What's fun for my 4-year-old in Washington D.C.?
May 5, 2009 12:47 PM   Subscribe

What's fun for my 4-year-old in Washington D.C.?

I've visited a few times but am no expert. Current plans include:

-- Zoo
-- Sculpture Garden next to National Gallery
-- Natural History
-- Mule-pulled canal boat in Georgetown
-- Discovery Theater, if anything's scheduled

My backup museums right now are Air and Space and the National Gallery. Don't think the Spy Museum would appeal. (I've been.) Will obviously do walk-bys of the White House and at least some monuments. Staying by Farragut North stop, and wouldn't mind sticking with Metro and feet, but will have car, and willing to leave the city proper for something really exciting.

Thanks for all advice. Restaurants that might be fun for kids also much appreciated.
posted by troywestfield to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely Air and Space. Took my 4 year old nephew to a similar one in England, and he absolutely loved it.
posted by Petrot at 12:51 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Air & Space Dulles Annex is also awesome and worth the drive.
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:06 PM on May 5, 2009

- the aquarium (although the one in Baltimore is much nicer)
- the carousel by the Smithsonian is open yet
- ESPN Zone for dinner, where he can shoot hoops and play air hockey
posted by December at 1:08 PM on May 5, 2009

Re: Georgetown - take the Circulator to get down there without a car.

2 Amys pizza is kid Mecca. You can take the "dirty 30's" buses (any northbound Metro Bus numbered in the 30's - 32, 34, 36...). You are going to get off just north of the Cathedral at McComb, it is next to/behind Cactus Cantina. Incidentally, this could be tied to a trip to the National Cathedral which is pretty darn cool.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:08 PM on May 5, 2009

edit: I meant to say: I'm not sure if the carousel if open yet? Not sure if it closes during bad weather?
posted by December at 1:09 PM on May 5, 2009

IS open yet, arg
posted by December at 1:09 PM on May 5, 2009

There's an extension of the Air and Space museum out by Dulles Airport in a converted hangar (you'd need to drive, but it's not too bad if it's not rush hour) and for a 4-year-old it would be about a thousand times more awesome than the regular old Air and Space Museum on the National Mall.

They have a SPACE SHUTTLE. INSIDE. Plus lots of cool full-size plans to walk around, and an air-traffic control tower to go up inside. Last time I went there with my Dad, there were tons and tons of younger kids having a ball there.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:10 PM on May 5, 2009

National Children's Museum?

Also check out Gravelly Point at National airport and watch the planes come and go. Kids usually love that, but 4 may be a little young? Not sure.

Wish I could help more. If I think of anything I'll let ya know.

Have fun here in DC!
posted by CaptKyle at 1:12 PM on May 5, 2009

Gravelly Point for a picnic, weather allowing.
posted by Morrigan at 1:13 PM on May 5, 2009

Maybe a Ducks tour.
posted by Morrigan at 1:14 PM on May 5, 2009

Oh, and the National Building Museum (near the Judiciary Square stop) always seems to have some hands-on event for kids going on when I've visited. The last time I was there, it involved making paper airplanes and flying them around.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:14 PM on May 5, 2009

Daily Animal Encounters at the National Aquarium. Sharks! Gators! Piranhas!

National Geographic is at 17th and M, is free and has rotating exhibits.
Explore Eastern Market. Rent a peddle boat and paddle around the Jefferson.
Two of my favorite memorials are Roosevelt Island and the FDR which has a Zen-like zibe going through it.
I loved the Children's Museum growing up, but haven't been there in 15+ years.

Everyone seems to be crazy for cupcakes and froyo. Hello Cupcake, Georgetown Cupcake, Cakelove, Caliyo, Mr Yogato. Or sharing a halfsmoke at Ben's Chili Bowl or a Jumbo Slice in Adam's Morgan.

I believe the Udvar-Hazy addition to the Air & Space has a free shuttle from the Mall, but can't find any confirmation. But really recommend either or both. There's a Space Shuttle!

The National Building Museum is a lot cooler than it sounds, is right by a metro, and should have some fun things for a little kid to do.
posted by now i'm piste at 1:18 PM on May 5, 2009

I'm so glad you asked!

My cousin has an award-winning blog called A Parent in Silver Spring, that is DEDICATED to family-friendly childrens' activities in the DC-metropolitan area.

Please note that I in no way, not even a little bit, profit from or am associated with this blog, other than from time to time thinking the suggested activities are fun for adults, too.
posted by bunnycup at 1:23 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

If your nephew likes gross and disgusting things like a lot of kids (and grown-ups!), then the National Museum of Health and Medicine at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center might be a good off-the-wall stop. My girlfriend and I took the trek over there (long walk from the metro, by the way), and were pleasantly surprised by (ok, giddy with delight at) all the medical oddities. A hairball from a 12-year-old girl's stomach the size of a cat. A brain and spinal cord in a jar. The bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln. And a really cool collection of microscopes from all different time periods.

Of course... brains and livers and hearts may be too much for a 4-year-old, so it might not be the best place.

The National Museum of the American Indian (also a Smithsonian-run one) is great; certain times of the day they have demonstrations set up that children can participate in, like grinding corn and making corn husk dolls. And there are daily story readings for families with children.

And I'll also recommend the Air and Space museum, and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (the Air & Space museum extension that iminurmefi mentioned). Both have lots of cool stuff. And they sell astronaut ice cream, which every 4-year-old should love.
posted by XcentricOrbit at 1:27 PM on May 5, 2009

If your 4 year old is a boy, take him to see the dinosaurs at the National Museum of Natural History.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:40 PM on May 5, 2009

Girls like dinosaurs too!

Check the Smithsonian Associates for kid-friendly stuff during your stay. (You don't have to be a member, it just saves you a few bucks.)
posted by JoanArkham at 1:52 PM on May 5, 2009

Uh, girls can like dinosaurs too, Chocolate Pickle. ;)

And girls can also shoot hoops at ESPN Zone (I realized I wrote 'he' but I meant he or she, fwiw).
posted by December at 1:54 PM on May 5, 2009

If you want some time to sit down after running around the museums, the Kennedy Center has programming for young audiences.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 2:26 PM on May 5, 2009

Air and Space, as well as Natural History. I remember going to those when I was a wee sprog, and my brain was all "WHOOOOAAAAA SPACESHIP WHOOOAAAAAA METEOR WHOOOAAAAAA DINOSAURS" for quite some time. Also, Astronaut Ice Cream! (Do they still sell that at the airspace gift shop?)
posted by FatherDagon at 3:10 PM on May 5, 2009

Oh, and be sure to visit the butterfly exhibit at Natural History (it is ~$5 per person). You get to go into a greenhouse with hundreds of butterflies flying around, and sometimes they land on you.
posted by i love cheese at 4:51 PM on May 5, 2009

They do still have astronaut ice cream, as well as astronaut ice cream sandwiches. And "space food bars". Ridiculously expensive for what they are, but I always get some for Mr. Arkham's Christmas stocking.
posted by JoanArkham at 5:28 PM on May 5, 2009

Just some annotations: the children's museum is closed (supposedly to be reopened in a new spot, though forward movement is lacking). The Building Museum is great, but it gets crowded quickly on rainy weekend days. Get there early. The bookstore is awesome.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:24 AM on May 6, 2009

seconding FDR -- go at dusk though, much better in the dark/near dark
posted by knockoutking at 11:52 AM on May 6, 2009

go to union station as well -- the "main hall" is pretty cool -- maybe have a lunch at the food court downstairs (LOTS of choices)

nationals game MAYBE?

i would think that one of the "ducks" tours of DC would have been awesome to go on when i was a little kid...

maybe a walk along the waterfront or tidal basin?

go to the top of the washington monument?

would also suggest one of the many cupcake/frozen yogurt places!
posted by knockoutking at 6:01 AM on May 7, 2009

Many thanks for all the suggestions. There were some very good-looking ones that time didn't permit, and that we'll save for next time, but for any future carers of 4-year-old visitors, I wanted to note that he did in fact love the dinosaurs and the Air and Space Museum, for which I thought he'd be too young. And that he would have spent the whole trip on the carousel, if I were willing to shell out $5 every three minutes. I also heard no complaints at the zoo or Hello Cupcake. Lastly, a plug for the restaurant at the Museum of the American Indian, if you've 'got to' eat at the Mall somewhere.

Once again, thanks very much for the suggestions, which will continue to come in handy for years.
posted by troywestfield at 10:04 AM on June 10, 2009

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