I thought I had a pretty good idea of fun things to do in DC at night, but upon reflection, I'm afraid most of them aren't terribly kid friendly. Having small kids, it's pretty easy (put them to bed), but what to do with older kids who just won't go down at 7:30? As it would be irresponsible for me to suggest NyQuil, let's see what we can do for the reader who recently asked:
"What are the best night time activities for 10-12 year olds? I am planning on doing the DC by Foot and night tour of monuments. Any info on places open past 5:30 would be a big help."
Well, you're off to a good start with DC by Foot. These guys put on a good show, and have a lot of fun doing it. I think it's a great way to get to know the memorials on a personal level. The tour is free, but make sure you tip the guides. And to stay on topic, kids love them and they have a 6 pm tour most nights.
Some other options:
1. Museums: As a guide, I'm often faced with filling time between museums closing and a 8 pm dinner. Traditionally, that has been one of the reasons the Archive's busiest time seems to be after 5. Fortunately, other museums have steadily started to stay open until 7, which is a trend that I heartily support. The National Portrait Gallery and the Holocaust Memorial Museum (seasonally) have had extended hours for some time now and perhaps the most exciting thing that's happened to me in some time is this year several of the Smithsonians will be open until 7:30 (Air and Space, Natural History, and American History). Moving on from the sadness that is my life, many of the for-profit museums naturally will take your money into the evening. The new Crime and Punishment Museum is a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the Spy Museum, at least the first thirty times I saw it. Be sure to check ahead with your specific date in mind. Some of these hours are seasonal.
2. Theater: Washington, DC has a great selection of theaters to choose from, with a kid-friendly performance showing at least one of them generally at any given time. The Kennedy Center's Shear Madness has been playing for over twenty years and is a staple of my eighth grade tours. But I prefer the downtown theaters both for their ambiance as well as their Metro friendly locations. The National, the Warner, the Shakespeare, and Ford's all have been known to put on shows accessible to kids. I particularly recommend this as the best way to experience Ford's Theater, just like President Lincoln did. Well, almost. Heck, you've got to get a ticket anyway nowadays to get in, you might as well see a performance while you're there. If you're in town before May 24th, The Civil War is a musical tribute to the war that I would enjoy taking a twelve year old to. Not everyone is sucked into a love of history the way I was, and this performance is quite moving. It might even beat an i-pod for an hour or so. It's recommended for kids twelve and up, as it has some historical images of slavery and the war, so keep that in mind for kids a little younger.
3. Movies: Sure, you can do this at home, but sometimes it's nice to take a break from trudging through museums with something familiar. Gallery Place in Chinatown and the AMC Loews in Georgetown are both good multiplexes with plenty of dining and touring options in the near vicinity. But if you'd still like to take in some history, the Uptown Theater in Cleveland Park is a historic, single screen movie theater that has hosted, among others, the world premier of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sadly, it has wilted those laurels by repeating the trick for some crappy Kevin Costner flicks. But it's still a great theater and my go to place for a movie that benefits from the big screen.
If anyone else has some ideas for things kids might enjoy in the evening, please leave them in the comments. I imagine this will become even more important to me in years to come, so let's all put our thinking caps on.