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:
Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kids' Table. Thanks for taking the time between Halloween haunts and colorful outings to join us in our never-ending (make that every other week at least) quest to educate and/or entertain our wee ones - even if they're pretty big - under our wings for only an afternoon or lifelong.
I (Vicki) think Ellen Degeneres refers to this effort at educating and entertaining as edutaining. An example of edutaining is my suggestion that the timing is perfect to visit two museum exhibits: Be inspired to masquerade by "Playful Performers" (for children and about children) at the National Museum of African Art or focus on the "American Presidency" at the National Museum of American History. Our museums expert and Entertainment editor, Maura, can be your guide to those exhibits and more.
Of course, we all learn from you, too (at the table today that includes Jen, Matt, David and Anne as well). One of our first questions (from a single dad) is full of suggestions; take a look . . .
A year ago I became a single dad of two preschoolers, and I'm still learning ways to provide for us inexpensively, like consignment sales for clothes. I cook most meals, but I've begun paying attention to discounts and special pricing for children at restaurants. I'm aware of kids-eat-free times at some Denny's, IHOP, Lone Star, Red Hot & Blue, Shoney's and T.G.I. Friday's locations, and I know of 99-cent McDonald's Happy Meals at certain times and that Old Country Buffet always charges 55 cents per year of age. (By the way, kudos from this single parent to Denny's, Lone Star and Shoney's for allowing at least two kids free per adult.) What other opportunities do you know of for dining out (or even taking out) affordably with kids?
Vicki: Alexa, our restaurant authority, is on maternity leave; but she has recommended a few places in the past as family friendly, some boasting kid favorites on the menu and/or paper on the table, crayons included: 2 Amys, Big Bowl, Cafe Deluxe, Noodles & Company, Star Diner, Generous George's, Hard Times Cafe, Rio Grande, Bistro Bistro . . . and where fun is included (Rainforest Cafe), your entertainment/dining budget goes a little further. Suggestions from others at the table, please.
My 11-year-old nephew will be coming to town for Veterans Day and the holiday weekend. Are there any free military band concerts or special tours appropriate for his age related to Veterans Day? He is interested in some military history and the Smithsonian museums. Thank you.
Maura: At Mount Vernon members of the military will lay a wreath on Washington's tomb for the estate's special Veterans Day event. The Smithsonian will open a new permanent exhibit on military history on Veterans Day. At the National Museum of American History, "The Price of Freedom" examines U.S. military history from the French and Indian War onward. It's sounds right up your nephew's alley.
Need locations for haunted houses in Maryland or Pennsylvania.
Anne: Here are some places to find a haunted house -- and be aware, that some are scarier than others.
Do you know what movie theaters in the MD/VA/DC area have a party room for hosting birthday parties?
Jen: I can think of two: the Muvico Egyptian at Arundel Mills Mall and the new Magic Johnson Theatres in Landover. There may be others; anyone out there had a birthday party at a different theater?
My 4-year-old niece is coming to visit in a couple of weeks and I'd like to find out about some places to take her. A museum or two would be nice, but I'm not sure how a 4-year-old would like museums.
Maura: A museum is a fine idea, but some are more kid-friendly than others. The animal hall at Natural History is a terrific display for kids. Keep in mind many museums have family days -- the Building Museum, for example, has a family day on Nov. 6 and an Artful Architecture Day the following weekend. They'll have plenty of hands-on crafts, but be sure to make a reservation.
I heard there is a Halloween Party at the Krispy Kreme in Rockville this Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. Just want to let other parents know --it's a safe and fun way for kids to celebrate Halloween! We went to last year's party at the Alexandria store and the kids had a blast (as did the parents)! I'm taking them right from school -- they'll already be in costume from their school's Halloween parade -- and we'll grab dinner afterward.
David: Yes, there will be a Krispy Kreme Halloween Party at their Rockville location on Friday. There will be bobbing for doughnuts (could get a little sticky), along with pumpkin painting, face painting, a doughnut dipping station and costume contests.
It's almost that time again. Do you know of performances of "The Nutcracker" in this area besides that of the Washington Ballet? I'm hoping to take my 4-year-old ballerina to see it.
Jen: There are plenty of "Nutcrackers" to choose from. Take a look at the list and see what interests you.
To the single dad with preschoolers,
The Rainforest Cafe is WAY overpriced and not a good bargain if you're trying to stay on a budget.
Instead, remarkably IHOP has a pretty good menu and is fairly kid-friendly. Most of all it's not pricey.
Also, you may want to try Fuddruckers in Rockville, which also has a decent kids menu if you don't mind the burgers, fries, chicken strips, etc.
What may be a good option, and what I do with my own toddler, is go to the market and buy finger foods that he likes -- apples, salami, cheese, salad greens -- and make a picnic of it in a place at home where you don't normally eat.
I pack everything up in a picnic basket on colorful plates, then spread a big comforter on the floor in front of the fireplace and either read stories or flip on a movie like "Nemo."
I unplug the phone and focus just on him.
Preschoolers are pretty easy and really just want the 'rents undivided attention.
Ronald McDonald is really not a necessary additon.
Every now and then, I surprise him with a new (inexpensive) toy. The old-fashioned ball and bat got me big hugs!
Vicki: Thank you for your help -- one thing to remember, too, with little ones is that they have little appetites. Ask for a couple of extra plates to share a dish or two. I especially like your reminder to lose the phone. It's disturbing to see so many caregivers (even at the park!) on the phone instead of connecting with their kids.
Falls Church, Va.:
Hello! It sounds like the weather will be nice this weekend. Can you suggest any outdoor autumn activities in the Tysons Corner area to do with a 2 1/2-year-old and a 1-year-old? Thanks!
Anne: Not far from you is Frying Pan Park, with a one-month-old calf named Chrysanthemum Storm. She was born during lots of thunder and lightning, and her mother names all her girl calves after flowers. You can call her Chrissie for short, though. There are lots of animals to see and plenty of room to toddle around with a backdrop of fall leaves. Arrive early, and you can get fresh eggs, too. Krop's Crops has a pumpkin patch play area geared to small children, without the more extensive activities that could make toddlers overwhelmed.
College Park, Md.:
I know it's a little late in the season for this, but do you know where I can find softserve dipped ice cream cones? For some reason, I'm having the worst luck finding a place.
Jen: Have you tried the always reliable Dairy Queen? I don't know of one in College Park, but there are locations in Montgomery Mall, on Viers Mills Road in Rockville and in Tyson's Corner I. I'm pretty sure they can do a dipped cone. Sorry most of those locations are mall-centric, but for some reason, that's where DQ is most prevalent in the Washington area.
Washington Metro Area:
HI. I recently moved to the DC Metro Area and I am learning of fun places to take my 2 1/2-year-old daughter. I am interested in fun events for Halloween these next few days. I missed the zoo that would have been great!
Anne: Here's some of my favorite community Halloween events: tonight is Vienna's 58th annual Halloween parade, complete with floats, bands and antique cars. Saturday, there's Flight Night at the College Park Airport, featuring a haunted hayride and a costume contest. Both of those are ideal for any age.
My daughter is turning 2 in December. I'd like to have a birthday party for her somewhere other than Chuck E. Cheese. Can you recommend someplace else that's fun, not too expensive (hey, I'm a single mom) and different???
Jen: That's a hard age because she's a bit young for things I might normally suggest, like going to a children's play. Would she enjoy a hay ride with Santa? Honestly, I think having a small party at your house with a winter or holiday theme might be more fun than anything I could suggest. She'd probably love that and it could certainly be done within a budget.
The readers may be interested in the 8th annual Card Modeller's convention. I believe this is the fourth in Herndon at the Dulles Days Inn, and it's FREE -- Nov. 13 and 14. There will be an announcement in the Weekend section before the convention.
Card models are not origami or the tab-and-slot things you may remember from childhood. They require careful cutting and assembly and when you're done, you have a model that looks as good as any plastic or wooden one. There are a lot of pictures from last year's show at http://members.aol.com/CWIOKSTER/paper/conv03.html and at http://www.cardmodelers.org/archive/dec03/bill/ipmc2003.htm
and you can go to http://www.cardfaq.org/faq/ to find a good introduction and places to get free models to get you started. I don't have an exhibitor list, but we've had people from the Netherlands, Germany, and the Far East at previous shows.
Vicki: Thanks for the suggestion for our crafty artists at the table. All our tablemateys should keep an eye on the Weekend section for the Family Filmgoer, Saturday's Child and Carousel suggestions.
Falls Church, Va.:
I was wondering where there are places in Northern Virginia to visit for Halloween? I am in my mid twenties and would like to go to a haunted house or hayride, but I am having trouble finding one. Any suggestions?
David: It looks like there is a Halloween in the Park festival at Mason Neck State Park on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., and hayrides to a haunted house are part of the fun. Might be a little tame for you, though. If you're up for a drive into Maryland, try Markoff's Haunted Forest.
Kohrs Bros. at White Flint and Montgomery Mall,
also there's one on Rockville Pike near Montgomery College.
Jen: I was going to mention Kohr Bros., too, but I couldn't remember whether they dipped or not. Definitely another option to explore. Thanks, Bethesda.
Wanted to let you know about a great event in D.C. this weekend.
Boundless Yoga is hosting a Halloween Yoga for Kids event Sunday from 1 to 2 p.m., $20 ($5 each additional child, recommended ages
Costumes are encouraged, and should allow freedom of movement and the ability to
see without unobstructions. Trick-or-treating at local businesses will follow.
Boundless Yoga is located at 1522 U St. NW, Washington. For additional information, please call 202-234-YOGA or visit www.boundlessyoga.com.
David: As always, thanks for the tip...
Do you know of any Halloween activities going on Saturday around the Arlington area?
Anne: I don't have as much to tell you about Arlington, but there's certainly lots happening in Alexandria on Saturday. Kids ages 3-5 can make a scarecrow from 2-3 at Green Spring Gardens Park or go on a scavenger hunt at the Athenaeum from 5-8 (registration required for both of those). Kids 5 and older can wear a costume and hear a Halloween story at Potomac Overlook Regional Park at 7:30. And the Alexandria trick-or-treating kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday at Market Square.
Is Old Town Alexandria any good on Halloween night, Oct. 31? I know they are having something on the 30th, but if I just walked around with my 3- and 6-year-old nieces and my dogs, is anything open after 6 for Trick or Treating on Halloween?
David: As Anne said above, the trick-or-treating in Old Town is a Saturday evening activity this year. It may be Halloween, but it's still a Sunday night.
Can you, or any readers, recommend any good indoor playgrounds (or similar places) in Virginia? My 2-year-old son loves the playground and gets so cranky on rainy days. The only places that I can think of are the Dulles mall and IKEA at Springfield. Any others?
Anne: Well, there's the ones you have to pay for, like Chuck E. Cheese's, the Explore & More Children's Museum in Woodbridge and Adventure Challenge in Manassas.
The Patuxent Wildlife Refuge is sponsoring "Creepy Critters" from 1 to 4 pm on Oct. 31. Check out the Web site: http://patuxent.fws.gov/
They have great activities at that refuge. My daughter loves going there; she's 8 now and has been a frequent visitor since age 4.
Vicki: Thanks for another really "creepy" idea. Here's our link to that wonderful edutaining resource.
Hi! Any recommendations for haunted houses for older teens this weekend? Thanks.
Anne: Markoff's Forest and Bennett's Curse are geared to the older set. Here's a list of more haunted houses.
For Dad with preschool younguns. Here's a fun thing to do. I have a large circular driveway right next to the stoop where the grandgirls ride their tricycles, round and round. One day when they didn't want to stop their fun to come in for lunch, I cut up bite-size pieces of apples, celery, carrots, cheese, baloney, sat on the stoop and as each child rode around they'd open their mouths as they passed me and I'd pop in a bite or two. They thought it was great fun, ate every bite and didn't even voice the usual objections to the carrots.
Vicki: Thank you, Nani, for your voice of experience and good idea. Sounds like a chance to get in some broccoli as well -- maybe not. I know that just cutting sandwiches into mountain peaks or puzzle pieces makes lunch so much more fun. I've even made menus for lunch, treating the kids to dining out in the kitchen. (They're bad tippers, however.)
How are we supposed to tell if our neighborhood has trick or treating on Saturday or Sunday? I'm terribly confused. Is it just a normal thing that it'll be on Saturday and not Sunday?? Why does it have to get all complicated? I have my little girl practicing her "Trick or Treat" over and over again!
Vicki: It shouldn't be that complicated, Ashburn, since Halloween falls on the weekend -- and not a school night. What to expect: The young ones go out early on Sunday -- Halloween; the older ones come out later. Your neighbors will expect the tricksters on Sunday -- and lights on at a house, a jack-o-lantern and kids already at an open door are good signs that your neighbors are "into" the festivities and expecting company.
The Kids' Table:
Looks like we're out of time this afternoon -- and this month. A couple of scrippled notes in my effort to edutain: Lunar eclipse this evening -- if the kids can handle the late hours -- sometime between 10 and midnight. Remember clocks fall back this weekend; early darkness ahead. Don't forget to take your children with you when you vote. And come back to the Kids' Table Nov. 10. Think we'll have elected a president by then???