This winter vacation, make a commitment to get off the couch, turn off the electronics and treat everyone in the family to at least one of the free and fabulous educational enrichments that Washington, DC has to offer.
Examiner lists the top five recommended ways for teachers and families to spend their free time during this winter break, for free.
1. Smithsonian Institute, National Mall
Whether the family is interested in exploring different cultures, critiquing fine art, investigating UFOs, or standing in awe of giant dinosaur skeletons, the Smithsonian Museums have something for everyone, and admission is always free to 17 museums and the National Zoo.
Examiner’s top 3 Smithsonian art museum suggestions include the National Museum of African Art, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Top science museum suggestions include the Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum and the ‘Castle.’
The Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater, located in the Ripley Center on the National Mall is a live theater geared towards school-age children. Classic stories and folktales are told through puppet shows, storytellers, dancers, actors, musicians, and mimes. All shows are Mondays through Fridays, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Virtually every Smithsonian Museum offers specialized, free educational family and youth programs. See each museum website for specifics.
2. African-American Civil War Memorial/Museum, (AACWM) 1925 Vermont Ave, NW
Listed as Examiner’s ‘Number 2’ because the AACWM is either DC’s best-kept secret or the most under-rated resource for retelling the true history of the American Civil War. The museum and memorial celebrate how African-American slaves turned the tide of the war, and freed themselves from slavery.
The Museum offers education programs, free tours, hands-on fun with real Civil War uniforms to try on and safe antique firearms to handle. The historic AACWM Memorial across the plaza boasts an exquisite, larger-than-life, 360-degree bronze sculpture by Ed Hamilton, surrounded by the names of 209,145 ‘colored troops’ who helped save the Union, carved into marble. For lectures and much more contact the museum at 202-667-2667 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
3. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The Kennedy Center is known as the home of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Opera House, the Concert Hall, and the Eisenhower Theater.
Once an exclusive venue only for the wealthy, the Kennedy Center has evolved into a true democratic institution for all of the people, an advancement its namesake, Former President Kennedy, would surely have approved.
A free tour of the Kennedy Center is like a visit to a museum of artifacts from around the world. In the Grand Foyer hang precious sparkling crystal chandeliers and matching wall sconces, gifts from the Republic of Sweden. From Spain, a sculpture of Don Quixote surprises visitors on the east lawn. In the Hall of Nations hang the flags of every country that the United States recognizes diplomatically.
The free Kennedy Center tour ends with one of the best views in the city, a 360-degree view of Washington, D.C. www.kennedycenter.org
4. Corcoran Gallery of Art , 500 Seventeenth Street, NW
The largest and most prestigious private museum in DC, across the street from the White House, the Corcoran Gallery typically charges $10 for adult admission. They do, however, offer many free ‘Youth and Family Programs.’
Children under 12 years of age, moreover, and Military Active Duty enjoy free admission year-round. Membership in their childrens’ program ‘Wilson’s Pride’ is also free for children ages 3-16. Sign up here.
Wilson’s Pride Members will be invited to free family events, including ‘Once Upon a Winter’s Night’, Saturday, January 26, 2013, 6 p.m.– 9 p.m.
Help other community families warm up with donations of warm clothing and blankets benefiting Covenant House Washington. Pre-registration is required.
Plan a visit or get more information on Youth and Family Programs.
5. DC Public Libraries
Every DC public library has quality, free activities for children from infants through teens, nearly every day of the week. Here are just a few examples:
‘Story Time’ programs introduce young children to books, rhymes, music and other fun activities. Every week the libraries offer programs matched to the attention spans and developmental levels of different ages of children.
Library ‘Story Times’ incorporate early literacy skills that children must master before they can learn to read. ‘Story Times’ for older preschoolers may also include films and/or crafts.
Parents and care givers can benefit by watching library staff demonstrate good read-aloud skills and by being aware of the age-appropriate books, music, songs and activities staff use and recommend during ‘Story Time.’
Check their calendar to find a ‘Story Time’ appropriate for the children and convenient for the family:
‘Baby-Toddler Story Time’ offers stories, songs, and rhymes for ages 0-2, with their caregivers at Mt. Pleasant Library in NW.
‘Storytimes,’ for babies and toddlers ‘Stories with Crafts’ for toddlers and young children, and Chess Club’ for older children and teens are offered at the Woodridge Library in NE. Chess instruction is free for children and teens of all ages.
‘Crafternoons’ for ages 6 to 12 at Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Library in NW.
‘Holiday Films for Kids’ at the Tenley-Friendship Library in NW. Watch a holiday-themed movie at the library. Their Holiday Party is recommended for ages 5 to 12. Movie titles TBA.
‘Children’s Movie Nights’, (4:30 p.m.) at Francis A. Gregory Library in SE.
Check out all of the free family fun at www.dclibrary.org.
Be sure to check ahead for holiday closings.
Coming soon: Examiner’s top 5 freebies for DC teachers.