Dear PoP – What to do with a 7 and 10 Year Old from Upstate NY?

“Dear PoP,

We have our 7 and 10 year old nephews coming into town from upstate New York for a visit with us. We’ve done the Natural History, Building, Air & Space, Native American, you name it museum with them before. We’re trying to plan something fun to do down here for the 7 year olds birthday that A) we haven’t done before; B) a 7 and 10 year old would find really fun; C) Something they wouldn’t be able to do up in upstate New York (that part shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish). We don’t have kids ourselves and our general knowledge of things for kids to do in DC is pretty lacking. Does anyone out there have suggestions of places to go or things to try?!”

Hmm, looks like you hit all the big ones – I’m gonna say (while it’s not as good as Baltimore’s aquarium) the National Aquarium in the Commerce Dep’t (14th and Constitution Avenue, NW). Or of course the National Zoo.

What would you guys recommend?

65 Comment

  • You mentioned doing all the museums – does that include the Spy Museum? They have a part called Operation Spy in which you get to choose a code name, go on a mission, etc. When I did it, we were a group of 20somethings, but I think they have a younger version, too.

  • GiantSquid

    The Zoo? I don’t usually consider it a museum.

    The Falls over on the Potomac are pretty neat from either the VA or MD side.

    The scenic railroad that goes through Ellicott City?

    Go to the park that’s near National Airport and watch the planes take off and land for a bit.

  • National childrens museaum used to be my parents go to spot when I twas a young lad, however, i think they moved out of dc, used to be downtown. I think its by the harbor now. Not sure, but look into it…

  • Have you done the Newseum? It’s awesome.

    Also the Air and Space Museum out by Dulles Airport is way better than the one downtown and is definitely worth the drive. (

    Baltimore’s Aquarium and Science Center are also awesome for kids.

    • +1 for Udvar Hazy. Have they ever gotten to stand right beside a space shuttle? Even my friends’ four and two year olds were enthralled… as was my 28 year old brother in law.

    • Second this. The Dulles A&S is so much better than the one in DC.

  • national building museum, there are interactive exhibits just for kids and there’s lots of room to run around indoors!

  • For the love of god, stay away from the national aquarium. That place is like a fish enthusiast’s basement and they charge like $12.

    • I have to agree. It’s the saddest aquarium ever. Half the stuff in there can be purchased at PetSmart.

    • aw, hey now. the national aquarium is nowhere near as fancy as the b’more aquarium, but i think it would definitely entertain 7 and 10 year olds. i went once w/ an out-of-town friend (10 years ago) and really enjoyed it. the place was full of little kids having a good time checking out the fish. i think there was a boy scout troop there.

      • I’m just bitter because the last time I went there, me and 2 friends were tripping on mushrooms and super psyched to see the piranhas being fed, expecting them to lower a lamb shank of somehting, and all they did was sprinkle fish food like it was a koi pond or something.

  • Do You have a car?

    Baltimore Aquarium
    Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum (Baltimore – obviously)
    Udvar Hazy, Air & Space (Dulles)
    National Capital Trolley Museum (Silver Spring MD)

    • I don’t really see the point of doing Baltimore unless you drive separately and stop there on their way back to New York. There’s plenty to do in DC.

      • yeah, but the baltimore aquarium is top notch. the visionary art museum is one of the best museums in the world. and riding the water taxi’s there is fun.
        damn… maybe i need a day in baltimore myself.

  • The National Building Museum, which you say you’ve done, currently has a Lego exhibit. $5 entry. You walk past the (admittedly amazing) Lego reproductions of world-famous buildings, then spend as much time as you want in the next part of the exhibit, playing with the millions of legos they have there.

    I also recommend going up the Washington Monument. I lived here for six years before I did that, and it was awesome.

    I wonder if that rope course that PoP featured a while back (Go Ape, I think… in Rockville) is ok for 7 year olds. I know they have a minimum age. But I can’t WAIT to do that with my kid in a few years.

    • Yeah, I’d try to see at least a couple of the monuments and memorials. I think most kids would love to show their friends at home photos of themselves with Lincoln or standing in front of sites previously seen only on TV.

  • I took a 7 and 9 year old to Ford’s Theatre and did the museum/theatre tour. While the museum caused them to get antsy, they loved the theatre tour. The lego exhibit at the building museum is also pretty cool and very kid friendly. I second the zoo recommendation. Also how about ice skating at the national gallery?

  • I’m from upstate ny and also have a 7 year old here in DC so I feel uniquely qualified to answer this:

    ice skating at sculpture garden
    go to china town and eat dim sum
    check out the science spark lab in basement of american history museum
    attend presidents day parade in alexandria

  • If you’re seeing the Lincoln and Korean and Vietnam Veterans Memorials, be sure to see the Albert Einstein Memorial at 21st and Constitution. They can sit in Einstein’s lap!

  • imagination stage is cool for kids.
    aquatic gardens are pretty cool
    biking around would be cool
    segway tour
    terrapin adventures
    hiking in rock creek park or the arboreteum
    kayak the potomac
    ghost tour of alexandria
    fords theater
    imax movies at natural history
    sporting events
    roller derby
    h street country club
    rock n romp
    see the big chair
    water taxi rides
    hike the canal
    glen echo

  • A picnic on the national mall, Franciscan Monastery or the Arboretum is pretty cool if the weather is nice. Plus the little ride around the Arboretum in that train is fun. I know you said you’ve done the museums but have you seen the tarantula feeding at the Natural History Museum? Riding the Metro can be very entertaining as well particularly if you get out of the downtown area where you can see something out of the windows. If they are coming in April, a horseback ride through Rock Creek Park is fun. If it’s too cold for that, you can walk around the stables at Rock Creek which is right next to the Nature Center and Planetarium. Also, hiking in Rock Creek Park is an adventure since it’s in the city. See what is going on out at Glen Echo, not sure what time of year it opens. Walking around Roosevelt Island is pretty cool. You could catch a free concert on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center. There are a lots of restaurants which are also good to bring kids: Marrakesh on NY Ave is a fun loud place, it’s a chain but I do have a soft spot in my heart for Buca di Bepo in Dupont Circle, Dukem on U Street, Two Amy’s Pizza on McComb, and Domku for brunch in Petworth. The National Cathedral is cool – there is Darth Vader Gargoyle picked by kids. Discovery Childrens’ Museum has a climbing wall and fun things to do. A Boat ride on the Potomac out to Mt Vernon (which if it’s not the right time of year for the boat a drive out there is worth it). However, above all, I think I’d ask the boys what their interests are and plan accordingly. Good luck!

  • You’ve “done the museums?” Seriously????? I’ve gone 2-3 times a month for 50 years and haven’t “done” them all!

    • + a million

      I could live in a different museum every day for the rest of my life and still feel like I haven’t seen everything in them.

      • me 3. i go once a month. ( 2-3 is fantastic!) but only for the past 15+ years. i’ve not even been to a bunch of museums here yet.

        • I work at one of those museums, and I have to say, these comments really make my day. You don’t know how much thought, energy, and love we put into those galleries.

  • Rent canoes on the Potomac from Fletcher’s Boat House
    -or- go to Great Falls

  • DC’s Hottest Club is SPANK OF THE UNION!

    As you step through the moonlighting Park Police-guarded bronze double doors of SPANK OF THE UNION (formerly known as Platinum), you’ll be blown away by the amazingly cold glares of DC’s Hottest Urban Moms… and Dads(!), grinding to the music of You-gazi. That’s right, You-gazi, versions of Fugazi songs uploaded to Youtube by musically incompetent fans!

    It’s got both Blelvis and the fake Elvis that was asking directions in the Metro, Dan Snyder’s libel-lawsuit lawyers, bike messengers eating disgustingly delicious pies, Georgetown students cooking up designer drugs, bucket drummers drumming on the door of the day, Green Teams from Wards you don’t even know about, Grahamstanders, tourists wearing XXL “You Don’t Know Me” T-Shirts with CIA hats and a School Without Walls filled with baby pandas!!!!

    Pablo Raw will be taking photos you’ll have to see to believe and the illegal furnished English basement tenants will have you saying, these ceilings are pretty low, aren’t they?”

    You’ve got the drag brunch Obama debating the straight Rachel Maddow – in vintage lingerie straight from 14th street’s hottest new vintage districts! Illegal cock-fighting AND Santeria priests! And DON’T miss – it gun- toting snowball-fighting suspended cops flashing their guns at EVERYBODY!!!

    And don’t forget the Freak-ret Service. That’s freaky Secret Service agents doing anything and everything you never expected . . . and you don’t want to know what they mean by “Protecting the President.”

  • I have plenty of ideas. However due to your disparaging comments about Upstate New York I will keep them to myself. Albany Represent!!!!

  • I believe someone may have touched upon this one: biking the monuments. Ft. Dupont in SE has a great ice rink too if they’re into skating (assume they would be coming from upstate). Speaking of ice, what about a Caps game?

  • Thank you everyone! We’re thrilled and overwhelmed with all of the ideas, and appreciate your time in sharing them with us! I think this will be their best trip to DC yet.

  • Fort Washington National Park!

    I went there recently and thought it would have been wonderful as a kid. Giant old fort, great view of the river.It is about half an hour south of the city.

    When I was little, I loved playing in castle ruins in England. Fort Washington reminded me a bit of that.

  • Laurel Dinosaur Park – dig for fossils on the first and third Saturdays of the month

  • +1 for the National Zoo – even if you’ve been there before, now we have cute and cuddly LION CUBS! That is worth a visit just right there. Also they do birthday parties for kids – but might be a tad expensive and you might need to be a FONZ member (full disclosure: I am a FONZ member and love it).

    Also I absolutely LOVE Medieval Madness in Alexandria on King Street. For kids they can get “knighted” which is really cute. Great meal, acting, and lots of beer for the adults.

  • take them to a ice hockey/basketball game or something.. thats what i did when my cousins 8 and 10 came to visit in jan last yr.. took them to a wizards game, followed by wings at a sports bar to watch a giants football game.

    • I wouldn’t do this– you can watch sporting events anywhere!

      • You can’t watch professional sporting events at the arena anywhere, though. And I grew up in a city with three professional sports teams, but still enjoyed the baseball trips my sister and I took each year with my dad, uncles, and cousins to see different stadiums. I think this is a fun event for kids.

        I agree about watching a game on tv (and apologize if that’s the only part of the comment you’re referring to). That can be done anywhere!

  • The House

  • I second those who suggest Glen Echo Park. Even if the carousel isn’t open for the season yet, there are children’s theatre programs almost every weekend and often during the week. If the kids are into art, they might be interested in watching the glassblowing and other artists at work.

    Depending on the boys’ interests and temperament, you could take them on this little excursion:
    1. Take them on the Metro to the King Street Station in Alexandria. Depending on where you start, they can get the below-ground, over-water, and above-ground riding-on-the-Metro experience all in one trip.
    2. Then hop on the free trolley from the King Street Metro station into Old Town.
    3. Then take the Water Taxi from Old Town to National Harbor.
    4. Have lunch or snack at National Harbor and see if there’s anything else there that might interest the kids.
    5. Head back home, following the same itinerary in reverse.

    You have to time things right and the Water Taxi isn’t cheap, but it’s one way to spend most of a day.

    Do the boys have National Parks Passports? ( You can get them at the gift shop in Ford’s Theatre. There are many stamping stations throughout the D.C. area.

    Lastly, letterboxing is a fun thing to do with kids. Take them to Michael’s or some other craft store to pick out stamps and notebooks. Or, if you’re willing to help them, buy kits so that they make (or at least design; you carve) their own stamps (

    Two sites list the locations of letterboxes around the country:
    Atlas Quest:
    Letterboxing North America:

  • The National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel, MD. The indoor exhibits are surprisingly good, the tram ride is fun, and there’s good hiking. Very kid-friendly, and yet hardly anyone goes there.

  • Send your question to, it’s written by (obviously) a kid friendly blogger who is steeped in this stuff.
    I recommend the Phillips Collection, Mount Vernon, a Caps or Wizards game, go up in the WX Monument, Botanical Garden, take them to Pump It Up indoor bouncy house place in Lanham, Md. to get the wiggles out. Take them out for Ethiopian or some other ethnic food they can’t get at home. Maybe look for a live play they would grok, say, at the Kennedy Center or the Imagination Stage? 10 year olds are pretty sharp, that’s 5th grade!

    • Wow, I don’t know if young boys would care for the Phillips Collection, or Botanical Gardens, or Ethiopian Foods (aside form the no-utensils aspect).

  • My friend Dave has a bigger fish display in his house than the DC Aquarium, that place is long overdue for an overhaul, Its in the basement of a boring Federal building, The Commerce Dept, not even in a Smithsonian Building! The aquarium in Hawaii is 10 times as impressive and its small by other aquarium standards. Sorry for all the grumpiness, somebody stepped on my sandwich today, and didn’t apologize.

  • Find a stranger giving away candy. Leave the kids with him.

  • Agreed – one of my favorites, but may be a bit much for a 7 year old. But don’t forget the Md. Science Center – also in Inner harbor – can easily spend a whole day there with kids. And if you like aquariums but don’t want Baltimore or the poor little National – don’t forget the Amazonia Hall in the zoo – gigantic fish, rays, turtles & piranha!

    • Um – that was meant to say one of my favorites is the Visionary Art Museum – not leaving kids with strangers with candy!

  • saf

    Hey, nobody has mentioned the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens yet?

    It’s a cool place.

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