Checking out a display at the at the National Museum of American History
We all deserve a break now and then. My husband and I just took a much-needed one and enjoyed a couple of kid-free days in NYC. And that’s a quick explanation of why Monday is missing from these suggestions for weekday fun. Enjoy the rest of your week!
Wednesday – See a show especially for little ones as The Puppet Co. Theatre presents Nutcracker Fantasy, the Tiny Tots production of the holiday season. The lights stay on and doors stay open during these performances for the youngest audiences. Showtime is 10am. Tickets are $5 for everyone, including babies.
Thursday – Show the kiddos relics from your own 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 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. (Note the Spark!Lab is closed for renovations.)
Friday – Join the Boogie Babes for their last show of 2011. Bridgette with Dawn on Conga will bring their island beats to the Atlas Performing Arts Center at 10:30am. Admission is $5/child, free for siblings 6 months and under.
Enjoying last weekend's superb weather at the Capitol Reflecting Pool, post-Botanic Garden visit.
Holiday activities dominate this weekend round-up, but there are a few non-seasonal recommendations for all the Scrooge types, too. See a family-friendly film about Andy Warhol, visit Santa in his workshop, jam to folk music for children, sing along to holiday songs. That’s just a small sample of all there is to do; read on for the rest. Happy Weekend!
‘Tis the Season – The holiday season is in full swing, and DC is chock full of fun ways to celebrate it. A few special events are mentioned below, and this post listing DC’s best has even more recommendations. Think holiday train displays; festivities at the Botanic Garden, and at the National Harbor; light shows; a boat parade; and even more.
Holidays on Stage – Enjoy the ultimate holiday classic The Nutcracker performed by the Washington Ballet at Warner Theatre or catch a tot-friendly version at The Puppet Co. Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead Scrooge on A Christmas Carol journey at Ford’s Theatre. Get details on these live shows and others at local theaters this season in this post about holiday entertainment.
Santa on the Ellipse – The National Christmas Tree was illuminated by the First Family last night, so festivities at President’s Park have officially begun. See the tree, a model train zipping around it, the Yule Log, and holiday displays representing all 50 states. But the biggest thrill for kids, by far, will be Santa’s Workshop, which is an actual little cottage on the Ellipse grounds, just down the path from the tree. There, guests can check out St. Nick’s “operations,” complete with a Naughty & Nice meter, letters to Santa stacked up on desks and posted on walls, sketches of toys, and a conveyor belt loaded with presents to be distributed to kids around the world. This is all there for kids to peep as they wait in line to meet Santa himself and sit on his lap for a photo op. It’s open this Saturday and Sunday from 12:30-4:30pm then again from 5:30-9:30pm. Beware that the line can get long — I’ve heard of waits up to 40 minutes — so plan accordingly. Read about our experience there last year.
Bethesda Winter Wonderland – Celebrate the holiday season in downtown Bethesda with a variety of free performances, a live ice sculpting presentation in Bethesda’s Veterans Park, and a visit from Santa Claus. Festivities kick off this evening with a concert at 8pm, and continue tomorrow with ice sculptures in Veterans Park (located at the corner of Woodmont & Norfolk Avenues) from 1-2pm, then a student concert and visit from Santa from 2-4pm. Admission is free.
Scribble, Art, Pop! – Kids can explore art through filmat The National Gallery of Art’s monthly film program. This weekend they’ll present a series of animated shorts that celebrate the qualities that make artists. Guests can get a glimpse into the life and art of Andy Warhol in the fun and gentle film Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Andy Warhol, a family-friendly biography of Warhol and an introduction to pop art, along with a few other animated shorts about art, all of the kid-friendly variety. Sessions are at 10:30am on Saturday and 11:30am on Sunday in the East Building Auditorium. The program is free, and seating is offered on a first-come, first-seated basis. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
Renwick Holiday Festival – Celebrate the holiday season in presidential fashion at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. Go on a scavenger hunt through the exhibit Something of Splendor: Decorative Arts from the White House, where you might spot Grace Coolidge, Dolly Madison, and Teddy Roosevelt; enjoy a family day filled with music, crafts, and activities inspired by the exhibition. Create your own presidential china patterns, make holiday ornaments, and warm up with some hot apple cider. The event takes place on Saturday from 11am – 2pm. Admission is free.
Folk Jam for Kids – Boston roots musician and family entertainer Alastair Moock will perform an all–ages concert at Jammin’ Java on Saturday at 10:30am. The concert celebrates the release of Moock’s new CD entitled “These Are My Friends,” which just won a 2011 NAPPA Gold Award. The show is part of the venue’s ongoing family concert series. Tickets are $10 and available online or at the box office.
DIY Holiday Cards – Kids can exercise their creativity and get into the holiday spirit at a special Holiday Card Workshop hosted by the National Postal Museum on Saturday, from 12 – 3:30pm. Artist Thalia Doukas will provide stamp-centric inspiration and mailable ornaments that guests can use as they create two holiday cards. Be sure to make time before or after to explore the museum, which is full of interesting exhibits, many of them interactive.
Holidays Around the World: Kwanzaa – This holiday season, the National Children’s Museum Launch Zone is celebrating winter holidays around the world. On Saturday from 11am – 4pm, drop in to learn all about Kwanzaa, a holiday focusing on the values of African culture. Kids can make family tree place mats and mishumaa, traditional Kwanzaa candles. Admission is free. The Museum is located at National Harbor, so you can combine it with a visit to the Gaylord National Resort for Christmas on the Potomac.
Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long – Belt out the season’s most popular tunes at Wolf Trap’s annual gathering on Sunday at 4pm. Along with the opportunity to sing Christmas Carols and Hannukah songs along with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area, you can enjoy a performance by the United States Marine Band. While admission to the event if free, Wolf Trap will be participating in Toys for Tots by collecting new, unwrapped toys at the entrance to the Filene Center before the Sing-A-Long. Donations are strictly voluntary and not a requirement. Parking is also free, though limited, so plan on arriving early.
Annual Holiday Sing at the Atlas – The annual free Holiday Concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with Capital City Symphony the Congressional Chorus, and the American Youth Chorus, is an H Street holiday tradition. Shows take place on Sunday at 4pm & 7pm. I checked the status of tickets on the website, and while it’s sold out, a note says to “Please come the day of the performance to join the waiting list. In years past, everybody has got in.” Hey, it’s worth a try. And if you don’t get in, you can grab a bite at one of the many eateries along the corridor or head up the street to Union Station to check out the Holiday Train Show.
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.
Getting up close and, perhaps, a little too personal with a funky car at last year's H Street Festival
This weekend is one of those times I wish there were seven of me, so I could attend multiple events at one time. Yes, there is that much good stuff happening over the next few days — and that’s just counting the special one-off events, not the ongoing assortment of recreational mainstays in the DC-metro. And it’s all forecast to go down amid superb weather conditions. Whatever you and the kids end up doing, you’re practically guaranteed a great time. Happy Weekend!
H Street Festival – I have very high hopes for the Festival this year. We attended last fall, and it was pretty good, but all of the street construction going on at the time posed some obstacles, making it somewhat difficult to navigate with kids in tow. But with the corridor now free of barriers and pavement back in place, I think this year’s H Street celebration is going to be excellent. There will be live entertainment on four stages, plus a kids stage; art exhibits; a fleet of food trucks; art exhibits; crafts for sale by local vendors; fashion shows; pie eating contests; dancin’ in the street; and lots of kids’ activities, including face painting, story telling, and moon bounces. And you can leave the car at home—free shuttle bus service will be available from Gallery Place and Eastern Market Metros. Enjoy the festivities from 12pm – 7pm.
An Apple a Day – One of fall’s most anticipated traditions is underway: apple picking! Many area orchards and farms offer pick-your-own opportunities, and with so many apple varieties that ripen at different times, the pickings often last through October, sometimes even into November. This post has a good selection of farms and orchards where you can reap the fruits.
The Big Build – Budding builders can start honing their skills as they work alongside professionals, including architects, designers, builders, artisans, and trades people at the National Building Museum on Saturday from 10am – 4:30pm. Guests can try their hands at a variety of construction techniques, build a miniature house from sticks, create mosaics, talk with the experts, enjoy a live Bob the Builder show, and more. This free event (a $5 donation is suggested) takes place
Greek Festival – There’s music, dancing, and a marketplace full of Greek goods, but if you go to this annual Festival at the Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in 16th Street Heights, be sure to go with an appetite. Because, really, it’s all about the food. We’re talking authentic Greek fare, and a huge variety of it. Be prepared to stand in line if you go at a mealtime, but the queue moves fast, and the wait is beyond worth it. After indulging, sit back, relax, and enjoy the entertainment. All in all, a good time for the whole family. The Festival runs Friday and Saturday from 12 – 9:30pm and Sunday 12 – 7:30pm. Admission is free, but you pay food and drinks.
Cider Festival – Great Country Farms is celebrating apple season with a focus on one of the fruit’s yummiest products – cider. On Saturday and Sunday, there will be cider pressing demos with the farm’s antique cider press as well as tastings. Visit the website for activity times. The $8/child and $10/adult admission also covers hayrides, wine tasting across the street at Bluemont Vineyard, visits with barnyard animals, and loads of fun for kids, including a pumpkin jumpin’ pillow, 60-foot slide, five mazes, and pedal tractors.
Collection Connections – Drop in at the National Postal Museum on Saturday from 11am – 2pm to make a stamp collection to take home. Guests can choose a collection topic from thousands of international postage stamps. While there, kids can sit in the driver’s seat of mail truck, take a Pony Express journey, and view the Owney the Postal Dog exhibit among other mail-related fun.
Tales of Beatrix Potter – Be among the first audiences to see The Puppet Co.’s latest production. Tales of Beatrix Potter, which explores the fantasy world of one of Victorian England’s best-known authors and illustrators, opens today and runs through October 9. Showtimes are 10am and 11:30 on Fridays, and 11:30am and 1pm on Saturdays and Sunday.
A Century of Women in Aerospace – The National Air & Space Museum is celebrating National Aerospace Week with a family event that recognizes the women who have contributed to technological advances in aviation and space. On Saturday from 10am – 3pm, meet women who are today’s role models and learn about the historical women who have inspired them through storytelling, arts & crafts, and more. Just like admission to the museum, the event is free.
Shiver me Timbers, It’s Pirate Day! – Ahoy, mateys! In preparation for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), the National Children’s Museum Launch Zone needs all hands on deck! Batten down the hatches and head on over for a day full of pirate-themed activities, including a treasure hunt around National Harbor. Be there or walk the plank, savvy? The free event takes place on Saturday from 11am – 4pm.
Maryland Renaissance Festival – I’ve recommended the faire in Crownsville, Md, for three weeks now, and its going to remain in the weekend round-up until it closes in late October. Enjoy a village full of medieval amusement, spend a day outdoors, and get some good ideas for Halloween costumes all in one fun day. This post has all the details you need.
Washington Youth Garden Turns 40 – The garden on the ground of the U.S. National Arboretum is celebrating a big anniversary with a loads of festivities on Saturday from 11am – 3pm. There will be children’s activities, a juggler, live music, a food tent, hand cream making and bee-keeping demos, and much more. Go here for more details and the schedule of events.
Nationals vs. Marlins – It’s a weekend of home games for the Nats as they host the Florida Marlins. There are games tonight and Saturday evening at 7:05pm, and on Sunday at 1:35pm. Don’t miss the special promos — Signature Sundays welcome fans to arrive early to meet select players and get autographs and Kids Run the Bases means young fans 12 and under can loop the infield after the game. Tickets for all of the games are available for purchase online or at the Box Office.
Brookside Gardens Children’s Day – This year’s theme for the annual event is “Adventures with Food – Let’s Move and Groove!”. From 11am – 4pm this Saturday, children will move and groove throughout the day keeping fit while they enjoy activities throughout the gardens. There will be a Little Sprouts area for toddlers, an activity circuit, face painting, fruit and veggie bingo, a kids’ farmer’s market, story time, and lots more. Admission is free.
Colonial Market & Fair – Take a day trip back to 18th-century America at Mount Vernon’s Colonial Market & Fair. Watch artisans and craftspeople from all over the country demonstrate early techniques of their crafts, many of which will be for sale. Live entertainment will include music, puppet shows, a sword swallower, a fire eater, and a miracle medicine man. Admission is included in the entrance fee to the Estate: $15/adults, $7/kids 6-11, children 5 and under are free. Food will be available at extra cost. For more information and the full performance schedule, visit the Mount Vernon website.
Fiesta Musical – Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at the National Zoo on Sunday from 11am – 5pm The annual event will include animal demos, Hispanic and Latino music and foods, costumed dancers, and crafts for sale. Admission to the event is free, but if you drive and park in the Zoo lot, be prepared to pay – $10 for the first hour, $15 for two to three hours, and $20 for more than three hours. Parking is free for FONZ members.
And just to make heads spin a little more, this post has tons of ideas for savoring the glorious early fall weather:
Yesterday, a friend of mine posted a photo on Faceboook of the contents of her son’s pockets that she’d emptied before doing laundry. The random collection of sticks, bottle caps, coins, Legos, beads, and a AA battery made me laugh and drew a slew of comments and “likes”. Many of us likely have been there, finding odd items among our children’s treasures, wondering what kind of magic they held for our curious kids, and often feeling relieved we found them before the washing machine did.
This weekend’s recommended family fun is kind of like those pocket contents — a hodgepodge of events and activities with their own wonderful potential. Whether you take the kids to run through fountain sprays, enjoy carnival thrills, savor French culture, rock out at a concert, join an art workshop, or get outdoors for a hike in the woods, a “magical” experience is always a possibility. Happy Weekend!
Lovin’ Summer – Free concerts, outdoor swimming, garden play, sprayground fun. Activities exclusive to the season can all be enjoyed this weekend. This post has the full scoop on these joys of summer.
Tennis, Anyone? – See the sport played in a whole new way as the Washington Kastles take on the St. Louis Aces tonight. There will also be a special reception and exhibition by tennis legend Chris Evert. The match starts at 7pm, but gates open at 5pm. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online through Ticketmaster.
Seize the Beautiful Days – It’s supposed to be a nice weekend weather-wise, so these suggestions for enjoying a beautiful day outdoors with the kids are definitely worth a look.
DC Summer Carnival – While I can’t vouch for this fair in the parking lot behind RFK Stadium, I have driven by several times and it looks like it has all the trappings for amusement park fun. The Mega Drop, Merry-Go-Round, a Ferris Wheel and other big carnival rides are all easily visible, and game booths and food vendors round it all out. Open tonight from 5pm – 10pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 12pm – 12am. Unlimited ride passes and wristbands are available for $25 and can be purchased at the carnival entrance every day. Individual tickets are 20-for-$20 or 4-for-$5.
Farm to Street Party – Celebrate local food at Washington, DC’s first ever Farm-to-Street Party. On Saturday from 12-3pm, enjoy scrumptious dishes made with ingredients from local farms, local craft beer, and wine. Local entrepreneurs, chefs, and non-profit organizations making local food available in Washington will be in attendance. Guests can enjoy music from local artists, participate in a local pie eating contest, cool off in a dunking booth, take part in children’s activities, and more. Purchase tickets online or pay with credit/cash at the door.
Backyard Campout – The National Children’s Museum is bringing outdoor adventure to the Launch Zone. In collaboration with REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc) Outreach, guests can feel like they’re in the great outdoors by discovering the uses of various camping equipment, maneuvering through tents, and learning the fun aspects of camping in nature. Kids can also take part in hands-on exploration of deer and black bear tracks from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The program has been held various days this week and will also run on Sunday as well as next Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. This is a free event.
Jam with Rocknoceros – The local band adored by kids is playing two shows at Jammin’ Java on Saturday. Families can opt for a mid-morning performance at 11am or rock at for the 7pm happy hour show. Tickets for each are $10 and available for purchase online.
Show Time – Catch even more live entertainment on local stages this weekend. This post has the latest on what music, theatre, dance, even snake shows that you can see through the rest of the summer.
French Festival – Experience French culture the way it was 300 years ago at Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens. Children and adults can enjoy lively theatrics presented by the New York Baroque Dance Company and Opera Lafayette as they engage guests in music, dance, and fanciful history. Other activities will include traditional games like jacks and hoop-tossing, an art project where kids can decorate their own miniature furniture, gallery talks about the French collection, a “Kings, Queens, & Soup Tureens” audio tour. Admission is $18/public, $15/seniors, $12/ Hillwood and Alliance Française Members, $5/kids 6-18, free for children under 6. The festival runs on from 10am – 7pm and Sunday from 1pm – 5pm.
Good News – Take advantage of the Newseum’s “Kids Free Summer Fun Deal” that offers free admission to kids 18 and under through September 5 with one paid adult admission. It’s a perfect opportunity to visit a museum that you may have put off touring because of the entrance fee (we’re so spoiled by all of DC freebies) as well as a great way to beat the summer heat.
Stories in Art – On Sunday, the National Gallery of Art’s summer drop-in program welcomes kids ages 4-7 to explore Dutch art through storytelling, gallery tours, and hands-on projects. Sessions are hourly starting at 11:30am. Sign-up begins at 11am in the West Building Rotunda, and space is limited. Read a review of our experience at a session last summer. And for more details on this summer’s program and tips on signing up, see this post from last week.
Portrait Story Days– Drop in at the National Portrait Gallery on Saturday and Sunday from 2-5pm, to listen to a story about a person who has influenced American history and culture and to create a special piece of art. This weekend, learn about baseball player Roberto Clemente.
Family Films – There are a couple of movie series especially for families that run on the weekends. The Atlas Performing Arts Center hosts its Family Series on Saturdays at 5pm. This week’s showing will be “Chicken Run.” While tickets are free, there is a $2 per ticket booking fee. For a screening under the stars, head to National Harbor on Sunday for its free Movies on the Potomac series. This week, see “Despicable Me,” starting just after sunset.