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:
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Kids' Table, where kids at heart (that's us, even the grown-up gurus) make fun plans for the kids in our hearts (that's yours, your nieces, nephews, visiting "grand" and great friends' kids). And from now through the end of the year -- the unofficial "Wheeeee!" season -- that's pretty easy; for now, that's a walk in the park for color; a hayride to a pumpkin patch; a meander through a corn maze; a festival -- even a trip to the beach. (Bring two blankets, one for the sand and one for around the shoulders, and a thermos of hot chocolate.) If apple cider and Halloween aren't on your mind, tell us what is.
Garrett Park, Md.:
Garrett Park here again (it's been a while)
I heard from 3 acquaintances today who all told me of bad experiences at Sunday's Toon Festival at Strathmore.
They all complained of long lines, backed-up traffic, having to park far away in the neighborhood and, worst of all, bad crowd control within the festival.
It was mobbed, and one friend told me that food vendors were set up near the car entrance/exit, so that cars had to slowly break through 1-2 lines of people.
Another friend said the crowds were so bad, she lost her young kid -- could not find her at all for several minutes.
I didn't attend because I've not been impressed by a past cartoon fest there, but then again it had nothing like the mobs I heard about yesterday.
Did any other parents have bad experiences at Strathmore Sunday? Just curious...
Jen: Hi, Garrett Park. Thanks for sharing; I'm sorry to hear about the event. A friend of mine who has a young son told me a similar story about Toon Day (she eventually left out of frustration), so clearly she wasn't alone. I wasn't there so I don't know what happened or who was at fault, but it sounds like very poor organization at the least.
Did other readers have similar experiences with this year's Toon Day, or with previous festivals?
Anything interesting for a 2-year-old going on this weekend in Montgomery County? Need to keep my daughter happy while Dad is out of town.
Jen: Maybe you could take your daughter to Butler's Orchard. Their Pumpkin Festival happens every weekend in October. There are lots of activities for kids, like pony rides, face painting, a maze and crafts. And you can take a hayride out to a pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin; I've done that before and it's fun, especially for little ones. I think Saturday's supposed to be a nice day so this could be a great way to spend it.
Washington D.C. :
Hi. My family is coming into town to visit this weekend -- my siblings are ages 20 and 17. I'm looking for a sports bar in the District (preferably Northwest) where we can watch the UVa/FSU football game with young adults under 21. Suggestions in Arlington would also be welcome. Thank you.
Fritz: Washington, if this were an afternoon game, your lives would be much, much easier. But since kickoff is at 7:45, most bars are going to be into full-on Saturday Night mode -- which means carding at the door. You don't say where your loyalties are, but you might try the Exchange (17th and G), which is a Virginia alumni hangout. Another good option is a hotel bar (they're rarely 21-and-over), like the Grand Slam Sports Bar at the Grand Hyatt at Metro Center -- three big screens, more than two dozen small ones, and a decent local crowd. Call first to make sure the game is on. ESPN is broadcasting the game nationally, which means you can watch it on the 16-foot screen at ESPN Zone downtown (11th and E), but prices are often high.
Hi, not exactly a Got Plans? question, but I was wondering whether anyone knows where to locate used Halloween costumes. My son wants to be Buzz Lightyear for Halloween and I would prefer not to shell out over $30 for one day's worth of wear. Thanks
Jen: You could try thrift stores or ask other parents if they have a previously worn Buzz Lightyear costume you could borrow. You could also make a Buzz Lightyear costume, which you could easily do for less than $30. If all else fails, a visit to your local crafts store, some time and a little imagination might solve the problem.
Of course if anyone knows where to find used costumes, feel free to share.
Help! I'm babysitting ALL DAY for a 5-year-old girl and 2-year-old boy on Saturday. What's something fun, yet simple, that I can do with them in the Rockville area that they will both enjoy?
Jen: Can you take them to Cabin John Park? The playground there is a lot of fun, plus they have miniature train rides that both children might enjoy.
[Editor's Note: A reader shares, "the playground area is closed for the time being while they upgrade the playscape."]
My 7-year-old wants to have a slumber party for her birthday next month but we're not quite ready to take on 15 girls for the night. Anyone have a fun and fabulous party idea for a gaggle of girls in Annapolis?
Matt: Hello Annapolis,
Did you say 15 7-year-old girls? Wow.
You might want to do something simple like a Dance Party. If you want to go retro, you can get disco lights at many stores for a '70s theme. And plenty of compilation CDs include fun songs such as "The Electric Slide," "The Twist," "The Macarena" and "YMCA." And with this many girls, a game of musical chairs should be fun.
At this time of year, you could do a costume party and allow the girls to wear their Halloween outfits. You can still dance as well as bob for apples and tell some classic ghost stories. You could also just stick with a fall theme and use a small pumpkin to play "hot potato," buy kits to decorate pumpkins or buy a few bales of hay to make scarecrows.
You could also call around to area pumpkin patches or mazes. Often the patches include a hayride and a chance to pick out a pumpkin. Here is a recent story from The Post's Weekend section.
If you want to get out of the house, bowling might not be a bad option. Most venues have packages that include food and drinks, and you can bring your own cake. And a roller skating rink is another facility that can handle two dozen girls. The rinks usually supply at least a table for gifts.
Annapolis also has two decent movie theaters, which usually have birthday-party packages.
Andrews AFB, Md.:
Hi. Do you know of any good, general parenting classes particularly for parents of infants? I have an 8-month-old and I'm looking for something that would help me particularly understand the psychology of these little ones. Does anyone else know of any? Or any good books even? There are so many out there, I don't know where to go.
Anne: For classes, you might try a hospital near you. Southern Maryland Hospital Center offers a class called First Year of Life for $35. Call 301-877-5740 to register or 301-868-8000, Ext. 5700, for more info. I've also heard good things about the listserv DC Urban Moms. Parents, I bet you have good ideas for books. Let's hear your suggestions.
College Park Aviation Museum:
We are looking forward to some (not-so) spooky fun at the College Park Aviation Museum's annual Flight Night Celebration on Oct. 30!
This is the sixth annual Flight Night, which features aviation-themed and Halloween-themed arts and crafts, a haunted hayride, a storyteller, face painting and balloon animals. Costumes are encouraged! The museum is decorated for Halloween and looks completely different at night. The event is from 7 to 9 p.m. All tickets are $4.
Jen: Thanks for the Flight Night plug. Sounds like a fun, non-scary family activity.
First off, let me say how much I enjoy the chat. My 5-year-old daughter went to a summer camp a couple of months ago where they had horseback riding, and she wants to go horseback riding this fall. Is there any place you'd suggest for us to go where we can all go riding for several hours?
Anne: I think it's often hard to find a horseback riding place that will organize a trail ride for kids that young. You might have an easier time finding pony rides. Readers, any suggestions?
Unfortunately, we, too, found the Cartoonfest to be utterly disorganized. The worst part was waiting in line to have our daughter's picture taken with "Dora the Explorer" and some of the other cartoon characters.
$2 tickets were required for the picture, but there's no complaint with the cost. It was the disorganized lines to the photo tents, and wondering why these lines were located in the most congested part of the grounds.
First we were told to go in one line, that Dora would be there for 20 minutes. But that line was being cut off after a certain number of photos. However, Dora was listed on the schedule as appearing at a different photo tent for the following 20 minutes. So we got in that line. Somebody came by to hand out one color of tickets to only the first 40 people in line (fortunately, we were #33). We were told that somebody else would shortly come by to collect the blue tickets and replace them with the magical green tickets with Dora's name on them. The person never came. People tried to cut in line. My wife went to the front of the line to speak with the attendant, who promised us that our child would have her picture taken. While the attendant did, indeed, keep her promise, I was left wondering why it took two adults to fight through so much disorganization and confusion to get a picture that we had, after all, paid for.
Please, Cartoonfest and Comcast, we really appreciate that you have put together this event. Your goodwill with this event is clear, I believe. But please, please, please get your act together. There is no excuse for this disorganization.
Jen: How frustrating. Sounds like you were persistent enough to make sure you got the photo taken. I'm guessing other parents probably just got fed up and left, which likely resulted in some pretty disappointed children.
Hopefully the organizers are aware of these complaints and will rectify things for next year's event.
Hi, visiting from Holland next Monday and Tuesday, the 18th and 19th, with two kids (9 and 7), we would like them to see as much as possible.
How do we get onto a tour of the White House?
Matt: Dear Holland,
It appears that a tour next week will not be possible.
According to the White House Web site: Public tours of the White House are available for groups of 10 or more people. Requests must be submitted through one's Member of Congress and are accepted up to six months in advance. ... For the most current tour information, please call the 24-hour line at 202-456-7041.
However, the White House Visitor Center at the southeast corner of 15th and E streets features many aspects of the White House, including its architecture, furnishings, first families, social events, and relations with the press and world leaders, as well as a 30-minute video.
And visiting the many monuments and Smithsonian museums should keep you busy during those two days.
I hope you have a great visit.
I spend all year doing the "work" related to the Christmas holidays (gift shopping and wrapping, etc.), so that the month of December can be devoted to doing fun holiday things with my kids. I have a 2 1/2-year-old and a 5-month-old -- any ideas of fun things to do in the month of December? It would be great to start planning ahead, especially if some things require tickets to be purchased in advance. Thanks for any suggestions!
Dixie: Dear Reston: Good for you to be able to nurture the true holiday spirit in December. I think what will enchant children the age of yours are lights, music, color. Reston's Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting
comes a bit early, the day after Thanksgiving. Historic Fairfax lights its tree on Dec. 4 with daylong family activities. On weekend evenings until the 19th you can visit that tree in the Kitty Pozer Garden, which will be decorated with thousands of lights, and also visit Santa and make s'mores around the fireplace. Several sites create an environment of lights around the holidays. I'm remembering Brookside Gardens in Maryland for one.
A shortened production of "Nutcracker" would also work.
Once you have filled the mind of your 2-year-old with visions of sugarplums, your imaginations will be happy on warm days at home, replicating the taste and smell of cider, making colorful ornaments to hang on the tree, singing the jingles and reading the Christmas story.
Junior League of Northern Virginia:
The Junior League of Northern Virginia (JLNV) is gearing up for "The Enchanted Forest," a holiday festival to delight all ages! It's a fabulous event for kids, with all proceeds benefiting homeless and at-risk children in Northern Virginia.
Scheduled for Saturday and Sunday , Nov. 20 and 21, at the Tysons Corner DoubleTree Hotel, the Enchanted Forest features a forest of 100+ themed holiday trees, a gingerbread village, entertainment, children's arts and crafts, photos with Santa and entertainment for all ages.
This year, there are several "special events" for the kids ... including Breakfast with Santa, Cocoa & Cookies with the Snow Fairy Princess (That's Miss Virginia 2004!), and Sundaes with Santa. Advanced reservations are required for these special events, so if you're interested, leave a message on our hotline at 703-848-2884, Ext. 4, and someone will return your call.
Dixie: And more December holiday plans . . .
My husband remembers going to pick apples at an orchard just north of Baltimore. After the picking you could buy a fresh bag of warm mini-donuts and warm apple cider. I've checked around but can't find this mythical orchard-bakery. Any ideas where it might be? Or is there an orchard that sells warm donuts and cider closer to D.C.?
Anne: Is Weber's Farm the one you're thinking of? They don't seem to have donuts anymore, but they sure have a lot of pies. Here are some apple orchards to check, as well as pick-your-own pumpkin patches that are good candidates. Cherry Hill Farm sells donuts and cider, and it's probably closer for you.
I'd like to take the kids to a real farm to pick our Thanksgiving turkey. I want them to understand how farms and food work, and I think the fresh, small farm-raised turkey will taste better. Are there any farms nearby that will let us pick our own turkey? How far in advance do we need to go?
Kim: I have not come across a pick-your-own-turkey option in this area. The closest thing you'll get to that idea is at your local farm market, where you can place an order for a turkey raised on a nearby farm. Farmers are very resourceful people, so dont' be shy about asking if they do tours or know of other farms that do.
Help!! I need to entertain a bunch of teenagers and young adults and plan on taking them to a cornfield maze. Where's the best in the area that's within an hour from D.C. and has a good pumpkin patch, too. Any comments on Temple Hall Farm?
Anne: Temple Hall Farm's corn maze definitely got our attention when this year's theme was announced. It's the Joe Gibbs Corn Maze, so if your teenagers are Redskins fans, they might find that theme as outstanding as I do. There are dozens of corn mazes, but I suspect Winterbrook Farms may be the one for you, because of its pumpkin cannon and the fact that it's open after dark.
Hi! I am a new mommy in the Northern Virginia area and would like to know what to do with my 1-year-old during the week (besides going to the mall). Is there any outdoor activity, baby-friendly restaurant, new mommies support group, any upcoming activity or creative suggestion? Thanks so much for thinking about families and their children. Keep up the good work!
Dixie: Hello, Sterling. The Reel Moms Film Series at some Loews theaters feature first-run flicks for people with little ones. The Fairfax Square Loews is near Tysons Corner. Most casual restaurants and most chains are little-people friendly and the Washington Post local editions will have a weekly calendar of what is happening in your corner. Here is the Fairfax County calendar, for instance, and here is the page for the Loudoun County Extra.
You should also use our places and events search box to find upcoming events that match your interests. Have a good time.
Books About Infants:
"What's Going on in There," by Lisa Elliot. It's a good book about brain development, from in the womb to age 5. It really helps you understand your child and how the brain's stage of development affects their behavior.
Anne: Thanks for the suggestion. Also, a new mom I know likes the book "Operating Instructions" by Anne Lamott. It's not by medical professionals though, it's a journal of a regular mom's experiences.
This weekend Reston Town Center is having a big production for fall. Pumpkin patch, hayrides, etc., for all the kids. Just an FYI!
Anne: It sure is. We have the Autumn Adventure on our site already. And an FYI for those of you who would like to let us know about an event: follow this link for details.
Landmark, Alexandria, Va.:
Is it too early to ask about Halloween? My two nieces (6 and 3) will be in town on Halloween and I am not sure my condo will have trick-or-treating. Are there any city-sponsored events that they can dress up for and go to? Thanks for the help!
Dixie: Hi, Landmark. Nice of you to look ahead for them. First check with your condo about its practice and with your local malls. Stores often hand out treats on Halloween. Alexandria has a family-friendly event that sounds fun. Check it out. There is a fee and advance tickets are available. Happy haunting.
Montgomery Village Mom:
My two favorite books and ones I give to all new moms are "Child of Mine," edited by Christina Kline (essays on becoming a mom) and "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child," by Marc Weissbluth. It talks a lot about sleep and brain development.
Hope that helps.
Also I second checking local hospitals for good classes.
Dixie: Thanks, for two suggestions -- great baby shower gifts, too.
For the mother doing a birthday party for 7-year-old girls, my daughter (who is now 7) was invited to a party that was a "fake" sleepover. The girls all brought PJs and sleeping bags and changed when they got there. They ate pizza, played games, told scary stories, etc., then all went home at 9 and slept in their own beds. Since many of them were not ready for a real sleepover, they loved it!
Dixie: A good idea. Thank you.
Hey, guys . . . Just wanted to let everyone know, a co-worker of mine is involved with a program called Puddlejumpers at the Hidden Pond Nature Center. This Saturday (1 to 2 p.m.), they will be speaking about bats and will have different children activities.
Dixie: And here's more info on Hidden Pond Nature Center.
The Kids' Table:
Whoa! It was fall-brisk today. Thanks for your time, your questions and your excellent ideas. Hope you've all signed up for the Entertainment e-mail -- it arrives every Thursday -- another chance for a good idea or two. And one more good idea: Join us at the Kids' Table next time, Wednesday, Oct. 27, at noon. See you then!