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Season’s Greetings at the United States Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC  20024

It had been a couple years since I had visited the US Botanic Garden. My first visit was not during the holidays and it was a delightful experience. I had heard so many good things about the holiday display that I wanted to try to take my girls to see the exhibit this year. Last Thursday ended up being a pretty nice day for December so I thought it would be a good time to trek down to the city while we had the afternoon free.


After entering, we looked around the Garden Court that has replicas of DC buildings and monuments surrounded by plush flowers and plants. It’s really stunning! Even with toddlers in tow, it was so relaxing being surrounded by all this loveliness.



Then we headed into the East Gallery for the famed model train exhibit. Each year, a different theme is chosen and for 2014 it’s exploring the seven seas – featuring lighthouses, sea creatures, mermaids, and a pirate ship, all in a nautical wonderland of plants.


Of course the kids love the Thomas & Friends trains that are featured throughout the exhibit.



My girls also really liked this small tunnel that had a few windows to peer through and look at various sea creatures.


The flowers and holiday decorations are so well done that you can’t help but get into the Christmas spirit. The attention to detail is incredible.


After checking out the train exhibit we continued to make our way through the rest of the Conservatory with Clara leading the way. She would excitedly run into the next exhibit once she saw there was more to explore!


The jungle area was a favorite with the canopy walk being the highlight for the girls.


I had to practice a few close-up shots on the gorgeous flowers with my new 50mm lens.



The girls and I really had a great time. We were lucky to go on a day that wasn’t crowded. It might be overwhelming and not as enjoyable for little ones if its packed with people. We spent about and hour at the Botanic Garden and then decided to walk down 2 blocks to the Air and Space Museum.

Good to Know:

•No admission fee.
•Hours 10-5pm every day. Select Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December the hours are extended to 8pm. During the extended hours they offer live seasonal music. Check the calendar for dates.
•Metered parking available along Maryland Avenue and Independence Avenue. There is also a nearby parking garage located at 6th & C Street SW.
•Closest Metro stop is the Federal Center SW station on the orange or blue line.
•The exhibit is very popular, so the best time to visit to avoid crowds is mid-week in early December. During other times, you may have to wait in line outside so dress appropriately.
•I did bring a stroller in with us and it was fairly easy to get around. There isn’t any stroller parking, so they ask you to keep your stroller with you at all times inside the Conservatory. On a crowded day, it would be difficult to maneuver around with a stroller so you might want to leave it behind if you go during peak days.

Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum

Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum
21668 Heritage Farm Lane
Sterling, Virginia 20164

I came across this museum when searching online for a kid-friendly place to meet a friend in the area. I had never heard about it before but after reading some information it sounded like our little tots would enjoy it so we decided to check it out. I am so glad we did as we were pleasantly surprised. This museum is truly a hidden gem!

It is located on the grounds of the Claude Moore Park in Sterling. The museum is a non-profit organization which works to promote and preserve Loudoun County’s agricultural heritage through exhibits and activities.


When we first arrived, my girls were excited to see the big tractors out front.


Inside the museum are several great interactive learning exhibits for small children, probably best enjoyed by those under age 7. My girls were first drawn to the red barn in the Claude Moore Children’s Farm exhibit. In this area children can help perform chores on the farm such as milking a life-like cow, collecting eggs from the play chickens, carrying supplies in the wheelbarrows, and riding Equi-ponies and pedal tractors. There are even dress up clothes including coveralls and straw hats.




In this area, kids can also use their imaginations to perform puppet shows.


In the Waxpool General Store, children can play shopkeeper, shopper, or postmaster. There are shelves and baskets full of play food and an charming old cash register. This definitely beats the typical pretend grocery store found in children’s museums.


HFpostoffice      HFbread HFfruits                         HFstore

In the back of the museum is the Grandma’s Kitchen exhibit, a replica of a century-old farm kitchen. My daughter loved using the old fashioned kitchen tools and wood burning stove to pretend to prepare and serve us meals.


Outside the museum there are some trails to walk that will take you by the Workhorse Museum and an old cabin. There is also a small pond with a few docks where you can feed ducks and geese.

HFcabin         HFworkhorsemuseum

I am so glad we found this museum. My girls were entertained for a couple of hours but could have played longer. It was not busy when we were there on a weekday afternoon but I imagine the weekends are a bit more crowded. If your child likes to role-play they will definitely enjoy the museum. We had such a great time that we will definitely be visiting again soon. It is also a nice option for an indoor activity on a rainy day or during the winter months. The Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum is one you don’t want to miss while your children are young.

Good to Know:

•Admission is $5/adults, $4/seniors and military, $3/children 2-12.
•Hours Tuesday-Sunday 9:30-4:30, Sunday 11:30-4:30, Monday by appointment only.
•Ample parking available in front of the museum.
•The museum gift shop sells snacks, locally made Virginia products, and a variety of toys including Lucy’s Closet dolls, educational toys from Melissa and Doug, and stuffed animals from Douglass.
•The museum also offers a variety of children’s programs including Kids’ Holiday at the Museum, Kids’ Night at the Museum, and Tractorpalooza to name a few. They also offer kids birthday parities.

National Children’s Museum

National Children’s Museum
151 St George Blvd
Oxon Hill, MD 20745

I decided to take the girls down to the National Harbor last week to visit the museum and ride the new Capital Wheel. Clara and I had been to the museum once before but this was baby Mae’s first time. The National Children’s Museum opened in December of 2012 with the goal of “Inspiring children to care about and improve the world” through interactive play. The museum is best enjoyed by children ages 8 and under.

NCMsign                                 NCMcookiemonster

The museum welcomes visitors with a giant map of the globe on the floor to help children determine where they are in the world. This area also has interactive touch screens and giant atlases.


From here, we first went the the My Town area that demonstrates how people connect to everything and everyone in the towns in which they live. In this exhibit, children can buy food at the general store, make pizza at the town’s pizza parlor, and play in the fire engine. There is also a town harbor with a crane that kids can use to move mini shipping containers.

NCMpizza     NCM

Next, we explored the World Cultures exhibit that supports cross-cultural awareness and interaction. It begins at the Arrivals area, where there is small airport luggage carousel with suitcases that you can peer into.


Just beyond the luggage carousel is an area all about transportation, where kids can sit in a three-wheeled vehicle from Thailand. Mae loved this little car and sat in it for a good 10 minutes before I moved her along!


Also in the transportation area is a race track where children can build cars and test them by sending them down tracks with different terrains. This was one of Clara’s favorite parts of the museum.


At the center of the World Cultures exhibit is a Tanzanian marketplace, where kids can pretend to buy goods.


The How we Talk area is about communication and all the different languages spoken around the world. There is a table with chalkboards where older children can practice writing the words displayed on the table in different languages.

NCMhowwetalk        NCMchalkboards

Next, we looked at the What We Wear exhibit and my little fashionistas enjoyed trying on kimonos, scarves, and different clothes from around the globe.


Then we went over to the Where We Eat exhibit that features a kitchen with a row of different ovens to show how cooking is done around the world. This was another favorite section of the museum for Clara. She spent a lot of time preparing different meals for me.


Next we went to the 3 and under gallery. The NCM has a partnership with Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization of Sesame Street, so the show’s characters have a presence in the museum, especially in the 3 and under section. This area was designed to encourage learning through play, movement, art, and discovery. There is a climbing area that challenges balance and coordination. Another area has a variety of toys where children can build and explore different objects to enhance fine motor and problem solving skills.

NCM3&under2                 NCM3&under1                  NCM3&under

In the Infant and Crawler Zone, babies ages 1 or younger have an enclosed area where they can explore different sights, colors, and textures including a fish tank and mirrors.


A room behind this area is filled with little tables and chairs where children can make a craft. Clara was excited to make a “wiggle worm” on the day we visited the museum.


The museum also has a 130-seat theatre where they offer a variety of kid-oriented productions and entertainers.


Overall, my girls had a great time at the museum and were kept busy and entertained for about 2 hours. The ticket price does seem a little high but it’s also a place that you would probably want to visit only once a year. We were at the museum on a Tuesday morning at 10am and there were only 2 other families there so we had plenty of space to ourselves. I think my expectations were too high the first time we visited because I was thinking that it would be much bigger being the National Children’s Museum. It seems fairly small compared to other children’s museums. That being said it still does have a lot to offer and children will definitely enjoy the experience!

Good to Know:

•Admission is $10 per adult and child. Infants under 12 months are free.
•Hours: Tue-Sat 10am-4pm, Mon closed, Sun 12pm-4pm
•The St George parking garage is located across the street from the museum.
•The museum is not accessible by metro.
•No food is allowed in the museum. Bottled formula and milk is allowed in the nursing area located in the 3 and under gallery.
•Strollers are allowed in the museum and there is a place to park them next to the restrooms and area where you can hang your coat.
•There are lots of restaurants located nearby if you want to get something to eat before or after visiting the museum.
•You can host your own private play date at the museum for $250.