Guest Author - Candyce H. Stapen
Although the nationís capital as the seat of political power wonít 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 childrenís theater.
Several Smithsonian museums on the Mall engage curious, young kids with special exhibits just for them. At the National Museum of Natural Historyís Discovery Room, tykes can touch sharkís teeth, wear African jewelry and play musical instruments. At the Lemelson Centerís 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 ďOne World, One Sky,Ē a planetarium show ďhostedĒ 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 youíre 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 Smithsonianís 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 Smithsonianís National Zoo a must-see. The giant pandas still reign as the zooís 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. Donít miss the Kidsí Farm, a barnyard setting with cows, goats and alpacas to pet.
Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.Cís 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 Centerís Discovery room, tots can touch pine cones, draw pictures and find out more about leaves and forests. Check the schedule for the centerís 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 nationís capital fun and easy.