Category Archives: Indoor Play

Where to Play on the Weekdays: July 10-14

Taking in the spectacular bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Monday – Visit Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, where the lotus flowers and water lilies in bloom are a stunning sight! The wonderful, annual festival to celebrate it is this coming weekend, but it’s also nice to take in the beauty of it all without the crowds. Meander through the park to see ponds full of giant lily pads and dazzling flora, walk out on the boardwalk to take in views of the acres of marshland, and look out for turtles, great blue herons, frogs, and other wildlife. And did I mention this gorgeous oasis is all right in Northeast DC? Hours are 9am – 5pm. Admission is free.

Tuesday – Take the money tour at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It’s a great outing with kids while they’re on summer break from school, since tours are only offered on weekdays. Tours run every 15 minutes 9am – 6pm. Admission is free, but tickets are required, and you can pick them up at the booth on Raoul Wallenburg Place starting at 8am. Read more about the experience in this KFDC post about one of our outings there.

Wednesday – See art come to life at the National Portrait Gallery through Portraits Alive!, a theatrical tour of the museum’s collections performed by teens from DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program. The journey takes visitors to a variety of portraits as the students perform biographical portrayals of the people represented in the photographs, paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints. Tours are at 12-1pm and 1:30-2:30pm, and they’re being offered Tuesday – Friday this week. Admission is free. And if you’re with really little ones who might get antsy on the tour, take them to the museum’s Explore! with the Portrait Gallery activity space especially for young visitors.

Thursday – Watch The Amazing Max perform his extraordinary magic show at Strathmore’s Backyard Theatre for Children. The annual summer entertainment series for kids takes place on Thursdays in July. Performances are at 9:30am and 11:30am. Tickets are $8.

Friday – Join Bonjour Mama to celebrate Bastille Day, Le 14 Juillet, with French stories and songs led by Madame Jackie from the popular French storytime at the Cleveland Park library. The session takes place from 10:30-11:15am at the Bon Jour Mama French Bookstore in Kensington, MD. Admission is free.

For an activity with older kids, go to Great Falls. Whether you opt for the Maryland or Virginia side, you really can’t go wrong. Enjoy scenic views of the falls and rapids from several overlooks, hike easy trails along the river or through the woods, and stop in the Visitor Center — there’s one on each side — to learn more about the area’s history and wildlife. Read a bit more about Great Falls Park in this post on the area’s best outdoor spots to spend a beautiful day with the kids.

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Filed under 2017, All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Story Time, Summer, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays

Badlands Play Space Offers Mountains of Indoor Adventures

Having go-to places for indoor recreation is essential, in my opinion. And when one offers everything from active play to creative explorations to learning experiences to relaxation, you definitely want it among your picks.

This is Badlands Play Space. The brand new facility in Rockville, MD, is a one-stop shop for adventures that take place inside. Nature-inspired and full of interactive pursuits for children 2-13 years old, it’s a place where kids can exercise both their bodies and minds in a variety of ways.

Designed to look like the outdoors, a mountain of faux boulders and “grassy” hillside are the centerpiece of the space with a green turf-covered floor. This is where kids can be active. They can climb up rocks to the peak or ascend using ropes, then whiz down slides. They can run up slopes, then roll down them or slide through a tunnel. Little spelunkers can crawl through a cave and emerge on the opposite side.

A path made to look like a dusty trail loops the mountain, and when we visited, a few kids were giving each other rides in a double wagon they fashioned together in the building area (more on that below). Real birch trees line a section of the path, with another small play area on the other side. Guests can walk across a footbridge, hop among tree stumps, and balance on “fallen” tree branches. A little rock garden adds to the outdoor aesthetic.

Beyond the mountain is the Workshop, a spacious room filled with all kinds of stations for creative and constructive activities. Kids can craft parachutes to fly in a wind tunnel, build marble runs, mold clay, play in a giant bin of LEGOs, and design with a variety of materials supplied. Staff are there to help and encourage innovation. And a nature film playing on one wall offers inspiration, too.

Right on the other side of a glass wall from the Workshop is the exhibit area, which will change out periodically. Right now it’s a lovely butterfly garden filled with plants and flowers, chrysalises on view, and, of course, butterflies.

There is also a building room where kids can do even more tinkering. There are wooden parts that fit together, crates to stack, and other materials to create everything from forts to those double wagons. And right next to that room is a theater with comfy seating and a large screen, where kids can chill out as educational programming is shown.

They keep accompanying adults in mind, too! A cafe is located right next to the mountain, so parents and caregivers can hang out while they watch the children play. It’s also convenient for a snack break or lunch.

Badlands isn’t just a destination for everyday play, it’s also a place for special celebrations. There are four fantastic, spacious pavilions available for parties, and they’ll take care of everything from the food to decor to leading the kids in play. For further information about birthdays email

Ready to play the day away? Badlands is located at 5200 Randolph Road in Rockville, MD. Admission is $22.50/child and $12.50/toddler per day, and they offer memberships and monthly rates which make for big discounts! Hours are 9am – 6pm Tuesday through Sunday.

Disclosure: Badlands hosted us for a play session, so we could experience the play space, however, all opinions expressed here and any decisions to write a review are entirely my own.

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Filed under Eats, Educational, Indoor Play, Maryland, Ongoing, Party, Play, Weekdays, Weekend

The Weekend Round-Up: July 7-9

Catch exciting shows under the Big Top at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

From big special events to mellow adventures, there are so many cool things to do with the kids over the next few days. Happy Weekend!

Sound Scene X
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free

Listen to the solar system in real time, play a veggie keyboard, build wind chimes from recycled materials, compose melodies based on body temperature, construct a wall of silence, and choose your own audio adventure at the 10th annual Sound Scene! The one-day festival of interactive, playful, and thought-provoking audio art installations and sound games welcomes all ages to join. Presented by the Hirshhorn and underground sound collective DC Listening Lounge, the event unites local and global audio artists to transform the museum into a sonic wonderland highlighting the unique sounds of DC, centered on the theme of “dissonance.” And new this year are features for the deaf and hard of hearing to welcome more members of the Washington community, including original vibration compositions experienced through cutting-edge bodysuits, tactile chairs that let visitors feel a quartet composition, and American Sign Language interpreters and visual guides. Advance registration is recommended.

Summer in the City
Where: Throughout the area
When: All weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Enjoy activities that make this time of year so much fun. Start the weekend off on Friday with a free outdoor concert or an evening of fishing, then continue the fun on Saturday and Sunday with water play at a pool or spray park. Cool off indoors at special summer museum programs like free admission to the Newseum or HIVE at the Building Museum. Feast on crabs or hit the beach to fulfill a seasonal must-do. Complete it all with a family movie under the stars at National Harbor on Sunday night. Get details about all of these summer diversions and even more here.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Where: Between 7th & 12th Streets | National Mall, DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

This weekend is the last chance to experience the annual Festival celebrating living cultural heritage and community traditions. Visitors of all ages have ample opportunity to discover and enjoy Circus Arts and the migration of people to and in America through special exhibits, performances, exhibits, demos, and more, including plenty of activities especially for children. For specifics, see the festival schedule. And it all takes place right on the National Mall, where you can have even more adventures at all of the museums.

Where: National Building Museum | Judiciary Square, DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $16/adult, $13/youth & seniors

See what the buzz is about at HIVE, this year’s big Summer Block Party installation at the National Building Museum. Constructed of nearly 2,700 paper tubes and reaching almost 50 feet in the Great Hall, the exhibition invites visitors to explore sounds and light in three massive chambers that look like something out of a sci-fi flick. Admission gets you in to all of the exhibits at the NBM, so plan to spend some time checking out the rest of the museum, too.

Nats vs. Braves
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: Ticket prices vary

The Nats are hosting the Braves all weekend and there are a bunch of special evens and promotions to enjoy along with the baseball action of the field, including Taste of the World on Saturday and University of Maryland College Day on Sunday (go, Terps!). Before you plan your day at the ballpark, checkout these KFDC tips on how to do a Nats game without breaking the bank.

On the Fringe
Where: Theatres around DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by performances

It’s the first weekend of the Capital Fringe Festival, and while most of the entertainment lineup is best for adults, there are several shows that kids can enjoy. Agora Dance presents The Kind of Thing that Would Happen. Hear free music in the courtyard at the Logan Fringe Arts Space. Take a musical journey with the Del Ray Players in LIFE: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts. See a comedy show involving aliens at One in Four. Those are just a few shows with the all-ages tag; there are many more for ages 13 and up to entertain tweens, teens, and adults. More details and ticket sales are on the Capital Fringe Festival website. And, parents, consider catching a performance for a KidFree night out!

Art Investigators
Where: National Gallery of Art | National Mall, DC
When: Saturday, 10:30am/12pm & Sunday, 11:30am/1pm
Admission: Free

Drop in to the National Gallery of Art as the museum’s wonderful program for children ages 4-7 returns — with a new name! Formerly Stories in Art, Art Investigators introduces kids to art and encourages them to make observations and use their imaginations as they discover different works. During this weekend’s sessions, they’ll explore the art of Helen Frankenthaler. Read a KFDC review of the program from the early KFDC years (it’s old, but still relevant, as the program is very much the same). Sign-in takes place in the East Building Atrium, starting at 10am on Saturday and 11am on Sunday.

Run of the Mill
Where: Peirce Mill | Rock Creek Park, DC
When: Saturday, 11am – 2pm
Admission: Free

All ages are welcome to see the 2,000-pound millstone convert corn to cornmeal using good old-fashioned renewable energy of water. Miller Jeanne and Friends of Peirce Mill invite you to see DC’s only gristmill in action. Be sure to stop by Peirce Barn next door to explore the exhibits and enjoy children’s crafts. They will also be celebrating Rock Creek’s spring herring run with a special obstacle course for kids. Read more about Peirce Mill in this KFDC post.

The Magic of Spying: Tradecraft Trickery
Where: International Spy Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Saturday, 11am – 12pm
Tickets: $10, $9/members

In the real-life world of espionage, spies often call upon the art of magic and illusion to distract the enemy, make evidence disappear, and escape unnoticed. Join professional magician, Peter Wood, as he demonstrates the art of misdirection, sleight of hand, and other illusions used by skilled spies. This one of a kind performance, custom-designed for the Spy Museum, is guaranteed to fascinate children and adults alike. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

Show Time
Where: Theatres Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

* Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook is running at Adventure Theatre
* Silk Road Dance Company performs Shahnameh: Adventures from the Persian Book of Kings at Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods series
* Go down the rabbit hole for Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure at Imagination Stage
* And little ones will love Raton en Movimiento!, also playing at the theatre in Bethesda
* Relive the magic of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at Wolf Trap as the National Symphony Orchestra plays music from the film while the movie plays on a giant screen
* The UniverSoul Circus is wowing audiences at FedEx Field
* See a classic on stage as the Kennedy Center presents The Sound of Music
* See another classic on strings as The Puppet Co. presents The Wizard of Oz
* And Mother Goose Caboose is the featured Tiny Tots show at the puppet theatre in Glen Echo
* Hedwig and the Angry Inch is running at the Kennedy Center and recommended for ages 12 and up
* Make it a KidFree outing at a performance of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s The School for Lies
* My Fair Lady at Olney Theatre is recommended for ages 10 and up
* Catch Shakespeare in the Park As the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company brings The Tempest to PFI Historic Park in Ellicott City, MD

Your Eclipse Family Day
Where: National Air & Space Museum | National Mall, DC
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Late this summer, a solar eclipse will cross the entire United States, coast to coast. Join Air & Space for a day of special programming designed to get you excited about the August 21 event. Learn about the science of eclipses, make your own safe solar eclipse viewer, plan how you’ll observe the eclipse in August, and learn how to photograph the eclipse from experienced astrophotographers.

Harry Potter Summer Screening Series
Where: AFI Silver Theater | Silver Spring, MD
When: Saturday, 11am
Admission: $5

As the beloved Harry Potter book series marks its 20th anniversary, the American Film Institute is hosting a summer-long project to screen every single Harry Potter film! It kicks off this Saturday with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and will continue every week through August 26 until are the movies have played. Wizards and muggles welcome.

Family Fun Elephant Pot Workshops 
Where: Sackler Gallery | National Mall, DC
When: Saturday, 1-3pm & 3-5pm
Admission: $25

District Clay Center will be hosting Yari Lavin, a Cambodian potter for two family friendly workshops. Livan, whose own elephant pot is featured in the Sackler exhibition, has re-interpreted these ancient pieces and will work with students to make, carve, and glaze their own Elephant Pots, which the District Clay Center will then fire, and the handmade pots can be picked up about three weeks after the workshop.  Attendees will receive a signed certificate that reveals more about the history of elephant pots in Cambodian culture and a Yary’s own amazing journey. Choose from one of two workshop times.

Kids in the Castle
Where: Heurich House Museum | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Saturday, 11am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Heurich House Museum will once again open its doors for free, kid-friendly, self-guided tours. Kids in the Castle gives families the chance to explore the ornate details of the Heurich. Children and parents are invited to wander through the house at their own pace and complete a photo scavenger hunt to win prizes. Once visitors have finished their tour, they can relax and play games in the museum’s Castle Garden, enjoying the summer sun in the convenient Dupont Circle oasis.

The Nextival
Where: Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds | Crownsville, MD
When: Saturday, 11am – 10pm
Admission: $15, free for ages 12 and under

The Nextival musical festival is a day of entertainment and fun for the whole fam, featuring 50 food trucks and vendors, 15 bands and performers, 10 moon bounces, and three stages. There will also be two helicopters offering rides to downtown Annapolis and back, plus 400 pounds of Legos and Duplos, arts and crafts for the kids, and fun outdoor games like Cornhole.  Check out the website for the lineup of live music.

The “Write” Stuff Family Research & Literacy Day
Where: National Archives | National Mall, DC
When: Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Do you love reading, learning new things and writing?  Do you want to learn more about what it is like to do research and write stories?  This is the program for you! Bring the whole family and enjoy hands-on activities and engage with authors and illustrators Marty Rhodes Figley, Syl Sobel, John Hendrix, Janet Macreery, and Diane Kidd & Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp, Tim Grove, and Tonya Bolden.  You will also get to watch a  live recording of the “Book Club for Kids” podcast with Kitty Felde, discover literacy and research organizations and their available resources, view DC National History Day project finalists, and more!

Kick it with Spirit
Where: Maureen Hendricks Field, Maryland SoccerPlex | Boyds, MD
When: Saturday, 3pm
Admission: Tickets start at $25

The United aren’t the only soccer game in town. Women’s pro soccer team, Washington Spirit, plays in Germantown, and this weekend they’re hosting the Orlando Pride at home. Per a KFDC reader: “You get affordable tickets and concessions, picnic seating behind the goal, a really intimate, family-friendly environment and top-level soccer.”

Grand Re-opening Celebration
Where: MOM’s Organic Market | Alexandria, VA
When: Friday, Saturday & Sunday
Admission: Free

MOM’s Organic Market is celebrating its 30th anniversary and the reopening of its Alexandria location with a weekend-long event. As they show off the huge expansion of one of their original stores, guests can enjoy all kind of special festivities: Live music from MOM’s employee, mr. daywalker; kids’ activities, local tastings,henna art, giveaways, meet and greets with local conservation groups, and much more!

HBD, Alexandria!
Where: Oronoco Bay Park | Alexandria, VA
When: Saturday, 5-10pm
Admission: Free

The City of Alexandria will celebrate its 268th (and the USA’s 241st belated) birthdays this weekend. Enjoy festivities for the entire family, including musical entertainment, children’s activities, community exhibits, and birthday cake. The highlight of the evening is a concert by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra and fireworks to close out the celebration.

Full STEAM Ahead: Saltwater vs. Freshwater
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Solomons, DC
When: Sunday, 1-4pm
Admission: Free

Families are invited to join this program designed for preschool children and their caretakers. Visit the artLAB at Annmarie for hands-on investigations and challenges that will help children explore, observe, ask questions, and make predictions about the world around them as they create and play. Make time to explore the ground while you’re there, particularly the annual Fairies in the Garden exhibit!

Baltimore, Hon!
Where: Inner Harbor Area | Baltimore, MD
When: All Weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Head up I-95 for a change of city scenery. Explore the exhibits and loads of hands-on activities at the Maryland Science Center. See some of the quirkiest, coolest art ever at the American Visionary Art Museum. Play the day away at Port Discovery. Get an eyeful of the underwater world at the National Aquarium. Tour the historic ships at the Inner Harbor. Or view history in the works at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Walks in the Woods
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Hit the trail with the fam to enjoy the sunshine and some quality time. See flowers in bloom, tramp in places with scenic views, hike and explore history at interesting locales, and enjoy a day of active fun. This post, started in the early KFDC days and updated several times since, has a a bunch of recommendations for good walks in the woods with the kids.

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