Copyright 2011 by Ellie Van Houtte
Don't forget to make the D.C. Public Library a regular stop on your activities schedule!
In this section:
- Bookstores and Libraries
- Farms and Markets
- Festivals and Street Fairs
- Historic Sites and Government Buildings
- Monuments and Memorials
- Museums and Galleries
- Outdoors in the City
- Parks, Nature Centers, and Gardens
- Theater, Music and Dance
- Zoos and Aquariums
See also: Places to Go in Washington DC
Bookstores and Libraries
Do you like to build with Legos and solve puzzles? Join us to work through engineering and science activities like, "who can build a paper airplane that carries the most cargo over 10 feet" or create a skyscraper, a pirate ship, or whatever your mind can dream up. (See website for library branch information)
Story time programs introduce young children to books, rhymes, music, and other fun activities. Every week the library offers programs matched to the developmental levels of different ages of children. Check the website for times and branch locations.
DC Public Library celebrates summer reading with the Build a Better World reading challenge, for children ages 6–12. Visit your neighborhood library to sign up and win fun prizes for reading. Complete the program and be entered to win prizes! Check the calendar for a schedule of special events at your library.
Farms and Markets
The PYOP (pick your own produce) season has begun! It starts with strawberries in the spring, then continues with more delicious fruits and veggies in the summer and fall. Heading out to the farm to do some picking is a great seasonal activities with the kids.
Festivals and Street Fairs
Are you a book lover? Join thousands of like-minded folks for two days of festivities featuring more than 100 authors, poets, illustrators, and entertainers. Hands-on activities, live performances, author book signings, and PBS Kids characters for the young ones. (September 2, 2017 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center)
Watch the parade, hear patriotic music, see brilliant fireworks and experience the thrill of Independence Day in the nation's capital. An enthusiastic audience numbering hundreds of thousands gathers to view the procession of invited bands, military and specialty units, and floats. The parade travels on Constitution Avenue along the National Mall from 7th to 17th Street.
The festival is an international exposition of living cultural heritage, held annually outdoors on the National Mall. Hundreds of musicians, artists, performers, craftspeople, cooks, storytellers, athletes, and others share their community-based traditions. Special programs for 2018: Africa, Armenia, and Catalonia (June 27–July 1, July 4–8)
Historic Sites and Government Buildings
Do you love buildings – drawing houses, building structures, designing a pillow fort? Architecture is one of the most exciting fields that not only uses all of the STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) but also encourages creative thinking through art and design skills. This 5-day summer camp will use design arts to enhance STEM skills.
Explore the roots of our country's government through stories, hands-on activities, an interactive tour, a scavenger hunt, and more family-friendly activities.
Explore the whimsical stone gargoyles that decorate the Cathedral and take an outdoor tour to learn about the history of this multi-faith institution.
The Voice of America Studio Tour is a behind-the-scenes look at live broadcasting in radio, television, and the Internet in several of our 46 languages. Tours are guided with audio and video features, and last 45 minutes.
Monuments and Memorials
Kids complete a series of activities during their park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger badge and certificate. Find active programs at these Memorials and Monuments: Martin Luther King, Jr., Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jefferson, WWII, Vietnam Veterans, and Washington.
Museums and Galleries
This program helps children (4-7) make careful observations, analyze artists’ choices, ask questions, and use their imagination while exploring works of art. Led by museum educators, each program includes reading a children’s book, exploring one work of art in the galleries, and completing a simple hands-on activity. Featured artists: Helen Franthaler, Wassily Kandinsky, and Georgia O'Keefe (National Gallery of Art, July 7–July 31, 2017)
"Family Days" celebrate aviation and space themes, including balloons and blimps, the Wright Brothers, helicopters, weather, and how to become a pilot. Families can "Meet the Experts," see live performances, and participate in a variety of hands-on activities. (National Air and Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA $15 parking fee)
Take a seat at a large, communal table in the center of the exhibition to share their own thoughts and experiences about food and change in America. See Julia Child’s home kitchen — with its hundreds of tools, appliances and furnishings. (National Museum of American History)
Explore different modes of transportation like snowshoes and skateboards; sit inside a full-sized tipi and learn about the buffalo; see what makes a Pueblo adobe house special or learn how a Comanche tipi is built; storytellers, artists, and other unique performers and activities — and much more. (National Museum of the American Indian)
Relax by the fountain and enjoy free jazz performances at the outdoor café every Friday evening throughout the summer. (National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden)
After viewing a selection of construction toys from the Museum’s collection, from the familiar Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs to the lesser-known Bumpalow House and Ringa-Majigs, visitors can reconfigure their environment and design their own course of play with individually-sized blocks.
Take an exciting virtual trip on board one of four simulators. Experience the thrill of careening through an action-packed roller-coaster course or racing in futuristic high-speed hovercars. Choose your adventure: Cosmic Race, Bermuda Triangle, Solar Coaster, Grand Prix Raceway, Astro Canyon, or Glacier Run.
The Newseum offers everything from the Berlin Wall and Pulitzer Prize-winning photos to interactive games. This summer, kids 18 and younger get in free! (July 1 through Labor Day).
Explore the engineering and design innovations that have taken place during the last century of flight. Talk with pilots of over 50 vintage and modern aircraft, on display outside the Museum for one day only. Discover the science behind flight through hands-on, STEM-based activities. Learn about the 70-year history of the U.S. Air Force, meet Air Force pilots, and see several of their planes. July 8 and July 15, 2017 | 10:00am - 3:00pm. (National Air and Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. Parking fee)
Outdoors in the City
Learn about the history of DC's Anacostia River, observe wildlife in their natural habitats, and get out on the water. Canoe and pontoon boat tours, bike rides, and nature hikes. (Every Thursday evening and the first Saturday of the month from May – October, 2017)
Yo ho ho, ahoy there, me lads and lasses! We invite you aboard to join our crew of friendly pirates for a cruise along the Potomac River. Try the treasure hunt cruise, especially for families. (Georgetown Waterfront at the end of 31st street)
Dragon boat racing is an important part of the Chinese traditional culture, dating back more than 2,300 years. This family-friendly event feature the best premier and local dragon boat teams from along the east coast racing over the course of the day. (Potomac River at Washington Harbor. August 26, 2016)
In this hands-on workshop for kids 8-11, you will learn about our feathered friends who inhabit the city and those who pass through during migration. We’ll conduct field studies by traveling off-site to observe and sketch birds, and we’ll contribute our observations to science. We’ll also learn how birds have inspired poets and writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Emily Dickinson to Jamaal May. (July 10-21, 2017. 826DC Writing Center)
Parks, Nature Centers, and Gardens
See a spectacular display of lotus and water lilies in full bloom! Enjoy gardening workshops and traditional Asian and African dancing performances! You'll also discover hands-on activities including face painting, lotus tea tasting, painting demonstrations, and much more. (Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, in July)
Learn about the rich natural and cultural heritage of Rock Creek Park on a ranger-led program. Join park staff for unique recreational and astronomy programs.
The show for the younger children (5 and older) concentrates on the identification of major constellations and the movement of the heavenly bodies through the night sky. The show for older children (seven and older), is divided into a study of the sky as it will appear that night and an in-depth astronomy presentation.
Tours, demonstrations, talks, and family festivals — all centered around plants and gardening.
The seasonal display features hundreds of live butterflies from all over the world. Visitors can learn about their amazing metamorphosis, the important role butterflies play in having healthy ecosystems, and how to ensure these beautiful insects thrive in our own gardens. (Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD)
Our own Major League Soccer team, playing at RFK Stadium in southeast DC.
Our own Women's National Basketball Association Team team, playing at the Verizon Center in the heart of downtown DC. Check the website for game schedules and special events.
Our own Major League Baseball team, playing at the beautiful new ballpark accessible via the Navy Yard Metro station. Check the website for game schedules and ticket specials.
Theater, Music, and Dance
Bring your children to Discovery Theater to experience heritage, science, and culture in a memorable way — your source for live performances that celebrate the rich diversity of our region and our world. (Show locations vary, check the website for details)
Tot Rock is Jammin’ Java’s super-popular kids music concert series, providing wholesome family entertainment at one of the DC area’s finest music clubs. Concerts happen most days of the week. Check the calendar often to see when your favorite act is performing.
This year's series of concerts run June 2–August 31, 2017. All concerts begin at 8:00 p.m. and are held on the U.S. Capitol West Front steps (National Mall side) — weather permitting.
Each evening, at 6:00 p.m., the Millennium Stage features free performances by a broad range of music, dance, and theater artists from the Washington metro area, across the nation, and around the world.
Enjoy fantastic bands with a river view! Family-friendly lyrics and grassy open space make this a fun, free event for adults and kids. Bring a picnic dinner — or pick up your picnic from one of the local eateries.
Strathmore provides vibrant performances for families throughout the year that inspire the youngest audience members to learn, explore, and connect to their world and each other in new ways.
Free concerts at Glen Echo Park every Thursday at 7:30 pm June - September
The Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences (KCTYA) Program commissions, produces, tours, and presents performances in theater, opera, dance, music, puppetry, and storytelling for children and their families.
A daytime dance party for families, with sounds provided by DC's top club DJs (who all happen to be parents themselves). Created by DJs who wanted to share the nightclub experience with their kids, the Rumpus Room adapts the club environment (think disco ball, lights, and of course music) into safe family-friendly fun.
Zoos and Aquariums
Something is always happening at the National Zoo. Daily programs include animal training, feeding demonstrations, and keeper talks. Learn more about how to feed an octopus or a crustacean; watch the orangutan crossing, explore the world of the cheetah, and much more.
Summer Safari campers at the National Zoo explore the lives, habitats, and conservation of animals around the world in weeklong sessions. (National Zoo, June 26–August 18, 2016)