and when to enjoy them at their best.

 

Cheer on the United at Audi FIeld!

Vamos United!
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Started late February
Admission: Varies

So, the MLS season actually kicked off during winter in February, but spring will be a great time to catch some action on the pitch, as the weather warms up.   While there are good concessions at the stadium, you can also make a longer outing of it, and grab a bit to eat before or after games. There are lots good dining options in the Capitol Riverfront area a short walk away.

 

Immerse in digital spring flowers at PIXELBLOOM

PIXELBLOOM
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: March 12 – June 5
Admission: $20-25/adult, $14/age 4-15, free/under 4

The exhibits at ARTECHOUSE often reflect the season in some way, and for the fifth year, they are highlighting spring by celebrating the cherry blossoms with a gorgeous digital exhibit that immerses you in the blooms. Floor to ceiling projections, plus interactive elements make this one beautiful, engaging, and fun to experience! Get more of a glimpse of it here.

 

NoMa in Bloom
Where: Around the NoMa neighborhood, DC
When: March 20 – April 17
Admission: Free (but plan on some purchases)

The NoMa BID is celebrating the return of spring with all kinds of activities and events over a few weeks — with something for all ages. From the family-friendly first annual NoMa in Bloom Festival on March 26 at Alethia Tanner Park to art and light displays to special cherry-themed food and drink specials at NoMa bars and restaurants, see what’s coming up to enjoy.

 

Family QT at the lovely Victura Park

Victura Park Reopens
Where: The REACH | Kennedy Center, DC
When: Starting March 17 | Weds-Fri, 4-8pm & Sat-Sun 12-8pm
Admission: Free

The family-friendly outdoor pop-up and wine garden at The REACH at the Kennedy Center is reopening after closing for winter. Food and drinks are available to enjoy in an area set up with picnic tables.  And this season, they are adding an indoor dining area for rainy days or if you just want some shade. They’re kicking things off with a weekend of Saint Patrick’s inspired food, drinks, and some surprises, and there will be an Art Market March 26-27.   While you’re there, be sure to explore the beautiful grounds, stop in The REACH Buildings (reserve a session in the Moonshot Studio on weekends), stroll the Kennedy Center terrace, and take in sweeping views of the Potomac. Hours will be Wednesday – Friday 4-8pm, and Saturday/Sunday 12-8pm.  Getting there by bike is a perfect way to go to avoid parking.  But if you drive, you can park in the KC garage (though pricey) or try to find street parking nearby.

 

Enjoy the season — and a fun challenge! — in the trees

Adventure in the Trees
Where: Adventure Park at Sandy Spring
When: Starting March 19
Admission: Starts at $45/adult, $16/child

The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring has reopens for the season, offering its thrilling aerial forest experience again. Navigating ropes courses up in the trees is a super fun and challenging way to spend a day.  There are 15 trails of varying levels of difficulty, all of them with ziplines, and almost 200 challenge bridges — something for everyone! Extra safety measures are in place for Covid, including required advance reservations, so be sure to book ahead.  Read about one of our past experiences at the Adventure Park.  (There have been many more since then!)

 

Entertain the idea of a gift to a stellar show

Show Time
Where: Theatres Around DC
When: Various dates
Admission: Varies by show

The new season brings new live entertainment to local stages, and there are some great shows coming to town. A few to check out (something for every age):
RENT – The 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour at National Theatre
Come From Away at National Theatre
Mean Girls at the Kennedy Center
Poop the Musical at Adventure Theatre

 

Yayoi Kusama’s Phalli’s Field infinity room will be back

Yayoi Kusama Returns
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: April 1 – November 27
Admission: Free

Back in 2017, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibition at the Hirshhorn was the hot ticket to score. The presentation of five infinity rooms — immersive installations that transformed small rooms into boundless wonderlands with brilliant, imaginative sculptures and mirror-lined walls — caused quite a frenzy among art enthusiasts, Instagram fiends, and what seemed like everyone else, for that matter.  Her work was supposed to be back in 2020, but, well, we all know how that went. It’s finally going to happen this spring: Some of Kusama’s works, including two infinity rooms, are coming back to the museum for an exhibit called One with Eternity. Free same-day Timed Passes will be distributed daily at the Museum starting at 9:30am throughout the run of the upcoming exhibition. Fingers crossed it will be easier to get them this time!

 

There’s no place like a fairy & gnome home

Fairies in the Garden
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Lusby, MD
When: April 1 – September 5
Admission: $5 suggested donation

The annual magicalicious exhibit of fairy and gnome houses at Annmarie begins in spring. As if the sculpture garden in Calvert County wasn’t already wonderful, this annual display adds extra delight to a visit there with a collection of handmade fairy and gnome homes scattered throughout the grounds. It’s fantastic to see anytime, but the annual festival to celebrate them takes place April 24 this year.  This is a place kids of all ages — and even the kid in us adults — will love. Read more about Annmarie Sculpture Garden in this KFDC post and this one.

 

Let’s fill those seats back up at Nats Park this season!

Baseball is Back!
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Starting April 7
Admission: Varies

Things were a bit shaky there for the MLB for awhile, but the lockout is ending, and Opening Day is now April 7!  The Nats will play their home opener against the Mets, and the rest of the season will follow as scheduled.  If you’ve been reading KFDC awhile, then you know I highly recommend Nats games as a great way to spend a family day out. I discussed it in a very early KFDC post, include ballgames in Weekend Round-Ups whenever they play at home, have endorsed the Jr. Nationals Kids Club for years, and know it all well enough to have plenty of tips for spending less on a day at the ballpark.  This is all to say, check your Natitude (and the just announced promo schedule)– and get it ready for spring ball!

 

Whirl around at Watkins Regional Park

Go for a Spin
Where: Various locations around the area
When: Varying dates
Admission: Varies by locale

Spring is when many of the carousels and mini trains open for the season, and there are a bunch around the area where you an go for whirl or a ride. Some particularly good places to go:   Montgomery Parks’ Cabin John Train and Wheaton Train and Carousel open on April 2. Clemyjontri Park welcomes guests to whirl starting April 3.  And Glen Echo Park’s beautiful Dentzel Carousel also spins again on April 30.  At Watkins Regional Park, the carousel and mini train (and mini golf) open May 7.  Read more about Cabin John Regional Park in Bethesda here, Wheaton Regional Park here, Clemyjontri Park here, and Watkins Regional Park here.

 

See the inside for the first time (Photo: Wiki Commons)

Welcome, Dorothy!
Where: Washington DC Temple | Kensington, MD
When: Starting April 28
Admission: Free

Those who really know this area well may have an idea of  that title refers to. For those that don’t, “Surrender, Dorothy” was spray painted on an overpass visible from the Beltway, just before the enormous straight-out-of-Oz looking Washington DC Temple. So many of us have wondered for years what the church, with its grand, imposing exterior, looks like on the inside. Well, now we can find out! The public will be welcome for tours for the first time ever starting late April.  All are welcome, just reserve tickets in advance — there are plenty available.

 

A souvenir from a past French Market

Bon Jour, Georgetown!
Where: Book Hill Neighborhood | Georgetown, DC
When: April 29 – May 1
Admission: Free

The Georgetown French Market returns to the Book Hill neighborhood bringing the signature European open air market back for its 19th year.  More than 25 Georgetown boutiques, antique shops, restaurants, galleries, and more will be featured. But it’s not all about the shopping!  Kids will enjoy the strolling mimes, hands-on activities, live music, and French cuisine from Georgetown cafes and restaurants. Visit the website to see the schedule of events and list of participating shops.

 

Flowers & fun at the National Cathedral

Flower Mart
Where: National Cathedral | Northwest DC
When: May 6-7
Admission: Free

This festival ran for 80 years until its two-year hiatus due to Covid. But it’s back — and a super fun, fab way to spend a spring day! Plant sales, floral and horticultural displays, and boutique booths will likely be of more interest to grown-ups. But there is music and entertainment, games and carnival rides, tasty foods, the All Hallows Guild antique carousel, and many more fun activities to delight kids as well. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Beauvoir Playground, too! Read more about Flower Mart and the National Cathedral in this KFDC post.

 

Enjoy global culture at the Around the World Embassy Tour

Around the World Embassy Tour 
Where: Local Embassies | Dupont Circle, DC
When: May 7
Admission: Free

Cultural Tourism DC’s awesome Around the World Embassy Tour will be back this spring! This event, one of my favorites of spring,  is like a local passport to countries around the world as  embassies from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania open their doors to the public.  It’s a free showcase of art, music, traditional dress, and culinary delights from nations across the globe. (It’s also your chance to check out the interiors of those mansions along Mass Ave & International Drive that you usually just admire from the street.) Read about one of our past  globetrotting-in-DC experiences and get a glimpse of what to expect.  And note that there will also be an EU Embassy Tour on May 14!

 

Strawberries at Schlagel Farm, always the first to open for the picking season

Take Your Pick
Where: Farms around the DC Area
When: Varies by locale
Admission: Varies by locale

The pick-your-own season begins in late April/early May when strawberries are ripe and ready for harvest.  Several area farms welcome guests to come pick them, and some offer even more fun. This round-up of PYO places around the area has more details (note that this year’s dates are still TBA).  And it’s always a good idea to check websites or call ahead to confirm availability the day you plan to go. Sunscreen and hat also recommended.

 

A grand new space for KID Museum coming in May

Grand Opening
Where: KID Museum | Bethesda Metro Center, MD
When: May 22
Admission: TBA

KID Museum, which for years provided innovative, hands-on learning experiences for kids at the Davis Library in Bethesda, is opening a new flagship site at Bethesda Metro Center. The 28,000-square-foot facility will offer the same kinds of experiences that encourage invention, creativity, experimentation, and discovery — but on a larger scale in a bigger space. Kids ages 4-14 can explore coding, robotics, engineering design, and hands-on maker learning in the new state-of-the-art makerspace starting late May. The Grand Opening celebration on May 22 will be a fun-filled day of making at the new site — and that will continue beyond the first day.  Get more of an idea of what KID Museum is all about in this KFDC post.

 

Paddling the Potomac from Fletcher’s Cove

Go with the Flow
Where: Waterways around the DC area
When: Varies by place
Admission: Varies by place

With warmer weather comes opportunities to enjoy time on the water, and you can rent kayaks, canoes, and other vessels to paddle at a bunch of places around the area. Boating in DC now runs many of the boathouses in the District and nearby. Some locations begin operating in early April, others open in May, so be sure to check the website for opening dates.  A few places within the NoVA Parks system are offering boat rentals now. And if you don’t want to do the work of paddling (though I highly recommend it), enjoy a Water Taxi ride — there are several  options for places to catch it! See this post for a round-up of places to go with the flow, and read more about a couple of our paddling adventures around the area here and here.

 

Family nature/dog walk at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Opt Outside
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by locale

This one is very general and also pretty obvious, but take advantage of the outdoors — spring is sublime in DC!  Get back to those places and activities you missed all winter and, of course, discover some new ones. These posts are full of ideas to help with that:
The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids
Walks in the Woods
Ride On: Bike Routes for Everyone Around DC
Serenity Now: 10 Places to Find Peace and Calm in DC

 

What spring things are you most excited about?

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2022, DC, Maryland, Seasonal, Special Event, Spring, Virginia

Scenes from a Visit to the National Museum of the U.S. Navy

 

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.

I first posted about the Navy Museum nearly a decade ago after Owen and I visited for the first time, calling it a “True Hidden DC Gem — which says a lot, as it’s rare that I use the term “hidden gem”  to describe a place.  (As I explained in this old post several years ago, when I was a writer/editor for a travel company a bunch of years back, it was forbidden — considered too cliché — to use the term.  And it’s a rule that, for the most part, has stuck with me.)

The museum’s location is part of what garners the “hidden gem” designation. Situated on the guarded base, it’s not overtly visible, plus most people just don’t even know it’s there.  I used to recommend it somewhat regularly, but haven’t since pre-Covid, as I wasn’t certain it had reopened.  But now that I know it has, let this be a big endorsement to go.

Our family has been to the museum several times since that first visit, but it had been awhile. I was thinking about it recently, though, as I was reading the novel Great Circle about a 20th-century female aviator.  The Navy and World War II factor into the book, and the museum has a whole WWII exhibit, including old airplanes on display.  Anyway, it was on my mind as I was making plans with a friend in town, trying to decide what to do a Tuesday when most Smithsonians on the Mall are currently closed.  So I confirmed that the Navy Museum was open, and we decided to go.  It’s a nice, easy walk from our house, plus we could get lunch after at The Yards, a short stroll away along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, where there are lots of good dining options.

The museum has barely changed since I first wrote about it back in 2012.  It’s all contained in one long hangar-like building, where guns and gun parts were manufactured in the late 19th century.  It had some other uses during WWII and over the years, then became a museum in 1961.  And it’s a fantastic and fascinating one for all ages, kids and adults.

‘The collections within are as striking to view as they are interesting to learn about.  Artifacts on display range 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 ships 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 (you can see the new Fredrick Douglass Memorial Bridge from one!) and control boards with buttons to push and levers to pull add some extra engagement, especially for kids.

I love how major parts of ships are showcased and integrated into the space.  A nearly floor-to-ceiling replica of the USS Constitution fighting top is one of the first sights upon entrance. A hull with cannons extending out of portholes is the wall of a recreated gun deck.  Ship quarterdeck name boards are hung on high beams all around.   Huge guns, life rafts, and other installations are centerpieces of the exhibits.  You used to be able to climb onto some of them and sit in gun seats, but that kind of access is now off limits due to Covid.

A few very important things to know about visiting the National Museum of the U.S. Navy:
* Non-military visitors must enter at 11th & O Streets SE, just before the 11th Street Bridge. Let the guards on duty know why you’re visiting, and they will direct you to the Visitor Center.

* You need a pass to be on base and visit the museum. You can obtain one at the Visitor Center, the small building on your right as you enter the base. Be sure to bring ID, as you will need to show it to get a pass, along with providing fingerprints (it’s a military base). More about that here.

* Note that the Visitor Center is closed on Saturdays, so if you want to visit on the weekend, you must obtain a pass prior to that (again, more here).

* If you drive, look for street parking off of M Street SE in the Navy Yard neighborhood, then walk a few blocks to the entrance.

* Allow for some extra time to get your pass, about 15 minutes.

* The rest of the Navy base is very interesting to tour. Plan for some time to walk around before or after your museum visit.

* DO NOT take any photos of the base outside of the museum! It is not permitted. I learned this the hard way.

A new, bigger, campus-style National Museum of the U.S. Navy is in the works, expected to open in late 2025.  There’s an exhibit showing plans and the progress of it.  Sounds like it won’t be quite as hidden as it is now, but it certainly will still be a gem.

National Museum of the U.S. Navy
Where: Entrance is at 11th & O Streets SE | Navy Yard, DC
When: Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm & Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

1 Comment

Filed under DC, Museums

Where to Go and What to Do Around DC During Winter Break 2021

Bike around the National Mall and memorials over the break

 

If you’re going to be in town over the Winter Break from school, you’ll likely be looking for activities to keep the whole gang happy (and that includes us parents)! Hence, I’m bringing back this guide once again, but with updated info and some new inspiration that reflects what’s going on now.

Many of these ideas are already on the blog, but sometimes a little guidance for what’s best at certain times helps. Among the recommendations are holiday activities that keep the spirit going a little longer, exhibits and shows that are hot tickets right now, outings that take advantage of the season, adventures to keep your gang active no matter what the weather, and places and experiences that kids who are in school all day can’t get to easily.

Of course, the rest of the blog is packed with 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!) entertained during the time off — or on, depending how you look at it. 😉  Happy Winter Break!

 

Holiday-Inspired Happenings

Special Exhibits & Museums

Must-See DC

#OptOutside

Show Time

Indoor Action

See Some Sports

Day Trips

Extra Tips

 

 

Holiday-Inspired Happenings

Model trains are back at the Botanic Garden — outside!

Outdoor Train Display
Where: US Botanic Garden | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Through January 2
Admission: Free
The USBG’s wonderful annual model train exhibit is back after a hiatus last year, though outdoors in the gated National Garden.  Made up of farming scenes, it’s delightful as ever and once again all constructed from plant materials. Along with the model trains,  there are more festive adornments throughout the Garden, plus Patrick Doherty’s amazing stickwork sculpture that was installed in late 2019.

Search for Santa’s Helpers
Where: Potomac Overlook Park | Arlington, VA
When: December 18-22, 11am – 3pm
Admission: $5/child

Go on a scavenger hunt around Potomac Overlook Park to find Santa’s helpers so they can get back to the North Pole in time for the holidays.  No reservations are needed, but check in at the Nature Center  to begin.  The park in Arlington is a great place to hike around, even better when there’s an extra holiday adventure!  Get some background on Potomac Overlook in this KFDC post from awhile back — but pretty much still applicable now.

Enchant Christmas
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Through January 2
Admission: $20-34/adult, $17-27/age 14-17, $15-25/age 4-13

Explore a 90,000 square foot Christmas Light Maze and help Santa find his reindeer before Christmas Eve. Held at Nationals Park, Enchant Christmas also features an ice skating trail, live entertainment, food and drink, a Play Place just for little ones,  a Christmas market and Santa and Mrs. Claus. Read a KFDC review of this DC holiday attraction from its 2019 run. Look for a discount here.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: Through December
Admission: $28/adult, $15/age 6-11, free/5 & under 

Christmas past meets Christmas present at George Washington’s estate.  During the day, tour the Mansion, watch historic chocolate-making demonstrations, and meet Aladdin the Camel. On select dates, there are some special evening holiday activities, too. Mount Vernon is open every day of the year, including Christmas Day and New Year’s. Look for a discount – $21/adult, $11.25/child.

Holiday Festival of Trains
Where: B&O Railroad Museum | Baltimore, MD
When: Through December 31
Admission: $18/adult, $17/senior, $12/age 2-12, free/B&O members


At a venue dedicated to locomotives, you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. The whole Museum has been transformed into a wonderland of festive fun including Reindeer Railway train rides, photos ops with Santa and winter friends, Santa’s Village, live entertainment, and more!  And just opened is  a new Model Train Gallery featuring a specially crafted HO Scale model layout of Baltimore in 1997.

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: Through January 1
Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra

National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. While there’s no ICE! exhibit this year, there’s still plenty to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Much of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly lightings, indoor snowfalls, and more fun,, much of it free. (Read about a KFDC experience there during a Christmas season past.). For extra costs, there are ice slides and ice skating and holiday activities for kids.  There are also nightly tree lightings and lights show in the National Harbor outdoor plaza.

* Find even more holiday happenings in the KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC!

 

 

Special Exhibits & Museums

 

Interact with language at Planet Word

Word Up
Where: Planet Word | Downtown DC
When: Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The museum all about language is full of fun and interesting exhibits, most of them interactive. There are elements that all ages will love, though tweens and older will get the most out of it, having more grammar lessons under their belts and generally better comprehension. Our whole family loves it! Admission is free, but you need to book tickets in advance. Right now, there are some available for dates over the break. And a limited number of day-of, walk-up passes are available on the half-hour.

FUTURES
Where: Arts & Industries Building | National Mall, DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

The Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building recently reopened — with a new, fascinating exhibition, to boot!  FUTURES spans 32,000 square feet inside, and it’s full of large-scale installations, displays, and interactives that are exciting, powerful, and thought-provoking as they offer a glimpse of future possibilities — and prompt us to wonder how we can contribute. It’s an exhibition for everyone and all ages, and one to put on your must-visit list! Get a glimpse of it here.

Laurie Anderson: The Weather
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

This exhibition at the Hirshhorn is fantastic!  Beautiful abstract paintings, captivating stories, interesting photography, original instruments, spoken word video sculptures, and an entire black and white gallery hand painted by Anderson with sketches, quotes, poems, and passages are among the collection of multimedia works. I’d recommend the exhibit for tween ages and up, though younger children could definitely tag along — there are visual elements that would appeal to them, too. (Plus, art can always be presented to them as something that was in someone’s imagination that they have made real… that is what I did, anyway, when my kids were younger and we encountered art that was over their heads.)

Alif Ba Exhibition
Where: National Children’s Museum | Downtown DC
When: December 18 – February 22
Admission: $15.95

A new visiting exhibit that explores the Arabic alphabet is coming to the National Children’s Musem. Named for the Arabic term for the “ABCs,” the Alif Ba Exhibition brings the Arabic alphabet and language to life with 28 hands-on letter displays in the Museum’s Creative Corner. The interactive experience invites Dreamers to touch and explore the letters, and listen to the sounds they make and the words they begin. Dreamers can also spend time practicing tracing and writing the Arabic alphabet. Of course, you can explore the rest of the Museum’s exhibits, too — read more about them here.

Life of a Neuron
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: Through January 2
Admission: $16-20/adult, $13-15/senior, $8-10/child

Art meets science in this new exhibit at ARTECHOUSE, taking us on an artistic journey inside the brain. Trippy, captivating scenes swirl around the walls and floors, and side galleries have some interactive elements. Read more about it in this recent review.

Mission: Fun
Where: International Spy Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $26.95/age 13+, $16.95/7-12, free/6 & under

If you haven’t been to the Spy Museum at the L’Enfant Plaza location, this is a great time to check it out! Go undercover to explore the intriguing world of espionage. 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.

African American History & Culture
Where: National Museum of African American History & Culture
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes

This phenomenal museum is a must-visit on the National Mall.  Timed entry passes are still required, and while they aren’t available to reserve in advance, you can try for same-day passes.  They are released daily starting at 8:15am and can be reserved here. Before you go to the museum, be sure to read the KFDC guide for visiting with kids.

* Of course, there are the rest of the Smithsonians — see hours and open days for them here — and more local museums to check out.

 

Must-See DC

A view of the Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress

A Local & National Treasure
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Explore the largest library in the world and one of DC’s most iconic attractions. The Library of Congress is a trove of knowledge, art, history, and culture — and the public is welcome to enjoy it all, and for free!  Walk-ins are sometimes welcome, but it’s best to reserve free tickets in advance.

A Monumental Experience
Where: Washington Monument | National Mall, DC
When: Daily, 9am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The Washington Monument is super fun to tour — you can go up inside to check out interesting exhibits and take in DC views. Advance reservation tickets for the next day are available online for a nominal processing fee. Same-day, free tickets are also be available on a first-come, first-served basis daily starting at 8:30am at the Washington Monument Lodge, located on 15th Street NW, between Madison Drive NW and Jefferson Drive SW.  Get a peek of the experience from the inside here.

Abe’s Last Days
Where: Ford’s Theatre | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 9am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free – $3

Ford’s isn’t just a place to catch live entertainment. The site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination highlights its historic significance through exhibits about the president, the circumstances surrounding his assassination, and that fateful night at the theatre. The National Historic Site features a museum, theatre walk-throughs and a presentation, and guests are welcome to explore it all. Best for about ages 8 and up. Reserve tickets online in advance for $3 or get them at the Box Office for free.

Tour the Memorials
Where: National Mall & Tidal Basin, DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Be a tourist in your hometown (unless you’re visiting, then just be a tourist). Take the opportunity to visit the many memorials on the Mall and around the Tidal Basin. Not only are the structures themselves marvel-worthy, there’s a lot to be gleaned from them, too. Learn about some of our country’s presidents and leaders — George, Abe, Tom, FDR, & MLK — from displays, park rangers, and in the Visitors Centers. And walk or bike among them all to add some exercise (and extra fun) to the venture!

 

 

#OptOutside

Hike right in the city at Rock Creek Park

Ready, Set…Hike!
Where: Around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by locale

If you agree with the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” like I do, there are no excuses for not getting outdoors during winter. And a great, easy way to do so is on a hike. Hit the trail in places with scenic views, tramp and explore history at interesting locales, and enjoy a day of active fun. This post has a a bunch of recommendations for good walks in the woods and other places with kids.

Ice It
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by rink

Enjoy a quintessential winter activity: Ice skating under the sky! Take in art as you skate at the Sculpture Garden; glide over the Potomac on The Wharf’s awesome rink; circle around Washington Harbour as you enjoy river views; meander along the Figure 8 path at Canal Park; or do some shopping then skate at Pentagon Row, Rockville Town Square, or Reston Town Center. This post has details on alfresco (and indoor) ice skating options in the area.

Fossil Hunting
Where: Calvert & Charles Conties
When: Varies by place
Admission: Varies by place
Just because it takes place along beach areas, that doesn’t mean it’s a warm-weather-only activity. As long as you’re dressed for it — waterproof boots are a must! — searching for millions-of-years-old fossils can be just as fun and compelling in winter as it is in summer. There are several places to go in the region, all about an hour drive from DC. This post has a round-up of spots to check out.

Two-Wheel Time
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

Given all the unseasonably warm days we’ve had recently, there’s bound to be one great for a bike ride. (Though cold weather can be fun, too — just bundle up!) Cruise along paths lined with scenic surroundings, ride to destinations that offer even more fun, and get some exercise.  This post has a bunch of pedal-worthy recs, with something for riders of all levels, and this particular route is ideal for the whole crew.

Let There Be Lights
Where: Around the DC area
When: Evenings through
Admission: Varies by locale

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are a staple of the season. Visit one of many parks or corridors in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. Some you can walk through for an up-close experience, others you tour by car. Either way, expect to be dazzled.

* Find even more places for outdoor adventures.

 

 

Show Time

Enjoy a Disney classic at Olney Theatre

 

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Where: Olney Theater | Olney, MD
When: Through January 2
Tickets: $42-79

Be their guest this holiday season as the classic animated story comes to life on the Olney Theatre Mainstage. It’s a tale as old as time, but it gets a new look from Tony-nominated director Marcia Milgrom Dodge.  Olney’s biggest show of the year brings the whole family together for a magical and memorable musical about the redemptive power of love. Join Belle, Lumiere, Cogsworth, and the rest of the gang in the Beast’s cursed castle for an escape to a world where beauty is more than skin deep and happily ever after is just a rose petal away. Rated G.

Cinderella
Where: Synetic Theatre | Crystal City, VA
When: Through December 26
Tickets: $15-30

Cinderella is joining the Synetic family series repertoire and stepping into her own shoes! Led by an all-female team of Syneticons, this innovative take on the classic fairytale is a perfect fit for audiences of all ages.

Corduroy
Where: Imagination Stage | Bethesda, MD
When: Through January 24
Tickets: $28

We all need a friend, and Lisa is instantly drawn to the perfectly imperfect teddy bear on display at the department store. If only she can convince her stressed-out mother to buy Corduroy for her! Meanwhile, Corduroy is determined to find his missing button and become worthy of going to a real home. After the store has closed, he goes on a hilariously destructive search–with the Night Watchman in comical pursuit. Full of mischief and clowning, this story of unconditional love captures both the humanity and the merriment of the holiday season. Recommended for ages 3-9.

Once Upon a One More Time
Where: Sidney Harman Hall | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Through January 9
Admission: $82-145 | Find Discount

This fantastic show presented by Shakespeare Theatre Company undoes classic fairytales as it empowers the princesses in them — all to the tune of Britney Spears’ music! It’s a fun and funny, pop-fueled show with entertaining song and dance numbers, stellar performances, and a great message, to boot. And seeing it on the heels of Britney being freed from her conservatorship adds a little extra something. Its run has just been extended to January 9, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells out! I’d recommend the show for tween ages and up.

* See what else is on stages now (or coming soon), and find holiday-themed entertainment here.

 

Indoor Action

Climb the day away at The St. James

Super, Awesome, and Amazing Fun
Where: The St. James | Springfield, VA
When: Thurs-Fri, 3-8pm | Sat-Sun, 9am – 8pm
Admission: Starting at $15/hour 

The Super, Awesome, and Amazing (that’s what it’s called) 30,000 square foot activity center in the St. Jame sports complex is filled with all kinds of climbing structures, trampolines, and obstacle courses. Kids can don harnesses and clip onto wires to climb, rappel, and navigate walkways 20 feet above the ground. They can bounce, flip, and execute acrobatic moves. They can swing from bars and on large platforms and crawl through tunnels. Essentially, every element in the space is conducive to active fun, and there is something for kids from toddler to tween ages to enjoy. Admission is $15 Monday – Thursday before 3pm. After 3pm and on Friday & Saturday, they are $23/hour.

Reach New Heights
Where: ClimbZone | Laurel, MD
When: Daily, 10am – 8pm
Admission: $25/child, $12/toddler (find discount)

The enormous facility is filled literally floor to ceiling with colorful themed climbing walls and moon bounces. Climbers can ascend Mt. Rushmore, reach the Jolly Roger on a pirate ship, conquer a game of Tetris, shimmy up a giant guitar, scale Jack’s bean stalk, negotiate a rope wall, and experience peak fun on a variety of other climbing areas.

Play in the Zone
Where: ZavaZone | Rockville, MD & Sterling, VA
When: Daily, 10am – 6pm
Admission: Starts at $23.50

Guests have their pick of fun at this indoor adventure park for ages 5-105. There are ninja courses, ropes courses, trampolines, climbing challenges, zip lines, and more under one soaring roof. Usually just open in the afternoons during the week, morning time slots will also be available during Winter Break week.

Spring Time
Where: Flight Trampoline Park | Springfield, VA
When: Daily
Admission: Starts at $14

Kids of all ages can jump, play, even flip for joy at Flight Trampoline Park. The huge space resembles a skate park, with an industrial look of exposed pipes and cinder block walls sprayed with graffiti. But where you’d find ramps, rails, and concrete to facilitate skills and tricks, there are trampolines instead. Be sure to check the schedule for any special jumping times, and buy tickets/sign waivers in advance online to avoid a line there.

Tee Up
Where: Top Golf | National Harbor & Gaithersburg, MD
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Starts at $27/bay
Practice your swing, enjoy a bite, and have some indoor/outdoor fun.  At Top Golf, you drive balls from climate controlled (ie, heated) sheltered bays, so you can still enjoy fresh air and be comfy.   Plus, there ’s a full service restaurant and bar (for parents, obvi) to make a full experience of it.

 

 

See Some Sports

Cheer on our local teams!

Wizards
Where: Capital One Arena | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 26 & 30, January 1
Admission: Ticket prices vary

The Wizards have a few home games over the break, so catch some exciting action on the court. They host the  Philadelphia 76ers on December 26, Cleveland Cavaliers on December 30,  and Chicago Bulls on January 1.

All Caps
Where: Capital One Arena | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 19, 27, & 29
Admission: Ticket prices vary (look for a deal)

Hockey fans can see the Caps play a few games. The Los Angeles Kings will be here on December 19, the Ottawa Senators on December 27, and the Nashville Predators on December 29.

Hoops, NCAA-Style
Where: Universities around the DC Area
When: Throughout the break
Admission: Ticket prices vary

With so many universities in the area, there’s always some good college hoops action going on. Here’s where you can check out schedules and look for tickets:
University of Maryland (Go, Terps!)
George Washington University
Georgetown University
American University
Howard University
George Mason University
Catholic University

 

 

Day Trips

Spend a day on slopes within easy driving distance

 

Hit the Slopes
Where: Around the region
When: Through winter
Admission: Varies

A fun, active way to take advantage of winter: Skiing!  There are a bunch of resorts within a few hours’ drive that are great for young, newbie skiers (and veteran swooshers, too).  Some resorts to check out that are within day trip driving distance: Liberty, Whitetail, Roundtop, and Bryce.

Charm City, Hon!
Where: Baltimore, MD
When: Daily
Admission: Varies by locale

Zip up I-95 for some fun in our sister city, where there are lots of great places to spend a day off. Play the day away at Port Discovery. Explore the exhibits and loads of hands-on activities at the Maryland Science Center. See some of the quirkiest, coolest art around at the American Visionary Art Museum. Get an eyeful of the underwater world at the National Aquarium. Tour the historic ships moored at the Inner Harbor. Or learn about Baltimore’s early business days at the Museum of Industry. The KFDC Guide to Exploring Baltimore with Kids has info for all of these adventures, plus dining recs and more to explore!

Go Underground
Where: Luray Caverns | Luray, VA
When: Daily, 9am – 7pm
Admission: $32/adult, $16/ages 6-12, free/5 & under 

Behold the spectacular underground world of stalagmites, stalactites, and other amazing limestone formations in the massive cave system at Luray. Afterward, make your way through the Garden Maze or check out vintage rides in the Carriage and Caravan Museum. Admission does not include attractions beyond the cavern. KFDC Tip: Be sure to make a pit stop before going into the caverns, because it can be a long walk out to a restroom, and once you’re out, you may not be able to go back in.

Go East
Where: Annapolis and Eastern Shore, MD
When: hours vary by place
Admission: Varies by Place

Who says it has be warm to head out toward the Eastern Shore and enjoy adventures by the water? Drive over the Bay Bridge for a great hike at Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area on this side of the bridge at Quiet Waters. And while it’s not the best season for crabs, you can still enjoy yummy meals at places that are known for them. Try Kentmorr or The Jetty after Wye, Cantler’s or Mike’s closer in. Of course, you can also enjoy a day walking around the charming downtown area in Annapolis.

Art & Maritime Explorations
Where: Calvert County, MD
When: Daily, except Christmas
Admission: Varies by locale

Make a day of it in Calvert County, where you can visit a couple of places for fun, fascinating, hands-on adventures. Annmarie Sculpture Garden is full of artistic delights. Tour beautiful works, both indoors and out, play in the Fairy Lolly, and create some of your own art with inspiration from all you see there. Hours are 9am – 5pm in the gardens, and admission is a $5 suggested donation. Also out that way is the Calvert Marine Museum, where you can see interesting exhibits, including display cases full of fossils and artifacts, plus live fish and other creatures. There’s also a play area and a real lighthouse to tour. Hours are 10am – 5pm, and admission is $9/adult, $4/ages 5-12, free/4 & under.

 

 

Extra Tips
* Created especially for last year’s Covid Winter, this post has even more ideas for things to do, all of them outdoors.
* It didn’t fit into the above categories, but this is a great time to sign up for volunteering opportunities with kids.
* If you’re looking specifically for activities for foul weather days, see this list of indoor spots.
* And for where to enjoy time outside, check out The Best Places to Spend a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids
* Sometimes you just need a place to hang out for awhile, so why not make it a stunning one?
* Look for deals and discounts on CertifiKid and Goldstar.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2021, 2022, All ages, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Winter

Passport to Fun: Kids Euro Fest Returns to DC!

 

Calling all curious kids and tiny travelers! Next month is your chance to experience European culture without a plane ticket.  Kids Euro Fest, the wonderful annual event that presents art and cultural programs for children, is returning to the DC area!

Kids Euro Fest has become a tradition in the nation’s capital.  For the last 14 years, it has been one of the largest performing arts festivals for children in America. Artists and performers from across the 27 European Union countries have participated, including puppeteers, dancers, musicians, and children’s book authors. 

For the first time this year, Kids Euro Fest will feature two in-person Family Days located at two different embassies in Washington!  The first will take place October 9 at the Embassy of France, and the second on October 16 at the Embassy of Sweden. From 12-4pm on both days, families are invited to enjoy an afternoon full of European performances, activities, crafts, games, and food.

The best part? Everything is FREE!

All kinds of fantastic cultural activities await:  Kids can learn from a Latvian children’s book illustrator, catch an Irish dance performance, and make Portuguese art. A German theatre will transport young minds into a fairy tale, and France will get kids thinking about climate change. Throughout the day, kids can get creative at the craft table, take part in traditional European outdoor games, and indulge in food from the embassy’s own chef.

Health and safety precautions will be in place at both Family Days, including masks for kids ages 2-12. Activities will take place both indoors and outdoors with social distancing and limited attendance; therefore, families should be sure to register ahead of time on the KEF website.

For those outside of the DC area, Kids Euro Fest will also launch virtual activities on October 9. These include online performances, storytelling, films, and workshops.

To learn more about Kids Euro Fest events and register to attend the Family Days, visit Kidseurofest.org.

 

* * * * *

This post is sponsored by the European Union Delegation to the United States, however, I only promote events, programs, and places that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers. To learn about other Delegation events in the area, visit www.events.euintheus.org.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2021, All ages, DC, Fall, Festival, Weekend