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Hidden Gems 2014: Family

Planes and trains. Owls and snakes. Shake up your routine with these child-friendly outings.

Seek out new worlds and new life …

at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium. The small planetarium features kid-centric shows, while the charming nature center showcases the park’s wildlife, including turtles and snakes. There’s a children’s reading room with books and games related to the environment and a fun half-mile nature trail. Free. 202-895-6070.

Climb aboard a 1927 red caboose …

at the B&O Railroad Museum at Ellicott City Station, the country’s oldest railway station. After playing on the beautifully restored caboose, check out the model trains, including a 40-foot-long replica of the original line from Baltimore to Ellicott City, with highly detailed street scenes and landscapes. Adults $6, seniors $5, children $4. 410-461-1945.

Illustration by Edwin Fotheringham.

Take a stuffed animal to hear classical music …

at the National Symphony Orchestra’s Teddy Bear Concerts at the Kennedy Center. Children ages three to five can first attend Musical Playtime, to get up close to violins, tubas, and other instruments. The concerts reveal the magic and storytelling in music as kids—depending on the show—discover how violins can sound like bumblebees, galloping horses, or cats. The next concerts are March 8 and 9. $20. 202-467-4600.

Hop into a 1939Taylorcraft plane …

at the College Park Aviation Museum. The state-of-the-art facility, on the grounds of the world’s oldest continuously operating airport, was founded in 1909 when Wilbur Wright went there to give flight instruction to the first military aviators. Aircraft and artifacts tell the history of the airfield, and children enjoy hands-on activities such as spinning a propeller and trying on a flight jacket. Adults $4; seniors $3; children $2; free under age two. 301-864-6029.

Get close to birds of prey …

at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, where a small wooden enclosure houses a red-tailed hawk, barred owl, and great horned owl—all rehabilitated after mishaps but unable to be released back into the wild. While at the 70-acre park, you can visit the nature center or hike on the wooded trails, including one leading to the banks of the Potomac. Free. 703-528-5406.

Point out beavers and ducks … .

at Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, a 1,500-acre habitat with a half-mile boardwalk through freshwater wetlands. It’s a rare day you don’t see some birds or wildlife; even in winter, you might spot ducks, kingfishers, great blue herons, and Canada geese. If you’re lucky, you could see a river otter; on warmer days, frogs, turtles, and beavers are more active. Free. 703-768-2525.

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Hidden Gems 2014: Outdoors

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