Make a Family Day of it at National Harbor this Summer

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We’ve been to National Harbor several times since it opened back in 2008. The waterfront destination on the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, Md, hosts annual holiday events, was home to the National Children’s Museum for awhile, and has become a destination for many touring shows — all of which have brought us there at different times. But, aside from a water taxi adventure a few years ago, we’d never really gone to hang out and and enjoy the ongoing activities and attractions.

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That changed recently when we were invited to spend a day there to get the fuller National Harbor experience. We were especially excited about going for a spin on the Capital Wheel, since we hadn’t yet been and it’s a unique pursuit in the area (it’s covered here on KFDC, but in a guest post by a friend). I was also really interested to see what a day there would be like, since previously we’d always gone with a specific event to attend.

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Once we arrived there and got our bearings about us, we didn’t waste any time heading for what we’d been anticipating most: The Capital Wheel. How cool to ride 180 feet in the air over the Potomac, taking in views of the DC skyline and the Harbor scene below! Even in gray, hazy weather, we could see the Washington Monument across the river and enjoy the open vistas around us. The whole ride lasted about 15 minutes, then we were ready to eat and explore some more.

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We were set up with lunch at Potbelly, but there are over 30 dining options at National Harbor, everything from quick eateries to nicer restaurants. A bunch are located around the Plaza, convenient to most of the big attractions, and others are an easy stroll away.

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After lunch, we stopped in the Peeps store, where the kids indulged in some samples before heading down to The Awakening. If you’ve been in DC awhile, you probably remember the massive sculpture of the giant emerging from the ground at Hains Point. The striking work (or works, since it’s in several parts) now resides at National Harbor, the enormous man surfacing on a sandy beach along the Potomac. Visitors are welcome to climb and play on it, and Owen and Sasha had a blast crawling around his head and scaling his huge foot.

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It was time for some fun on the water after that; our invitation included a rental from Boating in DC. They have kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and pedal boats, and we opted for the boat, so we could all go together (kids need to be at least 8 to kayak or paddleboard solo, and Sasha is only 6). The pedal boats are cute, shaped like dragons and swans. It was quick and easy to get one, and we were soon out on the water, drifting around and taking in cool views of the Capital Wheel and surrounds.

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Back on land, the kids were ready for a spin on The Carousel, which features a herd of whimsical creatures and the sparkling Potomac as a backdrop. It’s $7 for each rider, which sounds like a lot, BUT they can ride an unlimited number of times. I don’t know about your kids, but mine always beg to go again (and again), so this actually kind of seems like a deal. Right next to the carousel on one side are tables where parents can sit and relax while their kids ride (if they are old enough to go solo). And on the other side is a playground, so you can easily move right on to more fun. We skipped the playground, instead making our way to SPAGnVOLA Chocolatier for gelato and some sweet treats to bring home.

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There’s even more to do at National Harbor — lots of shopping, a farmer’s market, free movies and sports viewing on a Jumbotron in the Plaza, and water taxi rides to Old Town among them. But a good four hours after beginning our National Harbor experience, we decided to call it a day — a fun one, at that!

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Ready to make a day of it at National Harbor? Here are some details to help you plan:

* The Capital Wheel is open daily from 10am – 11pm. Tickets are $15/adult, $11.25/ages 3-11, free for 2 and under.

* Boating in DC is open 11am – 7:30pm weekdays & 9am – 7:30pm weekends through Labor Day, then 11am – 6:30pm Wednesday – Friday & 9am – 6:30pm weekends through October 4. Rentals are $30/pedal boat, $15/single kayak, $20/double kayak, $20/paddleboard.

* The Carousel is open 12-8pm Sunday – Thursday & 12-10pm Friday – Saturday. Unlimited rides are $7.

* National Harbor sponsored our experience, however, there are activities available at all price points.

* For more information about National Harbor attractions, visit the website.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by National Harbor, however, I only promote programs, events, and services that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers, and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.


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Filed under All ages, Art, Eats, Maryland, Outdoor, Play, Seasonal, Sponsored Post, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

LEGO Mania Returns to BrickFair ’15 ~ Ticket Giveaway!

Store Sign

Hey, LEGO enthusiasts! BrickFair, the nation’s largest annual LEGO fan festival, is returning to the area this coming weekend, and you have a chance to win tickets to the event.

BrickFair ’15 will bring together LEGO fans from across the country to showcase amazing brick constructions. Over 800 exhibitors will display their designs, from the tiniest little thing to towering cityscapes. There will also be over 90 tables of vendors selling all things LEGO — T-shirts, hats, mini figures, models, and more.

It’s not all just looking and buying. Visitors can get hands on in the Stay & Play Area chock full of bricks, so you can build and get creative. And some of the models are interactive, inviting guests to examine them even more closely (but be gentle!).

This will all take place at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va, August 1-2 from 11am – 4pm both days. Tickets are $15/ages 4 and up, free for ages 3 and under.

GIVEAWAY: I have three 4-Packs of tickets for BrickFair ’15 up for grabs. For a chance at winning one of them, simply leave a comment below telling me what you’ve enjoyed most this summer that you found out about here on KFDC. To be eligible, you must subscribe to KFDC (see sign-up to the left) and follow KidFriendly DC on Facebook. This giveaway will run until midnight tonight, then the winners will be drawn at random and notified by tomorrow morning, so I can get tickets out in time. Good luck!

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Exhibit, Festival, Giveaway, Summer, Virginia, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: July 27-31

It's a jungle in there at the U.S. Botanic Garden

It’s a jungle in there at the U.S. Botanic Garden



Monday - Visit the U.S. Botanic Garden — one of our very favorite places in the city — where there’s plenty to enjoy both outdoors and in. Little ones kids can flex their green thumbs in the newly renovated outdoor Children’s Garden. Get to the root of things in the Exposed exhibit. Tour the plant collections, and be sure to stop in the “Plants in Culture” exhibit where you can sniff the aromas of various plants and learn about their everyday uses. Outside in the National Garden, stroll among the roses and other plants, run through the grass, sit in the small amphitheater, and relax by the fountain. Pack lunch to eat at one of several tables there. Hours are 10am – 5pm. Admission is free. Read more about the USBG here and here.

Tuesday - Glimpse the past on the Potomac at Fort Washington Park. Kids will love seeing the cannons and other historic sights there. Grounds are open are 8am – sunset, buildings 9am – 4pm. Admission is $5/vehicle.

Wednesday - Beat the heat in the cool comfort of a movie, a heavily discounted one! The Regal Summer Movie Express presents family films for just $1 every Tuesday and Wednesday at participating theaters during the summer. See what’s playing at a theater near you — there are two movie choices every week.

Thursday - Devise a plan to visit the International Spy Museum, where you and the kids can go undercover to explore the intriguing world of espionage. Hours are 9am – 7pm. Regular admission is $21.95/adult, $14.95/ages 7-11, free for 6 and under, but you can find a discount on adult tickets here.

Friday - Head on down to the 4-H fair! Running July 30 – August 2, the first couple of days of the 67th 4-H Fairfax Fair & Carnival will feature rides, amusements, farm fun, and treats. Held at Frying Pan Farm Park, hours are 10am – 3pm both days and 5-10pm on Friday as well. (There are even more activities through the weekend!) Carnival ride tickets are $1 or 24 for $20 (most ride take 3-5). Unlimited carnival ride tickets are $18 if you buy online by July 28, and $25 day-of, and you can get a $5 off unlimited rides coupon here.


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Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Farm, Free, Indoor Play, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays

Get $25 off Google Express and Run One Less Errand

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As a blogger, I get tons of requests from businesses to try out services and products and share my experiences and opinions on KidFriendly DC. I’m selective about what I choose to review. It needs to be something that truly will be of interest to many readers, that is useful or enriching, and somehow relates to the focus of my blog.

When Google Express invited me to an event to learn more about their business, I RSVP’ed with a “yes” immediately. I was aware of the shopping service and thought it sounded like a very convenient time-saver that busy parents could appreciate. However, I hadn’t yet tried it, so wanted to find out more and meet some of the folks behind it. (And full disclosure: The event at the amazing Jefferson Hotel included cocktails and dinner, plus a chance to mingle with other local bloggers, which is always fun.)

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Google Express is an online shopping and delivery service. And while they may not be the first to do this, what they offer is unique. They have a variety of local stores from which you can buy items — Costco, Giant, Babies R Us/Toys R Us, Ulta, Staples, Walgreens, Logan Hardware, and more — and they deliver same day or next day. Think about it: You can cross a lot of to-dos off your list with a 10-minute online session.

I left the event at the Jefferson with some great gifts, including a promo code to try out Google Express. Excited to use it both because I was curious abut the service and running low on some of my staple groceries, I was on the website within a couple of days filling up my shopping cart. Not only did I get items I wanted from Costco and Giant, I was able to pick out a present for an upcoming birthday party from Barnes & Noble. Satisfied with my selections, I began the check out process.

And this is when I hit a little snag; I couldn’t complete my check out. Instructed to contact customer service by email, I did just that and got a quick response. It took a few back and forth communications until we finally figured out there was a technical glitch related to my specific promo code. So, I’m being honest and letting you know that it wasn’t the smoothest of check-outs. But, they were extremely responsive and also gave me a credit to make up for the inconvenience. And, really, it only took a few minutes of my time to work that out, way less than it would have to go to three different stores to buy everything myself.

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The delivery was scheduled for the next day with a few-hours’ window. You can require that someone be home to sign for it, or you can opt to have your packages left and give instructions if you want them placed in a certain spot. Our order arrived on schedule, and I received an email that they had been left, which was great since I was down the street at the time.

One minor glitch, but overall a good experience. I can say for sure that I will use Google Express again and recommend it as well. Hey, the time it saves you can instead be spent enjoying activities and events you read about here. :-)

If you’ve never used Google Express and want to try it out, use the code EXPRESSDC to get $25 off your first order. This is only good for the first 2,500 shoppers to redeem it and expires July 31, so start shopping soon! And, currently, you can get the first three months of the service for free, after that it’s $10/month. Also important to note: Right now, they only deliver to DC addresses. So if you don’t live in the District, maybe you can use a work or friend’s address for delivery.


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The Weekend Round-Up: July 24-26

Make a day trip to Flag Ponds Nature Park

Make a day trip to Flag Ponds Nature Park



Savor the summer fun in the District and beyond! This round-up of special events and seasonal activities has all the details you need for making the most of your leisure time with the kids. Happy Weekend!

Mars Day!
Where: Air & Space Museum
When: Friday, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the Red Planet with a variety of educational and fun family activities at the annual Mars Day! Visitors can see a real meteorite that came from Mars, view the surface of Mars in 3-D with red/blue glasses. Learn about the latest missions and discoveries, talk to scientists active in Mars research, and more.

Rockin’ on the Riverfront
Where: Yards Park
When: Friday, 6:30pm
Admission: Free

Kick off the weekend with free music in the fresh air. Local fave Justin Trawick will be performing on the Yards Park boardwalk this evening. Catch the show along with great views of the Anacostia River from the comfort of a blanket spread out on the grass. Pack a picnic or purchase food there from nearby eateries and food truck vendors.

Show Glorious Show
Where: Round House Theatre
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $45/adult, $35/student

Adventure Theatre is bringing OLIVER! to Round House Theatre in Bethesda. Opening tonight and running through August 16, this stage version of the Dickens classic is ATMTC’s first full-length musical production. And if their trove of wonderful children’s productions on the Glen Echo stage is any indication, this one is sure to have us wanting more.

National Dance Day
Where: Kennedy Center
When: Saturday
Admission: Free

This celebration of the art of dance began a few years ago (read more background along with my ode to one of my favorite associated shows) and has become an annual happening. This year’s National Dance Day celebration in DC is in collaboration with the Kennedy Center’s 25/40 Celebration, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 40th anniversary of VSA. A variety of artists will headline the festivities at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, including tap dance Baakari Wilder famous for his Broadway role in Bring in da Funk, Bring in da Noise; Antoine Hunter, Deaf African American choreographer; DC-based hip-hop crew Culture Shock; Evan Ruggiero, one-legged tap dancer, singer, and guitarist; and AXIS Dance Company, one of the world’s most acclaimed physically integrated companies, along with SYTYCD Season 9 Alumni Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer.

Capital Fringe Festival
Where: Various venues
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by performance

The Capital Fringe Festival is in its final weekend and presenting several performances kids will enjoy. Augustus the Sissy, is a performance about friendship, football and the gift of being different . See Alice, a vibrant, steampunk reworking of a much-loved classic that puts us in the main character’s head as she enters Wonderland. Watch puppets in The Giant Turnip, a whimsical and light-hearted tale that celebrates caring for the earth and community. Enjoy Experimental, a comedy paralleling Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Those are just a few with the all-ages tag; more show details and ticket sales are on the Capital Fringe Festival website.

Montgomery County Farm Tour
Where: Montgomery County farms
When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Learn about agricultural heritage, promote local farms, and indulge in seasonally fresh food as Montgomery County celebrates the 26th Annual Farm Tour and Harvest Sale. Activities will vary from farm to farm, but several will have hayrides, pony rides, music, animals to visit, and other activities planned. All farms will be open Saturday, and some will reopen on Sunday, so be sure to check the website for the schedule before you go.

Lovin’ Summer
Where: Throughout the area
When: All weekend long
Admission: Varies by activity

Free concerts, outdoor swimming, movies under the stars, sprayground fun. Activities exclusive to the season can all be enjoyed this weekend. The Summer 2015 guide has the whole scoop on all of them.

More Live Entertainment
Where: Local Theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

* Cat-ch Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude at Adventure Theatre
* The BFG is enchanting audiences at National Theatre
* Fly away to Neverland at a performance of Peter Pan in the ThreeSixty Theatre at Tysons. We caught a show, and it was spectacular!
* Enjoy Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods at Wolf Trap as the Maryland Youth Ballet takes the outdoor stage
* Experience Double Trouble on the Imagination Stage
* And little ones will live Aquarium, also at the Bethesda theater
* Katherine Lyons: Transformations Information is this week’s free Saturday Morning at the National performance
* See a show on strings at The Puppet Co. where Snow White and the 7 Dwarves is the current main stage production
* And Old Macdonald’s Farm is the featured Tiny Tots shows at the puppet theatre

Baby Loves Disco
Where: Jammin’ Java
When: Saturday, 11am (doors open at 10:30am)
Admission: $12

Join the family dance party at Jammin’ Java for Baby Loves Disco’s Summer Healthy Snacks Party! The fun will feature BLD’s signature DJ and MC, along with all kinds of kids activities. The MC will pump up the crowd, and the DJ will spin G-rated dance tunes, while kids and parents get groovin’.

Peachy Keen
Where: Local farms
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

It’s peach picking time at many local farms; the summer fruits are ripe and ready for harvest. If you want to get them at their peak, check out this list of area farms that offer pick-your-own. You can probably still pick berries and other fruits & veggies, too. And it’s always a good idea to check websites or call for updates to see what’s available when you plan to go.

Tennis, Anyone?
Where: Kastles Stadium at the Smith Center
When: Sunday, 5pm (gates open earlier for pre-match festivities)
Admission: Tickets start at $15

The Washington Kastles will serve up exciting tennis action on the court at the Smith Center on Sunday. Sam Querrey is the featured player as they play the Springfield Lasers with Martina Hingis as the standout. And there are always fun activities going to outside the court for all ages to enjoy.

Kids Summer Safety Festival
Where: Veterans Plaza
When: Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Mocha Moms and partners are hosting a day of fun and safety tips in Silver Spring. Along with a variety of demos and car seat checks, there will be firetrucks on display, face painting, live musics, kids crafts, and more activities for all ages.

Beach Day
Where: Flag Ponds Nature Park
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $6/car

‘Tis the season to hit the beach! There are several places within day trip-distance from DC that are great for sand and surf…and fossil hunting. That’s right, many spots in the Calvert Cliffs area are well known for shark teeth finds. We recently spent a day at Flag Ponds Nature Park and loved it. This post has all the details, plus a bit of info about another fave (though a pricey one) out that way, Brownie’s Beach.

Indoor Swim
Where: National Building Museum
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $5-16 (see details below)

Jump in at The BEACH, the Building Museum’s big summer installation that is a blast for all ages. The architectural simulation of a beach, there is a beach chair lined seashore that slopes gently into the ocean, and the “water” consists of nearly one million recyclable translucent plastic balls. It’s pretty cool just to view — but even better to experience. Admission is $5/youth member, $10/adult member and $13/youth non-member, $16/adult non-member.

Fancy This
Where: Brookside Gardens
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $8/ages 13 and up, $5/3-12, free ages 0-2

Walk amid a garden of butterflies at Brookside Garden’s amazing Wings of Fancy exhibit, back this year through September 25 after being closed last summer during renovations. The seasonal display featuring live butterflies and caterpillars from all over the world is sure to delight! Read about a KFDC experience at the exhibit. Plan to tour the rest of Brookside’s lovely grounds while you’re there and see if there are any other special kids’ programs to enjoy.

Find even more ideas for family fun in these popular KFDC posts:
The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy A Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids
The Great Indoors


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Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Farm, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Summer, Theatre, Virginia, Weekend