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Attractions for the Young and the Young at Heart

In addition to fun at the visitor center, the Goddard Space Flight Center offers a five-day summer institute designed for middle-school girls to explore careers as engineers, mathematicians, scientists and researchers. The program is from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 27 to July 1. The program is free, but participants are responsible for personal expenses and daily transportation. For information and directions, call 301-286-9041.

Watkins Regional Park

The Upper Marlboro park is popular for many things: its playground, its seasonal, 45-animal merry-go-round, its miniature golf course and its train, the Watkins Express, which gives scenic rides through the park's 850 acres.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt opened its gates in July for a Community Day event. (Photo Courtesy Of Nasa)

Also in the park are the Old Maryland Farm and the Watkins Nature Center. On the farm, visitors can interact with live animals or take hayrides and pony rides. Hayrides are available from 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays and pony rides are available from 1 to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays. From April through August, hayrides are also available from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays. Pony rides are available during that time of year from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Pony riders must be at least 2 years old; the cost is $2 per ride. Hayrides are open to everyone and cost $1 per person.

The nature center has native owls, hawks, reptiles and amphibians; an exhibition in "Discovery Cottage" that allows children to pretend they are naturalists; a songbird feeding area; and a squirrel gym that showcases such tricks as the animals eating corn on the run.

Watkins Regional Park, 301 Watkins Park Dr., Upper Marlboro. The park and nature center are free. A single carousel ride and train ride costs $1 for county residents and $1.25 for nonresidents. A game of mini-golf is $3 for residents and $3.50 for nonresidents. Call 301-218-6700 for information.

College Park Aviation Museum

Whether it's interactive exhibitions or an animatronic Wilbur Wright talking about teaching two young students to fly, the 27,000-square-foot historic museum offers plenty for children to do.

For $1, the museum offers a simulated flight. With a joystick in hand, kids can watch a plasma screen and pretend they are flying around College Park.

Frequent events for school-age children include model airplane, paper airplane and kite-making workshops; aviation crafts; and pilot-led experiments showing the principles of flight. In the past year, PBS's popular character, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, and a flying Santa have made special appearances. There are activities for children of elementary school age, such as decorating kites, building and painting wooden model airplanes or watching an aviation-related film, on days when county schools are not in session and regularly throughout the summer.

A preschool learning club, the Peter Pan Club, allows children ages 3 to 5 to listen to aviation stories and make crafts such as tissue-paper butterflies or wind chimes. It is held on the second and fourth Thursdays of every month.

Activities generally are free with museum admission of $4; seniors, $3; and children, $2. The museum is at 1985 Cpl. Frank Scott Dr., College Park. 301-864-6029.

Six Flags America

Upon entrance to Six Flags America, children can meet Looney Tunes characters such as Marvin the Martian, Porky Pig, Wile E. Coyote, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Tweety. The park is filled with games, stage shows, roller coasters and a dozen scaled-down versions of the big coasters in the Looney Tunes Movie Town section.

Children not big enough for the park's adult rides can choose alternatives such as mini-bumper cars, trains, swings and a playground.

Three new attractions have come to the amusement park, including the aquatic slide Tornado, the inner-tube experience Bahama Blast, and a new interactive kids section called Buccaneer Beach. The Tornado is a 560-foot household funnel turned on its side that spits kids out into a pool. The Bahama Blast is a tube ride that takes four passengers twisting and splashing down 517 feet with triple dips in the middle.

The Buccaneer Beach is a 10,000-square-foot pool for kids, complete with a pirate ship and interactive water features.

Six Flags is open from April to October. It is on Route 214 in Largo, five miles east of the Beltway. Daily entrance is $39.99 for adults; $28.99 for senior citizens, guests with disabilities and kids under 54 inches; free for children age 3 and younger. Parking is $10 per car. Call 301-249-1500 for days and hours of operation, which vary.

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