With kids who are into superheroes of all capes and disguises, we had to catch the Museum of American History’s exhibition on Superheroes which featured the Batmobile used by Michael Keaton in the movie. Despite the rainy start to the day, we braved the poor driving conditions to head into the nation’s capital. With DC being the seat of government, this meant that we had to endure multiple security checks, not just at the museum but also for the parking garage. To ease your own trip into DC and to any of the Smithsonian museums, here are some tips to remember:
- SPLIT UP. If you have another adult with you, get dropped off in front of the museum. The driver can go find parking while you and the kids can go stand in line for the long security check. This is a good time-saver. (Bring an umbrella or wear a poncho for a drizzly day.)
- UNZIP. As you get closer, make sure you open anything with a zipper inside your purse or diaper bag. This helps move the line along as they check EVERY pouch, compartment, and pocket with a zipper.
- OUTSIDE FOOD. You are allowed to bring outside food and water in. Make sure the food is in a sealed container (resealable bags or plastic tubs) and bottled water should be unopened. Not only do you get your kids’ snacks to pass security, but you also save money on food purchases inside the museum.
- LUNCH. If you are pressed for time and the weather is horrible outside, it might not be a good idea to go outside for lunch since you have to factor in the time you need to go back through security to get back in. However, if you are only there for a half-day or you are planning to museum-hop, then check out the food trucks lined up outside for cheaper food options.
- WEGMANS WONDERPLACE. From the Constitution Avenue entrance, turn right into the West Wing and you will see two areas where your children can let off some steam and unleash their creativity. Wonderplace is a micro kids’ discovery center where they can climb a mini indoor jungle gym. They may pretend to be farmers planting carrots and gathering eggs from the hen coop. There is also the play kitchen where they can pretend to cook up a storm. For children up to 6 years old, it doesn’t get old and you may have difficulty prying that frying pan away from them. Closed on Tuesdays.
- SPARK!LAB. For kids 6 and up, this is a wonderful hands-on learning experience for children to come up with their own “inventions”. They provide many stations where they can plan out their invention; use cardboard pieces, wires, and masking tape to create something; make their own beats; use patterns to make their own quilt design, etc., etc. We spent a good part of our short morning here, and we came back at the end of our visit as a reward for their relatively good behavior during the Highlights Tour. Closed on Tuesdays.
- HIGHLIGHTS TOUR. As much as we make travel plans around the kids, it is not just about the kids. Adults should be able to indulge in their interests as well as share this with the young ones. We were fortunate to join the 1:00 p.m. tour with Jon as our guide who also tried to point out pieces that he thinks will interest the children. He included them instead of ignoring them. The tour was a little over an hour but we got to see the main attractions of the museum and hear the backstories which made the artifacts come alive. We would probably have looked past these if we focused on visiting the exhibits which only the children would find interesting. Some interesting pieces include First Ladies’ inaugural gowns; Bud the dog who wore goggles when he joined Horatio Nelson, Jr. during his cross-country drive in a no-windshield automobile; Julia Child’s kitchen which was also the actual set where she shot her cooking show; and the mismatched ruby-red slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz (just to name a few).
- TRANSPORTATION EXHIBIT. Depending on your child’s interests, this exhibition was a BIG hit for my children. The trains, the shiny old cars, old-school bus, and a rapid-transit car that they could actually get on got the kids engaged and interested. Certain displays have a mini-audio-visual station which gives a narrative for non-readers to get information independently.
Though it made for a very long day for everyone because there is just so much to see and do, the verdict was that the kids wanted to go back another time, and we knew that the visit was a SUPER hit!