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Got Plans?
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Got Plans? With Kids
With the Entertainment Guide Staff

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2003; Noon ET

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.

The transcript follows.

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.

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: Everybody out of the pool, please, it’s time for our discussion. (Is irrational conversation one of the first symptoms of Too Much Snow Syndrome?) Actually an indoor, heated pool is not a bad idea – especially if it’s near Metro: Take the Green Line to the kids’ playground in the Rollingcrest-Chillum Splash Pool.

Any activity near a Metro station is probably our best bet for getting out and about these days without a dog team. On the Red Line, the White Flint Mall in Rockville has Imagination Stage, movies, Dave & Buster's for the very, very, very old kids. Take the Red Line downtown to the National Building Museum or Union Station and its selection of movies. Venture on the Blue and Orange lines to the Smithsonian, you’ll find orchids and butterflies as close as the Arts and Industries Building. Of course if you make your way to Tysons Corner, you can have lunch, entertainment and humidity at the Rainforest Cafe. Tell us where you’ve been and/or where you’re going to make the most of the snow or do your utmost to get through it, around it, over it. Here at the Kids’ Table in a puddle of dripping mittens and wet socks: Anne, Matt, Maura, Lynette and me, Vicki.

McLean, Va.: My son's twelfth birthday is coming up in early March and I want to treat him and the boys in his class to something other than Ultrazone or entertainment of that ilk. The problem is the time of year, which usually precludes planning something outdoors. Do you have any suggestions? I would like to do something new and different, that is still "cool." Thanks,

The Kids' Table: Hi Nancy, and good for you, planning ahead like this. I (Lynette) am afraid to make any predictions about March weather (or the weather tomorrow, for that matter). Have no fear, though. There are plenty of options for active indoor parties. Have you considered rock climbing? Sportrock, which has locations in Rockville, Alexandria and Sterling, offers birthday parties for kids on the weekend. The cost is $25 per participant, with three to four weeks advance registration recommended. They offer a 4-to-1 student to instructor ratio and use of a party room after 1 1/2 hours of climbing. Friday night is kids night whether or not you have a birthday, at a cost of $20 each. Participants must be at least 6 and guardian-signed liability waivers are required for all children.
Another active indoor option might be a swimming party available Saturday evenings at Montgomery Aquatic Center. If you prefer to do something at home, there are companies that will (for a fee, of course) send Batman, a pirate, magician or mime to your house to do the entertaining for you. Hope these suggestions help.

Bethesda, Md.: Gang, love your chat. Wanted to share our recent experience at Exploraworld in Columbia, trying to escape the cold. Unfortunately we were really disapointed! The review you have on this site is glowing, but I suspect this indoor playplace has gone dramatically downhill since it first opened. Toys are really sparse-many of the "rooms" are simply empty -- and the toys still there are terribly beat up, faded, and torn. The lighting is terrible, so many of the outer play areas are very dim and uninviting. The "medieval castle" climb and ball pit is very small, and has only one entrance for too many kids. The fire engine was interesting, but all-n-all I'd give this place a big thumbs down. It didn't hold my 2 and 1/2 daughter's interest for long, and wasn't worth the money.

The Kids' Table: Hi, Bethesda, we're sorry you had such a bad experience. We may need to give ExploraWorld Columbia another look. As an alternative that isn't too far away, you might try the Maryland Science Center at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which is definitely hands on and loads of fun. The Capital Children's Museum (near Union Station) is another option. And if you're in Annapolis, there's always the Chesapeake Children's Museum, which is a smaller facility but only costs $3 admission. Thanks, Lynette

Alexandria, Va.: Hi there! I have a question for you and the chatters. My sister and I are hosting a 50th birthday party for our mother next weekend. We've invited our mom's friends and their families and we expect there to be about six or seven kids ranging in ages from eight to 15 at the party. Does anyone have any suggestions for entertaining these kids? We likely won't have a lot of room, so we can't really set up a craft table or anything, but we'd feel bad just plopping them in front of the tv too. All ideas are appreciated! Thanks!

The Kids' Table: Hi Alexandria. I might set up a range of rotating activites to keep these kids busy. Try and set up a comfortable space for them, craft table or not, and be sure to have food that the kids will enjoy eating. There are certainly board games to suit your age group (try Apples to Apples for kids). And a few videos on hand could be a good safety net. Any readers out there with more ideas? -- Maura

Arlington, Va.: The little sweetheart had her heart set on seeing Peter and the Wolf at Kennedy Center on Sunday but it was snowed out. There is nothing on the KC web site about makeup dates or refunds. Do you know how it is usually done?

The Kids' Table: Hello Arlington. I just spoke to someone at the Kennedy Center and was given an address to send the tickets for a refund:
The Kennedy Center
Snow Cancellation
P.O. Box 10808
Arlington, Va. 22210

Sorry you didn't get to see the show. -- Matt

Falls Church, Va.: My two nine-year-old neices and two-year-old nephew are coming to visit and I need Saturday activities. We have been to the monuments and the museums. I was thinking of ice-skating or other active ideas. But I also need something if we need to stay indoors. Also, food places around any activity is always helpful. Thanks.

The Kids' Table: Hi, Falls Church. Ice skating is a great idea -- here's some local rinks for you to choose from. This time of year, there are also many events for kids to celebrate Black History Month. The Corcoran Gallery of Art is holding a special event for families on Saturday, and so is the Renwick Gallery, beginning at 1. Some downtown eateries (that appeal to kids) close on the weekends, so I'd suggest going up to Dupont Circle, or up 17th and over Pennsylvania toward Foggy Bottom. -- Anne

Dupont Circle: Help! I need some ideas for something kid-friendly in N. VA or Metro MD area to do on March 8th in the afternoon. We have active grandparents, parents, 2 boys ages 6 & 4 and 2 girls ages 6 & 3.

Any fun ideas?

The Kids' Table: Hi Dupont. Well, the Harlem Globetrotters are in town. Their glory days seem to have ended with Meadowlark Lemon, but it could still be fun. You'd need a car to get to the boat show in Chantilly, but that might work for all ages. If the weather holds up, who wouldn't love a trip to the zoo? There might also be some children's theater that even the grandparents could love. Good luck. -- Maura

Cabin Fever City in Columbia, Md.: Have a 11 y.o. girl and a 13 y.o. boy Great Sledders & Fort Builders, but would like to do something for a treat on Saturday. Forecast is rain - what's available for the tweens indoors that would be an adventure?

Saw the rock-climbing, looking for a different variation.

Great chat, looking forward to your response!

The Kids' Table: Hi Cabin Fever, I (Lynette) know how you feel. Fortunately, you have some options. There's the Columbia Ice Rink, which has public skating sessions, lessons and a snack bar. There's also the Columbia Swim Center at 10400 Cross Fox Lane (410-730-7000), which has a play area just for kids as well as regular swimming areas. And once you're all worn out and ready for dinner, you can check out "Fiddler on the Roof" at Toby's Dinner Theatre right there in Columbia also.

Chantilly, Va.: Just a thought for those looking for party ideas for children born in the winter months. Weve had a "fish painting" party for both our son and daughter. Set up a table w/newspaper, pick up a few fish at the store (fish need to be prepped), buy some clothing paint, white tee shirts and a roll of paper and voila! paint the fish - press on the paper/shirt.

The Kids' Table: Okay, Chantilly, I (Vicki) need more help with this idea. Are you talking about fish that once had a life outside of the market? And how are they prepped? And aren't some of the kids squeamish about handling them?

As a squeamish parent, I'd probably go for relatively flat sponges cut in fish shapes.

Any other winter ideas for a party?

for Vicki: Prep is easy for anyone who has worked w/fish. Gut and remove gills, stuff stomach cavity w/paper towels. Pat dry. As for sqeamish - 2 parties - one mostly girls, one mostly boys. Not a single child was sqeamish or didnt participate. Of course, we had the stray parent make the "ew, yuck" noise. They seem to have gotten over it.

The Kids' Table: Thanks for the additional info, Chantilly. I'm sure the results -- on paper or on T-shirt -- are spectacular.

Vienna, Va.: The Harlem Globetrotters would be a good idea for the mother with the boy about to turn 12. That's exactly what we did for our twin boys' 12th birthday (they are turning 15 in early March.) We were able to get group tickets for about $10 a head. It was a big hit with my sons and their sports junkie friends.

The Kids' Table: Great to hear Vienna. I heard a disappointing review from one of their recent turns here, but am happy to hear it's worth it after all, especially at $10 a head.

Washington, D.C.: Regarding the Capitol Children's Museum: We went last month and it was VERY disappointing -- many rooms closed or devoid of stuff, and what was there was dilapidated and, by 11 a.m., overrun by seemingly unsupervised 10-year-olds, which was disastrous for our toddler. I would not recommend it to anyone.

The Kids' Table: While the Capital Children's Museum may not be the most snazzy of kids museums, it does have some fine offerings. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience, Washington. Have you had better luck at some of the Smithsonian museums? -- Maura

The Kids' Table: Thanks so much for sharing the warmth of your company and, as always, your opinions, ideas and questions. Here's another idea for you. Treat yourself to some fresh flowers and think pink. This should give you a boost: Cherry blossoms events are popping up.

Hope you can meet at the Kids' Table again, at noon, Wednesday, March 5, when we'll discuss how wonderful it is that spring has arrived (sorry, must be that problem I have with Too Much Snow Syndrome).

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