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Posted at 12:01 AM ET, 11/23/2009

Five ways to entertain the family this Thanksgiving

By Stephanie Merry

The Botanic Garden unveils "Holidays on Display" with replicas of famous D.C. landmarks, including the Smithsonian Castle. (U.S. Botanic Garden)

One way to reduce the possibility of familial in-fighting this holiday season? Keep the whole clan entertained. Whether the parents are in town for turkey or you have nieces and nephews in need of some excitement, here are some options for ways to spend the long weekend.

It's easy to get into the holiday spirit at a seasonally themed exhibit, and the Museum of American History has the goods with "Holidays on Display." The show looks at the intersection of the holiday season and commercialism, particularly once-popular department store window displays and over-the-top spectacles like the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Note that the museum is extending its hours on Friday and Saturday and will close at 7:30 p.m. The Museum of Natural History -- also a crowd-pleaser -- will be open until 7:30 p.m. this Friday through Sunday. (Update note: Since these two are part of the Smithsonian, they, like all Smithsonian museums, will be open on Thanksgiving.)

Not only is the Botanic Garden open on Thanksgiving, it unveils this year's "Holiday Magic" display that day. Get a new view of D.C. landmarks as they appear amid plants; the miniature White House in the display has an update this year to include the vegetable garden and the Obama girls' swing set. Or, see the storybook-themed train area with Snow White's cottage.

The National Gallery of Art is also open on turkey day, and there are enough exhibitions to make everyone happy. It will be the last weekend to take in work by Dutch painter Judith Leyster, as well as the final days to catch the show of Spanish armor. There are also gallery talks and tours throughout the weekend, ranging from a look at Japanese art to a tour of the gallery's French collection from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Neither the Phillips nor the Corcoran are open on Thanksgiving itself, but both have great shows that are on view during the remainder of the weekend. First up, the Phillips has a display of work by Man Ray. The photos depict objects of African art, alongside some of the actual pieces featured in the photographs.

Meanwhile, the Corcoran also has a photo show, but this one has more of a contemporary, environmental theme. "Oil" features photos by Edward Burtynsky that show the fossil fuel in various states and our dependence on it. Catch images of massive oil rigs, pipelines cutting across a natural landscape and even swirling stretches of highway.

Unfortunately, tickets are sold out for Thanksgiving weekend for the biggest show of the season, the "Terra Cotta Warriors" exhibit at National Geographic. Keep in mind that the warriors are on display through March, so you can plan to catch them with your family another time during the exhibit's run.

-- Stephanie Merry

By Stephanie Merry  | November 23, 2009; 12:01 AM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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