Tag Archives: Kid Friendly Activities DC

Full STEAM Ahead at the New National Children’s Museum!

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.


Design your own car – and race it!

Make it rain…and cloudy and lightening with your hands in Innovation Sandbox

A quiet space for nursing moms

Dora Dora Dora the Explorer (those lyrics will forever be etched in my brain)

Learn about collecting data through string art

Batter up!

Play with lights

One more of that Dream Machine


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Filed under 2020, All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Indoor Play, Museums, Weekdays, Weekend

A Very DC Hike at Theodore Roosevelt Island

Every now and then I have a realization that over all the years I’ve been publishing KFDC, I haven’t done a write-up about a place that we’ve been frequenting forever and is definitely deserving of its own post. This time it’s Theodore Roosevelt Island, a national park located on an actual 90-acre island in the Potomac River.

A recent visit with Sash

And one years ago with the fam

Roosevelt Island has been among our regular rotation of go-to spots for hiking and getting a nice, easy dose of nature in DC (despite accessing it from across the river, the island is part of the District) since before Levi and I even had kids. But with Owen and Sasha, especially when they were little, we’ve appreciated it even more. The park is ideal for family hikes with short, mellow trails; lots of great nature, wildlife sitings, even airplanes flying overhead; and a little history lesson, to boot, with a lovely memorial in the middle of it all dedicated to the president for which it’s named.

Teddy and little Owen on the Plaza

Younger Sash strikes a pose there

And fives years later

This is why I call it a very “DC” hike. The park’s Memorial Plaza is like a little annex to all of the other memorials on the National Mall.  However, instead of the expanse of green grass or Tidal Basin to make it stand out grandly, woods and wetlands fittingly surround the stately granite and bronze tribute to Teddy Roosevelt, an early steward for conservation and the environment.

Trying to do some turtle spotting

From the parking lot, there is a long bridge to cross to get to the main part of park. We always stop on it to take in views of Georgetown in the distance and look for turtles in the water below. Once on the other side, three trails offer different hiking experiences. The short .3-mile Woods Trail leads through and right around the memorial on gravel and paved grounds. The .75-mile Upland Trail loops through the woods along the whole length of the island. And the 1.5-mile Swamp Trail includes both a dirt path that winds through woods and a boardwalk running over a swampy area lined by cattail, trees, and wild grass.

Kickin’ it on the Swamp Trail

When the kids were small, we’d pick one, but now we often do a combination of all three trails, starting at the plaza, then walking through the woods and on the boardwalk, before hopping on another path leading to the water and taking us around the island. Whatever you choose, you’re in for a nice hike.

Little Sash on the Upland Trail

On a recent visit with Sasha, we covered the whole island, enjoying its winter beauty. We loved seeing the leafless trees, the mess of branches and wild intertwining limbs. (Side note: Did anyone read The Overstory? While I found it kind of long and tedious, I appreciated the concept of communication among trees and always think about it when I’m among them.) But Roosevelt Island is great the rest of the year, too, with budding trees and views of the cherry blossoms in spring, lush green and lots of shade in summer, and colorful foliage during autumn.

Bare branches during winter

There are no tables for picnicking, but the Memorial Plaza has seating, and there are a few benches along the Swamp Trail where you could stop and snack. Another nice spot is a cluster of large rocks at the west end of the island. And there are restrooms down the Woods Trail shortly before it meets the Swamp Trail.

Hanging out in the shade during summer

The one negative of the park may be the parking situation. The lot is small, and fills up quickly, especially on a nice weekend day. There have been several times we’ve planned to go and have encountered a line of cars to get in. In those cases, we’ve headed to Turkey Run Park further down the GW Parkway in McLean or Potomac Overlook Park in Arlington. You can avoid parking altogether by riding bikes there instead — it’s right off the Mount Vernon Trail, and there are bike racks right at the entrance (biking is not permitted in the park). You can also Metro to Rosslyn then walk 10-15 minutes from there.

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Where: Potomac River | Washington, DC
Access: From the GW Parkway just before Spout Run
When: Daily year-round, 6am – 10pm
Admission: Free

Want even more suggestions for great local hikes with kids? This post has a bunch of them! And here are a few more pics from some visits over the years…

Welcome to the island…


Happy about her first visit to TRI


Leading the way on the trail


A little pop of color


View from a small beach





Filed under 2020, All ages, DC, Educational, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend

A Sneak Peek at the New National Children’s Museum

[Note: This post was written by new KFDC contributor Emily Moise, who attended the National Children’s Museum Family Celebration with her daughter for a first look at what’s to come this winter.]

The wait continues for a much-needed and overdue children’s museum in the nation’s capital — but it will be well worth it. Originally slated as the grand opening celebration, this past Saturday’s Family Celebration at the National Children’s Museum was instead a sneak peek at the learning disguised as amusement park-like fun that will be made available to the public this holiday season.

Hundreds were dazzled with modernized, interactive STEAM exhibits in what is positioned as the first children’s museum-slash-science center. Believe it or not, Washington, DC, with its plentitude of museums and culture, is the only major city without either.

The National Children’s Museum is making up for lost time with new-age ideas and social impact-focused goals — plus tons of creative play spaces for even the littlest ones. Kids can learn physics through Nationals-branded pitching and batting exhibits, explore the technology of filmmaking with SpongeBob, and discover their superpower with the Climate Action Heroes roadmap.

The pièce de résistance may be the miniature car race track that teaches kids principles of design and engineering with high-speed excitement. After tweaking and adorning their wooden cars, kids watch as a mechanical lift raises their vehicles to the starting line. Ready, set, go… cars race down the track, lights flashing, and the most aerodynamic one wins. Overhead a screen shows detailed stats from the races. Barring a long waiting line, kids can experience the cycle of design, test, re-design.

There is also a Tinkerers Studio, set up like a 21st century classroom, which will be home to school and group field trips, as well as workshops and unguided open studio hours. Equipped with everything from colored paper for art projects to laptops for creative coding projects, the Studio will allow kids to combine the tools of STEAM to create and learn. Notably, teachers from Title I public and charter schools in Washington, DC can request free field trips, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

And all of this was just the lower concourse level. The main level will boast the Dream Machine entryway, a two-story slide that transports visitors to the wonderland of exhibits, a playzone, café, and gift shop. There appears to be much work left to be done to make all of this visitor-ready, but workshops are already being listed online for early December, which are free with general admission. (Admission will be $10.95 for children over the age of one and adults, and membership packages are expected to range from $75 to $150.)

Due to the Nationals’ World Series parade coinciding with the Family Celebration, another similar sneak peek day may be offered prior to opening. Stay tuned to the National Children’s Museum website for updates on the opening, events, workshops, and more!


Filed under 2019, 2020, All ages, DC, Educational, Indoor Play, Museums, Weekdays, Weekend

Enjoy the Views from the Observation Deck at CEB Tower

A monumental view of DC


[2022 Update: Now call The VIEW of DC, this has changed a bit… most of the exhibits and immersive experiences are no longer there, but the spectacular views make it worth visiting, This was only open to Arlington residents for awhile, but they’re once again welcoming the general public again.  And even better now, admission is FREE!]

Washington, DC, is a pretty cool city to view from high up. Unfortunately, due to building height regulations that limit structures to about 13 stories high, there are very few places in the District that offer a good bird’s eye perspective of the area.

But, now, just across the river in Northern Virginia you can enjoy incredible, sweeping vistas of DC and VA — and then some. The Observation Deck at CEB Tower in Rosslyn was designed just for this purpose. The 12,000-square-foot space on the 31st and 32nd floors of the building offers 360° panoramas of the capital region.

The Observation Deck opened last June, but without very much buzz (that I’d heard, anyway). So, it wasn’t until this past weekend that I finally checked it out with Sasha after seeing a great Certifikid deal on admission. It wasn’t just the discount that reeled me in, though. It sounded like a really neat experience, kind of like flying into or out of DCA when the wind is in your favor, you’ve got a window seat on the right side of the plane, and you can gaze upon the memorials, the green stretch of National Mall, and the flowing rivers below. But even better here, we could take it all in for as long as we wanted, not just the fleeting seconds it takes soar over it.

Getting started on the glass elevator

Our adventure at CEB Tower actually began in the elevator. With glass on two sides, we watched the bustling streets of Rosslyn retreat below us and got a glimpse of Georgetown and Northern Virginia in the distance as we zipped up 30-plus floors. I have to admit it gave me a bit of jelly knees, but it also made us excited for what was to come — which was awesome.

A first look at the space

Walking out of the elevator, the spacious room with floor-to-ceiling windows, sunlight spilling through them, and long shadows streaking across the floor was a sight in itself. We were greeted by friendly staff who got us oriented by pointing out a water tower in the distance near the CIA Headquarters in Langley, explained how the interactive displays worked, and generally gave us the lay of the land, both in the tower and the landscape around it.

A guide along the rail helps you locate landmarks

Sasha and I first approached the windows carefully — it’s very high up! — but once we were comfortable, we started making our way around the circular space. The views really are incredible. We could see for miles, and it was fun to pick out major landmarks, try to find our house (or the general area), and see some of the places we frequent regularly from that vantage point. I loved seeing how the Potomac meandered through the scene and the shape of Roosevelt Island. And the Washington Monument with the Kennedy Center in the foreground and U.S. Capitol beyond it was a sight we lingered on for awhile.

Potomac, Roosevelt Island, Kennedy Center, Monument, Capitol — all in one scene

Interactive digital kiosks placed next to the windows offer an in depth look at what you see beyond them. We scrolled through timelines depicting the development of places, learned about people connected to them, and pondered various issues of historic times and now. A fun and interesting element of the displays was the chance to cast votes on different issues that were later tallied for a “Collective Perspectives” display.

Learning about the scenes beyond the window

A group gets the HoverDC experience

Another interactive element is HoverDC, an immersive adventure that “flies” you through restricted airspace over the nation’s capital, offering 10,000-foot high views of iconic landmarks like the Jefferson Memorial, breathtaking nature like Great Falls, and concealed places like the courtyard within the Pentagon. Essentially, you’re standing on the edge of a large screen as video plays at your feet, “wind” blows in your face, and you listen to the captain talk about the sights below through headphones.

“Flying” over Great Falls

Head upstairs — and outside

If you want to literally take your experience to another level, a stairway leads to the 32nd floor, where there is an outdoor terrace. Loungy seating is available if you want to hang out, relax, and take in the views from a comfortable distance, or you can walk to the edge where the only thing separating you and a 380-foot drop are tall panels of thick glass. (Of course, they are securely in place, but I wasn’t about to go anywhere near them. Sasha, however, was much braver.)

Just watching her near the edge made my knees weak

I’ll enjoy the view from back here, thank you 🙂

There is also a champagne bar on the upper level, as well as small cafe/bar on the main concourse below. It would be great to take advantage of them on an evening out — and enjoy what are surely stunning views of the skyline at night.

The Observation Deck at CEB Tower is located 1201 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn (the official address is Arlington, VA). The box office is located at Central Place Plaza, on the 1700 block of North Moore Street, across from the Rosslyn Metro Station.

Tickets purchased online are $21/adult, $11/age 5-13, $16/seniors & military, free for children under 5 (they are $1 more at the box office). Be sure to check CertifiKid for a discount. And if you live in Arlington, put away your wallet — residents get in FREE! Hours are 10am – 8pm Monday – Friday, and 9am – 8pm Saturday – Sunday. Admission is FREE.



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