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Got Plans? With Kids

With the Entertainment Guide Staff
washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, December 15, 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.

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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.

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The Kids' Table: Hi, and thanks for joining us at the Kids' Table. We know that a brunch and/or visit with Santa is stiff competition for us at this time of year (a good thing for us it has to be dark to enjoy the festive light displays).

With so many events to choose from and so little time (arghhh!) maybe our gang can zero in on the crème de la crème of holiday desserts -- or at least have you step away from the fruitcake so that no one gets hurt.

Before the end of the year, in a little more than two weeks (arghhhh!!), I (Vicki) like the idea of a trip to St. Mary's -- sounds like a great escape from the malls and the 21st century and yet in keeping with the holiday season -- to see the Christmas Doll and Train Exhibit. Go back to when kids wished for toys with batteries not included.

I also like a Tuesday or Wednesday tea (at 1) at Strathmore Hall, combined with a visit to the miniature art exhibit. Let your kids admire paintings and sculpture that, like them, are pint-size works of art.

What direction do you want to take? Here to help guide our sleigh today: Alexa, Fritz, David and Dixie.

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College Park Aviation Museum: We are celebrating the holiday spirit at the College Park Aviation Museum!

Santa flew in two weeks ago courtesy of the Prince George's County Police Helicopter Unit, who were kind enough to give the reindeer a chance to take a break before the big day! The event was tremendous fun and was just the beginning of our holiday season.

Starting on Saturday, Dec. 18, we are hosting the Planes and Trains Model Train Exhibit of the National Capital Trackers, a model train group. This is the second year we're hosting this exhibit and it's a lot of fun. It will be at the museum until Sunday, Dec. 26, during museum hours (10-5 daily). We are closed on Christmas Day.

In addition to our special events, we offer group tours for school groups, scouts, moms clubs and any other kind of organization. We are happy to customize the tour to your needs -- just give us a call to schedule at 301-864-6029.

Happy Holidays!

Vicki: Thanks for taking such good care of our travel plans to the College Park Aviation Museum.

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Herndon, Va.: Any suggestions on fun places to take a 6-year-old boy and his arthritic grandmother on Dec. 26? Thanks.

Alexa: What about a drive-through light display in the evening and a visit to the movies during the day. Has he seen the Polar Express? Does he like model trains? The one at the U.S. Botanic Garden is said to be superb this year. There's an article on it in tomorrow's Home section.

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Train exhibit at Union Station: Does anyone know what the Christmas in Norway train exhibit at Union Station is like? My 4-year-old loves trains, and I wondered if this might be fun for him. Also, is it still on?

Fritz: The model train exhibit -- which runs through a big Norwegian landscape with villages and mountains -- is on display daily through Jan. 9. Avoid rush hour at all costs.

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Vienna, Va.: Hi. I will have family coming down from Texas and staying with us for 10 days during the holidays. Can you suggest various forms of entertainment and places where we can take their kids (ages 4 and 6) and mine (ages 9 and 14), considering the age gap? Thanks.

David: You might want head down to the Ellipse for the Pageant of Peace one evening. The National Christmas Tree is the main attraction there, and there is entertainment every night, usually high school marching bands/choruses. There are always the kid-friendly museums, such as the Air and Space Museum or the Natural History Museum, both of which have Imax theaters that kids can enjoy. You could always take them out for a day of ice skating.

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Washington DC: Hello. Submitting early -- hope you can help. Some good friends are coming out of town to spend a few days with me. They're bringing their 1-year-old, who is generally quite well behaved. Any ideas of baby-friendly activities in D.C. this time of year? I'm thinking she's too young to really appreciate the museums, although she might put up with them for a while. Also, do you know of any restaraunts (thinking Zaytina, Jaleo, etc.) that are particulary friendly to families with small kids? We're willing to eat early. Thanks!

Alexa: In my experience, 1-year-olds really need managing rather than occupying because anything, at that age, is interesting -- Metro rides, trips to supermarkets, a place to run about. As for a nice place to eat, I'd steer toward Jaleo before Zaytinya though both are part-owned by Jose Andres and the Wilders who are all very family-friendly. Going early is always key when kids are in tow.

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Washington: Hi. Thanks for great tips! Can you recommend a good place (besides Union Station) for a Danish kid who just LOVES trains?
Thank you!

Dixie: Has he taken a ride with Mr. and Mrs. Claus? The Holly Trolleyfest closes this weekend -- last chance at all aboard.

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Washington My niece is 2 1/2 and she and her parents are coming this weekend to spend a week with me in D.C.! I was wondering if you know of any restaurants where they have play areas for children?

Alexa: I'd better throw this out to the gallery because aside from (aargh) Chuck E Cheese, I don't. Can anyone help us? There is also a hotel restaurant in D.C. that whisks kiddiwinks off to watch cartoons in a special video room. But for the life of me, I can't remember which one it is. Yikes. Someone to the rescue!

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Alexandria, Va.: Any thoughts about a good activity with an almost 2-year-old this weekend? She's pretty easy going; it could be inside or outside (bundled up), but it often seems like most activities around the holidays might be good for 3 and up.
Thank you!!

Oh, and just to add something to the conversation, another movie theater has started hosting special performances for moms and babies -- the Old Town Theater on King Street in Alexandria -- I think it is on Monday afternoons.

David: The previously mentioned holiday light displays could be fun. If the weather is nice and you just want to walk around a bit, you might try Georgetown's Festival of Trees, which is a self-guided tour of the more than 50 decorated trees in the area.

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More Trains: Slipping past our collective notice--

The B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore quietly re-opened the weekend of Nov. 15. We bought a family membership (family of four pays for itself in two visits) and attended. For my train-fan son, it was like visiting a long-lost friend.

They are decked out for the holidays and are running a Santa train on weekends. Not all of the exhibits are complete and they are debating as to whether they will let people climb onto the antique steam engines the way they used to do.

The old model display is now in a restored coach outside of the roundhouse.

Grand reopening is Memorial Day Weekend 2005.

Dixie: Wonderful! Thanks for the firsthand info on the B&O Railroad Museum.

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Nokesville, Va.: Does anyone know where there are breakfast/brunch with Santa events or other great holiday happenings (besides the Miracle of Lights at Bull Run Park) in the Prince William, Va. (Manassas, Nokesville) area -- or even Centreville/Fairfax region? My son is 3 and something on Friday, Dec. 17, or a weekend day before Christmas would be great! Thank you.

David: I'm not finding too much, but the final days of Fairfax's Festival of Lights and Carols are Saturday and Sunday. Santa will be there and visitors can make s'mores by the yule log and sip hot cider to keep warm. It is from 5 to 8 p.m., though, not during the day. Any other ideas out there?

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Gaithersburg, Md.: One suggestion for the person with the company coming (including 2 1/2-year-old), is to plan a late dinner at the house (you can even do take-out or delivery) after the child has gone to bed. That way the adults can have grown-up conversation in a quiet environment.

Other then that, there are restaurants that are more/less kid friendly, but all I've seen is places that have things to play at the table. (My son is approximately same age.)

Alexa: Yes, yes, yes. A late dinner.

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The Kids' Table: Thanks for being part of the Kids' Table crowd this afternoon, and please come back for our next gathering -- Dec. 29 at noon. We'll get in those last-minute 2004 activities and plan for 2005. (And answers to some great questions we couldn't get to today.) P.S. for young visitors and family members: Don't forget about Young Planetarium offered at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center.

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