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Got Plans? With Kids

With the Entertainment Guide Staff
Wednesday, February 4, 2004; 12:00 PM

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: Raise your hand if you love February! . . . One ... two ... three . . . just as I (Vicki) thought, not many hands. In fact, there were some grumbles and mumbles like, "What's there to like?" That's why a part of this chat needs to be a Valentine to February. Let's count the ways we love February: The month has a mascot (Punxsutawney Phil); it celebrates black history; it has a day (2/14) devoted to love, birthday parties for a president; and every four years there's the gift of an extra day ... of winter. That's all I've got; I need help from the Kids' Table (Anne, Kate, Matt, Maura, Alexa, Jen, Lynette and you).


Veramar, VA --- A Family Trip idea: If your family is into taking a history trip, here is one that is closer than you think. There are Civil War points of interest in Clarke County, the gateway to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. For instance, visit the Civil War battlefied at "COOL SPRING" (18 July 1864)-- also referred to as Island Ford, Parkers Ford, Snickers Ferry and Castleman's Ferry It's just east of Berryville and Veramar Vineyard, along Shenandoah River, north of the bridge crossing of Route 7 and north to Parker Island on west bank (present monastery grounds of the Holly Cross Abbey) and east bank (Shenandoah Retreat & golf course Virginia Nationals).

The Kids' Table: Hi Veramar, thanks for the tip. Those interested in researching the history of the area will find a number of handy resources on the Internet, including this one. Berryville is about 67 miles or an hour and a half drive (depending on traffic, as always) from Washington. For lodging there are a number of hotels nine miles away from Berryville in Winchester, Va., and Berryville itself boasts three bed-and-breakfasts. Even if you're not interested in the history of the area there are plenty of outdoor activities (especially once the weather's warmer), including a 27-hole golf course, hiking trails, fishing and tours of the Shenandoah River. Have other chatters been to this area? What were your experiences? Thanks, Lynette


Alexandria, VA: What kind of activities can you take 16-month-old twins to, and what kind of indoor play places can we go to?

The Kids' Table: Hi Alexandria, My (Lynette's) favorite activity for that age group is to find an open area (indoors, these days, but outdoors whenever possible) throw down an old quilt and some old pots and pans or anything that's interesting (and safe) to touch and taste and smell and otherwise interact with and just play together. Let them run (or at this age, fall down and get up again) off as much energy as possible while they explore new things. For indoor play places, check out the programs at the Alexandria YMCA. They offer a variety of programs, including parent-child swim lessons for ages six months and older. You'll find similar activities at Lee District RECenter on Telegraph Road. Get your kids active now and you'll have an easier time keeping them off the couch when they're older. As for what kinds of activities you can take them to, I'd recommend anything that actively engages their senses. Concerts like the free, family-friendly performances at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage are excellent for that. I'm sure our chatters have more suggestions for us. Jump on in with your comments, anytime.


Washington, DC: I just saw the adorable play "Anastasia Krupnick" at the Adventure Theatre -- my two girls (ages 9 and 12) loved it. But what I wanted to ask is do you know anything about Anna Zimmerman, who plays Anastasia? I am betting that she will be famous someday soon. She was a wonderful actress. The program says she is from Bethesda, but do you know anything about her, is she really 10 years old?

The Kids' Table: I'm so glad you enjoyed the Adventure Theatre production, Washington. I loved that book when I was a kid. I'm afraid I don't know anything about the girl who plays the lead, though. Anyone else care to chime in with some info about Anna
Zimmerman? -- Jen


Chantilly, VA: I'm looking for some fun indoor weekend activities for a 22-month-old.

The Kids' Table: Hi Chantilly, when I had a 22-month old, we did things like spending a few hours at National Airport. Might not sound great, but kids love the open space, the view of the planes, the Disney store, and lunch at one of the eateries. In the same vein, Union Station. IKEA, believe it or not, is also great for kids, though I don't suppose they'd appreciate me recommending it purely a venue for toddler amusement. There are those indoor activity places like Gymboree, or that place called Jeepers, but I always imagine that they are hotbeds for running noses and germy hands. Perhaps I'm wrong. -- Alexa


Arlington, VA: I went to a 10 a.m. showing of "Elmo in Grouchland" in Herndon last summer, I can't remember how I found out about it. Very few movie theaters have their own Web sites. How do we find out about these morning mommy and kid movies in the area? Since theaters make a good deal of their money on food, I would think lots of the theaters would open their doors to the countless number of kids not in school or daycare. I am supposed to pick a location for a Tuesday (2/10) playgroup of 10 3-year-olds -- a movie theater would be great. Thanks Lita

The Kids' Table: We list special events like this on our site, Arlington. To start with, there's the "Reel Moms" series, which is geared toward parents with infants who want to get out of the house and see a film. Not sure if that would work with the 3-year-olds, but it's an option -- the series is every Tuesday morning at Loews Rio, Georgetown and Fairfax Square. Next week's movie is "Miracle." The Crown Theatre in Annapolis also does a similar Movies for Moms series on Wednesdays, while the Avalon shows family films on Saturdays and Sundays; this weekend they're screening "Shrek." -- Jen


Garrett Park: Hi. I have feedback on some questions and suggestions from the chat two weeks ago.

Family packages at Greenbrier & Homestead: Even in off-season when room rates are discounted, it's still quite expensive to stay there. If your meals are not included, the restaurants on site are very pricey. We went to Homestead in October 2002 but the only activities you could do that were not extra were the spring-fed swimming pool (which was lovely), the exercise room, hiking on the property, a movie in the theater that was already on DVD, and having a simple tea in the lobby. The bowling alley was $5 a game, and all activities like carriage rides, canoeing, golfing and horseback riding were not cheap. Our daughter was in a Kids Club from 9 to 5 that was $60. There's not much to do in a 20-mile radius unless you're into hiking through forests. Although the Warm Springs outdoor pools allow kids to soak there daily from 10 to 11 a.m. for $12 per person and that was a treat. I also felt a bit uncomfortable after a while -- the clientele at Homestead looked "Old Money" and was very homogenous. Not our kind of crowd. We hardly did any activities, but our check-out bill was many hundreds of dollars. Soooo, caveat emptor. Homestead was a beatiful property, but we won't be back. If you want the natural springs experience, stay at Berkeley Springs, W. Va. instead.

Birthday parties: Don't forget that local roller rinks are a great place to have a party. There are roller skating rinks in Rockville, Seabrook, Laurel, Suitland, Clinton and Springfield. My daughter's 7th birthday was at the Rockville one -- for $9 per person, you got three hours of skating, skate rentals, sodas and ice cream. Indoor ice rinks have birthday party packages, too -- year-round.

Membership at the National Zoo: Free parking is one perk, but I enjoy my FONZ membership because of the half-price Boo at the Zoo tickets (and also first dibs, because it always sells out in advance); the free Zoo Night, where the zoo is open to members only, with entertainment, animal demos, and free sodas and nibbles (and discounted food, too); also the opportunity to host a birthday party there (not available to nonmembers); and discounts for annual fundraising events and summer camp sessions.

The Kids' Table: Thanks Garrett Park. We deeply appreciate your thoughtful feedback. There's no mistaking either the Greenbrier or Homestead for basic accomodations. Even off season, room rates in the "family package" are $216 per person, per day based on double occupancy not including taxes. We talked about this deal last chat and I apologize if I didn't make it understood that the rate is per person. I too much prefer the scene at Berkeley Springs, restorative and low-key.

We have plenty of roller rinks in our database. If you have a favorite and don't see it, please e-mail us your recommendation: events@washingtonpost.com. Terrific for a group of 9-to-14-year-olds.

And we high five your support of FONZ. The benefits are terrific for families who are frequent visitors to the National Zoological Park. -- Kate


Vienna, VA: Last week, you mentioned that a couple can stay at the Greenbrier for $216 per night. Just a note...that's $216 per person, per night, plus there are other daily per person charges for gratuities, etc. It's rare for a couple to stay at the Greenbrier for less than $500 per night. Fabulous place, though!!

The Kids' Table: I should have specified based on double occupancy. I apologize for misleading you, Vienna.


Fredericksburg, VA : Trying to take three kids to the MCI Center for a Washington Wizard's Game vs. Lakers, 2/28/04.

Where can I find four seats (together) at a reasonable price?

The Kids' Table: Hi Fredericksburg, Define "reasonable price." I just called Ticketmaster and the game is essentially sold out (only two seats left in the entire stadium. Now, there are other Web sites, such as TicketMonster.com still advertising tickets available, such as 4 seats together in section 408, row N for $80 apiece. You can have them delivered in two days by FedEx for an additional $9 plus other service charges. I don't know anyone who uses this site or how reliable it is, so this information is offered with a strong caveat of buyer beware. Perhaps other chatters can share their experiences. Other ticket sites include Dreamtix.com and Showmetickets.com if you want to shop around. If you try this method, let us know how it goes. Thanks, Lynette


Manassas, VA: My daughter is turning 5 in March and I am looking for party help. She wants both boys and girls to come ... and my husband would prefer it not at our house. Any suggestions on how to keep everyone happy. I'm having trouble finding a reasonably close and fun location, any suggestions? Thanks!

The Kids' Table: Have you considered the Manassas Cinemas? They offer two birthday packages, one in the cafe for 12.50/person, and one in a regular theater for $7/person. In the cafe, you can tour the projection room, and the birthday girl can start the movie. In the regular theater, the deal comes with popcorn, beverage, candy and a toy. Call 703-368-4132. The Manassas Museum can also help you put together a birthday program with activities. Check it out either next Wednesday, Feb. 11 from 5 to 6:30 when admission is free, or this weekend at its Victorian Valentine's Fair. -- Anne


For Wizards Tickets: Always try Craig's List:

The Kids' Table: Hey, thanks for the helpful suggestion. Here's the direct link to Wizards tickets being offered for sale on Craig's List. (Who is Craig, anyway?) I don't see any offerings for four tickets together at the moment, but with three-and-a-half weeks until the game you might still get lucky. Thanks.


Kid-friendly happy hour?: I have a new coworker that has a child in daycare downtown. He has to pick his daughter up right after work, but wants to join us for drinks. Can you think of somewhere kid-friendly? Low or no smoke? Downtown?

The Kids' Table: You really need to hit a restaurant bar or hotel bar -- I'd send you to the supremely underrated happy hour at Corduroy first -- she might really like the six-inch-long spring rolls, and you'll enjoy the $3 draft Guinness or $4 rail drinks. It's relatively quiet, and tables are spaced far enough apart that she shouldn't bother anyone (get a booth if you can). My other choice might be 15 ria, which has a kind of anteroom off of the bar with high wing chairs, tables, etc. High ceilings, little smoke and great cocktails. -- Fritz (Bars and Clubs editor, guest "With Kids" guru)


Washington, DC: I have a 4-year-old nephew who we are going to take to the circus (at the MCI Center in March) -- any ideas on plans for a good lunch/dinner/snack place near there that is kid-friendly and lots of fun? Also, any tips on the circus itself?

The Kids' Table: For kids around the MCI, I'd say your best bets were the Austin Grill (bright and kid-friendly) and perhaps Fudruccker's (?). Ella's pizza. As for the circus, I'm afraid I've never been. But perhaps the folks at home can give some tips? -- Alexa


Alexandria, VA: I will be spending Sunday afternoon with a 6-year-old and her mother. We both live in Virginia, any good ideas?

The Kids' Table: Do you want to stay in Virginia? The Chocolate Lovers Festival in Fairfax is paradise for sweet tooths, with its tastings and chocolate sculptures and some chocolate freebies. If the weather isn't as sunny as today, pick a matinee. Rumplestiltskin is playing in Herndon, and it seems other readers are giddy on "Anastasia Krupnik." -- Anne


Annandale, VA: I just got off the phone with the Baltimore Aquarium and the sleep with the sharks is booked until June. I have a St. Patrick's Day baby boy turning 9 this year, and I am desperate for birthday ideas. We've had fencing, clowns, etc. I need some new ideas. Could you knowledgable folk help?

The Kids' Table: Sticking with museum-centric ideas, on March 21, the Spy Museum is hosting a Kid Spy party complete with a showing of "Kid Spy 3D" and a talk with a real life spy. You can find more details here. Also Saturday, March 20, the Natural History Museum holds a family festival. A little later in the month, the Freer and Sackler Galleries hold a program on Japanese Screens. Maybe some other readers have new ideas? -- Maura


Garrett Park: Hi. Me again. Forgot to add that my daughter and I really enjoyed "Brother Bear" recently at the Avalon's weekly family matinee, Saturdays & Sundays at 10:30. Only $5 per person (kids under 2, free). Their movie schedules are on their Web site - is it theavalon.org? They did a lovely job restoring the place, and I'd prefer seeing a movie there than a generic multiplex. The AFI Silver has family movies Saturdays at noon or 1, I believe ($6?), but parking is closer in at the Avalon.

Also, I forgot if your chat room already listed this, but I saw that Fairfax is hosting its annual Chocolate Festival this weekend (www.chocolatefestival.net) Free admission, you pay for tastes. Activities for kids, too. Do you know anything more about it?

The Kids' Table: Glad you liked "Brother Bear," it's one of Got Plans Anne's favorites. The schedule for the Avalon's ongoing family series is listed on our site by day (keyword = Avalon, then click through the Avalon's schedule by day to find all listings, showtimes, reviews). This Saturday they'll screen "Shrek" at 10:30 a.m.

As for the Chocolate Lover's Festival in Fairfax, it's a festival designed to lead visitors through downtown Fairfax with the promise of chocolate. I like what's on offer for breakfast on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fire Station 3: chocolate chip pancakes. This Sunday's Sunday Source picked this festival as it's Road Trip. -- Kate


Where to go for Spring Break?: My 7-year-old daughter and my husband would like to escape to sunny, clear blue water beach for Spring Break. Our budget is under $300 a night for room. Where would you go?

The Kids' Table: Hey Spring Break, What a great idea. Can we all come with you? At this Orlando, Fla. link I (Lynette) found luxury condos that sleep six near Disney World for $127 night starting on March 26 (obviously the start date and length of stay are going to affect the price). Seven-night packages at Miami Beach hotels are running higher ($1,000-plus) but that's still within your limit. Packages to South Padre Island (in the president's home state) start at $868 for the week for the three of you including airfare from BWI. Hope this helps, Lynette


Northwest, DC: What could you suggest as a fun activity for five 12- to 15-year-old Girl Scouts and their leaders? We've tried ice skating, which they thought was fun (but my co-leader and I would prefer something with less chance of injury!) and the girls vetoed any museum activity (unless you think of something we might convince them of).

Thanks from a stumped leader!

The Kids' Table: Hello Northwest,

Both my daughters have been in Scouts, and I'll just suggest a few activities they have enjoyed.

I'll start with the activity with the most chance of injury -- snow tubeing. My wife had a great time, too. Here is our Ski Guide," which has a list of resorts.

Many bowling venues have Extreme Bowling, that usually starts about 9 p.m. and goes until closing. It features bowling in the dark with fluorescent balls and pins. Disco bowling nights have strobe lights and, of course, disco music.

And how about a trip to an area college for a women's athletic event? Basketball and gymnastics are in season.

Good luck -- Matt.

If you don't mind driving to Columbia, Md., the Splashdown facility includes two indoor water slides, a pool with a diving board and swinging rope as well as a second pool for just swimming. It has a small snackbar as well. The phone number is 410-730-7000.

And how about Laser Tag? A Shadowland Center is in Gaithersburg, Md. (301-330-5546). They have group rates starting at six people.


Clifton, VA: Just wanted to brag on my bright idea for a girl's birthday party for that too-cool-for-Disney age, 9 -- we did a "dance party." I drew up slips of paper for the girls to draw, saying "Dance Like -A-n].... Egyptian, disco, jitterbug, twist, Hawaiian hula, the Swim", etc., etc. Then each girl led the group in her dance style, with a little eager help from grown-ups in attendance (remember the Pony? No? Baby!!). Hubby had fun making a mix tape from old records (be sure and number the dance slips in order). We used a lot of famous albums as decor (Hendrix, Dylan, Beatles), and the parents had fun looking at ancient history!!! Also, cut 1 1/2 yard of ribbon and tell them it's the Olympics Chinese Ribbon dance; do "musical instrument charades" (also by drawing slips of paper if desired: flute, sax, guitar, trombone...) They LOVED it!!!!

The Kids' Table: Way cool, Clifton, thanks for sharing your amazingly creative idea. We're all just sorry we weren't invited! And you can always tailor the music to match the birthday kid's (and parents') taste.


Arlington, VA: Just wanted to recommend the glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden as a sunny, warm (and free) place for an outing. Probably a bad idea for toddlers, but for infants in a front carrier or well-behaved kids age 3 and older, it's a lot of fun - like visiting the "jungle."

The Kids' Table: It is a jungle out there. The USBG's annual and dazzling orchid show is on display through the end of March. -- Kate


Arlington, VA: You mentioned the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage as a good venue for little ones. Is it really okay to take very small children (young enough to cry) there? I'm hoping your answer is yes, as my husband and I have been looking for opportunities to show our little guy some live music! But we don't want to annoy other listeners.

The Kids' Table: One reason that Millennium Stage is popular with the young-enough-to-cry group is that it's easy to evacuate when your little one lets out a holler. Performances are held in a long hall, and most people sit on the floor or on steps. So if you stay toward the back of the group, you can swiftly take your boy out of earshot and back in again when he's quieted. At performances I've been to, toddlers are frequently roaming the back half of the hall. I think everyone understands that some ages can't sit quietly for 45 minutes. -- Anne


re: Beaches in Florida for Spring Break: First of all, Orlando is 90 minutes from the beach. Also, Miami Beach isn't the most family-friendly place -- nightlife is the main focus, and most of the beaches are topless in practice if not in law.

An hour farther north in Ft. Lauderdale or Pompano Beach, you get nicer beaches, cheaper hotels and a very family-friendly atmosphere. There are so many flights to Ft. Lauderdale this year, that fares are still quite reasonable from any of the three area airports.

The Kids' Table: Thanks for the beach info. Our resident expert on travel -- Ben Abramson -- is on vacation this week. Of all things, the man is skiing!!


Reston, VA: Help, I'm looking for a different kind of place to hold a b'day party for my son who will be 5 in March. The weather kills outdoor activities.

The Kids' Table: Hey Reston, Why not try Duckpin bowling at Falls Church Duckpin Bowling Center. The smaller size of the balls and pins make it perfect for smaller people. Thanks.


The Kids' Table: Thanks, everyone, for your time, questions and ideas. A special thanks to contributors for thoughts of Spring Break. Let's give some thought next chat -- Wednesday, Feb. 18 -- to Feb. 29. It only happens once every four years -- let's not waste it. What are your plans? As always, we appreciate when your comments and questions come in early. More answers can spring to mind. Oh, there's that lovely word again . . . bye for now.


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