A great way to spend quality family time together away from electronic devices is by enjoying the variety of educational museum experiences in our metropolitan area. Families can visit small, medium and gigantic museums throughout Maryland and Virginia. In the District of Columbia, families will love visiting the world-renowned complex of 19 museums at the Smithsonian Institution. Check out our list of the best Children’s Museums in the DMV.
Indeed, the educational breadth of local museums captures the mind. With topics as diverse as aerospace, architecture, human rights and philately, to name a few, the historic houses, fine art exhibits, library collections and cultural displays are sure to enrich our lives!
Here are some examples of family-friendly museums to pique your children’s interests:
The Planet Word Museum of Language Arts is the world’s first voice-activated museum built from the imagination of its founder, retired educator Ann. B. Friedman. The museum’s core commitment to providing an experience to families that is fun, playful, unexpected, motivational, meaningful and inclusive is evident throughout imaginative exhibits that span three floors.
The talking word wall showcases a film that explains the history of the English language and makes you think about how people choose certain words in their everyday vocabulary. The library is a magical place where tiny artifacts come to life reciting passages from well-known books. The karaoke lounge plays snippets of popular songs with lyrics printed on the screen, with microphones ready for brave souls to jump in at any time.The museum explains interesting details about language and foreign languages and gives patrons ample opportunities to think about the messages, their meanings and the contexts within spoken and written words. 925 13th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20005 (202) 931-3139. Visit their site.
- Open Thursday through Sunday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.)
- Admission is free! The museum suggests a $15 donation to support programs, exhibits and educational outreach.
National Air and Space Museum
This museum helps propel young minds into outer space through unique opportunities that help children understand there is more to life than what we see every day on earth. Families of all ages will marvel at the gigantic dome-shaped building. It is the public observatory named after Phoebe Waterman Haas, one of the first American women to have received a doctorate in astronomy. It also offers virtual reality, interactive and capsule simulators. Museum guests can ride aboard rockets and choose their own adventures by learning more about Apollo 11 and man’s first steps on the moon or the mysterious black hole in the Milky Way Galaxy, to name a few. 655 Jefferson Drive, SW. Washington, D.C. 20560 (202) 633-2214. Visit their site.
- Open Thursday – Monday (10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)
- Admission is free! Parking fees vary.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
As the Smithsonian website explains, the Udvar-Hazy Center is considered one museum with the National Air and Space Museum at a separate location. This location’s biggest feature is the sheer volume of artifact displays. Children will love viewing the impressive exhibits of colorful airplanes used in aerobatic demonstrations. They will be amazed to learn how aviation and space exploration have shaped the world. 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, VA 20151 (703) 572-4118. Visit their site.
- Open every day except Dec. 25 (10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)
- Free admission! Parking costs $15.
Children’s Science Center Lab
The Children’s Science Center Lab is located inside the Fair Oaks Mall on the lower level and is operated by the Northern Virginia Science Center Foundation. It offers families interactive exhibits on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM principles. The lab specializes in servicing preschoolers and children of elementary school ages through a collaborative educational model in which parents or caregivers and children work together through hands-on learning. The lab’s newest offering is its Bio Zone, offering children the opportunity to see animal ambassadors up-close and personal. 11948 Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax, VA 22033 (703) 648-3130. Visit their site.
- Open Saturdays and Sundays (10 a.m.-12 p.m., 2-4 p.m. Timed entry tickets.)
- Admission is $15.
National Children’s Museum
Nestled in the heart of D.C., the National Children’s Museum gives children many opportunities to engage their senses by hearing, seeing and touching unique exhibits throughout three floors. The Dance Party Pod allows children to dance and have fun while exploring how music affects movement. The Visiting Exhibit Hall features animations that teach children about equality, inclusion and respect for nature. The Dream Machine is an exciting three-story slide that is wheelchair accessible. The Art and Tech area is an interesting partnership with Nickelodeon and features fun activities with familiar friends such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Paw Patrol. This museum also offers family membership plans which offer a cost-effective way to visit frequently. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20004 (202) 844 2486. Visit their site.
- Open Thursday through Sunday. Closed on select holidays. (9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 1:30-4:30 p.m.)
- Admission is $15.95. Family memberships range from $190 – $999 per year.
International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum is an exciting and educational opportunity for children to go behind the scenes into the world of spies and learn what is involved with secret identities and being a part of undercover missions. With fascinating artifacts and exhibits, on floors four and five, the museum offers interactive experiences that make it fun for children to crawl through air ducts, crack codes and learn to spy on other spies. 700 L’Enfant Plaza, SW, Washington D.C. 20024 (202) 393-7798. Visit their site.
- Open Monday through Friday (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) Saturdays (9 a.m.-8 p.m.) Sundays (9 a.m.–6 p.m. Timed entry tickets.)
- Admission is free for children ages 0 – 6. Admission for all others varies between $16.95 – $24.95.
National Museum of the American Indian
Like the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian is part of the Smithsonian complex of 19 museums and is considered one museum with two separate locations. There is a location in Washington, D.C. and another in New York.
This museum seeks to advance the interests of Native Americans or indigenous peoples by explaining facts, promoting their culture and histories and opening up everyone’s eyes to the beauty and often little-known world of the people who inhabited the Western Hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. Families will be intrigued to view exhibitions such as the Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, as well as the breathtaking collections of artifacts representing the culture of indigenous peoples. Fourth Street & Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20560 americanindian.si.edu
- Open Wednesday through Sunday (10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)
- Admission is free! Parking fees vary.