Smithsonian Institution: Washington, DC is home to a whopping 17 Smithsonian museums. From stargazing at the planetarium inside the National Air and Space Museum to exploring everything from dinosaur bones and the Hope Diamond at the Natural History Museum, you’ll find hours of entertainment right on the National Mall.
Discovery Theater: With more than 300 shows a year, the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater is always busy entertaining and teaching young audiences through puppets, storytellers, musicians and other performers. Located in the S. Dillon Ripley Center on the National Mall, Discovery Theatre takes its shows on the road to neighboring Smithsonian museums throughout the week.
National Building Museum: Head for shelter in the Great Hall of the National Building Museum, which measures 116 feet by 316 feet, and features a central fountain and four colossal Corinthian columns - among the tallest classical columns in the world. The NBM also offers a Building Zone for young children and various exhibits that explore the history of the built world.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing: Talk about making it rain – the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is always open for business and offers free tours daily. Visitors can watch as millions of dollars are printed, inspected and engraved on the production-room floor. Just don’t ask for a free sample.
International Spy Museum: Is that really just an umbrella you’re carrying? Discover the secret world of spies, covert operations and the everyday objects they use to capture secret information. Once the weather clears up, test your spy skills while exploring DC neighborhoods in Spy in the City, a new GPS-based experience where participants equipped with a GPS Ranger handheld device embark on a series of self-guided outdoor missions in DC neighborhoods.
Madame Tussuads Washington D.C.: Take off your coat and hang out with the likes of Oprah, Johnny Depp and all 44 U.S. presidents at Madame Tussauds Washington, DC. Open 365 days a year, this interactive experience allows you to learn about prominent historical and cultural figures in a fun and photo-friendly way.
Newseum: Instead of staying in and watching the news, why not take a trip to the Newseum to experience how the news is made? The Newseum offers seven floors of interactive exhibits that cover history through the pages of newspapers, the waves of radio, the lens of a camera and the instant touch of technology. Kids (and adults, too) have the chance to try their hand at being a newscaster.
Library of Congress: Curl up with a good book at the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world. With 147 million items, including books, movies, music, photographs and newspapers on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves, the Library of Congress is the perfect place to get cozy on a cold day. The Young Readers Center, located in the historic Thomas Jefferson Building, allows families to have a "read-aloud" experience in which they can choose books from an up-to-date collection of non-circulating titles or participate in family-friendly reading programs.
The Phillips Collection: As the sky gets darker and the air turns crisp, the Phillips Collection has the perfect antidote to lift your evening spirits: Phillips After 5. Occurring on the first Thursday of every month, Phillips After 5 provides ticket-holders a unique experience full of live music and gallery talks, as well as food and a cash bar. These monthly events fill up quickly, so make sure to reserve your spot.
Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage: What’s a better pick-me-up on a cold winter day than a theater or musical performance? How about one you can experience for FREE? With free performances at 6 p.m. daily, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage is chicken soup for your cultural – and economical - soul.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: It may be named after an extinct species, but Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company is very much alive and thriving. In this 265-seat theater, you can stay dry while keeping your wallet full, with the Company’s pay-what-you-can tickets for the first two performances of every mainstage subscription series production (usually Monday and Tuesday). Tickets are sold at the theater two hours prior to showtime.
Bohemian Caverns: Jazz up your winter blues at Bohemian Caverns, U Street’s "Sole Home of Soul Jazz." Founded in 1926 in the basement of a drugstore, Bohemian Caverns has long been a hotspot for jazz lovers and legends such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Today the Caverns offer multiple performances throughout the week, along with a tasty menu good enough to feed your soul.
The Shops at Georgetown Park: This complex, whose structure dates back to the 1800s, boasts fashion havens such as H&M, Anthropologie and J. Crew.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café: Eat, drink and get cultured at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café in Dupont Circle. This funky bookstore is a Washington landmark of sorts, offering late-night hours and a full-service menu and bar. (Photo credit: William H. Dempsey, III)
Rogue 24: With 16- and 24-course meals, Rogue 24 is the perfect spot to stay dry – and full – on a long, cold day. Created by James Beard Foundation Award-winning Chef RJ Cooper, Rogue 24 aims to give diners a culinary experience unlike any other – including a kitchen placed in the middle of the dining room and a menu that isn’t presented until you take your last bite.
DC Brew Tours: Experience the history of DC with a whole lot of hops. Take a DC Brew Tour at either 11 a.m. or 5 p.m. daily, and sip from the DC metro area's finest local brewers. Each tour includes delicious food pairings and round-trip transportation from Downtown.
Buffalo Billiards: With 50 HD flat-screens, four projector TVs, three fully stocked bars and the largest number of pool and shuffleboard tables in the District, Buffalo Billiards is a perfect spot for chilly days. The Dupont Circle hangout serves up 24 beer selections and a tasty menu filled with hearty options to warm you up.
Hill Country Barbeque Market: Weather got you wishing you lived in sunny Texas? Well, then pull up your bootstraps and head over to Hill Country Barbeque Market, where Southern hospitality and pounds of beef brisket will have you in a cowboy state of mind. After you fill up on barbecue and beer served in mason jars, shuffle on downstairs to the Boot Bar, which features live country music almost every night of the week.
Birch & Barley / ChurchKey: Boasting 555 artisanal beers, Birch & Barley and its upstairs neighbor, ChurchKey, may be a favorite place to hide out during a storm – although we can’t guarantee you’ll stay "dry." The cozy, rustic atmosphere of this Logan Circle gem perfectly complements the farm-to-table dishes prepared by Chef Kyle Bailey, recent winner of the 2011 Restaurant Association of Washington’s award for Rising Culinary Star. Bailey’s wife and pastry chef, Tiffany MacIsaac, is famous for her fresh-baked breads that start the meal and outstanding desserts that complete it.
Lucky Strike Lanes: What do you get when you mix gourmet dining, retro glamour and bowling shoes? Lucky Strike Lanes. Located in the heart of Chinatown, this Hollywood-based bowling alley-cum-restaurant is the perfect place to let loose and hang with friends, no matter what the weather.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC: "A soothing oasis of heat, water and therapy." What more could you want as you freeze your way through winter? The Spa at Mandarin Oriental boasts Zen relaxation rooms, a 50-foot indoor heated swimming pool and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Looks like you won’t need that extra sweater.
The Spa at Four Seasons, Washington, DC: Take off your winter coat and step into The Spa at Four Seasons, Washington, DC. This luxurious retreat in Georgetown offers hotel guests and visitors a variety of spa treatments as well as a relaxation room in which you can prolong your tranquil, cozy respite.
MINT Spa: If you need an excuse to pamper yourself, dreary weather should be one of them. Treat yourself to a massage, facial and more at MINT Spa, with two locations in DC. Each week on Tranquil Tuesday, clients can receive a massage or facial for only $49.