Visit The Lawn: Summer Exhibit At The National Building Museum


Are you ready for Summer Block Party 2019?!

If you’re new to DC, you might not know that one of the most iconic buildings here transforms each summer with a new, giant, interactive installation. The National Building Museum  teams up with a different design firm each year to convert the Great Hall into a multi-sensory experience. These “summer block parties” are a DC highlight for people of all ages! (Did you go last year to the incredibly popular and often sold-out Fun House?) This year’s summer exhibit, called the Lawn, is designed by the Rockwell Group. You may recognize their work from the museum’s second floor Play Work Build permanent play space. After attending the press preview, I’m certain the Lawn will prove to be another summer must-see! 

Take a break and swing in one of many hammocks scattered across the Lawn.

Enjoying The Lawn

The Lawn is described as “an immersive installation taking up the entirety of the Museum’s Great Hall, and offers interactive experiences for all ages.” The giant, rolling hill covered in “grass” is an inviting space to lounge, play, or roll around.

David Rockwell, principal at the Rockwell Group, had this to say at the press preview about experiencing the Lawn: “You can be social or solitary, you can be active or you can rest. Use the lawn anyway you see fit…it has to ability to create new summer memories while invoking summer memories of the past.” 

And when it is a stifling and humid 95 degrees outside, you can still get that outdoor-retreat feeling at the Lawn…at a more comfortable 72 degrees. 

Here’s a sampling of the activities on the Lawn:

  • Lounge and swing in a hammock. One Rockwell Group member I spoke with said the “incredibly soft” hammocks were “definitely” her favorite part of the installation. Indeed, they are quite soft and it’s easy to lose track of time while swinging in one! Both of my girls proclaimed that using the hammocks was the highlight for them. 
  • Play croquet! The balls are made of foam so no worries if you accidentally hit another visitor with one. Or take part in a game of corn hole. 
  • Embrace your inner kid and roll down the hill. My city-raised children clearly need some practice with this activity!
  • Picnic on the adirondack chairs or blankets scattered around. There will be summer themed cookies and lemonade for sale at a stand each day ($2.50 each).

    Lawn themed cookies courtesy of Firehook.
  • Listen to the sounds of summer. Speakers throughout the installation play a soundtrack to get those summer vibes going. From buzzing bees to whirring lawnmowers, summer storms to chirping birds, you might feel like you’re actually outside!
  • Enjoy the summer memories from celebrities. Whoopie Goldberg, Jose Andres, and Bette Midler are amongst the many people whose summer lawn memories have been recorded for patrons to listen to. 
  • Chase fireflies! This part wasn’t active at the press preview, but the website states: “The LAB has also developed an augmented reality game for kids and adults to chase, collect, and release fireflies in the National Building Museum space.”
  • Climb the stairs at the top of the Lawn’s hill to get a one-of-a-kind view of the museum! Beware: the climb, and the view, are not for those with fears of heights! 

Ticketing and Visit Information

Parking can often be difficult near the museum; public transportation options are highly recommended. The museum is directly across from the Judiciary Square metro stop (red line), and a short walk from Chinatown (red, yellow, and green lines). 

Tickets are required for entry, but the process is easy. You have the option to reserve tickets in advance online or get them day-of (just be forewarned that there is always a possibility the will sell out). Members are free, and non-member ticket prices are $10 military, $13 youth/student/senior, and $16 adult. Kids under 3 are free. As in past years, your ticket will be in the form of a wristband. Entry via wristband is good for the day (10-5). 

The exhibit runs July 4-September 2. If you are not a member, consider visiting on a Free Ward Day. Free Ward Days are on select Tuesday mornings, from 9-11, and offer a wonderful opportunity to get a feel for the entire museum. Check the Building Museum’s website to see when you are eligible, and find out information regarding other summer events including yoga and special tours (must have DC resident identification). 

Tips and Recommendations

  • The BEST addition this summer is a gorgeous lactation lounge! Mothers everywhere, rejoice! I spoke with the designers of the room who were – rightly so – very proud of their work. If the main exhibit is the Lawn, the lactation room is meant to mimic the “back porch” where mamas can retreat for a break with a little one.

    Gorgeous new lactation lounge for moms with stroller parking in the adjacent room.
  • No strollers, outside food or drink allowed on The Lawn. Stroller parking is next to the Lactation Room on the southwest side of the building (by Firehook Bakery). 
  • Your ticket to the Lawn also gives you unlimited access to the other exhibits in the museum. Be aware that you’ll still need timed entry tickets for the Building Zone.
  • Members are free.  If you aren’t a member yet, I would seriously recommend the investment. For just $90/year for a family membership, we more than get our money’s worth with visits throughout the year!
  • Nearby family friendly and budget friendly spots for food include The Carving Room, Bantam King, and Wiseguy Pizza

If you visit the Lawn this summer, let us know what you enjoyed most!