After months of teasing us, the new National Children’s Museum is finally open! And after getting a first look yesterday, I think it was worth the wait. Newly located just a block off the National Mall in the Ronald Reagan Building and freshly overhauled from the previous version at National Harbor, the museum is full of STEAM-inspired exhibits that are fun, engaging, and educational for kids.
Most of this is on the concourse level of the space — which is all that was open yesterday — with the reception/ticketing area, cafe, playzone, and top of the amazing Dream Machine (more on that in a sec) on the upper level set to open in a few weeks. With concrete floors and exposed pipes and ducts overhead, much of it has an industrial feel that, in my opinion, seems to work well with the STEAM theme. Exhibits and programming are geared toward children up to age 12, and there are areas especially for little ones, with soft, colorful play features (and floors) and themes that appeal to babes and toddlers.
Kids from grade school ages to tweens will dig the rest. The centerpiece of it all is the aforementioned Dream Machine, a multilevel, twisty climbing structure with rope tunnels, slides, pods, and platforms, that is sure to keep young visitors active and occupied for a good portion of their time at the museum. And not to worry about littles — a small area of it is just for smaller children up to age 5 for easier, gentler climbing and sliding.
All of the other exhibits will also attract curious museum-goers. From the On the Go-Go race car track to Nats-branded pitching and batting cages to Data Science Alley’s air tubes to the green screen in the Innovative Sandbox, they offer fun, and interesting ways to engage and exercise creativity while exploring fundamentals of STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Read more about some of them in this post recapping a sneak peek of the museum back in October.
I visited yesterday without my kids — they were in school, not to mention Owen has aged out — but met up with KFDC contributor Emily, who brought her toddler daughter and baby son. They spent a good 40 minutes in Dora & Diego – Let’s Explore, a sweet traveling exhibit that will switch out in about a year, before moving on to a small crawling structure and Data Science Alley, where we all watched big pom pom balls get sucked through tubes with fascination.
Programming like story time with DC Public Library and family workshops in the Tinkerer’s Studio to complement all of this will start in few weeks. Some of it will take place in the playzone upstairs, and will not require an admission fee. Field trips and birthday parties are also available (and already booked up for a few months).
Over on Instagram, someone asked me how it compares to Port Discovery, the children’s museum in Baltimore. Here are my thoughts… While it’s not as big and there aren’t as many exhibits, what’s there is just as interesting and engaging, and it’s hard to explore all of Port Discovery in one visit anyway. This is also more than half the admission price and, perhaps best of all, located right here in downtown DC.
Ready to plan your visit? Tickets are timed entry, and I hear they’re selling fast for opening weekend, so reserve yours soon. In the meantime, get more of a glimpse in the photos below!
National Children’s Museum
Where: 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW | Downtown DC
When: Thursday – Sunday, 9:30am – 12:30pm & 1:30-4:30pm
Admission: $15.95/age 1+ | Membership options available, too
* The museum is located within the Ronald Reagan Building.