National Building Museum

Summer Fun at the National Building Museum!

The National Building Museum’s Summer Block Party is back, inviting kids of all ages to discover two new exhibitions that will provide cool relief from the DC summer heat. Notre-Dame: The Augmented Exhibition takes visitors on a tour of Paris’s famous cathedral while The Playhouse has activities, crafts and a peek into the magic of the theater.

Explore Notre-Dame de Paris

Visitors to Notre-Dame use a HistoPad™, an augmented reality tablet, to visually transport kids and adults to Paris. Using the touch screen, visitors will activate their own time machine unlocking immersive and interactive worlds while discovering the world heritage cathedral. Each person can choose their own path to explore Notre-Dame — see it being built in the Middle Ages, witness the craftspeople making bricks and carving gargoyles and be guided through the structure’s ongoing restoration after 2019’s devastating fire. The intuitive HistoPad™ is designed to appeal to visitors of all ages, no technology experience is needed and a self-guided children’s virtual treasure hunt encourages exploration of the cathedral’s history and identification of items secretly embedded within the screens.

The Playhouse Presents the Magic of Shakespeare

Notre-Dame is on the second floor because in the Museum’s Great Hall, The Playhouse takes center stage all summer, both day AND night. The Playhouse, a partnership between the Museum and Folger Shakespeare Library, is a stage by night, for performances of Shakespeare’s most magical comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Guests will be swept away by the romantic delight and enchantment of this 90-minute wonder-filled production. By day, The Playhouse is the backdrop for a variety of activities the whole family will love, to discover Shakespeare as you have never seen before.

The daytime experience begins in A Midsummer Forest, a life-size immersive installation based on the pop-up book A Knavish Lad, that tells the Midsummer story. After exploring the Forest, families can craft wands and masks to get into the spirit of Shakespeare’s world. Everyone can construct their own theater to take home, based on London’s Globe, one of the many playhouses Shakespeare knew during his lifetime. One of the Museum’s beloved activities, City by Design takes on an Elizabethan feel as guests will design Shakespeare’s London using found objects. Everyone will delight as they discover the intricacies of The Playhouse’s construction and see real theater costumes displayed backstage.

A storytime and activity is offered at 11:30 a.m. each day and an Insider’s Tour includes time on stage and behind the scenes at 1 and 2 p.m. daily. Saturday and Sunday face painters are on-site to transform visitors into other characters from 1-4 p.m.

Special Programs All Summer

There are a wide range of special programs scheduled throughout the summer to further The Playhouse fun. The Frontera Project will bring Mexican and American artists together in a unique bilingual, interactive performance at noon July 29-31. Fusing theater, movement, music and play, the dynamic experience will engage the audience in a compassionate, joyous conversation about the Mexican/American border, lifting up human stories that are often lost.

  • August 5-7, actor-writer-musician Malik Work will lead an interactive workshop to unveil the tools of theater and storytelling through the celebrated work of Shakespeare and the innovative and exciting work of contemporary hip-hop.
  • Comic book maker Evan Keeling continues the storytelling focus August 11-12 as he leads a workshop in capturing a family story in a mini-eight-page book. These small comics will be created from a single sheet of paper and will provide a perfect way to record and share memories with loved ones.
  • More information about daytime activities, special events and visiting The Playhouse and Notre-Dame de Paris: The Augmented Exhibition can be found at The National Building Museum is open Thursday – Monday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The Playhouse runs through August 28; Notre-Dame runs through September 26.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the National Building Museum July 12-August 28, Tuesday-Sunday. Tickets and more information at


National Building Museum – Notre-Dame Cathedral

National Building Museum – The Playhouse