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.
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.
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.
The apple doesn’t fall far from DC…
Take a hike and get a dose of history all at once at Roosevelt Island
. The trails are easy for little legs to tramp, and you can explore the Memorial Plaza to learn about the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt. The entrance to the park is located right off the GW Parkway, just past the Roosevelt Bridge, and accessible only from the northbound lanes. Hours are 6am – 10pm. Admission is free. Get a little more of the KFDC take on it in this post
about local walks in the woods with kids.
Tuesday – Be among the first guests to join the National Museum of American History’s brand new weekly program for children. Museum ABCs is a fun, drop-in program for ages 3-6 and adult companions that introduces early learners to the museum collection through letter learning. In October, A is for Automobile: Read all about things that go, play with toy cars, and create a car craft. Sessions are 11am – 1pm and 2-4pm. Admission is free. If your child is too young or old for the series, go
play in Wegman’s Wonderplace or explore the museum exhibits! (Update: Wegmans Wonderplace is closed on Tuesdays.)
Wednesday – Visit the animals, roam the peaceful grounds, and possibly join in a children’s program at Oxon Hill Farm. Hours are 8am – 4:30pm, and admission is free.
Thursday – Catch an interactive, bilingual show for children at Discovery Theater, located in the Ripley Center next to the Smithsonian Castle. Fábulas Fairy Tales is a fresh and fun introduction to Spanish through storytelling, math, music, and more. Showtime is 10:15am & 11:30am. Tickets are $3-8. (Note: This also takes place on Friday and October 12-13.)
Friday – Go apple picking! We recently visited (and loved) Waters Orchard in Germantown, and there are plenty of other area farms and orchards that welcome guests to gather their own fruit. This list of places to PYO has details on a bunch of them. And I always recommend calling ahead to be sure the pickings are good that day.
Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Farm, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays
Monday – Rise + Rhyme at Busboys and Poets
Get a great nature fix at Riverbend Park
in Takoma or Hyattsville, MD. The weekly series welcomes children 5 and under with their caregivers to enjoy a morning of performances and stories from 9:30-11am. Admission is $5. Plan on breakfast, too — full service will be available while the little ones are grooving. (FYI: The series also takes place in Shirlington, VA, the last Tuesday of every month.)
Tuesday – Hit the trail at Riverbend Park. The Great Falls locale may not be as popular as its national park neighbor, but it’s just as fantastic a place to enjoy some time in nature — especially with kids. Trails are mellow for little hikers, the views are gorgeous, there are plenty of nice picnic spots, and admission is free. Plus, if you want to see the magnificent falls up river, they’re an easy two-mile walk in the woods away. Riverbend Park hours are 7am to dusk.
Wednesday – Check out your local library. Drop in for story time, sing-a-longs, arts & crafts, and other activities, or just go to browse for books. See this post from the very early KFDC days for a little background and quick links to libraries around the area. Hours vary by location, admission is free.
Thursday – Catch a production of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale at Adventure Theatre. The all-ages production adapted from the classic book begins at 10:30am, and tickets are $19.50. If weather permits, stay to play at Glen Echo Park after the show and have a picnic lunch — BYO or pick up a bite at the Praline Cafe there.
Friday – Enjoy a free screening of One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure at the Einstein Planetarium in the National Air & Space Museum. Showtime is 10:30am every Friday (and Sunday, plus the first Saturday of every month). It only lasts about 20 minutes, so explore the many impressive exhibits and discover How Things Fly, a room full of hands-on activities with major kid appeal, while you’re there.
Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays
Exploring the National Gallery of Art
Discover the history of flight at the College Park Aviation Museum
. It’s a perfect place for young visitors, with eye-popping displays and hands-on fun. They can view early airplanes up close, dress up like aviators, create flight-inspired art, and much more. Keep an eye on the runway right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows — you might see planes take off and land at the College Park Airport, the oldest continuously operating airport in the world! Open daily 10am – 5pm. Admission is $4/adults, $2/children, free for ages 2 and under.
Tuesday – Get another, but different museum of experience at the National Gallery of Art. Head to the West Wing as most of the East is still under renovation, but be sure to take the “sparkly walkway” in between the two — that’s often kids’ favorite part (adults love it, too). Stroll among sculptures and stop to view works by many of the masters. There’s a cafe in the museum, but I recommend heading elsewhere for better value or BYO. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.
Wednesday – Enjoy a musical morning with Boogie Babes as they bring kiddie entertainment to The Angelika Pop-Up @ Union Market at 10:30am. Admission is $5/child, and siblings 6 months and under are free. And did you know the program is now run by the DC Diaper Bank? Proceeds from the shows support the organization’s mission to help families in need. (FYI: You can also catch Boogie Babes shows at The Atlas Performing Arts Center on Mondays and Eastern Market on Thursdays.)
Thursday – Celebrate the official start of the new season at a fall festival! The Pumpkin Village Fall Fest at Leesburg Animal Park runs daily, and weekdays are a great time to go when you won’t encounter crowds. Slides, wagon rides, moon bounces, a maze, and pedal carts are among the seasonal fun. And, of course, animals are part of the mix with pony rides and furry friends to pet and feed. It’s open 9:30am – 6pm. Admission is $12.95/adult, $9.95/ages 2-12, and free for children under 2.
Friday – Play in the sprays at Canal Park. The recreational space in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood in southeast DC has both a gentle, shallow fountain that is perfect for really little ones, plus a bigger one for more enthusiastic play where the ice rink is in the winter. Admission is free. Grab a bite to eat at Il Parco on premises or at another nearby eatery — there are options right across the street and food trucks in parked right in the area often — or pack lunch for a picnic.
Filed under All ages, Animals, Annual, Art, DC, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Farm, Festival, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Virginia, Weekdays
What’s not to love about the sculpture gardens on the National Mall?
Enjoy the outdoors on the National Mall. View art al fresco — kids will love the whimsical creations at the National Gallery of Art
and Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Gardens
. Stroll along the paths at the Haupt Garden
behind the Smithsonian Castle. Take a spin on The Carousel
for $3.75 a ride. And, of course, pop into a museum (or two or three) while you’re there.
Venture up to Baltimore for a day of play and learning at Port Discovery. Several levels full of awesome hands-on exhibits will keep the kids entertained for hours! Open 9:30am – 4:30pm. Admission is $14.50 for ages 2 and up (free for under 2).
Update: Port Discovery is closed for exhibit maintenance. Instead, check out the Baltimore Museum of Industry, a fun little time trip through the city’s early business days with lots of interesting, interactive exhibits. Hours are 10am – 4pm (Tuesday – Sunday). Tour on your own — admission is $12/adult, $7/ages 7-12, free for 6 and under — or join the Wee Workers program for preschoolers 10:30-11:30am (free for kids, $5/adults).
Wednesday – Catch a free concert for little ones as the Teddy Bear Band plays a lunchtime show, perfect for children ages 2-5 and their families. Pack some snacks and join the fun in the McLean Central Park Gazebo at the McLean Community Center. Showtime is 12:30pm. Admission is free.
Thursday – Hit the playground at Wheaton Regional Park. Two levels of slides, climbing nets, monkey bars, swings, and more fun features will appeal to all ages and abilities. Pack lunch to eat at nearby picnic tables under the lofty trees. It’s open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.
Friday – Head to the National Portrait Gallery for some creative fun at an Open Studio Friday session. All ages are welcome to explore a different art medium each week with all kinds of neat projects. Drop in anytime from 1-6pm. Go earlier or stay after to explore the museum’s collections and hang out in the Kogod Courtyard. Museum hours are 11:30am – 7pm. Admission is free. Read more about the Penn Quarter gallery in this KFDC post.
Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Park, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays