Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The DC Building Museum

I love days that our daycare is closed.  On those days I get to stay home with Wombat.  I usually try to plan a little outing, because the last thing I want to do is be more boring than daycare.  Last time, we went to the National Building Museum in DC.

The LEGO architecture exhibit was still going on when we went, and the exhibit was awesome.  Not only was there a large number of buildings constructed from LEGOs, but there was a huge build-your-own-city area with large LEGO block bins for kids to play with.  I think it was mostly targeting school-age kids, but Wombat got right into it anyway.

(It's interesting that the LEGO blocks used to build these creations are nothing like the LEGO blocks in the LEGO toys.  They are much more realistic, and even more modular.  They really are just like bricks).

After a little while of building, we headed to the Play Place at the museum.  It's for kids under 6 years old, and it. is. spectacular.  They have a miniature cottage! Loads of ride-on trucks! Building toys! Dress-up clothes! More trucks! Pillows to stack! Books to read! A large space to run around in! Train set! All for free.

Elijah immediately rounded up every single ride-on truck in the place, naturally.  Other (obviously less organized) children immediately took advantage of his having lined up every single truck and started grabbing them from the line-up to play with, thus greatly upsetting Wombat.

Oh well, he still found his one and only love in this recycling truck. (By Sprig recycled toys, no less.  Not too shabby.  In general, all the toys in the play place were expensive, high quality, very very nice toys)  We didn't check out the book section in depth, but lots of older kids were using it and it looked quite interesting (with all the books very construction-related and therefore boy-friendly.)

 After more playtime, we decided it was time to eat lunch and take a nap.  The museum advertises a Firehouse Bakery on premises, but that really only consists of one drink counter and a fridge with sandwiches - nothing freshly made available.  So to get food, you would have to prowl Chinatown as your closest option.  As for us, after making a few unsuccessful pokes around the neighborhood, I dragged Wombat to Teaism to get our lunch (and a mango lassie).

Getting there: The place is right next to the Judicial Square metro stop.  Like, directly and immediately across from the Metro stop exit - you have to walk about 20 feet across a plaza and just like that, you are at the museum.   But if, like me, you decide that metro-ing seriously interfers with your naptime, then you can also drive in.  A nearby garage can give you daily parking for $11-16.  We found our parking on this website, printed out a coupon for the discount and were good to go.

Cost: Admission to the museum is free.  The play place is free too!  Any special exibits are nominal-fee: the Lego one was $5 for me and free for Wombat.

Food: not too many options at the museum.  There is a small fridge stocked by Fireside Bakery, and not much toddler-friendly fare.  However, loads of restaurants are just a few blocks away, including Teaism (OK, a bit of a hike) and the entire Chinatown.

Bathrooms: quite nice: large, easily accessible and well-equipped with changing tables.

Museum Shop: Not bad, not bad at all.  Loads of building/construction toys, including Melissa and Doug and Bruder trucks.  Also random curiosities for adults and older kids, plus of course adult books.  A large, very large children's toy section. Unfortunately, to great disappointment, the museum shop does not carry any of the toys that are available to play with at their play place.  So if your toddler falls in love with one of the trucks there, you don't have an option to just buy one to take home.  A huge revenue loss for the place, if you ask me.  Elijah liked that garbage truck so much I would have totally bought one for him - even with the museum markup (which, as it was, wasn't too bad).

Overall:   The play place is great, but the rest of the museum is not really very interesting to a toddler (or to someone not into architecture already).  Not really worth a special trip, but if you happen to be at the Smithsonian/Chinatown during bad weather or a bad temper tantrum, the National Building Museum play place will save your day.  Definitely worth it to keep it in mind.


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