Places to Go - Indoor Spaces for Kids - 58 IDEAS FOR THE COLD DAYS AHEAD!!!


So it's getting colder, where do you go? Here are my suggestions. LOTS OF THEM. In fact, this will probably be my longest post ever. Note that I've divided everything by location - Arlington, other Northern VA suburbs, Washington D.C., MD suburbs, Baltimore, and "day trips." As I'm based in Arlington, the top part of the list will probably be more thorough than the bottom of the list.

And, as always, I highly suggest you check out the blog KidFriendly DC on a regular basis. The blog's author always has new and interesting things to do, including area events. Further, the blog Not-So-SAHM also has a lot of great local suggestions.


1. Arlington Mill Playgroup - Tuesdays & Thursdays from 10-12 am (for children 0-5) Arlington Mill fills its gym with push toys and balls and some bikes. It's a drop in program and it costs $3 per adult. For more info call For more information, call 703-228-7790.

2. JW Tumbles Playzone - a great playspace full of tunnels and balls, located in the Harrison shopping center basement - down the hall from the JW Tumbles gym. Both T (age 1.5) and F (age 5) love it here (as does P, the 4 year old). Unfortunately the hours are irregular, so it's best to be on their email list. Admission prices vary depending on number of kids and whether or not you're a member, to take my three children it was $16 for the day (and well worth the money, my kids could have spent hours here). For more info click here.

3. Long Branch Nature Center - We have spent many a winter afternoon here. Long Branch has a small but well-stocked "discovery room" full of puzzles and books and a playhouse with toys and stuffed animals. As far as living animals, the nature center has snakes and turtles and other critters. They host several classes for preschoolers and younger children. Plus, the trail outside the nature center leads to a playground (approximately a 0.5 mile walk). For more information click here.

4. Gulf Branch Nature Center - Unlike Long Branch, Gulf Branch doesn't have a fully stocked "discovery room". It does, however, have a Native American room in the basement with a tree trunk canoe and a basket full of stuffed animals. My kids can spend an hour playing here. Plus, the nature center has the usual fare of snakes and spiders and various other local animals. Like Long Branch, they host classes for young children. For more information click here.

5. Potomac Overlook Park Nature Center - The nature center is about a 5 to 10 minute walk from the parking lot and is rarely crowded. The upstairs contains several displays and exhibits on energy, for my kids the highlights of which were a microscope and bees. The downstairs contains animals (snakes and turtles) and a small but nice kids' room called the "cave" where my kids can spend 30 - 45 minutes exploring and pretending. For more information click here.

6. Kettler Capitals Iceplex - Okay, so Kettler isn't exactly "warm", but according to The Meanest Mama it makes for a great indoor adventure. You can skate or watch the Capitals practice. Plus the iceplex has a large open space area that running toddlers will love. Click here for more information and to check out the Meanest Mama's review.

7. Sprout at Saffron - Parents are invited to relax in the cafe, take a yoga class, work remotely, or even (gasp) nap, while caregivers supervise children in an open play room. I've heard this is as close to a spa as you'll get while you're with your kids. Classes are also offered (for kids or adults). Click here for more information.

NORTHERN VA SUBURBS (other than Arlington)

8. Alexandria's soft playroom (Chinquapin Recreation Center)- This playroom is small, but fully stocked with a ballpit and tons of movable soft parts (including a soft slide). Best for younger children (under 3) as older children tend to play a little rough (I think the cut off age is 5). Great place for babies learning to crawl. Admission is $4 per half-hour (no charge for adults) and make sure to wear socks or they'll kick you out (adults too). Occasionally they close the room for birthday parties, so call ahead. The recreation center also has an indoor pool, which could be fun on a cold day. Last year, some friends and I would take our children to the soft playroom in the afternoon, then stay to watch the high school kids' swim practice - our kids were mesmerized by the divers (seriously, they loved the divers more than tv). For more information, click here.

9. Hidden Oak Nature Center (Annandale, VA) - The playroom of this nature center is quite large and geared at preschool-aged children. There's an "observation" tower that my children love to climb on. Plus tons of books and stuffed animals in a story-type area. Lots of things to touch and buttons to press. My kids can spend hours here, I highly recommend it when outside play isn't an option. For more information, click here.

10. Ultrazone (Falls Church, VA) - Family laser tag is a pretty awesome way to connect as a family. On Saturday and Sunday mornings kids under 12 play for only $4.99 per game. Each "session" lasts about 20 super fun minutes (esp. if you can find the other team's base). The facility also has video games. For more information click here. (Also a great birthday party venue).

11. Jammin Java (Vienna, VA) - First of all, I love this place. LOVE. This venue hosts a variety of kids' shows, both at night and on the weekends. But, most importantly, every weekday at 10 am they host a children's performer. Performances cost $5 per person and last 45 minutes. The schedule occasionally changes, but usually it goes as follows: Mondays - Great Zucchini (my children worship this man, for a great description of his show click here); Tuesday - Mr. Don; Wednesdays - Rocknocerous (be prepared for preschool-aged groupies, especially when they sing "Pink");, Thursdays - Oh Susannah!; and Fridays - The Banjo Man (my 4 year old LOVES him). Unfortunately, the website does not do a great job explaining the children's weekday performers, but you can always email or call them for more information.

12. Dulles Air & Space Museum (Chantilly, VA) - We usually go early (i.e. when it opens) and let our children run around the airplane hangar as if it was a playground (note, this only works if you go early, after that a lot of veterans come to see the planes,and they DO NOT appreciate young children knocking them over). There's also an observation deck where you can watch airplanes fly into Dulles (I find this extremely boring, my 4 year old does not). In addition, the facility has an IMAX theatre. The museum is free but parking is $15 (free after 4:00 pm). For more information click here.

13. Tysons Mall play area (Tysons Corner, VA) - The Tysons Corner play area is always crowded, but it really is the creme de la creme as far as mall play areas go. Prepare for crowds and kids running into each other. But almost all kids love it. They also have a "train" outside the play area that looks super cheesy (and costs money) but which my children dream of going on. The play area is right next to the food court, so you can load up on junk food as well. For more information click here.

14. Fair Oaks Mall play area (Fairfax, VA) - This Looney Toons themed play area, is not quite as grand as its Tysons neighbor. On the other hand, unlike Tysons, Fair Oaks has a Cartoon Cuts and a Cakelove (salty caramel = heaven), so we go here much more often. I actually can't find any information about the playroom on the mall's website, so you'll just have to trust me.

15. Landmark Mall play area (Alexandria, VA) - Landmark mall is a ghost-town mall. The stores are random at best, you almost feel bad for it, it's the same feeling you get when you go to a birthday party that nobody else attended. On the upside, the play area isn't usually crowded. On the downside, it isn't fenced in and it's surrounded by fountains, which my children always want to climb. Similar to Tysons, Landmark has a train that costs money. For more information click here.

16. Dulles Town Center play area (Dulles, VA) - This play area for toddlers has an airplane with slides, a control tower, baggage claim area, and a ramp. Sounds perfect for taking flight. The mall also has an express train. On Thursdays at 11 am Dulles Town Center provides weekly kids' entertainment (often Rocknocerous). We've never visited, but The Meanest Mama has a great review, click here to check it out.

17. Potomac Mills Indoor play area (Woodbridge, VA) - Potomac Mills FINALLY opened an indoor free play area in the mall. "Located in Grand Court (Neighborhood 2), the play area features a Virginia theme with custom elements such as a 17th century ship and a cherry blossom tree." Combine with a trip to Ikea and make a day out of it. Click here for some pictures and information.

18. Ikea (Woodbridge, VA - next to Potomac Mills mall) - Ikea has free daycare full of slides and games, but kids have to be potty trained and above a certain height. Enjoy lunch in the cafe or shop for your home while your kids play. Click here for the store phone number and contact information.

19. JW Tumbles Open Bounce (Herndon, VA) - We've never been, but seeing how much my children love the Playzone in Arlington makes me want to go. The inflatables include an obstacle course, princess castle, and dragon bounce. Open bounce every Tuesday from 3-5 pm and Wednesdays from 11:30 - 1:30 pm. $8 for members, $12 for non members, 1/2 off siblings. For more information click here.

20. Sport Bounce of Loudon (Ashburn, VA) - We've never been here, but giant inflatables are always a sure fire way to entertain children. Admission is $10 per child (over 2 years of age) and $6 per child (18-23 months), adults are free. Lots of open bounce time with no reservations. For more information click here.

21. Rebounderz (Sterling, VA) - Do you ever become jealous while watching your kids in bounce houses? Thinking "wow that looks like fun?" If so, this looks like the place for you. Now the whole family can bounce together on gigantic trampolines equipped with walls (to bounce off of) and foam pits. The price is steep $15.95 per person, per hour, but it looks like fun (click here to check out the Meanest Mama's review). If you tire of jumping, Rebounderz also has a video arcade, free wifi, and a snack bar. Click here to visit their website.

22. Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum (Sterling, VA) - This place is AWESOME and beautiful. It has a children's farm exhibit, a "general store", a play henhouse and milking cow, and an interactive exhibit on farm kitchens pre-WWI - most of the exhibits are interactive, my kids spent over an hour using the apple sorter alone. A hidden treasure of DC area museums, I HIGHLY suggest a visit. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for kids (children under age 2 are free). The museum is open 10-5 Tues - Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday. Click here for more information.

23. Play N' Learn's Free Play Days (Chantilly, VA) - Twice a week, this gigantic playground equipment store opens its doors for free play. Kids can climb all over everything, bounce on numerous trampolines, and even play pool all for FREE on Mondays and Thursdays from 10am - 1 pm, be prepared for heavy crowds. We've never been but The Meanest Mama has a great review (click here to read it). Click here to check out the store's website.

24. Chibis Indoor Playground (Ashburn, VA) - This newly opened playspace contains two separate indoor playspaces - one for infants and one for "big" kids (up to 6 years old). Adults can indulge in the onsite coffee bar (complete with free wifi) while the kids go crazy. Admission for 90 minutes of play is $8.00 for sitters and crawlers (4-months old and up) and $10.00 for toddlers, walkers and runners (through age 6), children under 4 months are free and one free adult ticket is included with every paid child admission. Click here for more information.

25. Mt Vernon's Kids' Playroom (Alexandria, VA) - Mt. Vernon has a indoor kids' playroom that received a wonderful review from Not-So-SAHM, click here to check it out. Children under 6 are free and although the adult admission is a little steep at $15, if you live in the area it's probably worth it to purchase an annual pass for only $25. Click here for more information on times and prices.


26. The Building Museum's Building Zone & Work, Play, Build Playspaces - Last winter, we spent several weekends at the Building Museum, which has made itself into Washington DC's go-to-destination for families of young children. First of all, the Building Zone playspace (for children aged 2-6) has blocks of all sizes, costumes, books, a sandbox, and a playhouse. So much fun. Time tickets are given out throughout the morning. Luckily if you have to wait awhile, on crowded days the museum fills its great hall with several children's toys and blocks, so even if you can't get into the Building Zone your kids can still build and explore and run (yes, they let kids run inside). They also have a Build an Arch kit which is really fun to construct as a family (the completed arch is about 7 feet tall, so you need a lot of hands to make it work). And the space itself is beautiful (Click here to see pics and read more about the space). They recently opened a Work, Play, Build exhibit with an Imagination Playground set, lots of building toys, and an interactive wall. All three of my kids love it here. The museum is also open on weekdays, but parking can be tricky (or expensive). The museum has recently started charging admission for the exhibits, the Building Zone now costs $3 per person, check the website for additional information.

27. The Smithsonian Natural History Museum's Discovery Room - We've never been to the Discovery Room, so I don't have any stories to share. It's open to the public Tuesdays - Thursday noon-2:30 pm, Friday 10:30 am - 2:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 am - 3:30 pm (closed Mondays). The room includes fossils, skulls, costumes, microscopes, and more. For more information, click here.

28. The National Zoo - small mammal house, reptile house, great ape house, and Amazonia exhibit. I know a visit to the zoo in winter seems odd, but nobody else is around so you have the whole place to yourself. All the indoor exhibits (like the small mammal house and reptile house), which are SO CROWDED during the summer, are often almost vacant. Last year, my children spent over an hour in the reptile house, making it the perfect trip for a colder day. For more information, click here.

29. The National Postal Museum - The post office museum has a few exhibits for young children - they can "drive" a LARGE truck (T loved this), walk through a fake forest, play with interactive mail boxes, and learn on the kids' computer stations (P played memory over and over again). All of the children's exhibits are integrated into larger exhibits, so it's not the best place for toddlers to just run and explore. Still the museum is rarely crowded and, when we visited, the staff dealt well with children. For more information, click here.

30. National Geographic Museum - Birds of Paradise and 1001 Inventions are currently on exhibit through February, KidFriendly DC has a fantastic review. For more information, click here.

31. One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventures at the Air and Space Museum - Every Friday at 10:30 am and on the first Saturday and Sunday of every month (at 10:30 am) the National Mall's Air & Space Museum plays Big Bird's One World One Sky in the planetarium, which is GREAT for young children (Elmo + star gazing = happy toddlers). And it's FREE. After the show, you can tour the museum, which includes a children's space called How Things Fly, though the space itself is geared at older children, it has a lot of buttons and levers that little children love to touch, plus a life-sized airplane they can "fly". For more information, click here.

32. The National Aquarium (Washington D.C) - There are two problems with the DC Aquarium - (1) it costs money (in a city where most museums are free) and (2) it's really small. But if you can get over these obstacles, the Aquarium is a great place to spend an hour or so (it's hard to stretch your visit over an hour). It's rarely crowded (which is a big plus) and a recent renovation makes it a beautiful space (though a lot of the tanks are rather high, so you may need to lift little ones up to see the fish). The peacefulness (it is in a basement) makes the aquarium a rather relaxing place. Plus, you can eat lunch across the street at the Ronald Regan Building and International Trade Center. Admission is $9 for adults and $4 for children ages 3-11. Daily feedings and aquarist talks occur at 2 pm each day and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND scheduling your visit around them. For more information click here.

33. The United States Botanic Garden - Even though the train exhibit has ended, there is still plenty to see at the Gardens, my kids especially love walking through the conservatory's desert and rainforest. Plus the American Indian Museum (across the street) has a great cafe. For more information click here.

34. The Smithsonian American History Museum - The basement of the museum contains the Spark!Lab in which children can "play games, conduct science experiments, explore inventors' notebooks, and even invent!" They have volunteers on hand to help children with all these activities, but I find most of the experiments best suited for kids 4 and up (they also have a "baby space" for children under 1.5 years old). Situated next to the Spark!Lab, an invention exhibit teaches children about famous inventors and includes several activity stations, unfortunately, when crowded this well-designed space becomes somewhat claustrophobic. In addition to these activities, my kids really love the "America on the Move exhibit", which is basically a advertisement for automobiles (sponsors include: AAA, General Motors, State Farm, and the US Dep't of Transportation). America on the Move hosts several life-size exhibits with flashing lights and things to look at, plus you can board a virtual "subway" which I find much more fun than riding a real subway. For more information, click here. NOTE - CHECK THE WEBSITE FOR EXHIBIT CLOSING INFORMATION AS MANY OF THE EXHIBITS ARE CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

35. Jonah's Treehouse - We've never been here but I've received emails asking me to include it on this list (so it must be pretty cool). They offer extensive classes and open play options. For more information, click here.

36. U.S Navy Museum - We've never been here, but Yelp has wonderful things to say about the museum's kid-friendliness. Indoors the museum has two functional periscopes sticking out of the roof of the building. Outdoors the museum has a courtyard full of big guns that kids love to climb on and an old destroyer which is open for tours. Question sheets are available at the museum's information booth that work well for museum scavenger hunts. For more information, click here.

37. ImagiNATIONS Activity Center at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian - This playroom is quite large and has numerous different activities (including an arts and craft area). P loved weaving a huge basket. T loved skateboarding (on some sort of wii-type set up). And both kids liked touring the tipi and stilt house (though both houses would be a lot more fun if they had more stuff INSIDE of them). There's a decent-sized kids' library and a "sounds" exhibit on the wetlands. Oh, and a quiz show that kids can participate in. An iglu that kids can build is being added. Everything doesn't come together as well as it could, but considering admission is free, the activity center is quite a good way to spend an afternoon or morning. Plus the exhibit works well for kids of different ages (including toddlers) and the carpeted floor won't hurt the knees of crawling babies. For more information, click here.

38. Treasure Hunts at the Mansion on O Street - We've never done one of these (I really want to), but Not-So-SAHM has wonderful things to say. According to Rebeeca the mansion is "part "spooky" mansion, part treasure hunt, part bookstore and antique store, part art gallery and a whole lot of random, the Mansion provided HOURS of entertainment for us." Her children literally cried when they had to leave. The Mansion consists of five interconnected townhouses and includes over 100 rooms and 32 secret doors. And for children, the museum offers a treasure hunt tour (purchase tickets in advance). Kids under 5 are free, admission for everyone else costs $20 per person. Click here for more information.


39. Be With Me Playseum (Bethesda, MD & Washington, DC) - Lately, the Playseum's owner has endured some controversy over her heavily Christian religions beliefs. My family and I have been here several times and always found the owner caring and gracious (she's never once talked to me about religion) and WE love love love the facility. My kids can spend hours here, it includes: a "garage" with a car, a "beauty salon", a "kitchen" (where kids can pay extra to make real food, like smoothies and cookies), a stage with instruments, a ball room, a "forest", a grocery store, a "grandma's attic" (with antique toys and clothes), a wonderful art studio (with projects that change weekly) and various other entertainments. Plus, the whole museum also doubles as a second-hand children's bookstore (with some adult books as well). Admission is $6 per person FOR THE WHOLE DAY and worth every dime. I can't recommend it highly enough. For more information click here. A NEW BRANCH OF THE PLAYSEUM JUST OPENED IN DC, CHECK THE WEBSITE FOR MORE INFO.


40. Puppet Shows at Glen Echo (Glen Echo) - On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the Puppet Co. performs "tiny tot" productions geared at audiences 0-4 years old. Tickets are only $5 (adults must purchase a ticket). For more information click here. The Puppet Co. also hosts shows for older children Thursday - Sunday. Last year, I took the kids to see their production of the Nutcracker, which was really really beautiful (and it managed to keep a 4 year old and 3 year old thoroughly entertained). Tickets are $10 each for older children shows. For more information click here.

41. Adventure Theatre at Glen Echo - I've actually never attended a play at Adventure Theatre, but I've heard nothing but good things. One of my friends even has a season pass. Tickets for most productions are approximately $15. For more information click here.

42. Imagination Stage Theatre (Bethesda, MD) - Tickets range from $10. For more information click here.

43. Storyville (Rosedale, MD or Woodlawn, MD)- Baltimore libraries opened Storyville for children 0-5 in two locations, Rosedale and Woodlawn. In Storyville, they have created an incredibly well-designed mini-village, complete with a post office, grocery store, house, theatre, construction zone, and (of course) library (each area includes themed books available for check-out). ALL FOR FREE. It's pretty magnificent. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. For more information, click here.

44. College Park Aviation Museum (College Park, MD) - We've never been here, but I've heard good things. According to the website, the museum is "family-friendly and filled with hands-on, interactive exhibits. Touch, explore, and sit in the cockpit of our "Imagination Plane", a 1939 blue Taylorcraft. Visit our hands-on room to learn about flight and to dress like a pilot. Fly away in one of our simulators or play on our outdoor pedal planes. There are many options for any family to choose from." For more information, click here.

45. The National Capital Trolley Museum (Colesville, MD) - This place is SMALL, but it's fun. They have a model train, a "real" trolley kids can take rides on (my kids wanted to go again and again), a movie-theatre that plays old silent films with trolleys in them, and a large warehouse full of retired trollies (which feels magical for some odd reason). Check the website as they also host storytimes during the week. Click here for the info (operating hours vary so MAKE SURE to check the website).

46. The National Children's Museum (National Harbor, MD) - This place is small, but awesome. It contains a special place for kids three and under with tunnels, toys, and a "food truck". The rest of the museum includes a firetruck and a Tanzanian marketplace, among other things. Frequent performances are included with admission. The museum is open weekdays and weekends from 10 am to 5 pm, admission costs $10 for everyone over 12 months of age. Click here for more information.

47. Adventure Park USA (New Market, MD) - We haven't been yet, but according to DullesMom.com Adventure Park offers "a wide selection of arcade games, a multi-level 2-story play structure, a very impressive indoor ropes course, a rock climbing wall and laser tag. And that was just the inside! During warmer weather they also have a roller coaster, go-karts, bumper boats, mini golf, a carousel and other amusement park rides." Sounds fun! DulleMom particularly loved the ropes course. Click here to check out the rest of DullesMom's review. And click here to go to Adventure Park's website.

48. Climbzone (Laurel, MD) - Most climbing gyms look boring compared to this gem of a place, full of quirky artworks to scale and equipped with "hydraulic automatic belay systems which eliminate the need for a human belayer and enable even the youngest of guests to take personal control of their own climbing." Click here to read DullesMom's review.


49. Maryland Science Center at Baltimore's Inner Harbor - Click here to see our past post on this museum. This place is amazing, tons of exhibits (love those dinosaurs) plus a HUGE kids room for children 0-8 years old. It's a little pricy at $14.95 for an adult and $11.95 for children 3-12 (plus extra for IMAX films and traveling exhibits), but well worth it if you plan to spend the day. For more information, click here.

50. Baltimore Aquarium - The Baltimore Aquarium is by far the best aquarium I've ever toured (it really takes fish to a whole new level, for lack of a better phrase). You begin your visit observing a tank full of sting rays (which is oddly memorizing) and as you work your way from floor to floor you can always look down through the middle of the aquarium and watch the stingrays. Plus, your visit ends with a trip through the shark tanks which is UNBELIEVABLE. Of course, my kids LOVE the dolphins (though the actual dolphin show no longer takes place) and the rain forest. Ticket prices are STEEP -$27.95 for an adult and $22.95 for children over 3. So plan on making a day of it. For more information, click here.

51. Port Discovery - Port Discovery is the area's "fanciest" children's museum - it has lots of expensive-looking exhibits (like a "real" car). There's a huge climbing structure/rope ladder in the middle that's even fun for adults, a "diner" with fake food, waterworks, farm exhibits, and more. If you have children under age 6, there's a lovely "quiet" space that's quite well-stocked with toys for toddlers and babies. Further, they just opened Tot Trails for infants and toddlers. On the downside, the museum can get REALLY crowded (lots of school groups). Plus, I find it a little tricky to navigate with multiple children (x never wants to do what y wants to do). Admission is $13.95 for everyone over age 2. For more information click here. UPDATE 7/8/11 - we visited Port Discovery today and it was so so crowded (from multiple summer camp groups) that my kids were constantly pushed, shoved, and moved. We didn't really get to do or see much and F kept asking to leave. I have no idea why they don't try to regulate the number of large groups per day, but they apparently don't. Unless you love the feeling of being in crowded situations, I highly suggest avoiding Port Discovery.

52. The B&O Railroad Museum (previously posted here) - If your kid likes trains then this is the place to go. The museum houses two huge warehouses full of trains, some of which your children can practice "driving." The museum also contains two decent-sized model railroads (one inside and one outside) with lots of beautiful figurines. A brand-new kids'-zone just opened and a reasonably priced cafe is on site. A small outdoor playground for kids (in the summer they have misters) sits in the courtyard, as well as a brand new three minute kiddie train ride (extra fee) and a carouse (extra fee). Admission is somewhat pricey - $14 for adults and $8 for children aged 2-12. Twenty minute train rides are often available for an extra fee. Click here for more information.

53. Walters Art Museum - I've fluctuated over whether or not to include this on the list. While several art museums in the area have programs for children (we particularly love the National Gallery's Stories in Art program) the museums themselves are not exactly geared towards children, so one must enter them with a degree of caution. But I came across a DC Urban Moms post where the reviewer insisted that Walters is a great place to take young children (click here to read the review). Further, Walters' website lists several kids' activities - including FREE drop in art activities on weekends, family tours, special art gatherings for children UNDER 18 MONTHS, art carts, discovery quilts, and "passports". Click here for more information.

54. The Visionary Art Museum - This place has tons of stuff kids will love - including a welcome mat made out of toothbrushes, the 1000 pound braball, a flatulence machine, kinetic sculptures behind glass (press a button and watch it move), old Mardi Gras floats, a life-sized chess set, a totem pole of sixties' icons, and the best museum store ever. An outdoor sculpture contains an actual wooden "castle" and other fun things to explore. Click here for information on timing and pricing.

55. The Baltimore Museum of Industry (previously posted here) - This place is awesome - it makes the "old days" seem like so much fun. They have great exhibits set up in old-towny "streets" and "window shops" and there's really something for everyone: historic cars, play rooms, movie screening room, history of oyster canning, etc. Everything was out in the open to explore and look at (though not to touch). Since the "no touch" rule can pose a problem with kids, each room houses a green kids' box, some are better than others, but all of them contain toys and pictures and various other things for both learning and playing. My children loved them and ran from room to room searching for the best boxes. Admission costs $12 for adults and $7 for kids 7-18 (younger children are free). Click here for additional information.


56. The Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum - The Discovery Museum is located in Winchester (about 1.5 hours from Arlington), which makes for a long (though LOVELY) drive. The destination, however, is well-worth the time. My kids LOVE the Discovery Museum and each time we go we end up spending the whole day (usually until closing). The space itself is somewhat small, but it includes - a climbing wall, a "skee-ball area" (where kids can learn about ramps), a Native American room (with teepees and campfires), lots of blocks, and an apple station (with ropes, pulleys, and wagons). The whole place has a science focus, with lots of explanations of why things do what they do, all through toys. It's really an incredible example of how play and education can work together. I HIGHLY recommend going. (Note that the museum does not have a place to eat, but there are several restaurants within walking distance). For more information click here.

57. Richmond Children's Museum (Richmond, VA) - My in-laws live in Richmond, so we visit the Children's museum quite a bit. As far as children's museums go, this one is pretty good. My kids love to dig for dinosaur bones and collect apples from the big tree. The ambulance and grocery store (which I've found to be children's museum staples) always entertain. Admission is $8 per person (children under 1 are free). (By the way, they also have a "Short Pump" location, which is fun for an hour or so, but not worth the trip if you don't live near Richmond). For more information click here.

58. Science Museum of Virginia (in Richmond) - We took the kids here for the first time a few months ago and the girls LOVED it. Where else can you watch mice play basketball? or play with several different "eye catching" experiments involving light and vision? The girls especially enjoyed using microscopes to study pond water. Each exhibit has tons of volunteers, all of whom are skilled at working with young children. The Science Museum is located right next to the Children's museum, so you can make a day of it. Admission is $10 for an adult, $9 for ages 4-12 (kids under 4 are free). For more information click here.


  1. Your description of Landmark Mall just made me laugh so hard. Too true!

  2. Can you do this for Denver too? :)

  3. These are SO great! I'm going to post this link on my blog.

  4. By the way, they recently redid the play area at Tysons. It no longer has a book theme, and the tree is gone! It's a recycling/environmental theme. It does have a little more cleared space to play and there are still slides. We do miss the tree though.

  5. So National Geographic comes to town and the first thing they do is chop down a tree? That's sort of ironic/funny. Thanks for letting me know! Glad you liked the post. I'm so excited that you're blogging again!

  6. I just made reservations for Imagination Stage. My 6YO will be so excited to see Junie B. Thanks for the rec.

  7. Great round-up! I'm familiar with many of these but had forgotten about others. You reminded me that I want to checkout Storyville.

    I did a write-up of the Tysons play area, complete with pictures, if anyone is interested:

    Also, another good indoor play option in Falls Church is the FC Community Center. They have open play gym on Fridays during the school year from 10-12. It used to be free, now I think they charge $2/child. I like it better than Barcroft, tho it can get nutty by 11am on a cold/rainy day.

  8. I've put together a similar list on my new blog: novastayathomemom.blogspot.com

  9. The Barcroft play group has been moved to the new Arlington Mill Recreation Center on Dinwiddie St. Here is the information from the website:
    Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

    This program is designed for parents and their young children to enjoy exercise and play in a fun, safe, indoor gymnasium. Parents are welcome to bring ride-on toys and other play equipment. Soft balls, bikes, and other toys are provided.
    Boys and Girls ages birth - 5
    $3.00 daily fee per adult
    No registration required. For more information, call 703-228-7790.

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  11. In Think Item 6 I think "Nationals" should be replaced with "Capitals." Otherwise, great post. I will try at least one spot this weekend!

  12. Thank you for catching that! I changed it to Capitals!

  13. You should add Alexandria Coliseum in Annandale. Its a bounce and party center.

  14. Recently we visited a great indoor play area called Kid Junction @ Chantilly, VA. I loved Kid Junction!!!!! I could have not have asked for a better place to bring my children. All of my kids, ages 1, 5, and 8 all had a blast. I think you get so much for the admission price! There are a ton of activities for all ages and the best thing is no time limit on how long you can stay. We went there by 11 am and by the time we were to leave it was 6 pm already. They really have it all covered at Kid Junction. The staff were nice and friendly, the place was VERY clean, food was good and reasonably priced, and most games were only a quarter!But there are many things too do if you don’t want to play an arcade game. My children cannot wait to return and I am definitely booking a birthday party for my daughters this year at Kid Junction. We love it!!!

    I think you should add it in indoor play places..

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  17. Unfortunately the hours are irregular, so it's best to be on their email list. Admission prices vary depending on number of kids and whether or not you're a member, Ideas for Kids Party

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