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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Where to Celebrate MLK Day 2017

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Special events and activities to honor and celebrate MLK have started this week and even more will be happening throughout the coming weekend. Whether you’re looking for ways to teach kiddos about MLK, want to give back on the Day of Service, enjoy live entertainment that pays tribute to his legacy, or join a special event to observe the occasion, these recommendations will have you covered.

Day of Service
Where: Various locations
When: January 16
Admission: Just your time

If you want to volunteer on the MLK, Jr. Day of Service, there are many ways and places you can do so around the area. Start here to find opportunities that suit your family.

ConSERVE DC
Where: Anacostia Park
When: January 16, 9:30am – 2:30pm
Admission: Just your time

Join the Student Conservation Association as they gather to ConSERVE DC this MLK Day by mobilizing the next generation of community stewards to help restore our public lands. With the support of American Express, they will be bringing together hundreds of volunteers for a massive cleanup of the Anacostia River. Join them to honor the legacy of Dr. King and connect the issues of social and environmental justice and help improve the health of DC’s urban waterfront.

More Family Volunteer Ops
Where: Various locations
When: Ongoing
Admission: Just your time

For more places to volunteer as a family that aren’t included in the official MLK Day of Service database, this KFDC post has suggestions. All of the organizations listed welcome kids to help out, though some have age requirements, so be sure to note them.

Learn about MLK
Where: Local libraries
When: MLK Week, now through January 16
Admission: Free

DC Public Libraries are hosting many events to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Storytime, arts & crafts, songs, and exhibits are just some of the ways you and the kids can take part.

Artsy MLK Days
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Gardens
When: January 14-16
Admission: Free

Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King with a community art activity! Each year, Annmarie invites guests of all ages to help create a community art installation in honor of a dream. This year’s big MLK Days project is a collective mural titled “#WDUS4 – What Do You Stand For?”. There will also be coloring and poetry activities, and the whole family can enjoy them.

Visit Memorials
Where: MLK & Lincoln Memorials
When: January 16
Admission: Free

Pay tribute to Dr. King at sites that honor his legacy. Visit the MLK Memorial, a powerful and poignant memorial along the Tidal Basin. From there, you can head to the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and see if you can find his words etched in the stone there.

I Have a Dream Weekend Celebration
Where: Port Discovery
When: January 14-16
Admission: $14.95/ages 2 and up

Community comes to life at the Baltimore children’s museum over the three-day “I Have a Dream” weekend. Celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with special programs, including a meet and greet with the Negro League Baseball Museum, painting quilt squares for their community quilt with the Baltimore African-American Quilters Guild, making a birthday card, a birthday tribute by The Kindersinger (Saturday), and more fun festivities.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Tribute & Celebration
Where: Strathmore
When: January 16, 3:30pm
Admission: Free

This multi-cultural program engages diverse, talented performers and award honorees who serve their communities unselfishly. Approximately 2,000 young people, including county officials and local press, participate in the commemoration in the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Limit four tickets per household.

KanKouran West African Dance Company
Where: Dance Place
When: January 15, 4-6pm
Admission: $15-30 (1 child free with adult paid ticket)

KanKouran, an integral part of the DC dance community for nearly 30 years, presents their annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in an electrifying, athletic, and family-friendly performance of traditional West African dance and drumming. During this special Family Series show, reserve one free ticket for a child 12 & under with paying adult.

MLK Parade, Peace Walk, & Festival
Where: Throughout SE & SW DC
When: January 16
Admission: Free

Commemorate the life of MLK, Jr. on a peace walk and parade along Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave. The Peace Walk begins at 10am at 2500 MLK Ave SE and ends at the R.I.S.E Center at 2730 MLK Ave SE. The MLK Parade will commence at noon from 2700 MLK Ave SE and continue up MLK Avenue to Anacostia Park, where the MLK Holiday Festival and Health Fair will be underway. All ages are welcome to join.

Let Freedom Ring at Millennium Stage
Where: Kennedy Center
When: January 16, 6pm
Admission: Free

It’s the annual special Millennium Stage performance in honor of MLK Day. The Kennedy Center and Georgetown University host a musical celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. This year the concert will feature a special performance with Gladys Knight and the Let Freedom Ring Choir. Free tickets will be given away up to two per person in line in the Hall of Nations at 5pm on a first-come, first-served basis.


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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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Giveaway! Join the Monster Jam at the Verizon Center

El Toro Loco gets crazy big air | Photo: Ross Dettman

El Toro Loco gets crazy big air | Photo: Ross Dettman



The HUGEly popular Monster Jam Triple Threat Series presented by AMSOIL® is returning to the Verizon Center January 28-29 with an adrenaline charged motorsports experience for families. Giant bonus: You have a chance to win a Family 4-Pack of tickets to catch the action at the Saturday 1pm show through the giveaway below!

This AMSOIL series can only be seen in select cities across the country and features the most extreme athletes of Monster Jam. Here in DC, fans will witness a fierce battle for the championship with each competitor using customized high-powered vehicles: Monster Jam Speedsters, Monster Jam ATVs and the famous Monster Jam trucks.

Approximately 12 feet tall and about 12 feet wide, Monster Jam trucks are custom-designed machines that sit atop 66-inch-tall tires and weigh a minimum of 10,000 pounds. Built for short, high-powered bursts of speed, Monster Jam trucks generate 1,500 to 2,000 horsepower and are capable of speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. Monster Jam trucks can fly up to125 to 130 feet in distance and up to 35 feet in the air.

The premier athletes slated to compete to be the nation’s capital champion are Grave Digger, El Toro Loco, Pirate’s Curse, Shark, Alien Invasion, Zombie, Monster Mutt Rottweiler, and Blue Thunder.

Tickets start at $15 for seats in the stands. (I’ve also seen deal for select seats on Goldstar) You can also join Pit Parties from 10:30am – 12pm for an opportunity to meet the Monster Jam athletes and get up close to the Monster Jam trucks. Pit Passes are available for $10 at the arena box office, online at www.ticketmaster.com or Charge by Phone at 800-745-3000. Same day event ticket along with Pit Pass are required for entry.

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Giveaway: For a chance to win a Family 4-pack of tickets Monster Jam at the Verizon Center on January 28 at 1pm, simply leave a comment below telling me what you would name your Monster Jam vehicle (make it as creative or simple as you want). To be eligible to win, you must follow KidFriendly DC on Facebook (get an extra chance to win by entering there, too). This giveaway will run through next Friday, January 13, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!


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The Weekend Round-Up: January 6-8

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This round-up comes with a little shout-out that’s filled an enormous amount of love — my baby girl is celebrating another trip around the sun. A friend recently described her as “twinkly,” and I couldn’t agree more. Her spirit sparkles, her humor comes with a wink, and I imagine if we walked through her dreams, we’d be pelted with colorful glitter bombs. She makes our adventures — our lives — more fun and is so insanely adored. And with that, here are your recommendations for fun over the next few days. Happy Weekend! And a very Happy Birthday to my sweet Sashi.

NSO in Your Neighborhood
Where: Various locations in SE & SW DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

The annual program that brings free chamber music, orchestral concerts, and educational events throughout a different neighborhood each year is back, this time in Southeast and Southwest. And you can enjoy several family friendly events over the weekend. See performances at Southwest Library this morning and East City Book Shop later in the afternoon. CHAW will host NSO musicians tomorrow, and you can enjoy more music at Congressional Cemetery and the Anacostia Community Museum, The Corner Store, and East City again on Sunday. Some require an RSVP, so be sure to visit the website for details.

Health & Fitness Expo
Where: Washington Convention Center
When: Saturday, 9am – 5pm & Sunday, 9am – 4pm
Admission: Free

NBC’s annual exposition celebrates healthy living at the Washington Convention Center all weekend. There will be free health screenings, exercise and dance demos, opportunities to try new sports, giveaways, and activities especially for kids. The Convention Center is located at 901 Mount Vernon Place, NW. Metered street parking and garages are nearby, and you can take the Metro’s yellow line to the Mount Vernon stop.

Summer Camp Sampler
Where: Imagination Stage
When: Saturday, 9:45am – 12:45pm
Admission: Free

Warm up on this cold weekend with thoughts of summer! Get an up-close and personal taste of what summer camp is like at Imagination Stage – they promise you’ll have a blast. Sample camps are 20 minutes long, with the exception of longer drop-off Musical Production. Parents are encouraged to join the samplers for children in grades 2 or younger. Parents of campers in grades 3 or older are welcome to observe the sampler, but not required. Register for a sample class here. This is geared toward children aged 4 – Grade 12.

Into the Woods
Where: Kennedy Center
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Tickets start at $49

This weekend is your last chance to catch a performance of Fiasco Theater’s production of the fairy tale mash-up. We finally saw the show this past week and it is fantastic! The “witty and wildly theatrical” description is perfect, and I’ll also throw in imaginative and FUN! Recommended for ages 8 and up.

Red Bull Flying Bach
Where: Warner Theatre
When: Friday, 8pm
Admission: Tickets start at $32

The award-winning and globally recognized dance crew, Flying Steps, will perform to a genre-bending mix of classical, hip hop and electronic music as they bring their internationally successful tour stateside for an extended run of dates across the country. This unique combination of music, dance, theater, and art has resulted in a genius blend of cultures that has wowed fans and critics alike.

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

* Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is still on the Imagination Stage
* Encore Stage & Studio presents The Little Princess — by kids for kids
* Join Jazzy Ash & the Leaping Lizards for a Kids Pajama Party at AMP by Strathmore
* Curtains close on The Secret Garden after this weekend
* It’s also the last chance to catch Mary Poppins at Olney Theatre
* Titanic is still afloat at Signature Theatre, and it’s getting great reviews
* Little ones will be delighted by Blue at Imagination Stage
* Gustaver Yellowgold bring his one-of-a-kind show back to Jammin Java on Sunday
* See Amahl & the Night Visitors, a famiy-friendly one-act opera, at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Bloomingdale.

(W)hoop It Up!
Where: Local Colleges
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Ticket prices vary

See some exciting basketball action at a local college game. The George Mason women host Fordham on Saturday (tickets here). The American University women’s team is also playing at home against Lehigh (tickets here). The Hoya men are home versus Butler (tickets here). And the Lady Terps take on Northwestern at the Xnfinity Center on Saturday (tickets here).

hiSTORYtime: Clothes
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.

Last Call for Ragnar
Where: Hirshhorn Museum
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

If you love modern art and haven’t yet seen the Ragnar Kjartansson exhibit, then get there this weekend, because it shuts down after. Among my Top 16 of 2016, the mix of performance art, video installations, paintings, dioramas, and more inspired works is intriguing and moving and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Many kids (including mine) will be just as captivated as adults (though if that’s not the case for you, there’s always the carousel right outside on the Mall).

Nature’s Calling
Where: Local nature centers
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

Get a dose of the outside world in the comfort of the warm indoors at a nature center. There are several great ones around the area that offer lots of cool exhibits along with fun programs. I just posted about Buddie Ford Nature Center in Alexandria. And Rock Creek, Watkins, Potomac Overlook, Long Branch, and Brookside are all great, too.

Ice It
Where: Local Ice Skating Rinks
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by rink

Get out and glide to stay active and warm up outdoors on a cold winter day! Enjoy art as you skate at the Sculpture Garden; circle the rink at Washington Harbour; meander the paths at Canal Park; or do some holiday shopping then skate at Pentagon Row, Veteran’s Plaza, Rockville Town Square, or Reston Town Center. This post has details on alfresco (and indoor) ice skating options in the area. And note that both at Canal Park and Washington Harbor are hosting Cartoon Skate on Saturday morning!

The Ins & Outs of DC
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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