Most Awesome Museums for Kids in Washington, D.C.

1. National Aquarium

The Aquarium, the nation’s oldest aquarium, had an extreme makeover a few years ago. Three cheers for the aquarium’s new-and-improved face. Children can inspect assorted tanks filled with 200 species of fresh- and- saltwater inhabitants, including an American Alligator, Longsnout Seahorse, Spotted Moray Eel, Freshwater Stingray, Giant Pacific Octopus (homely but a master at camouflage), and piranha. Observe them at lunch, served fashionably late at 2pm daily. (See the website for the schedule).

Location: In Department of Commerce building, lower level; 14th St. at Pennsylvania Ave
Admission: $9 for adults, $4 for kids ages 3-11.
Metro: Federal Triangle. Open: Daily 9am-5pm; closed major holidays.

2. Smithsonian American Art Museum

At the Museum, the Normal Rockwell paintings and drawings in “Telling Stories” are hung so kids can appreciate them. The exhibition connects everyday American life with the movies — not surprising since the works are from the collections of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. A Rockwell activity cart, (with hands-on activities) will be manned for the duration of the show, which runs through Sept. 4, 2011. Note: Unlike other Smithsonian museums, this one opens at 11:30am.

Location: 8th and F St. NW
Admission: Free – Open: Daily 11:30am-7pm
Metro: Gallery Place;

3. National Building Museum

The Museum displays models of architectural marvels, such as the Empire State Building, Sears Tower, and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (currently the tallest building in the world). Professional architect Adam Reed Tucker used ordinary Legos to assemble these iconic structures. At work stations next door, would-be Frank Lloyd Wrights can fashion their own Lego skyscrapers, condos, and houses — and then display them for future visitors to see. The adjacent museum shop sells Lego kits of the White House and other D.C. landmarks.

Location: 401 F Street NW
Admission: $5 per person for the Lego exhibit. Open: Mon.-Sat. 10am-5pm, Sun. 11am-5 pm
Metro: Judiciary Square; free museum

4. National Museum of Natural History

The Museum garners high — and well-deserved — marks from kids of all ages. Start by saying hello to the eight-ton African Bush Elephant in the rotunda (a longtime symbol of this museum), then check out the Right Whale (there is no left), suspended from the ceiling in the Sant Ocean Hall. In the wild, this mammal can weigh in at 100 tons; that’s a lot of blubber. In Dinosaur Hall, children can go eye to eye with stegosaurus and triceratops skeletons and look up at Quetzalcoatlus, the huge flying reptile suspended from the ceiling. Nearby they can meet the tarantulas and hissing cockroaches, and crawl through a replica of a termites’ mound in the O. Orkin Insect Zoo. Discover Stations, set up mid-day throughout the museum, invite kids to touch, ask and experience.

Location: 10th St. and Constitution Ave. NW; 2nd entrance at Madison Dr.
Metro: Smithsonian or Federal Triangle; free admission.
Open daily 10am-5:30pm; closed Dec. 25.

5. National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

The galleryis an ideal place to stop between museums. It’s also where kids can exercise their creativity. Most youngsters gravitate to the 17 larger-than-life, colorful, whimsical (and sometimes inscrutable) objects by some of the world’s best-known sculptors. Take Claes Oldenburg’s giant Typewriter Eraser which my granddaughter Jaymie, at 3, described as a “bagel with hair.” I’ll bet Calder’s Red Horse and the Louise Bourgeois Spider set their tongues to wagging. Refuel at the Pavilion Café set in greenery and overlooking a large reflecting pool.

Location: Constitution Ave. and 7th St. NW
Free admission: Open daily (Memorial Day to Labor Day, Mon.-Sat. 10am to dusk, Sun. 11am-7pm. Call or check website for Sept.-May hours)

6. International Spy Museum

The museum is the only public museum in the United States to focus only on espionage on a global perspective. It features the largest collection of spy-related artifacts and uses film and interactive activities to tell the stories of real-life spies.

There is a small exhibit on spies in pop culture, such as James Bond, but otherwise the main focus is on real spies and their work.

The William P. Faust Public Library of Westland can help you plan a visit to Washington, D.C. Some of the most popular guidebooks to the area include “New York, Washington, D.C., and the Mid-Atlantic Trips,” “Business Traveler Guide to Washington, D.C.,” “Frommer’s Washington, D.C.,” “Fodor’s Washington, D.C.” and “Mobil Travel Guide: Mid-Atlantic.”

You can also check out maps and brochures that are in the Travel Vertical Files.

If you’re more of an armchair traveler, the library has materials that might interest you. You can find the James Bond movie collection in the DVD section and the books written both by Ian Fleming and John Gardner in the fiction collection.

But spies are so much more than James Bond. If you’re interested in real-life spies, you might be interested in these titles: “Bureau and the Mole” by David Vise, “Denial and Deception” by Melissa Mahle, “Secret War” by Fabian Escalante Font, “Great Game” by Frederick Hitz and “Operation Solo” by John Barron.

Fictional spy stories of interest include “Morning Spy, Evening Spy” by Colin MacKinnon, “Rules of Deception” by Christopher Reich, “Death in Vienna” by Daniel Silva, “Quiet American” by Graham Greene and the “Bourne” series by Robert Ludlum.

Location: 800 F St NW map

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2 Responses to Most Awesome Museums for Kids in Washington, D.C.

  1. good places to go to in that heat :)))

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