17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

DC for Tots

When we were planning our move from New York to DC, I kept thinking how great it will be when our kids are school-aged so we can take them to all of the amazing museums and historical sites in the area. Turns out, we've discovered a few fun things to do around DC in the meantime, while the kids are young. Here are some of our favorite places to take our boys (ages 2 and 4) in the DC Area:

1. National Building Museum: Hidden upstairs amongst the architectural wonders and exhibits is a really fun interactive construction zone designed with active young kids in mind. Kids can build their own structures with bright and child-friendly materials, play in the playhouse or read books about buildings and construction. We have spent a few fun afternoons in this room and it has never been crowded.

2. National Aquarium: This place is a bit of a secret since it is located in the basement of the Department of Commerce. Although it doesn't begin to
compare to its Baltimore counterpart, there is a cool Touch Tank that your more adventurous kids will enjoy and lots of variety of underwater wildlife to see. Another plus, it is very conveniently located just off the Mall.

3. National Museum of Natural History: Ok...this was my least favorite museum on the National Mall until I had kids. Younger kids will enjoy Dinosaur Hall, full of dinosaur skeletons, the rooms full of rocks and gems, and the O. Orkin Insect Zoo where they have a huge beehive and lots of critters that generally make my skin crawl, including "Big Bob" a huge tarantula. Of course, this is my kids' favorite room!

4. US Botanical Garden: Check out the Children's Garden. It is an outdoor area with a miniature house, fountains, and pails for the kids to play with.

5. National Air and Space Museum: Younger kids can climb into old airplanes and spaceships and see them overhead and experience the "How Things Fly" exhibit. There is also a cool planetarium (Albert Einstein Planetarium). Every time we go to this museum, my boys take a greater interest in it.

6. National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden: It is sort-of in the middle of the National Mall and houses some amazing modern works. To my kids, it the place with the cool water fountain where they can take off their shoes and splash. A most excellent place to cool off if you are touring the Mall during the summer.

7. Theodore Roosevelt Island: Located between DC and Virginia on the Potomac River, just north of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. There is a memorial for Teddy R, but also some fun, easy hiking trails around the island with great views of Georgetown and Downtown DC.

8. Clemyjontri Playground. Need to let the kids run for a couple of hours? Come here, the Disneyland of all Playgrounds, located just a few minutes outside of the District. Just try to avoid the CIA headquarters entrance, which is next door. I have found myself there by mistake more than once, a real tribute to my driving skills. Luckily, there is an exit and you can leave without interrogation.

9. National Zoo. OK, so this isn't my favorite zoo of all time, but it is free. Personally, I like looking at the neighborhood that surrounds the zoo (Woodley Park), more than the animals. The panda bears and the monkeys are especially fun to see here and there is a nice petty zoo for the kiddies.

10. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A modern palace devoted to the performing arts, the Kennedy Center has daily evening free programs geared for families at their Millenium Stage. You usually have to reserve way in advanced for one of these shows, however. Nearby in Northern Virginia, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts offers 'Children's Theatre in the Woods' during the months of July and August. The quality of the shows is excellent and it is a fun time to bring a picnic, enjoy the outdoors and take in a show all at the same time.

A Couple More Suggestions:

*Bring food and plenty of water along during your day in DC, especially if you are going to spend the day in and around the National Mall. Our experience is that museum cafes are overpriced and the food is average at best. It is a long walk, even to find a McDonalds, from the Mall area. I seem to have to learn this lesson over and over.

*DC has a huge homeless population. You might want to figure out your strategy beforehand. I try and bring granola bars to give out, but I often forget.

*We are much happier when we take the MetroRail into the city and avoid traffic and parking (plus, the boys love the train ride). While not as plentiful as New York, metro stops are convenient to most areas in the Distric. One notable exception being the Georgetown area.

*If you can plan your trip for the autumn or spring (except for Spring Break time), do it! It will be a much more pleasant experience to avoid the heat and the crowds. We pretty much avoid the District in the summer and relocate to our neighborhood pool instead.

*Enjoy your time in DC! It is a great city to explore, even with young children, and best of all....most attractions are FREE of charge!


  • wonderful! You started with one of my favorite places!

    We lived in the DC area when our kids were small. A few of our favorite "secrets":

    - The Smithsonian museums are open on thanksgiving (and every other day except Christmas), and no one is there!

    - The National Symphony Orchestra rehearses for its summer outdoor concerts. When we discovered that (by accident), only a handful of folks were watching. By the time we left DC in 1994, there were hundreds -- but still many fewer, and much more tolerant of wandering toddlers, than the crowd for the "real thing."

    - The military band concerts (nearly every night all summer) are similarly kid-friendly.

    - "Alexandria's Washington Monument" - where else can you get history (a restored lock from the Alexandria Canal) plus a whimsical scupture/fountain (including a set of disembodied lips that spay water). See http://www.susanstafford.net/work7.htm
    posted by Blogger J at 7/30/2007 07:20:00 AM  

  • We love living here there are truly so many things to see and do! Even in the dead of winter.
    posted by Anonymous kara at 7/30/2007 08:15:00 AM  

  • This is great. It makes me want to plan a trip to DC!
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 7/30/2007 08:15:00 AM  

  • Thanks for this post! Both sets of grandparents live in DC, so we're here all the time (like now). We haven't really tried to take the kids into the city yet, but we'll want to pretty soon (they're 2.5 and 1). This list looks like a great place to start!
    posted by Anonymous Vada at 7/30/2007 01:32:00 PM  

  • I grew up in the DC area and I'm so excited for T to get bigger so that I can take him to the cool museums and stuff that I used to go to when I was little. Thanks for this list. I'll definitely keep it on hand for whenever we travel home to visit the grandparents.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 7/30/2007 04:01:00 PM  

  • We went to DC a few Thanksgivings ago and really enjoyed it. This is a great list--it is a great place to see!
    posted by Blogger Katie at 7/30/2007 07:19:00 PM  

  • I lived in DC for a few years, and it really is a great town. The theatre was good to me...I am actually going to be singing at the National Theatre in December, so I might make it a longer weekend and hit some of these spots with my kids. I highly recommend the train (even though it is annoying to swipe in AND out), b/c driving in DC is truly the worst place EVER...and I learned to drive stick on the streets of Chicago, and I currently drive in NYC...so that's saying something.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 7/31/2007 06:58:00 AM  

  • I love your list! I live in No VA the past 2 years and have taken my children into DC many times so this give me more things off the beat path. Have you been to the "Awakening" (buried Gaint)? It is over on Hains Point, by the Jefferson Memorial. In the Spring a great cherry blossom viewing area. :D
    posted by Blogger delilas at 8/01/2007 07:18:00 AM  

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