National Childrens Museum reopens in National Harbor

New facility a hands-on experience for inquisitive youngsters. Photo: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

OXON HILL, MD., December 15, 2012 – Washington’s National Children’s Museum (NCM)—an essentially homeless, movable feast over the last several years—re-opened yesterday in its sparkling new 18,000 square-foot public space as the National Children’s Museum at National Harbor. As its current descriptive title indicates, the $6.7M facility is now located in Prince Georges County Maryland’s growing riverfront shopping and entertainment center. The museum estimates it will serve more than 200,000 children and families annually at its new site. 

The Congressionally designated museum had initially been located on H St. NE. But for a variety of reasons, that location didn’t work out. The museum closed its H St. space in 2004 with plans to move to a L’Enfant Plaza location, but that idea did not come to fruition either. Without a new space in which to relocate, the physical museum essentially ceased to exist and functioned instead a kind of virtual facility, re-purposed as a community outreach program. 

“The National Children’s Museum takes our young visitors from their homes to the world, sharing the importance of global citizenship and personal responsibility in an open-ended, playful environment,” stated NCM President & CEO Willard Whitson in a recent information release. “We are proud to support our mission in the Washington, D.C. area, while serving children and their families from beyond the region.” 

The museum and its new facility are primarily geared toward educating and entertaining young visitors ranging in age from zero to 10. Its opening exhibits are both age- and theme-specific. Highlights include:

A Sesame Street-themed 3 & Under gallery. Partnering with the long-running PBS Children’s TV series “Sesame Street,” this part of the museum “facilitates exploration and discovery for NCM’s visitors under 3 ft. tall or younger than age 3.” There are plenty of things to see and do here ranging from crawl-able, stackable objects to hands-on activities.

An “Our World” exhibit area “familiarizes children with community citizenship” in three basic areas: “Map Zone,” which deals with the physical world in an understandable context; “My Town,” which shows how being a good citizen starts at home; and “World Cultures” where youngsters can discover the incredible diversity of traditions and cultures around the world. Changing exhibits will highlight different countries, with Tanzania now featured as this area’s initial focus country. 

In addition to the museum’s regular and rotating exhibits, the NCM’s recent release lists a variety of ongoing features, including “staff-led programming, including hands-on activities such as paper bead making and design; literature-based arts and crafts; interaction with roaming Sesame Street characters and professional actors portraying a chef, mayoral candidates engaged in debates and even a reporter who’s dedicated to staying on top of My Town events.” 

The new facility also houses a 130-seat theater for special events, and its new Center for Learning and Innovation consists of  “program rooms adjacent to the exhibit areas for special activities, birthday parties, visiting school groups and other events.” 

Upcoming special events include “Noon Year’s Eve” on Monday, Dec. 31, “an all-day celebration featuring a noontime parade, theatre performances and New Year’s-themed programs;” and the first “GEICO Free Family Night, which will take place on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 from 5 to 8 p.m.” The museum notes that successive “Free Family Nights will occur on the third Friday of each month.”

Museum hours: Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Future summer hours will be between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. The museum will be closed on Christmas, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving.

Tickets and information: Tickets are available at the museum box office, priced at $10 for both children and adults, with children 12 months and younger admitted free. Museum memberships are also available, and one of the benefits is free admission year-round. Group rates are also available.

For additional information on tickets, activities, and directions, visit the museum’s website, or call 301-392-2450.


Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.

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Terry Ponick

Now writing on investing, politics, music, movies and theater for the Washington Times Communities, Terry was formerly the longtime music and culture critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2009) before moving online with Communities in 2010.  



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