As a solo traveling parent, the idea of large museums and line ups sometimes terrifies me. The kids and I often like to take the less travelled path and have come up with the perfect day in Washington, DC for a single or solo traveling parent with young kids.
There are a lot of museums in Washington, DC and tons of opportunities for fun learning experiences. The kids and I checked out a few museums and determined that the National Building Museum was by far our favourite. The Building Museum is four blocks away from the National Mall and a completely different feeling than some of the more popular museums.
The museum features two different play spaces for kids with building toys and amazing exhibits. Admission to the Play, Work, Build exhibit is free as is most of the museum and my kids loved the space. The exhibit features building toys from as early as the 1950s and allows kids to get creative with different types of toys. Kids are asked to submit designs via twitter and it is amazing to see what some kids have come up with. The area also features huge replica building blocks of the same smaller blocks the kids already played with. Teams of kids work together to build large structures using blocks with holes, cylinders, tubes and other shapes. We loved this section of the museum and thought the idea of it was genius.
The second building area is the Building Zone which is for kids 0-6. The cost to enter for 45 minutes of play is $3 each. We liked this area and found that for younger kids, it was an excellent chance to role play building jobs and learn the fundamentals of block play.
My kids really enjoyed a few of the features in the room but it was clear that the space was designed with younger kids in mind. I would recommend this space for kids 4 and under. With kids older than 4, skip this room and head straight up to the Play, Work, Build Exhibit.
This summer, the museum is also featuring the BIG Maze. The maze is 18 feet tall and 60 by 60 feet. Due to the fact that the museum is much less busy than other museums, I never felt stressed about the kids getting lost even in the giant maze. A definite plus.
Although the Building Museum had a lot of play spaces, it was still a museum visit. After spending a few hours in different museums over our stay in Washington, I knew it was time for some real play time. I looked up different parks in the area and decided to take a $10 taxi ride to Navy Yard to visit The Yards Park. The park has a huge water play space for kids with fountains on top and a large pond on the bottom. The kids splashed, made friends and spent the afternoon laughing and running. We spent time riding our scooters along the riverfront path and loved the design of this modern park.
After playtime, you and the kids will likely be starving. We were pleased to find a number of restaurants adjacent to the park. Along with pubs and fast food, my son spotted a restaurant with bright orange umbrellas. It looked marvellous from the outside and we decide to check it out. We were welcomed into Osteria Morini with open arms in our play clothes and they even coat checked our scooters. The kids menu at this restaurant is simple. Fresh homemade pasta with homemade tomato sauce or butter and parmesan. The food was impeccable. The restaurant has high chairs and kids cups and will truly introduce your kids to real Italian food. Osteria Morini is part of a series of restaurants by the same name by Chef Michael White. A definite do not miss in when in Washington with or without kids.
We choose to stay at the Hotel Monaco, a Kimpton Hotel. The Hotel Monaco is located near the National Mall, the Building Museum and Chinatown. We loved the diversity of the area and felt very safe being out and about during the day and night. The staff at the hotel was incredibly helpful and great with the kids. They suggested attractions, helped get the kids cookies and water each day and even provided us with our own pet goldfish. We definitely would recommend the Hotel Monaco to anyone traveling with kids who wanted a break from the typical family hotels.
The hotel features modern rooms with quality linens and a sleek design. We were lucky enough to stay in a suite and thus the kids and I had separate rooms. It was nice to be able to return to the hotel and take a break in a separate space. The room also featured a huge bathtub that was taller than my four year old. The kids were literally swimming in it each night.
Washington Solo with Kids
No matter what you get up to, there are a lot of activities to enjoy in Washington with kids. The above activities, restaurant and hotel made for a perfect solo day for me and the kids.