Category Archives: Animals

Valentine’s Day-Inspired Activities Around the DMV

Graffiti art with heart created by Mr. Brainwash at Union Market's Dock5

Graffiti art with heart created by Mr. Brainwash at Union Market’s Dock5



Do you *heart* celebrating Valentine’s Day with your little (and big) sweeties? Here are some activities happening around the area over the next week that you’re all bound to love. Happy V-Day!

Library Love
Where: DC Public Libraries
When: Various dates
Admission: Free

Join story times, craft sessions, and sing-alongs at some of the city’s libraries; Valentine’s Day-themed activities are taking places on several dates over the next week. Find one that your child will love here.

Skate Date in the Village: Pop-Up Roller Rink
Where: Village at Leesburg
When: February 10-14, 1-9pm (Sunday, 1-5pm)
Admission: Free

Grab your Valentine for a Skate Date in the Village! Go for a spin in a pop-up roller skating rink in the heart of Village at Leesburg all Valentine’s Day weekend. Enjoy merchant specials, surprise treats and a maybe even a fun date night. BONUS: There will be Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 4-9pm! (Rides pick up at Altar’d State.)

Sip, Sew & Art Pre-Valentine’s Day Pop-up (KidFree Suggestion!)
Where: West Elm Pop-up/Lab 1270 @ Union Market
When: February 10, 6:30-9pm
Admission: $40

Sip Some, Sew Some and Create Some! Participants will use a sewing machine to make a pillow (no sewing experience needed). Once your pillow is completed, you can tap into your inner artist skills by creating a Valentine’s Day greeting card. All materials including sewing machines are provided. Light refreshments will be served.

DIY Valentines
Where: National Postal Museum
When: February 11, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Love is in the details at the Postal Museum’s annual Valentine’s Day Card Workshop. We’ve attended this event several times, so I can tell you firsthand it’s one to love. They’ll have pretty papers and neat valentine-themed stamps, all you need to bring is your creativity to decorate your card. Visit the museum’s stamp store and send the cards to your loved ones with a special Postal Museum postmark. And for more about the museum, see this KFDC post.

Unshrink My Heart
Where: Brentwood Arts Exchange
When: February 11, 2pm
Admission: Free

The arts and crafts icon, Shrinky Dinks, from the 80’s is back! And nothing says “love” like a hand-made pre-shrunk Valentine. Families are invited to create beautiful jewelry, key chains, and other Valentine’s Day gifts for their loved ones. Children will receive their first 2 sheets of blank Shrinky Dinks free, additional sheets will be available to purchase for 50 cents each.

Valentine’s Day Treats for the Birds
Where: Meadowside Nature Center
When: February 11
Admission: $6

This is the time of year when birds could use a little help finding food. Join staff to identify some common winter birds and make them a few treats from household items. Adults must accompany children.

Valentine’ Day Crafts & Cookies
Where: Michael’s
When: February 11
Admission: Varies by session

Head to a Michael’s location for some creative Valentine’s fun. The arts & crafts supply store is hosting drop-in workshops over the next week for cookies, crafts, & more — all with a love theme. Search the website to find a store near you.

Love in Every Language
Where: Sackler Gallery
When: February 11 & 12, 12-4pm
Admission: Free

All ages are welcome to enjoy a digital slideshow of images of love in Asian art. Use that as inspiration to create Valentine’s Day cards with woodblock prints that say “love” in more than a dozen Asian languages and fold heart-shaped origami.

The Power of Chocolate
Where: National Museum of the American Indian
When: February 11-12
Admission: Free

So, it’s not a Valentine’s Day activity, per se, but the timing of this festival focusing on chocolate likely isn’t a coincidence. The story of chocolate begins with a small tree that has its roots deep in the world of Mesoamerican culture, and you can join the NMAI to celebrate one of the world’s most beloved foods. Explore the rich history and ongoing story of chocolate by grinding chocolate, creating a vase with Maya glyphs, and learning more about the science, art and culture of chocolate.

Animal Valentines
Where: Hidden Oaks Nature Center
When: February 12, 1:30-2:15pm
Admission: $7

Play musical valentines and critter sweetheart games as you learn how animals find a mate. Meet live animals at the Nature Center and make an animal valentine craft. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Recommended for ages 4-8.

Valentines Tea and Chocolate
Where:Brookside Gardens
When: February 12, 2-4pm
Admission: $12

Parents and children can celebrate with love, tea, and chocolates. Enjoy a variety of tea, treats, learn about chocolate, taste chocolate treats, plus make a valentine and a tea cup floral arrangement for yourself or a loved one!

Valentine Tea and Poetry
Where: Ellanor C. Lawrence Park
When: February 12, 3-4pm
Admission: $8

Enjoy poetry and tea at the Machen Farm at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park with your little sweetheart. A costumed interpreter shares a Walney mystery love poem and invites you to write your own while dining on mint tea and sugar cookies. Frame your poem in the style of a childhood Valentine. Children must be accompanied by a registered adult. For ages 2 and up.

Love on Ice (with Kids or KidFree)
Where: Canal Park Ice Rink
When: February 14
Admission: Details below

Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday, which conveniently is two-for-one skating at the ice rink — two can skate for the price of one from 4-6pm. Canal Park is also hosting Valentine’s Couple Skate. The rink will be romantically decorated, a capella groups from neighboring universities will perform lovely tunes, and couples can take the memories with them by snapping photos at a photo booth. For a $60 packaged deal, couples can enjoy a pre-fixe dinner for two at il Parco including a bottle of sparkling wine plus skate admission.

Brunch and Skate (with Kids or KidFree)
Where: Washington Harbour
When: February 11 & 12
Admission: $35/person

Enjoy a champagne brunch and some skating at the Washington Harbour. Bring the kids to dine with you (minus the bubbly, of course) at Nick’s Riverside Grill, then glide the day away at the ice rink. The package includes a two-course brunch menu, a bottle of champagne for every two guests, a carafe of OJ, and ice skating. If you go on Sunday, look for a deal on skating admission for the kids from CertifiKid.

All You Need Is Love 5: A Tribute to The Beatles & Love Songs (KidFree Suggestion!)
Where: Jammin Java
When: February 12
Admission: $16

Are you in love, looking for love, or scorning love? Either way, this is how love songs are meant to be heard — intimate and stripped down. Jammin Java’s official Valentine’s tradition is back by popular demand. Anthony Fiacco, Todd Wright and Luke Brindley pay homage to the group that influenced every musician out there with covers of your favorite Beatles love songs as well as originals of their own. Three singer/songwriters sharing the stage, telling stories, and playing songs, it’s like seeing the best local musicians singing your favorite songs in your living room.

Wild Love
Where: City Wildlife
When: February 12
Admission: Free

Take advantage of this rare occasion to visit City Wildlife, the animal rescue and rehabilitation center, as it’s the only time they open their doors to the public. join the Valentine’s Day celebration and tour the facility, enjoy some goodies and get a gift for your Valentine. You can also show your love for DC’s wildlife and help fulfill the organization’s wish list.

Spread Your Wings
Where: iFly Loudoun
When: Discount on purchase through February 14
Admission: Rates vary

Take flight and get your heart racing with sheer exhilaration this Valentine’s Day. iFly, the indoor sky diving experience, is offering a special promotion to celebrate. Use the promo code VDAY17 at checkout and get $20 OFF on the Spread Your Wings for Two and Spread Your Wings Return packages.

Seeing Deeper: Love to the World
Where: Washington National Cathedral
When: February 14, 6:30-8:30pm
Admission: Free

On Valentine’s Day, bring your family, friends or that Special Someone to weave messages of love to the world in this interactive art exhibit. Sized for the grandeur of the Cathedral and the intimacy of human connection, we’ll provide art supplies (or bust that yarn stash!) to help you build a collective expression of love. Or, find your own way to fill the space—explore the depth and breadth of the Cathedral’s space, find a nook for quiet contemplation.



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Filed under All ages, Animals, Annual, Art, Date Night, DC, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Where to Play on the Weekdays: January 30 – February 3

The Statue of Freedom at the U.S. Capitol

The Statue of Freedom at the U.S. Capitol



Monday – Take a tour of the U.S. Capitol! You can usually get on a guided tour day of, but even if you can’t there are still plenty of interesting exhibits and statues to see in the Visitor’s Center, which is open 8:30am – 4:30pm daily. Both admission to the Center and tours are free. Before you go, be sure to read these guidelines on what you can and can’t bring with you.

Tuesday – Drop in to the Art Adventurers Studio at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. The weekly program begins with a children’s story based on an artist’s life or a book that inspires an art project for children. This runs 10:30am – 12:30pm. Admission is a minimum donation of $5/child (2 child limit per adult). Recommended for ages 2-4.

Wednesday – Roam the grounds at Oxon Hill Farm in Maryland to visit the animals and check out exhibits that highlight the locale’s history. You maybe able to join in a Children’s Program, too! Hours are 8am – 4:30pm, and admission is free.

Thursday – Keep kiddos entertained at Imagination Stage, where the show Blue invites audiences to imagine a world where the only color is blue….until they discover something RED! Showtime is 10:30am. Tickets are $14.

Friday – Join Hooray for Books’ weekly story time for wee-ones and toddlers. Story time experts from the shop in Old Town Alexandria will share board and picture books with children, sing songs, and teach them some fingerplays. The free session begins at 10:30am.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, Art, Class, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Outdoor, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Winter

Where to Play on the Weekdays: January 17-20

Enjoy warmer weather and avoid crowds downtown at the National Zoo this week

Enjoy warmer weather and avoid crowds downtown at the National Zoo this week



Tuesday – Put some color in what’s forecast to be a gray day on a visit to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Housing some of the most wonderful, whimsical art around, the vibrant, quirky collections — including interactive pieces — can be appreciated by art buffs of all ages. Hours are 10am – 6pm Tuesday – Sunday. Admission is $15.95/adults, $13.95/seniors, $9.95/students & ages 7 and up, free for 6 and under.

Later in the day, Whole Foods Market Fair Lakes is celebrating their 10th Anniversary with fun for the whole family from 4-7pm. There will be live music, face painting, raffles, delicious samples from local vendors, and a cake cutting. Plus, you can enjoy exclusive sale items all day and get a free pint glass with any food purchased from the store’s sports bar, seafood shack, or cheese grille.

Wednesday – Have a wild time at the National Zoo, while the weather warms up and the weekday crowds thin out. Check the Daily Events schedule before you go to help plan your outing or pick your animal visits as you go. Grounds are open 8am – 5pm, exhibit building hours are 9am – 4pm, and the Visitor Center 10am – 4pm. Admission is free, though parking in the Zoo lot for non-members is $22 (free for members). You can also try parking on Connecticut Avenue or a side street, or take Metro to Woodley Park or Cleveland Park stations.

Thursday – Enjoy the day at Watkins Regional Park! The adorable Wizard of Oz themed playground will keep little ones frolicking for hours. While you’re there, stop by Old Maryland Farm to visit the animals and the Watkins Nature Center to view some cool creatures and birds. Park hours are dawn to dusk, 9am – 4pm at the Farm, and 8:30am – 5pm at the Nature Center. Admission is free.

Friday – As the 45th president is sworn in on Inauguration Day, head to Alexandria (and avoid the crowds of DC) to visit the home of the nation’s first POTUS, George Washington. Mount Vernon is hosting special activities, including scavenger hunts, exhibits, photo ops, and more, not to mention the ongoing programs and exhibits will be available, too! This program runs January 19-22. Hours are 8am – 5pm. Admission is $20/adult, $10/ages 6-11, free for 5 and under at the door, but $2 less if you purchase tickets online. And if you’re planning to take in the action at the U.S. Capitol, I recommend checking out this guide.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, Art, DC, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Weekdays

Take a Nature Break at Prince William Forest Park

pwfp_lead

My kids are funny when it comes to hiking. Sometimes they are gung-ho, but every now and then when I suggest we hit the trail, there’s a little protest: “But it’s just walking!” is something I’ve heard more than once.

Then I explain that it’s much more than just walking. It’s observing the nature around us, enjoying some active recreation, getting out of the bustling city for peaceful surrounds, unplugging, spending quality time together. I relish a good hike and, at the risk of sounding eye rollingly cheesy, think it’s the perfect thing for a mini reboot. Taking even a little break from our busy, hurried city life to slow down and connect is good for all of us.

pwfp_hike

The thing is, I can almost always guarantee that even when there is initial resistance to the hiking plan, they end up being happy trampers. (“Mom, you were right…” is not uncommon either 😉 ). Once we get to our destination, they’re excited to be there — racing each other down the path, looking out for wildlife, finding a perfect walking stick, and just exploring the environment around us.

pwfp_mushrooms

When we visited Prince Washington Forest Park in Northern Virginia this past fall, they were actually quite amenable to the idea. This mostly had to do with the fact that Owen had just been there for Nature Bridge , a three-day outdoor education program with school, and loved the location. I had been there myself a year before for a trail race and recalled it being a beautiful park with varied terrain and interesting trails. Collective enthusiasm to go someplace is never a bad thing!

pwfp_visitor_center

Prince William Forest Park stretches over 15,000 acres in Northern Virginia. The largest protected green space in the DC-Metro area, there are over 37 miles of trails to hike, plus miles of paved and gravel paths to cycle, rivers for fishing, and cabins and tent sites for camping.

There is a $7 entrance fee per vehicle (or $5 for walk- and bike-ins) that we paid at the Visitor Center upon our arrival. While we were there, we picked up a trail map, checked out the exhibits, and learned a little more about the park’s nature and history. A couple of tidbits: The area was significant strategic point in the Civil War, and during the Great Depression when the park was called the Chopawamsic Recreation Area, it housed children’s relief camps.

pwfp_exhibit

There are a few trail heads near the Visitor Center, and trails within the park are as short as a half mile and as long as almost 10. Many connect, so you can extend your hike and explore different areas. Our jaunt along the Laurel Loop Trail took us through the woods, which were vibrant with fall colors at the time, and along the Quantico Creek. Owen pointed out some of the spots he visited on his school trip, like a beaver dam and small waterfall, and we had a picnic lunch by the water.

pwfp_sash

Then we hopped onto another trail that took us deeper into the woods, and eventually to small cemetery. We learned that there over 40 family cemeteries in the park, mostly from the late 19th and early 20th century, but some even earlier. It’s important to respect these sites and also illegal to alter them in any way. You can read about a couple of them here.

pwfp_tombstone

pwfp_grave

While we didn’t see much wildlife besides birds, squirrels, and fish, plenty do live there. Deer, beavers, and black bears (!) are some of the other mammals you might encounter. And sightings of snakes, turtles, and frogs are pretty common.

The variety in trails makes Prince William Forest Park a great place to hike with young children, since there are plenty of short, flat trails. And if you’re with older kids who want more of a challenge, there are longer and more difficult trails, too. You even can make it a weekend trip — cabins are available May – October, and tent sites May – November. Whether you overnight it or just go for a few hours, it makes for a great escape from the city.

pwfp_owen



Prince William Forest Park is located in Triangle, VA, about a 45 minute drive from DC. It’s open daily from sunrise to sunset. The Visitor Center is open 8am – 4pm November – February, and 9am – 5pm March – October. Admission is $7/car or $5/walk- or bike-in.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, Educational, Exhibit, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Explore the Local Environment at Buddie Ford Nature Center

Watching a skink eat a cricket

Watching a skink eat a cricket



I really enjoy hearing from you guys. And not just with feedback about my blog, positive or otherwise (luckily it’s been more of the former than the latter). I especially love when readers let me know about a place or activity in the area that we haven’t yet experienced.

That’s how I learned about Buddie Ford Nature Center. A few weeks ago when I shared The Great Indoors list on Facebook, as I do every now and then when it’s been updated, someone left a comment letting me know about the facility in Alexandria. She called it the “best nature center in the area” and also mentioned they might have to reduce hours due to lack of traffic.

buddie_frog

That was about all I needed to know. When something is recommended as the best, my interest is piqued. And when a great place isn’t getting the attention it deserves, I like to help out with that if I can. So, I made a point to visit with the kids over the winter break to check it out for ourselves.

As soon as we walked into Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center on an early Wednesday afternoon, I understood. The large space is filled with exhibits that catch the eye immediately, all of them showcasing the nature and wildlife of the local environment, yet we were the only visitors there. We took advantage and quickly got started exploring it all.

buddie_micrscope2

While I was drawn to the many terrariums housing creatures found in the nearby woods, the kids went straight for a table topped with items to examine under a microscope and view on a large monitor. They were fascinated by close-ups of snake skin, shells, feathers, rocks and other objects collected from the outdoors nearby.

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buddie_turtles2

buddie_toads

In fact, there are interactive opportunities all around the huge room. There’s a cute area for little ones with a small activity table and plastic animals to play with. There’s a challenge to spot all the toads in a tank. A “Please Touch” table lets guests check out larger items from the outdoors up close. And there’s a nice sun room to stroll through to see all kind of plants and “chat” with Rio the sun conure.

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buddie_turtle

But one of the best things about Buddie Ford is the staff, who are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. They gave us a little meet and greet with some of the creatures, let the kids help feed the turtles, pointed out some neat things to see (like the skink mid-cricket meal), and shared interesting information about the collection on view, including neat facts about the wildlife and how they acquired some of them. They work with kids quite a bit, hosting an after school program and school field trips as well as offering birthday parties.

buddie_cockaroac

buddie_path

The staff also let us know about Dora Kelley Nature Park adjacent to the Nature Center that is easily accessed right off the parking lot. So after our nature center visit, we headed over for a short hike. A paved mile-long trail winds through the woods and marshland of the 50-acre wildlife sanctuary. It’s a nice stroll, and you can keep an eye out for some of the animals and plants you just learned about. (Be sure to pick up a trail guide while you’re at the nature center to help.)

buddie_skip

buddie_feet

So, I owe KFDC reader Lis a huge thank you for this one. I agree: Buddie Ford does rank among the area’s best nature centers and is absolutely worth a visit!

Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Sanctuary and Dora Kelley Nature Park are located at 5750 Sanger Avenue in Alexandria, VA. Hours are 10am – 5pm Wednesday – Saturday, and 1-5pm on Sunday. Admission is free.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, Birthday Parties, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend