Kids can exercise their creativity and get into the holiday spirit at a special Holiday Card Workshop hosted by the National Postal Museum this Saturday, December 4, from 2 – 3:30pm. Artist Thalia Doukas provides stamp-centric inspiration for cards and mailable ornaments. Each participant can create two beautiful cards for friends, family members, or donation to American military personnel serving overseas through Operation Gratitude.
The workshop is free, but space is extremely limited, and registration is required, so be sure to sign up soon! Send email to NPMprograms@si.edu or call 202.633.5533 to participate.
And if the workshop fills up before your child gets in, I highly recommend a visit to the museum, anyway. I like to think of it as a local secret, since it’s often overlooked by tourists and overshadowed by its Smithsonian counterparts on the Mall. A few highlights are an old mail truck and train car to climb aboard, the Pony Express “trail” that takes you through its history, and an interactive exhibit that creates and stamps a cool postcard.
A train display from Christmas past at the U.S Botanic Garden
For kids young and old, some holiday traditions are just as anticipated as opening a huge pile of presents under the tree. Mini locomotives chugging around ornately decorated tracks and twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are easily two seasonal favorites. If model trains and holiday lights are part of your family’s holiday repertoire, here’s where and when you can view them this year. Some have already started, and many will be ready for viewing this week. Enjoy!
Norwegian Train Display Where: Union Station When: November 23 – January 3
The giant Norwegian model train has enchanted visitors every December for 14 years, as it winds through the mountains and fjords of Norway. Each train is hand-crafted by an expert model builder and is a replica of a current or historic Norwegian train. The display launch coincides with the regional kick-off for the 2010 U.S. Marine Corps Reserve “Toys for Tots” campaign on Tuesday, November 23, at 10am.
Season’s Greenings Where: U.S. Botanic Garden When: November 25 – January 2
The famous garden railway will feature world landmarks from the continents of Africa, Asia Europe and South America. Along with the train display, the conservatory will contain the garden’s popular holiday exhibit featuring Washington landmark buildings all created with plant materials set amidst pathways and pools of blooming poinsettias and other holiday plants. The Botanic Garden is open daily from 10am – 5pm, with hours extended on Tuesdays and Thursdays in December until 8pm. Admission is free.
Holiday Festival of Trains Where: B&O Railroad Museum When:November 26 – January 2
This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. So much so, it changes throughout its run featuring new displays from various Model Railroad Exhibitors every few days. The exhibit opens on Friday with the arrival of Santa in the Roundhouse at 10:30am. On weekends through December 18, guests can enjoy train rides with Santa and Frosty the Snowman along with crafts and choral performances. Admission is $14/adults, $12/seniors (60+), $8/children (2-120, free for B&O Members. Train rides are $2/adults, $1/childred, free for B&O Members. For more info and the exhibit schedule, visit the B&O Railroad museum website.
Winter Display and Train Exhibit Where: Brookside Garden When: November 27 – January 9
The Washington, Virginia, Maryland Garden Railway Society constructs their model “G” scale train exhibit inside the Brookside’s Conservatory Winter Display. Trains weave around evergreens, poinsettias, salvias, and other flowering plants as they travel trough towns and country-side scenes. Free admission during daytime hours from 10am – 5pm. In the evenings with the Garden of Light Display, admission is $20/car on weekdays, $25/car on weekends.
Holly TrollyFest Where: National Capital Trolley Museum When: November 27 – 28, December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 & 19
Ride with Santa on the Street Cars 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm! Enjoy the model garden railway and holiday village inside the museum from 12pm – 5pm. Visit the website for directions.
ZooLights Where: National Zoo When: December 3 – 12 (Fri – Sun), December 17 – January 1 (nightly except for Dec. 24, 25, 31)
Explore a wintry wildlife wonderland of model trains set up inside the zoo’s special train station—the Visitor Center. Beginning December 4, children can enjoy a train ride on the Great Meadow across from the Great Ape House. Admission to ZooLights is free. Train rides are $2.
Holiday Trains and Planes Where: College Park Aviation Museum When: December 18 – December 24
During the holiday season the College Park Aviation Museum gets ready for the festivities as miniature trains, villages, tunnels, and depots spark the imagination and bring history to life. The National Capital Trackers bring a fascinating and constantly moving display of model railroads. Admission is $4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/ages 2-18, free for children under 2.
Christmas on the Potomac Where: Gaylord National Resort, National Waterfront When: November 18 – January 9
Discover the 60-foot glass tree and holiday decorations, be amazed by indoor snowfall and explore a walk-thru winter wonderland sculpted from ice. For more details about this holiday wonderland, check out this post.
Symphony of Lights Where: Symphony Woods When: November 19 – January 5
Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 70 larger-than-life, animated and stationary light creations is a local holiday tradition for many. Cruise along the 1.4-mile route through the Symphony Woods in downtown Columbia and enjoy the twinkling lights as you go. Open 7 days a week, including holidays, from 6pm – 10pm. Admission is $20/car.
ZooLights Where: The National Zoo When: December 3 – January 2
Thousands of environmentally-friendly light and animal exhibits will transform the Zoo into a holiday wonderland. The highlights are dozens of animal light displays, including a new one this year featuring Andean bears. Guests can also enjoy entertainment and a special train ride for children, special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and the gingerbread habitat contest entries on display in the auditorium. The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm will be open every night. To top it all off, it’s free! For details on hours and parking, see this post from a few weeks ago.
Festival of Lights Where: Watkins Regional Park What: November 26 – January 2
This spectacular holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for 24 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car – pop some holiday music into the CD player, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the illuminated scenes. New festival features include Santa flying a helicopter and driving a fire truck. Admission is $5/car, free on December 25.
Garden of Lights Where: Brookside Botanical Garden When: November 26 – January 9
Visualize close to one million twinkling colorful lights shaped in imaginative displays throughout the gardens. Enjoy the four seasons illuminated as giant summer sunflowers, autumn leaves, winter snowflakes, spring flowers, rain showers, and more. Walk along the easily accessible paths and you’ll see what sets this light show apart from others; it’s the hundreds of wrapped trees and shrubs, beautifully lighted gazebos, cascading fountains, and the individually formed displays in the shapes of blooming flowers and wild animals. Look for moving displays such as a flock of geese, or an 11-foot giraffe covered with 9,000 lights. Open weekdays: 5:30 – 9pm, with last car admitted at 8:30pm, weekends (Friday – Sunday) 5:30 – 10pm, with last car admitted at 9:30pm. Admission is $20/car on weekdays, $25/car on weekends.
Winter Lights Festival Where: Seneca Creek State Park When: November 26-27, December 3 – January 1 (nightly, except for all Mondays and Dec. 25)
Winter Lights features more than 380 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays in a 3.5 mile drive through beautiful Seneca Creek State Park. Theme areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, North Pole, Toyland, and Penguin Cove. Proceeds Benefit Local Charities.
Holiday Boat Parade of Lights Where: Alexandria City Marina When: December 4
Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront. Pre-parade festivities at the Alexandria City Marina begin at 4pm with Santa arriving by fireboat at 4:15pm. The boat parade begins at 6pm. Admission is free! The Marina is located at ) Cameron Street in Old Town.
On this very special of weekends, there are several kid ventures that moms will enjoy just as much as their babes. (For the stuff that’s geared toward little ones, let dad take the helm, while you go get a mani-pedi.) Here’s a quick run-down of this weekend’s family fun. And to all the moms: Happy Mother’s Day!
National Train Day
Get on board for the 3rd Annual National Train Day. Saturday, May 8, Amtrak is celebrating with a day full of events for train enthusiasts of all ages. From 11am – 4pm, there will be exhibits, activities, and live entertainment throughout Union Station.
Do some pre-Mother’s Day celebrating with the kids at Flower Mart, an annual spring festival to benefit the gardens and grounds of Washington National Cathedral. There will be plenty for both children and grown-ups to enjoy: an antique carousel, live music, puppet shows, plant & book sales, rides & games, delicious food, and more. This free event is happening Friday, May 7, 10am – 6pm and Saturday, May 8, 10am – 5pm.
EU Embassies Open House
Channel your inner Clark Griswold with this European tour! On Saturday, May 8, Cultural Tourism DC presents “Shortcut to Europe” as part of Passport DC, a month-long celebration of international culture and heritage. Join the Embassies of the European Union for a day of music & dance, art exhibits, childrens activities, food & drink tastings, and more. (Come on, you know you want to don some lederhosen and dance with the best of ’em!) Free shuttle buses with two routes will drop visitors off at various embassies. Visit the website for a full schedule of events.
The Smithsonian Castle will be buzzing this Saturday, May 8, as Garden Fest brings people and plants together for an annual celebration. Kids will dig the insect release, plant-inspired art activities, stilt walker, tattoo station, and live music by the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra. 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.
If the National Air & Space Museum ranks high on your kid’s list of favorite places, then take note: Saturday, May 8, is Space Day at the museum. 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, create Lego s…pacecraft, design a satellite, and enjoy more cool astro-related activities. The free event runs from 10am – 3pm.
Truck Touch Silver Spring
If you couldn’t make it to Truck Touch in Cheverly last weekend, you can get in on it this Saturday, May 8, at Silver Spring Nursery School. Construction vehicles, a fire engine, motorcycle, recycling truck, the Book Mobile and more cool vehicles will be open for exploration from 10am – 1pm. Food, live entertainment, facepainting, crafts, and a book fair will also be part of the fun. Admission is $3, kids under 2 are free.
Babies, the Movie Babies, the documentary that follows the first year of four infants from different parts of the globe, opens this weekend, just in time for Mother’s Day. The E Street Cinema is having a Special Rattle and Reel Screening (babies welcome!) on Saturday, May 8, at 10:30am.
Kids and trains. It’s a combo many of us know all too well, whether its through a Thomas the Tank obsession, cool train sets that take up half the floor space at home, or holiday mini-locomotive displays that keep the little ones fascinated for hours. Trains, it seems, are childhood staple.
That’s why Union Station is certain to be bustling more than usual this coming weekend—Saturday, May 8, is the 3rd Annual National Train Day. Amtrak is celebrating with a day full of events for train enthusiasts of all ages. From 11am – 4pm, there will be exhibits, activities, and live entertainment throughout the station.
Especially cool: Tours of both private and Amtrak train cars, an up-close look at train equipment, and masterpiece model train displays.
Especially fun: The Amtrakids Depot will have magicians, face painters, arts and crafts, interactive games and giveaways; Rocknocerous and the Ballou High School Marching Band will perform; the Snapshot Station will provide cool souvenirs for kids with photos taken in front of custom train-themed backdrops.
Kids can keep track of it all with a Train Day “passport” they can have stamped at the many exhibits. And for moms who appreciate a cute celeb sighting: Taye Diggs, this year’s National Train Day spokesperson, will be on hand for a meet and greet.