Category Archives: Nature

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

The Weekend Round-Up: January 14-16

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The holiday weekend means extra time for fun with the kids, and there are so many great ways to take advantage. Join an MLK inspired event, get artsy with DCPS creatives, discover travel & adventure options, check out a new museum exhibit, enjoy live entertainment, explore a national park for free, and much more. This round-up has all the details you need to plan. Happy Weekend!

Celebrate MLK
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies

MLK Day may be on Monday, but there are events and activities that pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. throughout the weekend. Volunteer opportunities, library activities, the annual Peace Walk & Parade, art adventures, and live entertainment are some of the ways you can celebrate the day. This post has details on all of them.

Create DC!
Where: Union Market
When: Saturday, 11am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Get creative with the DCPS Arts Team! Families are invited to a day of creative play alongside some of DC’s amazing artists, educators, and arts organizations. Create shadow puppets, enjoy the DC Youth Orchestra petting zoo, join a drum circle, watch Shakespeare Theatre Company perform a mini “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream,” check out wearable art, and much more!

Travel & Adventure Show
Where: Washington Convention Center
When: Saturday, 10am – 5pm & Sunday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: $16/adults, free for 16 and under

Get travel inspiration, experience culture, and have fun! A big expo like this might sound like a grown-up affair, but a bunch of cool pursuits will thrill the kids, too. Besides the hundreds of travel providers and destinations featured, there will be cultural performances, Segway rides, camel rides (!), a rock climbing wall, “worldly” photo ops, and kids games.

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

* Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is on the Imagination Stage for its final weekend
* Encore Stage & Studio presents The Little Princess — by kids for kids
* Tweens can enjoy Bud, Not Buddy at the Kennedy Center
* The Alden Theatre presents both The Ugly Duckling and The Giver on Saturday
* Titanic is still afloat at Signature Theatre, and it’s getting great reviews
* Little ones will be delighted by Blue at Imagination Stage
* Rocknoceros is playing a special MLK Day show at Jammin Java
* Plan for a KidFree night out to see ROE, which just opened at Arena Stage

Bilingual Education Fair
Where: Francis Gregory Library
When: Saturday, 10am – 1pm
Admission: Free

DC’s first Bilingual Education Fair is poised to be a fun and educational Saturday morning! Thirty exhibitors, including 13 bilingual public schools, foreign cultural institutes, language app developers, and more organizations will take part. There will be both grown-ups and kids programs. Children can enjoy story time and activities in 7 different languages, while adults can listen to three mini-talks by a student, an American University professor, and a parent about why, how, and where in DC to raise a bilingual child, followed by 20 minutes of questions and answer.

Children’s Theater Festival
Where: Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre
When: Saturday, 11am – 5pm
Admission: $15/adult, $10/ages 5-13, free for 4 and under

Enjoy a full day of theater and so much more. Teatro de la Luna presents six hours of all kinds of artistic activities to delight the entire family. Coloring, reading, drawing, ballet, music, and dance performances will be part of the day’s festivities. And all of it is presented Bilingual.

Wee Ones Storytime
Where: Hooray for Books
When: Saturday, 10am
Admission: Free

Head to the book store in Old Town Alexandria for a reading just for little ones. At the weekly program, story time experts will read children board and picture books, sing songs, and perform and teach some fingerplays. Recommended for ages 0-3.

Rock On
Where: Newseum
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $24.95/adult, $14.95/ages 7-18, free for 6 and under

One of my very favorite DC museums debuts a new exhibit on Friday. “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” explore the ways music has influenced issues ranging from political campaigns to civil rights. See John Lennon’s bed-in guitar, Jimi Hendrix Woodstock Stratocaster guitar, stage costumes worn by the Village People, original handwritten lyrics by Bob Dylan, Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” jewelry from the VMA’s, video with some of rocks most influential musicians, plus artifacts related to the Vietnam War, Kent State University, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Black Lives Matter movement. The Newseum is best for older children, and this KFDC post has a bit more about it.

Recreation on Ice
Where: Local ice rinks
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

Warm up with a quintessential cold weather activity! Lace up the ice skates and get gliding at one of many outdoor rinks in the area. Enjoy art as you skate at the Sculpture Garden; circle the rink at Washington Harbour; meander the paths at Canal Park; or do some shopping then skate at Pentagon Row, Tyson’s Corner, Veteran’s Plaza, Rockville Town Square, or Reston Town Center. This post has details on both alfresco and indoor ice skating options in the area.

All Aboard for a Model Train Open House
Where: Historic Vienna Depot of the W&OD Railroad
When: Saturday, 1-5pm
Admission: Free

Chug on down to Vienna to watch model train and trolley activities that realistically depict an actual railroad that existed in North Carolina in the 1950′s, the Western North Carolina (WNC).  As described in Model Railroader magazine, every hill, town, building, locomotive, rail car, and industry in this layout is modeled after those places and things as they looked in that era. Well, almost everything. To satisfy popular demand, expect an occasional sighting of Thomas the Tank Engine (and a few of his friends) chugging around among the bigger steam and diesel locomotives. The Vienna Depot is located at 231 Dominion Road NE in Vienna, VA.

Open Studio: Dazzling Designs of the Qur’an
Where: Sackler Gallery
When: Saturday, 12 – 4 pm
Admission: Free

Discover The Art of the Qur’an at this free Open Studio for families, as you explore illuminated designs in manuscripts of the Qur’an. Take a family-friendly tour of the exhibition (offered at 12:30pm and 2:30 pm), then head to the ImaginAsia classroom to get creative. Tea and refreshments provided. All ages welcome with adult companions.

hiSTORYtime
Where: National Museum of American History
When: Saturday, 11am
Admission: Free

Early learners ages 0-6 and their caregivers will have the chance to hear a story and participate in hands-on activities and crafts inspired by objects from the museum’s collection at this weekly program. Saturdays in January are all about clothes! Hear a reading that makes us think about the clothes we wear and how they can change over time. Then check out some clothes that are housed at the museum collection and enjoy fun, clothing-related crafts.

Wizard School Scavenger Hunt
Where: National Gallery of Art
When: Saturday, 2pm
Admission: $17.50/ages10-17, $19.50/adult

Join Watson Adventures on a unique Harry Potter-themed scavenger hunt for kids 10 & up! Follow in the footsteps of young wizards on a field trip to the National Gallery in search of art that echoes characters, places and enchanted objects in the famed Harry Potter books and movies. Wizards and muggles alike can play and enjoy this hunt. It’s not an addition to or variation on Harry’s adventures, but instead references to the books will provide a surprising bridge to many strange and wonderful works of art. It’s a great way to discover — or rediscover — the museum. Designed for kids and adults to do together, and kids must be accompanied by an adult. Advance purchase is required.

Watch the Wizards
Where: Verizon Center
When: Saturday, 8pm & Monday, 2pm
Admission: Ticket prices vary

The Wizards will be hosting at home this weekend with games Saturday night and Monday afternoon. Catch them at the Verizon Center against the 76ers on Saturday, or watch some on-court action on MLK Day when they play Portland.

An Afternoon with Winnie the Pooh
Where: Northeast Library
When: Sunday, 3pm
Admission: Free

Join Northeast Library for an Afternoon with Winnie the Pooh, one of the world’s most lovable characters! Guests can enjoy a story reading, watch a short movie, and make a Pooh and friends craft to take home. Best for kids ages 5 and up. Snacks provided, too!

Free Parking
Where: National Parks
When: Monday
Admission: Free!

It’s the first fee free day of the year for national parks, which means there’s no entrance fee where they usually charge to get in. Take advantage of complimentary admission and the day off from school; explore the just posted about Prince William Forest Park, go to Fort McHenry, hit the trail at Shenandoah or Great Falls, or visit Harpers Ferry.

DC, Inside & Out
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

Looking for ways to stay active and entertained without a chill in the air? Then The Great Indoors post, a list of over 80 ideas for places to go inside, should have you covered. And if you prefer the outdoors no matter the weather, The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids, has a bunch of recommendations, too.




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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, Babies, Date Night, DC, DC Volunteer Opportunities, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Monuments & Memorials, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Theatre, Virginia, Volunteer, Weekend, Winter

Take a Nature Break at Prince William Forest Park

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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.

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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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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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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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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