by Lauren Sloat - 260 Reviews - 86 List
Don't let D.C.'s reputation as a mother ship for the suit-wearing political set fool you--tots make out like bandits here, too. The front-row exposure to history combined with a plethora of free museums and learning opportunities make it a culturally rich place to grow up. From playing with microscopes and observing live insects to secret overnight spy missions, there's a family-friendly attraction in Washington, D.C., for the child or children in your life.
Updated: June 11, 2010
With its 15-story Great Hall, the National Building Museum is an awe-inspiring place to explore the history of all things building-related, with lots of kid-friendly attractions. The Building Zone is a hands-on exploratory gallery, while in the Great Hall, kids can build paper airplanes and watch model airplanes take flight.
Make advance reservations for the Discovery Room, a hands-on learning lab where kids can play with microscopes, learn about science and are encouraged to touch things--a real treat in a big museum. Kids can also stop by the Insect Zoo any time; its exhibit hall displays live insects and features daily tarantula feedings.
There's always something going on for children at this national park in the Potomac Palisades. Camps are offered in the spring, summer and winter in subjects such as magic, arts and crafts, Irish dance, calligraphy and clay animation. For kids with a serious interest in art, there's the Young Creative Spirit, a children's art residency coordinated by two local artists, and the Corcoran's Continuing Education program.
The Spy Museum's KidSpy calendar has all sorts of activities for kids; they can meet real and former spies, go on special missions, see spies on screen and attend workshops on disguise, gadgetry and spy science. Spy camps are also offered on a monthly basis, while Operation Secret Slumber overnights treat kids as spy school recruits for a night of disguises, breaking codes and interrogating real spies.
The Smithsonian's National Zoo is free to all visitors, which makes it a perfect attraction for big families and groups of tots. Find the Create-a-Critter Factory (open May through April) near Limur Island, where kids can create their very own panda, lion or monkey (complete with birth certificate). The daily events calendar also includes feeding demonstrations and keeper talks just for kids.