Everyone knows about the famous Smithsonian DC museums, but there are some lesser known gems in the DC metro area.  I am by NO means an expert, and have not yet had the chance to visit them all, although we are certainly trying!  Any additional kid-friendly museums that I missed?  I’m saving the Smithsonians for another post.

National Building Museum-

One of our favorite museums in DC!  The building itself is fantastic.  There is a wide open Great Hall, where kids can run free.  Kids can attempt to build a 7-foot tall arch using numbered foam blocks (MUCH harder than it looks).  A favorite of the toddler crowd is the Building Zone, designed for children aged 2 to 6.  There are many types of building materials, such as giant legos, magnetic tinker toys, and cardboard blocks.  There are also dress-up costumes, a large scale play house, building focused books, and much more.  There can be a line to get into the Building Zone, as there is a capacity of 40 children.  There are also “Family Tool Kits”  that help to bring the building to life for school-aged kids.


Gadsby’s Tavern Museum

Family Programs- Swordsmen’s Rendezvous, Tea with Martha Washington, Easter Tea, Tavern Toddlers

Toddler Taverns-:  A special program for toddlers (walkers through 36 months) and their caregivers! Tavern Toddlers features a weekly open playtime in Gadsby’s historic ballroom Mondays, excluding Federal holidays, any time between 10:30 a.m. and noon. Themes change monthly. $7 for a group of three, which must include one adult, or purchase a 5 week pass for $30. Mondays, 10:30am, 12:00pm, Ages:   1 to 3  Cost:  $7/group of three


National Children’s Museum- Launch Zone at National Harbor

While the National Children’s Museum is being built (to open in 2013), the NCM opened the Launch Zone at National Harbor on Waterfront Street.   Open seven days a week, the Launch Zone is a place where children can participate in fun and educational programs related to the Museum’s core content areas.

Through the use of images, table-top interactive exhibits, and computer kiosks, NCM introduces select areas of the Museum, while soliciting feedback and input from constituents.  They also have a class focused on children ages 2-3- Wee Wonders’ Out of This World on March 9, 16, 23, at 10:00am- 11:15am.  According to the website, children will blast off into outer space in a rocket ship to explore the solar system like astronauts. Activities typically include stories, games, art, music, experiments, drama, and movement.  Fee: $10 per child. Pre-registration and advance payment (by check or credit card only) is required by the Friday prior to the event. Please call 202-675-4120 or email RSVP@ncm.museum to register.


Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon has many fun things families and kids love to do.  There are baby animals in spring and summer, a 4-D theater with falling snow and rumble seats, and a hands-on history area where kids can play dress-up in 18th-century clothing, read books, and explore activity boxes and games. Mount Vernon is open 365 days a year and offers daily programs and special events throughout the year.


National Gallery of Art

Although the National Gallery of Art is not going to be very appealing to young children, kids will also enjoy the lighted underground concourse between the West Building and the East Building (with a huge suspended Calder).  Along the concourse, is a great cafe, a museum store with children’s’ section.  There is a waterfall sculpture against the glass wall.  There is also a class for children ages 4-7- Stories in Art.  This series of programs uses storytelling to introduce children to works of art. Led by museum educators, each program includes reading a children’s book, looking at one work of art in the galleries, and completing a simple hands-on activity.  This class is a free drop-in program is designed for individual families, first-come, first-served basis. For information, call (202) 789-3030.


International Spy Museum

The Spy Museum has many programs, workshops, demonstrations, and action-packed missions for mini-spies.  There are workshops on disguise, gadgetry, spy science, codes and ciphers; Spy Magic performances; Spies on Screen; Operation Secret Slumber overnights; and Spy camps are offered on a monthly basis.