Due to sequestration, the National Arboretum will be closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Thursdays
Within just the last few days, I’ve learned about a couple of closings to keep in mind — both are places among the KFDC compendium for family recreation.
As of this week, the U.S. National Arboretum will be closed to the public every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday as a result of the sequester and budget cuts to the federal Agricultural Research Service, a U.S. Agriculture Department bureau that operates the Arboretum. It was being reported that an entrance fee would also be instituted, but admission will remain free. You can read more about the reduced public visitation hours here.
The National Aquarium in DC, located in the lower level of the Department of Commerce, will close its doors for good on September 30, due to renovations in the building. The collection of more than 1,500 animals will be transitioned to new homes at either National Aquarium in Baltimore or other accredited aquariums. And while I realize that some folks aren’t impressed by the relatively small display of marine life, I consider it a loss. The compact space and simple exhibits are perfect for little aquarium-goers, a great introduction to the underwater world. (Hey, my kids get excited about the lobster tanks in seafood restaurants.) If you haven’t yet been, and your babes are fascinated by fish, go check it out while you can. Hours are Sunday – Thursday 9am – 6pm and Friday – Saturday 9am – 7pm. Admission is $9.95/adults, $4.95/ages 3-11, free for under 3.
Tuesday – Add a museum exhibit to the weekday mix and go see MathAlive! at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center before it closes June 3. Admission is free.
Wednesday – Walk among hundreds of butterflies at Brookside Garden’s “Wings of Fancy” exhibit. Witness the butterfly life cycle and see species from North America, Central America, and Asia. Admission is $6/adult and $4/ages 3-12, free for children 2 and under (though strollers are not permitted). Tickets and parking are available at the Visitors Center and Conservatories.
Thursday – See Five Little Monkeys, Adventure Theatre’s latest show that audiences of all ages will find entertaining. Tickets are $18 and still available for Thursday’s show as this post goes live.
Friday – Visit the Maryland Youth Garden at the National Arboretum. Stroll among a variety of plants and flowers, till soil in the compost station, and have some fun in the natural play space. Admission is free.
The Washington Youth Garden: Cultivated by kids for all ages to enjoy
If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that the U.S. National Arboretum is one of my very favorite spots to hang with the kids in DC. Not only does it top my list of best outdoor places, but it’s been a frequent recommendation as a recreational haven practically since day one (well, more like day 21, but I had to wait for Snowmageddon’s remnants to melt before suggesting readers go there).
The best thing about the Arboretum is that it’s so big, visiting never gets old. There are myriad adventures to be had — different collections of plants and flowers to explore, lots of short trails to hike, exhibits to see, wildlife to view. This partly explains why, until a few days ago, we’d never visited the Washington Youth Garden. I say partly, because I knew it was there, but thought it was only open to school groups. And since there was so much else to do at the Arboretum, I hadn’t looked into it further to find out for sure.
But last week, I chaperoned a field trip to the Youth Garden with Owen’s class and learned that it is, indeed, open to the public. Which is awesome. Because it’s yet another fantastic element of an already-wonderful place.
Developed to encourage kids and families to connect with the natural world, the Garden is cultivated and maintained by local youth. A variety of plants and flowers are grown there, many of them edible and harvested seasonally. We toured — and tasted! — strawberries, sorrel, mint, and asparagus, among the many crops grown in the garden . (No pesticides are used, as our guide explained, and she encouraged the kids to nibble a little as she discussed the different qualities of the plants.)
Right next to the actual garden is a natural play area where kids can engage with nature through self-directed activities. Everything in the space is made of materials that come right from their environment — benches made from tree branches and tree stumps to sit on, wooden sand tables for kids to dig in, even xylophones constructed of wood where they can make music.
Just beyond that is a compost station, with signs explaining how the three-bin system works. During our tour, there were gardening tools available for the kids to till the soil a bit. The guide said they aren’t there otherwise, but guests not on a tour can still visit that part of the garden.
The compost station
A close look at what’s in the soil: Worms!
From there, you can access a short trail that meanders through the woods behind the garden to get a look at the variety of plants that grow naturally in that small area. Our guide encouraged the kids to notice the different shapes of the leaves, moss growing on a fallen tree branch, even the smell of the woods. (And here I should note that guides are only available for school groups, but individuals are welcome to tour on their own.)
A short walk in the woods
Our tour of the garden lasted about an hour, though a visit there could last much longer at one’s own pace. With other school groups coming through, the class spent the rest of our field trip exploring the nearby Fern Valley, having a picnic lunch by the Capitol Columns, and visiting the Koi pond. But next time I take my kids to the Arboretum, we’ll be lingering at the Youth Garden much longer.
Monday – Head to Old Town Alexandria for Tavern Toddlers at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. Drop in between 10:30am and 12pm for playtime and a craft activity in the historic ballroom. Admission is $7 for a group of three, which must include an adult.
Tuesday – Enjoy the forecasted sunshine at one of the prettiest places in the city, the U.S. National Arboretum. Bring lunch for a picnic, a ball to kick around in the open spaces, and a camera for photo ops amongst the variety of flora collections.
Wednesday – Discover and play at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Kids can flex their green thumbs in the Children’s Garden, complete with water pump and fountains, shovels and watercans, a bamboo “forest,” and a mini garden house. The collections are also wonderful to tour, the jungle exhibit being a highlight for little ones. Stop in the West Gallery to sniff a variety of botanical scents. And be sure to visit the National Garden outside, too.
Thursday – Bounce on over to Pump it Up in Lanham for Pop-In Play Time from 10 – 11:30am. Kids ages 2-6 (and their accompanying grown-ups) can jump, slide, climb, and have a blast in a room full of giant inflatables. Admission is $8/child. Be sure to wear or bring socks!
Friday – Be among the first theatre-goers to see Tales of Beatrix Potter at The Puppet Co. Playhouse. Showtime is 10am. Tickets are $10 and available for purchase online.
If you’re still making plans for this weekend’s honoree and looking for fun activities for the kids, this round-up has you covered. There are several events happening over the next few days that will have the whole family feeling like it’s their special day. But the best gift we moms can ask for are happy kids (and spa packages are always awesome, too). Happy Weekend! And a very Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms!
All Aboard for National Train Day – If you’ve got a young train enthusiast in your midst, then head to Union Station on Saturday for the 4th Annual National Train Day. From 11am – 4pm, guests of all ages can enjoy and experience a variety of train-related fun, including live entertainment, interactive and educational exhibits, kids’ activities, model train displays and tours of Amtrak equipment, freight and commuter trains, and notable private railroad cars. Read more about it in this post from earlier this week.
Go Postal for Trains – For some extra locomotive fun, chug on over to the National Postal Museum, where even more National Train Day activities will take place, also from 11am – 4pm. Relating to its “Moving the Mail” exhibit, the celebration will include hands-on fun for the whole family. Guests can speed-sort mail, watch model trains, toot a train whistle, make a stamp collection, and more. The National Postal Museum is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue NW, and the event will take place in the Museum Atrium.
Cheverly Truck Touch – Over 20 vehicles will be on display this Saturday from 10am – 2pm for young motorists-in-the-making to explore. Children can sit in the driver’s seat of a cement truck, honk the horn of a dump truck, run around inside the trailer of an 18-wheeler, check out a race car, stand on the back of a garbage truck, blare a police car siren the siren, “drive” a fire truck, and much more. And the fun doesn’t end with the wheels—there will also be a small ride-on train, games geared just for little ones, face painting, concessions, balloons, and T-shirts for sale. Admission is just $5 for ages 1-12 (under 1 and over 12 are free!) and includes 4 game. The event will be held in the Cheverly United Methodist Church parking lot. Read this post for more information.
Flowermart – The annual spring festival at the National Cathedral will take place on Friday 10am – 6pm and 10am – 5pm. While plant sales, floral and horticultural displays, and boutique booths will be of more interest to grown-ups, there will also be tasty foods, music and entertainment, rides on the antique carousel, and other fun activities to delight kids as well. Admission is free. Proceeds from other sales benefit the Cathedral’s gardens, grounds and woodlands.
Garden Fest – The Kaupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle will be buzzing on Friday from 11am – 1pm and Saturday from 11am – 3pm as Garden Fest connects people and plants through educational demonstrations and engaging hands-on fun. Kids will dig plant-inspired art activities, a stilt walker, tattoo station, and live music by Cuttin’ Grass. Adults can enjoy the same, plus floricultural demos, gardening book sales and signings, orchid displays, and many other plant and gardening exhibits. The event is from 10am – 4pm. Admission is free.
Shortcut to Europe – Avoid the steep airfare and jet lag, and explore The Continent from this side of the pond. Passport DC invites you to join European Union embassies and the EU Delegation for a day of international food, dancing, kids entertainment, exhibitions, vacation planning, and more. Get a rare behind-the-scenes look at the embassies, some of which are among Washington’s historic and architectural treasures. This all takes place this Saturday from 10am – 4pm. Free shuttle bus service will be available throughout the day, and many embassies are convenient to Metro for walking. Admission is free, but bring identification, as some embassies will conduct security checks.
Mother’s Day at Mount Vernon – Join the “Mother of Our Country,” Martha Washington, and her granddaughter “Nelly” as they celebrate this special weekend with visitors. On Saturday and Sunday from 8am – 5pm, enjoy “Lady Washington’s” reminiscences of motherhood and her sage advice to her youngest granddaughter. The event is included with admission—$15/adults, $14/seniors, $7/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under.
Potomac Bonsai Festival – Celebrate the tiny trees at oneof the prettiest places in the city Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9am – 5pm. There will be bonsai activities to entertain everyone, from the interested observer to the accomplished artist. Each day features demonstrations, exhibits, children’s activities, Asian food vendors, and the renowned collections of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.
Ride & Putt at Watkins – The antique carousel, train, and mini golf course at Watkins Regional Park open for the season starting Saturday. Hours through Memorial Day will be 10am-3pm Thursday and Fridays, and 12-5pm on weekends. After that, it will be open every day but Monday (with the exception of Memorial Day) with longer hours. For more about Watkins, read this post from last year, which ironically is about the closing of the park’s rides for the season.
Space Day – Have some out-of-this-world fun at the Air & Space Museum on the Mall on Saturday. Guests will have the chance to meet astronauts and space experts, communicate with the International Space Station, learn how to build a flyable model rocket, build a mock space station out of recycled materials, create an astronaut paper doll, design a mission patch, and enjoy more cool astro-related activities. The free event runs from 10am – 3pm.
Joanie Leeds on the Millennium Stage – Join the artist of the 2010 Parents’ Choice® Gold Award-winning album, I’m a Rock Star, as she celebrate the releae of her new album, What a Zoo!, with a performance on the Kennedy Center’s Milliennum Stageon Saturday at 6pm. Joanie Leeds and her band, The Nightlights, will make their Washington, DC, debut with a FREE rocking family show. If you haven’t heard Joanie’s music, go take a listen on her website—it’s easy to see why her poppy sound and fun lyrics strike a chord with kids. The concert is part of The Kennedy Center’s daily Free Performance series.
Let Them Entertain You – A variety of performances will be on local stages this weekend, from puppet shows at Glen Echo to plays at Ford’s and Adventure Theatres to concerts at Jammin’ Java and the Kennedy Center. For details on what and who is playing where, see this post from a couple months ago and this one from a few days ago.
Savor the Sunshine – It looks like we’re in for some perfect spring weather for at least part of the weekend. Go indulge in it with the help of this list of the best places in the DC area to enjoy a beautiful day outdoors with the kids.