4 day trips for summer fun in d.c.

4 Day Trips for Summer Fun and Beyond

Local day trips are a great way to spend time with your family, create lasting memories and save on travel expenses. With a little forethought and creativity, you can turn simple day trips into at-home activities that will ignite kids’ interest in learning for days to come! Here are four day trips with theme-related activities to get you started:


Take a trip to the National Zoo. Before leaving home, get on their website to explore kid-friendly web pages and become familiar with exhibits, demonstrations and programs.

When your visit is over, spend the next few days doing these activities:

  1. Animal House Adventures. Create a personalized “Animal House” adventure book by having your child write about and illustrate her trip to the zoo.
  2. Masquerade & Mimic. Make animal masks from paper plates, paint and yarn. Then march around the house making animal sounds and behaviors.
  3. Folding Fun. Learn how to make origami birds.
  4. Creature Collage. Make a collage of animals using pictures from old magazines.
  5. Take on Textures. Draw an animal shape then use different materials such as fur, fabric, yarn or beads to create a textured animal.
  6. Zoo Signs. Log onto aslpro.com to learn American Sign Language for different zoo animals.
  7. Edible Scenes. Create an edible zoo scene. Spread vanilla pudding inside a cookie sheet. Use animal crackers, stick pretzels, string licorice, mini-marshmallows and other small food items to embellish the setting.


Visit the National Museum of Natural History to explore fossil exhibits. To make the most of your trip, find books and videos on the subject. Or search out kid-friendly websites such as fossilsforkids.com or amnh.org/ology. Then follow up your visit with fossil-type fun:

  1. Make a Good Impression. Create fossil impressions with plaster and nature items.
  2. Excavate Bones. Collect clean chicken or beef bones. Cover bones with petroleum jelly and bury them in a pan of plaster. When it hardens, have your child dig through the plaster with a spoon to “unearth” the bones.
  3. Buried Treasures. Bury miscellaneous items in a sand-filled kiddie pool and dig in. Or make a trip to the beach to search for “treasures” hidden beneath the sand.
  4. Pen on Paleontology. Write and illustrate an adventure on what you might find if you were a paleontologist.


Schedule a visit to any one of D.C.’s fantastic art galleries, such as the National Gallery of Art, The Phillips Collection, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and many more. Before leaving home, check out special exhibits and family programs. When you go, stimulate thinking by asking your child questions about what he sees and having him look for and count shapes and objects in paintings. Keep the creative juices flowing with these fun activities:

  1. Eye on Abstract. At home, create abstract art by taping paper to the bottom of a flat pan. Squirt paint randomly around the paper, then roll a marble through it.
  2. Carve Out Creations. Carve a soap sculpture by whittling a bar of white soap with a plastic butter knife. Or mold your own sculpture with homemade baker’s clay.
  3. Go 3-D. Create 3D art using cereal boxes, straws, wires and other recyclables.
  4. Pencil in Print. Use a pencil to create a design impression on the backside of a Styrofoam meat tray. Spread paint over the design then place paper over top to make prints.
  5. Sketch Yourself. Draw a portrait of yourself using a mirror. Sit across from a sibling and draw one another. Create a collage portrait by drawing an oval head and cutting out facial features from magazines.
  6. Fiddle with Photography. Over a week’s time, take two dozen photographs each day on the following themes: forms of light, dimensions (i.e., sky, field, concert hall), objects in motion, textures (fabric, brick, wood), unique perspectives (bug, dog, piano). Choose the best image from each theme and create a photo album.


Visit a local park for a nature walk or try out one of these hiking trails near D.C. Bring along a field guide to help you identify trees, plants, flowers, insects and/or birds. When you get home, keep the love for nature flowing with these activities:

Rubbing Art. Make leaf, flower and bark rubbings with paper and crayons.

  1. Preserve Animal Tracks. Pour plaster into animal track indentations, let the plaster harden, then carefully remove the surrounding dirt. Turn tracks into paperweights or refrigerator magnets.
  2. Stage an Environment. Find a caterpillar in its natural environment then recreate its habitat in a glass jar. Observe it at various stages of its lifespan and record observations. When the insect emerges from its cocoon, release it into the environment and write a creative story about the caterpillar’s experience.
  3. Eye on Aquatic Life. Visit a nearby river, creek or bay and view creatures below water’s surface with a homemade aquascope. Remove both ends of a coffee can and cover rims with duct tape. Place plastic food wrap over one end and secure it with rubber bands. Seal around the outer edges of the plastic with tape.
  4. Backyard campout. Cook dinner and roast marshmallows over an open fire. Look at stars and identify constellations. Listen and determine what insect and animal sounds you hear.


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