If you want to end 2016 with a bang (sparklers, Roman candles, and Black Cats not required), consider taking the tykes to one of these venues that debuted this year. Whether you’re in the mood for creative play, an art lesson, Extreme Dodge Ball (say what?), or infant yoga, in the past 365 days there was something new for everyone.
This beautifully-designed play space for kids (and work space for parents!) gets an A+ for boosting imaginative play. Designed for children birth through age four, Nook’s website boasts, “nooks for art, music, reading, building, climbing, and sensory play. There’s also a nook designed especially for infants. To keep up with your child’s growing imagination, play themes in each nook will change periodically throughout the year.” There’s also a parents lounge with complimentary coffee and free wifi.
The National Gallery of Art’s East Wing
With more than 12,250 square feet of new public space, including a new roof terrace for sculpture featuring Katharina Fritsch’s delightfully photo-op-worthy “Hahn/Cock” (you know you want to pose your kid in front of a giant blue chicken), the NGA’s recent expansion offers both visual and gross motor exploration for your kiddos. As the weather warms up in the spring, let your children loose among the trees, plantings, and built-in seating, then corral them indoors to peer at the changing selection of Mark Rothko paintings, photography by Robert Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker (until early March 2017), and much more. A new large elevator promises to accommodate your double BOB. And admission is always free!
Luv 2 Play Leesburg
Bring infants and kids up to 12 years old to this all-inclusive play space, with an indoor play structure, interactive toddler play area, soft climbing toys for crawling babies and new walkers, arcade games, and kinetic sand tables! Standard admission for kids starts at $7.95 (visit their website for pricing for all age groups—there is also a discounted rate for children with special needs). Host a party that will tire out a troupe of energetic attendees; packages start at $295 and include a meal, utensils and plates, $5 game card, and unlimited play time for each child. Forgot your Goldfish at home? There’s also a café with plenty of healthy food options.
1600 Village Market Blvd., SE (Leesburg, Va)
Geared toward kids five years old and up, this extensive play space includes ninja courses, ropes courses, trampolines, climbing challenges, jump slides, zip lines, and more—all starting at $19.50 for the first hour. Play Extreme Dodge Ball, Jump Dunk, or Battle Beam. Older kids can challenge themselves on the parkour course. Climb inside a pitch black tube with the only light coming from neon holds on the dark walls (ahem, we’ll just relax on a well-lit couch, thank you). Try the Pole Walk, which, “challenges guests to walk on top of ever higher poles to reach the pinnacle, from which the daring may jump.” These activities are not for the faint of heart! A lounge with complimentary wifi and a large plate glass window allows parents to watch their children romp on the high ropes course directly outside the lounge. There are also multiple seating areas for adults on the main floor, and a store selling fruit, water, and organic snacks.
Feels Like OM
Offering everything from prenatal, postnatal, Parent and Me (infants through age five), and Family Yoga (geared toward ages three through nine, but older siblings are welcome), Feels Like Om aims to bring the peaceful, nurturing practice of yoga to the entire family. The first class is free, and single class passes for kids are $14; class passes start at $65. Yoga games, partner poses, and stretching exercises promise to be a gentle and inviting way to introduce this life-long form of exercise to your budding yogini!
National Museum of African American History
The Smithsonian’s stunning new building, inspired by Yoruba art and filigree ironwork, is filled with presentations and artifacts that give visitors a glimpse at all aspects of the African American experience. It’s a must-visit for the entire family for many reasons, the first of which is its Cultural Expressions exhibit on the 4th floor. Introducing the concept of African American and African diaspora in a way that kids can understand, it touches on style (clothes, dress, hair, and jewelry), food, social dance, and language. If your kid is a dancing queen, check out the Musical Expressions exhibit (also on the 4th floor), which tells the story of African American music from hundreds of years ago to today’s hip-hop. Some of the must-see artifacts in this area include Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac and Louis Armstrong’s brass-and-gold trumpet circa 1946. The 3rd floor’s Sports Gallery exhibit showcases such artifacts as sports equipment, like a grip bag and uneven-bar grips used by African American gymnast Gabby Douglas. Hungry? Be sure to head on down to the basement, where the Sweet Home Café celebrates the culture of African American people through food. .