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Washington, D.C., With Young Kids

Although the nation’s capital as the seat of political power won’t interest your young children, Washington, D.C., has much that will excite them. D.C. is a vibrant city with tot-friendly attractions, engaging exhibits and lively children’s theater.

Several Smithsonian museums on the Mall engage curious, young kids with special exhibits just for them. At the National Museum of Natural History’s Discovery Room, tykes can touch shark’s teeth, wear African jewelry and play musical instruments. At the Lemelson Center’s SparkLab!, National Museum of American History, kids play with blocks, color and investigate mirrors and other items. At the National Air and Space Museum, young kids learn about the stars and planets at “One World, One Sky,” a planetarium show “hosted” by Big Bird, Elmo and friends.

Also part of the Smithsonian, the Discovery Theater features live shows and special events for young kids. Some take place at the S. Dillon Ripley Center while others are held at other facilities. At Meet the Museum, families watch a 20 minute performance about an exhibit and afterwards explore that attraction with a guide.

When you’re ready for a break from being indoors, take time to stroll the Mall, a wonderful, green expanse, perfect for romping, people-watching and picnics. A ride on the carved horses of the Smithsonian’s carousel thrills kids. The 1947 carousel, located outside the Arts and Industries building, is open year-round in good weather.

Playful animals to view make the Smithsonian’s National Zoo a must-see. The giant pandas still reign as the zoo’s stars. Whether munching on bamboo or sleeping, something they do a lot, the rolly-polly, black-and-white beauties look like big stuffed animals. The lion cubs recently celebrated their year-old birthday, the elephants walk in an expanded habitat, and the nearly two year-old Andean bear cubs romp playfully in the trees. Don’t miss the Kids’ Farm, a barnyard setting with cows, goats and alpacas to pet.

Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C’s urban oasis, encompasses 2000 acres of woodlands, streams and meadows. The park is the place to stroll, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when Beach Drive between Military and Broad Branch roads closes to cars. In addition, in the Nature Center’s Discovery room, tots can touch pine cones, draw pictures and find out more about leaves and forests. Check the schedule for the center’s planetarium shows.

For more information about exploring Washington, D.C., with young kids, grade schoolers and teenagers, see DC With Kids, an app that makes exploring the nation’s capital fun and easy.

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