Kids home for the summer? Family-friendly activities in, near DC

School is almost out for summer vacation, which means the kids are about to have a lot more free time. If you’re looking for a few ways to entertain little ones this season, Guiomar Ochoa, of cosmomommy.com, has some suggestions for family-friendly destinations, exhibits and day trips in the D.C. area.

L’Enfant Plaza

L’Enfant Plaza may not have been considered a go-to neighborhood for kids just a few years ago, but things have changed. The Spy Museum just moved into the area with its new 140,000 square-foot building, and The Wharf is just a few blocks away. There, families will find a number of restaurants and shops, plus activities, such as splash fountains, boat rentals and a free ferry ride to East Potomac Park.

Also near L’Enfant Plaza is the Hirshhorn, which Ochoa recommends for its kid-friendly accommodations and weekly story time sessions.

New International Spy Museum
Opening day at the new International Spy Museum at L’Enfant Plaza. (WTOP/Keara Dowd)
Dino Invasion

D.C. will be a hot place for dinosaur lovers this summer. The National Museum of Natural History just opened its highly anticipated Hall of Fossils, plus the National Zoo has live dino shows and a dinosaur exhibit running all summer. Ochoa said both are expected to be great, so expect big crowds and plan accordingly.

The Lawn

Are the kids sick of playing in their own yard? Bring them to the gently sloping Lawn inside the National Building Museum’s Great Hall — this year’s annual Summer Block Party exhibit. Previous concepts included a beach, a beehive and icebergs. Lawn will run July 4 through Sept. 2, and will include programming such as yoga sessions, movie nights and more.

The American Mastodon is one of nearly 700 specimen featured at the new “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils - Deep Time.” The hall explores Earth’s 3.7 billion year history. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
The American Mastodon is one of nearly 700 specimen featured at the new “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils — Deep Time.” The hall explores Earth’s 3.7 billion year history. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
Outdoor music

Outdoor concerts are aplenty in the summer, and Ochoa said one to keep in mind is the U.S. Air Force Band summer concert series. The band performs in three locations in the D.C. area, including on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, and at National Harbor.

Play ball

Summer is the perfect season to soak in D.C.’s sports scene. For those with young kids, Ochoa recommends catching a D.C. United soccer game at Audi Field, since matches last a little less than two hours. There’s always baseball at Nats Park (plus a great wading pool at Yards Park, perfect for cooling off after the game), or if you’re looking for a full day of entertainment, hop on a train and take a short ride up to Baltimore for an Orioles game.

Catch a soccer game at D.C. United’s new Audi Field, where matches last about 90 minutes — perfect for kids. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Annmarie Sculpture Garden

For a quick trip outside the city, Ochoa recommends the 30-acre Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Dowell, Maryland, near the Chesapeake Bay.

“It’s one of those places that’s really enchanting any time of the year, but it’s particularly pretty in the summer,” Ochoa said.

A big draw for kids? The fairy and gnome houses throughout the gardens.

Wide open spaces

Another out-of-town option that’s still relatively close is Middleburg, Virginia — home to a number of family-friendly wineries and breweries, plus outdoor activities, such as horseback riding. The best part: it takes less than an hour to get there from D.C.

“You’re close to the D.C. area, but it’s a completely different world,” Ochoa said.

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