Play All Day: The National Building Museum

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A museum that lets kids–and kids at heart–build, run, climb, and explore freely (and that’s stroller accessible) couldn’t possibly exist…could it? D.C. parents, you’re in luck because the National Building Museum (NBM) offers all of this, and more!

Year-round adventure

The NBM is America’s leading cultural institution devoted to the history and impact of the built environment. The NBM showcases architecture through design, construction, and engineering, while welcoming visitors of all ages from all around the world.

There are two distinct areas where children can experience the process first-hand. The Building Zone — geared towards kids 2 to 6 years of age — lets little ones stack and balance faux bricks, drive a miniaturized bulldozer, and romp around a “green” playhouse for up to 45 minutes (This area is included in the cost of admission, but you can opt to skip the other exhibits and pay just $3 per child). The other — Play Work Build — has foam blocks of varying sizes allowing adults and children alike to build and demolish their own creations.

With many exhibits and activities for children, this museum has a huge space for kids to run around in and is a perfect location to duck into if it’s too hot, cold or rainy outside.

Summer fun
The past few summers, the NBM has welcomed fun, family friendly exhibits to their grand hall and this summer is no exception. Their new interactive Fun House exhibit (through Sep. 3) is amazing! Designed by Snarkitechture, the brains behind the NBM’s trendy 2015 installation The Beach, and curated by Maria Cristina Didero, the exhibit it essentially a traditional home where nothing is as it seems. Intriguing…isn’t it?

If you recall, for The Beach, people waited for hours on end to wade in a pool of thousands of white balls. Fun House has hints of The Beach peppered throughout but is bigger and better. Start your Fun House journey at the front yard where you can chill while you wait for your time at the exhibit to start. Most everything is white, including the yard, and it’s ideal for little ones to run around and get the jiggles out. Gray benches are scattered throughout for us older folks to rest and recharge our batteries!

Step into the Fun House , which looks like an ordinary house from the outside, and follow a maze of room after room with interactive components that rock your universe. Have a first chance at reliving The Beach when you step into a bathtub filled with white pit balls. Funny shaped mirrors are scattered throughout as well as streamers that hang from the ceiling and random furniture and objects that are either broken or placed oddly. One room has an airplane in the skies placed on a random ledge which immediately makes you feel like you’re about to take off on an adventure…which might be the point. Instagram options are endless! 

There’s a cool marble run art piece, meant to be played with, that kids love. Thousands of glass marbles run throughout it and visitors can place them in the huge run that almost reaches the ceiling!

The side yards have fun elements too like a basketball hoop and ping pong table. And just to take you back to 2015 again, more elements of The Beach exhibit are in the Fun House backyard. There’s a pool and hot tub filled with thousands of the infamous white balls that you can jump into or float in. This is where you’ll want to be Instagram ready! After you take a “dip” in the pool/hot tub, grab a lounge chair and sit under an umbrella. Everyone will have a blast and nobody will want to leave! 

Cost: $10-$16
401 F St., NW (Judiciary Square)

—Guiomar Ochoa