The pure delight that lights up a child's face when they first enter the grand and imposing foyer of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a memory you will savor for a long, long time. But, the high ceilings, the tall glass windows, the chandeliers and the flags that line the halls are only precursors to the pure entertainment that will follow. With free programs 365 days of the year on the Millennium Stage (http://kennedy-center.org/programs/millennium/), and frequent ticketed music performances and plays targeted at children (http://kennedy-center.org/programs/family/), the Kennedy Center nourishes little minds and souls with world-class performances. If your child shows any inclination toward liking music or the arts, or if you're looking to expose them to the arts, the Kennedy Center is a must-visit destination on your trip.
I had high expectations for the children's programing at the Kennedy Center, and I was not disappointed.
My five year old daughter and I attended the NSO Halloween Family Concert. The recommended age was five and up - but I saw kids of all ages there. It also appears that parents dress casually (jeans not yoga pants) for children's performances in the DC area. (So, if you are visiting the area, but only brought touristy casual wear - you'll be just fine at any daytime children's performance.)
For this concert the musicians were dressed in Halloween costumes and kids were also invited to dress up - the vast majority of children did. My little girl visited the Kennedy Center for the first time dressed as the Little Mermaid. Many of the musicians were dressed in very clever costumes (i.e. Tetris blocks).
I am not educated enough to comment on music quality. But, I was impressed with what the orchestra could do while in costume.
The concert is an hour long and there were 6-7 pieces of music played; there was a short skit and explanation between each piece of music. My five year old did not get fidgety at all. For the kids, they played "Let it Go." For the parents, there were a few Back To the Future references and they played the theme from the movie. There was also a tune that I recognized from an Atari video game.
We walked through the instrument "petting zoo" before the performance. You do not need a ticket to the performance to go to the petting zoo. That being said, the petting zoo was loud and busy. My five year old got overwhelmed - I saw other unhappy young children as well. If you really want to go to the petting zoo and try out all the instruments, show up right as it opens about an hour and half before each performance. ( For the 4 PM performance, it was open from 2:30-3:30.)
The Kennedy Center, in general, is worth walking through. The view of Georgetown and the National Cathedral from the terrace is gorgeous on a sunny day.
Even though it takes forever for us to drive down there, we absolutely adore the family performances at the Kennedy Center, DC's most prestigious performing arts center. The Family Theater offers plays and music aimed specifically at kids -- but not necessarily preschoolers. My 11-year-old son and I recently went to a 75-minute play that was an adaptation of a young adult novel. We both thought it was thought-provoking and a much more sophisticated option than some of the other children's theater options in the are. The Kennedy Center does a good job of suggesting the appropriate ages for the various Family Theater performances. It was worth the $22 parking to see such a good show!
I love the history in the building, and it is extremely beautiful. The structure itself is very nice and I loved looking around. But it really didn't hold my interest and there wasn't much along the lines for family fun. Depending on what you are looking for out of your D.C. trip..this may be a stop you could skip.
I second everything that the earlier reviewer said about this amazing destination: it is a breathtaking building that will amaze everyone in your family.
The Millennium Stage is a great spot for seeing almost any kind of performing art, and it's free! Kids of all ages, and grownups too, will thirst for more music and arts education after visiting here.
If you're lucky enough to be in town when the Kennedy Center is hosting an "Instrument Petting Zoo," make sure you get there. Even the youngest visitors can touch and play a variety of orchestral instruments. Both of my kids (4 and 22 months) love to hear and make music. This event gave us some great insight into what instruments would make good choices for when serious music lessons are a possibility.