Every other Wednesday at noon, local experts from washingtonpost.com share their best bets for arts and entertainment options for kids and their families. Our group specializes in local dining, museum, sports and recreations, day trips, children's theaters and the special events that keep life in metropolitan Washington interesting.
We're happy to answer questions, but we need to hear from you too. Tell us about
your favorite public swimming pool, a movie that wowed your family, a toy shop with
a "do touch" policy, or a restaurant where pizza is as welcome on the floor as it is on
the plate. This is an hour for kids of all ages: So if you have teenagers who need a
night out without you -- or vice versa -- ask away. Together we can fill our calendars
with memorable activities.
Our "With Kids" editor hosts each discussion, but the entire group will be sitting at the kids' table. If you need more ideas, see KidsPost and the Entertainment Guide.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
The Kids' Table:
Don't sweat Labor Day. This good advice comes from your host -- Vicki -- who gave birth to her daughter on a Labor Day. (Happy birthday, Shannon!) Here are a few "more playful" suggestions for this holiday weekend. I'm sure the Kids' Table (today that's Jen, Maura, Matt, Anne, Lynette and you) will zero in on more.
If you absolutely must think about classes on summer's last hurrah, don't miss the Post feature on cooking classes. Looks like children as young as 3 have culinary opportunities. And Just Cakes offers birthday parties -- always a favorite topic when we get together.
Since we're together, let's get started . . .
Falls Church, Va.:
I have a 4-year-old grandson and I would like to take him camping. Does anyone know of any campgrounds within 100 miles that have cabin or treehouse camping?
Lynette: Hi, Ann.
Check out this feature Forest Gumption, which lists cabins for rent in area state and national parks.
For the mom in Prince William. I know of two places in Manassas that have birthday party facilities. Karin's Gymnastics has an indoor playground (www.karongymnastics.com) and the Donut Depot in the city of Manassas lets kids decorate their own donuts and they have a separate party room.
Lynette: Hi, Bristow, and thanks for the heads up. Here's the link to Karon Gymnastics and the phone number for the Donut Depot is 703-392-6200.
I am a single mom with an almost 5-year-young boy. I am looking for fun things to do (do not mind driving) that are either free or of little cost. We like the outdoors, rather than places like Jeepers.
Lynette: Hi, Northeast. Have you considered hunting for fossils or miniature golf? There are plenty of places to go picnicking. You can also go hiking or check out the nature-oriented programs at the C&O Canal or Rock Creek Park.
I am an aunt. I hope to borrow my two nephews (8 and 10) every other week after school, probably Wednesday, starting today. What can I do with them that will be fun for them? When they were younger, we went to the Discovery Zone (behind Congressional Plaza) that went out of business and places like it. There are so few good kids' movies out these days, I don't want to make moviegoing a habit. Besides which, it is a beautiful day.
Maura: While it's still light out after school, why not take up miniature golf? Indoors and nearby, your nephews might enjoy the climbing wall at the Rockville Climbing Gym.
I have a 2-year-old for the weekend, but don't want to make a trek out to the beaches over Labor Day weekend. Any farms or fairs or other toddler-friendly activities that are going on this weekend in the metro area?
Lynette: Hi, Washington. Check out the Maryland State Fair in Timonium. It runs through Monday and is free for everyone under the age of 6. The Maryland Renaissance Festival is still in full swing in Crownsville, or you might enjoy the Labor Day festivities in Greenbelt.
In October, I'd like to take my daughter and some friends to a local farm where they can pick pumpkins, pet animals and go on a hay ride. Do you have any suggestions?
Lynette: Hi, Washington. Sounds like Brookfield Pumpkins in Thurmont is just the place you're looking for. Belvedere Plantation and North Run Farm also have corn mazes to play in. Enjoy.
Are there any covered picnic areas on the grounds of the Mall? Perhaps near the Jefferson Memorial?
Maura: Covered picnic grounds on the Mall? I can't think of any. If you're set on finding cover, Cabin John Regional Park may be an option. You can check out our list of kid-friendly parks for picnics, but maybe some readers can share their spots?
Probably a little too late for this year considering the summer is over. As a father, I always try to find things to do with my daughter on the weekends where we can hit the road. Well the last two weeks we did the Splash Down water park and Fawn Lake. I knew my daughter liked the water, but I cannot tell you the amount of fun that we have had. I even brought her her very own life jacket to float with. So parents even though summer is over, you can always go to the indoor water parks for fun.
Lynette: Thanks for the great tip, Dad. Here's a list of local indoor pools to play in.
We're thinking about taking our 2 1/2-year-old and 9-month-old boys to Annapolis this Saturday. Any ideas for fun kid things? Our older boy loves marching bands -- are there public parades at the Naval Academy? We'll probably do the Navy football game on Saturday night.
Anne: The Naval Academy's band will perform at the football game, but if you want to see other concerts this weekend, you'll have to go off campus. Check this list of public concerts at parks for this weekend. Here's a suggestion for 10 great stops in Annapolis. I bet the kids will enjoy playing I Spy at the Richard Scarry-worthy busy-ness of the City Dock.
I have a niece who will be turning 4 soon who just moved to the area. Do you have any idea for a 4-year-old's birthday party that won't depend on her having little friends to come along, which she won't have since she just got here? I'd like to do something special since she's had a bit of a rough time recently.
Jen: Taking her to a performance might be nice because that way she can see something special and not feel like she needs to be with a huge group. I'm not sure if she's too young for it, but Cirque du Soleil is coming to RFK Stadium next month. Or if you can wait until the end of September, Imagination Stage presents "Bunnicula" (based on a book I loved as a child) starting Sept. 24. They recommend the show for ages 4 and up.
South Riding, Va.:
To the Washington mom looking for a local farm where they can pick pumpkins, pet animals and go on a hay ride: Cox Farm in Centreville has a big fall festival each year. I've never been, but hear it is fantastic! Check it out at http://www.coxfarms.com/.
Lynette: Hi, South Riding. Thanks for telling us about the festival. It takes place Sept. 25-Nov. 7, with $7 admission on weekdays and $11 on weekends. Festival activities include hay rides, tunnels, slides and rope swings, barn tours and a petting zoo. Or check out the farm's Pumpkin Madness Weekend on Nov. 6-7, when "used" jack-o-lanterns are thrown, dropped, squashed, hurled, shredded and otherwise splattered.
Hi, can you help me out with a list of places you could visit within a couple of hours of the D.C. area, which would be fun for 5-year-old triplets (1 boy and 2 girls)? No amusement parks please!
Anne: Sure thing, Fairfax. That list is called the Escapes Archive, and though I'll share a few ideas, you can find dozens more. I'm keeping it fairly close to home in this list, to avoid the are-we-there-yets from the back seat. If I were in town this weekend, I'd want to go visit Frederick. You could start the day picking peaches at Catoctin Mountain Orchard, then do a half-mile hike over low wooden bridges to a 78-foot-tall waterfall in Cunningham Falls State Park. There'll be a cultural festival with children's entertainment Saturday from 11-5 in Baker Park. Call 301-694-1109 for more info. Or head south, popping in at the amusements on Route 11 -- tours of a potato chip factory, old-fashioned ice cream and wacky lawn ornaments.
College Park Aviation Museum:
Join us at the College Park Aviation Museum Sept. 18 and 19 for a visit with Jay Jay the Jet Plane.
Advance tickets are required. They are $8 each. Call 301-864-6029 for more information, or visit the museum's Web site at www.collegeparkaviationmuseum.com
Maura: More from College Park. Thanks!
Going up to Gaithersburg to hang out with a 9- and a 10-year-old this weekend. I want to do something new and different outdoors. Anyone know of a festival? A fun hiking trail? Maybe even a day trip? Thanks!
Anne: Easy as pie. The Gaithersburg Labor Day parade is a festival and a half. And you're right near all the trails of Seneca Creek State Park, with its frisbee golf course.
The Kids' Table:
If not in the air, fall was in our chat. Thanks for joining in today, and join us again next time we meet, Wednesday at noon, Sept. 15. In the meantime, happy new (school) year!