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Got Plans? With Kids
With the Entertainment Guide Staff
washingtonpost.com

Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2002; 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.

dingbat


The Kids' Table: As promised, everybody, here's our intern Emily's gift to the Entertainment Guide and to you. Do not wait to open it. Get ready to take the ho-hum out of your next birthday party and have a happy adventure instead.

While some of us may have a birthday to celebrate, all of us have Thanksgiving to plan, bringing to mind: Traditions. It's a wonderful time to begin one. (I for one would be thankful for a delivered dinner with extra cheese, but Thanksgiving pizza is a hard sell.) Thankfully, Alexa has some serious feast alternatives. You could turkey trot, then eat. Maybe you'd like to shop on Leftover Day or see an exhibit.

Our tradition every other Wednesday at noon is to go where your questions take us (Kate, Anne, Alexa, Matt, Maura, Lynette and me -- Vicki):


Alexandria, Va.: I am looking for a birthday venue that allows energy to be burned off and fun to be had for a group of 3-5 year olds. I have found some really cool off-site birthday places with this in mind are outside of the Washington, D.C. immediate vicinity -- Port Discovery, Fun Quarters to name a few. Any ideas for just such a birthday more locally?

The Kids' Table: Hey Alexandria, Lynette here. We have a few suggestions. Kandula the National Zoo's baby elephant celebrates his birthday (see our record) 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23. And it's free. Why not bring the kids along for that? And be sure to stop by the tiger cage to say hi to Berani, the new tiger cub. Crowds are expected, though, so get there early.

Other options include: Discovery Creek Children's Museum's "Wild Things" party package for ages 4 to 7. Or check out Virginia Air and Space Center's "Little Wings" program for ages 6 and under. The Horizon Organic Dairy Farm also has a program for ages 6 and under. Their party takes place in a historic firehouse, with games, firehats and Horizon milk. And, if you like the zoo idea, there's also the Virginia Zoo, which has birthday programs for ages 3 to 11.


Rockville, Md.: How much will I hate Chuck E. Cheese? My 5-year-old is dying to go! Is the pizza at least good?

The Kids' Table: Rockville, we are going to have to ask the group. I've never dared. Heard horror stories. Who can help? -- Alexa


Garrett Park: We held my daughter's 6th birthday party at AMF College Park duckpin lanes on Sunday. It went over very well I think. 13 kids total, there for 2 hours, we had 4 lanes and a food/drink/bowling/shoe rental package of $11 per person. AMF CP supplied the plates, cups, tablecloth, napkins & forks; the food was pizza, of which there was plenty for all kids & the few parents who hung around. We brought a cake, balloons & goody bags, and in the end, had the kids sign a bowling pin (tenpin size) that AMF gives the birthday child.

So I heartily recommend AMF College Park for a duckpin birthday party. (White Oak Lanes & other duckpin places in Frederick & Bowie can host them too)

The Kids' Table: Hello, GP, thanks for your recommendation. Are there others out there? We're hoping our birthday package will grow with your good ideas and ours. -- Vicki


Southern Maryland: What types of outings would 8-month-old babies appreciate?

The Kids' Table: Now then, SM, I think you are pretty much safe with almost anything, aren't you? The grocery store with a balloon, the children's area at Borders or Barnes & Noble, the park on a warmish day. Is any of this helping? -- Alexa


Arlington, Va.: Does anyone have ideas for public service projects for families with younger (4 to 10-year-old) kids? We are trying to come up with both holiday projects and projects we could do throughout the year for our Sunday School. Thanks for any suggestions.

The Kids' Table: Greater DC Cares is the largest volunteer network in the metro ares. Their web address is www.dc-cares.org. Some of their events are family-friendly, most aren't. Their site is an excellent starting place, but because you're trying to organize for a younger group you'll need to talk with a volunteer coordinator. If your group is too young to attend a kitchen or a hospice, perhaps they can suggest a different service roll.

Does anyone have a recommendation?
-- Kate


Manassas, Va.: Help! I'm looking for activities to keep my neice and two nephews entertained over Thanksgiving and the weekend following the holiday. Their ages are 8, 11 and 13 -- any suggestions? Would the Spy Museum be appropriate? Any theater events that might make sense or holiday events? Thanks for any suggestions!

The Kids' Table: Hi Manassas. I think you could check out the Spy Museum, but I'd read through our review beforehand in order to a) get tickets in advance, that weekend is going to be crazy busy and 2) skip through the more violent displays, like the mock nuclear explosion. Actually, I think we adults should skip that too.

As for holiday activities, check out these music and theater events. Have fun. -- Maura


Generous George's: Hi, I've often seen Generous George's recommended as a good venue for a toddler birthday party. I've never been there and I'm a bit in the dark. What exactly do the kids get to do besides eat pizza? Do you bring in your own cake, is there any entertainment, etc.? Thanks!

The Kids' Table: Hi . . . just quickly browsed some past chats and found parents think GG's is terrific for the 3-year-old set. Kids make their own pizza and then have the run of the downstairs area -- complete with ride-on mechanical animals. . . . You do need to bring your own cake. -- Vicki


Mitchellville Road: My family and I are often bored on the weekends. We dont have a lot of money so we are often at home bored. The kids are usually running around screaming trying to make fun but it irritates me (mom). What places can we take our kids who are under 7 that are free and/or inexpensive on a regular basis and that are interesting for the parents?

The Kids' Table: Mitchellville, why not look over our free and cheap guide to area attractions. There's plenty of kid-friendly fare there, including museums and concerts. Let us know what you think. -- Maura


Washington, DC: for volunteer stuff...DC Child and Family services does lots of community stuff and i'm sure they would love the help.. the number is 202.289.1510...that's an electronic receptionist but you can reach a live one by pressing zero.

The Kids' Table: Thanks, Washington, you're doing a wonderful community service passing along this information. -- Vicki


Washington, DC: Chuck E. Cheese is ALWAYS a nightmare. The pizza is pretty greasy but not too bad. but the noise level and lack of adequate seating...not fun! My daughter had her birthday there last year...first and LAST time. We are going skating this year at Skate Zone in Crofton, MD...very clean, they have party packages, and the kids have a ball.

The Kids' Table: Thanks for the input, DC. Passing it along.


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: I am living overseas. I plan to visit Washington, D.C. with my family (two adults, one under-2 years toddler) in February 2003. I have been searching many sites to see where we can visit during our five days there. The Entertainment Guide is very helpful but I need some idea of what travel around D.C. (from site to site) and what to expect of the weather at that time -- so I can plan accordingly. I would appreciate any suggestions from the panel.

Regards, Yvonne Menon

The Kids' Table: Hi Kuala Lumpur and welcome to Washington D.C. For a broad look at what's available in the area, why don't you first check out our Visitors Guide. In terms of getting around from venue to venue, here's a link to the Metro (Washington's subway) system's Ride Guide. It will tell you if Metro service is available for a given address, and which lines to take. If you're mainly interested in seeing the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian museums and things of that nature, they are mostly clustered around The National Mall and within walking distance of each other (but do bring a stroller for the toddler). The Smithsonian and Federal Center Metro stations on the Orange and Blue lines are the closest stops to this area. There are also buses that go by on a regular basis if you don't feel like walking that much. Some out-of-town friends of mine saw every monument in the area on foot all in one day, but they were very tired afterward. Be sure to also check with your hotel to see what they offer in terms of sightseeing packages. You will also encounter security checks at most locations, so be prepared to show the contents of whatever bags you carry with you to the security guards. The weather in February can still be quite cold and wet. You'll need to bring heavy coats, hats, gloves and scarves and shoes with good traction in case of ice. You can normally expect daytime temperatures around 4-8 degrees Celsius (around 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). The weather at that time of year can be quite temperatmental, however, and can get much cooler or warmer. Before you leave Malaysia, you might want to check out the weather forecast to get a better idea of what to pack. I hope this helps you out. Have a good visit.


Garrett Park: My girl attended a Chuckee Cheese party on a Friday night, and it is nowhere near as chaotic or noisy as the Sat. party she attended at nearby Jeepers which is bigger & has more rides & games.

I find mini-golf, roller skating & ice skating rinks good places for parties.

The Kids' Table: Some party feedback from Garrett Park . . .


Alexandria VA: Free and cheap? Don't forget the Smithsonian museums. Some aren't as interesting to young kids - but who wouldn't like Air & Space, or Natural History? Museums are free; of course, the trip isn't free if you take Metro, but that's not too much money and the kids will have a blast.

The Kids' Table: I think I mentioned museums, but thanks for the input, Alexandria.


GloverPark: Godmother looking for activity/event in next few weeks to celebrate goddaughter's 9th birthday. Would like to stay in town but would consider close in burbs as well. Have done Nutcracker, puppet show, movies in past years. Am considering new Harry Potter or Tom Sawyer at KenCen, but would like other ideas to consider. Thanks. It would probably be just the two of us.

The Kids' Table: The new Harry Potter will be a hit despite the fact I found it charmless, long and scary at times. Newly 9 or 9-to-be may find it long and scary at times, but would certainly relish the experience of going to the Uptown. "Tom Sawyer" sounds like a winner, but you and your friend might prefer "The Secret Garden" at the Olney Theatre Center.

Alternatively, would the two of you like to go out for a deluxe afternoon one this Saturday and you must preregister. Classes do exist for children and for children and adults. I have never taken one of the following four (scroll down, C-is-for-children is immediately below B-is-for-baking). -- Kate


Alexandria, VA: The last time I went to Charles E Cheese, my six year old drank too much grape soda and got sick everywhere. Then a bunch of the other kids at the party got sick from seeing this. Then a kid from some other party tried to steal his skee ball tix. It's complete chaos. But I'm sure the kids will love it. Take a flask

The Kids' Table: Above all else hold on to your sense of humor (and flask) at Charles's place birthday celebrations, suggests Alexandria.


Arlington, VA: I always wait until the last minute to look for something fun and different to do with my kids (ages 7 and 3) on the weekends; this time I would like to plan ahead! Is there a list or resource for festive (and not bank-breaking) things to do in Nov. and Dec., either holiday-related or not? And I don't just mean Christmas, we are equal-opportunity celebrators! I would appreciate it if you could point me in the right directions. THANKS!

The Kids' Table: Hi, Arlington, Anne here. The Entertainment Guide is just the resource you're looking for, because it's created specifically to help you plan ahead. Type "kids" in our blue search box and you'll find a slew of events and places to go that are suited to little ones. If you're looking for events on a particular date, you can use our calendar on the top right of the page. Click "Calendar" to find a future date, and then click on the day to find events happening on that date. Here's a list of holiday events ideal for kids. Perhaps your little ones might like the Klezmer Nutcracker's special $5 performance for kids on Dec. 22. Please check back with us soon: Our Holiday Guide will be coming out in a few days, and many of the holiday activities -- like sing-alongs -- are geared for kids.


Washington, DC again: okay to me kids are easy...planning doesn't take much effort with my soon to be 5 year old...a great playground is her favorite place to be! but what about teens? what is there do to with a 16 year old (not mine) who doesn't want to hang out with her mother but will hang out with mom's friend (me)

The Kids' Table: Hi Mom's Friend and good for you for helping out. Lynette here. What does said 16-year-old like to do? Is she the outdoorsy type or would she rather hang out at the mall and go shopping? Why not wander through Georgetown, looking at the various shops and stopping for ice cream at Ben and Jerry's on M Street. Get your nails done together at Aveda Salon on Wisconsin or Bluemercury on M Street. Or, rent bikes for a day from Fletchers Boat House and bike along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Park together. Or ask her for a few ideas of what she'd like to do. She might surprise you.


Chevy Chase DC: Do you have any ideas (or a list) of holiday activities for toddlers like seeing Santa which aren't connected with a mall?? Just looking for some sweet, non-commerical Christmas fun--and wasn't sure if there was such a thing!

The Kids' Table: Hi, Chevy Chase. To find activities where Santa will appear, just type "Santa" in our blue search box. And please check back soon:Oour Holiday Guide will be arriving in a few days. Like Santa's belly, it will keep growing fuller and rounder (with more events) as the days go by.


Herndon, VA: My sister is coming from CA to Ocean City to see her in-laws with her children over Christmas (boys 6 and 2). We would like to meet somewhere, for the day, between DC and Ocean City, where her boys and my daughter (almost 5), could have some fun. The only idea I have had so far is the Baltimore aguarium and really don't want to do that, as our year long pass will have just expired.... Any ideas?

The Kids' Table: Hello Herndon,

It just so happens that The Post's Escapes column today is about "10 Things to Do in Baltimore" for those who have done the aquarium and Inner Harbor.

I would recommended Port Discovery, which has plenty to entertain children that age. I don't know if they do it daily, but my favorite activity was making gum. And there is a McDonald's right next door.

And depending on the weather, you might want to try the Baltimore Zoo. Its KidZone is great for children. They also have a small train ride and carousel.

Have fun -- Matt


The Kids' Table: Thanks, everyone, for joining us today and enriching our chat and our time "with kids" with ideas. Hope you can spend a few minutes -- between kitchen activities and cleaning blitzes -- before Thanksgiving to meet again, at noon Wednesday, Nov. 27.


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