Miss Sofia Goes to Washington
September 3, 2009 8:36 AM   Subscribe

What's good for a toddler to see and do in Washington, D.C., in early summer?

The Writer Family is looking to travel to Washington, D.C., for an early summer vacation, and bringing our (will be then) 3.5 year old little girl. But we need your hope!

I haven't been to D.C. in 5+ years, and my last trip was certainly not geared for a toddler's itinerary. What are the best museums that she'd enjoy? She loves science and animals and fish. I can see us strolling the Mall and getting over to Georgetown or Alexandria for a few hours.

But what else is there?

Bonus points for kids stores, besides the mall/chain kind. Extra points for kid friendly eateries.

The plan is early June, about three days up there.

(I know D.C.'s been covered before, but I'm looking for a kid perspective.)
posted by fijiwriter to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Science, animals, and fish + museum = The National Museum of Natural History. The Hall of Mammals, the Ocean Hall, and the dinosaur exhibit are favorites of most kids. The Butterfly Pavilion, while not free like the rest of the museum, is wonderful, and would probably delight most toddlers.

The cafeterias in the Smithsonian museums, while tourist-trap pricey, are definitely kid-friendly.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:42 AM on September 3, 2009

Science and fish: the Natural History Museum's new (2008) Sant Ocean Hall.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:42 AM on September 3, 2009

Oh, and if you want a good toy store, they don't come much better than Sullivan's.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:46 AM on September 3, 2009

I came in here just to suggest the Natural History museum; glad others are as well. I've taken toddlers of varying ages, and they loved it. Also, there are tons of other toddlers running free, and I think there's something to be said for that freedom in a large space with exciting things to explore all around. Also, I love it, as an adult.
posted by sa3z at 8:48 AM on September 3, 2009

The National Zoo! Go in the morning when it's cooler.

Also, secret locals' tip: If you take the Metro to the zoo, do not get off at the "Woodley Park - Zoo" stop. Instead, get off at Cleveland Park and walk south on Connecticut Ave to get to the Zoo, thus taking you DOWN the fairly steep hill in the heat of summer rather than up it. When you leave the Zoo, continue to walk South on Connecticut Ave (also downhill) to get the Woodley Park - Zoo stop to go home. The Zoo is pretty much equidistant between the two stops, so it really is all about avoiding the uphill slog with strollers, etc. in the heat of summer.
posted by somanyamys at 9:00 AM on September 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Seconding the National Zoo.

Also, beware of the National Aquarium (near downtown); it's pricey and disappointingly small.
posted by aheckler at 9:41 AM on September 3, 2009

National Building Museum. We live locally and head down there once every couple of weeks. The Building Zone is awesome, and they often brings tons of building toys out to the main area to spread around.
posted by procrastination at 9:53 AM on September 3, 2009

Muesem of the American Indian has the best food on the mall. Chicken fingers for kids if they need it, but a crazy variety of food from tribes from NW to S. America to NE. Think Plank Salmon, Bufflo Steak, Heirloom Potatoes.

Food wise Two Amy's a pizza place is always a rec for places to take kids.

I'll second the zoo and natural history. Near the zoo (Woodley Park Station) Open City is a great place for brunch lots of kids but it gets slammed on weekends.

Would she enjoy eating crabs? Its a fun activity and there are a bunch of places by the water.

Also one of the tour bus companies where you pay a fee to get on and get off all day might work well.

The earlier in June the better. The sooner you get here before tourist flood the city the better (usually mid to late June).

Finally, teach your daughter to stand on the right on the metro escalator and she'll make a lot of friends with locals.
posted by akabobo at 1:37 PM on September 3, 2009

She might enjoy watching planes land at Gravelly Point.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:10 PM on September 3, 2009

Keep an eye on the schedule for the Freer/Sackler's imaginAsia program - they have smart, entertaining kids' programs based on the exhibits there.

The Rock Creek Park Nature Center has lots of childrens' events and will give you a chance to get off the beaten path. There is a small planetarium there, and horses and ponies to look at at the stables nearby.

RE: The Zoo - make sure to stop by the Amazonia exhibit and see the giant arapaimas. See what's happening at the Koshland Science Museum.

Seconding Sullivan's.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:05 PM on September 3, 2009

The Natural History museum is a must. I haven't been in a long time, but hopefully they still have the big dinosaurs out front that kids can climb on.

The National Zoo can get miserably crowded at peak times, so be careful. If the only time you can go is midday Saturday, I would pick a different activity.

The carousel on the Mall. It's right in front of the Smithsonian castle.

The National Gallery of Art has a couple of neat spaces. Outdoors, they have a wide open flat area, with mirrored pyramids sticking up - seen here - fun to run around and burn off steam. Then you can go inside, see the giant mobile in the atrium, and get some lunch in the Cascade Cafe below (in the gallery) and sit next to the window looking onto a waterfall that comes down from the ground level. (The cafe is overpriced and busy at peak times, as are all the museum cafes.)

The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden is also on the mall and is a neat space for a kid to cruise around; lots of big weird sculptures set outdoors.

The various overlooks over Great Falls. There's a nice one at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center on the C+O Canal towpath, which also has the canal and a demonstration canal boat pulled by a mule some days. It is a shaded path, so would be good if the days are hot. You would probably want to drive here; it has the advantage of being less crowded than the one in Georgetown. (Here are some descriptions of the Georgetown center).

If you're up in that area, Glen Echo Park is a nice old oddball former amusement park - they have a carousel and often have outdoor music or arts fairs in the summer.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:25 PM on September 3, 2009

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