The Sculpture Garden is right between The National Gallery of Art and The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. There is a huge fountain right in front of the National Archives - a great place to sit and take a rest. You can even put your feet in the fountain.
We ate at the Pavilion Café. You order at the counter, and you will be given a buzzer to let you know when your order is ready. There wasn't a huge selection of food - but it all looked to be of relatively good quality. Of course, my kids just wanted hog dogs - which they had. It is a nice compromise, they have kid food, adult food, and really yummy looking treats. The food came out quickly, and we had a nice view of the Sculpture Garden. It's not a bad place to eat.
My preschool-age kids and I did enjoy walking around the Sculpture Garden. It is relatively small - a great size for little feet. It's easy to just walk past a piece of art or really take the time to look at it. It's perfect for little kids that won't make it through more than a few rooms of an art gallery.
We walked through the Sculpture Garden on our way from the Air and Space Museum to the Natural History Museum. Some of the sculptures were quite impressive, such as the metal tree and the 3D house (which looked like it moved as we moved). Some of the sculptures I was not impressed with such as the large metal rectangle. Huh?
We stopped around the low pool of water with a fountain that sits "in front" of the National Archives building. We put our feet in the water along with many other tourists and enjoyed the quiet of the gardens. Actually, the 13 kids in our group kind of ruined the quiet for other people sitting on the benches, so we didn't stay long.
National Gallery of Art is once again hosting jazz concerts every Friday in the Sculpture Garden. Bring a picnic (but space is TIGHT in the shade - unless you arrive before about 5:15). You can sit around the fountain (which tends to fill by 5:30 or so) or grab a spot in the sun just about any time.
They have a good food selection (interesting salad, decent quality pizza, and often some BBQ or other entree of that nature), they sell pitchers of sangria and a selection of about 5 beers. The lines get long pretty early.
Sound is best by the museum, where the performers are. At the top of the garden, sound can be pretty poor, because there aren't typically many speakers up there. Around the fountain, there are plenty of speakers.
Still, it's a fun night in the garden, where kids can sit and listen to some great jazz, and parents will enjoy the setting as well - as long as you get there early enough to snag an adequate space.
We had a busy day sight seeing and were hitting the late afternoon hours. We needed to give the kids a chance to unwind and gear up for the evening. This was a great place for a time-out. You could walk around and see some amazing sculptures and/or sit by the water and relax. We grabbed a pretzel and sat by the water and re-fueled! It also gave us a plan to figure out our next "plan of attack".
Many people were dipping their tootsies in the water. It is also a great photo-op site.
There is a restaurant (that we didn't eat in so I can't really give you any tips on it) in case you want a bite to eat. There are bathrooms attached to the back of the building accessible from outside for that much needed potty break.
And the best part...it is all FREE! I love DC!
We took a break from museum sightseeing and toured this garden. First we were able to soak our hot tootsies in the fountain and have a snack. Then we picked up a tour pamphlet and had a good time picking our favorite sculptures and reading about them. We were warned by a security officer to be weary of the squirrels as they are known to beg for food and bite however. there was also a free jazz concert going on while we were there. Had we known we may have stayed and brought a blanket and dinner like it seemed the rest of the locals were doing. They also had beer and wine available for sale.
Take a walk through the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden and feel your stress melt away. Not only are the sculptures colorful and interesting, cating both the attention and imagination of the children, it is usually a quiet space to walk (slowly, without being run over by school field trip students) and simply breathe. Our family visited DC just before school let out for the summer and in every museum we were inundated with hundreds of public school kids as they bumped and shoved, babbling loudly in front of every display. Just when I thought I was going to lose my mind, we stumbled into the Sculpture Garden. It was so nice for my little ones to actually be able to see an exhibit without having to pick them up over the other children, and we walked through the paths for over an hour. They stopped at each sculpture and we talked about color and shape, movement and what we thought the artist was trying to say with each piece. We made a game of it and had an amazing time. In the center of the garden is a large fountain which we stopped to watch for a while, enjoying a free jazz concert for a little while before heading into the Pavilion Café for a snack. Overall, one of the best things we did in DC that trip.