National Building Museum

Tuesday July 6, 2010

National Building Museum - Exterior
401 F Street NW Washington, DC 20001
202.272.2448 | Red Line Metro, Judiciary Square
Free admission | Hours: Mon – Sat 10 am – 5 pm, Sun 11 am – 5 pm

What I Loved: interesting architecture, fun place to explore, great (enclosed) kids play room,

Worth Noting: free, but $5 donation requested (via box in lobby), no on site parking – use either Metro or a parking garage (2-3 blocks walk)

Last week, the kids and I went into DC, where we met Cousin O at the National Building Museum.  It’s been on my “to do” list for a while because I heard it has a fabulous play room for kids aged 2-6.  Since my kids ages currently ages 2-6, this was the ideal time to go.  Cousin O and Aunt M rode the Metro – the Judiciary Square stop lets out right in front of the museum.  I opted to drive and found a reasonably priced parking garage only a few blocks away using this site: (enter your address, date and time and it shows prices for nearby garages).

We arrived shortly after it opened at 10am on a lovely, low-humidity summer day.   The building, itself is quite dramatic.  Their website describes it well:

The interior of the building is dominated not by offices and storage facilities, but by a grand central space, the Great Hall. Measuring 116 x 316 feet, the Great Hall features a central fountain and is divided into three courts by two screens of four colossal Corinthian columns—among the tallest classical columns in the world.


After gawking for a  bit, we made our way towards the play area, the Building Zone.  But first, we stopped at an activity center called “Amazing Arches”  A bunch of numbered blocks were in a bin and it was our job to stack them and create a 7′ arch, complete with keystone.


Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the arch (seven feet is really high!) but we had fun trying.  The two and three year old especially liked when they had permission to knock it down.  Then we went into the Building Zone.  This is a large playroom with all kinds of opportunity to play, build and create.  The playroom is limited to 40 people (adults and children), so there could be a wait at times, but it was not crowded when we went.


The three foot high parking garage was a hit with all our kids.



There was also a fun dress-up corner.


Wendy thought it was fun to pose in front of the big (little) playhouse in the middle of the room.

[pie left]





There were many other fun features in this area – things like Tinker Toys, soft blocks, giant Lego-esque bricks, even a book corner.  After we played for a while, we decided to check out a “real” exhibit before taking a break for lunch.   Most of the exhibits are too grown-up for kids, but we did have fun checking out the “House of Cars” exhibit.  It was all about the advent of the parking garage in modern culture.  Most of it was lost on the kids, of course, but they did enjoy the model replica of a parking garage – it had circular ramps that you could send Matchbox cars down.  Hurry if you want to check out this particular exhibit – it runs through July 11th.

After that, we enjoyed our picnic lunch in the grand hall, then went over to check out a Family Toolkit.  These are toolboxes that you check out for $5 (free for members of the NBM).  They have different age ranges — we took the one geared for ages 3-7.  It was about patterns and shapes and had fun activities for the kids do.


After this, we did a little more playing and running around before heading out.


The space is open and visually interesting and in the eyes of preschoolers — perfect for running amuck.  The carpeted space seemed to muffle the noise and no one told us to knock it off, though Mel and I did feel like we were violating some sort of museum code of conduct.  All in all, it was a really fun visit and definitely a place to keep in mind on a hot summer day or even a rainy day.


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