Editor’s Note: Due to COVID and the Omicron variant, things can change quickly regarding openings, hours and safety measures. Please check the website listed for the most up-to-date information for each location below before planning your next adventure.
When it’s too cold to play outdoors head to one of these fun-filled indoor venues for an afternoon of adventure. From an epic indoor space where you can climb, splash and explore to an innovative museum that teaches you how to be a spy, these indoor activities will entertain, engage and educate your kiddos in a cozy, climate-controlled environment. Read on for the details on the best indoor activities near Washington, DC.
International Spy Museum
Do you have a future Secret Agent in your home? Then you need to head to this interactive mix of historical and virtual fun full of spycraft. Get ready for challenge after challenge where young and old alike will learn about spy materials and intelligence gathering. Pre-readers might need a little help navigating some of these hands-on exhibits. Plan to spend a few hours in this huge museum and don't rush through the gift shop ; you'll be sure to find super unique items ready for spy practice at home.
Insider Tip: Check out the educational resources, and your kids can design their own spy gadget and mix up some invisible ink.
700 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Super, Awesome & Amazing
The name says it all, and that's what you can expect inside 30,000 square feet of fun. First, pack all the water gear because the indoor water park offers year-round summer vacation vibes. Then, get ready to climb to new heights in the climbing and obstacles area. Your kids' confidence will grow, and their strategic thinking skills will skyrocket as they solve each climbing challenge. Step into another world with the Virtual Reality gaming bays. Slip into one of the Head-Mounted Displays to enter an intergalactic, ancient, or futuristic realm. There's a lot to see and do. If you need help, just ask one of the super friendly staff members, and they'll be more than happy to take care of your crew.
Insider Tip: Everyone must wear closed-toed shoes when in the Active Entertainment Center, and no outside food or drink is allowed.
6805 Industrial Rd
Get Air Trampoline Park
Get ready to bounce off the walls in this trampoline-filled play space. And you don't have to worry about your little ones getting run over because there's an area just for them. So, strike up a family-friendly game of trampoline dodgeball or run and jump headfirst into a giant foam pit. If you're all fans of ninja courses, you'll love the course at this place. The exciting obstacles build kids' agility, strength and balance. And, they can race against time and see how fast they can complete the course.
Insider Tip: The park offers a dedicated time just for jumpers with special needs on the first Saturday of every month from 8-10 a.m.
The Trade Center Shopping Village
340 S Pickett St, Alexandria, VA
DC Kids Makerspace
In this innovative and creative class-based space, your kids will love the STEAM fun and learning waiting for them. Build a LAVA lamp, mix up some slime or create a custom face mask. Any project is full of endless possibilities. Many classes start with mindful practice and reflection, and the staff leaves tons of space for open creativity.
205 Upshur St NW
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
If rockets and airplanes are your kids' things, then the Air and Space Museum in Dulles, VA, is the next stop on your winter bucket list. First, visit the vast plane hangar where the Space Shuttle Discovery and a Concorde are on display. Then, ride in a flight simulator and sit inside the cockpit of a vintage aircraft. Head upstairs to the top level, and your crew can learn about air traffic control and watch planes fly in and out of the local airport.
Insider Tip: You don't need to worry about leaving to grab lunch, there's a McDonald's on-site.
14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway
Wilson Aquatic Center
It hardly matters the season; kids just want to swim. Lucky for us, Woodrow Wilson Aquatic Center in Tenleytown offers an Olympic size indoor lap pool and kiddie pool that is open year round, seven days a week. Kids love the two basketball hoops and large buckets that dump water into the baby pool. The Aquatic Center is free to D.C. residents, but charges non-residents $7 for adults and $4 for kids. The Aquatic Center does not accept cash; payment must be made by credit card. For more fun in the water, check out this guide on indoor water parks in DC.
4551 Fort Drive NW
Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian
The nation’s capitol has countless museums, but a favorite for the kiddos is the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. Head straight to the imagiNATIONS Activity Center on the third level for an interactive space where kids can weave a giant basket, explore snowshoes, sit inside a full-sized tipi, play in an Amazonian stilt house and learn about pueblo adobe houses. Upon entering, kids pick up a “passport book,” and get stamps from different tribal nations at each station. There’s a reading room and a craft room, with super cool rotating art projects (think: a Lakota Star Quilt). When the gang gets hungry, head down to the Mitsitum Café, which the New York Times has called “the best food on the mall.” There, you’ll find fry bread, wild duck, salmon, and buffalo burgers.
Editor's note: The Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian and Mitsitum Café are open, but imagiNATIONS is currently closed.
Fourth Street and Independence Ave. SW
National Museum of America History
A museum that says it is OK to touch? Yes, please! With interactive exhibitions like America on the Move and hands-on carts full of historical activities, your visit may feel more like a day at an educational playground. When the adults and big kids are ready to explore everything the museum offers, younger kiddos will love the on-site interactive kids' areas. You can explore this museum from the comfort of your home, too. Listen to the museum's Prototype Online: Inventive Voices podcast that features interviews and lectures of renowned inventors and innovators. This series also has a podcast activity guide.
Wegman's Wonderplace – Take your tiny ones (6 & under) to the magical play area just inside the entrance. The 1700-square-foot interactive wonderland gets curiosity flowing. With a gated entrance and attentive staff, you can freely allow your kiddos to explore the dream kitchen, blocks of all shapes and sizes, walls full of gadgets and gizmos and an indoor farm complete with an adorable chicken coop. Editor's note: Wonderplace is currently closed due to COVID.
Spark!Lab – Bring out that little inventor in this innovative space built for tinkering. The cool factor is high when everything you see invites your kids to create, collaborate, explore, test, experiment and invent. Perfect for ages 6 – 12.
1300 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20560
U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Sadly, you won't get to take home a sample of the newly printed money, but you will get to learn all about how it happens. And, you can peep what ten million dollars looks like in real life. Before you go, it helps to discuss the definition of the word currency. You'll hear that word more than money throughout the day. Free tour tickets are required from March through November, and the 40-minute tour runs from 9 a.m – 2 p.m. You'll start by watching a short film about U.S. currency, then take a tour featuring actual money printing while you're there.
Insider Tip: If you visit during peak season (March 23 - September 4), they distribute tour tickets in the morning, and they go fast
Editor's Note: Tours are currently suspended due to COVID.
14th and C Streets, SW
—Angelica Kajwara and Ayren Jackson-Cannady
featured photo: iStock