Category Archives: Weekdays

Scenes from the National Gallery of Art East Building

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It’s been a few months since the reopening of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building. The wing that houses museum’s modern and contemporary collections was closed for several years while it was being renovated. The upgrade didn’t just enhance the interior; it also added over 12,000 feet of space. There is now a rooftop with views of the Capitol, Smithsonian Castle, and downtown DC, as well as two tower galleries — one of them dedicated to Alexander Calder’s mobiles, the other showcasing Mark Rothko’s abstract works. Both excellent additions to an already remarkable place.

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We visited the updated museum the first weekend it was open and have been back several times since. (I really can’t express enough how incredibly lucky we are to have world-class museums right in our backyard that we can easily pop into without having to pay an admission fee. Sometimes we go on whim when we’re out on a bike ride or happen to be driving nearby and see a free parking space.) I’m just now, though, getting around to posting some photos from our visits.

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Surely, by now you’ve seen pictures of the giant, royal blue cockerel that stands on the rooftop (a sculpture called Hahn/Cock). It’s quirky and cool, for sure, but there are plenty more eye-popping, beautiful, and evocative works to view. Here’s a glimpse of some of them. But you need to pop in or make a plan to go and experience it all for yourself.

The National Gallery of Art is open Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, and Sunday 11am – 6pm. Admission is free.

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Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Museums, Ongoing, Weekdays, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: November 28 – December 2

Walk among "icebergs" at the Ragnar Kjartansson exhibit

Walk among “icebergs” at the Ragnar Kjartansson exhibit



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Monday – Zip over to DC’s big train station to check out the little trains. Union Station’s annual Holiday Train Show is back in the West Hall, featuring an elaborate Norwegian mountain landscape. Plan to grab a bite to eat at one of many options there or pop over to the National Postal Museum next door for more fun. Admission is free to both the train exhibit and the Postal Museum.

Tuesday – Make your way up to Baltimore to visit the Maryland Science Center to explore a variety of neat hands-on exhibits, play in the Kids Room, build in the Science & Main area, and so much more. Hours are 10am – 5pm. Admission is $20.95/adults, $16.95/ages 3+, free for 2 and under. (I suggest checking out their membership options — if your family of 4 goes just twice in a year, it’s worth it. Plus, there’s reciprocity with other museums around the country.)

Wednesday – Head to the Hirshhorn to view the Ragnar Kjartansson exhibit. The must-see for modern art fans is a mix of performance art, video installations, paintings, dioramas, and more inspired works that are intriguing, moving, and visually stunning. After, treat kiddos to a ride on the carousel located on the Mall very close to the museum. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and admission is free.

Thursday – Watch the airplanes, kick a soccer ball, have a picnic, or just hang out at Gravelly Point. The park located right off the GW Parkway next to Ronald Reagan Airport is a great place to enjoy a nice day, offering views of the river and airplanes taking off or landing right overhead. (Warning: Some kids find that part exciting, others might be frightened by the loud noise and sight of an airplane coming right at them.) Admission is free.

Friday – Enjoy a little time trip back to the 18th century at Claude Moore Colonial Farm. The living history farm welcome visitors to explore the grounds, where there is a tobacco barn, farm house, garden, orchard, and animals. Guests can also interact with a family portraying life as it was back then. Hours are 10am – 4:30pm Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is $3/adults, $2/children ages 3 and up, free for 2 and under. Read about our first experience there in this post.


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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Farm, Free, Holidays, Indoor Play, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Union Station, Virginia, Weekdays

Volunteer Opportunities in the DC Area Where Kids Can Help Out, Too

DC Diaper Bank welcomes all ages to bundle diapers and more at  their warehouse

DC Diaper Bank welcomes all ages to bundle diapers and more at their warehouse



I’ve received quite a few inquiries over the last few weeks — and, really, over the years — about family-friendly volunteer opportunities around the DC area. I used to respond with one or two places that I knew welcomed kids to help out, but finally did some deeper research to offer more suggestions of organizations where children and parents can give back in a hands-on way together. And if you know of opportunities that you don’t see listed here, feel free to let me know in the comments, and I’ll add them to the mix. Happy Volunteering!

DC Diaper Bank
The Silver Spring non-profit that provides diapers and other essential items to families in need welcomes volunteers of all ages to help with bundling diapers and other tasks at the warehouse. And if your babes are too little to pitch in, they have a sweet little area where they can play while you help.

Capital Area Food Bank
The largest organization in the Washington metro area working to solve hunger and related problems distributes food to hundreds of thousands of people per year. Kids ages 12 and up can help sort and package food in the warehouse. Families with younger children can volunteer together in an area outside of the warehouse — the kids will be assigned easier tasks like prepping boxes and bags.

DC Central Kitchen
Volunteers can help their mission to break the cycle of hunger and poverty by actually working in the kitchen — cut, chop, peel, and package meals for the community. Kids must be at least 12 years old and prepared to stand for three hours.

Wreaths Across America
On Saturday, December 17, you can help place Veterans’ Remembrance Wreaths on the graves of American heroes buried at Arlington National Cemetery. There is no sign-up or age requirement — families are encouraged to volunteer together. Be sure to visit the website for details, including schedule and meeting location.

Washington DC Jewish Community Center
The DCJCC has volunteer opportunities throughout the year but December 25 is their annual Day of Service. Thousands of volunteers in the DC-Metro area serve meals, sing carols, visit home-bound seniors, throw holiday parties, play bingo, and deliver holiday cheer to those in need — and many of the opportunities are family-friendly. Registration with more details will be available in late November. And something to keep in mind for next year: The signature Everything But the Turkey event takes place right before Thanksgiving. As the name implies, they prepare everything except the bird (that’s provided by DC Central Kitchen) for Thanksgiving meals for thousands of people in need around the area. And they have family-friendly sessions, too.

Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
During the school year, kids in grades 3-12 can take part in the Book Buddies program and read to cats and other small animals at the shelter. It’s a win-win — kids can improve their reading skills while the kitties enjoy the human interaction. Sign-up is 30 days in advance for 20-minute reading sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 12-6pm. Children must be accompanied by a parent.

S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat)
The interfaith, community-based organization helps the poor and homeless in DC by meeting the immediate daily needs of the people they serve with food, clothing, and health care. While kids need to be at least 13 to volunteer in the dining room (and up to age 15 needs an accompanying adult), there are other ways younger children can help, too. Youth groups can organize food drives, create holiday or seasonal decorations, and make treats that can be served to clients.

Thrive DC
The group provides vulnerable people in Washington, DC, with a wide range of services to help stabilize their lives. They welcome young volunteers to help with their evening program, which includes dinner service and enrichment programming. There is no age requirement; they leave it up to the discretion of the parents to decide if their child is ready for the experience.

Meals on Wheels Maryland
The non-profit helps homebound people to eat well and remain in their own homes by preparing and delivering nutritious meals. Their Moms for Meals program encourages parents to volunteer with their children during the summer and winter breaks from school as a driver/visitor team. Home School families are welcome and community service hours are available.

National Park Service
There are many opportunities to get involved with the NPS in the DC area, from helping out with maintenance on the National Mall and memorials to removing invasive plants at local parks to cleaning up trails.

Help from Home
You don’t always have to be on site to give back. If the options above don’t work for your family, have the kids do activities at home with end results that benefit others. They can help sort clothing to donate (see this article from DCist for where to take it), set up a lemonade stand and give the earnings to charity, or organize a food or clothing drive with friends or a youth group. And if you have other ideas, feel free to share them below!


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Filed under All ages, Charity, DC, Holidays, Maryland, Virginia, Volunteer, Weekdays, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: November 21-25

The playground at The Beauvoir School will be a great place to #OptOutside this Friday

The playground at The Beauvoir School will be a great place to #OptOutside this Friday



Monday – Let little ones burn some energy during an open gym session at Sport Bounce of Loundon, where a massive roomful of giant inflatables is a blast for kids. Open gym time is 10-11:30am on Mondays, and admission is $10/ages 2 and up, $6/18-23 months. And while open gym occurs every weekday, the time varies, so be sure to check the schedule if you go a different day.

Tuesday – Go over the rainbow and beyond at Watkins Regional Park. The adorable Wizard of Oz themed playground will keep kids frolicking for hours. While you’re there, stop by Old Maryland Farm to visit the animals and the Watkins Nature Center to view some cool creatures and birds. Park hours are dawn to dusk, 9am – 4pm at the Farm, and 10am – 5:30pm at the Nature Center. Admission is free.

Wednesday – Head to the National Museum of American History for opening day of Muppets & Puppets, a showcase of Muppets and marionetts from the museum’s collection illustrating the evolution of puppetry. Included in the display will be an Italian Prince and Princess marionette from 1900, an elf marrionette used at the 1963 World’s Fair, the first Kermit Jim Henson created for the television program, “Sam & Friends,” and two popular Muppets, Fozzie Bear, and Swedish Chef. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.

Thursday – Enjoy some pre- or post feast fun — find a bunch of ideas here for activities on the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday – Take a cue from REI and #OptOutside on Black Friday. The compilation of The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids easily has you covered on this one.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, Annual, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Holidays, Indoor Play, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Schools, Seasonal, Virginia, Weekdays

Where to Play on Thanksgiving Day

Hang out at Hains Point for playground fun -- and great riverside views

Hang out at Hains Point for playground fun — and great riverside views



How about a side of recreation to go with your Thanksgiving turkey? If you’re going to be in town for the holiday and looking for pre- or post-feast activities, here are some ways to complement the main event of the day. Happy Thanksgiving!

*Visit a Smithsonian museum or the National Zoo. They are all open on Thanksgiving from 10am – 5:30pm, except for the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery which are open 11:30am – 7pm. The National Gallery of Art (which is not part of the Smithsonian, just a neighbor on the Mall) is open, too, from 10am – 5pm.

*Experience Season’s Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden on opening day! Get an idea of what to expect in this post from a past visit to the annual holiday exhibit.

*Spend Thanksgiving morning with The Great Zucchini at Jammin’ Java. Showtime is 10:30am, general admission is $5.

*Hang out at a playground. Hains Point, Clemyjontri, Cabin John Regional Park, Wheaton Regional Park, plus loads of DC Parks and Rec locations, and many more in NoVa and Maryland are great places to play while you’re waiting for the feast.

*Get gliding and enjoy some active fun. You can skate under the sky at one of several ice rinks in the area that are open on the holiday. Find info for them here.

*Enjoy a holiday hike. Rock Creek, Great Falls, Roosevelt Island, Huntley Meadows, Prince William Forest, and Turkey Run are all great parks for family tramping. This post has details on all of them along with even more recs for local walks in the woods.

*Go bowling. Pinstripes in Georgetown hosts Kids Bowling from 10am – 12pm, when ages 12 and under bowl for just $3 (plus $3 shoe rental). You can also hit the lanes at Lucky Strike in Penn Quarter, Bowlmor in Bethesda or Rockville, or Bowl America in several NoVa locations.

*Get into the holiday spirit at Christmas on the Potomac, the Gaylord National Resort’s spectacular seasonal attraction.

*Dance off the turkey dinner at the Kennedy Center. The evening’s free Millennium Stage performance features their annual Thanksgiving Day Swing Dance Party with music by the Phat Cat Swingers and swing lessons by Jean Veloz. The dancing and show is 7-9pm, but lessons start at 6p.

*Take an evening drive or stroll through a holiday light display — several in the area have started dazzling visitors with twinkling designs.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Holidays, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Virginia, Weekdays