Rock Creek Park Nature Center & Planetarium

On cold winter days, every parent with little kids at home needs some free, go-to places to take the kids to play. For my family, the Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium is at the top of our list. Just a short, pretty wooded drive from downtown Silver Spring into the NW DC/Maryland border area of Rock Creek Park, the activities the nature center and planetarium provide are an answer to the stir-crazy-in-the-winter family’s prayers.

The nature center houses a big hall of live animals and taxidermy indigenous to Rock Creek Park, a hands-on young scientist center and a playroom filled with wildlife puppets, felt boards, toys and books. Every time we go here to play the place is nearly deserted, so no worries about playroom traffic jams. Every Friday at 4pm the nature center hosts a “Creature Feature” discussing the animals of Rock Creek, free for all ages.

The small planetarium is fantastic, and every Wednesday at 4pm hosts a free “Introduction to the Night Sky” for kids four years and up (which I have attended with a mature 3 year old and a baby that I nursed throughout the presentation and we were all fine…ssshhhh.) See the nature center’s calendar or the aparentinsilverspring calendar for the weekend planetarium shows for older kids and other weekend programs.

The planetarium and nature center are staffed by the world’s nicest park rangers; a job requirement must be a sincere love of children. As you leave the center, don’t forget to pick up your free loot – coloring books, activity sheets, information about local flora and fauna – and if the weather is nice there is a self-guided nature walk adjoining the center, with a walking rope guide for the blind and kids with special needs.

BIG WARNING: The center is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, don’t go on these days unless you want a tantrum on your hands from a disappointed toddler.

Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium
200 Glover Road, NW – just off of Military Road in Washington, DC
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 9:00 am. – 5.00 pm
Closed on New Years Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day


  1. We went there this afternoon, and my 3-year old boy was enamored with the turtles, the stuffed (as in taxidermy) animals, and the exhibits.

    The planetarium visit didn’t go as well – when the lights went out, he wasn’t happy, but it was no problem to quietly exit the theater…

    Will definitely return on future Wednesdays!

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