It’s the perfect storm for parents of energetic little kids: a long weekend with more frosty weather on the horizon, and the (free) indoor play options at the Smithsonian museums remain closed because of the shutdown. But you don’t have to stay cooped up in the house; head to one of these family-friendly spots and let your kids try something new — and burn off all that excess energy.
More people are exploring the National Building Museum in 2019: For the first week of January, attendance was up about 60 percent from the same period last year, according to Emma Filar, NBM’s director for marketing and communications. This is a prime destination for families, since the soaring Great Hall has plenty of indoor space for little ones to toddle around and the kid-focused “Play Work Build” and “Building Zone” spaces are outfitted with building blocks, books and trucks. The museum’s “Creative in Residence,” choreographer Heather Sultz, is hosting free, all-ages workshops based around improvisational movement on Saturday (10:30 a.m.) and Monday (2 p.m.). 401 F St. NW. $10, $7 ages 3-17; free for federal workers with valid ID. Admission fee not required for Sultz workshops.
It may be a wintry mess outside, but it’s lush and green inside the U.S. Botanic Garden, which is unaffected by the shutdown and is open as usual. Kids can climb up to the canopy walk in the Tropics House and look down at the jungle, or marvel over orchids in bloom. Children ages 9 and older can check out a Junior Botanist Adventure Kit, a.k.a. a backpack filled with interactive activities that will guide them through the various rooms. 100 Maryland Ave. SW. Free.
BloomBars founder John Chambers calls Baba Ras D’s Harambe drumming music program a “rite of passage” for D.C. kids. But if you want to take your family to the 10:30 a.m. Saturday show at this art space in Columbia Heights, be prepared to get there early: With the shutdown, Chambers estimates there’s been a 15 to 20 percent spike in attendance for all programming, as folks have more time on their hands than usual. “For Harambe, there are lines down the block. Once we reach capacity we have to turn folks away,” Chambers says. This infectious singalong is geared to kids ages 7 and younger. If you miss Baba Ras D, there’s Nous Bloomons at 10 a.m. on Sunday, during which Achille Ango teaches French via song and dance. $3 per adult. 3222 11th St NW. Suggested donations: $7 per child, $5 per adult (Baba Ras D); $7 per child, $3 per adult (Nous Bloomons).
Kids have an entire floor to themselves at the Silver Spring Library, located just a few blocks from the Metro station. The fifth floor is packed with everything from board books to fiction for sixth-graders — along with interactive play structures to entertain the littlest ones. The library is hosting a song-filled Superhero Storytime (ages 2-5) on Saturday at 10 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. as part of MoComCon, Montgomery County Public Libraries' comic convention. On Sunday, the Lego and Duplo blocks come out at 1 p.m. for Lego Weekend Play’s building session. 900 Wayne Ave., Silver Spring, Md. (Closed Martin Luther King Jr. Day.) Free.
The National Air and Space Museum on the Mall and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., might be closed because of the shutdown, but kids can still see historic planes at the family-friendly College Park Aviation Museum. Besides the awe-inspiring Wright Model B reproduction, this museum offers plenty of hands-on activities and exhibits to grab children’s attention. Think propellers to spin, a plane to climb in, demos on velocity, and room to roam around. 1985 Corporal Frank Scott Dr., College Park, Md. (Closed Martin Luther King Jr. Day.) $5, $2 for children; free for children younger than 1.
The great outdoors is climate-controlled at this 30,000-square-foot indoor playground that’s designed to look like a park, complete with fake grass and a climbing rock with built-in slides. General admission gets you 2.5 hours of play in the vast space, which also features a toddler activity area and a workshop with tools where tinkering is encouraged. Meanwhile, adults can kick back at a cafe that offers wine and beer. 5200 Randolph Rd., Rockville, Md. Weekend general admission rates: $15 for kids younger than 3, $22.50 for kids ages 3 and older, $5 for adults. Advance reservations required on the weekend.
Get your bathing suits out of storage for a day and take them to the 6,000-square-foot indoor water park inside Springfield’s new sports fantasyland, the St. James. The complex’s towering water park area is equipped with multiple slides, multidirectional sprayers and three buckets to dump water on an unsuspecting brother or sister (or mom or dad). If getting wet isn’t appealing, purchase admission instead to the St. James’s “Super, Awesome & Amazing” play place filled with obstacle courses and climbing walls stretched out over 30,000 square feet. 6805 Industrial Rd., Springfield, Va. $15 an hour for members and $23 an hour for nonmembers.
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