Category Archives: Educational

Where to Play on the Weekdays: January 9-13

Taking in the view at Kenilworth Aquatic Garden

Taking in the view at Kenilworth Aquatic Garden





Monday – Jump with joy at Flight Trampoline Park in Springfield, VA. This bouncy nirvana hosts Kid Flight sessions, when the whole park is open only to children under the age of 6, from 10am – 2pm Monday through Friday. Special pricing starts at $8/30 minutes ($10/hour), and an accompanying adult jumps free! I recommend buying tickets and submitting waivers online in advance to save time when you get there.

Tuesday – Take your toddlers to story hour at East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. The children’s book readings are perfect for future readers ages 0-4. The session starts at 11am, and admission is free. After, browse the inventory then grab a lunch at one of many nearby eateries.

Wednesday – Join wacky citizen-scientist Professor Wingnut and his friend Seymour Seagull as they explore the amazing science of flight! This show presented by Discovery Theater fittingly takes places at the National Air & Space Museum. Tickets are still available for the 1pm performance (on Thursday, too!) and cost $3-8, depending on age. If they sell out, you can catch a different kind of show at the museum’s Albert Einstein Planetarium or just explore the amazing space 😉 . Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and admission is free.

Thursday – Enjoy what will hopefully be a warmer, sunnier day at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Go on a nature walk among the ponds filled with giant lily pads and other interesting marsh plants and look for geese, great blue herons, turtles, frogs, and tiny fish on the way. Open 8am – 4pm this time of year, and at 2pm you can join a Garden Walk with a park ranger. Admission is free.

Friday – Explore the local environment from the comfort of the indoors at Buddie Ford Nature Center, which I just posted about last week. The facility in Alexandria boasts fascinating exhibits (including live creatures!), hands-on activities, and a staff of friendly and knowledgeable naturalists that all ages will appreciate. And if weather permits, continue the fun outdoors with a short hike at the adjacent Dora Kelley Nature Park. Buddie Ford hours are 10am – 5pm. Admission is free.


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Filed under All ages, Babies, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Museums, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Winter

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.

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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_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.

buddie_rio

buddie_please_touch

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.

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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.)

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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

Where to Play on the Weekdays: January 2-6

Exploring pointillism at an Open Studio Friday session

Exploring pointillism at an Open Studio Friday session



Monday – Go see a movie on the really big screen. You’ve got your choice of several IMAX films playing right now: Dinosaurs Alive 3D, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean 3D, and National Parks Adventure 3D are all playing at the Natural History Museum’s Johnson IMAX Theater. And the Air & Space Museum’s Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater presents A Beautiful Planet 3D, Journey to the Stars 3D, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Tickets are $9/adults, $8/seniors, $7.50/youth ($15/adult, $13.50/youth for Rogue One). Be sure to check schedules for showtimes. And, of course, plan for some time before or after to explore the museums, too.

Tuesday – Venture up to Baltimore for a day of play and learning at Port Discovery. Several levels full of awesome hands-on exhibits will keep the kids entertained for hours! Open 9:30am – 4:30pm. Admission is $14.95 for ages 2 and up, free for under 2. And if you think you might go a few time this year, I recommend checking out their membership options.

Wednesday – Explore the grounds and play in the gardens, particularly the Children’s Garden, at River Farm. The American Horticulture Society’s headquarters overlooking the Potomac River in Alexandria are as lovely as they are fun. Hours are 9am – 5pm. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

Thursday – Enjoy a musical morning with Boogie Babes as they bring kiddie entertainment to Eastern Market at 10:30am. Admission is $6/child, and siblings 6 months and under are free. Plan on lunch after at the market or nearby — there are lots of options for a tasty bite.

Friday – Head to the National Portrait Gallery for some creative fun at an Open Studio Friday session. All ages are welcome to explore a different art medium each week with all kinds of neat projects. Drop in anytime from 1-6pm. Go earlier or stay after to explore the museum’s collections and hang out in the beautiful Kogod Courtyard. Museum hours are 11:30am – 7pm. Admission is free. Read more about the Penn Quarter gallery in this KFDC post.

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Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Virginia, Weekdays

The KFDC Top 16 of 2016

The Mothership at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Mothership at the National Museum of African American History and Culture



This year is really getting a bad rap, and I can’t say it isn’t warranted. But while 2016 wasn’t generally stellar, there were some pretty great moments, including on the KFDC front. Here’s a recap of the best of them, our Top 16 of 2016. What were some of your family’s faves of the past year? Let us know in the comments below!

The NMAAHC is a Must Do

The NMAAHC is a Must Do

1. National Museum of African American History & Culture
The newest addition to the National Mall is one of the most remarkable attractions to open in DC in recent years. As I shared in a Facebook post about my visit there, the museum is “phenomenal, an emotional experience that is at once heartbreaking, poignant, uplifting, and hopeful.” I’ll be posting a full write-up after Owen and Sasha visit soon — I was on my own that first time — but for now, take my word that this should top your DC Must Do list. And FYI: While advance passes are unavailable until April, it’s now easier to get them same-day — a limited number are up for grabs online starting at 6:30am daily.


I believe I can fly...

I believe I can fly…

2. Soaring at iFly Loudon
I flew! Like, in the air as if I’d just jumped out of an airplane, except I didn’t have to risk my life and conquer what’s probably my biggest fear. iFly, the simulated skydiving experience is so much fun and such an incredible rush. Flights take place in a vertical wind tunnel, where a smooth cushion of air enables people to float (read my post for more details on how it works). While it’s a pricey venture, it’s worth it in my opinion, but perhaps for a special occasion. Which is just what we’re planning for the kids’ upcoming birthdays (shhhh!).


Hangin' at the Obamas

Hangin’ at the Obamas

3. White House Tour
Considering the many, many years I’ve lived in DC and all the adventures I’ve experienced in this city, you’d think surely I’d been in the White House at some point. Nope. Until our family visited last week for the Christmas tour, I’d only been to the gardens outside. Even the kids had already been! So, although we only got to stroll through the East Wing to view the seasonal decor, it was a mini thrill for me to finally go. And the timing was perfect. 🙂


Over 16,000 diapers bundled that day!

Over 16,000 diapers bundled that day!

4. Volunteering at DC Diaper Bank
This amazing organization started by local mom, Corinne Cannon, provides diapers and other essential items to families in need. Even better, volunteers of all ages are welcome to help make this possible. I had been aware of DC Diaper Bank for years and had promoted their drives and Boogie Babes shows, but we had never volunteered at the warehouse ourseleves. That changed this fall when we spent a morning there helping bundle and stack diapers — over 16,000 of them just that day! — along with a great crew of volunteers from little ones to grandparents. It was great way for the kids to actively give back, and we’re planning to make it a regular thing. If you’re interested in volunteering, sign up here.


Happiest girls on the Hill

Happiest girls on the Hill

5. Snowzilla
Now, this was a perfect storm. The Blizzard of 2016 blew through DC, blanketing the area with two feet of snow. The good kind of snow — soft, dry, and fluffy, not wet and slushy. Then it blew out, and a beautiful, sunny day followed. And what seemed like all of the people of DC got out their sleds and headed to the U.S. Capitol, where the sledding ban was lifted (not that it ever stopped us, anyway), so we could enjoy some quintessential winter fun at one of our city’s country’s most iconic spots. But all around the area, folks were enjoying Snowzilla’s remains, as seen in the Snowzilla Photo Contest. A couple of days later it was 60 degrees and sunny, and while the snow melted swiftly, the memories of a couple fantastic days are permanent.


They escaped -- and had a blast!

They escaped — and had a blast!

6. Escape Lounge Birthday Party
Owen turned the big 1-0 this year, and we wanted to celebrate the milestone with something unique, befitting a newly-minted adventurous tween and his crew of like-minded friends. A party at The Escape Lounge was the key to an excellent birthday bash. The H Street venue offers interactive escape experiences, where guests solve a series of clues to make their way out of a locked room. It was a blast for everyone, and I know several people who have booked parties there on our recommendation and enjoyed it just as much. I know even more folks who have gone just for a fun escape adventure and loved it, too!


New neighbor at the NGA

New neighbor at the NGA

7. Reopening of the East Building
Many of us really missed the National Gallery of Art’s modern and contemporary collections while the east wing was closed for renovations. But the wait for them to return was worth it. The upgrade didn’t just enhance the interior; it also added over 12,000 feet of space. There is now a rooftop with views of the Capitol, Smithsonian Castle, and downtown DC, as well as two tower galleries — one of them dedicated to Alexander Calder’s mobiles, the other showcasing Mark Rothko’s abstract works. Both wonderful additions to an already remarkable place. And, of course, there’s the giant blue Cockrel sculpture, which had to be one of the most Instagrammed DC attractions this past year.


Concert in a living room

Concert in a living room

8. Sofar Sounds
This one is filed under the KidFree section of the blog, where you can find recommendations for things to do when you’re sans children. Sofar Sounds is a unique concert series that offers both a nice, intimate setting to see a show along with a fun element of surprise. See, you don’t know who will be performing until you get to the venue. Which could be anywhere — someone’s living room, a shop, a warehouse, even a museum. And you don’t find out the location until shortly before the show. It’s all about discovering and enjoying new music and mingling with others (including the performers!) who are interested in the same. A cool experience, indeed. Keep it in mind for your next evening out.


What a wonderful spin

What a wonderful spin

9. Carousel at Arena Stage
The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic that ran (or make that spun!) at Arena Stage was my favorite of all the shows we saw this year (and we caught quite a few). Owen and I saw the musical this fall just days after the election, and it was a great boost to the spirits during a really intense time; we were both completely captivated and moved by the show. Brilliant performances by a talented cast, a simple yet beautiful theatre-in-the-round-setting, and a story that is emotional and hopeful made for a great theatre experience. And a neat side bit: The next week when Sasha and I went to The Secret Garden, we saw the leads of Carousel there. I was totally star-struck, but think I managed not to seem like a freak when I gushed to them about how much I loved their show.


A perfect Mother's Day at Quiet Waters

A perfect Mother’s Day at Quiet Waters

10. Quiet Waters Park
We discovered this fantastic locale in Annapolis kind of literally by accident when a wreck on the Bay Bridge thwarted our Mother’s Day plans for an Eastern Shore hike. That serendipitous element is partly what made the outing special. The other part is the park itself and the myriad options for outdoor recreation there — hiking, biking, paddling, picnicking, art explorations, and just hanging out in a really beautiful natural setting. And because it’s in Annapolis, you have to pair it with a crab feast, which is a huge bonus anytime.


Get a peek at this exhibit

Get a peek at this exhibit

11. Ragnar Kjartansson at the Hirshhorn
This exhibit is a must-see for modern art fans. The mix of performance art, video installations, paintings, dioramas, and more inspired works is beautiful and bizarre and moving. My favorite installation called The Visitors, is absolutely mesmerizing and just unlike anything I’ve seen before. I should note that I’ve heard mixed things about young children seeing it — some have been captivated, while others were totally freaked out. (But the beauty of visiting museums on the National Mall is how easy it is find another to visit if one doesn’t work out.) The exhibition is only running through January 8, 2017, so go soon!


They dig Yosemite

They dig Yosemite

12. KFDC Does Cali
So, it’s not in DC, and I didn’t write about it on the blog, but our vacation in California this summer was easily a standout for us this year. We spent time in San Francisco, saw some old DC friends who’ve moved out there, and spent time on the gorgeous coast at Half Moon Bay. But the highlight of the trip was the Yosemite leg, inspired by both Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative that gave every 4th grader a free National Park Pass as well as the National Park Service Centennial. It was the first visit to Yosemite for all of us, and it was even more spectacular than I ever could have imagined.


Only in DC

Only in DC

13. Biking Field Trip to the Capitol
A couple of things make this one special. First, I love that it stemmed from a program launched last year to introduce DCPS 2nd grade students to biking as fitness. Sasha’s PE teacher continued it this year, and combined it with an excellent field trip to the U.S. Capitol, where the class got to take a tour. Yes, we rode bikes to the Capitol for a school field trip! That “Only in DC” element is also why I love this. There aren’t many cities, or neighborhoods for that matter, where you can ride down the street with a class of 7-year-olds to one of the most iconic places in the country for a really fun and educational outing. It’s just one of so many reasons why our kids are so lucky to grow up here.


Just another day at the Yards

Just another day at the Yards

14. Light Yards
Yards Park seems to have become the place that embraces the zany — and I so dig that. In this case it was an event over a couple of weekends that featured creative and inspired light installations. The first evening we went, there were large sculptures constructed of steel and light with a display pulsing to the beat of a live DJ set along with an oversized Lite-Brite — rave-y and family-friendly at the same time. The next weekend there were giant luminescent bunnies to ogle and a whole event with fun kid stuff, to boot. The kids were wowed, and I always appreciate an opportunity to show them what great and wild things can come from imagination.


Huzzah for Ren Fest!

Huzzah for Ren Fest!

15. Maryland Renaissance Festival Because, Ren Fest. 🙂










Take ride down Sing Street

Take ride down Sing Street

16. Sing Street
So, this one is pretty random and I’ve never mentioned it anywhere KFDC related before, but I really wanted to give this movie a shout out, because it was practically our anthem this year. Owen discovered this film back in January, and we all watched it together and loved it. If you haven’t seen Sing Street yet, put it at the top of your movie list. (It’s rated PG-13 — you can read the Common Sense Media review here.) The story set in the 80’s about a boy in Dublin starting a band with his friends to impress a girl is fun, dramatic, innocently romantic, and heartwarming. And the soundtrack, featuring both 80’s hits and original tunes, is absolutely brilliant. The new songs especially. I can almost guarantee you’ll be singing, “The boot’s on the other foot now…” after watching.


And there it is, the Top 16 of 2016. Don’t forget to let us know your tops of the year, too!

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Where to Play on the Weekdays: December 26-30

Checking out some of the Q?rius collection

Checking out some of the Q?rius collection



Monday – Take advantage of The Beauvoir School’s Winter Break and head to their fantastic playground, open to the public when class is not in session. Open all day. Admission is free.

Tuesday – Hit the trail for a hike. It should be a great day for it as the mercury rises a bit. Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Huntley Meadows in Alexandria, and Roosevelt Island are all great for tramping with kids. And this post has even more recommendations for local walks in the woods.

Wednesday – Head up to Baltimore on a Winter Break day off! Learn about the city’s early business days at the Museum of Industry. The Inner Harbor attraction highlights the trades and people that helped build the port city through exhibits that showcase relics from the past and recreate various industry environments. Hours are 10am – 4pm (Tuesday – Sunday). Admission is $12/adult, $7/ages 7-12, free for 6 and under. If you prefer some fresh air, take a tour of Fort McHenry, birthplace of the National Anthem. The park is open 9am – 5pm. Admission is $10/adult, children 15 and under are free.

Thursday – Get Q?rius at the National Museum of Natural History. During winter break, the interactive and experiential learning space opens earlier at 10am (instead of 2pm). Visitors can view up close — and in many cases handle — real artifacts and specimens from the museum’s collections. It’s recommended for ages 11 and up, but some younger ages could also enjoy it. For really little ones, there is Q?rius Jr: A Discovery Room for more age-appropriate exploring. And, of course, there’s the whole rest of the museum for everyone. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.

Friday – Reach new heights of fun at ClimbZone in Laurel, MD. Kids and adults will have a blast scaling the many colorful, whimsically-themed walls at the new indoor climbing center. Hours are 10am – 9pm (10am – 8pm other weekdays). Admission is $25/ages 6 and up, $12/5 and under for a three-hour session.

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Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Virginia, Weekdays, Winter