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Got Plans? With Kids

With the Entertainment Guide Staff
Wednesday, February 2, 2005; 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: This is ridiculous. I (Vicki) shouldn't let a groundhog in Punxsutawney get me down.

Anyway, what's six more weeks of winter? At best (or worst?), that's only 42 more snowstorms. You do the math: Figure assembling (and dismantling to go to the bathroom 5 minutes later) 1 small child, 1 sweater, 1 snowsuit, 2 boots, 1 hat, 1 scarf and 1 mitten -- where's the other one?! -- 3 times a day. Times 2 or 3 little ones. Okay, doing the math was a bad idea.

It's a good thing the next few weeks are full of activities that lighten the winter-weary: Chinese New Year parties and a must-see parade; black history celebrations; a Chocolate Lovers Festival that starts early with pancakes and includes chocolate-covered fairy tales (who doesn't love a good story?).

If this weekend turns out to be a mild one, enjoy the beauty of winter (and less crowds) at the zoo. I feel better already. How 'bout you? Here today to guide us in our travels: Jen, Maura, David, Alexa, Anne and Stacey -- a new (to us) mom at our table here: her specialty, Maryland and toddlers . . .


Manassas, Va.: Does anyone know where there is a movie theater that has a "mom and baby" movie day in the Manassas/Gainesville area? I know of one in Fairfax but it is too far away to drive with a little one. Thanks!

Jen: I'm afraid I don't know of one near Manassas. There's Reel Moms, which I think is the one you mentioned. And there's Rattle and Reel in Bethesda. Anyone know of a similar event closer to Manassas?


Silver Spring, Md.: Let me just start off by saying "thank God" for this chat! I recently had a baby and just discovered that you guys existed. Here's my question -- now that my baby is 2 months, I'm looking for any and all places to take him that would keep him out of the cold. (It's time for us to get out of the house!) Also, my husband and I would like a weekend getaway with our new one and would love any suggestions for inns or resorts that would welcome a 2-month-old within driving distance of D.C. Thanks!

Stacey: Welcome, Silver Spring. We're glad to help. With a 2-month-old, your options really are all about getting you out since all your baby really wants or needs at this point is you. Some options: Mayorga Coffee on Georgia Avenue is extremely baby/kid friendly and has good food. Borders in the new downtown is also another good gathering spot. If you're willing to venture a little farther, try Brookside Gardens or any of the Smithsonians. As your baby gets older, the Natural History Museum has a great mammals exhibit that toddlers love.

You'll also likely benefit from finding some other moms in your area. Try the SilverSpringMoms listserv to find others with babies the same age. Also, Holy Cross Resource Center has two nurses who host a new moms support group. That's how I and other friends in the area have found our playgroups.

As for a weekend getaway, that's a tough one. I have two little ones and still haven't done that! Anyone out there have some suggestions?


Wildwood, N.J.: We are planning a trip to D.C. April 1-3. I fully expect there to be huge crowds, but the date is tied to a conference my husband is attending so it can't be changed. I have a son, 8, a daughter, 7, and a daughter, 4.

What strategies do you suggest to manage the crowds and enjoy the sights. I am considering an evening boat tour as a way to see the monuments and to relax at the end of a long day of touring. What are your thoughts? We are staying in Alexandria at the Embassy Suites across from the King Street Metro. Thanks so much.

Maura: Wildwood, the cherry blossoms could start blooming by April 1-3, so I don't know how much the crowds can be avoided. On the plus side, it's the most beautiful time to visit.

Evening boat tours -- as in the dinner cruises -- are quite pricey, and not even the best way to see the memorials. I'd aim to visit them in the evening on foot. If you are really eager to see the cherry blossoms in daylight, go first thing in the a.m. The Jefferson Memorial -- center of the cherry blossoms frenzy -- opens at 8 a.m. As for museums, I'd try later in the afternoon. Of course on Sunday, keep in mind that Smithsonian museums open at 10:30 a.m. and most of the crowds arrive closer to noon. Hope that helps.


20001: "Our Kids' Table needs you; join us for family planning, Wednesday at noon."

You might want to reconsider your wording in the sentence above. "Family planning" usually refers to something else entirely...

Vicki: That's what makes it so much fun to use -- call it a tired mother's sense of humor.


Rockville, Md.: I was told that strollers were not allowed in the Smithsonian museums downtown because of security concerns? Is that really true? I mean, do they really expect parents to cart around toddlers and infants for an entire day?
Say it ain't so . . . I have a 2-year-old toddler who wants to see the dinosaur exhibit and the insect zoo at the National History Museum. I also have a 6-month-old.

Maura: That didn't seem right to me, so I just called the Smithsonian and checked for you, Rockville. All of the Smithsonian museums allow strollers, except for the Hirshhorn, which restricts them due to all the art on view. The Hirshhorn will provide backpacks for carrying, which might help with the 6-month-old. I hope that helps and you can enjoy your visits.


Washington, D.C.: I need suggestions for a teenage boy -- 14-year-old -- birthday party. I have two months to plan and execute. Help!

Maura: How about rock-climbing walls? Try Sportrock in Rockville for starters. Any other ideas out there for young teens?


Kingstowne, Va.: My sister and two nieces (ages 5 1/2 and 8/1/2) are visiting from Pennsylvania over Presidents' Day weekend. I'm a single guy and am nearly clueless as to what would be fun for them. A daylong Smithsonian visit may be a bit much for all involved. Any special, or fun things going on for the long weekend? Thanks a lot.

Anne: Any new visitor to D.C. should start with a walk on the Mall. The carousel and the herb garden -- with its winding paths -- attract the younger set. The Sackler Museum offers a puppet-making activity to celebrate Chinese New Year so the girls can have a souvenir of their trip. I'd pick one other exhibit at a bigger museum (read: with a cafeteria) to see, depending on their interests: perhaps spaceships at Air and Space, first ladies at American History or mammals at Natural History.


Rockville, Md.: Hi, I just moved here from Mexico City with an 8- and 6-year-old. Am interested in fun activities for them in Spanish, any suggestions? They are bilingual, so there are a lot of alternatives that are not in Spanish, too. Also I am on a low budget so I'm looking for inexpensive performing arts, saw your link to a kids calendar that is very helpful but would be interested in other sites. Thanks

Jen: Here's a list of children's theater events; this should offer some good options. I'd also recommend Teatro de la Luna's Festival of Hispanic Theater; a children's performance at the Mexican Cultural Institute that's part of the festival sounds ideal for you and your kids.


Logan Circle, D.C.: Hi there ... I have some friends visiting from Denmark in mid-March (before cherry blossom season) who are bringing their daughter who will be about 20 months old by then. I'm looking for good kid-friendly museums or activities that would be fun for her. Keep in mind their daughter only understands Danish. Any suggestions?

Maura: Well, some favorites might suffice. A 20-month-old is sure to love the zoo, the Mammal Hall at Natural History, even the Air and Space Museum. If her parents think she might like trains, keep in mind the B&O Railroad Museum reopened in Baltimore.


Dallas, Texas Museums worth seeing this weekend?

Maura: With kids, I'm assuming. Can you help me out here. How old are they?


Arlington, Va.: Hi! Just started seriously dating a guy who has a 6-year-old son. I've met the son a few times and want to spend more time with him so we're all going to dinner later this week. Any recommendations for a kid-friendly fun restaurant we'll all enjoy in the Silver Spring or D.C. area? (I don't want a Chuck E Cheese or the likes) Thanks!!

Stacey: Hi, Arlington. Your options are really unlimited. It completely depends on the kind of food you like. The new Silver Spring downtown has a bunch of decent options, though all are chains: Macaroni Grill, Eggspectation and Austin Grill are the best of that bunch. For the best deli in town, try Parkway. If you like Vietnamese, you can try Saigonnese in Wheaton. The owners there might not claim to be kid-friendly, but my 3-year-old loves the fish tank and they've been extraordinarily friendly to him. One final option: Good Fortune, also in Wheaton, has wonderful dim sum. Just make sure to get there right at 11 on Sundays; otherwise, you'll have to wait for a table.


Washington, D.C.: I wanted to let everyone know about some upcoming musical opportunities that their children could enjoy this summer. Washington National Opera offers two summer programs for students who love to sing, and the auditions are coming up in a few weeks!

The Opera Camp for Kids is for ages 10-14. No prior opera experience is necessary! The program introduces children to the world of opera during the four weeks of camp. Children learn about opera through performing and hands-on experiences in music, drama, movement and the visual arts. Opera Camp 2005 is centered on the preparation and performance of "Brundibar," an opera written for children during WWII, and is enhanced by the inclusion of backstage and costume studio tours, master classes and field trips. The campers will also explore the work's historical and cultural background through a unique collaboration with the United States Holocaust Museum.

Washington National Opera's Opera Institute for Young Singers is a three-week summer program is dedicated to training the young classical singer, age 15-18. Taught by experienced opera professionals, classes include drama, movement, yoga for singers, ear training, sight singing, opera history and Italian diction. Students participate in master classes, opera scenes, individual coachings, and a recital. Students in this program do need some prior musical and singing experience.

Auditions for Camp are Saturday, March 5. Opera Institute auditions are Saturday, Feb. 26. If you'd like more information, or want to schedule an audition, call or e-mail the Education Department of Washington National Opera (202-448-3465 or education-dc-opera.org).

Jen: Just passing this on, folks.


Re 14-year-old's b'day party: Instead of creating a birthday party that takes two months to plan (good grief!), why not take him to volunteer for the day or do something to help out the community? Birthdays don't have to be expensive and filled with gifts; they're so often forgotten a few months later. An experience that teaches him something will last a lifetime.

Maura: Another take.


South Riding, Va.: My sister will be visiting this Saturday with her 13-month-old. We are looking for a fun activity to do that her child and my almost-3-year-old would enjoy. Do you have any suggestions both children would enjoy? Thanks!

Anne: Vicki reminds me that the weather forecast is predicting 51 for a high on Saturday. And after the long freeze it would feel nice to get outside. Have you been to Frying Pan Park? There are trails to toddle on and all sorts of farm animals to see. Mother sheep Heidi, Kibler and Suffolk have produced a slew of baby lambs in the past two weeks, and by the time you visit, there may be new piglets to see.


Dupont Circle, Washington: Hi. I wanted to take my kids to paint pottery -- I know there's a place in Cleveland Park, but I can't remember the name of it. Can you help me?

David: You are probably thinking of Made By You on Wisconsin Avenue. Have a fun time.


Reston, Va.: I have a 14- and a 13-year old staying with me for a bit. Their friends' list is still in the works, so they don't mind being seen out with me! We've covered the museums, and I think they'd like the Chocolate Lovers Festival and the Chinese New Year Parade. Any suggestions for indoor (I'm sure they're okay, but it's too cold for my old bones) stuff they might enjoy?

Maura: The Chocolate Festival and Chinese New Year parade are great ideas. This weekend they might enjoy the World of Wheels show in Baltimore or even the Washington Boat Show at the convention center downtown. And don't forget IMAX flicks are a good indoor bet.


Washington, D.C.: Do you know any natural place to go in this season?

Stacey: Since I don't know the ages of the children you intend to take with you, I'll throw out a couple of options: Some local hiking clubs offer several outdoor hikes in the winter. Shenandoah National Park is beautiful this time of year. You might also try ice skating at the Sculpture Garden if you're simply looking to be active outdoors.


Washington, D.C.: Not so fun, but. ... Any recommendations on where to take a 4-year-old for a haircut? She's determined to keep her ponytail, but needs a trim.

Vicki: Got this one covered: Try Salon Familia off Connecticut Avenue. Any other suggestions?


Washington, D.C.: I'm submitting really early in hopes you will get to this one. I have an 11-almost-12-year-old who has one of those winter b-days coming up that demand an inside party. We have done all the obvious things (rock climbing, bowling more than once!) and she definitely wants to do something active. It will be an all-girls party, and my daughter is begging for laser tag. Where are the places in the D.C. metro area (we are in D.C., so too far out could be a problem) that offer laser-tag parties? Do they even exist? Also, are those games all gun/war oriented or are there any appropriate for preteen girls (who still love tag, but are not big on war)? If not, what other options do I have for a girl who should have been born in May so she could have a biking party? Thanks.

Anne: Most laser tag places are farther out of town. You can read about the theme at each place, but they all involve shooting the other players. What about a skatepark party? Many of those venues allow for inline or roller skating, skateboarding or even freestyle biking.


montgomery village mom: Re: weekend getaway -- I found it rather difficult to accomplish and preferred to get my mom to babysit so that I could grab my husband for an overnight downtown in a D.C. hotel close by -- so if baby really needed me I could get back, but far enough away that I could have some non-kid time.

But for a weekend getaway with baby, I suggest the Delaware beaches in offseason. It's a great time to go, the hotels are really glad to see you and many of the restaurants, etc., are still open. We did this recently with our slightly older children and it was a blast.

Vicki: Always good to hear from you, mvm. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes "just the two of you" is a good idea. And with that and Valentine's Day in mind, our Kim O'Donnel came up with these escape ideas. Also, it's good for us to play tourists in our fair cities -- and don't forget the camera!


Alexandria, Va.: Are there any new moms listservs for those of us in Alexandria?

Stacey: I don't know of any listserv in Alexandria specifically geared to new moms listserv. However, you can try D.C. Urban Moms Listserv. The group is about 5,000 parents in the region and is starting to build sub-groups. There are a large number of people on that list from Virginia. If you're black, try Alexandria Mocha Moms

There are also several MOMS clubs in Alexandria. There's a list on this page about halfway down: http://www.our-kids.com/support_groups.htm


Silver Spring, Md.: Any suggestions about taking a 4- and 6-year-old skiing in the area? Neither of their parents ski, so we would need a good place for the entire family to learn.

Anne: Our ski guide has info on nearby slopes. And, when your kids are a bit older, check out these family ski discounts.


montgomery village mom: For haircuts for the 4-year-old, try any of the cartoon cuts locations.
For the 14-year-old birthday party -- how about bowling at Strike Bethesda or equivalent or roller skating or laser tag or paintball. I figure if you have two months to plan, then the b-day is in April and the weather should be okay for paint ball perhaps. Here's a Web site for laser tag -- haven't tried it but it says they do b-days
And here's a link to a paintball place: http://www.rrpb.com/

For 13-month-old and other toddlers, how about Port Discovery in Baltimore?

Hope that helps!

Maura: So many good ideas. Thanks! I've heard great things about the Cartoon Cuts in Rockville and bowling and paint ball are two more good ideas for the young teens.

Baltimore has great spots for toddlers -- Port Discovery and the Maryland Science Center for starters.


Birthday party suggestions: For a 3-year-old. I thought there was a Washington Post article, but couldn't find it in the archives.

Stacey: Here you go: Birthdays to Remember. Given that you're looking to celebrate a toddler's birthday, you may want to simply try doing a simple activity with a handful of your child's close friends at home -- baking or an art project seem to score well with kids that age.


Weekend Getaways: With a 2-month-old, it's easy, just a little time consuming since you have to stop for snacks. We went to Berkeley Springs, W. Va. (there is a great national park lodge there), Rehobeth, Chincoteague and New York City. If possible, spluge for a two-room suite in your hotel so that you don't have to be completely subsumed by the baby's sleep schedule.

Stacey: Here you go, Silver Spring. Some help for that weekend getaway. Have fun.


The Kids' Table: Looks like it's time to go back to our burrows and hibernate for a couple of weeks. (Phil does get rocked to sleep and tucked back in again, doesn't he?) Thanks so much for joining us at the Kids' Table with your questions and suggestions. Your kids have no idea how lucky they are!!! Come again in two weeks, please, Wednesday, Feb. 16. Happy hearts and flowers day!


Alexandria, Va.: Don't forget about Alexandria's George Washington Parade over President's Weekend. It's great for kids of all ages.

Vicki: Okay, we won't. Bye for now.


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