Get to be both an altruist and a hedonist, courtesy of Paramount's Kings Dominion in Doswell, Va. Approved nonprofit groups can work at the popular theme park north of Richmond with their wages being donated to their volunteer organizations. In return, King's Dominion gets some extra willing workers to supplement its regular force on peak days. With bonuses, a group of 10 can make about $600 a day, which definitely beats those yard sales and bingo games.
And now for the hedonism part: Each volunteer who completes the shift is given a free admission to the theme park for any day during the rest of the season. Call Ashley B. Burton, human resources recruiter (804-876-5688), to see if your group qualifies for the program.
--Kathleen McCabe Mahoney, Fredericksburg
The Grand Salon
Maybe the last craft you attempted was a macrame belt in summer camp, but you still have an eye for baskets and hempen wall hangings. Maybe your home is tastefully furnished with Shaker reproductions, and you'd like to see the real thing. Or maybe you don't care about furniture at all, except the weather's been hot, you're tired, and you'd like to sit on some.
The red-brick Renwick Gallery, designed by architect James Renwick, who also designed the Smithsonian Castle, is an arm of the National Museum of American Art. Perched within hailing distance of the White House at the corner of 17th and Pennsylvania, it is a haven of calm and cool with excellent collections, a distinctive quirk and a gift shop.
Alas, the Shaker furniture exhibit is gone, but "Glass! Glorious Glass!," which opens Friday, will probably be very pretty. There's a permanent collection of other American home furnishings (or rather things you might find in a home) from period pieces to the eclectic. There's never a crowd.
The sore of foot fresh off the White House tour should troop immediately up the grand staircase. Here's the quirk: Way in the back, behind the mayonnaise (a refrigerator joke), is a Grand Salon, still furnished in its original Victorian style, although the 285 gas-jet lights have been replaced with electricity and extremely efficient air conditioning equipment. The room runs the width of the building, and it's filled with dozens of mostly British and American oil paintings. Sink into one of the maroon banquettes arranged in circles below immense ornamental vases and contemplate the calm, but do it soon. The Grand Salon will close for renovations Oct. 1.
Downstairs is the best gift shop in the Smithsonian empire. My grandfather used to take me there when I was 8, and I'm still drawn to the clever children's books ("Princess Smartypants") and books that teach origami and quilting. In this trove of purchasable Americana, you can find unusual cards, crafty jewelry, cool glassware and Shaker doll furniture. You'll never be at a loss for a wedding/shower/christening/housewarming gift again.
--Rebecca Porter, Washington
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