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Start with a Book

Ricky Rocket

A summer reading initiative for kids from Reading Rockets

Start With a Book

Washington DC for Kids: Events

2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Copyright Ellie Van Houtte.
Copyright 2011 by Ellie Van Houtte
DC is a great place for kids. So get out and explore the city and its museums, zoos, parks, festivals, and more. There are lots of opportunities for hands-on learning, and most stuff is free. See also: Map of Places to Go with Kids in Washington DC

Don't forget to make the D.C. Public Library a regular stop on your activities schedule!

Bookstores and Libraries

Lego Activities

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)

Related summer themes: Builders and Buildings, Inventions and Inventors

Story Time at the DC Public Library

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.

Summer Reading Program at the DC Public Library

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.

Related summer themes: Builders and Buildings, Families and Communities

Farms and Markets

Pick Your Own Produce

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.

Related summer themes: Cooking and Food, Nature: Our Green World

Festivals and Street Fairs

National Book Festival

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)

Related summer themes: Art and Artists, Families and Communities, Folktales, Fairy Tales and Myths, Poetry

National Mall Independence Day Celebration

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.

Related summer themes: Families and Communities, Heroes and Superheroes, Music and Musicians, Government

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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 2017: American Circus Arts and Youth, Culture, and Migration (June 29–July 4, July 6–9)

Related summer themes: Art and Artists, Builders and Buildings, Cooking and Food, Families and Communities, Folktales, Fairy Tales and Myths, Geography, Travel and Cultures, Homes and Habitats, Music and Musicians, Sports and the Olympics

Historic Sites and Government Buildings

Exhibition Hall Family Programs at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Explore the roots of our country's government through stories, hands-on activities, an interactive tour, a scavenger hunt, and more family-friendly activities.

Related summer themes: Government
$

National Cathedral Gargoyle Tours

Explore the whimsical stone gargoyles that decorate the Cathedral and take an outdoor tour to learn about the history of this multi-faith institution.

Related summer themes: Art and Artists, Builders and Buildings, Families and Communities, Folktales, Fairy Tales and Myths

Voice of America Studio Tour

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.

Related summer themes: Geography, Travel and Cultures

Monuments and Memorials

Junior Ranger Programs in DC

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.

Related summer themes: Heroes and Superheroes, Government

Museums and Galleries

Art Investigators

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)

Related summer themes: Art and Artists

Family Days at the Air and Space Museum

"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)

Related summer themes: Flight, Heroes and Superheroes, Weather

Food: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000

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)

Related summer themes: Cooking and Food

Frank Lloyd Wright Day

Celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday by building Wright-inspired paper models, exploring Wright’s building technologies, or making your own Wright-inspired faux stained-glass window.

Related summer themes: Builders and Buildings

Hive

Soaring to the uppermost reaches of the Great Hall, Hive is built entirely of more than 2,700 wound paper tubes, a construction material that is recyclable, lightweight, and renewable. Explore how a structure can modify and reflect sound, light, scale, and human interaction. (July 4 – September 4, 2017, The National Building Museum)

Related summer themes: Art and Artists, Builders and Buildings, Music and Musicians

Igniting the Imagination: Selections from the Mazza Museum

The Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books was established to promote literacy and enrich the lives of all people through the art of picture book illustration. The museum is home to the world’s first and most diverse collection of original art from picture books. This exhibition features 29 illustrations, spanning the 1950s to the present, from the museum’s collection relating to science, engineering, and medicine. (March 6 – August 7, 2017. National Academy of Sciences)

Related summer themes: Inventions and Inventors, Nature: Our Green World, Numbers and Measuring

imagiNATIONS Activity Center

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)

Related summer themes: Art and Artists, Builders and Buildings, Families and Communities, Homes and Habitats, Music and Musicians, Geography, Travel and Cultures, Inventions and Inventors

Jazz in the Garden

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)

Related summer themes: Music and Musicians
$

Ride Simulators

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.

Related summer themes: Flight, Inventions and Inventors

Summer at the Newseum

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).

Related summer themes: Geography, Travel and Cultures, Government

Timber City

This exhibition demonstrates the many advantages offered by cutting-edge methods of timber construction, including surprising strength, fire resistance, environmental sustainability, and beauty. September 17, 2016–September 10, 2017 (National Building Museum)

Related summer themes: Builders and Buildings, Nature: Our Green World

Your Eclipse: National Air and Space Museum

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)

Related summer themes: Flight, Heroes and Superheroes, Inventions and Inventors

Outdoors in the City

Anacostia River Discovery Series

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)

Related summer themes: Bugs, Birds and Animals, Nature: Our Green World, Oceans, Rivers and Ponds
$

Boomerang Pirate Ship

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)

Related summer themes: Detectives and Explorers, Folktales, Fairy Tales and Myths, Oceans, Rivers and Ponds

Capital Dragon Boat Regatta

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)

Related summer themes: Geography, Travel and Cultures, Oceans, Rivers and Ponds

The Thing with Feathers / La cosa con plumas

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)

Related summer themes: Bugs, Birds and Animals, Nature: Our Green World

Parks, Nature Centers, and Gardens

Growing Musical Instruments: All About Gourds

Come and learn all about gourds from the gourd experts, the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra. Listen to songs, hear gourd planting tips, participate in hands-on activities, and be amazed at how such a tiny seed can produce a wonderful musical instrument. June 25, 2017 (U.S. Botanic Garden)

Related summer themes: Music and Musicians, Nature: Our Green World

Lotus and Water Lily Festival

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)

Related summer themes: Geography, Travel and Cultures, Nature: Our Green World

Rock Creek Park Ranger-Led Programs

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.

Related summer themes: Bugs, Birds and Animals, Geography, Travel and Cultures, Homes and Habitats, Nature: Our Green World, Stars, Planets and the Night Sky

Rock Creek Planetarium Shows

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.

Related summer themes: Stars, Planets and the Night Sky

U.S. Botanic Gardens Programs

Tours, demonstrations, talks, and family festivals — all centered around plants and gardening.

Related summer themes: Homes and Habitats, Nature: Our Green World
$

Wings of Fancy Live Butterfly and Caterpillar Exhibit

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)

Related summer themes: Bugs, Birds and Animals, Nature: Our Green World

Sports

$

DC United

Our own Major League Soccer team, playing at RFK Stadium in southeast DC.

Related summer themes: Sports and the Olympics
$

Washington Mystics

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.

Related summer themes: Sports and the Olympics

Washington Nationals

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.

Related summer themes: Sports and the Olympics

Theater, Music, and Dance

Discovery Theater

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)

Related summer themes: Art and Artists, Families and Communities, Music and Musicians, Geography, Travel and Cultures

Military Bands Summer Concert Series

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.

Related summer themes: Government, Heroes and Superheroes, Music and Musicians

Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center

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.

Related summer themes: Art and Artists, Music and Musicians

Rockin' on the Riverfront: Friday Night Concert Series

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.

Related summer themes: Music and Musicians

Zoos and Aquariums

Programs at the National Zoo

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.

Related summer themes: Bugs, Birds and Animals, Homes and Habitats
$

Summer Safari Day Camp

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)

Related summer themes: Bugs, Birds and Animals, Detectives and Explorers, Flight, Geography, Travel and Cultures, Homes and Habitats, Nature: Our Green World, Oceans, Rivers and Ponds