The weather outside has been downright frightful. Keep those mittens and scarves at the ready and keep cozy this winter by visiting these entertaining and educating exhibits at the Districts finest and funnest museums. Funnest is totally a word, right? Venture out of your four walls and find fun with the kiddos today. Stay warm DC!
National Building Museum
The National Building Museum explores architecture through design, construction, and engineering. There are two distinct areas where children can experience the process first-hand. The Building Zone — geared towards kids 2 to 6 years of age — lets little ones stack and balance faux bricks, drive a miniaturized bulldozer, and romp around a “green” playhouse for up to 45 minutes (This area is included in the cost of admission, but you can opt to skip the other exhibits and pay just $3 per child). The other — Play Work Build — has foam blocks of varying sizes allowing adults and children alike to build and demolish their own creations.
Open: Monday-Saturday, 10 am-5 pm; Sunday, 11 am-5 pm
Cost: $10/adults, $7/kids (3 and up)
401 F St., NW
Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
The preschool set can fight the chill and take part in the Hirshorn’s library and art pop up program on any given Saturday this winter. It’s easy peasey to do too. Grab a parent’s hand and find a gallery cart full of fun kits with real finds. Each kit combines a special theme with adventures in reading, suggested artwork to view and real hands-on art materials to help little ones create their own masterpieces.
Independence Ave., SW & 7th St., SW
College Park Aviation Museum
If the little ones in your brood love airplanes, the College Park Aviation Museum is a must-see. Ten full-sized airplanes fill the space—some let kids crawl in and play around, while others are hung high above your head. But before you hit the cockpit, make sure to grab a pilot’s jacket and helmet. Swing by the museum on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month for Peter Pan Club, a meet up for preschoolers that features aviation story time and craft workshops.
Cost: $4/adult; $2/kids
1985 Corporal Frank Scott Dr. (College Park, Md)
From dress up, to grocery shopping, and a president’s corner, you might just have to spend the entire day here. With more than a dozen themed play areas, you and your tots won’t have time to get bored. Buy Playseum Dollars from the front desk so that the kiddos can use them to decorate a cookie, paint a ceramic plate, or create candy lip balm! And check out their weekly happenings, like Moms are Free Mondays and Five Dollar Fridays.
7000 Wisconsin Ave. (Bethesda, Md)
National Portrait Gallery
this winter. Tiny tots ages 18 months up to eight years will love the kid-friendly space designed just for them. The Explore! Exhibit will teach little ones about portraiture by asking them questions like, “What is a portrait?” “How does my face show emotions to other people? and “How do I see myself?” This is a place for noise, touching and all the things tiny hands and mouth like to do but can’t when in the usual portrait gallery.
National Museum of the American Indian
On the third level of the National Museum of the American Indian, you’ll find the imagiNATIONS Activity Center, where kids learn how to interact with the environment around them. They’ll weave baskets from different material, see different types of houses made from wood or mud, and even learn to walk in snowshoes! Snuggle up in a cornerwith a book about Native cultures or make some noise with the percussion instruments scattered around.
4th St. and Independence Ave., SW (L’Enfant Plaza)
Children's Museum of Richmond
This museum may be a day trip away, but it’s totally worth it! Little ones stay busy playing with solar powered Sun Tubes, fixing a car, picking play-apples from an apple tree, and creating their own masterpieces in the Art Studio. When the weather is warm explore the Backyard, which features waterworks, a sandbox, and good ol’ green grass. Don’t forget to hop on the $2/ride carousel. Bonus: If you have older kids in your crew, split up with grown-ups and let them check out the Science Museum of Richmond that’s just next door.
2626 West Broad St. (Richmond, Va)
National Postal Museum
If you’ve never checked out the National Postal Museum (or didn’t even know it existed), you’re not alone–many locals overlook this NoMa gem for its flashier counterparts on the National Mall. But, for kids, this free Smithsonian Institution is a slam dunk since the museum encourages visitors to feel, climb into, sit in, and throw–yes, throw!–many of its exhibits. In addition to a ridiculously extensive stamp collection (little stamp lovers will be in heaven), read on to find out some of the museum’s other kid-approved features.
2 Massachusetts Ave., NE (Union Station)
Hours: Daily, 10 am-5:30 pm
B&O Railroad Museum
Train loving kids will likely lose their marbles at this historic landmark. The museum invites little ones (and their grown-ups to see, touch, hear and explore one of the largest railroad collections in the country. For the under-eight set, the museum’sChoo Choo Blue Kid Zone is a must visit. On weekends there are story and activity times, and there’s always a train table or two for kiddos to tinker with.
Cost: $18/adults; $12/kids
901 W. Pratt St. (Baltimore)
National Museum of American History
The collection of Smithsonian museums are a treasure trove of exploration, but for hands-on, interactive fun make a bee-line for the National Museum of American History, which has features interactive learning experiences for newborns to middle schoolers. Wegman’s Wonderplace is designed for the youngest visitors (0 to 6) with plenty of opportunity to explore pint-sized versions of the Smithsonian’s most popular exhibits, from a kid-sized version of Julia’s kitchen to a smaller version of The Castle. Spark!Lab — for ages of 6 and 12 — lets visitors explore the invention process from start to finish.
Open: Daily, 10 am-5:30 pm
14th St and Constitution Aves., NW
Loudoun Heritage Farm Museums
This hidden gem (tucked in Claude Moore Park) offers a unique, historic experience. Kids can play with authentic artifacts, like the antique cash register in the Waxpool General Store or make-believe they are cooking dinner in Grandma’s Kitchen (complete with a rocking chair on the front porch). The Children’s Farm has a faux egg collecting station, a cow to milk, life-sized stuffed animals, a puppet theater, and a plethora of books about farms and animals.
Cost: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors/military, $3 for children 2-12
21668 Heritage Farm Ln. (Sterling, Va)
National Museum of Natural History
For the 10 and under set, the exhibit space Q?rius (housed inside the Natural History museum) offers drawers brimming with curiosities. Your pint-sized explores will enjoy digging through drawers filled with rocks, minerals, insects and more. When your kids are done exploring the natural world, they can explore the cultures of the world in the same space! There are also drawers filled with clothing and dolls from other countries.
10th Street and Constitution Aves., NW
Port Discovery Children’s Museum
This museum often tops the "best of" in nationwide lists. And for good reason! The three-story climbing-maze-treehouse alone is worth the visit! Kids can explore a 1950s diner, an Egyptian tomb, an indoor soccer stadium (complete with a score board), The third Friday of every month is just $2 from 4 pm to close.
Cost: $14.95 general admission (2 and up)
35 Market Place (Baltimore, Md)
Children’s Science Center
In case you haven’t heard, a whopping 50,000 square foot science museum is slated to open at Kincora in the Dulles in 2019. But in the meantime, you’ll find a scaled-down version aptly named “The Lab” in Fair Oaks Mall. Kids 2 and up can experience science through four distinct areas - the Experiment Bar, the Inspiration Hub, the Tinker Hub and the Discovery Zone. a water play area and more.
When: Open, 10:00 am-8:00 pm
Cost: $12 general admission; 2 and under are free
11948 Fair Oaks Mall (Fairfax, Va)
Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum
This small, super-interactive museum features three floors and a roof top terrace full of fun for the 1 to 12 set. Some of the new exhibits include a real ambulance with lights and hands on tools to role play a rescue and a full size triceratops bone structure and a paleontology bone digging area. The roof-top terrace has a life-size checkers game, shade pavilion, and gardens.
Cost: $8; Free/kids under 2
16 W. Cork St. (Winchester, Va)
Which museum does your tot like to hang out at? Tell us in the comments section below.
—Victoria Mason and Ayren Jackson-Cannady
Photos courtesy of Playseum via Facebook, Ayren Jackson-Cannady, Children’s Museum of Richmond via Facebook, National Building Museum via Facebook, College Park Aviation Museum via Facebook, Elvert Barnes via Creative Commons, B&O Railroad Museum via Facebook