DC’s National Portrait Gallery with Kids

A trip into DC to visit a museum is not usually at the top of my preschooler’s “Let’s Have Fun” list. In fact, it’s usually such an anxiety-riddled, don’t-touch-that experience that I tell myself that I’m leaving them all with the nanny the next time. And then I remember that I don’t have a nanny. But what I do have – what we all have access to when visiting one of the coolest museums in town – is the kids Explore! with the Portrait Gallery room at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery! It is my dream for you (and me) that the kid-friendly travel tips below will make your next visit to the National Portrait Gallery with the kid(s) a fun and enjoyable time!

The Explore! Room at the National Portrait Gallery

The Explore! room is a whole room at the National Portrait Gallery dedicated to hands-on play for children ages 18 months to 8-years old. Designed to fittingly introduce children to the concept of portraiture, little hands can get busy with fun activities like tracing your silhouette:

Trace silhouette at Explore! Room National Portrait Gallery
All ready for your kiddo to trace your silhouette!

Or creating a portrait using the felt boards.

Explore Room National Portrait Gallery

Storytime at the Explore! Room

Perhaps your child just wants to curl up with a board book or early reader book? Well, they’re in luck as the Explore! room has about three or so reading nooks with books at the ready to engage young minds. Also note that on Tuesdays – Fridays at 11:45am, Storytime happens at the Explore! Room,  “immers[ing] you in tales of artists, presidents, inventors, athletes, and more!”

National Portrait Gallery, Kids Explore Room reading nook

Snack Break at the Kogod Courtyard

When snacktime comes, bring the kids to the Kogod Courtyard, a huge and beautiful indoor atrium inside the National Portrait Gallery. While we usually bring snacks and light lunches when we travel, you can also usually purchase food from their Courtyard Cafe. (That said, website notes Cafe currently closed for renovations; will reopen on March 30th, 2019.) My kids love to run up and down the length of the Kogod Courtyard. If you visit on a less crowded weekday, kiddos can usually run around relatively freely while you enjoy a breather.

Kogod Courtyard National Portrait Gallery

Itinerary for Visit to the National Portrait Gallery with Kids

If you’ve aspirations of visiting the National Portrait Gallery with your toddler or preschooler, allow me to suggest a possible itinerary that will hopefully make the visit most enjoyable for all!

Upon morning arrival, head to the coatrooms at the F & G Street entrances, where you can use their free lockers to lighten your load. I’ve left a stroller in the coatroom, too. Yes, it was there still when I returned to retrieve it.
Locker Room at the National Portrait Gallery

Check out an exhibit or two while your child is still upright and mesmerized by the newness of everything. When you sense that magic wearing off, head to the Explore Room, on the first floor.  If you’re there on a Tuesday – Friday morning, bookend your visit with their recurring Storytime.

Relatively recharged, check out another two or three exhibits. Perhaps head to the America’s Presidents gallery on the museum’s second floor to check out the amazing paintings of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
National Portrait Gallery President Obama Portrait

In short (or long, really), I’m not recommending your visit the National Portrait Gallery with your toddler or preschooler *just* to check out the Explore room. What I am recommending is that if you’re someone who digs the National Portrait Gallery but haven’t been in awhile because you’ve wondered how your young child would fare, then print out the above tips in this survival guide and be on your way! On your way to the National Portrait Gallery with your kid(s), that is!

The National Portrait Gallery is located at 8th & F Streets, NW, Washington DC 20001.

The Explore room on the first floor of the National Portrait Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Want More Ideas for Indoor Fun? Check out these gems:

Indoor Fun at Mount Rainier Nature Center

Board Game Fun at College Park’s Board & Brew

Music and Movement at Rise & Rhyme

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