Everybody young and old has an inner artist just waiting to come out and the Washington, DC area has no dearth of outlets for you and your family to channel that creative energy together. Catering to art makers of every age, institutions like the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn and galleries such as the Phillips Collection or Strathmore Mansion are ready with educator-led opportunities for all ages—from the pre-school Picassos and Pollocks to the elementary-aged art historians. Scroll on for the best places to paint, draw and craft in the DMV.

photo: Strathmore

All Ages

Moonshot Studio
Located in The Reach, the Kennedy Center’s new space on the Potomac River, Moonshot Studio offers creative family getaways where everything is left to the imagination. Boasting activities suited for all-age ranges from the Mo Willems fan to music studio mixmasters, current projects at Moonshot focus on drawing, poetry, and rhythm. The best part? All activities are free!

2700 F St. NW
Foggy Bottom
(202) 467-4600
Online: kennedy-center.org/reach/moonshot-studio

ImaginAsia Workshop
Designed with family time in mind, the ImaginAsia workshops at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries are often exhibition or holiday-themed and engaging for all age-ranges. Free, drop-in art studio workshops are available on select weekends and families with older children should keep an eye out for special tween workshops and arts-packed family festivals too.

1050 Independence Ave. SW
National Mall
202) 633-1000
Online: asia.si.edu

Thomas Jefferson Community Art Studio
Make doing the dishes a family affair with the Arlington County Parks and Rec Paint-a-Plate studio. Open to all-ages, drop-in sessions take place both on Mondays in the morning and afternoon, and on Saturday afternoons at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center (TJ) Art Studio. A standard selection of plates, bowls and mugs all priced at $18 each, decorating supplies included, are available to paint. Finished pieces are available for pick up in one week.

3501 2nd St S
Arlington, VA
(703) 228-5918
Online: parks.arlingtonva.us/programs/art/paint-a-plate

photo: Hirshhorn Museum


Imagination Stage
Let loose and take time with your toddler to express yourselves through dramatic play activities, music, movement, and visual art each weekend at Imagination Stage’s Sunday Fun-day program. Sessions are based on favorite children’s books like Are You My Mother and Paper Bag Princess, and feature a special take-home item used or created that day, as well as a Parent Pack to extend the experience at home.Tickets are $8/person and can be reserved online.

4908 Auburn Ave.
Bethesda, MD
Onine: imaginationstage.org

Kreeger Museum
Do not miss the chance to tour the Kreeger Museum private estate collection complete with sculpture garden, and dedicated it turns out to instilling a passion for the arts in even the littlest of patrons. Every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, the Kreeger hosts First Studio and Storytime for children ages 3-5, an opportunity to explore the paintings, sculpture, and architecture of this contemporary art oasis.
Online: Kreeger Museum First Studio. Tickets to this event are $10.

2401 Foxhall Rd. NW
(202) 337-3050
Online: kreegermuseum.org

Hirshhorn Museum
The first Saturday of every month, Hirshhorn Museum Maker Mornings get families rising and shining through interactive hands-on activities. Introducing a new topic and a completely new way to think about art each month, the line-up includes themes like Color of Love, Transformation, and Rainbows and Radicals. If the literary arts are your thing, the museum also offers an inspiring storytime every Wednesday and Sunday morning geared more to the littles. Hirshhorn programming is always free.

Independence Ave SW &, 7th St SW
National Mall
Online: hirshhorn.si.edu

The Music Center at Strathmore 
Totally toddler BSO Music Box is a popular classical music look-in for families now hosted by AMP by Strathmore where members of the visiting Baltimore Symphony Orchestra bring their signature young aficionado event to Rockville for an instrument petting zoo extraordinaire, featuring time to meet and greet the musicians and music related activities, followed by a 30 minute concert. General admission is $12.

5301 Tuckerman Ln.
North Bethesda, MD
(301) 581-5100
Online: strathmore.org

photo: The Phillips Collection 


Elementary Aged and Tweens Too

The Phillips Collection
The Phillips Collection hosts major international exhibits, but also supports its mission of enriching the DC area arts scene, attracting patrons young and old with concerts and events such as Jazz n’ Family Fun Days in conjunction with DC Jazz Fest. Join them now as do the guests in Renoir’s painting The Boating Party, a highlight of the collection, every first Saturday of the month for Family Playdates. Geared to children ages four to eight, these thirty-minute gallery experiences are guided by a professional educator. Family-friendly events are included with admission.

1600 21st St NW
Dupont Circle
Online: phillipscollection.org/

Strathmore Mansion
Strathmore Art Talks and Tours at the elegant Strathmore Mansion are reserved for children ages 5 & up who might enjoy a more sophisticated learning experience without little brother or sister, but who also benefit from an interactive activity to keep them engaged. This talks are free, but prior registration is encouraged. Bonus: These tours are offered for each new exhibition at the mansion and are bilingual, in English and Spanish.

5301 Tuckerman Ln.
North Bethesda, MD
(301) 581-5100
Online: strathmore.org

National Portrait Gallery Museum
The ultimate slumber party experience mixing arts and history, a sleepover at the National Portrait Gallery, the off-the-Mall museum is where Instagram might just meet its match. Here, there are paintings and stories of and about people kids will find inspiring as they take on role of artist, art critic and storyteller to learn more about some of the poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists who have shaped history. Ages 10 – 14.

8th St NW & F St NW
National Mall
(202) 633-8300
Online: npg.si.edu

Gadsby’s Tavern
Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town Alexandria offers mini-historians a chance to become immersed in 18th century lore, and maybe a little ballroom dance? February’s George Washington Birthright Banquet and Ball is just one of several period dance events throughout the year when special lessons are offered, along with girl scout badge earning opportunities, and a unique volunteer opportunity for fourth through eighth graders who may train as Gadsby’s Junior Docents serving on Family Days and at other special events.

134 N Royal St.
Alexandria, VA
Online: gadsbytavernrestaurant.com

—Carolyn Ross


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