February is the shortest month of the year but it often feels like the longest. If your family is starting to feel a bit stir crazy, check this list of activities to find some new ideas — enough for two a week plus a couple extra. From exploring ancient art to indoor speed racing, there is something to please everyone in the family.
1. Build memories
The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., has exhibits for every age. Play Work Build shows visitors from kids to adults the connection between play, design and the work of building professionals with plenty of hands-on fun. Young kids can head to the Building Zone to build a tower, drive a bulldozer or explore a life-size custom built “green” house. Older kids can check out a Family Tool Kit for a small fee and discover what makes a house a home or create architectural patterns. All ages can pitch in to build a 7-foot-tall, soft-block arch in the Museum’s Great Hall. Discover Engineering Family Day is planned for Feb. 18 to kick off National Engineers Week with fun activities for all.
2. Take flight
The College Park Aviation Museum is family-friendly and filled with hands-on, interactive exhibits. Touch, explore and sit in the cockpit of an “Imagination Plane,” a 1939 blue Taylorcraft, or visit the hands-on room to learn about flight and dress like a pilot. Fly away in one of the simulators or, if the weather is nice, play on an outdoor pedal plane. Check out the Afternoon Aviators or Peter Pan Club, for activities several times a month for kids.
3. Make a splash
SplashDown at the Columbia Swim Center was recently renovated and is now open for sliding, twisting, wet and wild fun. Tubes are no longer necessary and the slide is smoother and faster than ever. A rope swing, diving board and recreational swimming in the program pool complete the experience. Kids must be at least 4 feet tall to slide.
4. Have a ball
Ballocity in the Annapolis Pip Moyer Recreation Center is a giant indoor playground fully equipped with mesh nets, various climbing areas, a long twisty slide and lots of balls. It’s closed Fridays and Sundays. A climbing wall in the same facility will challenge older kids while the younger ones explore Ballocity. Check online for hours.
Cost: $6-$10 drop-in fee
annapolis.gov — hover over Local Info, click on Recreation and Parks and click Pip Moyer Recreation Center in the column on the left. Scroll down for Ballocity.
5. Drive away the boredom
Reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour while racing at the Autobahn Indoor Speedway in Jessup. The European-style electric go-kart racing experience offers two Grand Prix-style tracks for adult and junior racers with perfect conditions every day. Anyone older than 8 and at least 48 inches tall is welcome to race.
Cost: $6 for license, $20 per race (14 laps, adults; 12 laps, junior)
6. Hit the trail
Head to Rocks State Park in Jarrettsville and hike to the King and Queen Seat for an amazing view from the natural rock outcrops. Or trek to Kilgore Falls to see the second-highest waterfall in the state on a cold winter day. Visit the website for trail maps.
Cost: Some areas free; others charge $3/person on weekends or $2/car on weekdays for Maryland residents
7. Spin around the rink
Ice skating is the perfect winter activity to get a bit of exercise and have some fun. If the weather outside is nasty, pick an indoor rink. If it’s a clear, crisp day, choose from one of the many outdoor rinks in the area. Consult our list of ice skating rinks to choose where to go. Chesapeakefamily.com/ice-skating
8. Heed the call of nature
Watkins Nature Center in Upper Marlboro offers close-up wildlife investigation with its resident live animals, hands-on exhibits, interpretive programs and special events. Live animal displays include insects, amphibians, reptiles and birds of prey. A “squirrel gym” showcases the park’s squirrel population. Be sure to also check out the indoor and outdoor ponds.
9. Explore ancient art
Renown for its collection of art from pre-dynastic Egypt to 20th-century Europe, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore will draw kids in with its intact mummy and ancient arms and armor. Drop-In Art Activities are held every weekend for kids of all ages.
10. Learn about the Bay
Visit a lighthouse, wander the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and watch the log-hull restoration of the 1889 bugeye “Edna E. Lockwood” at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. This time of year offers clear, underwater views of oyster beds and plenty of waterfowl and wildlife along the waterfront.
Cost: Free weekdays in February; $6-$15 weekends for two consecutive days