This holiday season rather than spending your money on another toy that will just take up space, why not invest in giving your family an experience? Whether it’s a family membership to a local museum or a weekend at a nearby resort, nothing is more precious than the gift of time and creating memories. We’ve rounded up some fun experiences that everyone in your clan will be sure to love.
photo Woodloch Resort
Rink Up for Frozen Fun
Ice skates under the tree add a touch of nostalgia to Christmas morning, but you don’t need to splurge on the footwear to recreate scenes from your mini Elsa’s favorite icy kingdom. Washington Harbor lets you purchase Gift Cards in advance. Or print-your-own tickets for a raincheck on family fun. For a list of ice skating rinks in the DMV, go here.
Walk Through a Winter Wonderland
Want to make the Big Day dazzle even more? Grab the hats, gloves and thermoses (note: fill with hot chocolate) and head to one of the area’s holiday light displays. For a truly impressive (and guaranteed memorable) night, check out Enchant DC, the world’s largest Christmas light maze at Nationals Park. An evening at Enchant is a storybook come to life. Glide along the ice-skating trail underneath light-adorned arches. Take in live performances and be serenaded by carolers. Enjoy storytime with Mrs. Claus and don’t forget to thank Santa for your presents. Go here for the DC guide to area light shows.
photo: Woodloch Resort
Go For Frozen Thrills (and Chills!)
Adrenaline junkies will thrill at the sight of snow tubing tickets and—naturally—a snow tube on Dec. 25. The snow tube might not actually fit in their stocking ,but the tickets will (hint: put the tube in one a super-sized Santa sack). Snow tubing details.
photo: Theme Photos via Unsplash
Bake Up Family Fun
Skip the Num Noms Baking Oven and let take a hands-on class with your favorite mini baker. You can construct a three-layer Birthday Cake (think: the best funfetti cake you’ve ever had in your life) at Milk Bar Or learn how to measure, combine, sift, calculate and follow recipes at Tiny Chef’s Baking Bootcamp (classes are geared for kids 3-6 with adult participation). Baking class details.
Sew Much Quality Time
If glue sticks and crayons have run their course, get a Singer and sign-up for a sewing class. Three Little Birds Sewing Co.’s Mommy & Me Sewing Classes are for ages 5-12. During the class you’ll both learn how to use a sewing machine and make a pillowcase (and a second one for you if there’s enough time). Don’t worry, you can take this class even if you don’t have a machine, since the three hour class comes with use of the machines (and thread!). Sewing class details.
photo: Bernard Hermant via Unsplash
No longer are art classes just for kids. At Metamorphosis Art Enrichment Center, parents and their kids benefit from swirling colors around a palette, squishing papier mache between their fingers and dirtying their hands with charcoal. If you feel the need to always color in the lines while your little one is pushing you out of the way to make wide messy strokes then head to Metamorphosis where you and the kiddos can get your art on. Separate classes for kids and parents let their inner Jackson Pollock shine while you channel Cezanne. Art class details.
Port Discovery Children’s Museum
Explore a giant maze, climb through an urban treehouse, explore 1920s Egypt, and wiggle in a bubble hoop—all under one roof. For year-round fun, choose from three membership levels (Basic, Plus, and Fan), all of which include unlimited visits (for either a family of four or six), free access to member-only events, express entry (no lines!), and discounts at the museum store and on party packages. Tip: with the “Plus” or “Fan” membership, you can get 50% off admission to other museums, like the National Children’s Museum in Inner Harbor and KID Museum in Bethesda. Family memberships start at: $105 for two adults, two children ($27/each). Museum details.
Children’s Science Center
Tinker with circuits and dissect toys. Experiment with light and shadow or explore the fundamentals of biology. Maneuver a giant robotic arm named—wait for it—Armstrong. And do it all inside Fair Oaks Mall! Imbedded in the community, you’ll want to take the kids again and again—and it’s all the more affordable with a family membership. Family memberships starting at: $160 for two adults, two children (and two free guest passes). Science Center details.
Family Drive-In Theatre
So you want to bring the family dog, keep the baby in her cozy car seat, eat a taco salad, and gaze up at the stars—while watching Frozen II on the big screen? We’ve got you covered. The Family Drive-In Theatre, making minivans of squirming children happy since 1956, just might be the perfect way for you to enjoy a movie with your kiddos. They can engage in pre-show shenanigans on the playground and munch on a kids’ meal (with accompanying drink, fries, and fruit snack) during the movie. And don’t worry if you can’t use all the tickets in one year because the unused portion is credited towards the purchase of the following year’s season pass. 2020 Season passes start at: $42 for six adult tickets ($7/each), $12 for six child tickets (ages 3-11) ($2/each). Drive-In details.
FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo)
With just four visits to the zoo, the family membership (“Premier” level) pays for itself! Spend more time ogling the pandas and less time searching for street parking. No arguments about riding the carousel or buying a beverage, either, because both are included. Forgot your monstrosity of a jogging stroller? Enjoy a discounted stroller rental and let your tykes rest their legs. Family memberships starting at: $84 for two adults, two children. Zoo details.
National Building Museum
Watching kids gawk at construction sites is one of the more puzzling (but endearing) experiences of parenthood. Let your kids experience that magic without the dust particulates while you sip a latte with a family membership at the National Building Museum. They can assemble and knock down blocks every day in the Building Zone—and, of course, you all can enjoy the rest of the exhibitions at any time. Also take advantage of the free access to special family programs, and celebrate birthdays by booking a room in the museum. Family memberships starting at: $90 for two adults, two children
photo: Guiomar Ochoa
They had us at “Giant Waxy Tree Frog” and “Fairy Basselets”—really, the menagerie of animals at the National Aquarium is one-of-a-kind. And, with a family membership, you’ll be able to stomach the (admittedly considerable) expense a bit easier. Get reduced prices on food while you’re there, and receive a free subscription to their magazine, Watermarks, to continue your aquatic adventure even after you’re back at home. Aquarium details.
What’s more exciting than going on a roller coaster? Getting to go again and again. And again! Virtually every amusement park and theme park offers seasons passes. Give the gift that keeps on giving with an annual pass to your thrill ride enthusiast. Or stuff their stockings with an epic adventure— tickets to Universal Studios—or promise them a day at the most magical place on earth with passes to, you guessed it, The Magic Kingdom. Amusement park details.
Make Vacation Memories
There are many clever ways to wrap up a future vacay. Include a puzzle of an upcoming destination under the tree. Or buy a guide book so the youngest members of your family can help plan the future excursion (you don’t have to read to pick out the best pictures!). Spend the day exploring our local area. Or go for a weekend trip. Road trip details.
—Guiomar Ochoa, Meghan Yudes Meyers, Ayren Jackson-Cannady, Kelly Ann Jacobson and Katie Brown