Tag Archives: National Building Museum

2020 Vision: 10 Awesome Things Families Can Look Forward to in DC this Year

To infinity and beyond… Yayoi Kusama’s art will return to DC this year

Some people make New Year’s resolutions, I make new… plans. (Well, mental notes for plans, anyway.) I like to take a look ahead at the coming year, see what new and exciting things are on the horizon, and put them on my radar to, hopefully, enjoy at some point — and, of course, share with the KFDC community. Which is just what I’ve done here. With this new year comes many opportunities for awesome experiences. Here are 10 that I think will be especially appealing to DC families. Happy 2020!

1. National Children’s Museum | Late January
The much anticipated reopening of the redesigned and newly-located museum especially for children is slated for the end of January. And if the sneak peek back in the fall is a good indicator of what’s to come, it sounds like the wait will be worth it. There will be STEAM-focused exhibits and creative play spaces, with the Dream Machine, a three-story climber and slide, as the centerpiece. This will all be easily accessible right downtown at Woodrow Wilson Plaza, next to the Ronald Reagan Building. I’ll, of course, keep you posted on opening specifics as more details are released.

2. The Lane | February
How I wish something like this existed when my kids were younger! Opening in February, The Lane Social Club will be a place where families — kids and parents — can hang. And by hang, I mean engage in active play, partake in special programming, throw birthday parties, enjoy good food or a drink, and make new friends. This is all the brainchild of two local moms, Rachel and Molly, who decided to make their yearning for a venue like this a reality. I’ve had a chance to spend some time with them, and can tell you that 1) They have thought of all the details 2) You’ll want to include them among those new friends. The location is in Ivy City near the new Target. Look for more info about the opening soon!

Get ready to welcome back the World Series Champions!

3. Nationals Baseball Season | March – October
Rooting for our home team isn’t a new thing, but cheering them on as the World Series Champions is — and it definitely adds some extra excitement to the anticipation of the Nats baseball season. Sure, the roster has changed a bit (we miss you, Tony!) but most of the squad is returning, and there are a couple of new players to watch out for. Plus, I’ve always recommended a day at the ballpark as a fun way to enjoy family time together. While Opening Day is March 26, the first home game this year isn’t until April 2. You can view the whole schedule here, and as you’re planning for game days, be sure to check out these KFDC tips first.

4. Yayoi Kusama Returns to the Hirshhorn | April 4 – September 20
Three years ago, 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. I, personally, had mixed feelings about it — I loved the art, but wasn’t super keen on the viewing experience. This spring, some of Kusama’s works, including two infinity rooms, are coming back to the museum for an exhibit called One with Eternity. This time, there will be no advance tickets, just same-day passes. Fingers crossed it will be easier to get them!

5. Planet Word Museum | May 31
I am so intrigued by and excited for this opening! With a mission to “inspire a love of words and language,” the museum promises immersive exhibits and magical experiences to demonstrate how words and language help shape our lives. According to the website, there will be all kinds of word play opportunities (that go well beyond your crosswords and Scrabble) — create a marketing campaign, give a famous speech and watch it, hear authors read from their books, join songwriting and storytelling classes, and more. Details for visiting aren’t yet available, but I’ll be sure to share when they are!

6. Hamilton Revisits the Kennedy Center | June 16 – September 20
If you missed seeing the award winning Broadway smash when it was here in 2018 (like I did) and still have yet to see it anywhere else (like me), you have another chance this summer. Hamilton will be back at the Kennedy Center for a three-month run. Tickets will go on sale in the spring, and tip: Kennedy Center members always get first dibs at a selection of tickets (though this didn’t do me much good last time, as there was an online glitch and I got booted out of the system before finishing my purchase… but I’m not throwin’ away my shot to try for them again). It’s recommended for kids ages 10 and up, so be sure to take that into consideration and get some feedback if you’re hoping to bring children younger than that.

7. The Bard at the Building Museum
This year’s Summer Block Party at the National Building Museum is presented as a partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library. Shakespeare’s Playhouse will feature an Elizabethan-inspired outdoor stage, designed by a team from the University of South Carolina, in the cool comfort of the museum’s Great Hall. Guests will be able to engage in Shakespearean activities, like stage combat, during the day, and in the evenings, there will be performances of the enchanting A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (PS: If you think Shakespeare and kids don’t mix, think again! Read about some of our experiences with it here and here.)

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival brings international art and culture to DC every summer

8. Smithsonian Folklife Festival | June 24-28, July 1-5
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is far from a new event to DC, but I’m including it here because after being shortened to a weekend last year, it will return to its regular, longer 10-day run. I always recommend checking out the festivities on the National Mall during that time, because they’re always a fantastic celebration of living cultural heritage, showcasing different regions around the world through hands-on activities, performances, demonstrations, and exhibits for all ages to enjoy. And the great thing about the return to the long run is more opportunities to go. This summer, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates will be highlighted as well as the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon and Smithsonian Conservation Commons. Admission to all of it is free. Read about and get a glimpse of the 2018 festival here.

9. MLK Jr. Library Reopening | Fall
DC’s flagship public library closed in early 2017 to undergo a major renovation, and it will reopen this fall with loads of modernized features. Newly designed spaces include an transparent entryway, large auditorium and conference center, creative spaces for the arts, a ground level café with a patio, an interactive children’s space, and more. And like all of our public libraries, there will be programming to go along with it, with plenty of it especially for kids. MLK Jr. Library is located in Penn Quarter at 9th and G Streets NW.

10. Presidential Election | November 3
So, this is more an ongoing event for 2020 even though the actual election isn’t until November. It also reaches well beyond DC, but it’s always especially interesting and exciting (and stressful) to be here during the race for the White House. Kids all over the country learn about our government and politics, but here in DC ours practically have front row seats for it. For a related activity, take a tour of the U.S. Capitol. And as we head into the election year, note these important dates: DC primaries are June 2, Maryland primaries are April 28, and Virginia primaries are March 3. Be sure to vote — and bring your kiddos along!

What are you looking forward to most in the coming year? Leave a comment and let us know!

1 Comment

Filed under 2020, All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Festival, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Museums, Outdoor, Special Event, Sports, Spring, Summer, Theatre, Winter

Hang out on the LAWN in the National Building Museum

The National Building Museum’s annual Summer Block Party installation just opened, and it’s one to put on your seasonal To Do list. LAWN transforms the Great Hall into an inviting, expansive green space that encourages recreation and relaxation — whatever your preference — with an aesthetic and activities that evoke a feeling of summer.

Designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group, the studio that built the PLAY WORK BUILD exhibit upstairs, LAWN is a sloping, stretch of “grass” (it’s a soy-based, recyclable product) adorned with elements for visitors to enjoy. Adirondack chairs and blankets offer seating. Corn hole and croquet mallets and soft balls welcome play. The gentle hill is fun to run up or roll down. Hammocks invite guests to lay back and relax…and listen to stories of summer.

The hammocks are equipped with speakers above them playing audio of famous people talking about summer experiences. You can listen to Jose Andres, Whoopi Goldberg, Venus Williams, and many more celebrated folks share their memories. It kind of feels like you’re chilling out with a friend on a lazy day, listening to them relay a story.

There are more speakers placed around the exhibit that play sounds of the season — crickets chirping, a thunderstorm, birds calling. A stand at the bottom of the hill sells summer treats, lemonade and ice cream and cookies. And the museum’s fountain is incorporated into the exhibit in an interesting way, reminding me of an inflatable swimming pool in the backyard.

You can get a bird’s eye view of the whole scene from a three-story scaffolding tower at the top of the hill. Walk in and climb the stairs to a platform to watch the action below and get new perspectives of the stunning Great Hall.

There will be special programming like movie night, yoga sessions, and late nights, so be sure to check the calendar to see what’s coming up. And DC residents should be aware of Ward Days, when they can visit LAWN with complimentary admission from 9–11am when the ward they live in is invited: July 23 is Wards 7 and 8, July 30 is Wards 2 and 6, August 6 is Wards 3 and 4, and August 13 is Wards 1 and 5.

Plan a day to play and relax on the LAWN. It’s one that kids of all ages (including us really big kids 😉) will enjoy.

Where: National Building Museum | Judiciary Square, DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $16/adult, $13/age 3-17, $10/AARP & Blue Star, FREE/members

* Museum members get free admission, so this is a good time to consider a Family Membership


Filed under 2019, All ages, Annual, DC, Exhibit, Indoor Play, Museums, Seasonal, Special Event, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

Welcome to the Fun House at the National Building Museum

It’s time for the Summer Block Party at the National Building Museum, and I can tell you that this one is going to be really FUN! In case you aren’t familiar with the concept, the seasonal event features a major installation in the museum’s Great Hall with special programs and activities for the public to enjoy. Most of the exhibitions have been hugely popular (and literally huge, for that matter) since they began several years ago as well as interesting and interactive.

FUN HOUSE, this year’s installation created by Snarkitecture, easily lives up to its name. In fact, I think it may be the best of NBM’s summer exhibits yet.

Designed to look like a house with a front and back yard, FUN HOUSE is the first Summer Block Party that truly takes advantage of the entire Great Hall. Just about everything within it invites and encourages engagement as it “recalls and re-imagines the idea of the traditional home.” The various environments throughout incorporate other well-known projects by Snarkitecture, but you don’t have to be familiar with them to appreciate and enjoy them.

It starts with the Front Yard, where you can sit on soft “benches” or large letters that spell FUN HOUSE. The walkway into the house looks more like an excavation site than a door, and that’s just the beginning of many neat details and displays you’ll see as you tour the rest of the rooms. Walk through a sea of fabric strips hanging from the ceiling in the Bedroom. The Play Room contains a fantastic, intricate marble run that is sure keep kids (and adults) captivated for awhile. There’s a tub filled with plastic balls in the Bathroom. The Kitchen shelves are stocked with all kinds of cleverly designed pieces. In the Study, you’ll find more works that will make you take a closer look. As you tour, be sure to look up, down, all around, and try to catch views of it from different perspectives to see how it all fits together.

Okay, the reallly fun part is the Backyard — because that’s where you’ll find the pool. Before you come to it, though, you’ll encounter a big stack of outdoor cushions that welcome climbing and moving. You’ll also see the Play House with a cool optical illusion design. And just beyond that is the big kidney-shaped basin filled with those plastic white balls (if you went to THE BEACH, you know the ones), and it’s all as wonderfully enticing as the sparkling blue chlorinated water at the local rec center on a scorching hot DC summer day.

Yes, you can jump in a go for a “swim” at the FUN HOUSE pool, and I highly recommend you do! Just be sure to remove your shoes and hold on tight to your phone because they are easy to lose in there. When you need a break or don’t feel like taking the plunge, there are pool chairs lining the deck as well as a kiddie pool, where little ones can play or you can dip your toes.

There will be couple of special programs and activities to experience FUN HOUSE in different ways. There will be yoga most Sundays; Daybreaker, early morning dance movement on July 6; and Late Night on Wednesdays will special tours, pop-up talks, and food and drinks for purchase from 6-9pm. Note, too, that Hill Country Backyard Barbecue is back on the museum’s West Lawn this summer through mid-September with an expanded menu and a family-friendly atmosphere from Wednesday through Friday, 4–9 pm; Saturday, 12–9pm, and Sunday, 12–6pm.

DC residents should be aware of Ward Days, when they can visit FUN HOUSE with complimentary admission from 9–11am when the ward they live in is invited: July 24 is Ward 1 and Ward 3, July 31 is Ward 7 and Ward 8, August 7 is Ward 2 and Ward 6, and August 14 is Ward 4 and Ward 5. Story time and mobile library book check-out will be offered by DC Public Library on those days, and Community Forklift will be there with a creative construction activity. Reserve your spot here.

Are you ready to jump in? Here’s what you need to know:

Where: National Building Museum | 401 F Street NW
When: July 4 – September 3, 2018
Hours: 10am – 5pm Mon-Sat, 11am – 5pm Sun, 6-9pm Weds
Regular Admission: $16/adult, $13/age 3-17, free for Members
Late Night Admission: $25/adult, $16/youth, $10/adult member, $5/youth member

* Advanced purchase is recommended. Tickets are timed entry and good for one hour in Fun House, which is plenty of time to explore it all. And admission gets you into all of the museum exhibits!

* Museum members get free regular admission and discounted late night admission, so this is a good time to consider a Family Membership



Filed under 2018, All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Indoor Play, Museums, Seasonal, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

HIVE is the New Summer Buzz at the National Building Museum

The National Building Museum’s Summer Block Party has become a much anticipated seasonal event. Showcasing a major installation in the Great Hall with special programs and activities for the public to enjoy, the exhibitions are interesting, interactive, and always Instagram-worthy.

Indoor mini golf kicked off the summer installation trend. Then it was the Big Maze. The BEACH had just about everyone in DC jumping in for some fun. And last year, ICEBERGS brought its own cool aesthetic.

This year, the NBM will be buzzing with HIVE. The massive installation designed by Studio Gang is constructed from more than 2,700 wound paper tubes, a material that is recyclable, lightweight, and renewable. Three chambers of different sizes, a very large one flanked by two smaller, are open for visitors to “explore how a structure can modify and reflect sound, light, scale, and human interaction.” It’s a striking sight — the tallest chamber reaches 48 feet, and the sci-fi looking structures juxtaposed with the museum’s stately Great Hall is at once beautiful and kind of bizarre.

Inside, it’s interesting to examine the tubes, note how they fit together, and look up to see the details of the museum’s top level beyond the oculus. The smaller chambers feature interactive elements that all ages, particularly kids, will enjoy. In one, several sets of chimes with strings hanging down let you “ring” them to hear their varying tones reverberate in the space.

In the other, a sound-machine that I heard one guest describe as something out of a Dr. Seuss book, is constructed of pipes, tubes, and other building materials to be used as instruments. Soft paddles are available to “drum” on open ends of pipes and tubes to create “music” and listen to the sounds they make.

One of my favorite ways to take in the installation was from the upper floors. A bird’s eye view of structures below lets you enjoy the colors in a new way. The tubes are painted gray on the outside and magenta within — the color was inspired by all the pink hats in the Women’s March, a detail that I adore — and it all seems to glow when you look down on it from above.

There will be special programs and activities to experience HIVE in different ways. Lectures, yoga, drum circles take place throughout the summer — find details here. Free concerts on Sundays from 2-3pm welcome all ages. And Late Night on Wednesdays will feature musical performances, drinks, and food from Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue 6-9pm.

DC residents should be aware of Ward Days, when they can visit Hive with complimentary admission from 9–11am when the ward they live in is invited: July 18 is Ward 3 and Ward 8, July 25 is Ward 1 and Ward 6, August 1 is Ward 4 and Ward 2, August 8 is Ward 5 and Ward 7. Story time and mobile library book check-out will be offered by DC Public Library on those days.

HIVE opens at the National Building Museum on July 4 (UPDATE: Due to construction, it will now open July 6) and runs through September 4. Hours are 10am -5pm daily, with Late Night for all ages on Wednesdays 6-9pm. Admission is $16/adult, $13/youth/student with ID/senior, $5/Blue Star ages 3 and up with ID (limit 6 per family). And the entry fee includes admission to all other museum exhibits!


Filed under 2017, All ages, Annual, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Indoor Play, Museums, Seasonal, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

Life’s a BEACH at the National Building Museum


You guys. If there is one thing you must do in DC this summer, The BEACH at the National Building Museum is it.


By now you’ve probably read about it in the Summer in DC guide, caught a glimpse on Facebook or Instagram, or heard about it elsewhere. But in case not, the museum’s just-opened installation is the highlight of this year’s “Summer Block Party,” the NBM’s annual slate of special exhibits and programs during the season.



Past years have been pretty great — Indoor Mini Golf and The BIG Maze were featured exhibits — but The BEACH is especially fantastic. The interactive installation takes up almost the entire Great Hall, and it does so with style. The all-white enclosure designed by Snarkitecture is an architectural simulation of a beach. There is a beach chair lined seashore that slopes gently into the ocean. And the “water” consists of nearly one million recyclable translucent plastic balls. It’s pretty cool just to view — but even better to experience.



The best part of The BEACH is that visitors are welcome to enjoy all of it. You can sit at the shore’s edge, wade in the shallow water, or go for a swim in the deeper parts. And it is a blast! Yes, essentially it is a giant ball pit, but there’s a reason why kids love playing in them so much. Something about immersing in them is so enjoyable — it’s soft but not squishy, you can move but you don’t sink. You might get a little stuck, since it’s hard to get traction as the balls move around, but that’s part of the fun.



Some things to note:
– There’s no timed entry, so it can get crowded.
– It can be tough to judge where others’ limbs are beneath the balls, so there could be “underwater” tangles.
– The balls are about a foot deep in the shallow area, and up to about four feet in the deep end.
– Be careful bringing items in the water; you could easily lose a phone or anything not attached to you.
– There are cubbies for stashing shoes and belongings, but they’re accessible to anyone, so plan accordingly.
– The BEACH is open late on Wednesdays, until 9pm, with food and drinks for sale, plus beach games — corn hole, bocce, and few others — to play just outside in the Great Hall.
– I advise keeping little ones supervised at all times!



And in case you were wondering, I asked staff what the protocol would be if, say, a kid threw up in there (because something like that is bound to happen at some point), and they do have a sanitation plan: They cordon off the area, extract any affected balls, and use a sanitizing spray on nearby areas. They also have been using it on the whole ocean every other day, but said they will likely start doing it every day as more people engage in the exhibit.


So, now that you have the scoop and a glimpse, get yourself over to The BEACH – sunblock and swimsuit not necessary.

The BEACH will be at the National Building Museum through September 12. Admission is $5/youth member, $10/adult member and $13/youth non-member, $16/adult non-member. Tickets can be purchased online or at the NBM. Museum hours are 10am – 5pm Monday – Saturday and 11am – 5pm Sunday, and The BEACH is open until 9pm Wednesday.


Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Exhibit, Indoor Play, Museums, Seasonal, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend