Making a virtual meal at Nat Geo’s “Food: Our Global Kitchen” exhibit
Tuesday – When the storm brings you snow, build a snowman, go sledding, have a snowball fight! But if it’s too cold to be outside, check out the list of indoor playgrounds to find places where the kids can burn some energy on a foul weather day off from school. Be sure to call ahead to confirm hours.
Wednesday – Venture up to Baltimore for Wonderful Wednesday at Port Discovery. The special day is dedicated to children from ages birth through 6 years with imaginative music and literacy programs designed to develop early learning skills. The program is from 9:30 am – 12:30pm, and museum hours are 9:30am – 4:30pm. Admission is $14.50 for ages 2 and up (free for under 2).
Thursday – Visit the National Geographic Museum to experience Food: Our Global Kitchen, an exhibit that takes you from farm to fork, before it closes February 22. Be sure to see Spinosaurus while you’re there — the entrance fee gets you access to both. Hours are 10am – 6pm. Admission is $11/adult, $9/senior, $7/ages 5-12, free for 4 and under. Look for a discount on adult tickets here.
Friday – Take advantage of Tots Playtime at Pinstripes in Georgetown. From 10am – 12pm most weekdays, ALL kids can bowl for just $5, and parents are free (limit 4 kids per adult)! Stay after for lunch — they have a kids menu and a pretty extensive main menu, too.
Spend a shutdown day at River Farm, the American Horticultural Society’s headquarters
It’s official: The government has shut down. Which means that many go-to spots to hang with kiddos (Smithsonian museums, National Park Service locales) are closed as well, including some of this week’s recommendations (Roosevelt Island and the Air & Space Museum). But fear not! There are plenty of fantastic alternatives to enjoy in the meantime, however long that may be. You might even discover a new favorite among them. Here are places that are still open while many others are closed…
Boogie Babes – If the shutdown continues through the week, you can find musical entertainment for tots at Union Market on Wednesday, Eastern Market on Thursday, and the Atlas Performing Arts Center on Friday. All at 10:30am. Admission is $5.
Yards Park – The beautiful recreational space in the Navy Yard remains open to the public. The fountains are turned off for a few hours on Tuesday mornings for maintenance, but you can still bring a ball to kick around the open green spaces and enjoy a riverside picnic. Admission is free.
Dumbarton Oaks Gardens – Looks like we’re in for some great shutdown weather, and these fairytale-esque gardens in Georgetown are the perfect place to enjoy it. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 2-6pm. Admission is $8/adults, $5/children ages 3 and up, free for 2 and under.
Newseum – The venue dedicated to news and journalism is still welcoming guests, and there are a few exhibits that children might enjoy here, which are mentioned in this post.
River Farm – Explore the grounds of the American Horticultural Society headquarters. Kids will love playing in the Children’s Gardens and taking in sweeping views of the Potomac. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Critiquing First Ladies’ dresses at the American History Museum
Monday – Show the kiddos relics from your 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 the First Ladies’ ball gowns and 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.
Tuesday – Go play at Clemyjontri, the brilliantly colored, sprawling playground in McLean that accommodates kids of all abilities. Hours are 7am to dusk, and admission is free.
Wednesday – Venture up to Baltimore for a Wonderful Wednesday at Port Discovery. Dedicated to children from age birth to 6, the day includes special art, music, and literacy programs for little ones (see the website for the full schedule of activities). While you’re there, be sure to check out the new Wizard of Oz exhibit. Hours are 9:30am – 4:30pm. Admission is $13.95/ages 2 and up, free for under 2 and members.
Thursday –Celebrate Valentine’s Day with the Boogie Babes and The Singing Lizard at Union Market! It’s the first time the music show for little ones will take place at the new, hip venue in northeast DC. Showtime is 10:30am, and admission is $5/child (free for siblings 6 months and under). Get there early for coffee — Peregrine opens at 8am. Stay after for a bite from one of many eateries and food stalls that will be open by lunchtime.
Friday – Catch a performance of Brother Bear at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Imagination Stage is bringing their popular show across town, so more audiences can watch as Brother and Sister Bear experience a full year of glorious seasons. Showtimes are 10am and 11:30am, and tickets are $8. The show will be at the Atlas February 13-18.
It’s a shame the American Visionary Art Museum doesn’t allow photography inside, because one look at some of the brilliant, quirky, beautiful, inspiring works of art housed there is all it would take to immediately understand why kids and adults are wild about the museum. Though I think the images I was able to capture outside may do the trick just as well.
We visited last week while Owen was still on winter break (Sasha was already back in school) when some friends invited us to join them there. We knew about the museum — friends had recommended it and No Monsters in My Bed has a nice review as well — but just hadn’t made it there yet, since jaunts up to Baltimore usually take us to the well known attractions that cater to kids. In fact, Owen had assumed this museum was also full of science-related exhibits, play spaces, and interactive fun. When he realized on the drive there that it was actually an art museum, he was somewhat disappointed.
It’s called a Giant WhirliGig. The name alone rules.
That was until we pulled into a parking space behind the museum and he did a complete 180. Just across the street was the awesome Giant WhirliGig, plus the mosaic mirrored facade and school bus topped with plastic swans and bunnies in the entrance courtyard. That elicited a “Whoa! That is so cool!” And that sentiment was expressed many a time as we toured the rest of the exhibits.
A perfect welcome
When you walk in to the museum, be sure to look down. The welcome mat is made entirely of toothbrushes, the graying bristles spelling out “Smile” across it. And that’s just the tiny tip of a huge iceberg. That building, just one of three, is full of remarkable art that is fun, unique, enchanting, captivating. Really, I could exhaust all my adjectives describing the many wonderful works to see.
More mirrored mosaics line walls around the stairwell. Owen loved the model of the Lusitania made out of 193,000 toothpics and five gallons of glue. All of the kids spent a good while peering into a case full of Pez depensers and looking at their reflections in warped mirrors. They also loved the fairy houses constructed entirely of plant materials — we all agreed it reminded us of the Season’s Greening exhibit at the Botanic Garden. A bed with Alfred E. Neuman tiled on the headboard made me chuckle.
Shhh… I snuck a shot of the Pez!
There’s some more serious art in the main building, too. A series of beautiful large, embroidered illustrations tell one woman’s story of surviving the Holocaust. Another exhibit presents works by Gretchen Feldman, both lovely scenes that reflect her idyllic life and bold pieces that depict the cancer cells that ended it.
Bring it, Bobby Fischer
After touring the main building for about an hour, we made our way to the next one, which houses just one work. In the middle of the floor is a lifesize chess board, its chessmen made made of metal and about as tall as Owen, that you can actually play.
Whimsy in the sculpture garden
Art you can play in
From there we headed out to the sculpture garden where the kids romped in the play structure made of logs and thick tree branches. In the courtyard leading to the third building we stopped to gawk at the large mirrored egg, a very tall guitar bird, and giant nest attached to one wall before heading inside.
See quirky works both indoor and out at the American Visionary Art Museum
The third building was probably the kids’ favorite — and I thought it was pretty fabulous, too. Not only did we walk in to a spectacular sight of big, whimsical sculptures, all previous entrants in the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race, showcased throughout, we were also directed by staff to the smaller kinetic sculptures, which offered some hands-on amusement. Enclosed in glass all along one wall of the downstairs, these intricate little wooden sculptures move at the push of a button. We watched a dragon fly, sailors sitting down for a meal, a man eating spaghetti in a bathtub, a cat drinking milk, and many more adorable and wacky moving scenes. As for the bigger works, there are elephants, giant pink poodles, a jeweled car, and more — all just incredible to view.
One member of the staff was very informative and gave us background on the building. We learned that one wall on the third floor is made completely from barrel staves leftover from the brewery that was previously housed in the building. He also let us know that we could go out on the balcony to stand in the nest we’d seen from outside. How often does one get to stand in a nest?
All in all, a wonderfully fantastic outing. I already can’t wait to return, next time with Sasha along, too. Those giant pink poodles have her name written all over ’em.
The American Visionary Art Museum is located in Baltimore near the Inner Harbor. It’s open daily 10am – 6pm Tuesday – Sunday. Admission is $15.95/adults, $13.95/seniors, $9.95/students & children 7 and up, free for ages 6 and under. *It’s also open on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with free admission & special programming for all!
If you go:
– There is plenty of metered parking right behind the museum on Covington Street and on Key Highway. You can use a credit card on Covington, but bring change for Key.
– A cafe, Cielo Verde (formerly Mr. Rain’s Fun House), is located in the main building. (We didn’t eat there, but I hear they have great bloody marys.) It’s currently open for private bookings only.
– Elevators are conveniently located and make the museum stroller friendly.
– Be sure to check out, Sideshow , the museum shop. Even if you don’t buy anything, there are tons of fun, kooky items to browse.
– Membership is available – $100 for a 4-person household, and you can add additional family members that are 17 and under.