Capital Things to Do


Capital Things to Do

Perhaps you’ve seen all the historical and governmental sites in the capital of the United States and are wondering if there are other things there for kids to do. The answer is yes, Yes, YES!

For instance, no one should miss the Washington Temple and Visitors’ Center with its beautiful 8′ (2.4 m) statue of Christ, and the films and the three-part revolving diorama that tell about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The temple is a stunning sight in its hillside location, and it attracts visitors from all over the world and gives them the opportunity to learn about the true Church of Jesus Christ.

Then you’ll want to go to the Mall, where you can visit nine of the thirteen buildings of the Smithsonian Institution, founded by James Smithson, a wealthy British scientist who willed his entire fortune to this project in a country where he had never been. His tomb lies in the Castle, the first of the buildings. Other buildings house museums of American history, natural history, and air and space; art galleries, which include works from the Orient, the Near East, India, and Africa, and Whistler’s famous Peacock Room; and several theaters, including a special children’s theater.

Vendors sell all kinds of refreshments along the Mall. You can sit and rest on shaded benches and watch the mounted police officers who patrol it, or you can study “Uncle Beazley,” the life-size model of a triceratops that faces the natural history museum.

Away from the Mall, but all within a few hours drive of it, are lots of museums. One has nautical relics, Indian artifacts, and even a replica of a vanished town; others have holography exhibits or streetcars to ride. And there are caves to explore, harbor cruises to take, interesting places to shop, and sports to either watch or participate in: tennis, skiing, football, basketball, hockey, soccer, rugby, cricket, polo, baseball, fishing, golf, horseback riding, swimming, ice skating.

[photo] 1. Catchy music draws kids of all ages to the antique Dentzel carousel just across from the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building.

[photo] 2. In the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall, besides exhibits of outer-space rocks like this one, there is a moon stone you can actually touch. You can also walk through a space station, compare Jules Verne’s space capsule with the studio model of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, and, depending on which movie you choose to see in the theater there, have simulated experiences such as hang gliding in Hawaii, touring India’s Taj Mahal, “helping” astronauts repair a satellite, or watching volcanoes push up new landmasses from the ocean.

[photo] 3. The Washington Dolls’ House and Toy Museum has special displays for Christmas, Easter, the baseball season, and Halloween. There are eighteenth-century kitchens, a German party scene, an “Edwardian Tea Room” (where many birthday parties have been held), and miniature zoos and arks. You can even ring the bell in a schoolhouse belfry.

[photos] 4. You can do all sorts of things in the Capital Children’s Museum—make flowers (like the little girl in photo 4a), make a motion picture (photo 4b) and even produce your own television show in a professional-quality studio, tour Mexico or another country, pet a goat, drive a metro bus, taste a tortilla, slide down a firepole, and much more. The Museum is surrounded by fun statuary, too (photo 4c).

[photo] 5. Besides picnicking, playing softball, or cycling on the Mall, you can go to the nearby Tidal Basin and use the paddleboats—remember that the ducks have the right-of-way, though!

[photo] 6. The two young men in white shirts at the bottom of the Washington Monument are LDS missionaries working in the area. From the top of the monument, which is in the center of the Mall, you can see the White House and other government buildings, the Tidal Basin, Potomac Park (with its three thousand Japanese cherry trees—spectacular in early spring when they’re in bloom!), the Foundry Mall (where mules draw barges you can ride along the C&O Canal), Chinatown and its Friendship Arch, the Washington Temple, and many other things for miles in every direction.

[photo] 7. There is a sunken garden with metal sculptures across the sidewalk from the Hirshhorn Museum (of contemporary art) on the Mall. But if you drive to the Ladew Topiary Gardens near Jackson, Maryland, you can see some fantastic shrub sculptures.

[photo] 8. Two places you’ll want to tour are the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where U.S. government designs and stamps and money are made (you can buy uncut sheets of money there!), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation building. You aren’t allowed to take pictures at either place, but on the FBI tour, you’re given a packet of neat things, including an Archie Comic about the Bureau’s Peer Helping Program, a pamphlet with fun facts and things to do (puzzles, a maze, even a “Rookie Cookie’s Recipe”), and a sample target from its shooting gallery.