"Kid-O-Rama" has parent-specific information that's missing from most D.C. guidebooks. It doesn't just list the exhibits at the Museum of Natural History – it points you to specific areas of the museum that will most appeal to kids, like the insect zoo. The book also lists plenty of activities that most parents hadn't thought of or even been aware of. Sure, you've heard of Luray Caverns, but what about the aptly-named Endless Caverns?
Kelly and Stoltz, each the father of two children, have spent several years exploring Washington and its suburban environs to find attractions, parks and events that will appeal to children of various age groups and interests. Whether your kids enjoy pretending to be astronauts, seeing a two-headed baby floating in a bottle, making their own pottery or simply running around a giant playground, there's plenty in "Kid-O-Rama" that will help prepare you for the "I'm bored" days of the year.
Vienna, VA: How did you determine which facilities were listed in your book? For example, you have about a dozen bowling alleys in Maryland - including one all the way out in Linthicum - but only one in all of Northern VA. Why is that?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Greetings, parents, care-givers and other interested parties. A reasonable question to start:
Washington: The book says that Craig has two boys and John has two girls. Did you ever take mixed-sex groups out to the locations you reviewed? And did you take girls to the public works museum and boys to the doll museum? Did they call it "icky"?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Wow. That's a great question.
Columbia, MD: I can't imagine the summer without camp for kids - even though I'll be home for the first time from work - part-time, I believe it's crucial for the kids to go to camp. Please provide your thoughts.
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Craig here: The norm among my boys' peers--they're finishing 3rd and First grades at Christ Episcopal School in Rockville--is to cobble together a summer of various day campettes: two weeks of soccer camp sponsored by a school, three weeks of outdoor adventure handled by the city, and so on, leaving a few weeks free for family vacation and that all important creative vegetation time. Few of my kids' peers do overnight residential camp so far, though a few of them do two- or three-week stints at sleepaway.
Vienna, VA: My four-year-old and I love your book! So far we have had several special outings, yellow paperback in hand. If you ever do a revised edition, please check the bathroom situation to see if the facilities are closed seasonally, as at Teddy Roosevelt Island -we took your advice and went early, then regretted that morning coffee-. Also, please add more playgrounds -- my little guy loves to visit new playgrounds. Finally, how about a special index for places that are 100% free -not even a parking fee-?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: John: Those are good points and we'll do that for the second edition. One point about the bathroom: It really does assume massive proportions in a parent's life. I remember something that a newspaper war correspondent
Washington, DC: Any ideas on summer-residential camps for say eight to 12 year olds in the Washington-Maryland areas?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: No specific suggestions, but I'd recommend taking a look at www.campchannel.com. It has a great search engine which lets you tell it what kind of camp you'd like--where, what kind of activities, day or residential, etc.--then it spits out a list of alternatives. It considers Maryland and Virginia camps part of the "Southern US" for database purposes, so you get suburban Atlanta choices too. But it's a decent place to start.
Fairfax, VA: My sons - 4 and 7 - like to look at cars and trucks. I didn't see any automobile-centric places in the book, besides race tracks. Where should I take them to indulge their passions for heavy machinery?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Craig: Boy, you got this one right: This is not a good area for car stuff, as we discovered while doing the book. There is a GMC van plant in Baltimore County, but you have to be 12 and must tour as part of a group (so we didn't include it in the book). There is an antique carriage museum in Cumberland (outside our geographic limits, but worth looking up; buzz the www.mdisfun.org Web site, or the Cumberland Visitors bureau, for details). It has a few autos in the collection, but is stronger in horse-drawn conveyances (you'll also learn where the term "landau" roof came from).
Laurel, Md.: As you can see, I live in the Maryland suburbs. We've done the National Zoo and belong to the Baltimore Zoo and the Aquarium in Baltimore. What are some of the best places in my region to take girls ages 4 and 6?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: John: My girls were the same ages when I was researching the book. The National Wildlife Visitors Center in Laurel was perfect for them. There's a large building with neat exhibits, including lots of stuffed animals. There are observation stands where you can look through telescopes at the waterbirds who land nearby. Best of all is a tram that goes on a very gentle 30-minute loop through the forest. It's short enough for the shortest attention span. Hiking with kids can be tough, but the center has several very SHORT trails if it seems like they have enough energy to do
Mt. Rainier MD: Oh,dear Craig, please please don't knock 'downtime' as a waste. I look at the poor kids we have scheduled up the ying-yang -just like their parents are!- and wonder when they will ever have time just to explore their own solitude and their own imagination. Would that I could go back to those unscheduled days, at least for a few weeks!
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Thanks, Mt. Rainier--I think we agree. I was attempting to say that it's important to give kids some time off from their scheduled summer activities; my reference to "vegetative" time was a *fond* one. It think down time is important and good. When I was a kid, I had too much--I suppose what we'd all hope is the find the right mix for our kids.
Damascus, MD: I have a 2 year old daughter. Where can I take her, in the area, during evenings and weekends, that will be fun and appropriate for her, and me and my husband will also enjoy?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Craig here: My experience is that kids around two love to be in unusual, stimulating environments, and that to attempt to "expose" them to something specific is, as Gary Shandling likes to say, bad for everybody.
Regarding autos and things that move:
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Craig here: Great stuff, Bowie, thanks. We did indeed consider putting in the Strasburg auto museum, but it has very few and unusual hours that it's open. So yes, go for it, but do call ahead and check to make sure it's open.
Reston: Fairfax: try taking your kids downtown and looking at the numerous construction sites that dot the "Golden Triangle." My kids loved watching the MCI Center being built. Dump trucks, cranes, cement mixers, oh my!
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Good tip, Reston. And thanks to the booming economy, there are plenty of sites under construction again (three on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, for the more suburbanly inclined).
Alexandria: Relatives are coming from Pennsylvania for Memorial Day. You have one day -Friday- to spend downtown. Which Smithsonian museums will provide the most bang with the fewest amount of line-crowd-induced headaches?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: John: First of all, any museum is bearable if you get there early enough. We mean really early: You're in line BEFORE the doors open. Go see the things you want then eat lunch at 11:30, before the restaurants themselves start to clog up with humanity. Then you can dip into another museum
dc: Have either of you been to the new Six Flags in MD ? My daughter won 2 kid tickets recently, and now we HAVE to GO, although I have always hated CROWDS and HEAT. Am I in for a miserable time ?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: John: I went when it was Adventure World but haven't been to the new improved Six Flags.
Bethesda MD: Any suggestions on places that would appeal to a history-loving 11 year old -we've already been to the Lincoln-related sites in the area- and his 7 year-old brother who's not quite so enamoured of historical sites?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Craig here: If your kid has done the Lincoln stuff, that's a great opening into the Civil War. Gettysburg (it's in the book) is ideal if one kid is more enthusiastic than the other, since for the less historically inclined there is great hiking, a huge tower and plenty of monumental distraction, and your enthusiast can dig into the history, battle strategy, etc. Harper's Ferry (sounds far away, but really 45 minutes from the Beltway when traffic's not bad) is similar, in that it offers beautiful river walks, town strolls and climbing to the heights in addition to the musuems, which are nicely decentralized.
Rockville, Md: Two working parents, two preschool-kindergarten-aged children. As a result, we have to take our children out on weekends and, often, in the evenings. I don't want to start with the symphony yet. Where are some of the best evening places to take young children?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: John: Your fellow audience members will appreciate your not taking the kids to the National Symphony just yet. But that doesn't mean you can't take them to the Kennedy Center. The Millennium Stage is where you want to head. Every single night, starting around 6 or so, they have FREE concerts in the vast, red-carpeted lobby. The fare can range from gospel
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Thanks, Farragut. Good tip. When we did Rose Hill, the car collection was not avialable. Good to know.
Mt. Rainier MD : Re the gender question: All the generalizations and statistics in the world about what boys like and what girls like are really useless when it comes to YOUR boy and YOUR girl. The parent should be first open-minded and then observant to find out what his particular kid likes!
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Indeed. Thanks for the words to the wise, Mt. Rainier. . .
Arlington: Hey guys, thanks for this service. What kinds of free stuff is out there for the little guys. I've got two god daughters, 6 & 9, who are smart as whips and have insatiable curiosity. Thoughts for budget-minded fairy godmother?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Craig: First, a shameless plug for our new Web site. You should be able to feed the choices "free" and topics like science or history into the search engine and get a good list of possibilities. (The ink-and-paper book has the stuff cross-referenced the same way in the back pages.)
washingtonpost.com: To answer two common questions: Kid-O-Rama is available online (as of this morning) and fully searchable at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/guideposts/kidorama/front.htm.
You can also buy hard copies of the book at Borders and Crown bookstores, Giant supermarkets and some area Starbucks.
Fairfax, VA: I have a 2 1-2 year old who is all over the place and a 14 month old who is just starting to walk. Any advice on good places in Northern VA where they will both have fun and be safe?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Craig: I'd try (again!) to Meadowlark Gardens or Huntley Meadows. On a weekday, the National Zoo is great for early walkers (but it's treacherous for them on weekends). The National Building Museum has massive open wandering spaces which my boys loved to explore when they were between walking and running (though the museum, which has some nice hands-on stuff, will be more intersting to 8 and up). And, believe it or not, the Kennedy Center's hallways--colorful and dramatic and carpeted--is very accommodating to new walkers.
Washington DC: You just mentioned "the Web site" -- does that mean there is a Kid-O-Rama page or did you just mean washingtonpost.com?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Post.com now has a Kid-O-Rama database in the Style Live area (I think there's a link on this very discussion page); it essentially puts the contents of our book online, in searchable form.
Arlington, VA: I'd like to weigh in on the camp question. As a former camp counselor, I can't understand why parents would send children as young as six to an 8-week sleep-away camp. Allow I still have some reservations myself, I do think that children 10 and older can handle it. The 6,7,8 and some 9-year-olds, however, were obviously too young to be away from home for that period of time.
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Thanks, Arlington.
Kensington: There really aren't any factories closer than Pennsylvania where I can take my children? Is it a lack of factories in general or just a lack of kid-friendly factory tours?
Kid-O-Rama Authors: John: Well, there's a factory right in downtown Washington: the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. No free samples, though.
Kid-O-Rama Authors: Craig: Yes, kids love the NCM, though compared to other kid museums nationally, it's no great shakes (and can be awfully crowded and not as clean as some of us would like). As other cities have built "next generation" kid museums, ours in Washington has not aged well.
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