With nearly three extra hours of darkness to fill during the winter months, it can be a challenge figuring out fun ways to keep kids busy and active before bedtime (that don’t involve vegging out in front of the TV). D.C. may not be “the city that never sleeps,” but we can brag about a robust after-dark scene for school-agers. Here, we’ve rounded up our favorite family activities for after the sun sets. Leave the flashlights at home!


IMAX and Planetariums
Movie-loving kids (of all ages) will dig catching an evening flick at one of the Smithsonian’s three IMAX theatres or planetarium. Little ones can zoom through outer space in Undiscovered Worlds while learning all about how stars are born. Older kids will space out while watching Hubble 3D or beg for surf lessons after seeing The Ultimate Wave Tahiti.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy. (Chantilly, Va)
National Air and Space Museum
6th St. and Independence Ave., SW (L’Enfant Plaza)
National Museum of Natural History
10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW (National Mall)
Times:  Call for times
Cost: $9/adults; $7.50/kids
Ages: 4 and up


Smithsonian Sleepovers
Sleeping with the fishes gets a whole new meaning when you head to a Smithsonian Sleepover at the Museum of Natural History. After the doors close for the day, kids and their grownups put on their exploring hats, and venture into the Hall of Dinosaurs (check out T-Rex!), peek into Mammal Hall, and check out some fossils that are half a billion years old! Visitors then hike over to the IMAX theatre where Born to Be Wild plays before hitting the sack in Ocean Hall. You’ll sleep under Phoenix the Whale, who’ll have your little adventurer dreaming of underwater treasures.

Where: 10th and Constitution Aves., NW (National Mall)
When: Fri.-Sat.; 2014 dates released Jan. 15
Cost: $135/ parent and child duo
Ages: 8 and up
Online: smithsoniansleepovers.org


Pizza and Stars at Madame Tussauds
Kids (and grownups) will get a behind the scenes look at creating the wax figures (more than 200 body measurements and 800 hours of sculpting, in case you were wondering). After little ones chow down on pizza, finish the night by signing a declaration in the “Oval Office,” and taking pictures with the wax figures of celebrities, sport stars, and all 44 presidents.

Where: 1001 F. St., NW (Metro Center)
When: Daily, call for times
Cost: $33
Ages: All
Online: madametussauds.com


Monuments by Moonlight Tours
Take your budding politician out and show them the district by moonlight. It’s obviously free to scoot around on your own, but if you want to impart a history lesson as well, hop on an Old Town Trolley for their Monuments by Moonlight tour. Not only will the monuments and memorials glow in the moonlight, but the little ones will love climbing in and out of the trolley as you make your way around town. Tour guides regale riders with stories of D.C.’s founding, where the ghosts reside (hint: one’s in a really famous presidential bedroom), and exactly how tall the Washington Monument stands.

Where: Meet at Union Station
Times: 7 pm
Cost: $39/adults; $29/kids (buy tickets online to save 10 percent)
Ages: All
Online: trustedtours.com

How do you entertain your kids after dark? Tell us in the comments section below. 

—Hilary Riedemann

Photos courtesy of Hilary Riedemann, Old Town Trolley Tours via Facebook, walkdesign13, H&XL via Flickr