Where to Play on the Weekdays: December 8-12

So many delightful details in Santa's Workshop on the Ellipse

So many delightful details in Santa’s Workshop on the Ellipse

Monday - Show the kiddos relics from the nation’s past and even some from your childhood at the National Museum of American History, where collections include some of the best toys and games of the old days. Other fun exhibits include the First Ladies’ ball gowns and America on the Move, a history of transportation in the U.S. featuring some of the earliest automobiles, a train car, and an old street car that guests can actually climb aboard. The museum is open from 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.

Tuesday - Let little ones bounce, climb, swing, tumble, and slide at the PG Sports & Learning Complex Gymnastics Center. The hour-long open play session begins at 11:30am, and admission is $6/child. (This also takes place on Wednesday at the same time.)

Wednesday - Experience holiday traditions from a global perspective at the 3rd Annual Winternational Celebration. Festivities include a gingerbread cookie station, complimentary cookies, hot cocoa, and apple cider, sample of global bites, cultural performances, and an international bazaar. This will all take place in the atrium at the Ronald Reagan Building from 11am – 2pm, and admission is free. Want some evening entertainment, too? Head to the Kennedy Center for Merry TubaChristmas, the free Millennium Stage performance at 6pm.

Thursday - Bundle up for a hike at Roosevelt Island, where you can get a dose of nature and history in one fell swoop. The trails are easy for little ones to tramp, and you can explore the Memorial Plaza to learn about the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt. The entrance to the park is located right off the GW Parkway, just past the Roosevelt Bridge. It’s accessible only from the northbound lanes. Hours are 6am – 10pm. Admission is free.

Friday - Visit Santa on the Ellipse. His charming little workshop, where guests can take a photo with him, is open 12:30-9:30pm on Fridays (Saturdays & Sundays, too) through December 21. You can read about one of our experiences there in this past KFDC post.

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Uncover 500 Years of Cryptography at the Folger Library

Writing a text using flowers at the Folger's "Decoding the Renaissance" exhibit

Writing a text using flowers at the Folger’s “Decoding the Renaissance” exhibit

[This is a guest post contributed my friend, Robert Pohl, author of Wicked Capitol Hill and Urban Legends & Historic Lore of Washington D.C. as well as a columnist for The Hill is Home blog and Hill Rag.]

If you think that cryptography, Shakespeare, and kids do not make a good combination, the Folger Shakespeare Library has an exhibition for you. By the time you — and your kids — have worked your way through it, you’ll be singing an entirely new tune.

Decoding the Renaissance: 500 Years of Codes and Cyphers” has something for everyone. Centered around the work of Capitol Hill residents William and Elizebeth Friedman, it tells a remarkable story stretching from the 15th century to the present. The story begins before the First World War, when the two worked at a research institute outside of Chicago. While William was a geneticist, he found himself drawn not just to Elizebeth, but the work that she did. They soon joined forces as cryptographers, attempting to prove the proposition that Francis Bacon had not only written Shakespeare’s plays, but used a code to hide the information that he had done so in the first folios.

While doing this work, the Friedmans also became the acknowledged experts in codes in the US, and were asked to help the war effort. Thus, after Armistice, they moved to Washington, where they worked in various parts of the government to ensure that the codes being used were strong enough to withstand any cracking. This work became of national importance during the Second World War, with William not only creating a code that has apparently never been broken, but cracking a Japanese code considered unbreakable.

The Friedmans never lost their interest in Shakespeare and other arcane codes, and spent considerable amounts of time on the problem that had initially brought them together. As they approached retirement, they returned to that question, eventually writing the definitive book on the subject. (Short answer: No, Shakespeare’s plays were not written by Bacon, nor is there any code hidden in the first folios)

With this sorted out, they turned to an even more intractable question: That of the Voynich manuscript. This remarkable text was rediscovered in 1912 by a book dealer named Wilfrid Voynich. It contains over 250 pages of text in an unknown script, along with an amazing variety of pictures. What is encoded in the texts has never been determined, in spite of several multi-year attempts by the Friedmans and continues to puzzle the top cryptographers until today.

All of this — including the Voynich manuscript, on loan from Yale’s Beinecke Library — is on display at the Folger, as well as a number of activities for kids: A scavenger hunt for them (with a prize from the Spy Museum as reward) and the opportunity to, literally, say it with flowers. There are also two programs just for kids on January 3 and February 7, “Become a Spy Master” and “Create a Code.” Both will be from 10-11am, and are for ages 6 to 12. Like the exhibit, they are free, but do require registration.

The Folger Shakespeare Library is located on Capitol Hill at 201 East Capitol Street. “Decoding the Renaissance: 500 Years of Codes and Cyphers” will be on exhibit through February 26. Library hours are 10am – 5pm monday through Saturday, and 12-5pm on Sunday. Admission is free.

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Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Museums, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

The Weekend Round-Up: December 5-7

Celebrate the season at the Smithsonian Holiday Festival this weekend

Celebrate the season at the Smithsonian Holiday Festival this weekend

If you’re up for seasonal celebrations, you’ve got it made this weekend. There are oodles of holiday events and activities going on, from a huge holiday festival to a card making workshop to beloved stage productions. There’s plenty of fun beyond the holidays, too — a pop-up video arcade on Sunday, lots of children’s entertainment, a Frozen sing-along, and, of course, DC’s mainstays, where a great time can be had any time of year. Happy Weekend!

Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, and Smithsonian Castle! This Holiday Festival has tons going on, something for everyone in your crew — concerts by the U.S. Air Force’s Max Impact, Silver Wings, and Celtic Aire; seasonal films, including The Muppet Christmas Carol; Mars Chocolate demonstrations; family holiday photo ops; trunk shows showcasing apparel, jewelry and art; book signings; festive food; and hours of family-friendly entertainment.

Winter Wonderland
Where: Bethesda Row
When: Friday & Sunday
Admission: Free

The first-annual holiday festival, Winter Wonderland on Bethesda Lane, will turn Bethesda Row into an outdoor street bazaar. Shop the pop-up holiday market along the lane, complete with festive tents to carry unprecedented deals on fashion, food, housewares, beauty items, and more. The whole fam can enjoy even more on-site festivities, including live entertainment, ice carvers, face painters, balloon artists, food tastings and a photo booth. It’s a weekend of excitement to celebrate the holiday season! NOTE: This was originally scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but Saturday has been cancelled due to expected inclement weather.

Tree Lighting & Skating Spectacular
Where: Tysons Corner Center
When: Friday, 5pm
Admission: Free

The Plaza at Tysons Corner will be bright with holiday cheer Friday evening as the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and skating spectacular kicks off Winterfest at the shopping center. 94.7 Fresh FM’s Tommy McFly and 106.7 The Fan’s Danny Rouhier will emcee the ceremony that will feature Olympic silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan and Santa Claus, with a special guest appearance from Congressman Gerry Connolly. The ice show will immediately follow and open with Santa’s elves performing “We Need a Little Christmas” and continue with U.S. national competitor Emilia Murdock, skating live to “Where Are You Christmas”, performed by Samantha Digiorgio. The U.S. National Team Ice Dancers will skate a special performance before Olympian Elene Gedavanashvili takes the ice to perform “Burlesque”. The show will conclude with a grand finale by the entire cast, featuring Nancy Kerrigan.

DIY Holiday Cards
Where: National Postal Museum
When: Saturday, 1-5:30pm
Admission: Free

Kick-off the holiday season by creating heartfelt, one-of-a-kind handmade cards at the National Postal Museum. Use beautiful holiday stamps from all over the world both to inspire your creativity and decorate your greetings. In addition to stamps, a variety of craft supplies await you at the workshop. This fun event offers something for everyone who loves arts & craft activities. We’ve attended several of the museum’s card workshops, and they’re always very well-organized and tons of fun. Plan to stay after to tour the exhibits, many of them interactive and interesting for all ages.

O Christmas Tree Sale!
Where: Brent Elementary School
When: Saturday & Sunday, 9am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Get your Christmas tree and support a DC Public School! The Brent Elementary PTA is holding its 4th Annual Christmas Tree & Holiday Sale this weekend. It will be a fun and festive atmosphere with lively holiday music and a full selection of holiday decorating items, including trees, wreaths, garland, and poinsettias. The trees, wreaths, and garland are from an award-winning, family-owned nursery in the mountains of North Carolina. This nursery has won the grand prize for best North Carolina Christmas Tree and first prize in the National Christmas Tree Growers Association competition. By virtue of these awards, this farm has provided the Christmas tree for Vice President Joe Biden’s official residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory and his personal residence. The grower takes great pride in ensuring that the trees are delivered fresh and in premium condition, within 2-3 days of being cut. All of the proceeds from your purchase will benefit the Brent PTA. The school is located at 301 North Carolina Ave SE on Capitol Hill.

Abracadabra, it’s Captain All-Star!
Where: Room & Board
When: Saturday, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Bring your family to the home design store for a lively morning with Captain All-Star, who claims to be DC’s funniest and clumsiest magician. Accompanied by his reindeer sidekick, Captain All-Star will entertain children with two 30-minute shows (10:30am and 11:30am), perfect for ages 2-8, featuring holiday music, dancing, and of course – magic! Throughout the morning, kids can also enjoy sips and snacks, while they create their own holiday themed craft to take home. RSVP at www.roomandboard.com/captainallstar

Show Time
Where: Local Theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

* 101 Dalmations is on the Imagination Stage
* And little ones will enjoy interactive theatre with Inside Out at the Bethesda theatre
* The Virginia Ballet Company and School will be performing selections from The Nutcracker as this week’s Saturday Morning at the National show
* Mr. Gabe is playing a holiday concert at Jammin’ Java on Saturday morning
* GRAMMY Award Winners Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer and kids music star Justin Roberts are performing at Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville on Saturday.
* Head up to Baltimore for Disney Junior Live! Pirate & Princess Adventure: Jake & Sofia Live at the Lyric
* The Kennedy Center presents The Gift of Nothing through December 28
* Fiddler on the Roof is on the Arena Stage (and it’s fantastic!)
* Date night? I highly recommend the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s latest production of As You Like It (also good for older children who’d enjoy Shakespeare)

Frozen Sing Along
Where: City Center
When: Saturday, 10am
Admission: Free

Let it go, let it go… at this Frozen sing along for all ages to enjoy! Join the folks at CityCenterDC as Elsa leads everyone in song. Along with the music, they’ll have coloring stations and a Frozen temporary tattoo station for children to enjoy before and after the performance.

Holly Trolley Fest

Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: Saturdays & Sundays
Admission: $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 (includes unlimited rides)

The National Capitol Trolley Museum’s seasonal fest begins this weekend! Ride with Santa on street cars and enjoy the model garden railway and holiday village inside the Museum, a special treat during the holiday season. And take a tour of the the rest of the venue, which offers a glimpse into the history of street cars, including a Hall displaying different cars from around the region and Europe.

Great Adventures
Where: Freer Sackler Gallery
When: Saturday & Sunday, 2-4pm
Admission: Free

Embark on a voyage of fantastic adventures and new discoveries across China, Japan, India, and the Middle East. This workshop introduces participants to the Galleries through stories, books, and art materials, highlighting the exhibition The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes of Asia. Recommended for children ages 8 to 14 and adult companions.

Winter’s Eve
Where: Glen Echo Park
When: December 6, 6-9pm
Admission: Free

Get into the holiday spirit at Glen Echo Park’s annual Winter’s Eve celebration. It’s free, open to the public, and visitors of all ages can enjoy performances, arts & crafts open studios, and a hot chocolate bar before strolling through the Park or joining the swing dance in the Spanish Ballroom. Browse and buy fine artworks at the Holiday Art Show and artist studios. Kids and adults can create gifts to share in the holiday-themed craft rooms.

Stead Park Santa Day
Where: Whole Foods P Street
When: Saturday, 11am – 1pm
Admission: Free

Visit and take photos with Santa at Whole Foods (1440 P Street NW) on Saturday. Friends of Stead Park are hosting this event for the community, moving it from the park to the store in anticipation of rainy weather. Guests are welcome to bring cameras, and there will be a photographer onsite as well. A donation of mittens or socks (adult-­‐size) or a monetary contribution to support Bread for the City is suggested.

Holiday Open House
Where: Torpedo Factory
When: Saturday, 4-9pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Alexandria’s biggest holiday weekend at the Holiday Open House. Artists from the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association will be keeping their studios open late to accommodate shoppers who want to buy unique, handmade jewelry, ceramics, paintings and other original works of art as gifts for the holidays. It will also be a festive destination for visitors before and after the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights on the Potomac. The Alexandria Choral Society will sing seasonal favorites at 5pm and 6:15pm with the Braddock Brass Quintet performing at 8 pm. Following the close of the Boat Parade, Santa will visit with shoppers and assist in handing out door prizes at 7pm.

Indie Arcade
Where: American Art Museum
When: Sunday, 1-7pm
Admission: Free

Remember getting dropped off at the mall with a pocketful of quarters and a feeling of determined optimism that today would be the day you’d finally make it to Baby Board? (Ooorrr, was that was just me?) You (I) have a chance to relive that feeling — and share it with your kids — at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Sunday as MAGFest and American University’s Game Lab turn the Kogod Courtyard into an indie arcade! Stop in to play video game favorites from your childhood — classics like Pac-Man, Asteroids, Tron, Star Wars, Arkanoid, and Donkey Kong will be available. You can also make games with the Hirshhorn Museum’s ArtLab+ and try new indie games from local chapters of the International Game Developers Association.

Holiday Open House & Christkindl Market
Where: Heurich House Museum
When: Saturday & Sunday, 12-6pm
Admission: $15/adults, $5/children

The Heurich House Museum welcomes the public to celebrate the winter season during its annual Holiday Open House and Christkindlmarkt this weekend, honoring the Heurich family’s German heritage by recreating a traditional German public Christmas market in its garden. This holiday shopping event, Dupont Circle’s only holiday market, will feature goods from local artisans, including jewelers, ceramicists, chocolatiers, coffee roasters, and makers of housewares, baby clothes, and more. Visitors who enter the Open House may stroll through the festively decorated historic mansion on a self-guided tour, enjoy the sounds of live holiday musical performances in the Conservatory, and bid on traditional Nutcrackers during a silent auction. The museum will be collecting new and gently used children’s books for a local children’s charity book drive, and guests will have the opportunity to create ornaments to adorn the museum’s holiday tree. Café Berlin will sell Glühwein, sausages, strudel, and other authentic German treats. Tickets for just the Christkindlmarkt are $5 and will only be available at the door.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap
When: Saturday, 4pm
Tickets: Free

Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long is an annual musical celebration hosting a performance by the United States Marine Band and a Sing-A-Long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area. Admission is free, and no tickets are required. Parking is free, but limited, so plan on arriving early. Bring along a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots, a bell for a “Jing-A-Long” during the singing of “Jingle Bells,” and a candle to join the tradition of exiting the Filene Center with a candlelight processional during the last verse of “Silent Night.”

More Holiday Entertainment
Where: Local theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

Much of the live entertainment on area stages right now is holiday-inspired. Enjoy the ultimate holiday classic The Nutcracker performed by the Washington Ballet at Warner Theatre or catch a tot-friendly version at The Puppet Co. Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead Scrooge on A Christmas Carol journey at Ford’s Theatre. Enjoy Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol at Adventure Theatre. Descriptions and details for all these shows are in the 2014 Holiday Guide.

German-American Christmas Village
Where: West Shore Park, Inner Harbor
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission: $1

Christmas Village in Baltimore will celebrate German-American heritage this weekend, showcasing authentic German culture to Baltimoreans and visitors alike. Guests can enjoy German dance groups and singers, decorations, games, and much more alongside the waterfront. Christmas Village is also taking part in the Dollar or Less days, by offering a $1 holiday pass on December 6 and December 7. With the $1 holiday pass, visitors can return to the Christmas Village on following weekends for free admission into the Village tent. (Weekday admission will continue to be free for all visitors throughout the month.) Dozens of surrounding attractions such as the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center will also participate in the “Dollar-or-Less” weekend, making it the perfect time to visit the Inner Harbor.

Night Lights
Where: Around the area
When: Evenings
Admission: Varies by locale

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are easily a holiday season favorite. Visit one of several parks or gardens (or the Zoo!) in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. Some you can walk through for an up-close experience, others you tour by car. If you opt for the latter, dress the kids in PJ’s, turn up the holiday tunes, and bring along a thermos of hot chocolate — it doesn’t get much cozier than that!

A Soldier’s Christmas at Carlyle House
Where: Carlyle house
When: Saturday, 1-4pm
Admission: Free

Head to the Carlyle House for an annual holiday tradition: Step back in time to enjoy colonial life in Alexandria during the holidays at the time of the American Revolution. The Soldier’s Christmas program features re-enactors from the First Virginia Regiment, and guests can also take part in festive activities, including live music, demonstrations of military drills, fife and drum, gaming, and cooking. Be sure to sample historic beverages and meet the men and women of the American Revolution.

‘Tis the Season
Where: Throughout the area
When: All weekend long
Admission: Varies be venue

Most of the area’s big holiday events and activities will be on by this weekend. Holidays on the Ellipse, Season’s Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden, Christmas on the Potomac, Boat Parade of Lights, the Magical Holiday Express, and more. Get the full rundown on all of them in the 2014 Holiday Guide.

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Giveaway: Enter to Win Tickets to the Washington Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’!


In the spirit of the giving season, here’s yet another giveaway! This time you have a chance to win a Family 4-Pack of tickets to see Septime Weber’s ‘The Nutcracker’ at the historic Warner Theatre. We’ve seen the Washington Ballet’s version of the holiday favorite several times over the years, and it truly is a fantastic production. You can read a KFDC review of a past performance, and this is the official description of the show:

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his highly-acclaimed production, Septime Webre is planning some special surprises for his celebrated all-American Nutcracker. Set in 1882 Georgetown, this gorgeous production showcases the grandeur of The Washington Ballet’s international roster of dancers and majesty of Tchaikovsky’s music. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historical characters, including George Washington as the heroic nutcracker, TWB’s The Nutcracker has become a tradition for generations of family and friends to celebrate the holidays.

Choreography: Septime Webre
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The Nutcracker will be on stage at Warner Theatre December 4 through December 28. Tickets start at $32, and you purchase them online and view the full performance schedule here. (KFDC tip: You can also check for a discount on select seats here). Or you can try to win them in the giveaway below.

Giveaway: For a chance to win a Family 4-Pack of tickets to Septime Weber’s ‘The Nutcracker’ simply leave a comment below telling me the best tip you got from KidFriendly DC — an activity, event, etc. — this past year. To be eligible, you must also like KidFriendly DC on Facebook and subscribe to the blog (sign up is on the top left sidebar). This giveaway will run TODAY ONLY, December 4, and a winner will be drawn at random and notified tonight. The voucher for tickets must be redeemed by tomorrow, December 5, and the winner will have a choice of any evening performance Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday through December 18.

Good Luck!

Disclosure: I am receiving complimentary tickets to ‘The Nutcracker’ to run this giveaway, but any opinions expressed here are entirely my own.


Filed under All ages, Annual, Christmas, DC, Giveaway, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Seasonal, Theatre, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Giveaway: Experience “Family Joy!” this Holiday Season


Celebrate the season with a special family tradition in the magnificent Washington National Cathedral! On Saturday, December 13, the Cathedral Choral Society presents “Family Joy!”, a 60-minute program that includes Christmas favorites and festive audience sing-alongs to tunes like “Joy to the World” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” The group will be in good musical company, joined by Washington Symphonic Brass and the C.D. Hylton High School Troubadours.

The performance begins at 12pm and will be ASL interpreted. Tickets are $25/adults, $15/youth, or $70/family 4-pack. To purchase tickets, visit the Cathedral Choral Society website, or you can try to win them by entering the giveaway below. And to stay in the loop on this concert and others, like the Facebook page or follow @CathedralChoral on Twitter.

Giveaway: Want a chance to win a Family 4-Pack of tickets to the Cathedral Choral Society’s “Family Joy!” concert? Simply leave a comment answering “What’s your favorite Christmas carol?” To be eligible for the giveaway, you must like Cathedral Choral Society on Facebook as well as the KidFriendly DC page. The giveaway will run through Friday, and a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Cathedral Choral Society, however, I only promote events, activities, and programs that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers.


Filed under All ages, Annual, Christmas, DC, Giveaway, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Music, Weekend