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Got Plans? With Kids

With the Entertainment Guide Staff
Wednesday, August 18, 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: Welcome to the Kids' Table! I (Vicki) am your host. It's my job to not only make you feel at home (after all, our table is your table), but also to make conversation (Have you checked out the results of the Best Bets 2004 readers' choice survey?) and to nag a bit:
What?! You haven't been to see the Sumatran tigers yet. You do know that your last chance to visit the Capital Children's Museum is this Sunday. Better make reservations for Monarch Magic asap. And if you're going to Iota for Last Train Home's Sunday afternoon concert, be sure and come early - you'll probably want to go to the Arlington County fair, too. Of course, there's also the peach festival - bring a box of wet wipes!! - and the West Virginia state fair. Leave room for the Wiggles.
Yes, the nagging is easy. But mostly I share your questions with our table of gurus. Today that's Maura, our Entertainment Guide editor and museums maven; Anne, our Eventsmeister; Matt, our Style editor and resident dad; Lynette, our Sports and Rec gold medalist; and Jen, our star of stage and screen, the theater and movies sections.
Ready when you are . . .


Ashburn, Va.: I live out near the new Air & Space Museum in Chantilly, Va. And often I take out-of-town visitors to see the museum. It seems that the 5- to 12-year-old crowd will only last about two hours at that museum before losing interest. Is there anything else nearby in Chantilly for this age group? I know of a go-cart track, water park and Manassas battlefield. But other than that I'm drawing a blank.

Lynette: Hi, Ashburn. It sounds like you have the beginnings of a pretty good list there. There's also bowling at Bowl America. And how do you feel about ice skating? You're right next door to Ashburn Ice House. If Herndon's not too far away, your kids might enjoy the farm-themed activities at Frying Pan Park or the railroad memorabilia at Herndon Depot Museum.


Woodbridge, Va.: Hi, I live in Prince William County and my daughter will turn 3 in December. Would you recommend a fun place to celebrate her birthday other than Chuck E. Cheese. I would like to invite about five to six toddlers. Many Thanks.

Jen: Is there a park or something where you could have a nice birthday celebration? In Montgomery County, kids often have parties at Cabin John Park -- maybe there's something similar in Woodbridge? Three seems young to do any of the usual things, like mini-golf or even, for that matter, Chuck E. Cheese. Anyone else have ideas?


Washington: Discovery Creek Children's Museum of Washington is a great place for children up to age 11! It has fantastic family programs -- very hands-on and engaging -- and weekend drop-in hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays). Updated info is always on the museum's Web site: www.discoverycreek.org (click on calendar of events). I hope you will share this great museum with your audience!

Maura: Yes, Discovery Creek is a definite kid-pleaser. Thanks.


Washington: We're looking for a mellow bike/trike trail for our 5-year-old to do some serious trike-ing. It seems like the popular trails are too crowded, and most people don't appreciate sharing the trail with a swerving trike. We usually let our daughter trike along the Southwest Waterfront (where we live), but we're looking for something a little more woods-ey. Thanks!

Lynette: Hi, Washington. This one's a toughy. You might try some of the quieter paths of Rock Creek Park. Is there not a quiet cul-de-sac or empty parking lot nearby where you and your 5-year-old could work on improving riding skills? Okay, that's probably a silly question. It is hard to take an uncertain rider out into a crowd, for them and the crowd. Let's ask our other chatters for suggestions -- any woodsy places in Washington where a 5-year-old will have room to maneuver? Also, you might get in touch with cycling groups like the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club or the Washington Area Bicyclist Association to see if they have any suggestions.


Herndon, Va.: My very active toddler will be celebrating his third birthday on Saturday, Sept. 11. I would like to do something with him besides the ordinary cake and ice cream since we have not put together a big party. This year I did not plan a party, but I have heard from the in-laws they will be coming into town.

Do you know if there are any children's activities that would be taking place during that weekend that would also be entertaining for mature adults and any others we might ask to join us?

Anne: That weekend in September hosts two major family festivals: the Kennedy Center Open House on Sunday and Black Family Reunion on the Mall all weekend long. Both have free performances and activities geared for kids, like the NSO instrument "petting zoo" at the Kennedy Center and double Dutch demos on the Mall. Here are some more kid-friendly ideas for that day.


Morristown, N.J.: My family and kids (ranging 8 years to 3 years) are going down to D.C. this weekend. What are some of the best kid-friendly restaurants (not chains) and is there any special event taking place this weekend that is not to be missed?

Anne: Lucky for you, our readers just voted on their favorite kid-friendly restaurants. Many of these are chains, you'll see. I'd add Rainforest Cafe, my 9-year-old cousin's favorite. D.C. is looking to the past this weekend, the days when residents would take to the country to escape the August heat, so the big festivals going are county fairs. The city slows down in the summer, or anytime when Congress is out of session. If you're game to travel, try August Court Days in Leesburg, at the site where the Declaration of Independence was first read in Virginia.


Bethesda, Md.: I have a busy 19-month-old daughter. I am looking for ideas for activities on the weekends that we can do as a family. The limiting factor is my own disability, making very physical activities difficult. It is hard to chase after her in big playgrounds, for example, and I cannot walk long distances.

Jen: Have you taken her to the Puppet Company Playhouse at Glen Echo? She might also enjoy taking a ride on the carousel afterward. Both of these are fun activities that don't require much in the way of walking.

Lynette: If you'd like to get outdoors, there are some trails specifically designed for people with disabilities. Check out this feature Trails for All.


December Birthday: December, I think, may be too cold for an outdoor park party. But it is close to the holidays. If your house can accommodate it, I'd suggest a cookie-baking party. You could also arrange a nice hike in the woods with a stop off somewhere for cake and hot chocolate.

Even just a party at home with a box full of old clothes for "dress up" games and perhaps a "pretend tea party" afterward with hot chocolate and cake. (sense a trend?)

Jen: You know, it would help if I read our questions more closely. I missed that all-important December detail. Thanks for your excellent suggestions, alert reader.
Another thought: I don't know if this would be past the toddlers' bedtimes, but a number of places in the area host Festivals of Light at holiday time. In Gaithersburg, for example, families can drive their cars through Seneca Creek State Park and see the lights. If you can have hot chocolate or s'mores beforehand, then go right after dusk, that might make for a nice party, too.


The Kids' Table: Looks like my nagging worked. We had very few questions today. You're all out and about. Not to worry if you haven't begun the race; remember the turtle and the hare lesson. And remember to join us the next time we meet at the Kids' Table: noon Wednesday, Sept. 1. We'll mourn the passing of summer and make Labor Day plans. See you then and thanks today for the pleasure of your company.


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