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Got Plans? With Kids

With the Entertainment Guide Staff
Wednesday, September 29, 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: Hi and welcome to the Kids' Table, where even Dr. Phil can find the help he needs. That is, if he's looking for entertainment in the Washington area for children of all ages. He can't be shy about chiming in -- with his questions or suggestions -- and the more details he provides in his questions (ages, interests, dates) the better. We (the Entertainment staff and you) will have him lost in mazes, at a state fair or under the Big Top in no time. So scooch over -- he's a big man -- in case he joins our gang today and brings along a friend (Oprah, if that's you, you might want to head to A Likely Story tonight for author and storyteller Brian Jacques). Ready when you are . . .


Washington: I like to take my sister's kids out for individual outings. For example, I took my niece to Cirque du Soleil, my nephew to the Wizards, my other nephew to the circus. I am looking for suggestions for outings with each of my nephews (a young 6 and an old "almost" 11) in the next month or so. I'm thinking about the horse show or the Renaissance Festival. Any other ideas? I do not own a car, so Metro-accessible is preferred. Thanks!

Maura: The horse show sounds like a fine idea -- and it's definitely Metro accessible. The Renaissance Fair would be fun, but it's tough to get there without a car. Upcoming events such as Toon Day at Strathmore and Boo at the Zoo (reserve early for that one) might be worth keeping in mind. Check out our full list of kid-friendly events.


Washington, D.C.: Our day care center in downtown D.C. is looking for a good place to take the kids (2- to 5- years-old) for pumpkins and general fall merriment.

We have been to Cherry Hill Farm in the past, which has been great although perhaps more for the older kids (I loved the doughnut shop, myself).

Thanks for any suggestions!

Anne: Here's a list of dozens of pumpkin patches. You can click "Refine Your Search" to narrow the list by area, then click on one to see a more detailed description of its activities. I think you're right that Cherry Hill appeals to an older set with those donuts; also, it specializes in apples, not pumpkins.


Vienna, Va.: Do you have any recommendations for a girl's 5th birthday party (either places to go or things to do at my house)? My daughter loves science, animals, nature and princesses ... but, of course, we want to make sure the kids she invites have fun, too. Thanks.

Maura: Did you know the National Zoo holds birthday parties? The guides are really engaging and will lead you on a tour of your choice. You might want to call and check on availability. Otherwise, if she likes the outdoors, some of these outdoor spots hold parties too, complete with pumpkin patches and hayrides.


Washington, DC: Wanted to share a kid-friendly event-fundraiser with your readers. It's called "Explore the World: Read" and will be held on Friday, Oct. 1, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the National Geographic Society. There will be fun-filled literacy activities for children, caricature artists, jugglers and magicians; kid-friendly foods from around the globe; and networking opportunities for adults.

Special guest readers will include Academy Award-winning actress and author Marlee Matlin, Katy Kelly and Carol Friedman.

Tickets are $100 per adult, $25 per child or $200 for a family of four (two adults, two children). Call 202-673-1602 for tickets and all proceeds benefit Reading Is Fundamental.

Vicki: A good time for a good cause. Thanks for the suggestion. Which reminds me how much fun Explorers Hall is to visit.


Arlington, Va.: Don't know if you can help, but any tips for kid-friendly but interesting restaurants in Boston?

Vicki: We aim to help. We'll pass this question out to the Kids' Table and see what happens.


Alexandria, Va.: Just wanted to submit a recommendation: Art on the Avenue! The multicultural arts festival features children's activities (including scarecrow-making, arts and crafts activities, a kids' pie-baking contest, an open house at the local fire station), a children's entertainment stage and more. And it's all free! Art on the Avenue takes place on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mt. Vernon Avenue in Alexandria, between Bellefonte Avenue and Hume Avenue. Take the free trolley from Braddock Road Metro. For more information, visit www.artontheavenue.com. Thanks!

Vicki: Another good suggestion from a tablematey. Here is more information on Art on the Avenue, and a related event: the Alexandria Arts Safari. The Torpedo Factory Art Center and environs are wonderful entertainment for all ages.


Silver Spring, Md.: My son's 3rd birthday is in early December. Any ideas on places for a party at that time of year? Thanks!

Maura: Well, you'll certainly want to keep it indoors. Maybe even at home. How about a pinata (you could even do a Mexican theme)? Or choose another theme based around one of their favorite things or characters. Maybe some readers can share their success stories?


Silver Spring, Md.: I know it is too early to talk about kid-specific things related to our baseball team. But I hope they keep ticket prices low enough so that families can attend the games. I am looking forward to taking both my kids (5 and 3) to see the new team.

Anne: That would make it all worthwhile, wouldn't it? With all the financial debate and costs surrounding this, I guess we'll have to see. As Mayor Williams says, the new stadium would be "for our kids and families."


Washington, D.C.: If you liked "Finding Nemo" the movie, you'll love "Finding Nemo" on Ice, at the Patriot Center October 20-24.

The show features an international team of award-winning skaters and state-of-the-art special effects, an underwater setting, and artistic, innovative choreography that makes the audience feel like they're joining the fish underneath the Great Barrier Reef on the urgent mission to find Nemo.

Vicki: "Nemo" is at the Patriot Center in October; "Elmo" arrives in December. Keep tickets in mind when a party may be just two or three celebrants.


Vienna, Va.: We are looking for indoor activities in the Tysons Corner area, appropriate for girls under 10, for occasional after-school outings. We usually have to keep our gatherings short (1.5-2 hours), since getting home in time for dinner and homework is always a consideration for everyone.

Maura: It might be a little far, but there's a YMCA in Reston that surely has lots of after-school classes or activities.


Re: December Birthday: Last year for my daughter's 5th birthday (in November) she wanted to have a "snow" birthday party. As there is not usually snow that time of year, we improvised on an indoor version. We made a cake that looked like a snowman (pretty simple with round cake pans, twizzlers for arms, other candies for buttons and face) and had activities like indoor ice skating (paper plates on sock feet sliding around the carpet), making snowflakes, etc. Lots of fun and different from the usual commercial characters thing.

Maura: Sweet ideas. Thanks!


FYI - This Weekend: The Fells Point Festival in Baltimore. Lots to do and see.

Vicki: I think a road trip is half the fun of any adventure -- Annapolis and Baltimore are favorite destinations. This weekend, the Fall Festival at Claude Moore Park in Sterling is calling. Pony rides, anyone?


Washington, D.C.: I see there are fairs: the Virginia State Fair and the Calvert County Fair. Are either worth the travel time?

Anne: These are two I haven't visited yet, so you could be our first scout. Personally, I'd pick Calvert over the Virginia State Fair just because the trip would be a more appealing road trip than bumping down 95. You could add in little stops along the way. A state fair is certainly bigger, but that isn't always better, especially when you have kids in tow. There are several other fall festivals (you'll find some in this list) this weekend, if you're simply hunting for a fair atmosphere. Whatever you choose, please report back at our next discussion on Oct. 13.


Reston, Va.: Hi, I don't see very much chatting today ... so, I'll submit. My youngest turns 6 before Halloween. I was thinking of a Halloween theme ... the kids would love it, but I don't know where to have the party. All of his friends are in Reston/Herndon, so no D.C. for us. We've done the Bowling for other kids, Chuck E. Cheese, gymnastics, just about everything. Any new ideas from the readers? Thanks for all the great info. I just love your chat!!!!

Maura: If costumes aren't too elaborate, the kids might enjoy a party -- with hayrides and corn maizes -- at Herndon's Frying Pan Park.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi. I will be visiting my nieces soon -- ages 5 and 8, and would like to have a little slumber party with them. I'm thinking we could have pizza, and maybe watch a video, or tell a ghost story or two. What are your suggestions? I'm thinking they will fall asleep around 8 (hopefully).

Jen: Since their attention spans may be short, I'd suggest watching a video of a TV show, maybe "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" or one of the less scary "Simpsons" Halloween episodes. Both are available for rent. A movie may be too long or potentially too scary to show them right before bed. Hope that's somewhat helpful.


Upper Marlboro, Md.: The intro to this very informative and interesting Web page states "a toy shop with a 'do touch' policy or a restaurant where pizza is as welcome on the floor ..." I have boys, 3 and 5. They would love not hearing me say "don't touch that, please" and "be careful not to make a mess at the table." Thanks, Renay

Vicki: Many neigborhood toy stores (think Tree Top, Child's Play, etc.) have a table set up to introduce something fun -- or schedule storytellers and craft days. I think it's like those cosmetic counters in department stores: You are welcome to try the "tester" products.

As for restaurants, here's a kid-friendly search return.


Alexandria, Va.: I have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. I'm looking for Halloween events and activities in the area. I know about Boo at the Zoo, but are there any others you can suggest?

Jen: The Halloween Haunted House Workshop at the National Building Museum sounds fun. Does your family have a dog? You could take him or her to the Howloween Dog Talent Show. That gives you two activities for the kids: Creating a costume for the dog, then going to the show.


The Kids' Table: Thanks, everyone for joining in today (guess Dr. Phil didn't have any questions or suggestions). But our Fritz has one, with a fireworks conclusion:

With a name like Germantown, the community's Oktoberfest promises much and delivers a day out more suited for families than hard-core polkaholics. Held at Ridge Road Park, this is really a community festival, with karate demonstrations, the local high school ROTC, Broadway tunes and -- coincidently -- the Heidi und Heimat Echo Band. Kids will love the puppet show, pumpkin carving and fireworks. But there's food and a biergarten, too. Everything begins at 11 a.m. and concludes with fireworks at 9.

Join our gang at the Kids' Table the next time we get together for family planning: Wednesday, Oct. 13, at noon.


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