Search
Labels
Recent Comments
Contact Us

Have a question about an upcoming trip? Your questions let me know what to write about.

Send them to questions@dclikealocal.com.

Have a suggestion? Someplace you enjoy and want to share? Know of an event coming up our visitors might like?

Send them to comments@dclikealocal.com

And, as always, feel free to leave comments about specific posts in the comments section at the end, whether you liked it or think I missed the mark.

 

« Getting your bearings - Guide Books | Main | Archives: a follow up »
Tuesday
Mar172009

National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum?

One of Washington, DC's conspicuous gaps, culturally speaking, is the lack of a museum dedicated to kids.

It wasn't always the case; we once had a perfectly serviceable National Children's Museum located on H St Northeast. Unfortunately, the Museum closed; ironically, just as H St started becoming a destination in it's own right, albeit more for its excellent collection of bars and less for visiting families. And please, don't anyone bother to tell me it's reopening in 2013. Not here, it ain't. It'll be in some ridiculous place called "National Harbor", a development that is to urban design what McMansions are to home building and virtually inaccessible without a car.

But I digress. With the abandonment of Washington by the Children's Museum, those of us looking to entertain our kids need a little guidance. As one of our readers, Stacie, asks:

We are visiting DC for 3 days with our children. Wondering about the appropriateness of the museums for that age group (5-10 yrs old). Obviously the Natural History and Air and Space will be great for them...but the others?

Stacie has mentioned two of the kid-friendly museums out there. I'd throw American History, Postal Museum, Portrait Gallery, and the Archives (if the line isn't too long) in to the mix, as well. But my hands down favorite for kids has got to be the National Building Museum. Frankly, National Harbor can keep the Children's Museum; I'll take the Building Museum any day of the week.

The building itself, as befits a museum about buildings, is spectacular. Savvy visitors to my blog will recognize the frieze as you enter. Built as the Pension Bureau following the civil war, its wide open Great Hall is a favorite place for local families to escape the heat (or the cold). Even if you don't look at a single exhibit, the Great Hall is worth stopping in for a comfortable place to relax in a city all too often concerned with propriety and grandeur.

Young kids will enjoy the Building Zone area, with it's ample building toys and play area. Giant legos! But pay close attention to their work. Sometimes my daughter doesn't do it right and I have to "help" her here. How else is the tower going to be six feet tall if I don't assist her! She's generally pretty understanding with me. On weekends, it can get a little crowded and there might be a short wait to enter Building Zone, but the staff normally brings blocks out into the Great Hall. We often have so much fun with that, we never make it into the play room proper. And for us older kids, the giant arch in the Great Hall is my personal white whale. If anyone manages to complete it, please send me a picture with them standing under it to post here. I've come close, but small children are less help than you might think in engineering projects.

If you know when you're going to be in town, a little planning can add quite a bit more to your experience. The Museum rents out "tool kits" to families for five bucks that help explore kids up to 11 explore the building. And besides putting on it's own excellent events, the Museum plays host to a great deal of fascinating outside programs. Later this month the 28th to be precise, Target will be sponsoring the National Cherry Blossom Festival's Family Day and Opening Ceremony here. Lot's of kid friendly activities and Target puts on a good party. I went to their sponsored opening of the Portrait Gallery's courtyard a few years ago and it was a blast.

The exhibits are quite well-done as well. The Museum's permanent exhibit, Washington, Symbol and City, is possibly the best comprehensive discussion of the growth of Washington, DC as a City I've seen. Visitors looking to engage the city beyond the National Mall should come here to start. And I try to make a point to stop in to their rotating exhibits. They can be quite clever, even those I would normally dismiss. Case in point, the current one, Detour, discusses tourist routes in Norway. And it's not at all the snooze-fest I anticipated.

As far as amenities go, there is a small cafe inside but we usually just bring a picnic lunch. The Museum is conveniently located on the Red Line at Judiciary Square and the exit is directly across the street. Be sure to spend a minute at the National Law Enforcement Memorial. It doesn't get much attention, but it is one of the worthier memorials in town. But that'll be the subject of another post...

References (47)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Very interesting read. I am a blogger myself and of lately I have found that managing my own site has been a pain in the neck, especially for those technical jargon i have to solve. I recently found a new blogging community where you can just setup a blog and forget ...
  • Response
    Response: dUCSFEVf
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: all heals codes
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: redirected here
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: browse around here
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: quality wbe design
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: Wai-ching
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: Instagram Bot
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: autobinarysignals
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: Magician NJ
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: steampunk corset
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: houston seo
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: makeup brushes
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: youtube.com
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: stock trading game
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: boost your bust
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: Seo HOuston
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: idol white review
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: 1500 calorie diet
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    Response: Mark Galliano
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local
  • Response
    National Building Museum - Best DC Kids Museum? - DC Like a Local - DC Like a Local

Reader Comments (7)

Allow me to correct your information. National Harbor IS easily accessible without a car. There are 3 options:

1.) National Harbor Shuttle - continuous service between Washington D.C. and National Harbor. Departs every 30 minutes from 2 pick-up points: Old Post Office and Union Station. Tickets are $13.

2.) Water Taxi from Georgetown Marina or Old Town Alexandria Marina - departs every 30 minutes. Tickets are $8 (Alex) and $13 (G'town). Free Trolley in Alexandria connects you from the King Street Metro Station to the Waterfront in less than 10 minutes!

3.) MetroBus to National Harbor (NH1 Line) - operates continuously every 20 minutes, departing from the Southern Avenue (Green Line) station. $1.35 fare each way.

Just wanted to make sure you are aware of these options.

Amie

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmie Gorrell

I suppose we have different definitions of the word "easily".

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim Krepp

Tim - I agree. Not easy.

Yesterday we went to the Building Museum. The great hall was being set up for the NRCC dinner, so it was a little strance to navigate through people open bottles of wine, slicing lemons and folding napkins.

My big surprise was tht my kids LOVED "Detour." I have no idea why, but hey, they had a great time and loved all the exhibits.

The Building Zone was a little chaotic at first, with kids throwing things and their nannies ignoring them. Once those kids left, my kids had a great time.

We also had nice vegetarian options at the cafe. Fruit, egg salad sandwiches and more.

March 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGBK Gwyneth

Thanks for the info. I had heard that this museum is great for kids but was unable to find much "kid" info about visiting. Now, we are excited to go.

April 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCJ7 Social Studies

Thanks for so much information. I'm always looking for something to do w/my 4 and 9 year old and this looks perfect! I'll be visiting over Christmas break. Thanks again for a thorough write up.

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

Tim, do you know why the steps in the National Building Museum are so shallow? Well it was the Pension Building--as you pointed out. Veterans missing legs had to navigate those steps after the Civil War on crutches. I guess making the steps shallow was the 19th century's version of "accessible".

I agree with you about National Harbor being "accessible". It really is designed as a self contained place for conventions. They market it as a Washington, DC, hotel, but it really is not. The transportation options are either unacceptably expensive or take to long (Metro to connect with the shuttle to the hotel). Fine if you are at a convention, but I would never recommend it to tourists coming to see DC.

December 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterLauren S. Kahn

I found you blog via Smithsonian post of FB. I am very excited and have bookmarked it. I live about 35 miles outside of DC and never heard of this museum. Thank you very much for the tip. I look forward to visiting!

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.