STEAM takes center stage at the National Children’s Museum

When you want to dive into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) with kids in Washington, D.C., you head to the National Children’s Museum. This 20,000 square foot space opened its permanent location in early 2020 and we couldn’t be more excited. When families visit, this D.C. museum should be on your itinerary for sure.

In our effort to highlight all of the best museums in Washington, D.C, we spoke with Crystal Bowyer President + CEO at the National Children’s Museum D.C. to share what makes this museum for kids so special, why you should bring your family out to visit, and what you need to know before you go.

National Childrens Museum
Museum Exterior • credit National Children’s Museum

Where is the museum located?

Location: National Children’s Museum, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004

National Children’s Museum’s new home is located in downtown DC at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue atop Woodrow Wilson Plaza.

This new location is close to major tourist destinations like the White House, National Mall, and the U.S. Capitol, but is equally as accessible for our local visitors. We sit just steps from the Federal Triangle Metro, multiple parking garages, a safe school bus drop-off zone, and amenities in the Ronald Reagan Building, including a group-friendly food court!

What topics does the museum cover?

The Museum’s mission is to inspire children to care about and change the world.

Imagine a place where you can be a race car engineer, climate action superhero, and cloud climber all in one day! After 17 years without a permanent home in Washington, DC, National Children’s Museum reopened in February 2020. Our museum is a unique hybrid that combines science center content with children’s museum experience, playful learning is around every corner.

With 20,000 square feet of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM)-focused exhibit space, the Museum sparks curiosity and ignites creativity for children under the age of twelve and their families.

To expand learning beyond the exhibits, the Museum also offers field trips aligned to national and local education standards, multi-generational family programs, and pop-up learning events.

National Childrens Museum
Dream Machine from Entry Hall • credit National Children’s Museum

What is your museum’s claim to fame?

The Museum is truly a next-generation institution. As an entirely science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) institution focused on playful engagement opportunities, we fill a critical void for early childhood learning in the District and upend expectations for how a space designed for families can look and feel.

We know that all children dream, and in their dreams, anything is possible – that’s why we’ve created a dream-like, wonder-filled world that encourages children to explore and see new possibilities in downtown Washington, D.C.

What is your favorite exhibit or artifact in the museum?

So many incredible experiences to explore! Here are just a few:

Dream Machine Climber + Slide

This three-story centerpiece of the capital Children’s Museum captures the imagination of dreamers as they explore, climb and play inside a cloud-themed climbing structure and includes a simple block-based coding activity.

For adventurous dreamers, a 40-foot slide awaits! A smaller slide designed for all dreamers is also available.

Innovation Sandbox

Experiences in Innovation Sandbox explore emergent technologies and topical content, which rotates every two to three years to ensure relevancy.

Currently, Innovation Sandbox hosts the U.S. premiere of “Weather Worlds,” a magical green screen experience that allows children to gain superpowers to control the weather and explore environmental science.

Engineering Games + Play

Engineering Games + Play celebrates the Washington, DC community through the lens of local sports.

Two Nationals-themed baseball experiences, “Grand Slam Science” and “Pitch Perfect” investigate the physics of batting and pitching, while our vehicle build and pinewood derby experience “On the Go-go” highlights the design process.

National Childrens Museum
Engineering Games + Play “Grand Slam Science” • credit Jason Dixson Photography

What kinds of special exhibits and events do you host throughout the year?

In addition to pop-up and scheduled family programs, the Museum’s Traveling Exhibit Hall serves as a space to showcase some of the world’s most innovative and engaging traveling exhibits for young audiences throughout the year.

Special events and celebrations for families take place throughout the year. Stay up to date with the Museum’s calendar at nationalchildrensmuseum.org.

Are there guided tours available?

National Children’s Museum offers guided field trips for public school and private school children ages PreK through 5th grade that include a facilitated tour and hands-on learning lab with a Museum educator.

Our field trips are aligned to national and local standards, and are based on the Museum’s focus on STEAM experiences.

For more information and to register, visit the museum’s website at nationalchildrensmuseum.com/field-trips

How much time should someone plan to spend at the museum?

The Museum recommends setting aside at least an hour and a half for your visit, depending on the age of the children in your group.

*Safety of our dreamers and staff are our highest priority. Please note that when the Museum reopens, timed ticketing will continue and will also have an end time to allow for social distancing.

What should someone bring with them and what items are not allowed in the museum?

Bring your imaginations! The Museum has a full list of restrictions for the safety of guests on our website.

Is photography allowed inside (without flash)?

We encourage visitors to capture the magic of the Museum as long as these moments are for personal (not commercial) use. But, as a courtesy to others, we ask dreamers to please only take photos of their group.

What should parents of young children know before visiting the museum?

The Museum is designed for full family engagement! While learning content within experiences focuses on children age 12 and under, adults are encouraged to explore alongside their child.

Additionally, parents of young children should know that there are two dedicated toddler areas for safe exploration and play.

While we encourage parents to feed their children wherever they are most comfortable, there is a dedicated Mother’s Room for those who wish to do so in a more private setting.

What’s the coolest item for sale in the gift shop?

Since the Museum was only partly open for 18 days before we had to close, the gift shop at National Children’s Museum is not open. We expect to open the gift shop when the Museum reopens. We will have Museum branded merchandise and education toys curated by our education team.

National Childrens Museum
Custom Washington, D.C. Mural • credit Jason Dixson Photography

Is there a museum cafe or restaurant?

Get ready for avocado toast and babyccinos! A Bluestone Lane café offers seasonal bites and drinks and is accessible from inside the Museum and directly from the plaza.

A Food Court with additional options is located inside the Ronald Reagan Building. Please note that in order to access the Food Court, visitors must go through Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center security.

What should teachers planning a field trip know before reaching out to you?

National and local standards aligned field trips for grades PreK – 5th grade are available across four major exhibit themes: data literacy, engineering + design, environmental science, and community building/social emotional learning. F

Field trips can be guided – with a Museum educator – or self guided. Advanced registration is required and more information can be found at nationalchildrensmuseum.org/field-trips

What else should a visitor know before visiting?

To ensure a safe environment for everyone, adults without children may only enter the Museum with an appointment and must be accompanied by a National Children’s Museum employee at all times.

What are your normal days and hours of operation?

We are open 9:30am – 4:30pm, seven days a week. The Museum is closed on the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Is the museum accessible?

Yes! Exhibits within the Museum are physically accessible, including the Dream Machine Climber + Slide. Additional resources for dreamers include social narratives, quiet spaces, and sensory backpacks. An elevator connects the Museum’s two floors and all videos with audio content are captioned.

National Childrens Museum
Dream Machine • credit National Children’s Museum

Does the museum have a bag check or coat room?

Limited, unattended stroller parking is located onsite.

Is there parking available?

Yes, the adjacent Ronald Reagan Building has a 24-hour public garage. Street parking and other private garages can be found nearby.

Is there an admission fee?

Admission for children (older than one) and adults was $10.95 during the soft opening. Children younger than one receive free admission. Members can access the Museum for free year-round. Credit cards are accepted.

Admission includes all exhibits (permanent and temporary), daily pop-up experiences, weekend family workshops, and early childhood programs. Soft-opening pricing for tickets and membership are still available at nationalchildrensmuseum.org.

Community outreach and accessibility programs provide free admission to low-income families and classrooms in the District and Northern Virginia.

All tickets for the Museum are timed entry, including Member tickets. We strongly encourage booking ahead of time to ensure availability for your preferred date and time.

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