Fun things to do this Sunday in Washington, DC?
May 26, 2021 7:52 AM   Subscribe

We're in DC this weekend and will have a free day. I was hoping to snag a timed ticket to any of the Smithsonians that are open, but nothing's available.

We're four vaccinated grownups and a surly 12 year old who's had one shot (so we're okay with indoors if it's a big space with limited crowds, but will be happy with outdoors with shade / rain protection / not tooooo cicada-y).

We've all been before, but 12 year old hasn't. Worst case scenario, we can walk around and look at the monuments and memorials and everything - but what's the best case? 12 year old is happiest with places that have hands-on stuff and videos to watch (the first is pretty much gone because of Covid), and hates looking at art and animals (so no zoo, sigh) (Seriously - what kid hates going to the zoo?! My kid, that's who).

Also, is the wall down in front of the White House?

I am super pumped about the cicadas but I think I'm the only one.
posted by Mchelly to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The National Gallery of Art (which is not part of the Smithsonian) seems to have passes available, if you think the 12 year old would tolerate that for a bit (or if you can split up for part of the visit). And you don't need passes for the NGA outdoor sculpture garden (more appealing to most kids than traditional art museums) or the Hirshhorn sculpture garden, or the parts of the Botanical Gardens that are open.

It's not quite hands on, but consider a cultural heritage self-guided walking tour.

Lafayette Park (across the street from the White House) is open.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:19 AM on May 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Building Museum is worth a look. Most of the space is rotating exhibits, but video and hands-on stuff aren't unusual. It's not a full day, but it's a fun hour or two. It's likely you'll have the place nearly to yourself unless there's a specific event happening.

(There's also kite flying on the mall, which isn't really DC specific, but isn't a bad excuse to spend time outdoors.)
posted by eotvos at 8:35 AM on May 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

The Spy "Museum" is pretty cheesy, but perhaps might appeal to the persnickety 12-year-old.
posted by praemunire at 9:45 AM on May 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There are some museums in Washington, DC, that are not in the Smithsonian circuit that may have ticket availabilities for Sunday, May 30. National Building Museum is one (mentioned above), and so is the National Museum of Women in the Arts (I just checked, and NMWA has tickets for Sunday). My younger nieces and nephews enjoyed the Spy Museum.

Alternately, visiting Arlington Cemetery is a moving experience.

BTW, Sunday's forecast for DC looks to be cooler (high of 62) and rainy.
posted by Quaversalis at 9:51 AM on May 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Spy Museum in its old location was pretty much perfect for kids aged 12-14 (its other target audience really seems to be grown adults who are deeply into the Cold War) but I haven't been since they moved. It seems like a top pick.

The National Building Museum just had a renovation and to my eye currently has only one exhibit of any sort of interest to a random kid that age. I found that exhibit to be a mix of cool things and interesting presentations (they have life size cutaways of different construction materials and methods over the years, a nice interactive skyline presentation, and a gallery where the walls mimic textures of different surface materials) but there's also a jumble of miscellaneous crap that's supposed to present "things people had in their homes" that I could not determine had any organizing principle. There are a couple walls of photos that I liked, but I've always been interested in architecture and the standard kid who hates art may think that's just more boring art to look at. If your kid likes architecture, though, it would also be fun.
posted by fedward at 10:59 AM on May 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Normally I would suggest taking a 12-year-old to the Mansion on O Street to look for secret doors, but they're definitely inside and it's not clear that they're reducing capacity for Covid. Artechouse is a larger indoor space with reduced capacity.

Outside, if you have a car, I'm a big fan of the National Arboretum; don't know how a persnickety 12-year-old would feel but I think the bonsai museum and the old Capitol columns are pretty cool. And it's possible that a stroll through the Hirshhorn sculpture garden and the National Gallery sculpture garden wouldn't feel like "looking at art." I loved the Hirshhorn sculpture garden when I was a kid (and would have loved the National Gallery one if it had existed then), even when I was grumpy about going to art museums.

Walking around the Mall is also pretty nice even if you're not going into the museums! You can look at the Capitol and the Washington Monument, go to the gardens by the Smithsonian castle, visit the carousel, maybe have an ice cream, and check in at the Natural History Museum in case someone didn't show up for their timed ticket.
posted by babelfish at 4:17 PM on May 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Day trip to Baltimore to see the Museum of Visionary Art. It's worth the drive, even the surliest kid (and adults!) will love it.
posted by veery at 1:53 AM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Spy Museum - it’s great for that age and adults, too. Plenty to walk around and see - Black Lives Matter square, MLK monument are more recent. See who is protesting in front of the White House. See what barricades remain from the insurrection. DC can be a lot of walking, so plan sit-down time strategically, maybe lunch-with-people watching?

Look up which building houses their Congressional offices and point them out, as well as the Supreme Court building - there is a lot to see near the Capitol dome that’s visible if you are driving through. The arboretum is huge and might be less of a draw unless there is some interest I plants and gardening. You can drive through and see the pillars if they’re not at capacity.
posted by childofTethys at 4:04 AM on May 27, 2021

If the weather cooperates, I found touring the National Mall by rental bicycle to be very nice.
posted by mmascolino at 12:51 PM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah use a rental bicycle or segway so you can see more without getting totally exhausted by all the walking. Consider getting breakfast/ lunch/ brunch at union market or eastern market. Not a lot of food options on the mall unless you like food trucks.
posted by _cave at 3:26 AM on May 28, 2021

Oh and consider doing a boat tour. There are some evening ones and the rain should be done by then.
posted by _cave at 3:30 AM on May 28, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks everybody!
We ended up taking a walking tour of the Mall with this group which was amazingly well done (and especially fitting for Memorial Day, something we hadn't considered but really added to the whole experience). Then we grabbed lunch, went to the Sculpture Garden and the National Gallery (thanks to Mr.Know-it-some, I was able to snag timed tickets the day I posted the question) - my son mostly looked at his phone, but the rest of us had a good time.

We were hoping to also get into the National Building Museum, and all of you were right, there would have been no problem getting in (we even called and they said we could just walk up and get tickets) but we ran out of time before they closed). We did look into the Spy Museum, but no tickets were available. So other than the cold and rain, it was a great day. Thanks to all of you for your suggestions!
posted by Mchelly at 11:08 AM on June 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

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