Be With Me Playseum
7000 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 301-807-8028
As a stay-at-home mother of four in Bethesda, Gina Seebachan knew the challenges of finding things to do with kids. “There were very few places I could go that catered to a variety of ages at the same time,” Seebachan says. In 2009, she founded the Be With Me Playseum, which is home to about a dozen small, interactive spaces geared for kids ten months to 11 years old. Little ones can pretend to go grocery shopping, decorate a cupcake in a tiny bakery, or make their own toothpaste in a child-size dental office. There’s also daily story time, and staff members are always on hand to help kids with crafts. Admission is $6 a person.
Glen Echo Park
7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo; 301-634-2222
Located on the banks of the Potomac River about four miles from downtown Bethesda, Glen Echo Park opened in 1891. Although most of the rides are gone, the amusement park celebrates its heritage every September during the Then & Wow festival with kiddie rides, arcade games, and other family-friendly activities. “Two years ago, we decided to bring in bumper cars for the event,” says Jenni Cloud, who works for the park’s Partnership for Arts & Culture. “They were so popular that we brought in double the next year.” This year’s festival is September 25—the last day that the park’s famed Dentzel Carousel will be open this season.
Year-round, Glen Echo is home to a variety of children’s theaters as well as workshops for both kids and adults. One popular venue is the 200-seat Puppet Co., which puts on children’s classics such as The Wizard of Oz and Pinocchio. Children can also take classes in photography, painting, crafts, clay animation, and other arts.
4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda; 301-961-6060
“We consider our audience to be as smart as any other audience,” says Scott McCormick of Imagination Stage. “We don’t speak down to children.” The theater’s performances are geared toward kids, but adults will also find joy in the professionally acted plays. Each season, the theater puts on about five productions—this season’s highlights include Dr. Dolittle and Rapunzel. For budding thespians, the theater also offers classes in acting, dance, musical theater, and more. “We embrace the idea that a child’s creativity is expanded both on stage and off,” says McCormick. “Our classes can help them develop the skills that lead to creative, imaginative adults.”
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St., Bethesda; 301-654-8664
Literary-minded teens may find inspiration in one of the Writer’s Center’s many workshops aimed at high-school kids. (It offers even more for adults.) Courses cover everything from playwriting to crafting a college-application essay. Taught by published writers, these courses allow kids to explore ideas they might not address in the classroom and to share their work with others in a constructive environment. For some, these courses may even be a jumping-off point for a creative career: Cate Marvin, an award-winning author of two poetry collections, took several workshops at the Writer’s Center as a teen.
This article appears in the September 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.