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Interactive fun acitivities/museums for 12-year-old

Nairobi, Kenya
Level Contributor
158 posts
4 reviews
Interactive fun acitivities/museums for 12-year-old

We are going to DC around Easter with our 12-year-old daughter. She is up for a mix of things but really mostly enjoys if it is more interactive and some sort of activity around it rather than just walking around looking at things.

We are thinking night tour of the monuments, Library of Congress (as she loves books and pretty buildings), maybe the Zoo as she loves animals but I was wondering if anyone can suggest a couple of other things to do, maybe a museum with some interactive exhibits or something unique about them. We live in NY so we have big good art museums and a good Museum of Natural History. Considered the Spy Museum as she does like spy stuff but it sounds crowded and I saw there is a lot of history which may not be so interesting for her. How is Crime and Punishment?

Any tips?

Level Contributor
70 posts
75 reviews
1. Re: Interactive fun acitivities/museums for 12-year-old

I was just at the Crime and Punishment and the Spy museum. While I more enjoyed the Crime and Punishemnt museum, The spy museum is something a younger more adventurous child that age would enjoy too. The Crime and Punishment museum Both were along the same lines but the Crime and Punishment one had more interactive stuff. Both have a lot of history on historical outlaws, spies, etc.

I would recommend them both to someone in your situation with a child.

The museums I think she might enjoy most are the Museum of American History for its diverse groups of exhibits. It has stuff ranging from TV memorabilia to stuff related to many eras in history. I really enjoyed it and wished we had more time to spend there.

Also the Museum of Natural History is good, It has many exhibits of just about all types of animals in it.

if she is into music the Hard Rock Cafe has tons of music memorabilia.

We also enjoyed the White House Visitors Center museum. It has interesting facts, pictures and displays from the White House.

Another thing that is really neat to do is a trip over to Mt. Vernon. We did a cruise tour along the Potomac River and it drops you off at Mt. Vernon. It is soooo pretty and has tons of history.

New York
Level Contributor
239 posts
5 reviews
2. Re: Interactive fun acitivities/museums for 12-year-old

Think the Crime & Punishment Museum would be better than the Spy Museum, especially for Easter week. I think it's better done & because the C&P Museum is much newer, it's still off many people's radar screens... which means it will be much less crowded than the Spy Museum. Did you see that the C&P Museum is offering a number of interactive workshops re: the forensic sciences? I'd purchase advance tix for admission and one of those ASAP.

I was disappointed by the White House Visitors Center (it could be so much better), but see what the National Park Rangers have scheduled for nearby Presidents Park while you're in town; anything they do is top notch.


Mount Vernon is a fabulous idea: the newish Ford Visitors Center and the Reynolds Museum & Education Center are terrific and engaging additions to the estate.


Another one of my favorites and -- unlike the Spy Museum, the Newseum, and the Crime & Punishment Museum -- it's free: the National Building Museum. The interior courtyard -- about the size of a football field -- is itself stunning; the exhibitions are almost always intriguing; they offer activity kits for kids to use while visiting; and it's got the best museum shop in DC with a large medley of merchandise in all price ranges :-)

If you'll be here on April 3, the National Postal Museum is holding a special celebration of the Pony Express:


Have you looked at the Events Calendar for the Cherry Blossom Festival?


Nairobi, Kenya
Level Contributor
158 posts
4 reviews
3. Re: Interactive fun acitivities/museums for 12-year-old

Thanks for your suggestions. On the Cherry Blossom Festival, we are thinking of catching the fireworks. Are they ususally good? Crime and Punishment sounds like an option and yes for some reason I was leaning towards it instead of the Spy Musuem which sounds crowded and so-so. I also like the sound of the National Building Museum. Do you know if the actvities are suitable for a 12-year-old?

I'll consider Mount Vernon as well but I am not so sure. By the way, can you easily get there without a car?

Anything special about the zoo? She does like animals but has been to many zoos of course.

Does anyone else have any suggestions? Any outdoors actviities?

suburban DC
Level Contributor
180 posts
2 reviews
4. Re: Interactive fun acitivities/museums for 12-year-old

You mentioned checking out the monuments at night, which would be pretty and impressive - but I'd strongly suggest also exploring them on foot. Here's a path I've taken w/my girls as a suggestion. If you haven't already, check out the NPS map of the Mall area (nps.gov/nama/…NACCmap1.pdf) to see where things are and chart your own course.

- From the Washington Monument side, go into the WWII Memorial. There are panels of bas relief - I believe in bronze - on either side of the steps/ramp going down into the memorial that illustrate moments during the war, sort of a WWII in pictures. WWIImemorial.com describes them this way:: "A series of bas-relief sculpture panels created by sculptor Ray Kaskey is set into the balustrades of the north and south ceremonial entrance walls of the memorial. The 24 panels depict the all-out mobilization of America’s agricultural, industrial, and military and human resources during the Second World War." These are *wonderful* to look at with older kids, because they show specific aspects of the war that your daughter probably learned about in school and you can discuss and tell her family stories about. The rest of the memorial speaks for itself, but please don't miss those panels!

- Walk out the other side of the WWII Memorial and walk straight ahead and up the steps into the Lincoln Memorial to see how big that familiar statue really is, to read the quotes from his speeches that are engraved on the walls, and to take a moment on the way down to enjoy the view across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument and the Capitol beyond. Sit down on the steps and relax for a bit if you want.

- When you're done here, you can make your way back along the reflecting pool and detour to the left to go to the Vietnam War Memorial or the right for the Korean War Memorial.

Many visitors don't realize before they come that people are welcome to run around and play on the grass on the Mall. You can play frisbee, throw a ball, or have a picnic with the Washington Monument on one side of you and the Capitol on the other - a nice break and a real memory maker.

Another pleasant walk is around the Tidal Basin under the cherry trees to the Jefferson Memorial, which is modeled after his beloved Monticello. If the trees are in bloom, it's a bonus, but they are lovely at any time. Rent a paddle boat if you want.

One more suggestion in the proximity of the Mall is a visit to Ford's Theater (www.nps.gov/foth/index.htm). It is on the Mall map ref'd above - It's on 10th St. between E & F.

Enjoy your visit!

suburban DC
Level Contributor
180 posts
2 reviews
5. Re: Interactive fun acitivities/museums for 12-year-old

Whoops! I didn't get the whol path for the Mall map on the cut & paste. It is:


Wilm., DE
Level Contributor
72 posts
2 reviews
6. Re: Interactive fun acitivities/museums for 12-year-old

Visiting this weekend w/12 yr. old boy and 14 yr. old boy. Thanks TA contributors for great ideas and places to go! Great question too KitikatNYC! I also heard the National Archives is good for a quick visit to see Constitution, Declaration of Independence. Guess we need to rewatch the National Treasure movie!

7. Re: Interactive fun acitivities/museums for 12-year-old

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