We scoured the entire DMV to find the best free activities to keep your family busy all November long
As if any month in the fall isn’t busy enough, November packs it all in with holidays and observances, autumn activities, and Christmas kick-off events. But if you figured you’d have to spend a pretty penny to participate, your wallet is in luck: in this list, you’ll find dozens of free events for families and kids in Washington, DC and beyond.
But where to begin with so many options? Consider Jump-starting November with the National Gallery’s annual Day of the Dead celebration, honoring veterans with a free concert at the MLK Memorial Library, or paying tribute to Native American Indian Heritage Month by exploring an exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian. Or you can soak in the last of fall with self-guided hikes and free passes to our National Parks. Of course, you can always get Christmas-ready with a local tree lighting ceremony, Christmas markets, and light displays. Plus, discover the best kid-friendly museums and permanent exhibits in Washington, DC that always offer free admission.
Related: 100 Things to Do in DC
Free, Kid-Friendly Events around DC in November
In the City
Create a Work of Art
Open daily. Explore the legacy of President Kennedy at this digitally-enhanced, immersive experience on the top floor of the Kennedy Center. The highlight for kids is sure to be an A1 program that will sketch your portrait while you wait. Event details.
Join the LEGO Construction Club
Every Fri: Every Friday from 3-5 p.m. Olney Library supplies the LEGO pieces and you supply the imagination. This program is for children ages 5 years old and up. Parents/caregivers MUST accompany children under the age of 12 during the program. Event details.
Shop a Farmer’s Market on the Plaza
Every Fri.: Marketgoers can shop seasonal offerings from local farms and food producers, dine al fresco on the plaza, enjoy chef demos and samplings and stock up on recipes and tips for maintaining a healthy and socially responsible lifestyle at Capital Harvest on the Plaza (CHoP). Event details.
Enjoy Free Classical Concerts
Every Fri.: Free concerts begin at McNeir Hall every Fri. starting at 12:30 p.m. Some of this month’s highlights include a piano solo on Nov. 4, a string performance Nov. 11 and a violin/piano duo on Nov. 18. Event details.
Mix Beats at Moonshot Studio
Every Sat. & Sun.: After you explore the Art & Ideals exhibit (listed below), head to the Moonshot Studio at REACH to create projects and mix beats inspired by the words and life of President Kennedy. Event details.
Go International at this Art & Craft Fair
Nov. 1-3: Take a quick trip around the world at this annual arts & crafts fairs. International vendors showcase their handmade goods and unique items at the World Bank. Event details.
Celebrate Korean and U.S. Relations with Dance
Nov. 1: Korea National Contemporary Dance Company and The Washington Ballet collaborate in this inspiring, celebratory dance that honors the 140 year Korea-US tie. Event details.
Say Oui to a French Concert
Nov. 4: French tenor Benjamin Alunni and pianist Fernando Palomeque celebrate French-American relations in a new concert hosted by the Embassy of France. Tickets are free, but space should be reserved here. Event details.
Spend an Evening at the Circus
Nov. 5: Come one, come all to this side show-themed day of contortionists, magicians, escape artists, sword swallowers, aerialists and more. In addition to family-friendly entertainment, there will be tarot cards, glitter tattoos, balloon artistry and more. Event details.
Shop the Czech Christmas Market
Nov. 5: Live performances, a live nativity, Czech pastries and a Christmas market round out this event held at the Embassy of the Czech Republic. Admission is free, but you must reserve your space prior to the event. Event details.
Honor Veterans at a Free Concert
Nov. 11: Honor those that have served at this free concert featuring the Navy Bands ensemble, Country Currents, a country bluegrass ensemble that is renowned for their modern flair. Event details.
Learn a Song in Another Language
Nov. 12: Saturday Morning Life, a celebrated DC tradition, is back at The National! This month, enjoy both traditional and original songs in Kiswahili and Espanol as Baba Ras D leads children in a morning of language immersion through song. Event details.
Explore a Play Based Pop Up Event
Nov. 17: Inspired by the adorable picture book by Antoinette Portis, kids 5-8 will collaborate, experiment and create with a variety of materials provided by the Southeast Neighborhood library during this play-based event. Pop in every Thurs. for more play-based fun. Event details.
Get Festive at ZooLights
Nov. 25-Dec. 30 (select days): For eco-friendly festivities, head to the National Zoo where more than 500,000 LED lights are on display. Each evening, guests can also visit the Small Mammal House and the Reptile Discovery Center. Event details.
Get Glowing in Georgetown
Nov. 26-Jan. 22: Bright lights and neon colors brighten up the streets of historic Georgetown with a curated outdoor installation that is sure to dazzle and delight. If you’re looking for some Santa-free time that still has some seasonal sparkle, be sure to take a stroll down M St. Event details.
Watch a Christmas Tree Lighting
Nov. 19: Listen to holiday classic’s in the hotel’s courtyard as dazzling white lights are illuminated at 5:30 p.m. Santa makes a special guest appearance with the hotel’s canine mascot. Event details.
The Beltway & Beyond
Brookside Nature Center’s Self-Guided Hikes
Every Sat. : Spy with your eyes! Prick up your ears! Use your senses to explore and learn about the plants and animals that call Wheaton Regional Park home. This self-guided hiking activity features a rainbow of nature’s colors. Event details.
Enjoy a Free Family Movie Night
Nov. 4: Encanto is being screened at the Arlington Mill Community Center. Wear an Encanto costume for a chance to win a $20 gift card. Free popcorn and free hot chocolate will be served. Event details.
Belt Out Frozen Tunes at this Free Event
Nov. 10: Spend the evening with Anna and Elsa as you enjoy a free screening of Disney’s Frozen 2. Food trucks will be on site serving both sweet and savory snacks. Event details.
Explore a National Park for Free
Nov. 11: If you are an adventure loving family that appreciates a good freebie, head to one of our National Parks on Nov. 11 and entry fees will be waived. Event details.
Join the Kids Club at Dulles Town Center
Nov. 17: Enjoy family-friendly entertainment geared towards children ages 2 to 7 years old every third Thursday at Dulles Town Center. This hour-long program highlights local kid-friendly acts that bring everything from music to magic to the mall’s stage. Event details.
Get Festive with the Festival of Lights
Nov. 29-Dec. 31: Over 650,000 lights illuminate the grounds of the temple, making this one of the largest light displays in the DC area. Guests can also view internationally-inspired Christmas trees and nativity scenes. Nightly performances require a free event ticket, which are handed out on a first-come basis starting 60 minutes prior to performances. Event details.
Free Museums and Park Events around DC in November
In the City
Enjoy Story Time with the National Postal Museum
Every Mon.: Hop online for an interactive story time every Monday at 11 a.m. with the National Postal Museum. Explore our postal system through books during this 45 minute Zoom that ends in a book-related activity. Event details.
Get Crafty at Hirshhorn
Every Thurs.: Drop in from 10-noon every Thursday for a hands-on art-rich experience at the Hirshhorn. Little makers will explore one of the museum’s current art exhibits followed by a creative activity inspired by the work of art. Event details.
Check Out Play Dates at MLK Memorial Library
Every Sat.: Kids can build, create and play games from 1:30-2:30 p.m. every Sat. in the Children’s Room. Spend the afternoon exploring the rest of the library. Inside you’ll find a recording studio, a dance studio, a massive indoor slide and a rooftop terrace. Event details.
Celebrate Día de los Muertos
Nov. 2: The National Portrait Galleries’ annual event kicks off at 5 p.m. indoors this year with music, dancing, hands-on activities and crafts. There will also be a community altar. The party moves outside at 6:30 p.m. when artwork will be live streamed on the museum’s facade. Event details.
Make an Installation Creation
Nov. 5: Larger-than-life exhibits that cover walls, floors (and sometimes ceilings!) are called installations. Check out the oversized works of art at Hirshhorn and get ready to contribute to a new museum installation by talented artists like you and your crew. Event details.
Take a HistoryTime Story Walk
Nov. 6 & 15: Geared towards kids 2-6, the Natioal Museum of American History’s story time features an age-appropriate snapshot of a historical event followed by a hands-on craft. Kids and their caregivers will gather at Wegmans Wonderplace at 2 p.m. for an hour filled with hands-on historic activities. Event details.
Screen a Kid-Friendly Indigenous Film
Nov. 18-25: In celebration of American Indian Heritage Month, this annual event showcases the best of Indigenous films. You can view over 35 films online (including kid-friendly shorts) representing over 30 Native nations. Event details.
Check Out the Unicorn Kid’s Club
Nov. 19: If your child is introverted, Dyslexic, transgendered, deaf, or just struggling being the new kid on the block, check out these monthly gatherings that celebrate what makes each one of us unique. Event details.
The Beltway & Beyond
Nature Packs at Woodend Sanctuary
Every Mon, Tues., Thurs.-Sat.: Visit the Naturalist Shop to check out a backpack (ID required) that will have tools and activities you and your family can use to explore nature at Woodend Sanctuary. Backpacks are free for check-out in the shop but must be returned by 3 p.m. Event details.
Free Art Exhibits around DC in November
In the City
Feature Your Child’s Art at this Exhibit
Open 24/7: This pint sized gallery is the smallest art display in the district (and the cutest!). Budding artists will enjoy not only viewing the works . . . but adding their own! Visitors are welcome to take a piece of art (really!) and contribute their own art on a first come, first served basis. Event details.
Let Art Spark a Conversation
Now-Apr. 2: This exhibit showcases the importance of artists in sparking important dialogues and utilizing art as activism. Featuring American artists, themes in this exhibit center around marginalized communities. Event details.
Explore Japanese Painting Techniques
Now-Jan. 29: Explore the different brush strokes Japanese artists have used over the century to capture the feathery nature of birds. This exhibit features work dating as far back as the Heian period (794–1185). This is a great opportunity to play I Spy with different artistic techniques. Event details.
Discover the Story of Raven and the Box of Daylight
Now-Jan. 29: Enjoy a multi sensory, full-immersion experience at the National Museum of the American Indian. Discover the Northwest Coast’s tale of Raven who brought light to the Earth by starting in a dark room and following Raven on a journey to lightness. This exhibit features the glass work of Preseton Singletary and includes video projections. Event details.
Learn About African American Artists
Ends Nov. 30: Highlighting “who’s who of African American art,” this exhibit showcases the best 19th and 21st century paintings in the Howard University collection. Call to schedule a tour prior to arriving. Event details.
Take a (Photo) Walk with Wildlife
Ends Nov. 20: Explore our relationship with wildlife through this photo gallery of 32 award-winning images that celebrate the beauty (and fragility) of our planet. Event details.
The Beltway & Beyond
Appreciate the Simplicity of Still Life
Now-Dec. 20: The Park View Gallery in Glen Echo Park is currently showcasing watercolor paintings of still life by artist Julia Rosenbaum. Explore the beauty in every day objects found throughout a home. Event details.
Feel the Music at Zion! A Forest of Dreams
Ends Nov. 13: Artist Dianne Bugash describes herself as the “folk singer” of her paintings. Inspired by songwriters like John Denver and Peter, Paul and Mary, Bugash’s pieces capture the pithiness of folk tunes (kids will enjoy the abstract, tree-like structures). Event details.
Museums around DC That Are Always Free
National Museum of Natural History
The most visited museum in DC is home to more than just dinosaurs. You’ll find a dazzling gem collection, a popular earthquake simulator, mammal displays, human cultural artifacts and a butterfly pavilion you can explore for free on Tuesdays.
Exhibit space Q?rius is temporarily closed, but it’s such a perfect stop for the 10-and-under set that it’s worth keeping on your radar. Housed inside the Natural History Museum, it offers drawers brimming with curiosities. Your pint-sized explorer will enjoy digging through drawers filled with rocks, minerals, insects and more. When your kids are done exploring the natural world, they can explore the cultures of the world in the same space! There are also drawers filled with clothing and dolls from other countries.
10th Street and Constitution Aves., NW
National Museum of the American Indian
In addition to housing Indigenous artifacts, visitor’s can explore the history of Native foods at the museum’s cafe, Mitsitam. The interactive gallery imagiNATIONS helps children 10 and under connect with the stories and histories of Native nations.
imagNATIONS – On the third level of the National Museum of the American Indian, you’ll find the imagiNATIONS Activity Center, where kids learn how to interact with the environment around them. They’ll weave baskets from different material, see different types of houses made from wood or mud, and even learn to walk in snowshoes! Snuggle up in a cornerwith a book about Native cultures or make some noise with the percussion instruments scattered around.
4th St. and Independence Ave., SW (L’Enfant Plaza)
National Museum of African-American History and Culture
The stunning building, inspired by Yoruba art and filigree ironwork, is filled with presentations and artifacts that give visitors a glimpse at all aspects—the good and the gut-wrenching—of the African Americanexperience. It’s a must-visit for the entire family. See our in-depth guide here.
1400 Constitution Ave. NW
National Museum of American History
The collection of Smithsonian museums are a treasure trove of exploration, but for hands-on, interactive fun make a bee-line for Wegman’s Wonderplace where the youngest visitors (0 to 6) can explore pint-sized versions of the Smithsonian’s most popular exhibits, from a kid-sized version of Julia’s kitchen to a smaller version of The Castle. Spark!Lab — for ages of 6 and 12 — lets visitors explore the invention process from start to finish.
Wegman’s Wonderplace – Take your tiny ones (6 & under) to the magical play area just inside the entrance. The 1700-square-foot interactive wonderland gets curiosity flowing. With a gated entrance and attentive staff, you can freely allow your kiddos to explore the dream kitchen, blocks of all shapes and sizes, walls full of gadgets and gizmos and an indoor farm complete with an adorable chicken coop.
Spark!Lab – Bring out that little inventor in this innovative space built for tinkering. The cool factor is high when everything you see invites your kids to create, collaborate, explore, test, experiment and invent. Perfect for ages 6 – 12.
14th St and Constitution Aves., NW
National Postal Museum
If you’ve never checked out the National Postal Museum (or didn’t even know it existed), you’re not alone–many locals overlook this NoMa gem for its flashier counterparts on the National Mall. But, for kids, this free Smithsonian Institution is a slam dunk since the museum encourages visitors to feel, climb into, sit in, and throw–yes, throw!–many of its exhibits.
2 Massachusetts Ave., NE
National Portrait Gallery
Explore the portraits behind American history. Politicians, artists, inventors and scientists, these are the faces that help shape our country. The American Presidents exhibit is the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House!
Eighth and F Sts., NW
Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
The preschool set can fight the chill and take part in the Hirshorn’s library and art pop up program on any given Saturday this fall. It’s easy peasey to do too. Grab a parent’s hand and find a gallery cart full of fun kits with real finds. Each kit combines a special theme with adventures in reading, suggested artwork to view and real hands-on art materials to help little ones create their own masterpieces.
Independence Ave., SW & 7th St.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
If rockets and airplanes are your kids’ things, then the Air and Space Museum in Dulles, VA, is the next stop on your fall bucket list. First, visit the vast plane hangar where the Space Shuttle Discovery and a Concorde are on display. Then, ride in a flight simulator and sit inside the cockpit of a vintage aircraft. Head upstairs to the top level, and your crew can learn about air traffic control and watch planes fly in and out of the local airport.
Insider tip: The museum is free, but there is a $15 charge for parking. Head to this museum after 4 p.m. and parking is free.
14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway