Family Activities

This page lists Fun Family Activities in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. Check out the menu above for more activities related to arts, fitness, therapeutic riding, and summer camps.

Indoor Playgrounds


Going to the movies is a great idea, but sometimes can be challenging. Here are some good tips in making the experience enjoyable for everyone.

A Blueprint

Jill Hudson and Amy Bixler Coffin, in their book Out and About: Preparing Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to Participate in Their Communities, offer an easy-to use Blueprint for parents taking their children on a community outing or for educators preparing a field trip.

The Blueprint offers eleven tools to consider for these outings. Below, they have been adapted for a trip to the movies.

  1. Waiting plan. Waiting is a part of every activity and many children will need some support to wait. For example, if the child is waiting in line to buy popcorn, a wait card or a simple fidget might make the waiting easier.
  2. Communication. For the child who requires support to communicate, his communication system needs to travel with him. His communication device may include special icons that will allow him to request popcorn or make comments about the movie. More verbal children may require prompting to order something from the concession stand.
  3. Social. An important part of any outing is the social interaction. To make the most of the outing, the child may need to role-play what it is like to go to the movie or read a social narrative about what will happen in the movie theater. The child may also need a script to ask peers what they liked about the movie.
  4. Visual. Visual supports help to make an outing a success. A “first … then …” card, a list of what the child will do at the movie, or a wait card can help clarify the order of events or expectations.
  5. Hidden curriculum. Consider what “unwritten rules” are necessary for the child to know at the movie theater. For example, at the movies children can eat their own popcorn and perhaps their parents’ popcorn, but they are not permitted to eat the popcorn that belongs to other families.
  6. Sensory. Many children become overwhelmed by noise or lights. The child attending a movie might need earplugs or sunglasses to minimize sensory input. In addition, the child may need a favorite blanket or small toy to feel comfortable in a new environment.
  7. Motivation. Sometimes outside motivators or reinforcers are needed to helpthe child complete activities. Offering a small reinforcer during the activity or after the activity can urge a reluctant child to try something new.
  8. Behavior. Are any behavior supports needed to help the child experience success during the movie? Before an outing, consider taking a voice volume card and making a plan of action for if the child becomes anxious. For the AMC-ASA Sensory Friendly Films, there will be a space available for children to de-stress. If anxiety or other behaviors are of concern, having this information is invaluable.
  9. Transition. Transition supports help the child move from place to place – from the concession stand to the theater or from the bathroom to the car. Picture cards or scripts can be helpful during transitions.
  10. Siblings or other students. Are any special plans or considerations needed for other children during the outing? For example, if the child with autism becomes anxious and needs to leave the theatre briefly to calm, will the sibling remain in the theater or accompany his brother who is feeling stressed?
  11. Rewind. This tool allows for review following the movie or other event. Rewind can be used to celebrate the family’s success or revisit the plan to ensure that supports are added, as needed.

The Out and About Blueprint is an option for parents who are planning an outing for their family that could become. It takes into consideration the needs of the individual in a simple yet comprehensive format.

For more information about the Out and About Blueprint, visit the Autism Asperger Publishing Company at:


National Aquarium in Baltimore

501 East Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

Special Visit Times

Avoid the crowd by visiting on the first Saturday and first Sunday of the month. Our First Saturdays and First Sundays program allows visitors with special needs and their guests to enter 30 minutes before the Aquarium opens to the general public.

Discounted Admission

To receive discounted admission on Deaf Awareness Day, please contact the Aquarium’s Special Customer Liaison.

Special Customer Liaison

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact:
Jennifer Hamilton
410-659-4291 (Voice)
410-727-3022 (TTY)

Indoor Playgrounds


6570 Dobbin RD.
Columbia, MD 21045

What is PlayWiseKids?

PlayWiseKids is the premier family destination on the East Coast for imaginative, hands-on play! It is a 24,000 square foot, indoor learning and activity center for children. PlayWiseKids makes a great outing for parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, nannies & babysitters, and anyone else looking for a safe, fun, indoor play environment.

At PlayWiseKids, formerly ExploraWorld, children can freely explore their interests and actively use their imaginations while building social skills. All of PlayWiseKids’ offerings are consistent with the belief that children learn through hands-on play. It’s the perfect location for Drop-In Play (no reservation required), Birthday Parties, Child Care, Group Events and Shopping!

At PlayWiseKids, children can pretend to be rescue heroes driving a real fire engine or ambulance. They can shop in our child-sized Grocery Store; shoot hoops and play foosball in our Game Room; create masterpieces in our Arts & Crafts room; dress-up and dance; explore tunnels and slides in our Toddler Areas; play in the sand in our Chesapeake Bay Beach; assemble a skeleton in our Medical Room; put together a four foot dinosaur in our Nature Exhibit; learn about outer space in our Solar System Room; and learn through Computer Games.


Located in Rockville, MD, Greenbelt, MD and Baltimore, MD

Jeepers! is great family fun anytime! Designed to please children ages two to twelve, Jeepers! is the Ultimate family entertainment experience combining the rides and excitement of an outdoor amusement park with indoor convenience and climate control.

Amusement park rides are still hugely popular with children, and each Jeepers! offers five or six rides geared to different age groups. JJ’s Driving Schoolage groups, ranging from “kiddie” rides to the “Python Pit”, an exciting indoor roller coaster designed exclusively for Jeepers!

Soft Play! Kids have to work off a little steam sometimes and our soft play areas offer tubes, chutes, slides and obstacle courses where kids can follow their imaginations.

Jeepers! is not an arcade. Our games of skill build hand-eye coordination and give parents and children the opportunity to play together. Many games have a sports theme, such as basketball hoop shots or bowling, while others, like Hungry Hippos, are whimsical and just plain fun. Most of the games give out tickets redeemable at Jeepers! exclusive “Big Digs” redemption area for prizes and toys.


The Smithsonian Museums:

Smithsonian Institution Building

The Castle is The Smithsonian’s first building, popularly known as the Castle, houses the Institution’s administrative offices and the Smithsonian Information Center.

Highlights: 18-minute video orientation, two interactive touch-screen stations with information on the Smithsonian in six languages, and one scale model of the federal city.

Location: 1000 Jefferson Drive SW, Washington, DC
Hours: 8:30am to 5:30pm. Admission is free.

Anacostia Community Museum

1901 Fort Place, SE
Washington, DC 20020
Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Closed: December 25th

As the Smithsonian Institution’s museum of African American history and culture, the Museum explores American history, society, and creative expression from an African American perspective.

The Freer Gallery of Art and Sackler Gallery

The Sackler Gallery: 1050 Independence Avenue, SW. The Freer Gallery of Art: Jefferson Drive at 12th Street, SW. The two museums are connected by an underground exhibition space.

Hours are from 10 AM to 5:30 PM every day except Dec. 25, and admission is free.

The Freer Gallery

The gallery houses a world-renowned collection of art from China, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, and the Near East. Visitor favorites include Chinese paintings, Japanese folding screens, Korean ceramics, Indian and Persian manuscripts, and Buddhist sculpture. A highlight of the Whistler holdings is the Peacock Room, a dining room that was once part of a London townhouse. In 1876, Whistler lavishly decorated the room with a blue and gold peacock design. After the owner’s death, the room was brought to the United States and permanently installed in the Freer Gallery.

The gallery was founded by Charles Lang Freer (1854–1919), a railroad-car manufacturer from Detroit who gave to the United States his collections and funds for a building to house them. The Italian-Renaissance-style gallery, constructed in granite and marble, was designed by American architect Charles Platt. When the gallery opened to the public in 1923, it was the first Smithsonian museum for fine arts. In subsequent years, the collections have grown through gifts and purchases to nearly triple the size of Freer’s bequest.

Sackler Gallery

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery The gallery opened in 1987 to house a gift of some 1,000 works of Asian art from Dr. Arthur M. Sackler (1913–1987), a research physician and medical publisher from New York City. Among the highlights of his gift were early Chinese bronzes and jades, Chinese paintings and lacquerware, ancient Near Eastern ceramics and metalware, and sculpture from South and Southeast Asia. Sackler also donated $4 million toward construction of the gallery. Since 1987, the gallery’s collections have expanded to include the Vever Collection, an important assemblage of the Islamic arts of the book from the 11th to the 19th century; 19th- and 20th-century Japanese prints and contemporary porcelain; Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean paintings; arts of village India; contemporary Chinese ceramics; and photography.

International loan exhibitions have included Timur and the Princely Vision: Persian Art and Culture in the 15th Century; Yani: the Brush of Innocence, featuring paintings by a 14-year-old Chinese prodigy; When Kingship Descended from Heaven: Masterpieces of Mesopotamian Art from the Louvre; Court Arts of Indonesia; Korean Art of the 18th Century: Splendor & Simplicity; and A Basketmaker in Rural Japan.

The Sackler Gallery is connected by an underground exhibition space to the neighboring Freer Gallery of Art. Although their collections are stored and exhibited separately, the two museums share a director, administration, and staff.

The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium, located in the Freer, provides a venue for a broad variety of free public programs relating to the collections of the Freer and Sackler galleries, including concerts of Asian music and dance, films, lectures, chamber music, and dramatic presentations.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Smithsonian’s museum of international modern and contemporary art.

Location: Independence Avenue at Seventh St., SW
Hours: Open daily except December 25
Museum: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Plaza: 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Sculpture Garden: 7:30 a.m. – dusk
Admission: Free; donations are accepted.

National Air and Space Museum

National Mall Building
Independence Ave at 4th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20560, 202-633-1000
Admission: Free
Hours: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm
Open every day except December 25.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, Virginia 20151
Admission: Free
Hours: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm
Open every day except December 25.

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum maintains the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. It is also a vital center for research into the history, science, and technology of aviation and space flight, as well as planetary science and terrestrial geology and geophysics.

The Museum has two display facilities. The National Mall building in Washington, D.C. has hundreds of artifacts on display including the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 command module, and a lunar rock sample that visitors can touch. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center displays many more artifacts including the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay and Space Shuttle Enterprise.

National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the stories of America through the individuals who have shaped U.S. culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts, and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists who speak American history.

Admission: Free
Location: The museums are conveniently located at Eighth and F Streets, NW, DC,
Museum Hours: 11:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m. Daily
Closed December 25

National Museum of the American Indian

Collection, preservation, study and exhibition of the living cultures and history of the native peoples of the Americas.

Location: Fourth Street & Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20560
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Daily; closed Dec. 25.
Admission is free.

National Postal Museum

The National Postal Museum is divided into galleries that explore America’s postal history from colonial times to the present. Visitors learn how mail has been transported, emphasize the importance of letters, and spotlight the creation and wondrous diversity of postage stamps.

Location: 2 Massachusetts Ave., NE
Washington, DC 20002
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except December 25.
Admission is free.

National Zoo

Location: 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008

Hours: Grounds: April 1-Oct. 31 6 a.m.-8 p.m.
Nov.1 – March 31 6 a.m.-6 p.m.
Buildings: April 1-Oct. 31 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Nov.1 – Oct. 31 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
The Zoo is Open every day of the year except

American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) is America’s first federal art collection, dedicated to the enjoyment and understanding of American art. The museum celebrates the extraordinary creativity of our country’s artists, whose works are windows on the American experience.

Location: 8th and F Streets N.W. in the heart of
Washington, DC 20560
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Daily except December 25.
Admission is free.

National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is dedicated to understanding the natural world and our place in it.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Daily except December 25.
Admission is free.
Location: The Museum is located at the intersection of
10th Street and Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20560

National Museum of African Art

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art fosters the discovery and appreciation of the visual arts of Africa, the cradle of humanity.

Hours:10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily except December 25.
Admission is free.
Location: 950 Independence Avenue, SW,
Washington, DC 20560

Portrait Studios

CLIX Portrait Studios

Special Kids Program Serving Special Needs Children and their families
2499 N. Harrison St. LL-2
Arlington, VA 22207

We understand some of the challenges that exist for those with disabilities or serious illnesses when it comes to having professional portraits taken. The CLIX Special Kids program will give your child or family the individualized care needed to capture artistic and lasting images that you will cherish forever.

With experience, patience and kindness, Michelle, the owner of CLIX Portrait Studios in Arlington (a mother of a special needs child herself) will conduct photo sessions for children with special needs and their parents and siblings. The studio has adequate space and ceiling mounted lights which move easily to accommodate wheelchairs or special equipment. A limited number of appointments can be scheduled when the studio is closed to the public (usually Thursday mornings). Our attitude is one of welcoming acceptance of children of any ability level.

Each Special Kids Session will include a pre- session consultation in person or by phone so that we can better understand your child’s needs abilities and temperament and together we will plan the session accordingly.

A portrait session will typically last about 45-60 minutes. Images will be edited and ready quickly for your review at a separate appointment, scheduled at your convenience.

Fee for a Special Kids studio session is $50 for the first visit and $25 thereafter. Special Kids Program participants automatically receive CLIX CLUB prices (10% off all in-studio purchases) for their portrait purchases.

Please call CLIX Portrait Studios at 703-532-4752 to schedule a Special Kids appointment with Michelle.

Claude Moore Colonial Farm at Turkey Run

6310 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101

A living history farm and educational resource. When you visit the 1771 Farm you truly are stepping back in time. This is not a mere change of appearances; it is a literal change in the way life is lived and work is done. You will meet the Bradley’s, a farm family who would be instantly recognizable to an 18th Century traveler. The Bradleys are portrayed by costumed interpreters, but everything about them–-their clothes, tools, crops, buildings and labors–-are authentically recreated. The Bradley family members, and their colonial neighbors, are living in 1771. Expect them to invite you to step back in time with them.