No Monster's 2012 Winter Survival Guide - 60 Things to Do and Places to Go with Your Family this Holiday Season (including January - March)

1-8-10 12-00 PM-2.jpg

1-8-10 12-00 PM-3.jpg

Same deal as with my other seasonal lists - 17 categories, 60 suggestions. The "goal" if you choose to play along is to check off each category. Or not. The most important thing is to keep yourself sane when winter temperatures hit. Or go to Mexico.

Happy Holidays everyone!!


1. The Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens (Wheaton, MD) - Previously posted here. Hot chocolate, a giant rainbow with rain sound effects, light up flowers illuminating the paths, train displays . . . absolutely beautiful. A must do every holiday season.

2. More - KidFriendly DC has the scoop on all the light displays in the area, click here to check it out.


3. At Home - If you're feeling adventurous download the Night Sky app for your iphone, grab some glowsticks (we especially love these - LED Foam Light Stick Baton Supreme - Multicolor Color Changing) and venture outside. This is the benefit of early nights.

4. The Arlington Planetarium (Arlington, VA) - On Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and Sundays at 1:30 and 3:30 this recently renovated planetarium hosts various shows on the ceiling. We especially love their holiday "Season of Light" movie, which runs throughout December. Tickets are only $3 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under. Click here for more information.

5. MD Science Center (Baltimore, MD) - Admission to the museum covers unlimited planetarium shows (they play every hour to every two hours after noon). Tickets for the whole day (there's LOTS to see) cost $14.95 for adults and $11.95 for children 3-12. Click here to see the full schedule.

6. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (Washington DC) - One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventures plays for FREE very Friday at 10:30 am and on the first Saturday and Sunday of every month (at 10:30 am). Throughout the week, the museum also offers various others shows for a price - tickets cost $9 for adults and $7.50 for kids 2-12. Click here for the schedule.


7. Imagination Stage (Bethesda, MD) - If you're sick of the Nutcracker (or even if you're not sick of the Nutcracker), Seussical looks like a fun way to spend time as a family (everyone loves Dr. Seuss). The play runs through January 6. Tickets are $12 per person (recommended for children ages 4-12). Click here for more information. And click here to read the Washington Post review.

8. FESTIVAL de TEATRO PARA NINOS (Children's Theater Festival) at the Artisphere (Arlington, VA) - On Saturday, Januray 19th from 11 am to 5 pm have fun while enjoying six hours of theater and other activities to delight the entire family. All activities are BILINGUAL!. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for children 4-12 (younger children are free. Click here for more information.

9. Encore Stage's Production of Honk, Jr. (Arlington, VA) - "Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale, The Ugly Duckling, is reinvented in Honk! Have you ever felt like you just don’t fit in? Ugly – an awkward, odd-looking duck, separated from family – is desperately searching for his way back home. Through his quest, Ugly overcomes challenging situations, makes unforgettable friends, and finds love in many forms. Be there as Ugly discovers that he is truly beautiful, both inside and out. Recommended for ages 4 and up."The show runs January 11 through the 19th. Click here for more info.

10. Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center (Washington DC) - Every night at 6 pm a free ticketless performance occurs on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage. Some are family-friendly, some are most definitely not, so check the schedule. After the performance run around the balconies and take in the amazing views.

11. Jammin Java (Vienna, VA) - 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. More - KidFriendly DC has the scoop on the area's family-friendly holiday performances. Click here to see the list. Having trouble deciding? Click here for Washington Post's selector-o-matic to help you find the perfect holiday entertainment for your family (or even just for you).

12b. Even More - KidFriendly DC has a great list of family entertainment for the new year. Click here to check it out.


13. The Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials (Washington DC) - This is the advantage of living here, right?

14. Christmas at Mt Vernon (Alexandria VA) - Previously posted here. A camel, a special third floor tour, chocolate making, Xmas trees throughout the information center, and plenty of room to run and run. All activities are included with the price of admission.

15. Madame Tussauds (Washington DC) - I love this suggestion from a friend and reader - what a great way to feel like you're seeing the "real" thing. Tickets purchased online (by locals) cost $16.96. Click here for more information.

16. The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden at the Smithsonian's American History Museum (Washington DC) - The title sort of says a lot. We've never visited, but I hope to go. Click here for the info.

17. The National Archives (Washington DC) - I've never ventured here with the kids, but luckily Our Kids has a review letting parents know what to expect. Click here to check it out.


18. 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.

19. U.S Navy Museum (Washington DC) - 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.

20. 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).

21. The Visionary Art Museum (Baltimore, MD) - Previously reviewed here. 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 garden contains an actual wooden "castle" and other fun things to explore. Click here for information on timing and pricing.

22. The Baltimore Museum of Industry (Baltimore, MD) - We've never been here, but Yelp Reviewers can't say enough good things (click here for the reviews), apparently a great place for kids and adults. According to one reviewer - "this is the kind of museum where you're "walking through history" - 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 (more interesting than it sounds, lol), and history of PAINT (again, MUCH more interesting than it sounds...)." Plus, the museum has its own free parking lot (on the Inner Harbor). According to the website, the property includes a 1910 pharmacy, an early dock, the original 1865 Platto Oyster Cannery, the only operating steam tugboat in the Country, and the flying prototype of the WWII flying boat bomber. Admission costs $12 for adults and $7 for kids 7-18 (younger children are free). Click here for additional information.

23. The Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum (Winchester, VA) - 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.


24. Gifts That Give Hope Arlington Fair (Arlington, VA) - On December 8 from 10 am to 2pm attend this wonderful event (for adults and children) to learn more about giving to community organizations in need. The event includes face painting, refreshments, crafts and a visit from Santa. You can't go wrong. Click here for more information (and if you miss the fair, donations to local charities can also be made online).

25. Gulf Branch Nature Center (Arlington, VA) - Tired of the shopping mall scene? Visit Santa in the log house then stop by the nature center to warm up by the fire, make a card, and watch the toy trains run or just enjoy a walk in the winter woods. This low key event is a great way to enjoy some holiday cheer. Registration required, $7 fee (after registering, each family will be assigned a specific time slot to visit with Santa). Click here for more information.
Saturday December 8, 10am - 2pm

26. Holiday on the Ellipse (Washington DC) - Trains, the National Christmas Tree, smaller trees decorated by every state, and Santa. Always a fun event. Click here for more information.


27. Walkersville Southern Railroad's Santa Train (Walkersville, MD) - Previously posted here. See the country and meet the big man in the red suit. A win win. Click here for ticket information.

28. More - KidFriendly DC has the scoop on the area's seasonal miniature train displays. Click here to check it out.


29. The National Zoo in Winter (Washington DC) - Previously posted here. The small mammal house, reptile house, great ape house, and Amazonia are wonderful in winter, when you have almost the whole place to yourself.

30. Long Branch Nature Center(Arlington, VA) Previously posted here. We spend a lot of time here. The nature center has a great kids' room with a playhouse, dinosaurs, books, puzzles, and blocks; plus the usual fare of snakes, rodents, etc. Next to the nature center a lovely trail passes a creek and leads to a playground. A perfect place to notice the details of winter. Longbranch is open Tuesday through Friday 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday noon to 5 pm. They also offer great nature classes for children. Click here for more information.

31. Gulf Branch Nature Center(Arlington, VA) - Previously posted here. Gulf Branch's basement contains a Native American room, full of interesting artifacts and displays, including a gigantic canoe. All three of my kids can spend hours sitting in the boat, making up games and reading books. Plus, upstairs has bees and various cages with snakes and reptiles. Plus a live owl. Click here for more information.

32. Potomac Overlook Park Nature Center (Arlington, VA) - Previously posted here. The upstairs of the nature center 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 minutes to an hour exploring and pretending.

33. Hidden Pond Nature Center(Springfield, VA) - Previously posted here. We love the beautiful trail around the pond and the small, but well-stocked nature center, full of puzzles, animals, binoculars, and great views. An on-site playground makes it a great all-day destination. Both the girls love Hidden Pond so much that they chose to have their birthday parties there last year (click here to see pics). The nature center is open 9 am to 5 pm during the fall. It is closed on Tuesdays. Click here for more information.

34. Patuxent Research Center (Laurel, MD) - Previously posted here. This nature center is HUGE. Plus, the area has beautiful trails, with ponds and boardwalks. Click here for more information.

35. More - The Natural Capital has a map of 18 nature centers in the DC area. Click here to check it out.


36. Ai Wei Wei's According to What? at the Hirshhorn (Washington DC) - A giant lighted cube (so pretty), a snake made of backpacks, a huge sculpture made out of bicycles, 3000 painted crabs, etc. What kid wouldn't be inspired? The exhibit runs through February 24, 2013. Click here to read the KidFriendly DC review. And click here to access the Hirshhorn's website.

37. Roy Lichtenstein at the National Gallery (Washington DC) - What kid doesn't love cartoons? The HUGE exhibit runs through January 13, 2013. Free family guides are available at the east building's information desk. Click here to check out Not-So-SAHM's review. And click here to access the National Gallery's website.

38. Nam June Paik's Global Visionary at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington DC) - The trailer calls Paik "the George Washington of video art", awesome. The exhibit opens on December 13, 2012 and runs through August 11, 2013. Click here for more information. The museum is also currently hosting an exhibit on Civil War art, which looks fantastic but I cannot figure out how appropriate it is for children.

39. The Artisphere (Arlington, VA) - Previously posted here. I love this wonderful art space, which always has great shows. Lots of tables and a lack of crowds make it a good place to take children. Plus, outside the doors a small outdoor park (on a bridge) makes for a great place to run around. Click here for more information (and don't worry about seeing a show, you can also just go to view the art on display).

40. Stories in Art at the National Gallery (Washington DC) - Previously posted here. The National Gallery just posted the winter schedule for this amazing FREE program (learn about a painting, read a story, and do a craft project), the artists are Picasso, Matisse, and Bearden. I can't wait. Click here for more info.


41. Claude Moore Colonial Farm (McLean, VA) on December 9th From 1 pm to 4 pm - Previously posted here. The tradition of wassailing goes back to ancient times, in which farmers gathered to encourage fruit trees to produce in the following year. In order to wassail, one must serenade, toast, and beat the trees in order to scare off evil spirits. Claude Moore's celebration includes singing, storytelling, drinking hot cider, eating cookies, and playing hoop and stick. A great way to spend an afternoon outside. Click here for more information. An

42. More - If you're busy on the 9th, then make your own celebration including a glass or two of wassail, the beverage. Click here for more information on the tradition and the drink.

XI. - PARTY ON THE SOLSTICE (DECEMBER 21) - I really don't have any suggestions for this one. But if you drink, then you must drink on the solstice. The universe requires it. Seriously. Holidays this old cannot be disregarded.


43. Building Museum's new Work, Play, Build Exhibit (Washington DC) - Previously posted here. This new upstairs play area includes Lincoln Logs, connector sets, a huge section full of miniature parts for creating things, an interactive video wall, and (most importantly) a GIGANTIC IMAGINATION PLAYGROUND - full of tubes, balls, and various parts, which allow children to create whatever they can imagine (or carry). My kids LOVE it. When you combine this space with the Building Zone exhibit, the Building Museum becomes an all day excursion. Click here for hours and admission pricing information.

44. MD Science Center's New Life Beyond Earth Exhibit (Baltimore, MD) - Previously posted here. This exhibit, located next to the planetarium (unlimited planetarium shows are included with the price of admission) includes: astronaut uniforms to try on, various containers so you can feel how the same object changes weight on different planets, a spacescape where kids can build their own space rover, blocks with rubber gloves so children (or adults) can learn how it feels to build things as an astronaut, a space station with various interactive video games, a photo corner, and interactive trivia on a huge touch screen tv. Wonderful. Click here to enter the museum's website.

45. National Geographic Museum's Birds of Paradise & 1001 Inventions: The Golden Age of Muslim Civilization (Washington DC) - We went a few weeks ago and we all really enjoyed both of these exhibits (with lots of interactive stations for children). F loved playing Dance Dance evolution and P created a new species of bird (digitally). T kept trying to flap is arms to keep an interactive flying machine from crashing. Fun. Birds of Paradise runs through May 12, 2013 and 1001 Inventions runs through January 13, 2012. So if you go soon, you can see both exhibits for one price (a great deal). Click here for more information. d click here to read KidFriendly DC's review.

46. The National Children's Museum (Oxon Hill, MD) - This BRAND NEW museum is set to open in National Harbor on December 14. Hopefully it will be worth the wait. Click here for the info.

47. Food: Transforming the American Table at the Smithsonian American History Museum (Washington DC) - Julia Child's original kitchen and a whole exhibit on wine, looks like a must go. Click here for more information.


48. 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 at $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.

49. More - Dullesmom has a great list of bounce houses in the Northern Virginia area. Click here to check it out.


50. Gulf Branch Nature Center (Arlington, VA) - New Year's Eve Stroll & Campfire 6:00 - 7:30 PM. Explore the park as the last night of the year settles in. Then ring out the old and bring in the new by tossing your resolutions into a "wishing campfire." Bundle up and bring a flashlight (registration required). Click here to download the Snag for more information.

51. MD Science Center's Midnight Noon (Baltimore, MD) - "Does the Ball Drop after your bedtime? Not this year! Ring in the New Year at the Maryland Science Center! Or should we say, Noon Year? Join us for our 5th annual New Year’s Eve celebration, Midnight Noon, where children can enjoy the ball drop before bed time. Crafts will be available from 10am-2pm while supplies last. Guests can look forward to decorating party hats, making noisemakers and creating wintry snow globes. The festivities continue with the sounds of popular kids band Milkshake as they take the stage at 11:30am. Their Grammy-nominated tunes will keep you dancing throughout the day." Click here for more information.

52. First Night Alexandria (Alexandria, VA) - First Night Alexandria is a celebration of the new year through the performing arts. Coffee shops, retail stores, hotels, museums and public buildings are turned into performance venues to showcase incredible local and regional talent - including clowns, face painters and magicians for children. The evening ends with fireworks over the Potomac River. Kids under 12 are free, adult tickets range from $15 to $25 depending on whether you purchase them in advance. The whole event is alcohol free. Click here for more information.

53. Jammin Java's Rocknocerous New Years Eve Party (Vienna, VA) - This 2 pm event includes a full-fledged count-down and an apple juice toast for all. Plus the band ROCKS. Tickets cost $10 per person. Click here for more info.


54. Paint Your Own Pottery - Our Kids has a list of all the places in the DC area where you can go to do this. Check it out here.

55. Gulf Branch Nature Center's Holiday Nature Crafts for Kids - On December 16 (Sunday) from 1:00 - 2:00 for kids aged 5 and up - "bring the kids to this special craft workshop to make natural-themed gifts and decorations." Registration required, cost is $5 per child. Click here for more information.

56. More - Check out my Pinterest file of Xmas crafts. Or buy the Artful Parent's newest holiday ebook (tons of great crafts and ideas).

XVI. - ICE SKATE - KidFriendly DC has a list of all of the area's outdoor and indoor options. Click here to check it out.


57. Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (Arlington, VA) - Every Monday at 4:30 the drafthouse shows a family movie for only $1 per person. Food and beverages (including alcohol) are available for purchase. A great way to beat the cold, dark dreary Monday afternoons. Click here for the schedule.

58. ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas (Cable Television) - Every night throughout December until Christmas day, ABC Family plays a classic family movie. If you're not home, than make sure to have your DVR ready, this year the line-up includes Wall-E and Despicable Me. Click here for more information.

59. Rise of the Guardians (Various Theaters) - "An epic and magical adventure that tells the story of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost - legendary characters with previously unknown extraordinary abilities. When an evil spirit known as Pitch lays down the gauntlet to take over the world, the immortal Guardians must join forces to protect the hopes, beliefs and imagination of children everywhere." Click here to see the critics' (mixed) reviews.

60. AFI Silver Theater's Holiday Classics Series (Silver Spring, MD) - Tickets are $7/kids 12 and under, $8.50/adult matinee, $11.50/adult general admission and can be purchased in advance online or at the box office. Click here for more information.



  1. Great article and thanks so much for the links to Our Kids info!

  2. Great list, Darcy! Under the Founding Fathers section you should add Madame Tussauds...in addition to our founding fathers in wax (who knew James Madison was sooooo short!), they have every President, other important historical figures - MLK, Rosa Parks, Buzz Aldrin (I honestly almost wrote Lightyear), plus some sports, media, pop-stars and actors.

  3. Thanks for listing these. Your blog has been a great resource for us the last two years. Thank you!

  4. I have a list of indoor toddler venues in NOVA here: novastayathomemom.blogspot.com



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...