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Got Plans? With Kids

With the Entertainment Guide Staff
Wednesday, September 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.

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: Indian summer. In Washington this fall, that expression has a whole new meaning. And while you may not want to brave the crowds -- papoose and all -- for next week's opening-day ceremonies of the National Museum of the American Indian, you shouldn't miss out on the Mall's First Americans Festival events (Tuesday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 26).

But where are my manners!? Here I (Vicki) am telling you what to do (there are stacks of book festivals) and where to go (Wolf Trap's International Children's Festival, with a stop before or after to see the model trains at the Vienna Railroad Station) without so much as a "Hello, how are you?"

Hello! And how would you like to go to the zoo for a Fiesta Musical?

The Kids' Table -- all of you and Anne, Jen, Maura, Matt and more gurus -- is ready with ideas for rain (I'm afraid) and shine (let's hope).


Old Town Alexandria: My son turns 6 this year, the day before Halloween. I want to take him and a few of his crazy friends somewhere for a party. I am so tired of video games! I want them to have fun and learn at the same time. I'm looking for a cool place where they can have a party and have fun.

Jen: If you don't mind having the party the weekend before, "Boo at the Zoo" might be a fun and educational option for a birthday party. (Reserve quickly.) Anyone else have ideas?


Arlington, Va.: I have a wonderful option for parents who want their pool-loving kids to have fun and get excercise during the winter months. Join a synchronized swimming team! There are three teams in the D.C. area (Arlington, Laurel, Fairfax) and they are all looking for swimmers who are excited to learn a new skill. For more information, people can go to http://www.usasynchro.org/. I'm a huge fan of the sport and I'd love to spread the word to other parents whose kids might enjoy being on a team.

Vicki: After the Olympics -- and despite the Aflac commercial -- we all take the sport seriously. Thanks for the suggestion.


Silver Spring, Md.: Does anyone have any ideas for a birthday party at a firehouse, either in Montgomery County or Northwest DC? Thanks!

Jen: I think the Bethesda-Chevy Chase firehouse on Old Georgetown Road may have room for parties and such. It's a pretty large building and it's in a relatively convenient area. I would start there and see what you can find out.


Springfield, Va.: I have a nephew visiting this weekend, he is almost 4 and it is his first time here. I think we will be in D.C. all day on Sunday, any suggestions other than Mammal Hall? Also, they are driving from NYC and will arrive Saturday early afternoon. What can we do that doesn't involve much more driving on that day? Generous George's? I have no kids so I am flying blind. Help!!!

Jen: This Saturday is Family Day at the new Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. That's a bit of a drive from Springfield, but might be something to consider. Alternatively, you could visit Air and Space in D.C. on Sunday. Honestly, when my nephew (who's also 4) recently visited, all he wanted to do was ride the Metro. Just doing that, no matter where you're headed, might be fun for your nephew, too.


Boyds, Md.: Hi. We're thinking of taking our girls (ages 3 and 5) camping at or around Cunningham Falls in the next few weeks. Can anyone recommend some fun fall activities (i.e., pumpkin picking or fruit picking, hiking, etc.)? Thanks in advance.

Anne: The staff at Cunningham Falls can easily recommend hikes for little legs -- I'm sure you know about the super easy half-mile hike to the falls. If you plan your trip for Saturday, Oct. 2, downtown Frederick will serve up a slew of kids activities in the annual "In the Street" festival along Market Street. It starts with a parade at 10:30 a.m., and there's eight blocks worth of music, performances and crafts -- perfect for your little ones. You can paint your own pumpkin there. Brookfield Pumpkins is an ideal fall stop for very little ones -- there's a free hayride to the pumpkin patch, a petting zoo, pools of shelled corn to play in and face painting.


Olney: A fun thing to do with the kids on the upcoming crisp fall weekends ... Letterboxing! Letterboxing is a lovely "treasure hunt" and hike in the park. Go to www.letterboxing.org to find your set of instructions. Take a blank notepad, a rubber stamp and stamp-pad with you on your hike. When you locate the "treasure" -- which is usually a ziploc bag or box with another pad and rubber stamp in it -- you stamp your pad with their stamp and their pad with your stamp. Occasionally pads and stamps do go missing; and if the Web site has been notified, the instructions will say "missing" or MIA so you don't go on that hunt. Many of the local parks have letterboxes.

This also makes a great leg-stretch when you're going on a long car ride. We do a 14-hour trip to the in-laws (two days) and frequently plan an hour stop for this to let the kids stretch and hopefully tire them out a bit!

Anne: Great idea, Olney. This site can can help newbies get started.


Niece in Town: My 6-year-old niece is going to be in town this weekend and since Saturday is going to be dreary, any ideas for what we can do? She's pretty active, loves to play games, and I'd rather not take her to the movies. Please help!

Jen: Does she like arts and crafts? Maybe you could take her to a pottery-making place, like a Made By You? I'm not sure where you live, but there's also a place in Bethesda called Yoga Tales that offers yoga classes for children. Normally I think you have to sign-up for a multiple-week session, but maybe they'd let your niece be a one-time-only walk-in participant. It's worth calling to find out, if that interests you.


Washington: We took our daughters to the Turkish festival last year and they tried paper marbling for the first time and they LOVED IT! Almost as much as my husband and I loved the food. The girls have been looking forward to this year's event for months. If you are looking for somewhere to take your children on Sunday, try the Turkish festival. Admission is free and there is plenty to do.

Anne: Thanks for the suggestion, Washington. This weekend is prime time for festivals. The Turkish Festival is Sunday at Freedom Plaza as is the Scottish Heritage Festival in Alexandria, just one of many others.


McLean, Va.: What are the best parks for the 5- to 8-year-old boys in Virginia or Maryland? I find that many parks are equiped for attracting the 1- to 5-year-olds. Where can the big boys play?

Anne: Readers, any recommendations for older kids? How about a community center's climbing wall? I think Rockville offers a climbing gym for kids to use.


National Building Museum, Washington: Here's a heads-up for great family fun this Saturday (10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the National Building Museum -- our Festival of the Building Arts. Practice your nail-driving skills, lay brick, create pipe sculptures, help build a log cabin and climb aboard trucks, cranes and concrete mixers at a heavy construction equipment petting zoo. In addition to the 30 different hands-on activities, Norm Abram from the "This Old House" television show will speak at 11:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. Rain or shine. Free hard hats for all kids. Visit www.nbm.org for more details.

Vicki: The National Building Museum is always a favorite destination for hands-on activities; and the free hard hats work as umbrellas, too, don't they?


Bethesda, Md.: Live in Bethesda, but desperately want to take niece mini-golfing this month. What mini-golf options are there near here?

Jen: The one closest to you is the White Flint mini-golf, right next to the White Flint Metro. It's a fun course, but may be a little difficult for very young mini-golfers. If you're seeking something more kid-oriented, the course at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg is also a good one. It's on 355, not far from 270, so it's pretty easy to access.


Fort Washington, Md.: Hi! I am a mother of a 5-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy. I am looking for a place that I can take them horseback riding and afterward have a picnic. I would want to make a day of it. My husband who normally works on Saturdays would not be able to go with us so I would be solo. I don't mind driving and cost is not an issue for a nice place.

Anne: I doubt many trail ride operations will allow kids that young, even if your kids have some riding experience. Have you considered a place with pony rides? You could visit the Old Maryland Farm at Watkins Park. Near you, Oxon Hill Farm is a fine place for picnics, too.


The Kids' Table: We have had some snafus at the Kids' Table today. It was kind of like having the tablecloth pulled out from under the set table UNSUCCESSFULLY. (We are surrounded in broken dishes.) Thanks for being as patient with us as you are with your children!! And please come back next time -- snafu-free Sept. 29.


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