I have said many a time that one of the best things about DC is the accessibility to so much extraordinary art and culture. The Smithsonian, obviously, contributes significantly to that, with world-class museums offering both free admission and programming for all ages that is enriching, enlightening, and fun.
We took advantage of that this past weekend at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which was hosting a special Family Day to celebrate the work of Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo and the Tamayo: The New York Years exhibit currently on view. The event included crafts, face painting, and fantastic performances in the Kogod Courtyard along with other activities connected to his art.
A lively Mexican dance performance by Maru Montero Dance Company
It doesn’t always take a special event to get us to the Museum. In fact, it’s one we often pop into when we’re in the Penn Quarter neighborhood. Housed in the same beautiful building as the National Portrait Gallery, many of the collections in both parts have always appealed to the kids — vibrant contemporary art, large installations, and portraits of distinguished Americans in a variety of mediums easily capture their interest. And we all love hanging out in the Kogod Courtyard, undoubtedly one of the prettiest indoor places in the city.
This “Woman Eating” always gets their attention
You can read more about all of it in this write-up from a few years ago (pretty much all of it still relevant now). And the NPG opened Explore! With the Portrait Gallery last year giving children extra experiences of portraiture in a gallery full of hands-on activities.
The space itself is magnificent
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery are located at 8th & F Streets NW, hours are 11:30am – 7pm, and admission is free. (I noted the hours, as they are different from the rest of the Smithsonian museums). Before you go, get more of a glimpse from our recent visit in the images below!
Looks like driftwood, made of metal
One looking at the art, one learning about it on a digital kiosk
Life imitating art?
Street view from a beautiful stained glass window
Be sure to look up when you’re in the Great Hall
Portrait of Mia Hamm in the Hall of Champions got this soccer player’s attention
Billie Jean King was of particular interest after watching “Battle of the Sexes”
“Mom, quit taking pictures and let us look at the art” 😉
Memories of Snowmageddon: It was two years ago this weekend that the mega snowstorm hit
Two years ago this month, I remember thinking that I couldn’t picture DC without two feet of snow blanketing the sidewalks, streets, front yards, and green spaces. We temporarily replaced the stroller with a sled, and snow boots became our everyday kicks. Getting around was a massive pain in the butt, especially with a baby in an Ergo on my back and a four-year-old in my arms as I carried him over the drifts that almost came up to his shoulders. We fell on slippery areas. We were cold.
But I look back on that time that so many of us endearingly call Snowmageddon as one of the most fun times I can remember in all my years of living here (which is a long time). The stairs in our neighborhood park became a little sledding hill, and Capitol Hill became a big, thrilling one. Someone built a real igloo in the park large enough for several kids to play in together. We gathered with friends for chili, Trivial Pursuit, and National Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. We drank a lot of beer and wine. Folks walked in the middle of the street and greeted each other with extra enthusiasm (see that part about beer and wine).
I’m merely reminiscing, not wishing for another huge storm. Though if Part Deux were to hit the area, there would be no complaining. Rather, I’d get out the sled, bundle up the kids, pull the Trivial Pursuit out of the game closet, and stock up on booze.
And on that note, here’s what’s happening over the next couple of relatively warm, sunny winter days. Happy Weekend!
Black History Month Family Day – Celebrate the start of Black History Month with the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Head to the Penn Quarter venues on Saturday for a day full of art, crafts, and live entertainment for the whole family. Enjoy music, dance, hands-on activities for kids, and a special tour of the related exhibition, The Black List: Photographs by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Main festivities take place in the Kogod Courtyard from 11:30am – 3pm, and you can see the schedule of them here. Admission is free.
Americana Valentines – Get ready for the love-filled holiday at the National Postal Museum on Saturday afternoon. Drop in anytime from 12 – 3:30pm for their Red, White, & Blue Valentines workshop. Create two heartwarming cards — one for a friend, another to send to military personnel. Beautiful materials and inspirational examples will be provided. The Postal Museum’s workshops for kids are always well done, plus the exhibits are fun to tour and you can easily gran lunch at Union Station next door, so plan to make a big outing of it. Admission is free.
Monster Mash of Movie Shorts – The National Gallery of Art’s monthly film program for kids is all about monsters this weekend, presenting a series of animated shorts featuring furry and fun-loving ogres of all sorts, sizes, and shapes. The mash includes favorites like The Gruffalo and an adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, along with a few others that young film-goers will enjoy. Recommended for ages 5 and up, the program takes place on Saturday at 10:30am and Sunday at 11:30am in the East Building Auditorium and lasts about an hour. Admission is free.
It’s a Bug, Bug World – Chocolate chirp cookies, anyone? Try treats with crickets, see live bugs up close, and explore all kinds of interactive installations featuring all kinds of insects at the Maryland Science Center this weekend. The brand new exhibit Harry’s Big Adventure: My Bug World opens on Saturday and runs through April 29. On weekends only, you can enjoy extras along with the displays, like tasty bug bites prepared by a chef, an insect petting zoo, roach races, and cricket spitting. Read more about the exhibit in this new post.
Jam along with SteveSongs – The award-winning children’s musician and PBS co-host is performing three shows at Jammin’ Java with his band on Saturday. The 10:30am is sold out, but you can still catch the 12:30pm and 2:30pm shows. Tickets are $15 for ages 1 and older. Find out more about SteveSongs and hear samples of his music here.
Super Bowl Pre-Game Warm-Up – Athletes aren’t the only ones who need to warm up before the big game; fans need to get ready too! The National Children’s Museum Launch Zone is hosting its own Super Bowl party, complete with physical drills to get little ones in top shape, paper football tournaments, and craft activities for guests to make their own fan gear. Learn about some delicious, and healthy, game-day snacks, too. Drop in and have a ball on Saturday from 11am – 4pm. Admission is free.
The Languages of Love – Get ready for Valentine’s Day with the Smithsonian at the Freer/Sackler Galleries. On Saturday and Sunday, the Museums of Asian Art are hosting “In Every Language Love”, an open house for all ages. After a slideshow of images representing love in Asian art, guests can use printing blocks inscribed with the word “love” in more than a dozen Asian languages to make valentines. The free program runs from 12 – 4pm both days
Celebrate La Chandeleur – On the same day we wait for a groundhog to give us a weather report, France celebrates La Chandeleur (or “Crêpe Day”). And Alliance Française de Washington and Hillwood Estate and Garden are observing it on Saturday with a day full of food, fun, and games. Families are invited to celebrate the holiday in festive French fashion by eating crêpes, listening to a story, and experiencing the exciting culture of Brittany, where crêpes are said to have originated. Guests can learn a customary Breton dance, make traditional Breton hats, and hear classic children’s tales told in French and English. Tickets are $15/adults, $8/ages 2-18, free for ages 2 and under, $8/Hillwood and Alliance Française Members. The event runs from 10am – 4pm.
Auto Show – The Washington Auto Show is still going on through the weekend, and it’s an event the whole family can enjoy. We went last Saturday, and the kids had a blast checking out all of the cars, sitting in the driver’s seats pretending to take the wheel, and even lounging in the trunk of a Mini Cooper. There’s also the PBS Playland where kids can watch a show, play games, and meet some of their favorite characters. Taking place at the Washington Convention Center, tickets are $12/adults, $5/kids 6-12, free for children 5 and under.
Dramagami – The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop is sill celebrating it’s 40th anniversary with 40 days of free events. And there’s one this Saturday especially for kids that combines origami with storytelling, drama, and fun. Or, as CHAW calls it: Dramagami! Learn to fold three animals in each workshop and create a mini-play about the animals. Leave with your newly folded animals and a story you can act out at home with them. As you fold the animals, let your imagination go wild as you create a whole world for the animals as you activate your body and voice with a little play creation. The class will take place from 10-11:30am and is recommended for ages 7 and up. Space is limited, so registration is required – go here to sign up.
In Theatres Now – There are several children’s productions on stages this weekend – P. Nokio at Imagination Stage, Peter and the Wolf and Tiny Tots at The Puppet Co., Teen Ensemble: Romeo and Juliet at Synetic Theatre, Saturday Morning at the National, and The Wings of Ikarus Jackson at The Kennedy Center. Get details and ticket info on all of them in this post about winter entertainment.
Winter Walks – A slight drop in temps doesn’t mean you have to shun the outdoors, especially on a sunny day. Get some exercise and enjoy the crisp weather on a nature walk – there are plenty of great places in the area where you can hit the trail with the kids. This post from awhile back lists some of the ground we’ve covered.
I have to start this weekend round-up with a special shout-out. It was six years ago yesterday that my favorite little man arrived, and life became a fantastic adventure I never could have imagined prior to becoming a parent. My tiny baby, who was less than six pounds upon his early arrival and fit snugly in the crook of my arm, now reads, writes, runs fast, jokes around, expresses his dreams. When I take a moment (when I have a moment) to digest it all, it’s pretty darn astounding. And I couldn’t be prouder of the boy he’s become. Happy Birthday, my sweet O.
And with my sentimental moment indulged, let’s talk about the weekend. Museums programs and special events, children’s theatre, a clothing swap, and hoops action are among my recommendations for family fun. And with dreary weather in the forecast, the indoor list makes the round-up, too. Happy Weekend!
Spy Fest 2012 – Is your child the next 007? Find out at the International Spy Museum on Sunday from 11am – 2:30pm. Recommended for ages 7 and up, the event will include mini missions, tradecraft demos, and a chance for guests to try their spy skills. Tickets are $10, and advance registration is required. Go here to sign up!
Celebrate Africa! – Kids of all ages are invited to the Textile Museum’s 3rd Annual Mid-Winter Festival celebrating the art and culture of Africa. On Saturday from 12-4pm guests can enjoy dress-up, storytelling, dancing, crafts, and more. Try on contemporary clothing and accessories inspired by cultures of Central Africa, then pose for a professional photographer and walk away with your picture. Hand-sew a Kuba-inspired textile. Enjoy snacks of cassava chips and South African red tea while master drummer Joseph Ngwa leads traditional drumming and dance, and master storyteller Baba-C entrances listeners with interactive storytelling. Visitors will also entered to win great prizes. Admission to the event is free.
Happy Lunar New Year! – Usher in the Lunar New Year a little early at Rockville Town Center with a day full of lively festivities, including a parade hosted by VisArts, street performers, live music, martial artists, lion dancers, an 18-person golden dragon, VisArts exhibitions, vendors, crafts, and more! It’s all free and happening on Saturday from 11am – 4pm.
Multi-Prints Family Day – Press, stamp, and rub to make an artistic impression during this printmaking family day at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. On Saturday from 11:30am – 3pm, artists from George Mason University will demonstrate a variety of printing techniques to kids of all ages, who can then visit our workshop tables to create a print of their own to take home! This free event will take place in the Kogod Courtyard of the museum located at 8th & F Streets, NW.
Farm to Table Family Day – The Kogod Courtyard is going to be a busy place this weekend. Head there on Sunday as the National Portrait Gallery celebrates the arrival of the recently commissioned portrait of chef, author, and restaurant owner Alice Waters by artist Dave Woody. Enjoy live music, learn about the “farm to table” movement, and participate in hands-on activities. The free event takes place from 11:30am – 3pm.
Swap ‘Til You Drop – Or for a few hours, anyway. Saturday is World Swap Day and peace. love. swap. – The Original Maternity, Baby Kid Clothing & Gear Swap is celebrating with a swap event on Saturday at Jonah’s Treehouse in Glover Park. Pass on your old clothes and gear and score some (sorta) new stuff! Item drop-off is from 5-6pm, and the swapping is from 6:30-7:30pm. Admission is $5 if you register in advance, $7 at the door. Go here for more information and to register online
Rubber Ducky, You’re the One – The National Children’s Museum is hosting a joint birthday party for Ernie and his best pal, Rubber Ducky, at the Launch Zone on Saturday. From 11am – 4pm, children can take part in “Percussion Playtime” to celebrate Ernie’s love of playing the drums and make bubble art to celebrate Ernie and Rubber Ducky’s favorite pastime. No R.S.V.P. is required for this party, just drop in for a splish-splashin’ good time!
Wizards vs. Celtics – How aboutsome hoops action on Sunday afternoon? Never mind that it’s not a winning season for the Wizards so far; the games are still exciting and a fun time for all ages. Our family caught the match-up against Toronto a couple of weeks ago – Sasha’s first basketball game, and the Wizard’s first W this season – and we all had a blast. Along with the on-court thrills, kids will love the games, entertainment, and giveaways during time-outs and halftime. Game time on Sunday is 1pm, and tickets start at $10.
Art History 101 – The drop-in program a the National Gallery begins its Artful Conversations series and continues Stories in Art this weekend. On Saturday, kids ages 8-11 and an accompanying adult, can attend the former to learn about a work of art and participate in a related poetry-writing activity. Sessions are at 10:30am, 12:30pm, and 2:30pm. Sign-in will take place in the East Building Atrium, beginning at 10:00 a.m., and will continue until all spaces are filled. On Sunday, kids ages 4-7 can again learn about Henri Matisse through storytelling, discussion, and an art project. Sessions are at 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm. Sign-in will take place in the East Building Atrium, beginning at 11am, and will continue until all spaces are filled. Read a KFDC review of the program here.
Stage Time – There’s a variety of entertainment to be enjoyed in local theatres this weekend. The Snowy Day opens at Adventure Theatre, a rousing tale about the War of 1812 is the free show at Saturday Morning at the National, Peter and the Wolf and Tiny Tots are at The Puppet Co., and Mouse on the Move is at Imagination Stage. Find details on all of these productions in this post about winter entertainment.
The “In” Crowd – Looks like it’s going to be a good weekend to hang indoors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out of the house. For sheltered adventures around town, check out this list.
The Bright Beneath, an exhibit inspired by bioluminescence, at the Museum of Natural History
With Veterans Day conveniently falling on a Friday this year, we get to start the weekend a little early. While most of the activities listed here are happening Saturday and Sunday, they may spark some ideas for things to do today. Or you can check this post from a few days ago for suggestions on where to spend the day off from school. Whatever you and the kids do, enjoy the extra time together. Happy Weekend!
LEGO® Robots! – See the classic toys come to life and solve problems of food safety at the Smithsonian American Museum of Art, where the First LEGO® League Tournament is being held on Saturday from 11:30am – 5pm. Cheer on your favorite team and their student-designed robots, built from LEGOS, as they complete various tasks and tackle real-world engineering challenges. There will also be music, demos, and more activities, all in the museum’s Kogod Courtyard.
Light Painting – On Saturday from 1-3pm, learn about light in the ocean depths atthe National Museum of Natural History’s monthly Second Saturday Arts & Sciences program. Using glow sticks, guests will create a deep-sea organisms as they discover the process of bioluminescence. Afterward, explore the related exhibit, “The Bright Beneath: The Luminous Art of Shih Shieh Huang.”
Saturday Morning at the National – Trick shot artist Spencer “Spinn” Johnson takes to the Helen Hayes stage at the National Theatre’s weekly series. Kids are invited to step up and participate in dazzling fast-action tricks that teach inspiring lessons in confidence, goal-setting, and self-respect. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Only one ticket per person, and all attendees must be standing in line to receive a ticket. Children must be accompanied by an adult, who remains present for the entire performance. Seating is limited, so get there early!
Georgetown Story Town – Get lost in a good book and let the imagination run wild on at Georgetown’s “Social” Safeway as they partner with the Georgetown Library for the first-ever “Georgetown Story Town.” From 10:30-11:30am on Saturday, kids can experience the fun and excitement that books have to offer. Recommended for ages 4-11. Refreshments from the Georgetown Safeway Bakery will follow.
The Moon & Beyond – It’s Super Science Saturday at the Air & Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. During this session of the monthly program, visitors of all ages will become immersed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics topics related to aviation and space exploration through demonstrations and hands-on activities. Drop in between 10am and 3pm. Admission is free, though parking is $15.
A Day of Building Stories – Visitors can activate their imaginations at the National Building Museum by creating their own book with author Isabel Hill as she shares her stories, technique, and experience as an architectural photographer. Guests will discover the stories behind our local Judiciary Square buildings and the museum, then sketch and bring out their inner artists. The $15/member, $20/non-member registration fee includes a signed copy of Ms. Hill’s newest book, Building Stories. Recommended for ages 7 and up, and all children must be accompanied by an adult. The workshops place on Sunday from 10:30am – 12pm.
Free Parking – There’s no entrance fee to national parks that usually charge admission this weekend, so it’s a good time to hit the trail at Shenandoah or Great Falls, take a ride on Skyline Drive to see the mountains covered in autumn colors, or visit Harpers Ferry. See the full list of participating parks here.
Happy Birthday, Pizza Paradiso! – The popular pizza place is turning 20, and among the week’s celebration is a Family Day on Sunday at their Alexandria location. From 1-4pm, kids can participate in a Make Your Own Pizza demonstration with Chef Ruth Gresser, and the first 20 kids’ pizzas are free.
And these posts are always chock full of ideas for more family fun, both outdoors and in:
Scoping the wetlands for wildlife at Huntely Meadows Park
For some of us, this is the last week of summer break before school starts up again. Where did the time go? It’s been a great summer for us, pieced together by camps, our own fun outings, vacation, and a few neat ventures, which I plan to share soon. In the meantime, enjoy these final days of summer with the kids.
Here are ideas for where to do that this week, August 15-19:
Monday – Kiddie rides, carnival games, pig races, farm animals, fried dough… If you didn’t make it to one of the county fairs this weekend, you can still get in on the fun at the Montgomery County Fair, which runs through Saturday. More info is available here, and you can also read a KFDC review of last year’s fair.
Tuesday – It’s Art à la Cart at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Kids ages 7 – 12 are encouraged to exercise their creativity with brushes and palettes, bison horns, bottle caps, quilt squares, and more tools available in interactive carts among the galleries from 1-4pm. Admission is free.
Wednesday – Visit the animals at the National Zoo and be sure to check the daily calendar to see when you can catch feedings, elephant training demos, kids’ farm talks, and more. Later on, take the little ones to a special Baby Loves Disco happy hour at the Rock & Roll Hotel. The dancing fun starts at 5pm; admission is $20/person or $60/four people.
Thursday – Go for a summer wagon ride at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria. Naturalists lead passengers on 90-minute excursions at 9:30am and 5pm–register to ride online ($6/county residents, $8/non-resident). If those times don’t work, explore the woods and wetlands on your own (for free). Turtle, bird, frog, and butterfly sightings are practically guaranteed.
Friday – It’s a Family Fair in Georgetown at Tudor Place and Dumbarton House, where guests can enjoy the end of summer with crafts, games, and sweet treats. Register in advance online; admission is $8/member children, $10/non-member children, $5/accompanying adult.