Tag Archives: National Museum of American History

Overnight Adventures Await Children at Four Smithsonian Museums!

Don’t just dream about adventure on a summer night, have one! Imagine rolling out your sleeping bag beneath a 50-foot whale, at the home of the Star-Spangled Banner, in the shadow of the space shuttle Discovery, or near the portraits of presidents and visionaries. That’s exactly what kids and their chaperones can do when they attend a Smithsonian Sleepover.

The American History Museum, Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, and the National Portrait Gallery are all yours during a night of fun that features tours, games, crafts, and more. Which adventure will you choose?

National Museum of Natural History Sleepovers
Tonight, one of the world’s most popular museum is yours to explore. Join a small group of fellow adventurers and wander into the newly opened Fossil Hall, where dinosaurs cast giant shadows; explore the ocean’s aquatic wonders; walk softly pass mysterious mammals—did that one blink? Swap stories while enjoying hands-on crafts projects and games. And then, as the lights dim, roll out your sleeping bag and dream away, knowing that Phoenix the whale is keeping watch throughout your night in the museum. Sleepovers at Natural History will be held June 21, June 28, July 19, July 26, Aug. 2 and Aug. 9.

National Museum of American History Sleepovers
Solve a Smithsonian mystery of historic proportions! The devious diva Miss Rose has stolen six valuable objects from the National Museum of American History—and you need to discover what’s missing before evening’s end. Become a detective and roam through the museum’s galleries. Use your cunning and skills to collect clues that guide you to the crime scene. Along the way, take part in some great games, experiments, and craft projects—and even become a presidential candidate. After you have solved the crime, roll out your bag and sleep soundly knowing that you’ve protected some of America’s treasures—and had plenty of fun. Sleepovers at American History will be held May 24, June 15 and July 5.

National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center Sleepovers
There’s no more perfect setting for dreams of flight than the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Its two huge hangars display thousands of aviation and space artifacts, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the space shuttle Discovery. Sleepover guests are on a mission to explore the whole world of flight, from its pioneering days through the era of commercial aviation to the excitement of today’s space program. Grab your flight checklist and take off for a night that includes plenty of games, art activities, and close-up looks at some of the most historic and fascinating craft ever to take to the skies. Udvar-Hazy Center staff are on hand to offer lots of great information and insights about the aviation treasures on view. Start the countdown to a one-of-a-kind adventure! Sleepovers at the Udvar-Hazy Center will be held May 18, July 13 and Aug. 17.

National Portrait Gallery Sleepovers
Spend the night in the Smithsonian museum that tells the stories of America through the people who have shaped our nation, from pre-colonial times to today. Discover the poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose portraits fill the galleries’ walls. Experience the roles of the artist, art critic, and storyteller in this unique sleepover for kids aged 10 to 14. Inspired by a variety of visual art mediums, games, and an immersive guided journey through the museum, sleepover guests create their own portfolios and display their work in a one-night-only gallery exhibition. A sleepover at the National Portrait Gallery will be held Aug. 23.

Ages: Children ages 8 to 14 may participate in sleepovers at American History, Natural History and the Udvar-Hazy Center. Children ages 10 to 14 may participate in sleepovers at the National Portrait Gallery. There must be at least one adult (21 and over) for every three children in any group that registers for the Natural History, American History and Udvar-Hazy Center Sleepovers, and one adult to every four children for the Portrait Gallery Sleepover. Chaperones must be 21 years or older. No adults without children.

Tickets: Ticket prices are $135 for general admission and $125 for Smithsonian Associate members. The price includes exclusive access and activities in the museum, an evening snack, interactive exploration, arts and crafts activities and a light breakfast. T-shirts are available for purchase while at the sleepover.

Groups: Reduced rates may be available for groups of 20 or more. Call 202-633-3030 for more information.

For Military Families: A reduced rate is available for active-duty U.S. military personnel and their families. Please call 202-633-3030 and mention Promo Code 240808 to receive Military Promotion pricing.

FAQ: Information on what to bring, activities, rules, and the required release form for each sleepover location are available online. Additional questions? Email us at info@SmithsonianSleepovers.org.

Call 202-633-3030 to reserve your adventure. For more information and a schedule of events, visit www.SmithsonianSleepovers.org.

This post is sponsored by Smithsonian Associates, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2019, DC, Educational, Gradeschoolers, Museums, Special Event, Tweens, Virginia, Weekend

Play & Learn Through American History at Wegmans Wonderplace

Climb aboard for some fun in Wegmans Wonderplace

Climb aboard for some fun in Wegmans Wonderplace

Parents with little ones, take note: The new Wegmans Wonderplace at the National Museum of American History should be among your go-to places to take your babe to play. Designed especially for children 0-6 years old, the activity center in the recently opened Innovation Wing incorporates play and learning in the museum’s context with fun and interesting features that cater to curious young visitors as well as their accompanying adults.


My kids are too old for it now, but it’s exactly the kind of place I sought out in their early years. (I know this from joining a friend and her 4-year-old on a recent visit there.) As the museum puts it, “Wonderplace is built around the enduring wonders of childhood, the things kids are naturally curious about — blocks, animals, sounds — and branches out to make connections to the museum’s diverse collections and exhibitions.”

Active play in the museum

Active play in the museum

Taking the wheel of the boat

Taking the wheel of the boat

What's for dinner, Stig?

What’s for dinner, Stig?

They achieve this with a variety of exhibits that appeal to little guests with hands-on activities, active fun, and pretend play opportunities. A big boat in the middle of the room welcomes children to climb aboard, slide down, and drive. There’s a market to shop for veggies, and a kitchen where they can use them to prepare a meal. A farm area lets them collect eggs from chickens, and a corner dedicated to blocks and building encourages them to use their imaginations to create all kinds of structures. A wall of full of framed portraits shows how history is the story of people. And throughout the space are items from the museum’s collections on display that relate to the exhibits.

The blocks station is a must-play

The blocks station is a must-play

Down on the farm

Down on the farm

A nice feature at the stations are panels that explain the connection of the activities to both the museum and childrens’ learning, plus tips for parents on ways to explore them at varying stages — infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. And all of the exhibits are at eye-level for kids, so they can engage completely and comfortably.

The collections section

The collections section

Tips to make the most of your visit

Tips to make the most of your visit

These are among many thoughtful details that parents can appreciate. Some others are boppy pillows in the reading area for nursing moms, a crawling area for babies with soft toys and a low-hung mirror, and a restroom within the space that includes a changing table and child-sized toilet. And enthusiastic museum staff are on hand to answer questions and occasionally jump in with helpful suggestions for both adults and children.

Room for reading, nursing... and snuggling

Room for reading, nursing… and snuggling

Take your own portrait

Take your own portrait

When I asked my friend, Jody, what she and her son thought of Wegmans Wonderplace, she said, “I think the fact that I had to drag him out of there speaks volumes!” She noted that the mix of activities kept him occupied for a full two hours and also pointed out that the location inside the American History Museum is a bonus “because it gives some good variety in the outing for grownups, as opposed to trucking to a play zone place just for that purpose.”

All kinds of building materials in the blocks area

All kinds of building materials in the blocks area

A great point, indeed! You can extend your visit beyond Wegmans Wonderplace and explore other parts of the museum that young children enjoy, like some of the displays in the Innovation Wing and America on the Move, where they can sit on an L train car and gawk at other vehicles. And the newly renovated Spark!Lab is adjacent, but generally geared toward older kids. (That’s also good to keep in mind…while Wonderplace is supposed to be for ages 0-6, I thought it seemed like 4 and under would enjoy it best. But you can always bring your 5/6-year-old, and move to the Spark!Lab next door if they seem too old.)

A little marble run fun in the Spark!Lab

A little marble run fun in the Spark!Lab

And did I mention that it’s all free? That’s right, like many Smithsonian gems, there is no entrance fee. There’s a chance of a short wait if it happens to be crowded, but you have a whole museum to explore until it’s your turn to go in.

Wegmans Wonderplace is located on the First Floor West of the American History Museum (14th & Constitution NW). It’s open every day except Tuesdays and December 25 from 10am – 4pm. Admission, as mentioned, is free. There is street parking nearby, and you can probably find a close spot on a weekday, but weekends will be more challenging. The nearest Metro station is the Smithsonian stop, just across the National Mall at 12th and Independence SW.


Filed under Babies, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Museums, Preschoolers, Toddlers, Weekdays, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: December 13-16

Checking out a display at the at the National Museum of American History


We all deserve a break now and then. My husband and I just took a much-needed one and enjoyed a couple of kid-free days in NYC.  And that’s a quick explanation of why Monday is missing from these suggestions for weekday fun. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Tuesday – “Winter Wonderland” is the theme of this week’s Toddler Tuesdays program at the National Children’s Museum Launch Zone.  Drop in for a variety of winter-inspired activities from 10:30am – 2:30pm.  The free series is designed for children ages 2-4.

Wednesday – See a show especially for little ones as The Puppet Co. Theatre presents  Nutcracker Fantasy, the Tiny Tots production of the holiday season. The lights stay on and doors stay open during these performances for the youngest audiences.  Showtime is 10am.  Tickets are $5 for everyone, including babies.

Thursday – Show the kiddos relics from your own childhood at the National Museum of American History, where collections include some of the best toys and games of our days of yore. While you’re there, check out some of the other exhibits, like America on the Move, a history of transportation in the U.S. featuring some of the earliest automobiles, a train car, and an old street car that guests can actually climb aboard.  The museum is open from 10am – 5:30pm.  (Note the Spark!Lab is closed for renovations.)

Friday – Join the Boogie Babes  for their last show of 2011. Bridgette with Dawn on Conga will bring their island beats to the Atlas Performing Arts Center at 10:30am. Admission is $5/child, free for siblings 6 months and under.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Art, Babies, DC, Educational, Free, Gradeschoolers, Live Entertainment, Museums, Music, Preschoolers, Theatre, Toddlers, Weekdays, Winter

Eye on the Weekend

Keeping an eye out for fun at the Spark!Lab

What a week.  As if a surprise earthquake wasn’t enough to shake things up around here, Hurricane Irene is charging up the east coast ensuring a very wet weekend.  And while I never welcome a natural disaster of any sort, I’ve learned a few things thanks to the two affecting DC this week: 1) I have no control over my potty mouth around my two-year-old daughter when I think my house is about to collapse around me  2) Facebook is a better source for information than the local news sites immediately following an earthquake  3) Far too many folks think Dexy’s Midnight Runners sing, “Come on, Irene” (it’s Eileen!).

And now for this weekend’s activities.  The storm is going to have an impact — MLK Memorial Dedication events have already been postponed due to the weather — hence, indoor activities are listed first, with outdoor ideas left in the mix,  just in case the crazy happens, and Irene passes us by.  But I have a feeling I’ll be posting more cancellations (look for them on Facebook) than rejoicing in a surprise sunny day. Happy Weekend!

Rainy Day Recreation – This weekend may be the best time ever to refer to this list of indoor fun.

Greenberg Train & Toy ShowTrain enthusiasts young and old will have plenty to be excited about at the largest traveling expo showcasing model trains in the northeast. There will be intricately crafted model train displays, hundreds of tables with model train paraphernalia, a mini train for kids to ride, and a variety of workshops and demos, and more.  For complete details, see this post from earlier this week.

Free Fun at the NewseumThere’s just one week left to take advantage of the Newseum’s Kids Free Summer Fun Deal.  There is no admission fee for guests ages 18 and under with one paid adult admission. See this post for more info and to find out which exhibits kids might enjoy best.

The Puppet Co. The Wizard of Oz will be performed on the main stage for just two more weeks; showtimes are 11:30am and 1pm on Saturday and Sunday, and tickets are $10.  There will also be a Tiny Tots performance of Panda-Monium on Saturday at 10am.  Tickets are $5.

Kite WorkshopSpend the afternoon at the College Park Aviation Museum building and decorating your own kite. An $8 workshop fee covers museum admission and the price of one kite kit. Pre-registration is required, so call 301.864.6029 to sign up.

Day at the MuseumsAs obvious as it may be, the museums will be great places to take shelter from the storm and have a great time with the kids.  The dinos are always a big hit at the Natural History Museum, but don’t miss the Insect Zoo upstairs where you might catch a live tarantula feeding or get a chance to hold giant caterpillars, cockroaches, and beetles. At the American History Museum, see old trains and trolley cars, and many more relics from the past, and be sure to visit the Invention at Play area and Spark!Lab, where kids can enjoy a bunch of cool hands-on activities. For museums off the Mall, explore the history of mail at the National Postal Museum or head to the National Building Museum for a romp in the Building Zone, some Lego fun, and more activities available in the Great Hall.

Portrait Story Days: Jackson PollackDrop in at the National Portrait Gallery on Saturday from 1-4pm or Sunday from 2-5pm to listen to a story about a person who has influenced American history and culture and to create a special piece of art. This weekend, learn about abstract artist Jackson Pollock.

Ren FestIf Irene should miraculously pass us by, I highly recommend taking a day trip back to medieval times at the annual Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, MD. Besides the amazing variety of entertainment — jousting matches, cheeky comedy shows, fire eaters and sword swallowers, juggling acts, Celtic music, and much more — walking among knights, maidens, pirates, and villagers in puffy shirts in a 16th-century village as you chomp on turkey legs and down cups of mead is an interesting little jaunt back in time that any age can enjoy (well, maybe not the mead). The faire runs every weekend through October 23, admission is $19/adult, $9/kids ages 7-15, free for children 6 and under. But this weekend only kids are FREE, and adults can get a discount on tickets.  See this post from a couple of days ago for details.

Make a Final SplashThe outdoor pool season is officially ending soon.  Many pools within the DC Department of Parks & Recreation have already closed, and the rest will follow over the next week. Take a swim under the sky while you still can – if Irene lets you, that is.  For a list of outdoor pool still open, see the DCDPR website.

Kids Fest & Rock-n-RompHead to downtown Silver Spring for some extra kid and adult fun at the Saturday Fenton Street Market. Along with specialty vendors selling kids toys, games, and clothes, there will be hands-on activities for little ones and live music for parents that kids can hear, too.  It all takes place 9am – 3pm rain or shine.

Columbia Heights Day FestivalWhether or not you live in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC, you are invited to help celebrate the community on Saturday.  Columbia Heights Day is bringing together residents and businesses for a day of fun festivities–live music, a Kid’s Zone and petting zoo, food trucks, contests and raffles, a dog parade, and more.  The event runs from 10am – 6pm at the Harriet Tubman Elementary field located at 11th & Kenyon Street NW.


Leave a Comment

Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Summer, Theatre, Weekend

A Weather-Dependent Weekend

Right now I’ve got a line from the Stone Temple Pilots song “Plush” playing on repeat in my head:  “And I feel so much depends on the weather.”  Those lyrics could be the theme for this post. Some of this weekend’s best activities take place outdoors, but with rain in the forecast for tomorrow they may not live up to their potential.  Luckily, there’s plenty going on for a great time indoors, too.  (And we’ve learned by now that the forecast isn’t always reliable, anyway.)  Here’s what’s happening around town, indoor and out, rain or shine.  Happy Weekend!

The Tidal Basin was lovely and crowd-free on a chilly weekday evening

A Peek at the Peak – It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year when the cherry trees are in bloom, and they are at their best right now.  The National Mall and Tidal Basin are sure to be teeming with blossom oglers if the weather cooperates, but braving the crowds is worth it.  Our family went for a sunset stroll by the Jefferson Memorial a few evenings ago and found the scene as spectacular as ever.  If you’re planning to partake in the blossom experience this weekend, check out these tips before you go.

Family Fun Day at the Yards ParkAs noted above and below, there two things to get excited about as spring begins in DC: Cherry blossoms and baseball.  On Saturday, you can celebrate both at the Yards Park, the centerpiece of the new Capitol Riverfront area that just opened last year. The Family Fun Day will include kids activities such as boat making and moonbouncing, lantern making for all ages, demos by the Trapeze School, Japanese performers and music, a variety of Japanese cuisine from Nooshi Sushi, and Sake tasting and a Japanese beer garden (for adults, of course) from Mie N Yu.  The event is free and open to the public from 11am – 4pm.

Nano Days – Celebrate nanotechnology at the National Museum of American History’s Spark!Lab with a day full of activities that teach all ages about nano science and invention and the role it plays in our lives. Staff will help visitors conducts experiments that include constructing a giant model of a carbon nanotube entirely from balloons, measuring height in nanometers, and creating a liquid crystal display that changes color.  The free event runs from 10am – 4pm Friday through Sunday.

Owen runs the bases after a Nats game last season

Nationals vs. BravesBaseball season is officially underway, and we can root for the hometeam this weekend as the Nats host the Braves for two more afternoon games on Saturday and Sunday.  Tickets are still available for both, and you can get a discount on select seats if you buy through Goldstar.  And don’t forget about Kids Run the Bases on Sunday after the game—children ages 4-12 can round the plates for an extra ballpark thrill.  For more about baseball games at Nationals Park, see this write up from last year.

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks FestivalThe National Cherry Blossom Festival’s annual event at the Southwest Waterfront is an all-day affair with live music and family festivities galore al kicking off at 1pm. Enjoy a variety of musical performances on three stages aong with face painting, balloon artists, strolling entertainment, mini-sailboat races,T-shirt screenings, fire boat water shows, and more. The grand finale will begin at 8:30pm when the fireworks show illuminates the evening sky and water.

Tots Rock! At Air & SpaceThe National Air & Space Museum is hosting one of its Tots Rock! Shows on Saturday from 10am – 3pm. Kids ages 3-8 can enjoy a mix of entertainment at one of their favorite museums. They can explore a Planetarium show starring Big Bird and Elmo, listen to a flight-themed story, craft shadow puppets or  build a rocket, and…drum roll…rock out at a Ryan Buckle and Friends concert as they perform their hit show Science You Can Sing To. Visit the website for a schedule of events, and note that tickets are required and seating is limited for planetarium shows.

House of Sweden Family Fun – Join the Swedish Embassy for a family day with activities for all ages. Enjoy the Space for Children interactive play room, craft your favorite animal out of fusible beads, take an interactive quiz walk where you will learn some Swedish, get a Swedish treat from the fishing pond (little red gummies, anyone?), and create a work of art in the painting corner.  The free event runs from 11am – 2pm on Saturday.

Shabbatots Passover Prep – The Sixth & I Historic Synagogue is hosting the first installment of Shabbatots, a new monthly Shabbat program for families with young children. Explore the intersection of Judaism and flexibility with Torah yoga, enjoy a light lunch, and learn fun ways to make a Passover seder family friendly. Each family will take home a “seder in a sack” and tools to create a personalized seder. Torah Yoga is free and runs from 10 – 10:30am. The lunch and activity portion runs from 10:30am – 12pm, and cost is $36 per family. The activity is appropriate for children ages 2-6, but siblings of different ages are welcome.

A Preschool Celebrates 50 YearsThe Learning Center for Young Children (LCYC) is celebrating its 50th year of serving the Kensington area with an Open House & Children’s Fair on Sunday from 2 – 5pm. Families can enjoy activity stations set up around the school including arts & crafts, storytelling, hands-on science projects, music, and dance.  LCYC’s ‘Young Music Makers’ will perform under the direction of John Horman.  There will also be door prizes, face painting, and snacks available.  Visit the website for more details, including location and directions.

The Magic Paintbrush – You have two more weekends to catch the Synetic Family Theater’s current production that takes the audience on a dramatic adventure through China. Owen and I saw the play a couple of weeks ago, and we were both enchanted.  Performed completely through pantomime (or phyiscal storytelling, as the theater calls it) I was unsure how Owen would respond.  But while he couldn’t quite follow the story, he was nonetheless captivated by the expressive actors performing along with beautiful Chinese music and action-packed scenes, including Cirque de Soleil-like choreography, as actors whirled mid-air on suspended curtains. I’d recommend reading the story with your kids prior to the show, so they have a better understanding of the plot, but even if you don’t have an opportunity, they’ll likely be mesmerized all the same.  Tickets for The Magic Paintbrush are $12 and available for purchase through the Synetic Theater website.

Show TimeSeveral more productions will be on stages this weekend, including Dr. Kaboom at the Kennedy Center and Cinderella at Alden Theatre. For more current performances, see this post on spring shows in the area.

Tiny Tots –Two puppet shows for the littlest ones will be performed at The Puppet Co. this weekend: Animal Crackers on Saturday and Dragon Bandwagon on Sunday.  Both start at 10am.  Tickets are $5 and available online or at the box office.   Tiny Tots shows are recommended for ages 0-4.

Portrait Story Days: Duke EllingtonDrop in at the National Portrait Gallery on Sunday from 1 – 4pm to listen to a story about a person who has influenced American history and culture and to create a special piece of art. This week, learn about jazz composer, pianist, and big band leader Duke Ellington (1899-1974).

Leave a Comment

Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Festival, Free, Live Entertainment, Monuments & Memorials, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Sports, Spring, Theatre, Weekend