This post includes affiliate links or sponsored content. Read our full Disclosure here.
Sometimes it feels like Washington DC is overflowing with museums, but there is nothing else like the National Children’s Museum in the District. This unique institution combines learning elements with children’s museum experiences.
The National Children’s Museum has science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) focused exhibits and playful, in-person and virtual program offerings to spark curiosity and ignite creativity for all learners. National Children’s Museum is on a mission to inspire children to care about and change the world.
The National Children’s Museum supports both local educators and families as well as tourism in it’s new home at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW. We were invited to the opening ceremony of the National Children’s Museum this week for a peak before it officially reopens September 2, 2021. The Museum is now welcoming visitors in person after opening for just a brief 18 days in February 2020.
What is the National Children’s Museum?
The National Children’s Museum is a new take on an old classic. For 30 years, the National Children’s Museum served children and families as the Capital Children’s Museum in its original home on H Street in Northeast DC.
In 2003 the Museum changed it’s name and lost its space for 17 years leaving DC as the only major city in America without a children’s museum or science center. The Museum still managed to serve children in different temporary locations throughout DC and Maryland.
What does the National Children’s Museum offer?
After waiting 17 years to reopen the National Children’s Museum did not let the pandemic shutdowns of 2020 stop their momentum. The National Children’s Museum was able to pivot from in person, onsite content to virtual content to help fill the demand by educators across the country and around the world.
The good news is that even though the in person, onsite fun is available again you can still access the amazing virtual content via their website at www.nationalchildrensmuseum.org. Don’t miss the collection of STEAMwork resources, STEAM Daydream podcast, and virtual field trips.
The onsite fun is a hurricane of your playroom pinterest board, engaging children’s museum displays, highly interactive science center exhibits and a mega indoor play structure. The permanent installations are supplemented with additional temporary exhibits. They also hold events at the National Children’s Museum so be sure to visit their calendar before you plan your visit.
There is so much to do, explore, learn and experience that even after over 2 hours our kids were not ready to leave. There is a balanced mix of open ended play and exploration opportunities with more structured activities and exhibits.
Upon entering the National Children’s Museum you are immediately greeted by the massive Dream Machine. This cloud inspired, three-story climber with a ‘super fast slide’ is the perfect ice breaker. Children are sucked into the maze like structure, climbing, crawling and sliding their way into flow of play.
My kids emerged from the Dream Machine in a state of pure joy, excited to explore more. The other exhibits that really captivated our kids (ages 8, 6 & 5) include the immersive digital experience at the innovation sandbox, the wind-powered tubes at data science alley, competing and playing in the engineering games + play area, and creating at the tinkerers studio.
There is a good flow to the space which makes navigating it with multiple children easier. The installations and exhibits for the youngest kids (under 3) are scattered throughout the space. This makes it easier for parents who have children in different age groups to stay together. There are also bathrooms on both sides of Floor 1 as well as near the main entrance.
There was also such care in offering gross motor, fine motor, open-ended and directed activities all throughout. This variety kept my kids more engaged and eager to explore each activity. Everything is set up for kids to engage with and explore at their own pace.
I loved that the staff allowed kids to try and fail as they figured things out, only helping when they were asked to or offering guidance without just doing it for kids. Overall, the staff at the National Children’s Museum was helpful, genuine and experienced interacting with kids in a positive way.
If your kids are anything like ours, they will work up an appetite while playing. Re-admittance is allowed if you need to leave for a snack or lunch break. The Bluestone Lane café will be opening soon and will be accessible from both inside the Museum and directly from the Woodrow Wilson Plaza.
Who is the National Children’s Museum for?
The National Children’s Museum is for locals and tourists alike. The location adjacent to the Ronald Reagan Building offers easy and convenient parking in the Ronald Reagan Building lot, although ID is required at security checkpoints. The proximity to other attractions including Smithsonian Museums, National Mall and even the White House make it a perfect addition to a visit to DC.
The National Children’s Museum is designed for kids ages 0-12, but parents can also enjoy the fun. The National Children’s Museum offers learning through play opportunities that are perfect for families, birthday parties, homeschool or play groups and school field trips.
Homeschool or play groups can email email@example.com to inquire about rates. For families finding the price of admission is a barrier, the Museum developed its Community Access Program to provide local organizations and the families they serve with free membership.
Is the National Children’s Museum worth visiting?
Yes. We all loved the National Children’s Museum! If you live in the DMV and have kids 12 and under it is definitely worth a visit. The half day sessions make it a great activity alone or to pair with other adventures.
If you are visiting DC, this museum offers an enjoyable indoor play experience. It is perfect for inclement weather, as a break from all the walking, or to help get the wiggles out.
We are excited to have this STEAM powered institution in the District. We can’t wait to hear about all the fun your family has at the National Children’s Museum so please share with us on social @theadvfam or #theadvfam.
9:30 am – 12:30 pm and
1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Closed monday through wednesday and the following holidays: New Years Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day
General admission tickets are $15.95 for children over the age of one and adults. Children under one do not require a ticket for entry.
Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004
There is limited street parking along Constitution Ave, 14th St and 12th St. There is also a parking garage inside the Ronald Reagan Building that offers valet. Note that the Atrium North parking area is the closest to the National Children’s Museum. For families with little kids the Ronald Reagan parking is a very convenient option with bathrooms and a food court (during non-pandemic times).
Tel: +1 202 844 2486