What’s better than summer fun? Free summer fun! We in the D.C. area are lucky to have access to free stuff year-round, thanks to the Smithsonian Institution and historic government buildings. But during the warmer months, we also can splash in fountains, listen to outdoor concerts, take in outdoor movies and get free stuff just for reading books. Here are 30 free things to do in June.

photo: Evelyn Proimos via flickr

1. Welcome the dinosaurs back.
The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils-Deep Time at the National Museum of Natural History reopens June 8 after a five-year renovation. The new 31,000-square-foot fossil hall is home to about 700 fossil specimens, including insects, reptiles and mammals. There are also lifelike reconstructions of the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex, of course. The space covers 4.6 billion years, so it should take up a good chunk of a single hot summer day. Plus, it’s a permanent exhibit so you can also kill time there on a cold winter day.

When: Jun 8 and beyond, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Where: 10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW
Online: naturalhistory.si.edu

2. Find out how pandas spend their summer.
Maybe it’s not as black-and-white as you think, right? Check out the new panda exhibit at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat, which opened in February. A new interactive exhibit inside the panda house – read: out of the sun or rain – covers pandas’ ecology, history, reproduction, conservation and care. Test your knowledge with a trivia game and make like a giant panda in a maze game.

When: Daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Where: 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW
Online: nationalzoo.si.edu

3. Channel your inner artist.
Storytime at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum happens twice a week through July. Children experience contemporary art through stories and movement. Museum staff will talk about an artwork on display and read a book before kids get to create some art of their own.

When: Wednesdays at 10 a.m.  -11 a.m., Sundays at 11 a.m.-noon
Where: Independence Ave. and 7th St., SW
Online: hirshhorn.si.edu

4. Get on the right side of the law.
The National Law Enforcement Museum is hosting a free Family Fun Day that gives everyone access to all museum exhibits, including the U.S. Park Police Eagle One helicopter and 911 Emergency Ops. Additionally, there will be a maker station, photo booth, scavenger hunt, face painting and other activities.

When: Jun 1, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Where: 444 E. St., NW
Online: lawenforcementmuseum.org

photo: drtoonz via flickr

5. Give a green thumbs-up.
The Children’s Garden at the U.S. Botanic Garden was recently renovated and offers dirt for digging, plants for tending and a play structure for climbing. Other improvements include a kiwifruit vine tunnel and more shaded areas. Gardening tools and watering cans are available for use. Visit the garden later in the day and stick around for the 2019 Summer American Roots Music Concert Series. June shows take place on the 13th and 27th from 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

When: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: 100 Maryland Ave., SW
Online: usbg.gov

6. Go back in time.
The National Archives has various programs for children and families, such as . On June 1, stop in for “The ‘Write’ Stuff Family Activities” at 1:30 p.m. where kids can meet award-winning authors and illustrators and do activities that explore the methods and strategies they use to integrate research into their works. There’s also a monthly story time for preschoolers when kids 3-5 will hear a story, do a craft and be part of group activities.

When: Archives are open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily, check schedule for events
Where: 701 Constitution Ave., NW
Online: museum.archives.gov

7. Gaze starward. 
Look to the night sky from the comfort of a reclining chair in an air conditioned building at Rock Creek Park’s Nature Center and Planetarium, operated by the National Park Service. Check out a show for young astronomers at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays or come for a fuller program on Saturdays and Sundays. Pick up your free tickets at the Nature Center beginning 30 minutes before the show starts.

When: Wednesdays and weekends, check calendar for times
Where: 5200 Glover Rd., NW
Online: nps.gov/rocr

8. Get creative at Imagination Bethesda.
This annual festival focuses on kiddos. The downtown area will be dotted by activity tents offering arts and crafts, games and face painting. There will also be live entertainment and food vendors. Businesses that plan to attend include the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts & Culture, whose tent will have a make-your-own carousel craft; CityDance, which will offer classes throughout the day; and the Washington Conservatory of Music, which will have a musical instrument craft and demonstration.

When: Jun 1, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Where: Woodmont Ave. and Elm St. (Bethesda, MD)
Online: bethesda.org

9. Go for a tune-up.
Head to the 38th Annual Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park to see and hear performances of traditional dance and music. Artists are local but from cultures found nationwide and internationally. Fine and handmade crafts will be for sale. While you’re here, take a spin on the historic 1921 Dentzel Carousel, which costs $1.25 per ride, or stop in at the Glen Echo Park Aquarium ($7/person, $5/military and seniors, free/ages 2 and younger), where the Touch Tank is a particular delight.

When: June 1-2, noon-7 p.m.
Where: 7300 MacArthur Blvd. (Glen Echo, MD)
Online: fsgw.org

photo: John Sonderman via flickr

10. Go for another tune-up.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is a beloved local event. This year’s theme is music’s power to entertain, educate, inspire and build community. Established in 1967, the event typically runs for two weeks, but this year it will be two days, so catch the live music, instrument workshops for all ages, food trucks, craft-making opportunities and cooking demonstrations while you can. Musicians include the Bright Siders, a two-women group that makes songs for kids.

When: June 29-30
Where: National Mall
Online: festival.si.edu

11. Perfect your jazz hands.
Part of the DC Jazz Festival, Jazz ’N Families Fun Days offer free shows at the Phillips Collection. Artists include D.C.-born and North Carolina-raised Herman Burney, trumpeter Donvonte McCoy and D.C.’s own Heidi Martin, a teaching artist who gets kids into the beat through singing, dancing and instrument playing. For grownups or budding jazz fans, the festival also offers four stages of free performances June 7-16 at the Wharf – not to mention an Education Village with a Meet the Artist Series.

When: June 1 at 10 a.m., June 2 at noon
Where: 1600 21st N., NW
Online: dcjazzfest.org

12. Support love.
The Capital Pride festival is well-known for its annual parade and related gay pride events, but besides ornate floats, there’s also a Family and Educational Area and Fun Zone that will have a 30-foot water slide and misting tents. Find food vendors and face painters in this spot, too. The Monument Festival Stage and Capitol Concert Stage are both open to all ages and will display musical and dance talent.

When: June 9, noon-7 p.m.
Where: Pennsylvania Avenue and Third Street, NW
Online: capitalpride.org

13. Get cultured at the Kennedy Center.
Take in one or several of the iconic performing arts centers daily free shows. Upcoming performances include “Target Family Night: The Capitol Symphonic Youth Orchestras” on June 4, Los Cenzontles on June 24 and the Eurasia Festival on June 25. Check the schedule for a full list of performers.

When: Daily, 6 p.m.
Where: 2700 F St., NW
Online: kennedy-center.org

photo: flickr

14. Catch an outdoor movie.
Check out the schedule of films set to play at National Harbor twice a week this summer. All are kid-friendly, but some may be friendlier than others. Recent favorites such as “The LEGO Movie 2” and classics such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” are on tap. Bring a lawn chair and get there early to snag a good spot.

When: Thursdays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 6 p.m.
Where: 165 Waterfront St. (National Harbor, MD)
Online: nationalharbor.com

15. Listen to stories outside.
CityCenterDC and D.C. Public Libraries are hosting Kids Corner each week from June 6-Sept. 25. Librarians will read books for 30-40 minutes and incorporate songs and fingerplays to keep little ones listening. To cool off before or after the show, stop by the fountains, where kids – and grownups – can get doused.

When: Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.
Where: 10th and H Sts., NW
Online: citycenterdc.com

16. Listen while you splash.
Kids in Canal is back this year with weekly children’s performances including magic by the Great Zucchini, music by Rocknoceros and science by Mad Science. Nearby are fun dancing water fountains to keep kids cool and entertained before and/or after the show.

When: Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.
Where: 10th and H Sts., NW
Online: citycenterdc.com

17. Rock out in Rockville.
Rockville Town Square offers the Friday Night Live concert series for all ages on select Friday evenings through September. Head out to hear reggae, salsa, swing, ’80s tunes and more. Restaurants and cafes dot the development, so you won’t go hungry – or without bribes for fidgety littles. And of course, there’s a splash pad for those hot summer nights.

When: Select Fridays through Sept. 27 at 6-9 p.m.
Where: 200 E. Middle Ln. (Rockville, MD)
Online: rockvilletownsquare.com

18. Move to the music.
Fairfax County’s Arts in the Parks program is tailored specifically for kiddos. Available at four locations – Burke Lake, Mason District, E.C. Lawrence and Frying Pan Farm parks – twice a week, there’s bound to be a performer your little one will love. An annual program, this year’s performers include 123 Andres, Blue Sky Puppet Theater, The grandsons jr., the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra and Rocknoceros. There are also non-musical shows, such as Wonderful Wildlife, a nature program, and magicians.

When: Saturdays and Wednesdays, 10-10:45 a.m.
Where: See schedule
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov

photo: kai.bates via flickr

19. Just get out(side).
The Wharf has tons of children’s activities this summer, including oversized games like Scrabble; a fountain to splash in; and a scavenger hunt to find 30 historic markers and plaques. Hop on the free Wharf Jitney to East Potomac Park to get a change of scenery, or take the free Southwest Shuttle Bus to the National Mall to museum hop. Note that The Wharf offers a free summer concert series every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Transit Pier.

When: See website for details
Where: 1100 Maine Ave., SW
Online: wharfdc.com

20. Yards of fun.
This place takes spraygrounds to another level – literally. Stop at the Dancing Fountains at the park’s entrance and then head to the Canal Basin and Waterwall, where guests can wade in the shallow pool or get blasted by the waterfall. Dry off by strolling through River Street Gardens or along the Boardwalk, a quarter-mile stretch that is part of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail System. And if that’s enough, check out one of the special summertime events. June 6 there’s an ice cream social and game night during which guests get a free mini scoop of ice cream while playing oversize games such as chess and Jenga.

When: See website for details
Where: 355 Water St., SE
Online: capitolriverfront.org

21. Have some watered-down fun.
Fairfax County’s Our Special Harbor is a fully accessible spray park at Lee District Park. The Chesapeake Bay-themed sprayground has a spraying osprey nest, Chessie the sea serpent, misting sunflowers and a lighthouse. The beach area has low-ley bubblers and interactive water tables, but for more of a shock, stand under the dumping crab bucket. Aquatic shoes with a back strap are required for children 15 and younger. Adults can wear flip-flops as long as they also have a back strap.

When: Weekends only through June 9, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Wednesday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. June 14-Sept. 2
Where: 6601 Telegraph Rd. (Franconia, VA)
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov

22. Float a boat.
Although many kids like to spend the summer submerged in a pool or ocean, the Anacostia Watershed Society invites them – and their grownups – to the surface. The Anacostia River Discovery Series has weekly events through October to get folks acquainted with the water. There are one- to two-hour canoe tours, motorized boat tours and paddle nights during which participants take one of the organization’s canoes or kayaks out on their own. For landlubbers, there are nature hikes and bike rides, too. Everyone in a boat needs a flotation device, and if you’re bringing a child younger than 3, bring your own.

When: Thursdays at 5:30 p.m., the first Saturday of the month through October at 10 a.m.
Where: Check website
Online: anacostiaws.org

23. Avoid summer brain drain.
Most public library systems have a program in which kids can read to dogs. The D.C. Public Library has the P.A.L. (People Animals Love) Dog Visit program for children ages 4-12. Kids can practice reading while snuggling or petting a furry friend. While at the library, grab a free summer reading program sheet, which many systems also offer. After kids read a certain number of books, they receive a coupon book or other reward.

When: Check website for details
Where: Check website for details
Online: dclibrary.org

24. Revel in the spoken word.
Twice a month, storytellers take to Mosaic District’s Strawberry Park to give interactive performances for the 10 and under set. In June, Barbara Effron of the Voices in the Glen storytelling guild will combine tales and music at the “Stories on Strawberry Lane” program. Stick around to play in the fountains or bring a ball or frisbee to toss on the expansive turf.

When: First and third Thursdays through Oct. 8, 10-11 a.m.
Where: 2905 District Ave. (Fairfax, VA)
Online: mosaicdistrict.com

25. Join a book club.
The American Girl store at Tysons Corner offers a monthly book club during which attendees can chat about American Girl stories, including the BeForever and Contemporary characters. Afterward, they do a craft and take home a goody bag. Reservations are required, and the age recommendation is 8 and up.

When: June 23, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Where: 8090 Tysons Corner Center (McLean, VA)
Online: americangirl.com

photo: erikvienneau via flickr

26. Find your Zen.
Bring a mat, towel and some water to the central plaza at Fairfax Corner to enjoy free yoga classes with instructors from CorePower Yoga. Classes are open to all levels, including kids. Afterward, grab a table or a spot on the comfy blue couch and cool off in the fountain.

When: Saturdays through Aug. 31, 8:30-9:30 a.m.
Where: 4100 Monument Corner Dr. (Fairfax, VA)
Online: fairfaxcorner.com

27. Get a tattoo.
OK, don’t really get a tattoo, but we got your attention, right? The U.S. Army Military District of Washington’s Twilight Tattoo program is an hourlong military pageant featuring soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” Listen as vocalists, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and others go back in American history.

When: Wednesdays and Thursdays through July 31, pre-ceremony pageantry at 6:30 p.m., show at 7 p.m.
Where: Summerall Field at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, 204 Lee Ave., Fort Myer
Online: twilight.mdw.army.mil

28. Go back to school.
But just to the playground. Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School, has a pretty sweet playground that is open to the public when school isn’t in session. The play equipment, made of natural materials – as opposed to brightly colored plastic and metal – includes a rock wall, ropes courses, slides, monkey bars, swings and balance challenges.

When: Daily, dawn to dusk with school is out, 6 p.m. to dusk when it’s in session
Where: 3500 Woodley Rd., NW
Online: beauvoirschool.org

29. Get rec’d.
Arlington County Parks and Recreation’s Rec on Wheels summer program brings recreation to you. Staff members will be at parks weekly to provide activities and programming for all ages. In July and August, there are special events on select Fridays, too.

When: Mondays-Thursdays, June 24-Aug. 15, 6-8 p.m.
Where: Check website
Online: parks.arlingtonva.us

30. Skate through summer.
Get weekly free admission to Skate Zone through the Kids Skate Free program. Open to kiddos ages 12 and younger, skate rental does come at a cost of $4.50. Additionally, the rink has partnered with the Anne Arundel County Public Library for the 5th Annual Read and Roll Program. Kids who sign up for the Summer @ Your Library program get a Skate Zone bookmark that’s good for five free admissions.

When: Wednesdays, 6:30-9 p.m., Fridays, 7-9 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, 1-3 p.m.
Where: 1082 Route 3 (South Crofton, MD) 
Online: sk8zone.com

—Stephanie Kanowitz


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