Quiet Moments: How a Washingtonian Family Does Spring Break


DSCN3881Spring has finally sprung in DC and although the cherry trees haven’t yet blossomed, the tourists have arrived. If you are anything like me, you prefer to stay away from the crowds, but still want to make the most of spring break with your family. The trick is choosing the right destination. Living in or around D.C. means we are fortunate enough to visit museums year-around. Consider leaving the big attractions like; Air and Space and Natural History for the winter months when they are less crowded and using spring to discover some hidden gems.

The Freer Gallery of Art

Gallery Visit: Japanese Screens
The Freer is scheduled to close next year for renovations so it is an excellent time to visit. This spacious room is a great place to have a seat and do some close looking, read a book or sketch. Remember, you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy or share art with your children.

Make a Connection

  • Read a book like Eliza’s Cherry Trees: Japan’s Gift to America by Andrea Zimmerman and sketch the screens.
  • Learn more about what a Japanese screen is from this teacher resource on page 65.

Finish your visit by walking out through the Sackler, which is connected to the Freer, and heading down Independence Avenue to the Tidal Basin to check out the blossoms. It will undoubtedly be crowded there, but at least you started things out quietly.

The National Museum of African Art

Gallery Visit: Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue
Inside this exhibit is one of my favorite pieces currently on display at the Smithsonian; a butterfly mask from Burkina Faso. It’s also located in a quiet nook of the Museum and perfectly situated for children to walk around and observe.

Make a Connection:

  • Children are often attracted to butterflies for their beauty and they will likely connect to this mask for that very reason. Bring photos of butterflies and compare wings. Look for shapes, patterns and color.
  • Discover the other animals represented on the mask.
  • Pose questions: Why is the butterfly important in Burkina Faso? Where is Burkina Faso? (this information is included in the link above)
  • Ask your children to design their own butterfly wing and bring paper and colored pencils to the gallery. Finish your visit up with a walk over to the butterfly garden.

The National Gallery of Art

Gallery Visit: American Masterworks from the Corcoran, 1815 – 1940 
This gallery might be a little busy, but its worth it because it closes on May 3. There are some breathtaking works in this gallery that are large and inviting for children and adults alike.

Make a Connection:
Since there might be a few more people in this space, choose what the family wants to see ahead of time by looking online. This will help you plan and will get the kids excited for the visit. Once there, find your selected works and share what you like about them. Do you notice anything in-person that you didn’t online?  If your children are too young to talk – that is ok – talk to them. They will still benefit from the experience.

Enjoy your spring break.