So you’re in DC with kids with plans to visit the Smithsonian, the National Zoo, and all the memorials around the National Mall, but those dag blasted legislators in the Capitol building have managed to shut them all down just in time for your visit. So what can you do? What’s open?
[EDIT: As of Sunday, January 21, there has been no budget agreement and most of the federal government is shut down. HOWEVER, the Smithsonian and National Zoo will remain OPEN on Monday, January 22, 2018]
- The Newseum, Washington’s museum of journalism, is a great place to go to reflect on the news of the day. In front of the museum is a display, updated daily, of the front pages of newspapers from around the world, showing just how ridiculous the U.S. government shutdown looks to people around the world. The Newseum is open from 9 to 5 daily (10 to 5 on Sundays).
- The International Spy Museum currently has an exhibit of James Bond villains, which is rather cool, and its permanent collection is a favorite of kids and their trailing adults. Open 10 to 6 most days.
- The National Building Museum has an amazing show of paper building models, some as small as matchboxes. And there are interactive indoor play areas for building with foam blocks while it’s freezing outside. Open 7 days a week.
- National Geographic‘s current show is an immersive 3D experience about the Tomb of Christ. Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm.
- … and speaking of Christ… the brand new Museum of the Bible sure wasn’t funded with taxpayer money, so it will be open through the shutdown. There’s a reconstruction of an ancient city that kids might enjoy.
- Hillwood Museum and Gardens is a spectacular place to visit any time of year, though in winter the museum is much more so than the gardens. The permanent collection of the museum includes more Russian imperial art than anywhere outside of Russia. If it’s warm enough, kids will enjoy running through the grounds and spotting the “dacha” cottage, a pet cemetery, a putting green, and the lunar lawn. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 to 5.
- The Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle is known as the first modern art museum in America, with an impressive collection of impressionist and modern art from the 1920s onward. Admission to the permanent collection is by donation on weekdays, $12 on weekends. So perhaps you furloughed feds should hit it up mid-week.
- Artechouse, a massive underground art space with the feel of a dance club, has a brand new exhibit just in time for the shutdown. Parallel Universe features swirling light projections from the Turkish art studio Ouchhh. Open for ages 6 and up during the day; 21 and over after 5:30.
Of course, none of these (except the sweet mid-week deal at the Phillips) is free, which does change the family travel budget quite a bit. To save money, check on some of the local promotional sites, like Goldstar, Groupon, and Living Social to find last-minute deals on entertainment and dining. We’ll be adding more ideas as we find them, so keep checking back, and send your suggestions to editor [at] alloverthemap.net. And don’t forget to email your representatives to tell them what you think of the shutdown.
Some of the links in this post have been sponsored by Skyscanner.
Sometimes you just need an outdoor adventure. Climb some rocks. Swing from the treetops. Bike down a mountain. Kayak class 3 and 4 rapids, either natural or manmade. You might think of the American West for these things but rest assured, these outdoor adventure cities on the East Coast have you covered, too.
Richmond’s James River has been treasured for its beauty for centuries, but the current century has seen a rise in interest of a different kind.
It’s rare to find a city with class three and four rapids where you can kayak so close to the city center. In fact, you can pull your kayak out of the water and walk straight to a brewery or one of Richmond’s great restaurants in just minutes.
Named Best Town Ever by Outside magazine, Richmond’s outdoor adventures are no longer a secret.
In the middle of the river, Belle Isle offers rock climbing on its natural walls and boulders, with the city skyline in the background. The yearly Dominion Riverrock festival draws expert climbers from around the country to nearby Brown’s Island.
The James River Park system offers trails for hiking, running, and mountain biking on both sides of the river in the center of the city.
Road bikers will love the Virginia Capital Trail, which connects Virginia’s past and present capitals of Jamestown and Richmond along a scenic 52 mile paved route. Experience 400 years of history along one of the first inland routes in North America without having to dodge motor traffic.
Richmond hotels range from the basic to the luxurious. Try the Quirk Hotel for a modern boutique feel, and the greatest gift shop ever.
The mountain roads around Charlottesville are challenging, but the views of the mountains, valley, and countryside make the effort worth it. The city was designated a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, and the Rivanna Trail is a 20-mile ubran wilderness trail that circles the city.
Nearby Massanutten Resort offers skiing in winter, but summer may be even more exciting on its slopes.
Photo credit: Massanutten Resort
Opened in 2016, Massanutten Bike Park carries riders up the mountain on chairlifts fitted with easy-loading bike carriers. Beginners start on the gentle lower grades (after a safety conscious lesson), while advanced riders start at the top with steeper grades, banked turns, and jumps. Cross country bikers can explore the Western Slope of the park, offering 30 miles of trails through 3000 undeveloped acres of woodland.
Charlotte, North Carolina has a reputation as a pretty sterile city. But just 25 minutes from downtown, the U.S. National Whitewater Center hosts a variety of land and water activities for professional athletes and amateurs alike. Dedicated to promoting healthy and active lifestyles and developing environmental stewardship, the USNWC is home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river.
The U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Deep Water Solo Climbing Complex
But don’t let the name fool you. The Center offers more than just whitewater activities. Rockclimbing walls, zipline canopy tours, controlled jumps, ropes courses, and 30+ miles of mountain biking trails cover the Center’s 1300 acres. And there are flat water activities, too. Those looking for less of an adrenaline rush can cruise the flat water by kayaking or stand up paddleboarding.
You can pay for a single activity, or buy a day pass to try them all. The Center is dedicated to outdoor education, so they offer classes and training in a variety of areas. Check their website for a current calendar.
Looking for places to stay in Charlotte? I am fond of the Aloft Hotel Ballantyne, but it’s on the far side of the city. There’s also an Aloft in the Charlotte city center. The closest hotel to the Whitewater Center is the Holiday Inn Express and Suites.
The mountain town of Asheville attracts outdoor lovers for its woods and rivers and trails, and everyone else for its artisan charm and the palatial Biltmore Estate nearby.
The great outdoors looms large, and adventure travelers can find many outlets for their adrenaline fix. From the peak to peak zipline at Navitat Canopy Adventures’ Blue Ridge Experience, where a nearly-mile-long course features tandem “racing-style” ziplines, to the whitewater paddleboarding at Wai Mauna, everything is just a little bit more intense in this ladi-back city.
Mountain bikers will want to check out Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures, which offers private guided rides of all levels of difficulty.
You can also try “bellyaking,” a sport invented in Asheville that uses belly-down, face-first kayaks in the whitewater.
Photo courtesy ExploreAsheville.com
If all that doesn’t satisfy, maybe you’d like to hop on the Mountains to Sea Trail, a 1,000 mile trail from the Smokey Mountains to the North Carolina Coast. Or maybe you’d rather take a different kind of trail, hitting the many craft breweries and restaurants in the area.
Pick up a copy of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, which is based in Asheville, try not to be distracted by their acronym when you check out the BRO Events Calendar for outdoors and cultural events.
For all its automobile traffic, Washington DC is a surprisingly wonderful place for cyclists. The city encourages bike commuters to help alleviate the far too frequent gridlock. There are dedicated bike lanes throughout the city, and a vibrant bike share program. The major tourist destinations are in the flattest part of the city, and there are trails all around the National Mall that welcome cyclists.
The bike trails in and around DC have been legendary for years. Rock Creek Park is a green slash through Northwest Washington with several miles closed to auto traffic on Sundays. The George Washington Memorial trail goes all the way from Roosevelt Island in DC to Mount Vernon, the home of the first president of the United States. Going the opposite direction, the C&O Canal trail runs 185 miles north past Harper’s Ferry to Cumberland, Maryland. From there you can join the Great Allegheny Passage Trail and ride all the way to Pittsburgh!
This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog City campaign.
We glanced at each other as we waited for the elevator door to close in a nondescript apartment building in Adams Morgan. “Are you going to the dinner?” I said tentatively, though I already guessed the answer. “Yes, I think it’s on the sixth floor,” she replied.
We were greeted at the door by one or our two hosts, Jackie, who immediately offered to make us a caipirinha, a Brazilian drink made of cachaça (sugar cane liquor), fresh limes and lots and lots of sugar. While Jackie greeted and chatted up arriving guests—there were about a dozen—Vanessa was cooking up a storm in the open kitchen, over pots of steaming stew, sizzling greens, and cheese pastries.
There’s been a lot of buzz about these sorts of dinners, home cooked meals in a stranger’s house. Bookalokal started in Brussels (IKR) just a year and a half ago and they have recently expanded to DC.
The concept is simple. A host posts a profile and a description of their dinner, members sign up and pay online (most meals cost around $20). And voila. You have dinner plans. But Bookalokal gives you much more than that. It gives you the chance to:
Discover a new cuisine. I’d never had Brazilian food or drinks before, although I have a host of never-before-met relatives living in Brazil. Feijoada is a stew made of beans, pork, and beef. It was served with fresh collard greens and light-as-air traditional cheese buns. Bookalokal hosts come from a variety of backgrounds and include some professional chefs.
Discover a new neighborhood. Okay, so for us, it’s wasn’t really a new neighborhood but rather rediscovering an old favorite. John and I lived in Adams Morgan right after college and it was fun to walk down memory lane. Bookalokal has events in all different parts of the city, including some closer to our neck of the woods.
Get out of your social comfort zone. There is nothing uncool about living in the suburbs, driving three boys around in a minivan, and writing from home in your pajamas. Obviously. But every once in a while, it’s good to get out there and mingle. With other people. That you are not related to. I bonded with a woman who had lived in Eritrea as a teen (I lived in Ethiopia at the same age) and chatted with a woman who had just moved to DC from Haiti, where she worked with refugees.
Plan a trip. While I was sitting on the living room couch getting some excellent tips for my upcoming London trip from a woman who had spent eight years living there, I couldn’t help but overhear a similar conversation going on next to me. My couch neighbor, who has relatives in Portugal, was sharing travel advice with someone who was planning his trip to Lisbon. To say that this group was well-traveled would be an understatement.
Learn a cooking trick or two. I loved that the kitchen was open and I got to watch Vanessa as she prepared our meal. I’m not saying I could replicate it tomorrow—she obviously has a practiced hand—but watching the process makes it at least feasible. I did learn how to make a mean caipirinha.
Bookalokal is a great alternative to a traditional restaurant meal. It’s a cultural experience, from the food to the fellow guests.
Need a taste of salt air and the feel of sand between your toes but you can’t bear the thought of 4+ hours in Bay Bridge traffic? We’ll be featuring some of our favorite beaches near Washington, DC this summer. If you have a favorite, please let us know in the comments below.
Just an hour’s drive from DC, you can find several Chesapeake Bay beaches that may not offer the surf or the boardwalks of the Atlantic beaches, but they might tide you over until your next seaside adventure. Yes, I said tide you over. Sorry.
Not all the sharks teeth at Flag Ponds Nature Park are as tiny as this one.
Flag Ponds Nature Park offers a sandy beach and salt-water swimming, with the added bonus of sharks teeth and other fossils to be found along the shore. The surf is gentle, and the water is shallow for about 100 yards from the shoreline with a sandy bay floor – perfect for swimming with young kids.
Public beach toys for sharing at Flag Ponds Nature Park.
The Ponds for which the park is named can be found along two inland trails. Be sure to bring insect repellent, because though the trails are easy and well-marked, the mosquitos can make the walk less-than-pleasant. When we visited, we found one pond absolutely still and covered with green vegetation, with bullfrogs, turtles, sea birds, and something mysterious swimming just under the surface for company.
Can you spot the two turtles?
- The parking lots are about a half mile from the beach, so you may want to bring a beach cart. There is a handicap parking lot adjacent to the beach access path.
- There is a restroom about 50 yards from the beach with outdoor shower.
- There are no concessions in the park.
- You can bring a picnic, but no alcohol.
- Pets are allowed on leash only.
- There is an entrance fee per vehicle: $4 for Calvert County residents, $6 for non-residents in summer. (Off season, $3 per vehicle.)
- The park opens daily at 9am in summer and closes at 6pm during the week, 8pm on weekends.
- Bring shovels and sifters to look for sharks teeth, fossils and shells. There are some shared beach toys available by the beach access path.
- You must have a Maryland fishing license (tidal/saltwater) to fish.
Dragonfly at Flag Ponds Nature Park
Flag Ponds Nature Park
School is in session, your vacation budget’s in the red, and the leaves are falling but that doesn’t mean you have to stop traveling! In fact, this fall is more exciting than ever in the DC area, with global activities ranging from Luxembourgish juggling acts to Day of the Dead mask-making workshops. So go ahead, explore the world on a metro card and a dime cause most of these activities are absolutely free.
Fiesta Musical at the Smithsonian National Zoo
Sept. 29, 2013. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Enjoy a celebration of Latin American culture and wildlife through a variety of family-oriented activities, live music and dance, special keeper talks, and a Latin American food court.
Sept. 29, 2013, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Freedom Plaza, Washington, DC. Celebrate Turkish art and culture with a variety of family-friendly activities, food, crafts and more.
The House of Sweden: The Third Room
Though the end of the year. Children enter a playroom that serves as a set on which they will be the leading characters in a theater piece of their own interpretation. Through head phones, the children are instructed to find things in the room, to quiet a talking suitcase, and to fly through space. Exactly how they do this is completely up to the children! The story challenge the children to create a world of their own imagination where they can travel through time, fly, and make things appear out of thin air. (ages 9 and up)
National Gallery of Art: Tales of the Night
Nov. 2 at 10:30 and Nov. 3 at 11:30 in the East Building.The animated film weaves together six exotic fables, each unfolding in a unique locale, from Tibet to medieval Europe, an Aztec kingdom, the African plains, and even the Land of the Dead. In Ocelot’s storytelling, history blends with fairytale as viewers are whisked off to enchanted lands full of dragons, werewolves, captive princesses, sorcerers, and enormous talking bees, and each fable ends with its own ironic twist. (ages 10 and up)
6th Annual Kids Euro Festival
October 16 to November 13. It’s like a trip to Europe — sans passport! Kids Euro Festival is a month-long festival of European arts and culture that presents more than 200 free activities to metro-area families. Performances, concerts, workshops, movies, storytelling, puppetry, dance, magic, cinema… and it’s all brought to you by the 28 European Union Member States. Check the website for listings and reserve early—they fill up fast.
Gala Hispanic Theater
Fabulas Mayas, October 21-November 2. A bilingual adaptation of traditional Mayan legends and fables that feature puppets, music and song. Produced in collaboration with Wit’s End Puppets. In the fabulous Tivoli Theater.
Flamenco en Familia, November 9. Free interactive demonstrations in castanets, fans and zapateo for children and the entire family led by members of the Spanish Dance Society and other local flamenco artists.
Day of the Dead Family Festival, National Museum of the American Indian
October 20–21, 2012, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.The family friendly event will feature hands-on activities for adults and children, take-home crafts, demonstrations and performances. Throughout the weekend, visitors can visit and observe four ofrendas on display and learn the history and art of making paper-mache calavera or skull sculptures. Cooking demonstrations will be held in the outdoor fire pit, weather permitting, of Day of the Dead foods, including mole and tortillas. Performances include the Dance of the Jaguars (La Danza de los Tecuanes) by the dynamic dance group Los Tecuanes.
Freer/Sackler Museums of Asian Arts—Imaginasia
Sacred Dancers of Angkor, Sunday, October 6, 2013, 2pm. Young Cambodian dancers and musicians from rural villages around the temple complex of Angkor Wat perform classical Buddhist dances. Dance classes and an opportunity to interact with the musicians and play traditional Cambodian instruments follow the performance
Diwali: India’s Festival of Light, Celebrating the Art of Yoga,Saturday, October 26, 12 – 7:30 pm. Mark the opening of Yoga: The Art of Transformation and Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, with a full day of activities. Visitors can discover exhibition highlights through spotlight tours, play games from across Asia, attempt intricate rangoli (rice powder) drawings, and make their own yoga-inspired art.
We’ve rounded up some DC-area global fun to take your family around the world in the comfort of your metro car. After all, isn’t access to free, or mostly free, cultural treasures the reason we love DC in the first place?
This year, we’re particularly excited about the number and diversity of family programs at the oft-overlooked National Museum of African Art. They have several family activities each week, everything from Ethiopian dance to African storytelling to art workshops to (our favorite) drumming.
And we’re dancing in our seats looking at this month’s Millenium Stage lineup—tons of global offerings as they feature Bob Marley’s legacy, music from the Smithsonian Folk Festival, and UNHCR Day. Too much to cram it all into this post but definitely check out the Kennedy Center’s website.
Finally, how lucky are we to have National Geographic right here in our city? This summer, they celebrate 125 years of adventure with a new exhibition, The New Age of Exploration, featuring interactive exhibits and, of course, breathtaking photography.
Fête de la Musique
June 22, 12pm to 3am
Inspired by France’s Fête de la Musique, the Alliance Française and Malmaison will play host to a summer journey through many musical worlds. Taking place along the Potomac River, this grand fête will transform Malmaison and the surrounding area into a haven where musicians, music enthusiasts, artists, and food lovers alike will collide for an all-day musical experience. Participating artists include Honest Haoloway,Gramophonic, and La Unica
NGA Jazz in the Garden (National Gallery Sculpture Garden)
The Jazz in the Garden Series begins its 13th season May 24. The free concert series features an array of jazz artists performing a wide variety of styles—including salsa, blusion, xylophone, and Afrofunk—every Friday evening from 5:00 to 8:30 at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Some global highlights:
Chopteeth: Afro-fund big band, May 31, 5pm to 8:30pm
Hendrik Meurkens: harmonica, June 21, 5pm to 8:30pm
Ernest “EC3” Coleman and Friends: Latin jazz, July 5, 5pm to 8:30pm
Incendio: Latin guitar, July 26, 5pm to 8:30pm
National Gallery of Art: Stories in Art, American Adventure (ages 4 to 7)
July 12-14, July 19-21, July 26-28, August 2-4 at 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, and 1:30
Free, no advance registration necessary
Would you like to take a road trip across the United States this summer? Pack your imagination and travel to the National Gallery of Art! Explore the nation’s coasts, forests, farms, and mountains through works of art. After investigating paintings to learn about American artists, make a souvenir to document each adventure. You will receive a passport to the Summer Story Series and a stamp for each program attended. Collect three or more stamps to receive a prize!
Natural History Museum: Ocean Origami
World Ocean Day, June 8, 1pm to 3pm
June 8th is the international World Oceans Day. Come find out how you are connected to the ocean and create your own ocean creature to take home with you.
National Museum of African Art
Note: They have an amazing array of activities this summer—too many for us to list here. This is just a sample. See the website for more programs.
July 2, 2pm: Performance by Fendik blends creative movements and sounds with Ethiopia’s ancient azmari traditions of bardic minstrels.
July 3, 1-3pm: The Big Draw: Family Workshop. Come learn about African art and drawing techniques, then draw in the galleries.
July 9, 2pm: Maria Broom and David Foreman present an engaging program mixing music, drumming, and fun for all ages. Maria is an actress, storyteller, and dancer, and dancer David (also knows as Jali-D) plays the African drums.
ImaginAsia: Freer/Sacker Museums (ages 8 to 14, free)
June 15 and 16, July 6 and7, 2pm
Children’s Toys: Discover mysterious miniature objects created in China hundreds of years ago. In the classroom, make your own miniature clay person, animal, or object to take home.
July 13, 14, 20 and 21, 2pm
Beautifully Bound: Tour the exhibit, then create your own Japanese book using elegant handmade papers for your cover and tanzaku slips for your title, and then bind them together with a traditional Japanese sewing technique.
July 27 and 28, 2pm
Soaring Phoenix: Explore the mythology and symbolism surrounding phoenixes in Chinese art, as seen in objects in the Freer Gallery’s collection, then fly a phoenix kite on the National Mall. Kites and instruction provided.
Discovery Theater, Smithsonian
June 26, 10:15 and 11:30, Baird Auditorium, Natural History Museum
Lesole South Africa: Take a joyous journey to the African continent as Lesole Maine and his dancers perform Zulu, gumboot, Tswana and street dance of South Africa.
National Geographic Museum
Pirate Family Day, June 22, 10am (free)
Ahoy, me mateys! Tired of the same old pirate stories? National Geographic Museum brings Real Pirates to life with historical re-enactors, telescope making, and traditional pirate tunes. Create your own jolly roger, see a live pirate show and falconry demonstration, learn how to build a boat and dive into the world of underwater archaeology
A New Age of Exploration, Opening June 13
A New Age of Exploration: Since its founding in 1888, National Geographic has inspired explorers from around the world. Celebrate 125 years of vivid storytelling through stunning photography, film, and interactive experiences. Follow Geographic’s continuing exploration of world environments and cultures, from the top of Mount Everest to the remote Amazonian rainforests.
Millenium Stage (check website for more global performances)
Free (all shows at 6pm, no tickets required)
June 8, Target Family Night with Sin Miedo salsa band
June 20, UNHCR World Refugee Day with Grammy winner Cheick Hamala Diabate and book-signing by international bestselling author Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner).
June 22, Emmanuel Jall, world-famous Southern Sudan hip hop artis
June 17, Los Masis, traditional Bolivian ensemble.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival
June 26-30 and July 3-7,11am to 5:30pm plus evening events
The themes of the 2013 program will be: Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival; One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage and Will to Adorn: African American Identity and the Aesthetics of DressThe Folklife Festival includes daily and evening music and dance performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations, storytelling and discussions of cultural issues.
National Harbor Dragon Boat Races
August 24, 9am to 4pm
The regatta is an open competition, seeking participants of ages 12 years of age or older. No experience is required and training sessions are being offered. Dragon boat racing is an important part of the Chinese traditional culture, dating back more than 2,300 years.