Bringing your children or teens along to the nation's capital for APA's 2005 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C.? You're in luck: The nation's capital has myriad free and family-friendly activities, from the Smithsonian Institution museums and the National Zoo to parks and children's performances at area theatres. In addition, many of the most popular activities are close to the stroller-friendly Metro, the city's underground subway system.
Here's a sampling of popular--and lesser known--attractions and activities that can keep young and older children happily occupied during or after convention sessions.
Test building materials at the National Building Museum. The museum regularly hosts hands-on educational programs for children of all ages on topics from skyscrapers to mass transit, and the museum's wide open space--larger than a football field and 15 stories tall--makes it an ideal spot for young ones to stretch their legs. Visitors say it's often less crowded than the Smithsonian museums. The museum always has one exhibit especially for young audiences; for example, a recent exhibit offered a glimpse at everyday life in Japan through the eyes of five Japanese children. Address: 401 F St. N.W.; Metro stop: Judiciary Square; (202) 272-2448; www.nbm.org. Admission is free; a donation is suggested.
Watch a tarantula feeding at the O. Orkin Insect Zoo of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. The museum's Samuel C. Johnson IMAX theater screens state-of-the-art movies on topics such as dolphin life and dinosaurs. The museum's Discovery Room features hands-on activities on the natural world with actual museum artifacts. For example, at a recent exhibit visitors could excavate and identify fossils. Address: 10th St. and Constitution Ave., N.W.; (202) 633-1000; Metro stop: Smithsonian; www.mnh.si.edu.
Introduce children to the scientific method at The National Zoo, where scientists are constantly monitoring the behavior of giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. There are more than 2,000 animal species in the park, from orangutans to tigers to naked mole rats. The zoo's newest feature, Kids' Farm, is a two-acre play area and educational exhibit that introduces children to farm animals and their habitats. The exhibit also offers lessons on how the food people eat comes from farms. Address: 3001 Connecticut Ave. N.W.; Metro stop: Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan; (202) 673-4800; nationalzoo.si.edu.
See how large, blank sheets of paper become ready-to-spend dollar bills at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The bureau--which also prints postage stamps and White House invitations--has stepped up its printing and engraving technology since it was established in 1862, but visitors can see how the engravers still use traditional tools such as burnishers, which are smoothing implements, during a 40-minute tour. Address: 14th and C Streets, S.W.; Metro stop: Smithsonian; (202) 874-2330 or toll-free (866) 874-2330; www.bep.treas.gov.
Test your surveillance skills and learn the history of the intelligence community at the International Spy Museum, the only U.S. museum dedicated to espionage. The museum has more than 600 artifacts--including bugs and spy cameras--900 historic photographs and more than a dozen interactive displays. Visitors can learn about disguises, codes and spy gadgets, for example. The museum notes on its Web site that children of all ages are welcome, but that those 12 and older will gain the most from its offerings. Admission is $13 for those 12 and older and $10 for children ages 5 to 11. Children under 5 are admitted for free. Address: 800 F. St.; Metro stop: Gallery Place/Chinatown; (202) 393-7798; www.spymuseum.org.
Picnic, hike or ride horses in Rock Creek Park, part of the National Park Service and twice as large as New York's Central Park. The park has a child-friendly nature center and planetarium, and at its Peirce Barn, children can dress up in old-fashioned clothing and play with 19th-century toys. Metro stop: Friendship Heights (requires a bus transfer; follow the directions available on the park's Web site); (202) 895-6070; www.nps.gov/rocr.
Take in a free show through the Saturday Mornings at the National Theatre program. At 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., the National Theatre offers free performances for children by, for example, singers, magicians, jugglers, clowns, storytellers, musicians or dancers. Seating is limited and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The theatre also has a free summer film program on Monday nights geared to adults; past features have included classics such as "Casablanca" and "Mrs. Miniver." Address: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.; Metro stop: Metro Center; (202) 783-3372; www.nationaltheatre.org.
Touch a moon rock at the National Air and Space Museum. Children can also walk through a rocket or sit in a cockpit of a DC7. Other highlights include shows at the museum's IMAX theatre and Einstein Planetarium. Metro stops: Smithsonian or L'Enfant Plaza; (202) 633-1000; www.nasm.si.edu.