Where to go with kids in cold weather


Dan Babbitt, acting manager of the Insect Zoo and Butterfly Pavilion at Natural History, shows off Nefertiti, a female Johnson Jumping Spider. (Ricky Carioti/WASHINGTON POST)
December 9, 2013

We know. We know. Indoor activities. You’re sick of your fallbacks. You won’t go near Chuck E Cheese, and another Target run just isn’t going to work this time. Here are a few ideas for kids of all ages to stay sane (let’s face it, for you to stay sane) during the cold winter months. We will update this list from time to time. Let us know what your favorite things to do are when the weather is dreadful.

Note: On this snowy Tuesday, check before you go! So far, it looks like the only spot on this list closed so far is Mount Vernon.

College Park Aviation Museum.

This little gem of a museum is good for many different ages. The wide open space is light-filled, calm and features hands-on activities. (Steer a plane! Dress up like a pilot! Make a postcard and actually mail it!) Even if your little one is too small to pilot a plane, the museum itself is just a nice spot to toddle around.

Oh yeah, those museums.

Pretty much any free museum on the mall is good for kids in bad weather. Even if they aren’t exactly into the Hope Diamond or learning about ancient cultures, there will be something to grab their attention. And hey, it’s miles of indoor space in which to walk, toddle or crawl around. (No running please!)

That said, the museums all provide plenty of activities, many of which are geared toward kids. Experience Natural History’s butterflies, watch a tarantula eat a cricket, hold a huge cockroach and more in the “Insect Zoo.”

The Air and Space museum has a children’s section with interactive displays, and on Fridays, kids can watch a short movie with Big Bird in the planetarium, then sit for a story and craft afterwards. (We once made little kites during the kite festival.)

The U.S. Botantic Garden is a lot of fun for different ages. I used to take my little ones when they were still in strollers — such big, pretty things to look at in the warmth. Older ones can appreciate the interesting cactii and water features. And hey, how can a kid resist the train set up for the holidays?

The National Museum of the American Indian has an entire exhibit devoted to kids, with hands-on activities.

The National Portrait Gallery has open studios on Fridays for kids and families, where a different art material is used each week.

What’s your favorite?

The National Children’s Museum is a good spot for the younger set. But if you bring the older kids, they may get something out of it, too. After all, it’s tucked into National Harbor, land of stores, dining and a huge hotel with great views of the Potomac.

Rollingcrest-Chillum Splash Pool is a good spot to pretend like its summer, while your kids get their energy out. With water slides, spray features and lap lanes, it’s a (warm) spot for pre-schoolers and swimmers alike.

You had me at Udvar. The Udvar Hazy Air and Space museum next to Dulles Airport is worth the drive from anywhere in the region. Even if your kids (of all ages) aren’t into planes, the visit is worth a couple hours. Best part? Taking the elevator to the flight deck where you can watch planes take off and land at Dulles while you listen to the conversations between air traffic controllers and pilots.

Get back to nature. Indoors. A few of our favorites include:

Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale has a pond, live animals, a climbing “tree” and puppet stage. The space is great for kids two and older.

Brookside Gardens has trails, a nature center with live animals, and, of course at this time of year, a fun train display among the many pointsettias.

Rock Creek Park’s nature center isn’t huge, but there are taxidermied animals, a few lives ones, and a Discovery Room with books, games, puppets and more. There is also a planetarium with programming for young ones, ages four to 10.

Potomac Regional Overlook Park has trails, gardens and an indoor nature center. A new exhibit, “Energium,” examines energy and sustainability. There are also live animals and natural history exhibits.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon has an indoor museum with a children’s room and a theater where it snows during a scene from the battle at Valley Forge. And oh yeah, there’s that house that the General lived in (and the actual bed where he died!). The tour of the house goes fairly quickly, which is helpful for kids with short attention spans. It's worth the trip to see the first president’s false teeth, which are on display in the museum.

Take in a college basketball game. Whether it’s men’s or women’s hoops you’re after, the area has plenty of teams to choose from. You can catch a game at University of Maryland (the women are ranked eighth in the country), George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown or American. Bonus: Tickets and concessions are often cheaper than at professional sporting events, and there are often giveaways, or chances to interact with some of the players.

@OnParenting

@amyjoyce_berg

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