Hands-on fun at the National Build Museum's Lego exhibit
Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! Seeing as Monday is already well underway (better late than never, right?), these recs for weekday fun conveniently start with an evening activity. Beyond that, find ideas to keep the kids entertained during the rest of days of this Winter Break week.
Monday: See a holiday light show in the evening. You have your pick of drive-thru displays or walkable routes at various locations in the area. For details on all of them, see this post on DC holiday events.
Thursday: Glide the day away at an ice skating rink. See this post with details of both indoor and outdoor venues. Or check out the brand new ice rink at the Rockville Town Square.
Friday: Head to the National Building Museum for some architecture-inspired fun. Toddlers can play in the Building Zone ($3 admission, including accompanying adults). All ages can check out the Towering Ambition LEGO exhibit ($5 admission) and create their own structures of plastic pieces at tables set up for just that purpose. And the Great Hall is a great place to romp and have an indoor picnic (BYO lunch or pick up from Firehook Cafe on premises). In the evening, wind down the week at Lil Omm in Tenley Town, where all ages can join in for Family Fun Fridays yoga session from 5-6pm.
Holiday events are still running strong, and there are special museum programs and children’s shows to round out this weekend’s options for family fun. And, of course, DC’s tried and true activities are always a good bet — scroll right down the page for a slew of recommendations. Happy Weekend!
Celebrate the Season – If you’re looking for ways to embrace the holiday spirit, you have your pick: visit Santa in his workshop, drive or stroll through holiday lights, view nature and DC-inspired seasonal exhibits, see intricately constructed model train displays, experience the holidays on ICE! This guide to DC’s best holiday events has details on all of them.
Holidays on Stage – All of the classics are at our local theatres. This post has a review of The Nutcracker at the Warner Theatre, and you can read my write-up of Adventure Theatre’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. For even more holiday shows, see this post for a listing of the season’s favorites.
Rockin’ Hanukkah Concert – Yosi and the Superdads play an interactive and humorous family concert filled with klezmer, rock, ska and rockin’ Hanukkah tunes at the McClean Community Center on Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $10/McLeanresidents, $15/non-residents. The show is recommended for ages 3 and up.
Elmo Makes Music – In Sesame Street Live’s latest production, everyone’s favorite red monster and his friends make their own music with instruments that they never knew existed. Join them as they share their love of music on the Patriot Center Stage now through Sunday. Tickets range from $15-50 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.
Up, Up & Away – The Corcoran is hosting a Family Workshop for children ages 8-12 on Saturday from 10:30am – 12pm. Guests will discover what the average person would need on a journey to Mars in the NOW exhibition Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro: Are We There Yet? After that create a personalized jet pack using recycled materials for your own adventure into outer space.
Holidays Around the World: Christmas – Drop in at the National Children’s Museum Launch Zone on Saturday from 11am – 4pm to learn how people all over the world observe Christmas. Through a variety of activities, guests can journey to Colombia, the Philippines, and Croatia for a multi-cultural Christmas celebration. Admission is free.
Family Portraits – Learn about people who have influenced American history and culture through a variety of ongoing programs and activities offered by the National Portrait Gallery. This weekend’s subject will be Pablo Picasso in two different workshops. On Saturday from 2-4pm, kids ages 5 and up can join Facing History: Be the Artist Youth and Family Program to view portraits, hear stories, and create art. Admission if free, but registration is required. On Sunday from 2-5pm, guests of all ages can drop in for Portrait Story Days to hear a tale about Picasso and do an art project. For a fun DIY adventure at the Gallery, Portrait Discovery Kits are available on Sunday from 2-5pm. They include “Seek and Find” cards, “Portrait Detective” and “Historian Guides,” and a “Compare and Contrast” activity using a doll. Visitors can check out kits at the education center, room E151, on the first floor. Kits need to be returned prior to 4 p.m. on Saturdays or 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.
American Indian Art – Sculpture artist and painter Gregg Analla will be at the National Museum of the American Indian on Saturday from 10:30am – 12:30pm to lead a workshop on Pueblo pottery and symbolism. Recommended for kids ages 5-12, the sessions will last about an hour and welcome guests on a first-come, first-served basis. They will take place in the imagiNATIONs Activity Center, which is also a fantastic place to explore American Indian culture through a variety of interactive exhibits. Admission to both the workshop and museum is free.
And for tried and true DC pursuits, check out these links:
Our family experienced a milestone when we went to see ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, the holiday production currently running at Glen Echo Park’s Adventure Theatre: It was the first time ever that not-quite-three-year-old Sasha watched a play in its entirety without getting antsy and asking to leave. Instead, she sat through the hour-long performance utterly captivated by it all — the adventurous tale, the enchanting set, the playful musical numbers. All of it spliced together perfectly to produce a show that’s wonderfully entertaining for all ages.
The play is based very loosely on the famous Clement Clarke Moore poem, so loosely that other than its recitation in the opening scene and a stirring mouse (who is literally stirring cookie batter when he’s introduced), the title is as far as the association goes. But the story does, indeed, take place the night before Christmas, which sets the scene for one wild and whimsical holiday adventure.
It begins as we meet Uncle Brierly in the cozy living room, complete with twinkling Christmas tree and festively decorated bookcase-lined walls, as he gets ready to read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” He barely gets through the first verse when Amos the stirring mouse, then his best friend Emily, burst in to reveal their own version of Christmas events the previous year when Santa skipped their house.
A wild airplane ride to the Norh Pole
When Uncle Brierly shuns their story and exits the room, Calliope, the Jewish elf from the North Pole, arrives to confirm that the two are telling the truth — Santa did skip their house last year — and seeks their help to prevent it from happening to even more houses this year, an entreaty relayed through a fun, chuckle-inducing “Santa Ain’t Coming to Town” rap.
And this is when the adventure begins, transporting the characters and the audience from Uncle Brierly’s living room to Santa’s charming little workshop. Shelves stocked with a colorful array of beautiful toys and presents line the whitewashed walls (you could practically see sparks being emitted from the audience as kids’ eyes lit up at the sight of it).
Calliope, Emily, & Santa plot to save Christmas
But the trio are here on a mission to save Christmas from Sir Guy, the rogue elf who stole and sold Santa’s sleigh to Wal-Mart and just pilfered the Naughty & Nice list with intentions to hawk it to Bloomies.
The chase scene and sword fight that follow an exciting hoot. We’re treated to some Three’s Company-esque dramatic irony as Amos’ twin brother shows up and unknowingly helps the operation. And when the heist is thwarted and Christmas is saved, there’s more rapping, and this time a jubilant Santa joins the crew.
All in all, it’s an immensely enjoyable show, from the imaginative story and endearing characters to the inspired costumes and brilliant set. That’s not only substantiated by the raves I just bestowed, but also by my daughter’s watershed theatre moment.
A recent frolic at the National Arboretum, one of our very faves
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and has emerged from the food comas unscathed, because this is a weekend to relish. Not only is it an extra long one, but we get to it enjoy it amid blue skies, sunshine, and unseasonably comfortable temps. This will bode will for the many events and activities happening at outdoor locales, several holiday-themed ones among them. And if you’d rather shed the jackets at an indoor venue or you’re not quite in holiday mode, these recommended pursuits cover those preferences, too (just scroll to the end after the first rec). Here’s where you can find it all over the next three days. Happy Weekend!
Nights at the Museum – If you’re making the rounds at the museums on the National Mall, save Natural History and American History for last. The two Smithsonian favorites will have extended hours through the weekend, open until 7:30pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Hit the Rink – It’s going to be perfect weather for outdoor ice skating these next couple of says, so lace up the skates and get gliding. Enjoy art as you skate at the Sculpture Garden or shop then skate at Pentagon Row, Veteran’s Plaza, or Reston Town Center. This post has details on both alfresco and indoor ice skating options in the area.
Harbor Lights Festival – The kick-off of the National Harbor’s annual Tree Lighting and Holiday Light Show begins this evening at 5pm. Watch as the tree is illuminated in a spectacular display of colorful twinklers, listen to live music in National Harbor Plaza, and enjoy festivities throughout the evening. If you can’t make it tonight, you can catch the gleaming extravaganza every half hour until 10pm nightly through the season .
Alexandria Tree Lighting – Celebrate the city’s official start to the holiday season in Old Town’s Market Square this evening from 7-9pm. Along with the tree lighting, entertainment will include a visit from Santa, a performance of Santa’s Frosty Follies by the Metropolitan Fine Arts Center, plus caroling and a community sing-a-long.
Holly Trolley Fest – The National Capitol Trolley Museum in Silver Spring is hosting its first weekend of special holiday exhibits on Saturday and Sunday from 12-5pm. Along with the regular museum experience, guests can ride the streetcars with Santa and see the trains display in the Christmas Garden. Admission is $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 and includes unlimited rides. Admission without rides is $4.
ZooLights – See the National Zoo in a whole new light, literally, as thousands of environmentally friendly lights and animal exhibits transform the park into a holiday wonderland. Along with the lights, there will an “iceless” skating rink, train rides for kids, train displays, and more. Admission is free, but activities cost extra — $5/skate, $2/skate rentals, $3/train rides. Open Friday through Sunday from 5-9pm (and more dates later this season).
Holidays, Oh Holidays – There’s way more DC holiday fun to be had — Season’s Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden, Christmas on the Potomac, Christmas at Mount Vernon, wonderful train and light displays – and much of it begins this weekend. For the complete rundown on all of them, see this post about the best holiday events of the season.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – Adventure Theatre’s latest production following the wild adventures of a mouse, and elf, and a spunky little girl is a perfect holiday show for the whole family. We caught it last weekend (review on the way), and found it a delight from beginning to end. Tickets are $18 and still available for shows on Saturday and Sunday.
If you’re night quite ready to usher in the holiday hoopla, check out these posts for tried and true recreation:
The Puppet Co.'s whimsical interpretation of The Nutcracker
The holidays are just around the corner, and along with them some of best traditions of the season — and our local theatres. Take your pick of The Nutcracker productions, see Ebenezer Scrooge on stage, rock out or sing along to holiday tunes, discover celebrations around the world — there are shows to suit all theatre preferences, ages, and wallets. Here’s the line-up of holiday shows, listed by opening date (and most descriptions pulled straight from the websites). Tickets for most are already on sale. And if you have a show to recommend that’s not listed here, feel free to do so in the comments section.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Where: Adventure Theatre When: November 18 – January 2 Tickets: $17
“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” But wait! A mouse is stirring – because Santa missed his house last year. Before you can say “Merry Christmas!”, we’re off on the wild adventures of a mouse, an elf and a spunky little girl who just won’t take no for an answer. Don’t miss this joyful tribute to the holiday season from three-time Tony nominee and Olivier Award winning playwright Ken Ludwig. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
A Christmas Carol Where: Ford’s Theatre When: November 18 – December 31 Tickets: $30-65
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Originally conceived by Michael Baron, this music-infused production captures the magic and joy of Dickens’s Yuletide classic. Acclaimed Washington stage actor Edward Gero returns to play Scrooge. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
The Nutcracker Where: The Puppet Co. When: November 25 – December 31 Tickets: $10
Tchaikovsky’s musical adaptation of the E. T. A.Hoffman story is brought to life by the magic of The Puppet Co. “The Nutcracker” is the festive story of Clara-Marie’s adventures with her favorite toy. The larger-than-life-size costume characters and marionettes delight Clara-Marie, and the audience, on her magical journey through the “Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Recommended for Kindergarten age and older.
The Washington Ballet: The Nutcracker Where: Thearc Theater When: November 25-27 Tickets: $29
Celebrate The Washington Ballet’s golden anniversary with their holiday classic! For fifty years, generations of Washingtonians have grown up loving—and introducing loved ones to–Washington Ballet’s The Nutcracker. In this 50th anniversary year, Septime Webre pays homage to Washington Ballet founder Mary Day’s 1961 production, restaging her original, a historic jewel, in his lush Washington-themed staging. Discover, rediscover, and celebrate this one-of-a-kind Nutcracker production set in 1882 Georgetown and starring George Washington as the Nutcracker, King George II as the Rat King, Anacostia Indians, frontiersmen, and all-American delights. Whimsical waltzes, glittering snowflakes, and gorgeous music, The Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker is a magical journey not to be missed!
Nutcracker Fantasy Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots When: November 26 – December 31 Tickets: $5
This marionette version of the holiday classic is geared toward the smallest of audience members. Tiny Tots shows are designed for theater patrons ages 0-4. They are shorter, the lights stay on, the doors stay open, and the show is set up on the floor.
Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker Where: Warner Theatre When: December 1-24 Tickets: $40-110
The grand, full-scale version of Septime Webre’s production, performed by the Washington Ballet.
Seasons of Light Where: Discovery Theater When: December 1-23 Tickets: $3-8
Discovery Theater’s seasonal favorite captures the warmth of many holidays filled with light, in this joyous interactive celebration. Explore the history and customs of Devali, Ramadan, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Christmas, and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice. Recommended for ages 5-10.
A Beatrix Potter Holiday Where: Publick Playhouse When: December 1, 10:15am & 12pm Tickets: $5
Atlantic Coast Theatre for Youth from Florida presents the famous author at her annual holiday party. Stories including The Tailor of Gloucester and The Rabbit’s Christmas Party come to life on stage with the help of the audience, and Peter Rabbit may even make a surprise appearance.
Annual Holiday Sing Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center When: December 4, 4pm & 7pm Tickets: FREE ($2 service fee to reserve)
The annual free Holiday Concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with Capital City Symphony the Congressional Chorus, the American Youth Chorus, and the Atlas Performing Arts Center. An H Street holiday tradition!
Tickets are free but must be reserved ($2 per ticket service fee). Tickets must be collected on the day of the performance at least 30 minutes before the performance. All tickets that have not been collected 30 minutes prior to the performance will be distributed to patrons on the wait list.
Holiday Sing-a-Long Where: Wolf Trap When: December 4, 4pm Tickets: FREE
Kick off the holiday season with family and friends at Wolf Trap’s 2011 Holiday Sing-A-Long! This annual musical celebration hosts a performance by the United States Marine Band and a Sing-A-Long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area.
A Christmas Carol Where: Publick Playhouse When: December 8, 10:15am & 12pm Tickets: $5
Mr. Scrooge, the ghosts, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the whole Dickens gang gather for a spirited musical version of the holiday classic performed by Theatre IV of Richmond. Recommended for all ages.
American Ballet Theatre: The Nutcracker Where: Kennedy Center When: December 8-11 Tickets: $29-100
Magical toy soldiers, shimmering snowflakes, mischievous mice, and all the enchanting inhabitants of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s whimsical world descend upon the Kennedy Center for the DC premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker. American Ballet Theatre’s artist-in-residence and former Artistic Director of Bolshoi Ballet, Mr. Ratmansky choreographed this new production, which premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 2010 to rave reviews. Performed with a live orchestra, together with extraordinary sets and costumes by Tony Award winner Richard Hudson (The Lion King), Ratmansky’s new version of Tchaikovsky’s classic unites more than 100 superb performers for a sublime retelling of the beloved story. Join young Clara and her famous wooden prince for the sweetest of all family holiday dreams. Even if you’ve already seen 50 Nutcrackers, you will not want to miss this one by Alexei Ratmansky. This Kennedy Center tradition is the most cherished in DC.
A Children’s Nutcracker Where: Battlefield High School, Haymarket, VA When: December 10 Tickets: $15-20
This production from the Gainesville Ballet School features local talent ranging from three years of age through adult professionals. It’s a show you don’t want to miss, with the traditional dances, such as Snow Flake and Sugar Plum Fairy, plus some very special dances with the young ballerinas, such as Blue Bird and Angels. There are two performances, at 1:30pm and 5pm.
Christmas Dreams from The Nutcracker Where: National Theatre When: December 10 Tickets: FREE
Saturday Morning at the National, the theatre’s free program for children, has a classic its line-up of weekly performances. Snowflakes and Sugar Plum Sweets will be in the air as the Virginia Ballet Company and School present selections for their magical, glittering Nutcracker. Familiar music, lively dances, lovely costumes and charming characters from Tchaikovsky’s classic confection bring us elegant holiday cheer. 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.
The Mini-Nut Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center When: December 10-11 Tickets:$15/adults, $10/children 12 and under
The Maryland Youth Ballet presents a sweet treat with a delightful, 50- minute, abbreviated presentation of their classic production. Performance takes place at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus.
The Nutcracker Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center When:December 16, 17, 18, 22, 26 Tickets: $25/adults, $20/children
This is the 22nd season of the Maryland Youth Ballets beloved, full-length classic. Performances will tale place at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center of Montgomery College in Rockville.
Step Afrika! Holiday Party Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center When: December 14-18 Admission: $38/adult, $25/seniors & students, $15/child
Come make music with Step Afrika! in the company’s first ever holiday show! Bring the family and experience the best holiday party with the artists of Step Afrika! Who wants to sit still and be quiet for the holidays? Come ready to make some noise and bring in the festive season with a bang!
Rockin’ Hannukah Concert Where: Alden Theatre When: December 18, 3pm Tickets: $15, $10/McLean residents
Yosi and the Superdads play an interactive and humorous family concert filled with klezmer, rock, ska and rockin’ Hanukkah tunes. Recommended for ages 3 and up.