Tag Archives: DC Museums

Animal Close-Ups & Crocs at the National Geographic Museum

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If you don’t get off the well trodden museum path of the National Mall every now and then, you could miss out on some amazing exhibitions in other areas around DC. One place where you can just about always count on a great, enriching experience is the National Geographic Museum. The exhibits often appeal to a wide age range, include interactive elements that engage visitors, and focus on aspects of the world that are both fascinating and significant.

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In fact, there currently are two exhibits at Nat Geo that meet these standards — and then some. Photo Ark, which opened in the fall is a gorgeous collection of portraits of the world’s animal species.

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The exhibit puts the focus on conservation through photographer Joel Sartore’s lens by showcasing images of species and highlighting their conservation status, which range from least concern to threatened to endangered to, sadly, extinct (with more levels in between).

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Many of the portraits were shot at zoos and aquariums around the world, and you can get an idea of how some of them were done by peering into photo tents on display — inside are adorable videos of small animals posing for their close-ups. You can also catch scenes of the process on TV screens mounted on the walls.

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A whole area is dedicated to various species of reptiles and snakes, their unique features and brilliant skin patterns projected on and streaming across large screens. There is also information about each creature and quotes printed on the walls. All of it together makes the exhibit as thought-provoking and engaging as it is beautiful.

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The museum zooms in on one animal with a whole other exhibit: CROCS. And it’s one you can really sink your teeth into (from their tagline!) through a variety of interesting displays, interactive components, video, and live crocodiles!

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We joined a guided tour of the exhibit to get some background on crocodilians, which are up to hundreds of millions years old. But you can learn a lot on your own from the many displays and installations. Some of the kids’ favorite features included a sound board where they could listen to different croc calls, a force gauge to compare their strength to that of a croc’s jaw, and a life-sized model of one of the world’s largest crocodiles, Gomek.

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The highlight, though, were the real crocodiles in a few dioramas around the exhibit that were made to simulate their natural habitats. The crocs don’t actually do that much — just seeing an eye or mouth open or a foot move the tiniest bit was cause for excitement — but it was pretty neat to see them hanging out in the museum. You might catch baby alligators swimming in one of them, which is a pretty cute sight.

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You can check out both of the National Geographic exhibits in one outing — they don’t take a long time to tour (though you could definitely spend a good amount of time if you wanted to), and admission to the museum gets you into everything. Even better, both can be appreciated by visitors of all ages.

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Photo Ark will be on view through April 10, CROCS through May 8. Admission is $15/adult, $12/seniors & students, $10/ages 5-12, free for 4 and under — look for a discount here. The museum is open daily 10am – 6pm.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Museums, Spring, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Where to Play on the Weekdays: February 16 -19

Our surrealist rayograph at the Hirshhorn - stop by to make your own!

Our surrealist rayograph at the Hirshhorn – stop by to make your own!



Tuesday – Have some constructive fun at the National Building Museum. Little ones will dig playing in the Building Zone ($3/non-members) and the PLAY WORK BUILD exhibit ($10/adult, $7/child). And the Great Hall just reopened after undergoing some updates, so be sure to make time to hang out, have lunch (BYO or buy at the Fire Hook Bakery there), and marvel at the magnificent space.

Wednesday – Enjoy a day of indoor play at a Dynamite Tumbling & Cheer Open House. The event is a combo open gym and intro to Dynamite’s preschool program for kids up to age 5. There will be trial classes and free play on safe, preschool-friendly gymnastics apparatus, including obstacle courses, trampolines, swing ropes, and more. Participants will also be entered into a raffle for a free birthday party at the gym! Hours are 10am – 1pm, and admission is free.

Thursday – Head to the Hirshhorn Museum for a modern art fix, including a couple of fun hands-on activities in the upstairs walkway that kids and adults can do together. It should be a sunny day, so plan to stroll around the sculpture garden, too! Hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.

Friday – Catch a performance of Pinocchio on strings at The Puppet Co. while you can — the show closes after this weekend. Showtime is 10:30am, and tickets are $12.


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Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Schools, Theatre, Weekdays, Winter

The Weekend Round-Up: December 18-20

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We’re kicking off Winter Break with a weekend full of ways to celebrate the season and then some. Holiday events, live entertainment, ice skating, college hoops, outdoor pursuits, and some movie about the force are all among this round-up of recs. Plus, the Everyday Play page has even more ideas for ongoing DC fun. Happy Weekend!

Season’s Greenings
Where: US Botanic Garden
When: Through the weekend
Admission: Free

The Botanic Garden’s annual holiday attraction never disappoints. The conservatory exhibit features Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials and one of the city’s largest Christmas trees. But the highlight, hands-down, is the garden railway, which never fails to impress and enchant with intricate, imaginative designs. This year’s theme “Pollination Station ” features oversized flowers, bees, and butterflies in a scenic wonderland. A heads-up that it’ll probably be crowded, but the line usually moves quickly, and it really is a beautiful, fun, unique display to see!

Step Afrika!’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Tickets: $15-38

Put a little stomp in your step for the holidays! DC’s internationally-known percussive dance company invites you to celebrate the season with clapping, stomping, and all around fun for all ages, featuring their furry friends from the Animal Kingdom and a special dance party with DJ Frosty the Snowman! If you’re bringing the whole family, check out the Family Fun Pack: Four tickets, four snacks, four non-alcoholic drinks, all for $100!

Holiday Party & Puppet Show Anniversary
Where: Frying Pan Farm Park
When: Saturday, 10am
Admission: Free

The Fairfax County Park Authority is celebrating its 65th anniversary with a family-friendly holiday party that includes puppet show performances, plus treats and visits with farm animals. Showtimes are 10:45am and 12:30pm. Inside the Visitors Center, guests can enjoy hot cocoa, cider, and cookies. Outside, they can visit with furry friends from Kidwell Farm.

Skaters Gonna Skate
Where: Local ice rinks
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

‘Tis the season for outdoor ice skating, so lace up and get gliding. Enjoy art as you skate at the Sculpture Garden; circle the rink at Washington Harbour; meander the paths at Canal Park; or do some holiday shopping then skate at Pentagon Row, Veteran’s Plaza, Rockville Town Square, or Reston Town Center. This post has details on alfresco (and indoor) ice skating options in the area. And note that both at Canal Park and Washington Harbor are hosting Cartoon Skate on Saturday morning!

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

The Gaylord National Resort’s annual holiday extravaganza has festivities galore that capture the spirit of the season. And the best part is that there are activities for all ages at varying price points (even free!), from dancing fountains and indoor snowfalls to a tour of amazing “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”-themed ice sculptures. Get details and a glimpse of it all here.

Rocknoceros Holiday Singalong
Where: Jammin’ Java
When: Saturday, 11am & 2pm
Admission: $10

Get in the holiday mood and ready to sing as one of the area’s favorite kindie rock bands returns to Jammin’ Java for their 9th year of fun holiday songs and Rockno classics. Belt out the tunes along with them, and enjoy a full lunch and drink menu, too.

More Holiday Entertainment
Where: Local theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

Much of the live entertainment on local stages right now is holiday-inspired. See the ultimate holiday classic The Nutcracker performed by the Washington Ballet at the Warner Theatre or catch a tot-friendly version at The Puppet Co. Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead Scrooge on A Christmas Carol journey at Ford’s Theatre. Enjoy A Lump of Coal for Christmas at Adventure Theatre or A Year with Frog and Toad at Imagination Stage. Get details on these shows and others in the 2015 Holiday Guide.

Showtime Beyond the Holidays
Where: Local theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by performance

– The Broadway hit Matilda the Musical just opened at the Kennedy Center
– The adorable Elephant and Piggies’s We are in a Play is also running there
Oliver! and Akeelah and the Bee are on the Arena Stage
– Catch a performance of How to Catch a Leprechan at The Keegan Theatre
– Faction of Fools presents Pinocchio is at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
– See Seussical the Musical is at NextStop Theatre
– If you’re looking for a date night idea, Kiss Me, Kate is at Sidney Harman Hall and Bright Star is at the Kennedy Center.
– Little ones will love Wake Up, Brother Bear at Imagination Stage

‘O’pen House Shopping & Tours
Where: Mansion on O Street
When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Starts at $15

Take a holiday tour of one of the most wonderfully outrageous places in DC while its halls are bedecked with seasonal trimmings. At this one-of-a-kind mansion in the heart of Dupont Circle, explore fantastically-themed rooms, search for secret doors, and shop — just about everything there is for sale — while enjoying the season with family and friends. Read more about the Mansion on O Street in this KFDC post.

Night Lights
Where: Around the area
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday Evenings
Admission: Varies by locale

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are easily a holiday season favorite. Visit the Zoo or one of several parks in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. Some you can walk through for an up-close experience, others you tour by car. Either way, get ready to be dazzled.

College Hoops
Where: Local colleges
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Ticket prices vary

College basketball season begins this weekend, and with so many universities in the area, there’s always some good hoops action going on. The GW men’s team hosts St. Peter’s on Saturday, while the women welcome Iona on Sunday(tickets here). The Hoya men play UNC Asheville at the Verizon Center on Saturday (tickets here). At George Mason, the women play Air Force SAturday afternoon, and the men match up against Longwood Saturday evening (tickets here). Both Maryland teams are away this weekend, but they still get a ‘Go, Terps!’

Welcome to Beynia
Where: Mystic Emporium
When: Saturday, 11:30am – 5pm
Admission: Free (but $5 to play)

Remember Beyblades, the big toy trend a couple of years ago? They’re still a big thing with many who take them to tourney and compete for prizes. If your kid is (or was) an enthusiast, consider checking out this indoor tournament taking place in Silver Spring. Word has it the events are fun, inclusive, and a great bargain. See the website for registration and event times. Mystic Emporium is located at 7896 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring.

Kids’ Fête de Noël
Where: Alliance Francaise
When: Saturday, 10:30am – 12:30pm
Admission: $8/non-member, $5/member

Celebrate the winter holidays with AFDC! With both French and English spoken, the event will feature an activity hour for kids and families, including a fun craft and caroling in French. Snacks will also be served to guests.

Challah Hootenanny!
Where: The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
When: Sunday, 10am – 12pm
Admission: $15

Join PJ Library, The Jewish Food Experience, and their partners for a celebration at a family-friendly morning of Jewish bluegrass music, crafts, food fun, and more, featuring a performance by Mama Doni and Eric Lindberg. Bring a new pair of adult-size socks or gloves to be distributed through D25: December 25th Day of Service. Location is 6101 Executive Blvd. in North Bethesda.

Holiday Shop
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Mostly free

If you’re still working through your gift list, there are several special holiday markets around the area, where you can find unique presents by local vendors and then some. Head to Penn Quarter, National Harbor, or Alexandria for great seasonal markets or to Capitol Hill for a weekend institution. More info about all of them is available in the 2015 Holiday Guide. And if you need some gift ideas, be sure check out the KFDC Holiday Gift Guide!

Chill Out(side)
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Just because the temps are dropping, that doesn’t mean you can’t spend time outdoors – bundle up and enjoy some time in the fresh air under sunny skies! Roam free at Dumbarton Oaks (no admission fee this time of year). Hit the trail at Riverbend, Cunningham Falls, Rock Creek, and more. Explore the National Arboretum or Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Hang out at Hains Point. Hit the playground at Watkins, Cabin John, or ClemyjontriParks. Find even more ideas in this post about great outdoor pursuits with kids.

See the Force
Where: Local movie theaters
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by theater

So, there’s this movie out that a bunch of people are pretty excited to see… If you’re planning to take the kids to see the new Star Wars film, check out these Washington Post recommendations for the best places in the DC area to see it. And buy your tickets in advance.

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Filed under All ages, Animals, Annual, Art, Christmas, Date Night, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Farm, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Shop, Theatre, Virginia, Weekend, Winter

The Weekend Round-Up: December 11-13

Make a stop at Pollination Station, the model train display at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Make a stop at Pollination Station, the model train display at the U.S. Botanic Garden



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Whether or not you think it’s the most wonderful time of the year, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a wonderful time with so many awesome events and activities going on, both holiday-inspired and not. Happy Weekend!

Building Museum Birthday Bash
Where: National Building Museum
When: Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: FREE

To celebrate 35 years of operation, the National Building Museum welcomes the public to enjoy special activities and visit ALL of their exhibitions free of charge! Enjoy PLAY, WORK, BUILD; explore the Building Zone; tour House & Home; and get new perspectives of DC in Scaling Washington. Join in a LEGO® community build, where families, visitors of all ages, and built environment professionals build and rebuild a collective structure over the day. There will also be a giveaway of special treats (limited quantities) for Museum members to enjoy!

‘Tis the Season
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

There are so many great activities running through the season to celebrate the holidays in DC. Watch model trains buzz around the Pollination Station-themed display at the Botanic Garden’s Season’s Greetings exhibit. ICE! it up and enjoy and atrium full of spectacular decor and neat activities at Christmas on the Potomac. View holiday planes and trains at the Aviation Museum. See the National Menorah and National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse. Take a street car ride with Santa at the Holly Trolley Fest. If you hope to hit ‘em all, you better get on it! For the complete rundown on all the area’s holiday happenings, see the 2015 KFDC Holiday Guide.

“Yes, Virginia” Family Day
Where: Newseum, 9am – 4pm
When: Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015
Admission: FREE for kids (details below), $19.50/adult

Celebrate the season with the Newseum at its 17th annual “Yes, Virginia” Family. Enjoy holiday treats and crafts, train rides, music by the Figgy Puddings Holiday Carolers, a visit from the One-and-Only Macy’s Santa Claus ,and more on a day inspired by the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history. Youth 18 and under will receive free admission to the Newseum when they bring a “letter for Santa” to put in the Macy’s Believe Mailbox – Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish® for every letter collected. For more about the museum, see this KFDC post.

Holiday Card Workshop
Where: National Postal Museum
When: Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season by creating one-of-a-kind handmade cards. The National Postal Museum provides beautiful holiday stamps from all over the world, along with a variety of crafts supplies to both inspire your creativity and decorate your cards. We’ve attended this annual event a few times, and its always very well-organized and tons of fun. Plan to stay after to tour the exhibits, many of them interactive and interesting for all ages. Read more about the museum in this KFDC post.

EdFEST
Where: DC Armory
When: Saturday, 11am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Explore the city’s many public school PK3-12 options for your child. Representatives from DC public schools (DCPS) and DC public charter schools will showcase their programs, just in time to help you make informed school selections for the 2016-17 school year common lottery. The event will also feature many free services and fun activities for the whole family, including games and entertainment; sports activities; story time; and flu shots, immunizations, and dental services.

Winter’s Eve
Where: Glen Echo Park
When: December 12, 4-7pm
Admission: Free

Get into the holiday spirit at Glen Echo Park’s annual Winter’s Eve celebration. It’s free, open to the public, and visitors of all ages can enjoy performances, arts & crafts open studios, hot chocolate, and a holiday sing-along. Browse and buy fine artworks at the Holiday Art Show and artist studios. Kids and adults can create gifts to share in the holiday-themed craft rooms.

Nats Winterfest
Where: Washington Convention Center
When: Saturday & Sunday, 11:30am – 4pm
Admission: $30/adult, $20/ages 12 and under (increases at door)

Get your Nats fix during the off-season! The annual Winterfest event features interactive holiday and baseball activities for fans of all ages. Enjoy meet-and-greets with your favorite Nationals players and mascots, get a photo with Santa, join clinics with players and coaches, take a swing at batting practice, and tons more activities throughout the day!

Holidays on the Stage
Where: Local theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

Much of the live entertainment on local stages right now is holiday-inspired. Enjoy A Lump of Coal for Christmas at Adventure Theatre or A Year with Frog and Toad at Imagination Stage. See the ultimate holiday classic The Nutcracker performed by the Washington Ballet at the Warner Theatre or catch a tot-friendly version at The Puppet Co. Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead Scrooge on A Christmas Carol journey at Ford’s Theatre. Get details on these shows and others in the 2015 Holiday Guide.

Family Joy!
Where: Washington National Cathedral
When: December 12
Admission: $25

Join the Cathedral Choral Societyat the Washington National Cathedral,for a special Christmas Concert. This one-hour program has something for all ages, including a kids-only sing-along. Bring the whole family and get swept up in the sounds of the season.

Show Time (that isn’t holiday inspired)
Where: Local theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by performance

For shows without the seasonal trimmings, there’s Elephant and Piggies’s We are in a Play at the Kennedy Center (so cute!), Oliver! and Akeelah and the Bee at Arena Stage, and if you’re looking for a date night idea, Kiss Me, Kate is at Sidney Harman Hall and Bright Star is at the Kennedy Center. Read more about all of them in this list of live entertainment through winter.

Family Piano Duel
Where: Bobby McKeys at National Harbor
When: Saturday & Sunday, 1:30-3:30pm (doors open at 1)
Admission: $18/ages 2 and up

The whole family can enjoy an afternoon of fun at one of Bobby McKey’s dueling piano shows. It’s two hours of all-request live music paired with a lunch buffet that’s sure to make everyone happy. This is a performance where kids are encouraged to wiggle in their seats and dance in the aisles!

All Aboard for a Model Train Holiday Open House
Where: Historic Vienna Depot of the W&OD Railroad
When: Saturday, 1-5pm
Admission: Free

Chug on down to Vienna this holiday season to watch model train activities that realistically depict an actual railroad that existed in North Carolina in the 1950′s, the Western North Carolina (WNC). Every hill, town, building, locomotive, rail car, and industry in this layout is modeled after those places and things as they looked in that era. Well, almost everything. Since the holidays are here, the Polar Express makes an appearance, and Thomas the Tank Engine (and a few of his friends) can also be seen chugging around among the bigger steam and diesel locomotives. The Vienna Depot is located at 231 Dominion Road NE in Vienna, Virginia just down the street from the red caboose. It is sponsored by the Northern Virginia Model Railroaders. Check out a virtual tour here.

Colonial Wassail
Where: Claude Moore Colonial Farm
When: Saturday, 1-4pm
Admission: $3/adult, $2/ages 3-12, free for 2 and under

Stand fast, root! Bear well, top! God send us a howling crop! In the dead of winter the Claude Moore Colonial Farm’s apple trees need encouragement to bear well in the coming year. Gather in the Farm’s orchard to wassail the trees with singing, dancing and chants to ensure a “howling crop.” Enjoy hot spiced cider, sugar cakes, a roaring bonfire, and 18th century games. Weather permitting.

Art and Me: Playful Fish Prints
Where: Freer | Sackler Gallery
When: Saturday, 1-2pm, 3-4pm
Admission: Free

Make your own waves as you explore Sōtatsu: Making Waves. Begin with an educator-led tour of the exhibition then use authentic materials to make your own gyotaku (Japanese for “fish print”). This program is designed for children ages 3–5 with adult participation. Registration is required.

Open House
Where: New Mormons on the Hill Chapel
When: Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Head over to Capitol Hill for an open house to celebrate the opening of a new chapel for Mormons on the Hill. Join them to celebrate with food, holiday crafts, carol sing-alongs, building tours (with a scavenger hunt), and to meet and talk with neighbors who will call this new chapel home.

Brunch with Santa
Where: Pinstripes Bistro Bowling and Bocce
When: Sunday, 9:30am – 3pm
Admission: $34/adult, $15/child 6-12, 5 and under eat free

Just in time for the holiday season Santa is stopping by Pinstripes’ brunch that is sure to get the whole family in the holiday spirit! Spread the cheer on Sunday and don’t forget to snap a photo with Santa. And plan for some bowling or bocce while you’re there!

Family Chanukah Celebration
Where: WDCJCC
When: Sunday, 10am – 12pm
Admission: $20/family ($18 Discounted Member Rate)

Grab your socks and your yarmulke, it’s time to bounce for Chanukah! The Washington DC JCC welcomes families to celebrate at this year’s rockin’ Chanukah party, which will feature a moon bounce, games, crafts, treats and plenty of fun for all ages.

Family Kwanzaa Celebration
Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre
When: Sunday, 4pm
Tickets: $25/adult in advance, $30/at door, $15/ages 17 and under

Welcome the holiday season with Dance Place’s annual Kwanzaa Celebration! Gather family and friends to join Coyaba Academy, Coyaba Dance Theater, and special guests to celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa. During this special Family Series performance, reserve 1 free ticket for a child 12 & under with paying adult!

Pictures with Santa
Where: Courtyard Marriott Navy Yard
When: Sunday, 4-8pm
Admission: Free

Waterfront Church invites you to celebrate the holidays with Santa, Olaf, Sven, and other characters kids adore. Each family will receive a picture with Santa time when they arrive, and then can head upstairs to hang out with his friends, enjoy jumpers, activities, cookies, and hot cocoa. And guests will leave with two 5×7 photos of their picture with Santa. The Courtyard Marriott Navy Yard is located at 140 L Street SE.

Night Sky in Daytime
Where: Rock Creek Park Planetarium
When: Sunday, 1-2pm
Admission: Free

Explore the night sky while the sun shines outside! The Rock Creek Park Planetarium, located witin the Rock Creek Nature Center, uses high-tech Spitz software to project the image of the night sky onto a large, dome-shaped ceiling. Then, Rangers lead you on a journey of exploration into our solar system, galaxy, and beyond. Recommended for ages 5 and up. Read more about the experience in this KFDC post.

Holiday Shop
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Mostly free

Get through your gift list and have a good time! There are several special holiday markets around the area, where you can find unique presents and then some. Head to Penn Quarter, National Harbor, or Alexandria for great seasonal markets or to Capitol Hill for a weekend institution. Or shop a local school’s holiday pop-up. More info about all of them is available in the 2015 Holiday Guide. And if you need gift ideas, be sure to check out the KFDC Gift Guide!

Let There Be Holiday Lights
Where: Around the area
When: Evenings
Admission: Varies by locale

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are easily a holiday season favorite. Visit one of several parks or gardens (or the Zoo!) in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. Some you can walk through for an up-close experience, others you tour by car. If you opt for the latter, dress the kids in PJ’s, turn up the holiday tunes, and bring along a thermos of hot chocolate. Either way, be prepared to be dazzled!

On the Calendar…
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

Did you know the KFDC Calendar is back? Along with big events, it lists many ongoing activities that might not make it to the Round-Up, so be sure to have a browse to see what else is going on!


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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, Chanukah, Christmas, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Outdoor, School Event, Seasonal, Theatre, Virginia, Weekend

The Weekend Round-Up: December 4-6

Headed to a wonderland of ICE! at National Harbor

Headed to a wonderland of ICE! at National Harbor



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Holiday cheer is abundant this weekend with all kinds of events and activities that celebrate the season, from Smithsonian’s big festival to Bethesda’s annual event to Chanukah fun on the first night to lights and trains and markets and more. If you’re doing some holiday shopping, check out the first-ever KFDC Gift Guide for some unique and local ideas. And if you’re still not quite ready to embrace the spirit, head up to Baltimore for Dollar Days or find some ongoing DC fun. Happy Weekend!

Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian Museums
When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at Smithsonian Museums — Air & Space Museum, Natural History, American History, Freer-Sackler, American Art, American Indian, African American Art, the Postal Museum, the Hirshhorn, and Smithsonian Castle! This Holiday Festival has tons going on, something for everyone in your crew — concerts by the U.S. Air Force’s Max Impact, Silver Wings, and Celtic Aire; Mars Chocolate demons; a Star Wars C-3PO costume exhibit; the world’s largest LEGO American Flag; family holiday photo ops; free film screenings; trunk shows featuring apparel, jewelry and art; book signings; festive food; and hours of additional family-friendly entertainment. See the schedule for more details.

Holiday Happenings
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

There are so great activities running through the season to celebrate the holidays in DC. See model trains and a gorgeous botanic display at Season’s Greetings. ICE! it up and enjoy and atrium full of spectacular decor and cute activities at Christmas on the Potomac. Take a street car ride with Santa at the Holly Trolley Fest. If you hope to hit ‘em all, get on it now. For the complete rundown on all the area’s holiday happenings, see the 2015 KFDC Holiday Guide.

Fun for a Buck — or Free
Where: Baltimore
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission: Free or $1

In the spirit of the holidays, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore presents Dollar or Less Days on this weekend when participating attractions will open their doors offering free or $1 admission! The Maryland Science Center, Babe Ruth Museum, Port Discovery, National Aquarium, Historic Ships of Baltimore, Christmas Village, and more exciting places will be welcoming guests to take advantage. Go here for the full list of participating venues.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland
Where: Downtown Bethesda
When: Saturday, 1-4pm
Admission: Free, but concerts and events cost extra

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland is back, turning Bethesda Row into an outdoor street bazaar. The celebration features holiday performances, a live ice sculpting presentation, and a visit from Santa Claus in Veterans Park.

Scottish Christmas Walk Parade
Where: Old Town Alexandria
When: December 5, 11am
Admission: Free

For the 45th consecutive year, the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade will showcase marching units filled with the magnificent tartans of Scottish Clans, the stirring sound of Scottish bagpipes and drums, Scottish dancers, reenactment groups, Scottie dogs, dignitaries, classic cars, Santa Claus, and more. The parade begins at St. Asaph and Wilkes Streets and concludes at Market Square with a massed band concert. There will also be other festive events throughout the weekend — see the website for details.

Winter Wonderland
Where: Burke Lake Park
When: Saturday
Admission: $15/advance, $20/at event

Celebrate the season with a train ride on the Holiday Express at Burke Lake’s Winter Wonderland. Enjoy a tour on the U.S.S. Reindeer, then take a spin on the Carolers Carousel, experience the Snowman’s Wagon Ride, play Gingerbread Man’s Golf, or warm yourself by the fire and toast s’mores. Hot chocolate, spiced cider and candy canes will also be available. And don’t miss a visit with Santa!

Grand Opening Celebration
Where: Bright Horizons Rockville
When: Saturday, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Bright Horizons recently opened its early education center in Rockville, and they are hosting a party to celebrate the launch! On Saturday, parents and children are invited to enjoy all kinds of family fun and get a first look at the new location. Festivities will include carnival style activities, games and prizes, and a ribbon cutting ceremony courtesy of the Rockville Chamber of Commerce.

Italian Holiday Family Festival
Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum
When: Saturday, 11:30am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the wonders of the holiday season and Italian culture at SAAM. Enjoy performances by The Italian Fairy, The Flusso Dance Project, seasonal music by The Capital Hearings, and traditional Italian bagpipers, as well as festive craft activities, face painting, café specials, and more. Mention “Buone Feste” and receive a 10% store discount.

Children’s Holiday Shopping
Where: Frying Pan Farm Park
When: Saturday, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Kids can do some of their own gift shopping during the park’s annual Children’s Holiday Shopping. Volunteers help children shop for everybody on their holiday list. The Country Store stocks many unique items in all price ranges. Free wrapping assures surprises for family and friends. No reservations are required. Meet at the Old Floris School House.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Key Elementary School in Arlington
When: December 5, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers and holiday hosts. Learn more about 16 locally based nonprofit organizations, enjoy festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. Shoppers of all ages are making GTGH an annual tradition, and young shoppers in particular come back each year to learn the true meaning of giving by participating in the Children’s Gift Fair.

Holidays on the Stage
Where: Local theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

Much of the live entertainment on local stages right now is holiday-inspired. Enjoy A Lump of Coal for Christmas at Adventure Theatre or A Year with Frog and Toad at Imagination Stage. See the ultimate holiday classic The Nutcracker performed by the Washington Ballet at the Warner Theatre or catch a tot-friendly version at The Puppet Co. Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead Scrooge on A Christmas Carol journey at Ford’s Theatre. Get details on these shows and others in the 2015 Holiday Guide.

Show Time (that isn’t holiday inspired)
Where: Local theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by performance

For shows without the seasonal trimmings, there’s Elephant and Piggies’s We are in a Play at the Kennedy Center (so cute!), Oliver! and Akeelah and the Bee at Arena Stage, and if you’re looking for a date night idea, Kiss Me, Kate is at Sidney Harman Hall. Read more about all of them in this list of live entertainment through winter.

Artfête Weekend
Where: The Art League’s Madison Annex
When: December 4-6
Admission: Free

Join The Art League as they kick-off the holiday season with live music, great artwork, artist demos, and more. Shop for handmade ceramics and jewelry, view artwork, enjoy instructor demos and live music, watch a wearable art runway show, and check out exciting art classes. Food and drinks will also be for sale.

Parcel Market
Where: Canal Park
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission: Free

PARCEL Market returns to Canal Park for its 2nd year! Featuring the 1,000 square-foot Canal Park Ice Rink, the Market urbanizes the holiday market with three city blocks of hand-made modern styling, interactive art, musical talents, activities, and a showcase of emerging independent brands, chefs, and retailers.

Tenley WinterFest
Where: Around Tenleytown
When: Through December 5
Admission: Free

The fourth annual Tenley WinterFest offers fun for all ages in Area schools, the library, fire station, shops, and restaurants are working together to create another unique, yeti-themed seasonal celebration for the community. Festivities include a scavenger hunt, a drawing project, historic walking tours, dining specials, story time, a kids movie screening, and more winter fun.

The Measure of Our Lives
Where: National Portrait Gallery
When: Saturday, 12pm & 2pm
Admission: Free

See portraits of significant individuals who have influenced American history and culture brought to life on this special tour. Students from the University of Maryland, College Park’s Theatre Department choose a person from the museum’s collection who inspires them, then develop monologues that tell key moments in the subject’s life.

National Lionel Train Day
Where: Side Track Hobbies – Leonardtown, MD
When: Saturday
Admission: Free

Helping to kick off the holiday season and commemorate its 115th anniversary, Lionel, the iconic model train company, is introducing its first-ever National Lionel Train Day. The public is invited to join Lionel at Side Track Hobbies to help celebrate with a variety of activities for kids and families. Operate model train layouts; collect conductor hats, temporary tattoos, enter raffles, and pre-order a collectible boxcar!

Winter Festival
Where: Ticonderoga Farms
When: Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 9am – 5pm
Admission: $9.95/person, free for children under 2

The annual festival includes hayrides to the white pine fields with access to all of the farm attractions — swings, forts, slides, tunnels, and more. Fire pits are inviting to keep you warm and make some s’mores or roast hot dogs. Cut down your Christmas tree while you’re there or buy one from the lot. Read more about the Festival in this post about one of our experiences there.

Holiday Festival & Boat Parade of Lights
Where: Alexandria
When: Saturday, 4-9pm
Admission: Free

Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront, led by Alexandria’s fireboat Vigilant and Washington, DC’s fireboat John Glenn. Before and after the parade, stop in to the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Holiday Open House between 4-9pm to enjoy performances by the Alexandria Choral Society plus gift shopping in open artist studios.

Here Comes Chanukah!
Where: Around the area
When: Sunday
Admission: Varies by activity

It’s almost time to light the menorah! The first night of Chanukah begins Sunday at sundown, but you can start the celebration a little early in the day at a couple of area events, including the National Menorah Lighting on the Ellipse. There are also family activities, plus Matisyahu in concert at Strathmore (I highly recommend seeing him live). The 2015 KFDC Holiday Guide has details on all of the Chanukah fun.

Night Lights
Where: Around the area
When: Evenings
Admission: Varies by locale

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are easily a holiday season favorite. Visit one of several parks or gardens (or the Zoo!) in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. Some you can walk through for an up-close experience, others you tour by car. If you opt for the latter, dress the kids in PJ’s, turn up the holiday tunes, and bring along a thermos of hot chocolate — it doesn’t get much cozier than that!

Out & About
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Crisp, sunny weather will make it a great time to be outside, so browse the list of The Best Places in the DC Area to Spend a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids and take advantage.


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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, Chanukah, Christmas, Date Night, DC, Discount, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Farm, Festival, Free, Fundraiser, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Seasonal, Theatre, Virginia, Weekend