Washington DC With Kids: Activities from A to Z


Washington, DC Things to Do with Kids from A-Z

In honor of the end of the school year, I thought I would compile for you a list of suggested summer activities in the style of those bulletin board alphabets teachers staple above the chalkboard. I hope you and your family enjoy these 26+ outings as much as my family and I have!

AMF Free Summer Bowling and Regal Cinema $1 Movies — Summer is a great time for freebies from kid-oriented businesses, such as AMF’s program of two free games per kid per day in summer (shoe rental extra) and Regal Cinema’s Summer Express $1 movie matinees on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in summer. Participating theaters include the Regal Majestic in Silver Spring, Ballston Common Stadium, Germantown Stadium, Kingstowne Stadium, Fairfax Town Center and more. Listings and showtimes.

Berries — Pick your own baskets of deliciousness with the kids at farms such as Larriland Farm, Homestead Farm (they have cherries, too) and Butler’s Orchard. Those are the Maryland farms my family and I troll like groupies in the summer, but there are more in Virginia and other nearby areas on PickYourOwn.org.

Carlyle House Historic Park — The special events for families the Carlyle House has planned look especially promising. On Tuesday June 26 there is a “Hands On History Tent” for children, on Sunday July 1 an American Doll tea, and on Saturday August 4 actors portray the Carlyle family and throw a housewarming party for visiting families. See the calendar for full event info.

Drive-Ins — Nothing says retro summer than loading the family into the car (in their pajamas, of course!) and hitting a drive-in movie. Bengie’s in Baltimore has the largest screen in the country, and The Family Drive-In in Stephens City, VA is right next to Winchester for Virginians.

Enroll in Library Summer Reading Clubs — The day after public schools in your district close their doors for summer, your local library’s summer reading program will begin. Special programs, events, incentives and fun will be planned by your library to encourage your kid to keep reading. For instance, Montgomery County Public Library’s summer reading program begins June 12, and Prince George’s County Public Library summer reading program has already and allows online registration.

Forest Service Headquarters (aka the USDA’s “Smokey the Bear museum”) — The US Forest Service Information Center at the USDA building has a delightful, little known, small museum for children on the National Mall. It is known for its animatronic Smokey the Bear that says, you guessed it, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” The museum is decked out like a forester’s lodge, and aims to teach kids about conservation and forest safety. The rangers on staff are more than happy to give young visitors an array of freebies such as coloring books and other goodies. It is a great destination if you are already downtown.

Goldilocks is the latest production of The Puppet Co., located at Glen Echo Park, but you have never heard the tale told this way. The puppets humorously tell their sides of the traditional story — first Goldilocks pleads her case, and then the Bear Family chimes in. Then the children in the audience get to decide the truth. Clever!

Harris Teeter Family Fun Packs to Nationals Games — The proof that the Nats are the best ball team in America? Their excellent reduced-price tickets on the weekend for families, with a hot dog, chips and drinks thrown in. Nationals Family Fun Days also include player autographs on top of the dugout and kids can run the bases on homegame Sundays, after Sunday home games. If you’re a fan family, be sure to join the Jr. Nationals Kids Club (there are free and $15 membership options, both send you exclusive e-mail alerts for family activities).

Inflatable Indoor Play Gyms — Sometimes you just need to bring the kids to a nice, air-conditioned indoor area to get their crazies out. Nearby options are JumpZone in Columbia; Bounce U in Rockville and Germantown,  and Bubble Bounce at Montgomery Mall, Wheaton Mall and Annapolis Mall.  (Click those links for open gym hours and directions.)

Jungle Mini Golf Who says that all the best miniature golf is at the beach? We have The Perils of the Lost Jungle Mini Golf course right in Herndon, Virginia and it is proclaimed by Newsweek magazine one of the top five courses in the country. Open every day.

Kayaks — Saturday June 16 Lake Needwood in Rockville reopens for kayaking, canoeing and paddleboating! My family and I love to rent tandem kayaks and let our big kids take the lead on our tours. Even at ages 4 and 6 they did a fabulous job helping navigate the calm water, and now they are old pros. We love spotting Great Blue Herons, turtles and more wildlife. One of our favorite, low-key family outings on a summer day.

LEGOS — August 4-5 the Brickfair LEGO Convention takes over the Dulles Expo Center, offering 100,000 feet of LEGO creation displays. Although Brickfair is mainly a “look, don’t touch” event, there is a Stay & Play area for children. (Whew!)

Monster SnakeTitanoboa sounds like a character from the X-Files, but means huge mondo snake. See the remains of this newly-discovered snake which measured 48 feet long and weighed 2,500 pounds. This new exhibit (opened this spring) at the Smithsonian Museum of National History provides visitors with a full-scale model of Titanoboa and video from the Smithsonian Channel documentary.

Night Slides at Chesapeake Beach Water Park — Worried that a day spent at a water park is too much sun exposure for your kids? Then visit the Chesapeake Beach Water Park on a Friday night July 6 – August 10, when the park stays open all the way until 9:30pm. Get in after the blazing rays of afternoon are dwindling and then splash under the stars. You could even stay at a nearby hotel and break up your drive to the beach before your Saturday check-in at the rental.

Organ Made of StalacpipesLuray Caverns boasts not only the most popular underground cave tour on the East Coast, it also contains the Great Stalacpipe Organ, the world’s largest musical instrument, utilizing three and a half acres of stalactites. Also worth a look are the nearby Shenandoah Caverns, which has a less polished, old time appeal and is combined with the quirky American Celebration on Parade, a display of huge parade floats.

Postal Museum Family DaysThe National Postal Museum is free, has one of the finest views of the monuments, and several weekends this summer they are hosting special family celebrations chock full of art projects and hands-on learning. Calendar of events.

Quantico’s National Museum of the Marine Corps Just opened in 2006, the National Museum of the Marine Corps is a tribute to patriotism. “You are invited to follow in the footsteps of Marines: from the yellow footprints that young recruits must fill at boot camp to the boot prints left in the sands of Pacific island beaches during World War II, in the snow of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, and in the red dirt of Hill 881 South in Vietnam. ” — NMMC website. Admission and parking are free.

Reinactors at Claude Moore Colonial Farm Step right into a working farm in the year 1771 when you visit Claude Moore Colonial Farm, staffed by hardworking reinactors who do not break character. Visitors are encouraged to ask the period-clothed oodles of questions and help them with their farming chores. (Maybe your kids will think helping them is fun, even if they are less than thrilled at home.)

Shrek — Take a mini-vacay with the family without the torturous car ride and book a Summer Fun with Shrek and Friends 1- or 2-night stay at the Gaylord National Harbor.  Enjoy a character breakfast and meet-and-greets with fan favs from Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda, a family outdoor movie screening party, and if you stay on Saturday night you will have a perfect view of the Gaylord National’s 9:30pm Saturday fireworks show. My family and I also recommend the giant indoor pool.

Trolley Rides — In addition to being open on the weekends per usual (12 – 5pm), the National Capital Trolley Museum is also open and offering themed stories, crafts and video presentations for kids on Thursdays and Fridays through August 10 (10am-2pm). The two-mile trolley ride is back and running again after the ICC’s construction (a real treat for train-obsessed preschoolers and toddlers) and the museum features over a dozen restored trolleys from cities all over the world.

Ukeleles abound at Strathmore’s Ukefest 2012 on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 7 p.m. This year’s party theme is a Hawaiian Luau, and beloved children’s musicians Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer lead the uke-ing it up, along with ukulele greats Keola and Moanalani Beamer, The Hula Honeys and Bruce Hutton.

Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and more tennis greats represent the Washington Kastles tennis teams in several home games this July at the Kastles Stadium at the Wharf on the SW waterfront.

Wednesday Little TotsEach Wednesday this summer families are invited to a free outdoor performance especially for kids on Ellsworth Plaza in Downtown Silver Spring.  Performers such as Reptiles Alive!, Blue Sky Puppets and popular children’s musicians such as Mr. Gabe and Oh Susannah! are featured in weekly shows that alternate between 10:30 a.m and early evening 6 p.m. times. Check out the full Little Tots schedule.

X-Men and more comic book heroes are on display at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore. It is heralded as one of the country’s best comic book and pop culture museums, and was named one of the top local destinations for teens.

Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers are just one of the 230 species of birds that have been documented at Turkey Run Park off of the George Washington Parkway. It is one of my favorite places to hike and walk with my children and includes shaded paths. Bicycles are not permitted, but strollers are, as well as dogs (must be leashed).

Zebras as well as llamas, horses, cows, chickens, goats, and incredible racing pigs all reside at Green Meadows Petting Farm in Ijjamsville, Maryland (Frederick County) and your children can pet and feed many of them. Take a hayride, milk a cow (really) and awake your inner Dr. Doolittle. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 

Photos taken from the websites of the businesses and organizations’ featured, as well as Flickr’s Creative Commons, FourSquare and my personal family photography.

What’s YOUR favorite summer outing with your family? Leave your tips in the comments for other parents, let’s help each other have a summer full of family memories!

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