The Wednesday hump is over, but Friday isn’t here, it’s Thursday! Here are 15 spur-of-the-moment activities to make your Thursday easy and fun with the kids. No need to plan ahead, buy tickets or pre-register, just grab the kids and drop in.

Photo: Joe Lewis via flickr

1. Visit with the Butterflies
While D.C.’s Natural History Museum has a ton of cool things to treat your kids to, nothing brings a thrill quite li
ke mingling with live butterflies. Spend a Thursday in the museum’s Butterfly Pavilion where butterflies fly freely around, landing on living plants, fresh fruits, and even your shoulder! You can purchase tickets in advance, but you don’t have to, just stop by the ticket counter just outside of the pavilion when you arrive.

Second Floor of the Natural History Museum
10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW or Madison Ave. between 9th and 12th Sts., NW
Cost: $5/kids; $6/adults
Online: naturalhistory.si.edu

2. Visit the Gardens at Tudor Place
More than five acres of landscaped beauty in Georgetown gives you an excellent opportunity to stop and smell the roses at this historic property that served as the home to six generations of descendants of George Washington’s wife. Drop in for a self-guided tour of the gardens. Stop by the Visitor Center for an annotated map.

1644 31st St. NW
202-965-0400
Cost: Self-guided tours $3; Children under 5 are free
Online: tudorplace.org

3. Play Putt Putt at East Potomac Park
Mini-golf is always a safe bet for an hour or two of fun. East Potomac Park is a glorious place that extends from the grounds of the Jefferson Memorial straight down to the point where the Potomac and Anacostia rivers merge. The park’s mini-golf course is the oldest in the nation and the only one in the District. After you play this entertaining course you can head to the Club House and Potomac Grille for a bite to eat.

972 Ohio Dr., SW
202-554-7660
Cost: Starting at $6 
Online: golfdc.com/miniature-golf 

4. Watch Money Being Made
What’s a better day than a quiet Thursday to watch money in action? You can do just that of at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing where you can see millions of dollars being printed as you walk along the gallery overlooking the production floor.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing
14
th and C Sts., SW
202-874-2330
Cost: Free
Online: bep.gov

5. Discover a Forest in the City
You can hike, run, picnic, and explore wildlife in this 1,800-acre oasis that runs smack dab through the center of our bustling city. Rock Creek features hardwood trees, a meandering brook, rocky outcrops, and majestic wildlife. Plus, there’s a Nature Center, Planetarium, Old Stone House, Peirce Mill and Barn, Carter Barron Amphitheatre and more. Visit the website to see locations throughout the city where you can enter the park.

Rock Creek Park
Online: nps.gov/rocr

                                                                                         Photo: Diann Bayes via flickr

6. Go Food Truck Hopping
You might think there’s nothing to be had at those noisy but colorful food trucks you see lined up and down the streets of downtown, but think again. If you’re looking for a Thursday food fix, you can take your taste buds on a trip around the world in the space of one city block. Choices include barbecue, seafood, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Asian fusion, funnel cakes, mac and cheese, and of course good old greasy hotdogs!

Online: Roaming Hunger Food Trucks

7. See the World Through a Lens
Stunning photography (just like the magazine) and interactive experiences are what you’ll find on a spin through this unique museum profiling explorers, photographers, and scientists all working to inspire people and preserve the planet. Photography exhibits in the Museum’s M Street gallery and outdoors are free.

National Geographic Museum
1145 17th St., NW
202-857-7700
Cost: Free
Online: www.ngmuseum.org

8. Learn about Conservation at Theodore Roosevelt Island
This 91-acre wilderness preserve honors our 26th president who made significant contributions to the conservation of public lands for forests, national parks and wildlife refuges. Hike the foot trails, see the amazing flora and fauna, and marvel at four 21-foot granite tablets inscribed with Roosevelt’s philosophy of conservation.

George Washington Memorial Parkway
703-289-2500
Cost: Free
Online: nps.gov/this

9. Paddle the Potomac River
What an amazing way to see the city on a lonely Thursday afternoon. Georgetown’s Key Bridge Boathouse lets you paddle past the Georgetown waterfront, Roosevelt Island and other DC monuments with kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards. You can make advance reservations online or you can just show up and rent by the hour.

Key Bridge Boathouse
3500 Water St. NW
202-337-9642
Cost: $20 and up
Online: boatingindc.com

Photo: CSBaltimore via flickr

10. Zip through the National Zoo
Where else but D.C. can you enjoy one of the best zoos in the country for free? Easy parking and metro accessibility (Woodley Park, red line) make this an optimal destination for a Thursday play date with the kids. See all 2,000 of the zoo’s animal friends here or make a beeline for the giant pandas (they are adorable!).

3001 Connecticut Ave., NW
Cost: Free
Online: nationalzoo.si.edu/

11. Get Interactive at SkillZone
Known as the Apple Store of play places, you can kill hours here enjoying free coffee and WiFi while the kids engage in focused play through structured classes and activities. You can reserve a space in advance or join a monthly club, but you can also just drop in and purchase a pass for the day.

709 8th St., SE
202-763-7629
Cost: $20 for a family with 1 child
Online: skillzonedc.com

12. Become an Architect at the Building Zone
If you don’t know about the National Building Museum’s popular Building Zone where have you been? This is a mama’s dream when it comes to entertaining the kids for a few hours. This hands-on introduction to the building arts is designed for ages 2-6 and features a host of imaginary play and building activities that will help your kids make sense of the world around them.

National Building Museum
401 F. St., NW
202-272-2448
Cost: $7 and up
Online: nbm.org

13. Watch Airplanes Zoom Overhead
They’re loud, they’re enormous, and they come amazingly close to your head on their way to landing at Reagan National Airport. Take a picnic and a blanket, lay down, look up, and marvel at the metal birds soaring across the sky.

Gravelly Point Park
George Washington Parkway North of Regan Airport (Arlington, Va)
703-289-2500
Cost: Free
Online: virginia.org

Photo: cdorobek via flickr

14. Play at Beauvoir Playground
You don’t have to be a student to come enjoy one of the coolest playgrounds in the city. Beauvoir encourages natural curiosity and exploration in a joyful and safe environment. No brightly colored plastic structures here. All of the equipment consists of natural materials with natural finishes intended to blend into the landscape. You can bring food and drinks to the playground, but be aware that there are no restrooms.

Washington National Cathedral Elementary School
3500 Woodley Rd., NW
202-537-6485
Cost: Free
Online: beauvoirschool.org

15. Follow the Yellow Brick Road at Watkins Regional Park
This Wizard of Oz-themed park lets you follow the yellow brick road through an Oz-like experience with ruby red slipper slides, an Emerald City of climbing walls, slides, tunnels and bridges and more. Adjacent to the Oz park you’ll find a miniature train, an antique carousel, a nature center and the Old Maryland Farm where you can interact with cows, donkeys, llamas and rabbits.

301 Watkins Park Dr. (Upper Marlboro, Md)
301-218-6770
Cost: Free
Online: pgparks.com

What’s your favorite Thursday activity? Tell us in the comments. 

–Jamy Bond