Start with a Book

Ricky Rocket

Books and activities for summer reading and learning from Reading Rockets

Start With a Book: Books and activities for summer reading and summer learning

Washington DC for Kids: Events

2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Copyright Ellie Van Houtte.
Copyright 2011 by Ellie Van Houtte
DC is a great place for kids. So get out and explore the city and its museums, zoos, parks, festivals, and more. There are lots of opportunities for hands-on learning, and most stuff is free.

Don't forget to make the D.C. Public Library a regular stop on your activities schedule!

Bookstores and Libraries

Lego Activities at the DC Public Library

Do you like to build with Legos and solve puzzles? Join us to work through engineering and science activities like, "who can build a paper airplane that carries the most cargo over 10 feet" or create a skyscraper, a pirate ship, or whatever your mind can dream up. (See website for library branch information)

Story Time at the DC Public Library

Story time programs introduce young children to books, rhymes, music, and other fun activities. Every week the library offers programs matched to the developmental levels of different ages of children. Check the website for times and branch locations.

Summer Reading Program at the DC Public Library

DC Public Library celebrates summer reading with the Build a Better World reading challenge, for children ages 6–12. Visit your neighborhood library to sign up and win fun prizes for reading. Complete the program and be entered to win prizes! Check the calendar for a schedule of special events at your library.

Farms and Markets

Pick Your Own Produce

The PYOP (pick your own produce) season has begun! It starts with strawberries in the spring, then continues with more delicious fruits and veggies in the summer and fall. Heading out to the farm to do some picking is a great seasonal activities with the kids.

Festivals and Street Fairs

National Book Festival

Are you a book lover? Join thousands of like-minded folks for two days of festivities featuring more than 100 authors, poets, illustrators, and entertainers. Hands-on activities, live performances, author book signings, and PBS Kids characters for the young ones. (September 2, 2017 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center)

National Mall Independence Day Celebration

Watch the parade, hear patriotic music, see brilliant fireworks and experience the thrill of Independence Day in the nation's capital. An enthusiastic audience numbering hundreds of thousands gathers to view the procession of invited bands, military and specialty units, and floats. The parade travels on Constitution Avenue along the National Mall from 7th to 17th Street.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The festival is an international exposition of living cultural heritage, held annually outdoors on the National Mall. Hundreds of musicians, artists, performers, craftspeople, cooks, storytellers, athletes, and others share their community-based traditions. Special programs for 2018: Africa, Armenia, and Catalonia (June 27–July 1, July 4–8)

Historic Sites and Government Buildings


DACkids Summer Camp

Do you love buildings – drawing houses, building structures, designing a pillow fort? Architecture is one of the most exciting fields that not only uses all of the STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) but also encourages creative thinking through art and design skills. This 5-day summer camp will use design arts to enhance STEM skills.

Exhibition Hall Family Programs at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Explore the roots of our country's government through stories, hands-on activities, an interactive tour, a scavenger hunt, and more family-friendly activities.


National Cathedral Gargoyle Tours

Explore the whimsical stone gargoyles that decorate the Cathedral and take an outdoor tour to learn about the history of this multi-faith institution.

Voice of America Studio Tour

The Voice of America Studio Tour is a behind-the-scenes look at live broadcasting in radio, television, and the Internet in several of our 46 languages. Tours are guided with audio and video features, and last 45 minutes.

Monuments and Memorials

Junior Ranger Programs in DC

Kids complete a series of activities during their park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger badge and certificate. Find active programs at these Memorials and Monuments: Martin Luther King, Jr., Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jefferson, WWII, Vietnam Veterans, and Washington.

Museums and Galleries


Airbus IMAX Theater (National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center)

The Airbus IMAX® Theater at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center houses the biggest IMAX screen in Northern Virginia. The Airbus IMAX® Theater is among the first in the world to feature the latest IMAX® laser projection system. The dual 4K laser projection system, with a 12 discrete channel sound system, provides audiences with vivid digital images, combined with immersive audio. 

Art Investigators

This program helps children (4-7) make careful observations, analyze artists’ choices, ask questions, and use their imagination while exploring works of art. Led by museum educators, each program includes reading a children’s book, exploring one work of art in the galleries, and completing a simple hands-on activity. Featured artists: Helen Franthaler, Wassily Kandinsky, and Georgia O'Keefe (National Gallery of Art, July 7–July 31, 2017)

Family Days at the Air and Space Museum

"Family Days" celebrate aviation and space themes, including balloons and blimps, the Wright Brothers, helicopters, weather, and how to become a pilot. Families can "Meet the Experts," see live performances, and participate in a variety of hands-on activities. (National Air and Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA $15 parking fee)

Food: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000

Take a seat at a large, communal table in the center of the exhibition to share their own thoughts and experiences about food and change in America. See Julia Child’s home kitchen — with its hundreds of tools, appliances and furnishings. (National Museum of American History)

imagiNATIONS Activity Center

Explore different modes of transportation like snowshoes and skateboards; sit inside a full-sized tipi and learn about the buffalo; see what makes a Pueblo adobe house special or learn how a Comanche tipi is built; storytellers, artists, and other unique performers and activities — and much more. (National Museum of the American Indian)

Jazz in the Garden

Relax by the fountain and enjoy free jazz performances at the outdoor café every Friday evening throughout the summer. (National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden)


Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater (National Air and Space Museum)

The Lockheed IMAX Theater features one of the largest IMAX screens in Washington, D.C. Strap into the cockpit of some of the most advanced aircrafts or take a walk through space. The giant screen provides a truly immersive and one-of-a-kind experience with the sharpest, brightest, clearest, and most vivid digital images ever, combined with a whole new level of immersive audio. 

Play, Work and Build

After viewing a selection of construction toys from the Museum’s collection, from the familiar Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs to the lesser-known Bumpalow House and Ringa-Majigs, visitors can reconfigure their environment and design their own course of play with individually-sized blocks.


Ride Simulators

Take an exciting virtual trip on board one of four simulators. Experience the thrill of careening through an action-packed roller-coaster course or racing in futuristic high-speed hovercars. Choose your adventure: Cosmic Race, Bermuda Triangle, Solar Coaster, Grand Prix Raceway, Astro Canyon, or Glacier Run.

Summer at the Newseum

The Newseum offers everything from the Berlin Wall and Pulitzer Prize-winning photos to interactive games. This summer, kids 18 and younger get in free! (July 1 through Labor Day).

Your Eclipse: National Air and Space Museum

Explore the engineering and design innovations that have taken place during the last century of flight. Talk with pilots of over 50 vintage and modern aircraft, on display outside the Museum for one day only. Discover the science behind flight through hands-on, STEM-based activities. Learn about the 70-year history of the U.S. Air Force, meet Air Force pilots, and see several of their planes. July 8 and July 15, 2017 | 10:00am - 3:00pm. (National Air and Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. Parking fee)

Outdoors in the City

Anacostia River Discovery Series

Learn about the history of DC's Anacostia River, observe wildlife in their natural habitats, and get out on the water. Canoe and pontoon boat tours, bike rides, and nature hikes. (Every Thursday evening and the first Saturday of the month from May – October, 2017)


Boomerang Pirate Ship

Yo ho ho, ahoy there, me lads and lasses! We invite you aboard to join our crew of friendly pirates for a cruise along the Potomac River. Try the treasure hunt cruise, especially for families. (Georgetown Waterfront at the end of 31st street)

Capital Dragon Boat Regatta

Dragon boat racing is an important part of the Chinese traditional culture, dating back more than 2,300 years. This family-friendly event feature the best premier and local dragon boat teams from along the east coast racing over the course of the day. (Potomac River at Washington Harbor. August 26, 2016)

The Thing with Feathers / La cosa con plumas

In this hands-on workshop for kids 8-11, you will learn about our feathered friends who inhabit the city and those who pass through during migration. We’ll conduct field studies by traveling off-site to observe and sketch birds, and we’ll contribute our observations to science. We’ll also learn how birds have inspired poets and writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Emily Dickinson to Jamaal May. (July 10-21, 2017. 826DC Writing Center)

Parks, Nature Centers, and Gardens

Lotus and Water Lily Festival

See a spectacular display of lotus and water lilies in full bloom! Enjoy gardening workshops and traditional Asian and African dancing performances! You'll also discover hands-on activities including face painting, lotus tea tasting, painting demonstrations, and much more. (Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, in July)

Rock Creek Park Ranger-Led Programs

Learn about the rich natural and cultural heritage of Rock Creek Park on a ranger-led program. Join park staff for unique recreational and astronomy programs.

U.S. Botanic Gardens Programs

Tours, demonstrations, talks, and family festivals — all centered around plants and gardening.


Wings of Fancy Live Butterfly and Caterpillar Exhibit

The seasonal display features hundreds of live butterflies from all over the world. Visitors can learn about their amazing metamorphosis, the important role butterflies play in having healthy ecosystems, and how to ensure these beautiful insects thrive in our own gardens. (Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD)

Parks, Nature Centers, and Gardens, Planetariums

Rock Creek Planetarium Shows

The show for the younger children (5 and older) concentrates on the identification of major constellations and the movement of the heavenly bodies through the night sky. The show for older children (seven and older), is divided into a study of the sky as it will appear that night and an in-depth astronomy presentation.

Rock Creek Planetarium Shows

The show for the younger children (5 and older) concentrates on the identification of major constellations and the movement of the heavenly bodies through the night sky. The show for older children (seven and older), is divided into a study of the sky as it will appear that night and an in-depth astronomy presentation.


David M. Brown Planetarium Shows

Adjacent to Washington-Lee High School, the David M. Brown Planetarium has been serving the community for over 40 years. Throughout the season, there are public multimedia programs including “Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity,” “Magic Tree House Space Adventure,” “The Exploding Universe” and a new children’s show called “Perfect Little Planet.” Additionally, “Stars Tonight,” a live sky show that highlights the celestial sights of the coming month, is offered on the first Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium also boasts a monthly schedule of full-dome programs with lectures on topics such as NASA, science fiction, robots and more. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for both children under 12 and seniors.


Hylton Planetarium Shows

Visit this state-of-the-art planetarium located in Hylton High School. Public programs include full-dome shows about astronauts, legends of the night sky, stars and other astronomical features. Music fans will love the wide variety of lyrical laser shows featuring genres such as pop and country and iconic artists like the Beatles and Pink Floyd. Check the calendar for full descriptions and schedules. Tickets for all programs are $10 each and must be purchased in cash with exact change only. Because seating at this intimate venue is limited to only 65 people, it’s highly suggested to purchase tickets early.

University of Maryland Observatory Shows

In addition to frequent special events, the University of Maryland Observatory Open Houses on the 5th and 20th of every month are amazing astronomy programs for families. The Open House program consists of an star and planet presentation followed by a tour of the observatory, as well as observing the night sky if the weather permits (the astronomers make the observing decision on the spot.) November – April the Open House public program begins at 7:45 p.m., and from May-October the star-gazing starts at 8:45 p.m. Programs are free.



DC United

Our own Major League Soccer team, playing at RFK Stadium in southeast DC.


Washington Mystics

Our own Women's National Basketball Association Team team, playing at the Verizon Center in the heart of downtown DC. Check the website for game schedules and special events.

Washington Nationals

Our own Major League Baseball team, playing at the beautiful new ballpark accessible via the Navy Yard Metro station. Check the website for game schedules and ticket specials.

Theater, Music, and Dance

Discovery Theater

Bring your children to Discovery Theater to experience heritage, science, and culture in a memorable way — your source for live performances that celebrate the rich diversity of our region and our world. (Show locations vary, check the website for details)


Jammin Java Tot Rock

Tot Rock is Jammin’ Java’s super-popular kids music concert series, providing wholesome family entertainment at one of the DC area’s finest music clubs. Concerts happen most days of the week. Check the calendar often to see when your favorite act is performing.

Military Bands Summer Concert Series

This year's series of concerts run June 2–August 31, 2017. All concerts begin at 8:00 p.m. and are held on the U.S. Capitol West Front steps (National Mall side) — weather permitting.

Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center

Each evening, at 6:00 p.m., the Millennium Stage features free performances by a broad range of music, dance, and theater artists from the Washington metro area, across the nation, and around the world.

Rockin' on the Riverfront: Friday Night Concert Series

Enjoy fantastic bands with a river view! Family-friendly lyrics and grassy open space make this a fun, free event for adults and kids. Bring a picnic dinner — or pick up your picnic from one of the local eateries.


Strathmore Kids

Strathmore provides vibrant performances for families throughout the year that inspire the youngest audience members to learn, explore, and connect to their world and each other in new ways.

Summer Concerts at Glen Echo

Free concerts at Glen Echo Park every Thursday at 7:30 pm June - September


The Kennedy Center: Young Audiences

The Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences (KCTYA) Program commissions, produces, tours, and presents performances in theater, opera, dance, music, puppetry, and storytelling for children and their families.


The Rumpus Room: A Family Dance Party @ U Street Music Hall

A daytime dance party for families, with sounds provided by DC's top club DJs (who all happen to be parents themselves). Created by DJs who wanted to share the nightclub experience with their kids, the Rumpus Room adapts the club environment (think disco ball, lights, and of course music) into safe family-friendly fun.

Zoos and Aquariums

Programs at the National Zoo

Something is always happening at the National Zoo. Daily programs include animal training, feeding demonstrations, and keeper talks. Learn more about how to feed an octopus or a crustacean; watch the orangutan crossing, explore the world of the cheetah, and much more.


Summer Safari Day Camp

Summer Safari campers at the National Zoo explore the lives, habitats, and conservation of animals around the world in weeklong sessions. (National Zoo, June 26–August 18, 2016)