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Whether you’ve got relatives in town for the holidays or need to entertain the kids over winter break, you’re probably in the market for fun winter activities. Maybe you think you know all the local attractions, but you might be surprised to discover the range of hidden gems and unusual things to do in the Washington area — including a number of lesser-known spots within familiar institutions. We’ve got the scoop on what to do now that winter’s here.
- Linda Samuel Author, "Kid Friendly DC," an online resource for parents
- Amy Joyce Editor, "On Parenting" Blog, Washington Post; author, "I Went to College for This? How to Turn Your Entry Level Job Into a Career You Love."
- Lisa Friedlander Co-founder, Activity Rocket
Winter Family Fun: Activities In D.C., Maryland And Virginia
Ice Skating Rinks
What: Georgetown Waterfront’s Washington Harbour Ice Rink. At 11,800 square feet, it’s Washington’s largest outdoor ice skating venue and also larger than New York City’s Rockefeller Center rink.
Where: Georgetown waterfront, Washington, D.C.
When: Open annually from November until March for recreational skating every day, including all
Price: Adults: $10.00; Children/Seniors/Military: $8.00; Skate Rental: $5.00
What: Canal Park Skating Rink
Where: Capitol Riverfront neighborhood
When: Opening day pushed to mid-December. Monday-Friday: noon-9 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Price: $8 Adults, $7 Children (under 12)/Seniors (55+)/Military. Skate Rentals: $3.
What: National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink
Where: On the National Mall, view magnificent works of sculpture while skating in the open air and enjoying music from the state-of-the-art sound system.
When: Open mid-November through mid-March, weather permitting
Price: (Two-hour sessions, beginning on the hour) $8.00 adults; $7.00 seniors (age 50 and over); $7.00 students (with school ID); $7.00 children (age 12 and under); $195.00 season pass
What: Fort Dupont Ice Arena
Where: The only public indoor ice rink in Washington, D.C.
When: Open year-round
What: Pentagon Row Outdoor Ice Skating Rink
Where: Arlington, Va.
When: Open every day including holidays mid-November to Jan. 1.
Price: Two hour skate rentals. Adults $8, kids 12 and under $7, skate rentals $3
What: Wheaton Ice Arena –Where: Wheaton, Md.
When: Indoor and outdoor
What: The Gardens Ice House features 3 ice rinks
Where: Laurel, Md.
Nighttime Lights Festivals
What: U.S. Botanic Garden Christmas Display. A perennial favorite, with a fanciful train display and inventive replicas of the city’s monuments.
Where: Washington, D.C.
When: November 28, 2013 through January 5, 2014
What: National Christmas Tree and National Menorah on the Mall. Seasonal displays include a Yule log, a large-scale model train and a Christmas manger.
Where: Ellipse in Washington, D.C.
When: Open December 6, 2013 to January 1, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
What: Zoo Lights at the National Zoo
Where: Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C.
When: November 29 to January 1, except for Dec. 24, 25 and 31.
Price: Admission is free. Parking is $9 for members; $16 for non-members
What: Washington, D.C. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints, also known as the Mormon Temple, features Christmas lights plus a different local musical group performs a live concert nightly. Temple grounds glow with 600,000 Lights and feature an exhibit of more than 100 Crèches from multiple nations.
Where: Kensington, Md.
When: Lights illuminated from dusk to 10 p.m. nightly. Nativity scene is open each evening from 6 to 9 p.m. Live musical performances begin at 7 and 8 p.m.
What: Brookside Gardens has a lights and train display
Where: Wheaton, Md.
When: Friday, November 29, 2013 – Sunday, January 5, 2014. Open every night except December 24 & 25, January 1 & 2.
Price: Cars/Vans (Monday – Thursday): $20 (cash only)
Car/Vans (Friday – Sunday): $25 (cash only)
What: B&O Railroad Museum holiday festival of trains and toys
Where: Baltimore, Md.
When: Friday, November 29 – Tuesday, December 31; Monday – Saturday (10am – 4pm) & Sunday (11:00am – 4pm)
Price: $16 Adults, $14 Seniors (60+), $10 Children (2-12), B&O Members FREE!
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Most schools and many government offices in our region are closed because of snow today. The kids are home, and by now, they're likely pretty stir crazy. And for many, this is just a taste of the winter break to come. So, what do you do when the weather is bad and you've got hours with the kids to fill? Fear not, we've got inspiration for things to do indoors and out that do not involve computer screens. We've got activities for a range of ages and even some hidden gems in the spots you think you already know.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us in studio is Linda Samuel, she is the editor of the blog, "Kid-Friendly D.C." Linda, good to see you again.
MS. LINDA SAMUELGood to see you, Kojo. Thanks for having me back.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Amy Joyce -- she is the editor of the "On Parenting" blog with the Washington Post. She's also the author of "I Went to College for This? How to Turn Your Entry Level Job Into a Career You Love." It's been a while, Amy, but good to see you again.
MS. AMY JOYCEGreat to see you again, Kojo.
NNAMDIYou too can join the conversation. Call us at 800-433-8850, what do you do when the kids are home from school for a snow day? Do you have favorite winter activities for kids? Call us with your suggestions. 800-433-8850, or you may have comments. You can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send us a tweet @kojoshow.
NNAMDIAmy, parents may be panicking when they see weather like we had today, but most kids look outside at a day like today and say, great. What do you do on a snow day like this?
JOYCEWell, personally we are outdoorsy kind of people. I have two very rambunctious boys so they've been outside a lot this morning. But I also love the museums. Of course I just feel like D.C. can't get much better than the city. There's just so much to do, so much education, even though kids don't realize they're being educated as they're having fun. And it's just fantastic, all the free museums.
NNAMDIOh, there are a lot of them and we'll talk about some specifically in a while. But, Linda, I know that you're an advocate for the good old fashion idea of getting outside. And a snow day is perhaps the perfect day for that. There are a number of easy hikes that are great any time of year. What are your favorites or some of them?
SAMUELWell, some of mine are actually right here in the city. I like Rock Creek Park. There's some really nice loops that you can do that are really close to the nature center. So you can sort of fit two in one there. You can do some indoors and outdoors. I love the arboretum. You can hike through the woods there. There are the capital columns to play on -- or the old capital columns I should say.
SAMUELBut I should note that the arboretum is not open Tuesday through Thursday right now. It's only open Friday through Monday. But if you can get there on those days, it's a really nice place to get outdoors. Roosevelt Island is another great one, just over the river right off the GW Parkway. And I also recommend Turkey Run Park. That's also just off the GW Parkway as you go out towards the beltway. And of course Great Falls is just -- it's a great constant around her. Everybody loves to get out there and view the falls and take a nice hike through the woods.
NNAMDIYou should know that open today are the Air and Space Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the U.S. Botanic Garden and the National Museum of the American Indian. Closed, the National Zoo, the National Gallery of Art and the Sculpture Garden and Ice Rink, National Children's Museum at National Harbor, Phillips Collection, Corcoran Museum, Glen Echo Park and Kenilworth Gardens. So if you're thinking about going out today, don't go to any of the places that are closed. But you may be surprised that some of them are open. But if you want more information, give us a call, 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIAmy, another thing about Washington's official museum is that they almost never close. Many are opened every day of the year except Christmas, so you don't usually have to check the date. It's opened New Years Day, for example. What -- however, what about a day like today?
JOYCEWell, it's interesting. Today I was checking the Twitter feed a lot trying to make sure everything was still open. And the Smithsonian said, yes, we're open, please come, except for the zoo of course.
JOYCEOne thing that we noted, unfortunately the building museum is closed today. And that is a fantastic space for young kids. So it was -- too bad that's closed but there's a great -- you know, kids can play with big blocks and build amazing buildings. And it's a great space to run around.
NNAMDISo outside is a good bet today also. Snow is rare enough here that a day like this could mean sledding. So that might be an option, but probably not great sledding today, huh?
JOYCENot so much. We were chatting before this...
SAMUELWe were just talking about that.
JOYCE...the -- you know, one snowman in your whole front yard already is grassy.
JOYCEIt's all cleared out.
NNAMDIYeah, winter break is coming though. And if getting outside is a goal during winter break, what are some of your favorite places to recommend this time of year, Amy?
JOYCEWell, one thing that's been a lot of fun for us is the Botanic Garden. It's nice and warm and cozy inside. Right now is the train set up. Sometimes there's a long line to get in for that, but this weekend we went and we showed up five minutes before it opened and walked right in. And they also have passports and the kids can run around and find plants that are in their passport and see where in the world they grow. And they can stamp their own passport. So my boys personally were very excited to have their passports filled with stamps at the end of their Saturday runaround there.
SAMUELMy kids love that too. They just did that this past weekend. They had a blast doing that.
JOYCEMaybe we were there at the same time.
NNAMDIOf course that means you -- that's right, you who are listening, the adults, will also have to get off the sofa or away from the computer and get outside yourself. So set a good example. And for those, Linda, who are really not fans of the cold, a lot of places have indoor nature centers, do they not?
SAMUELSure. There's some great nature centers right in the area. Rock Creek has a nature center, as I mentioned before. You can see some animal exhibits. They also have an activity room with books and other little hands-on activities that kids can do, walk-ins. Regional Park has a great nature center. It's fantastic. They have a lot of live animals that you can see. They sometimes have programs for kids where they actually bring the animals out and you can touch them and they'll explain what all the different animals do.
SAMUELPotomac Overlook Park out in Arlington is another great one. They have a really nice nature center where you can see animals in cages. And you can also go into a little activity room there and do some more hands-on stuff as well.
NNAMDIIt may not be open today but a place like Dumbarton Oaks can be great in the winter. Remind us what that is and why winter's a good time to go to Dumbarton Oaks?
SAMUELSo Dumbarton Oaks is actually a historic mansion and also has wonderful gardens along with it. And in the wintertime the gardens are free. There's free admission there so you can just roam around and visit all of the different terraces and plots. It's really nicely landscaped. And it's just really pretty and almost kind of magical any time of year. It's -- the one thing about it though, it has some very limited hours. It's only open Tuesdays through Sundays from 2:00 to 5:00 pm, so you have to make sure you kind of work around that.
SAMUELBut it's right in Georgetown so there's plenty to do there. You could do some shopping or you can even go next door to Montrose Park, which is a public park and it's free. And you could play there for a while until the gardens open over at Dumbarton Oaks.
NNAMDIWe're discussing winter fun for kids and for you with your kids with Linda Samuel. She is the editor of the blog Kid Friendly DC. Amy Joyce is the editor of the On Parenting blog at the Washington Post. She's also author of "I Went to College For This? How to Turn Your Entry Level Job Into a Career You Love." Any suggestions for us? Do you have any favorite hidden gems, secret spots in our area that most people miss that you'd like to share with us? Give us a call at 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com.
NNAMDIAs we said, today might not be the best day to go to a museum, some are closed. But there's still the winter break ahead. Amy, if you happen to have relatives visiting over the winter holidays, you may find yourself looking for something engaging for a range of ages. What are some of your suggestions in the area of museums?
JOYCEYou know, a lot of people go to natural history and they're used to, okay here we have to go see the Hope Diamond and, you know, do the usual. But one thing that we really love and we love taking visiting children especially is the insect zoo. If you go on the second floor, there's tarantula feedings at certain times of the day. Or you can slip into the butterfly pavilion and walk through what looks like a cocoon and have huge butterflies land on you.
JOYCEWe've held cockroaches, big hissing cockroaches. And people who work with Orkin will come in and show a special new jumping spider that they have. And they have programs for kids. You can see ants digging their little colonies. It's really interesting and again, very educational.
SAMUELI'm so glad you mentioned the insects. See, that's one of my kids' favorite places. We always go and hold all the giant insects that they bring out. And something to note too about the butterfly pavilion, on Tuesday's it's free admission. So that's a really good time to go.
NNAMDIAnd, in fact, Washingtonians often leave the best of D.C. to the tourists. This is a perfect time to go to things that get too crowded the rest of the year. I'm thinking, for example, of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. What can we find there?
SAMUELSo at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, you could take what's called the money tour. They show you the money-making process. And it's actually really quite interesting. They just show you one level of it. I think they said they have six levels in the building where they make -- they do the same process. It might be four but they take you through the whole process from when they start printing it to how things are bundled. And it's all very secure. You're not even allowed to take photographs in there. And it's only open on weekdays. So during winter break is a really good time to go when older children are off from school and it's probably the only opportunity that they might have to do it.
NNAMDIHow about the Postal Museum, Amy?
JOYCEThe Postal Museum's interesting because there's so much to do there. You can, I think, send your own postcards. You can see a history of stamps. And, you know, it might actually spur some interest -- and this is also a good museum for older kids. We've been talking a little bit about younger kids, but it might spur some interest in stamps collecting for older kids. It actually has a lot of history tied in there but it's a lot of hand-on activities and fun things to do, which some people might be surprised to hear. But the Postal Museum is a lot of fun.
NNAMDIBecause the teenagers tend to be the hardest to please but it's my understanding that they too like the Postal Museum.
NNAMDIThere are a number of seasonal goings on right on, displays and light shows. Linda, what's on now?
SAMUELThere are several seasonal events and activities going on right now. Probably one of the most popular, as Amy mentioned earlier, is Seasons Greeting at the Botanic Garden. There is the annual train display, which is fantastic. It's always really whimsical and just really lovely. All of the features of it are made out of plant materials. And within the conservatory of the Botanic Garden they also have some of D.C.s most iconic buildings also made entirely out of plant materials. And so you could tour those.
SAMUELThey also have a nice Christmas tree. And in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays in December, they invite different acts in to perform in the evening. So they're open until 8:00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So that's a wonderful time to go and experience that.
NNAMDIThe train display always gets a lot of crowds, doesn't it?
SAMUELOh, yes. Yes, people love trains. And there's also another fantastic train on the Ellipse where you can see the national Christmas tree, the national menorah and then also visit Santa and his workshop.
NNAMDIAnd is there a great Botanic Garden in general indoors for those who are not fans of the cold, Amy?
JOYCEThat's right. The Great Botanic Garden. We also love Brookside Gardens, which is Wheaton but it has a great little train display. And even if you're there in the daytime, you can walk through the lights. They won't be on but they have nice trails. It's also a great place to run around and get some crazies out outside. But they have the good train. And then of course at night they have the beautiful light display that you can walk through with your kids. Bundle them up, but it's fun.
NNAMDIThis is a conversation on winter fun for kids. Let's go to Laura in Arlington, Va. Laura, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
LAURAHi, Kojo. Thanks for this great show. I'm actually sitting here with my eight-year-old and her kitten. And we were trying to figure out when we are going to go out and play in the snow and all sorts of other things. But I happen -- I'm also a software engineer. And not to advocate for too much screen time, but code.org is actually sponsoring it's hour of code this week and are encouraging kids across the country and everyone to learn how to become developers.
LAURAAnd they actually have some exercises that are not on the computer where you're actually learning sort of problem solving on paper and with materials. So that's some indoor stuff you can do that's not necessarily on the computer, but is maybe interesting for the kids who do like technology. Plus they have a lot of game-making opportunities on there. And it's not passive television. It's actually interactive programming and learning to build things on the computer. So...
NNAMDIWell, I suspect if it involves learning to code, there are a whole lot of us adults who also might be interested in that activity, right?
LAURAYep, and it's code.org.
NNAMDIOkay, Laura. Thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back we'll talk with Lisa Friedlander. She is co-founder of Activity Rocket. That's an online search and booking engine for kids, classes and camps. But you too can offer your suggestions by calling 800-433-8850. What do you like to do over winter break? Shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're discussing winter fun for kids and inviting your calls at 800-433-8850 if you have suggestions or comments for us. We're talking with Amy Joyce. She is the editor of the On Parenting blog at the Washington Post and author of the book "I Went To College For This? How To Turn Your Entry Level Job Into a Career You Love." Linda Samuel joins us in studio. She is the editor of the blog Kid Friendly DC. And now joining us by phone is Lisa Friedlander. She is co-founder of Activity Rocket. That's an online search and booking engine for kids, classes and camps. Lisa, thank you for joining us.
MS. LISA FRIEDLANDERThank you so much, Kojo. I really appreciate it. My co-founder Eileen Miller and I are big fans of you and your show. And hello to Linda and Amy. Activity Rocket loves working with Kid Friendly DC too. It's a phenomenal resource. So thanks for having us today.
NNAMDIThanks to you and to Eileen. If work, Lisa, means you cannot be home with the kids over winter break, there are a lot of options out there for kids. You helped to create a website to help people find camps for kids. How did that come about?
FRIEDLANDERThat's right. Well, it really came about from mothers' frustrations of trying to find that perfect class or that perfect camp for their child, and going website to website or making a million phone calls. And when we can easily book travel on Expedia or restaurant reservations on OpenTable, Eileen and I were, why can't we do the same thing for kids classes and camps. So we created a searchable website where you can find activities by things like where you live or how old your child is or the price point you're willing to pay.
FRIEDLANDERIf your child has special needs, we have special categories to help you find those classes as well. And you can calendar them and book them and basically pay with one registration form to be used over and over again. So hopefully you'll never have to go anywhere else but ActivityRocket.com when you're looking for your classes and camps.
NNAMDILisa, people think of summer as the time for camps, but there are a number of options for winter break as well. What's out there?
FRIEDLANDERYeah, absolutely. I mean, we -- one day of a snow day of chaos is fun but I wouldn't recommend a week worth of chaos over winter break. And yeah, we still have to work, we still have to get things done. We have many options on Activity.Rocket.com. And just to highlight a few, if your child is into music or rock bands, Bach to Rock has multiple locations throughout the D.C. metro area. They have camps starting as young as three-and-a-half and going all the way up to those teen years we were talking about, the age of 18.
FRIEDLANDERThey have half-day camps, full-day camps and they're very reasonable starting at around $100. My Gym, also various locations but highlighting Potomac, Bethesda and Chantilly, Va. Great half-day camps ages 3 to 13, very low, very great price points, $35 to $45. Sports camps at the End Zone out in Chantilly, Va. for ages 7 to 14 starting as low as $50. A gymnastics camp with Dynamite Gymnastics in Rockville, all-day camps starting as low as $50. If your child loves horseback riding, Misty Bray Farm in Virginia has both half-day and full-day horseback riding camps.
FRIEDLANDERLittle Ohm Yoga in the District has great two-hour yoga camps. Just a quick drop off, ages 4 to 10, just $25. So there are so many options, whether you need to book a full week camp -- like the JCC and YMCAs have full-week camps. They cost a little bit more but your child is fully cared for and having fun for the entire week. Or if you're looking for a morning camp or a two-hour camp, there are lots of options. And you can find them easily on ActivityRocket.com.
NNAMDILisa, we tend to think about science or nature camps as summer offerings. Do those carry on in the wintertime?
FRIEDLANDERThey do. They absolutely do. There are some great science camps for Curiosity Zone. They're located in Virginia, specialize in ages 4 to 9, just $45 for a very cool science camp. There are some Lego camps and robotic camps. The Creative Difference is located in Arlington. In addition, going back to the woman who mentioned code.org, if your child is into technology and into coding and I know Mind Craft game is really popular right now. But the C3 Cyber Club Tech Camp has half-day camps for ages 5 to 14.
NNAMDIAnd the National Zoo, it's my understanding, even has a winter break camp.
FRIEDLANDERThey do, and the National Zoo is also a partner of Activity Rocket. And you can find all of their activities and camps on the website.
NNAMDILisa, kids can learn new schools, develop artistic talents. You also talked about kids who might be interested in coding. What other options are there in that vein?
FRIEDLANDERArts -- there are lots of art camps. The Creative Difference that I had mentioned earlier that has Lego. And they also have clay, painting, all different types of arts and crafts. They are located in Virginia. Full-day camp just starting as low as $65, ages 3 to 11. In addition, Bounce You, there's one in Rockville and out in Clarksville -- Clarksburg, Md., excuse me, has art and technology camps. And Bounce You is like one of those jump -- great, fabulous jumping facilities. So kids can get all of their energy out and at the same time maybe take advantage of learning some art or technology.
FRIEDLANDERThere are really -- I mean, as you've mentioned earlier and everything that Linda and Amy have mentioned as far as the gems in our community, there are fabulous opportunities to keep your kids busy and keep yourself at work and keep going over that winter break week.
NNAMDILisa Friedlander is co-founder of Activity Rocket. That's an online search and booking engine for kids classes and camps. Lisa, thank you so much for joining us.
FRIEDLANDERThank you so much. And if any parent has any difficulties finding that perfect class or camp, please email us at email@example.com and we're happy to help them find the perfect camp for their child.
NNAMDIThank you so much, Lisa. And of course if you'd like to join this conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850. Do you get outside no matter the weather? What are some of your favorite activities? When it comes to free institutions and family friendly things to do, we're kind of spoiled here in Washington. There are 19 museums and galleries associated with the Smithsonian alone. This is something many parents overlook. Most museums and institutions have lots of activities in addition to the exhibits. What can you find when you click on the calendar menu button on the websites of most museums, Amy?
JOYCEHidden gems, just what you were saying, complete hidden gems. Today, for instance, I saw that the African Art Museum is -- people can come in and sign a condolence book for Mandela. And just think of how amazing, what a great teaching moment that would be for a child. But, you know, if you go again to Natural History, they've got scientists who come in, and you can find out when they're having, you know, a teachable class or a NOAA scientist comes in to talk about the oceans.
JOYCEThe Air and Space Museum, if you click on their calendar of events has a Big Bird movie for the kids. And then they can do a craft afterwards or has its story time. Just things that unfortunately -- or fortunately, however you look at it, tourists aren't going to see, aren't going to know about. This is sort of more, I feel like, for the people of D.C.
SAMUELI agree. These are sort of local gems, things that the people who live here tend to find out about from visiting numerous times. Along with the museums that Amy mentioned, the American Indian Museum is also another fantastic place for families to go. They have the Imaginations Family Activity Center which is filled with interactive activities for kids. They also host story time several times a week. And they have craft activities for kids at certain hours of the day as well.
SAMUELAnd then at the National Portrait Gallery...
NNAMDIBefore you go from the American -- Museum of the American Indian, you know, it's 1:30 in the afternoon, people are thinking lunch. It's got great restaurants.
JOYCEIt has the best restaurant.
SAMUELYes, that café is fantastic. I highly recommend the hot chocolate there too.
NNAMDIYes, that's the place to go. But I interrupted you. Go ahead, please.
SAMUELWell, I was going to also mention the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum. They have some wonderful art activities for kids as well, and they're all free. It's -- you should definitely look at the schedule to see what time things are happening. Many happen on the weekends but occasionally during the week you can find something like the young portrait explorers program. Or you can take out a portrait discovery kit every Friday, which is full of activities for kids to do things like scavenger hunts around the museum where you find certain portraits and you can learn about the people in the portraits.
SAMUELAnd the kits that spark some creativity in kids that have them draw their own portraits or draw things that -- talk about things that they see in the portraits.
NNAMDIOn to Louise in Washington, D.C. Louise, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LOUISEI was just going to tell you that on a miserable winter gray day when the zoo is open, you can go to the birdhouse and you are immediately transported to the tropics. And the birds are so glad to see you they're bored to tears.
NNAMDIWell, maybe tomorrow will be a good day to try that because the National Zoo unfortunately is closed today. But thank you very much for that suggestion, Louise.
LOUISEThanks for the program. Bye.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Sandra in Arlington who says, "Over winter break I've got my 82-year-old mother in town along with two young kids. My mother doesn't walk that well." Any suggestions that you can offer to Sandra, Amy?
JOYCEThis might be a good time for some theater. There's a lot of family shows going on right now. Some might be not really for an 80 something but we've got the Nutcracker of course, the Twelve Days of Christmas, The King and I going on in Olney Theater, A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theater. And that might be actually the perfect show because there's of course the great history of Ford's Theater. What a perfect thing to see and tour as well as just being able to sit there and see this traditional show.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Craig who says, "Thinking about learning and having fun, if you prefer to stay indoors or after dark, modern board games are a great activity that everyone in the family can enjoy as well from Zularetal (sp?) to Airlines Europe up to something like Power Grid. If you have older kids, there are a huge number of options out there." Still the board game world, Linda?
SAMUELI'm so glad that somebody mentioned this because I was actually going to bring up one of my favorite stores in the city. It's called Labyrinth and it's on Capitol Hill. And they sell all kinds of board games. They probably have the most comprehensive selection of board games that I've seen anywhere. And all of the people who work there are very knowledgeable on what they sell.
SAMUELAnd the great thing about this store is that you can actually demo a lot of the games. They have tables set up in the back where they let people play the games that they're interested in. And they actually have events set up for people who are really into gaming. And they offer birthday parties there as well. So I'm very onboard with the board games.
NNAMDIJust another thing for your kids to beat you at.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 if you have suggestions of your own. We got an email from Jim who says, "Do your guests know about the great park along the eastern bank of the Anacostia River here in D.C.? There's a roller rink and a rifer museum in that park." Are you familiar with that, Linda?
SAMUELAre you talking about Canal Park?
NNAMDII am not sure what Jim's talking about. He said along the eastern bank of...
SAMUELOr -- or they're talking about the park along the -- yes. I am very familiar with that park because I used to play ultimate Frisbee there back in the day. There is a roller rink there and there is a pirate ship playground as well. It actually is a very nice park and there's the -- I can't remember what the name of the trail is called, but there is a trail that winds around that actually...
NNAMDISure is. Now that you're talking about it, yes.
SAMUEL...goes around towards the navy yard too. And it follows the river trail along Yards Park as well. Yes, it's a very nice park.
NNAMDISomebody will call us with the name of that trail, 800-433-8850. Do you have favorite winter activities for kids? You can also send us an email. We got one from Rebecca in Northeast who said, "What about places where you can take the whole family including the dog? I'd love some ideas for ways to get everyone out of the house and be able to bring and exercise the dog." We mentioned Rock Creek Park already, Amy.
JOYCEYeah, Rock Creek Park's of course a favorite. But, you know, the CNO canal path? That's great. You know, we spend a lot of time there even in the winter, throwing rocks into the water. You can still see a lot of nature, a lot of animals in there, always dogs there. It's a great place to go biking, walking.
NNAMDIOkay. Indoors again, the National Portrait Gallery is another great one. What can you do there?
JOYCEWell, I love the space itself. It's bright, it's airy. But, as we mentioned, there is so much to do there for kids and families, there's the scavenger hunts. And then on Fridays there's also open studios where you can go -- anybody of any age -- and there will be an employee there to help along. And there's a different material each week, you know, pastels, paints, whatnot. And they can guide you. So you can walk out of the Portrait Gallery with your own piece of art.
NNAMDIWe did a live broadcast last week from the headquarters of National Geographic but what can kids find there, Linda?
SAMUELThey always have wonderful exhibits. They currently have an anniversary exhibit going on right now. I don't know how much interest really young children would have in it, but I think older children would like to see some of the history of National Geographic, the magazine and the organization. And they always have fantastic photography exhibits. Currently they have one called Lions, Tigers and Bears. And so they're just these wonderful images of all of those animals. And, I mean, any kid, you know, young and old can get into those kinds of images.
NNAMDIHow about the Phillips Collection? What's there now?
SAMUELRight now, I haven't actually been to it but there's a Van Gogh exhibit there now that I heard is really wonderful for all ages. A friend of mine said she went on a fieldtrip with her son's second-grade class. And she said she loved it and all of the kids loved it too. And I'm hoping to get over there sometime in the next week or two myself.
NNAMDIWell, we got an email from Cheryl in Washington, D.C. who says, "I love getting outside but some downtime indoors can be a good idea for kids too. I like to do movie matinees, popcorn and all." Well, this is something that we were talking about during the course of the break, going to the movies. But the idea of doing it at home with the matinees and the popcorn, great idea, isn't it?
JOYCESure, it's great. Yeah, we do that -- we try to do it almost every Friday night. We order pizza and we actually let the kids have a picnic on the floor. And we watch movies, have some neighborhood kids over. It's terrific. And on a day like today when maybe they're looking at the snow melting and not much to do, this might be a good option today.
NNAMDIWell, try not to force "War and Peace" on your kids today. Here is Shelly in Bethesda, Md. Shelly, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SHELLYI have a couple of suggestions.
SHELLYOne is the Einstein statue at the National Science Foundation -- National Academy of Sciences.
SHELLYAnd children can run up and sit on the lap of Einstein. And then there's a solar system and -- so it's good for little prodigies, you know.
NNAMDIYou learn by osmosis by sitting in Einstein's lap, yes.
SHELLYRight, but it's fun. You know, it's a giant statue. Also the Ugar -- here goes my pronunciation...
JOYCEUgar hazing (sp?), yeah.
SHELLYYeah, the -- it's very good for children.
SAMUELThe other arm of the Air and Space Museum out near Dulles. It's fantastic.
SHELLYAnd the Mormon Temple. It has great drive-thru at night to see the lights.
NNAMDIYes, and you just can't help seeing the lights when you're going past there at night. Thank you very much for all of those suggestions, Shelly. You too can offer your favorite places to go during the winter time at 800-433-8850. Amy, you like a little gem that probably few people know about, the College Park Aviation Museum. Tell us a little bit about that.
JOYCEThe mentioning of Hazy reminded me of that. It is such a sweet little museum. Compared to the Smithsonian it is little but it's big, airy. You can drive your own plane. You can -- there are simulators. There are crafts for kids to do. You can dress up as a pilot. They're so kid friendly there. We were there -- I don't know if they do this every time but at the end of running around the museum and trying everything, the kids got a little bag of goodies. And, you know, it really is hands on and it just -- it took up a nice few hours. And it was such a pleasant space to be.
NNAMDIThe Air And Space Museum has lots of stuff for kids. Can you talk about that?
JOYCEAlways, always. You know, I mentioned the Big Bird movie that they have. We've been there before for story times. And they have a separate kid section that's very hands on. You can -- you know, there are a lot of science-related things and see why things go the way they go, you know, from various ages. Younger kids will understand less than older kids but they still get to play with things, which is terrific.
SAMUELI believe that's in the How Things Fly activity room.
NNAMDIAnd if you've never been to the Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport, you say, Amy, that it is worth the trip. Tell us a little bit about it.
JOYCEAbsolutely. I've been there multiple times. I live in D.C. and I've been more than willing to make the trek. The museum's free, parking is about $15. But if you compare that to what you'd be doing in any other city, it's worth it. You get to see so many big planes. Again, a lot of history. The shuttle is there. And my favorite part is you wait in line, you take the elevator up, you go up to a flight deck, you watch the planes taking off and landing. There will be someone up there to explain what's happening. And you even get to listen to the radio, the conversation between the air traffic controllers and the pilots. And it's just so interesting.
NNAMDII just want them to have me listen to those conversations while I'm on the plane. That's what I want. Why is it taking so long to land this thing?
JOYCEAs long as they're saying good things.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, more of this conversation about winter fun for kids. You can offer your suggestions by calling us at 800-433-8850. Do you have any favorite hidden gems, secret spots in our area that you think most people miss? Give us a call, 800-433-8850 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're talking winter fun for kids with Linda Samuel, editor of the blog "Kid Friendly DC," and Amy Joyce, editor of the "On Parenting" blog at the Washington Post. She's also the author of the book "I Went to College for This? How to Turn Your Entry-Level Job into a Career You Love." We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDILinda, the National Children's Museum at National Harbor finally opened last year. This is the newly opened incarnation of the museum that's been around since 1974. It's the only national museum focused on children. What will we find there?
SAMUELYou will find a lot of interactive exhibits with the theme of Explore Your World, and they take you everywhere from the bedroom to across the world, and they do this through activities like crafts -- they have crafts, they have things that encourage pretend play, they have dress-up stations, and basically I recommend this museum for younger children, up to about age five. I think that older children might find a little bit underwhelming, but it is a nice addition to the National Harbor offerings, and I think it is worthy of a visit with the kids.
NNAMDIIt's designed for kids eight and younger, and the programs are educational, and it has something of a civic engagement mission. The goal is to help inspire kids to be better citizens. That is an interesting idea. How do they attempt do that, and do they succeed? Is it fun?
SAMUELI think it is fun for young kids. I've taken my daughter there. She was there when she was three years old. She had a wonderful time. She loved it. They do things -- they show you how to vote, they show you how to send mail. I think they show you how to be involved with different cultures, and then they have a lot of craft activities. They have different kinds of programming and performers come in as well that kind of encourage -- that encourage this kind of thinking as well.
NNAMDII love the old children's museum in Northeast. I haven't been to this new one, but, Amy, you point out that even if the older kids aren't into the children's museum, there's a lot of other stuff there that can catch their attention.
JOYCEYeah. You know, we have gone to National Harbor and there's the Awakening statue there now, or you're right on the water.
NNAMDIThat also used to be in Washington.
JOYCEThat's right. They're taking everything. You know, even going into the hotel where you can overlook the Potomac and see the big bridge and run around down there, and, of course, there are a ton of restaurants, and right now there's also the ice display where there's a bunch of ice sculptures. It can get kind of pricey to do that program, and it's -- but it's kind of interesting. It's definitely different. You can ride down an ice slide, and I think at the end there's a little ice skating rink, sort of like Disneyworld -- it's only little Disneyworld there. But there's always sort of something going on there at National Harbor.
NNAMDIAnd there's always the Gaylord Hotel Atrium at National Harbor that's always a fun place to also go to. We heard from Jonathan in DC who said, you mentioned winter light festivals, but neglected to mention zoo lights. It never fails to amaze my kids. Yes. So thank you for mentioning that. We move on now to Peter in Falls Church, Va. Peter, your turn.
PETERWell, I just wanted to say somebody called in earlier and they talked about a grandmother with limited mobility.
PETERMost of the museums that I've had experience with have wheelchairs available.
PETERAnd you can either get into the door, they'll bring them to you. Generally speaking, the staff is very, very helpful, and in some cases you can go to the curb and bring the wheelchair out to get the person with limited mobility. And this is a free service and it makes it possible for a whole family to go.
NNAMDIThank you very much for mentioning that. I'm sorry that we didn't mention it ourselves, but thank you for your call, Peter. We got a tweet from Dragoncat who says, "Nature Lab in downtown Takoma Park has wonderful children's workshops and programs." Either of you familiar with those? I certainly wasn't. He says "Including drawing from nature and other really interesting stuff." So thank you for that tweet, Dragoncat. We move onto Virginia in Columbia, Md. Virginia, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
VIRGINIAThank you. I had a kind of a not-so-educational suggestion for the day, but my family and I finished addressing Christmas cards, writing notes, and wrapping gifts. We feel very proud of ourselves. We're all ready for Christmas.
NNAMDIAnd we're hating on you here for having...
SAMUELI haven't even done my shopping yet. Not even close.
NNAMDI...for having completed these tasks this early. But congratulations on doing that, and that is indeed a worthwhile and fun activity. So Virginia, thank you very much for mentioning it.
VIRGINIAThank you. Bye-bye.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Casey who said, "I just wanted to let you know about a new education at the National Museum of Natural History called Q?ruis." It's pronounced Q-?-R-I-U-S, but pronounced curious. It opens in two days and is unique in that it is geared toward teenagers. It's a new interactive experimental education center that features hands-on activities that lets kids get to know the science behind the museum exhibits as well as experiment and work with a real collection of specimens.
NNAMDI"This is a real museum collection with 6,000 objects, many of which you can check out within the space and pick up and examine even with microscopes. Q?rius has a studio, loft, and laboratory space and lots of interesting technology such as electronic badges so that you can continue your exploration at home." You had just been checking up on this, hadn't you, Linda?
SAMUELYes. I was just reading about this and I hope to get there soon to visit with it after it opens.
NNAMDICasey knows so much because Casey happens to be a volunteer there. And speaking of space, Amy, even if the exhibit one is going to see isn't capturing the attention of small children, many of the museums have literally -- well, figuratively, miles of indoor space, don't they?
JOYCEMiles, miles, and miles. And I've been taking my kids to these museums since they were in strollers and, you know, staring up at the big (word?) mobiles and, you know, the walking, I guess, escalator at the National Gallery, but that's all under construction right now. There's just -- yeah. If you just need to get out and...
NNAMDIRoom to run.
JOYCERoom to run. Even the Kennedy Center is great in the mornings. If there are no shows going on, you know, it's a great place to let kids run around and have some good views.
NNAMDIOn now to Matthew, in Crofton, Md. Matthew, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MATTHEWHey, how about a day hike to Plummers Island Cabin? You guys ever heard of that?
NNAMDIPlummers Island Cabin? Where's that?
SAMUELI have not.
MATTHEWThat's just south of the American Legion Bridge right off the C&O Canal, and it's the most studied island in North America. They started studying it in 1902 when people lived there. Studied all kinds of species for years and years. A little bit -- it's a very short distance off the canal, but it's a very interesting place. You can start a fire. It has a stove -- wood stove. You can cook a meal or have an outdoor fire or an indoor fireplace. A really neat place to see.
NNAMDISounds like a lot of fun. That was your secret place until now wasn't it, Matthew?
NNAMDIThank you so much for sharing it, Matthew. Amy, in a way, you keep track of what's going on at your job, but you must also get tired of your regular spots and look for inspiration at times. How do you get inspired to find something new to do with your family apart from listening to Matthew on the telephone?
JOYCEThat is something new. I haven't heard of that.
JOYCEJust a lot of talking to friends and neighbors and reading interesting blogs, very good blogs. It's so helpful. And, you know, again, going to the museums and talking to the people who work there, they will help you find those secret hidden gems. If you think about one general museum, there's always special things inside them. I was thinking as we were talking about this of the Newseum, you know, great place to take place teenagers is the Make Some Noise display right now -- exhibit right now about students in the Civil Rights Movement.
JOYCEWhat a great time, you know, to take kids who are of that age and see what kids almost their age were doing during the Civil Rights Movement. There's always something that will lead to something else. You go to one exhibit, you see another one. You go on a hike, you will figure out where the next one is.
NNAMDILinda, how do you find stuff?
SAMUELI think it's interesting that Amy just mentioned that. A lot of times it is, you know, word of mouth and talking to the people at these places we visit. Once thing that we found out about was for Washington, which has the remains of an old fort, Fort Washington.
SAMUELAnd it's really interesting to see. You can see cannons, you can see all these old, you know, the remaining structures of these old buildings, and we found out about that by visiting Oxen Hill Farm which is in Oxen Hill, Md. So I had taken the kids out there to just go see the animals and to walk around, and the park ranger there said, oh, you know, you have kids this age, I think they would really appreciate this out in Fort Washington. And so we planned an outing there a few weeks later. So I think it's really nice to, you know, make a point of talking to the people there. They're all really knowledgeable about the whole area.
NNAMDIOnto Kate in Washington DC. Kate, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATEHi, thanks for taking my call. I had a question about the children's museum.
KATEMaybe more from an adult perspective. I like going to children's museums, and when I'm traveling, I stop by them in different towns. So I called up here to go to the one here and I found out that I am not allowed to go without a child, and I would have to call and schedule a staff escort to allow me to go through the museum. So I'd like to know if you all think it's worth that much effort.
NNAMDIWell, you know, I think when each of us went there, we went in the company of children, so this was an obstacle that we did not at all -- that we didn't encounter, and, therefore, we don't know a great deal about it. I don't think -- Amy, Linda, you know about that rule?
SAMUELI've never heard of this before. I'm not aware of it.
NNAMDII've never heard of that rule before. So you said you called up, Kate, and that's what they told you you had to do, commit a crime, kidnap a kid in order to go to the museum?
KATEThe opposite result of what they wanted, yeah, to kidnap a kid.
JOYCESo you were wondering if it would be worth it for you to go sans child and go through all of the effort of going.
JOYCEIt is really for smaller children. I'm not sure that it's the kind thing that would entertain you too much, but...
NNAMDIBut I would -- I would give -- I would give it the old college try anyway, Kate. I would just go to see what the procedure is like and to see if you enjoy it.
KATEOkay. Great. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Amy, you have what some would consider a fairly unusual or unexpected suggestion, a basketball game.
JOYCEA basketball game. There are a lot of sports activities to do, and I have to say, it's not necessarily my kind of thing, but...
JOYCEIt's yours. My nieces love to go to the women's basketball games and they get so much attention there. They've been able to do, you know, free throws when they're eight years old. It's pretty -- pretty awesome, and they get to meet with the team players.
NNAMDIThe entrance fee is less expensive...
NNAMDI...the hot dogs are good and they're less expensive. It's great.
NNAMDIThere's no negatives to going to a college basketball game, or for that matter, a high school basketball game at this time of year, plus you're indoors, and is Mount Vernon, another spot that might be less crowded this time of year?
JOYCEYeah. Unfortunately it's closed today, but an amazing museum where it even snows indoors. Again, very educational, but also if you have younger children with you and you think they're not going to get much out of it, they will still enjoy it. There is also a lot of hands-on activities, and it's just beautiful there.
NNAMDISame for you, Linda? Mount Vernon?
SAMUELMount Vernon is wonderful. I highly recommend Mount Vernon. There's so much history to be learned in there, and it's just a wonderful place to spend some time. It's very relaxing and peaceful right on the river.
NNAMDILet's hear what Tori in Washington DC recommends. Tori, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TORIHi, Kojo, thanks for taking my call. Hi Linda.
SAMUELHi Tori. This is a friend of mine.
NNAMDIHi Tori, friend of Linda.
TORII wanted to call and recommend Fort Washington Park, and Linda just mentioned that we are here now and brought our sleds along.
NNAMDIYou're actually there right now? How many of you are there?
TORIWe have four kids and three adults.
NNAMDIAnd you're all enjoying yourselves at Fort Washington Park?
TORIIt's beautiful in the snow. Not much snow, but we're enjoying it.
NNAMDIHey, Tori, thank you very much for your call and your suggestion. We move on now to Jennifer in Vienna, Va. Jennifer, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JENNIFERYes, thank you. Right near Tyson's and right off the Dulles Toll Road is the enchanting Winter Walk of Lights in Meadowlark Botanical Gardens which is great for the whole family, including cranky teenagers. There's hundred of LED lights.
NNAMDITeenagers get such a bad rap. But go ahead, please.
JENNIFERI know. I love them. And the lights actually mimic the flowers and the plants and the animals in the garden, and there's even a creek on a hillside made out of lights with leaping fish and sound effects of a babbling brook. It's a fantastic sensory experience, and at the end there's even a fire where you can roast marshmallows. So that's open until January 6, seven nights a week.
NNAMDISounds like a winner. Thank you so much for sharing that, Jennifer. We're almost out of time, Amy, but if you don't really want to go out, there's always curling up with a good book. You've got some suggestions for ways to engage kids with reading in a recent Washington Post series called "Raising Readers." How do you tear kids away from their video games?
JOYCEMaybe don't turn them on. It is hard to do. My young kids were asking for TV all day today. But yeah, I did a story last week for Local Living about how to sort of encourage the reluctant reader. And I think one thing that was mentioned time and time again is don't push them in a certain direction, let them find their own way. You know, comic books are fine, graphic novels are fine. Don't shun them if that's what the kids are interested in. Just encourage them to keep going, and there are a lot of really interesting books out there that maybe aren't the sort of traditional books we're used to reading to our children that will spur some imagination and some interest in books.
NNAMDIAnd every time we've interviewed an author who writes graphic novels, we say, what's the difference between that and comic books? They say, well, none really. Just to mention, we're also doing a show specifically on books for young adults. That's coming up on Wednesday, December 18 in the one o'clock hour. Linda Samuel, thank you for joining us.
SAMUELThank you so much for having me.
NNAMDILinda's the editor of the blog "Kid Friendly DC." Amy, thank you for joining us.
JOYCEIt was great to be here. Thank you.
NNAMDIAmy Joyce is the editor of the "On Parenting" blog at the Washington Post, and author of the book "I Went to College for This? How to Turn Your Entry-Level Job into a Career You Love." And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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