Merriment is Coming

The Sashbuckler is ready!

The Sashbuckler is ready!

You guys. It’s time.

Those who have been reading KFDC for awhile likely know what I’m talking about. But if you’re fairly new here, you’re about to learn about my most absolute hands-down favorite-because-it-truly-is-the-best area event of the year: The Maryland Renaissance Festival.


This fantastic time trip to the 16th-century returns annually in late summer and early fall to its delightful hamlet in Crownsville, Md, called Revel Grove. Yes, this faire is so wonderful and clever, it has its own English Tudor village just for its two-month run every year. It sprawls gloriously through 25 acres of woods with several stages, a jousting ring, cute little shops and food stands, open air taverns, fountains, play structures, and other fun and charming features.

Did you know jousting is Maryland's state sport?

Did you know jousting is Maryland's state sport?

Band of merry boys catching a show

Band of merry boys catching a show

But it’s what happens when Ren Fest is in season that makes Revel Grove so magical. It fills up with all kinds of amusement for all ages. The live entertainment alone includes exciting jousting matches, cheeky comedy shows, fire eaters, sword swallowers, tight rope walkers and other balancing acts, jugglers, musical performances, puppetry, even a flea circus.

Keep on rockin' in the medieval world

Keep on rockin’ in the medieval world

As funny as he is thrilling

As funny as he is thrilling

There are also roaming performers who might provide one of the best laughs you have all year, you know the kind where you laugh so hard you end up sobbing from the sheer pain of guffawing so uncontrollably (this might have actually happened last year). There is a fun wooden slide to whiz down, a pirate playground for kids, castle walls to scale, a twisting maze to navigate, grub and mead, pony rides, glass blowing demos, hair braiding, a massage tent, a reptile exhibit, and, if you can believe it, even more!

"Hi, Jo!"

“Hi, Jo!”

Faire fare

Faire fare

You can walk around with a giant turkey leg and a nice, cold cup of cider (the grown-up kind) while the kids delight in giant bubbles, spontaneous outbursts of song, and Renfesters dressed to the medieval nines. It’s pure fanciful entertainment in every direction.

The Game of Thrones set is thata way

The Game of Thrones set is thata way

Now you know where to get your dragon stuff

Now you know where to get your dragon stuff

I realize there are skeptics, those who think one event couldn’t possibly be so awesome in so many ways for so many people. I knew some those people. And I use past tense not because they are no longer my friends for being Ren Fest nonbelievers; I say that because they have been converted (you know who you are and you are welcome) and accept Ren Fest as their recreation nirvana. And so will you.

So many fun shows, and audience participation is encouraged

So many fun shows, and audience participation is encouraged


So, this year’s logistics: The 2014 Maryland Renaissance Festival begins this Saturday, August 23, and will run every weekend through October 19. Hours are 10am – 7pm. Admission is $17/adults, $15/seniors, $8/ages 7-15, free for 6 and under through September 14. After that, tickets go up to $22/adults, $19/seniors, $10/ages 7-15, still free for 6 and under. Multi-day passes that offer a discount are also available.

There are special events to take note of as well:
* August 23-24 is Children’s Weekend – free admission for ages 11 and under
* September 1 – free admission for seniors 62 and over
* September 6-7 is Pirate Weekend – dress in your pirate best!
* September 20-21 is a Scottish Celebration
* October 4-5 is Romance Weekend – a vowel renewal ceremony is open to all couples!
* October 12 is ASL interpretation day
* October 18-19 is a jousting competition

If you need a little more convincing or just want to see some photos of our experiences at Ren Fests past, go here, here, here, and here. Otherwise, just go to Ren Fest.



Filed under All ages, Animals, Annual, Art, DC, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Festival, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Music, Outdoor, Seasonal, Summer, Theatre, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: August 18-22

Stop to see the horses on a visit to Rock Creek Park

Stop to see the horses on a visit to Rock Creek Park

Monday - Head out to Dulles for Air & Space exploration beyond the District. The Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center showcases flight artifacts they can’t fit into the museum on the Mall. See all kinds of air and space crafts, pretend to pilot in a flight simulator, get hands-on in a discovery station, and much more. Hours are 10am – 6:30pm through September 1. Admission is free, but parking is $15.

Tuesday - See a kids flick at the Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market. Their GKIDS Animated World series has a screening of My Neighbor Tutoro, a tale of two girls who move to a new house in the countryside. Showtime is 11am. Tickets are $7. The pop-up is an interim hub for the Angelika’s mix of specialty film programming and unique events. (And it’s a great little temporary theater — I checked it out recently when I saw Chef, which I recommend). The full-scale Angelika Film Center is expected to open in late 2015 at Union Market.

Wednesday - Learn about the area’s wildlife, enjoy hands-on activities in the Nature Center, take a hike, visit the horses, and take a pony ride at Rock Creek Park. The Nature Center is open Wednesday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm, and admission is free. You can visit the Horse Center for free, and pony rides are $20 at 3pm $ 3:30pm. Visit the website for details on reserving.

Thursday - Play, picnic, and possibly more at Hains Point. Drive all the way down, almost to the tip, to reach the playgrounds. They’re set amid big grassy areas with picnic tables and bathrooms right there, too. And the spot offers great views of the rivers and airplanes taking off and landing at DCA. You can also swim at the public pool from 1-7pm or play some mini-golf. Admission to Hains Point and the playground is free. Mini-golf is $7/adult, $6/child. The pool is free for DC residents, a small fee for non-residents.

Friday - Do something special to close out the summer break (for many area students, anyway) and go for a spin on the Capital Wheel. National Harbor’s new big attraction offers a thrilling ride and fantastic views of the area. Make it extra fun by getting there via water taxi from Old Town Alexandria (or vice versa). Tickets for the Wheel are $15/adult, $11.25/ages 3-12, 2 and under are free. Open 10am – 11pm.

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Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays

The Weekend Round-Up: August 15-17


There’s never a lack of things to do in DC, and this round-up (plus this list of ongoing activities) are proof of that. Happy Weekend!

All’s Fair…
Where: Montgomery and Prince William Counties
When: Friday & Saturday
Admission: Varies

You’ve got a couple more days to hit the Montgomery and Prince William County Fairs. Enjoy carnival rides and games, 4-H exhibits, pig races, pony rides, fair food, and more. See this post about county fair season for details on both and this one for a peek at the fun in MoCo, where we had a fantastic time last year.

Nats vs. Pirates
Where: Nationals Park
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: Ticket prices vary

The Nats are playing at home this weekend as they host the Pirates. There are games tonight and Saturday evening at 7:05pm, and on Sunday at 5:05pm. Take advantage of the Harris Teeter Family Fun Pack, and be among the first 25,000 fans to get there Sunday to receive a Racing President Bill Bobblehead.

Swing Among the Sculptures
Where: National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
When: Friday, 5-8:30
Admission: Free

There are only three more Jazz in the Garden sessions left this summer, and tonight’s will feature the big-band swing music of Swingtopia. Plan for a picnic dinner — bring your own or purchase food and beverages from the Pavilion Café and its carts located around the Garden. Note: you can’t BYO alcohol, but you can buy it there.

Pokémon World Championships
Where: Washington Convention Center
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: Free

More than 500 elite Pokémon Trading Card Game and video game players from more than 30 countries will compete for the ultimate title of Pokémon World Champion in this invitation-only tournament. And thousands of Pokémon competitors, supporters, and fans from around the world will converge on the Washington Convention Center for it. Intense Pokémon TCG and video game battles, Pokémon cosplay, costumed characters, and energetic Opening and Closing Ceremonies will add color to the family-friendly, international event.

Savor Summer
Where: Throughout the area
When: All weekend long
Admission: Varies by activity

Relish in the season with a host of activities that only occur this time of year. Outdoor concerts, water fun, movies under the stars, and more. From Jazz in the Garden on Friday evenings to Sunday night family movies at the National Harbor to open swim at local pools, the Summer 2014 guide has the scoop on where and when you can experience the joys of summer.

Meet Denard Span
Where: Tyson’s Corner Center
When: Saturday, 11am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Want to meet a Washington National? Denard Span, outfielder for our home team, will be at Tysons Corner Center on Saturday for a throwing lesson and meet & greet on the new Plaza! And for families that want to make a day of it, a new Shake Shack opened this past week, and Movies on the Green begins at 8pm with a screening of Jaws.

Colonial Tobacco Harvest
Where: Claude Moore Colonial Farm
When: Saturday, 1-4pm
Admission: $3/adults, $2/children & seniors

All summer the colonial farm family at Claude Moore has carefully tended their vital tobacco crop, which they use to pay rent and to purchase goods not produced on the farm. Now that the tobacco leaves have ripened, harvest time is here. Help the family clean the leaves and watch how they cut and split the stems. Help gather the cut plants and hang them on tobacco sticks to cure. The program is both educational and fun. Weather permitting, so you might want to call ahead if conditions outside are questionable.

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

* Curtains close after this weekend on Disney’s the Lion King at the Kennedy Center
* Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions, an orchestral concert tour for Pokemon’s video game music, is at Warner Theatre Friday and Saturday evenings
* Little Red Riding Hood & the 3 Little Pigs is on the Main Stage at The Puppet Co.
* Christiana Drapkin: Bop Goes the Weasel! is this week’s free Saturday Morning at the National performance
* Catch a colorful show as Pinkalicious is on stage at Adventure Theatre

Chikasha Poya-We Are Chickasaw Festival
Where: National Museum of the American Indian
When: Friday & Saturday, 10:30am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma celebrates its tribal heritage and history with two days of food, hands-on activities, and performances, including dancing, singing, storytelling, and other cultural arts such as beading, woodwork, pottery, weaving, and more. Join the celebration and get to know the Chickasaw people. Find the schedule of events and activities here.

Ice Cream at George’s Place
Where: Mount Vernon Estate
When: Saturday, 10:30am – 12:30pm
Admission: $17/adults, $8/ages 6-11, free for 5 and under

Get a glimpse of culinary life in the 18th century through ice cream making demos every Saturday in August at Mount Vernon. Visitors can watch as costumed staff make one of George Washington’s favorite desserts using reproduction period equipment to emulate ice cream-making process of the olden times. Look for a ticket discount on Certifikid.

(Green) Spring in Your Step
Where: Green Spring Gardens
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

I just posted about this tucked away treasure in Alexandria, and it’s a great one to check out. The beautiful grounds are comprised of 26 areas, mostly gardens, that are fantastic to explore. Be sure to stop in the Horticultural Center to pick up scavenger hunt instructions for the kids — they’ll have a blast looking for items and completing fun tasks along your tour.

Big Fun at the Big Maze
Where: National Building Museum
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $10/adult, $5/age 3-11 members; $16/adult, $13/age 3-11 non-members

Just a couple of weeks left to experience this super cool installation at one of our favorite museums. It looms up to 18 feet high in the Great Hall and measures 60 feet by 60 feet. Within there are twists and turns and dead ends, all formed by finely constructed walls of maple plywood at varying heights. Navigating it is a blast, especially for the kids, and viewed from upper levels, it’s like a work of art. Read more about it and get a glimpse here.

Getting to Know Degas and Cassatt
Where: National Gallery of Art
When: Saturday, 11am & Sunday, 1pm
Admission: Free

During this session of the National Gallery of Art’s Children’s Film Program, join them for two animated films about Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt based on Mike Venezia’s Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists books. Learn about the life and work of the two artists who were friends and collaborators in later 19th-century Paris. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Get Out
Where: Throughout the area
When: All weekend long
Admission: Varies by locale

If this stretch of sublime weather continues, get out and take advantage — go on a hike, explore a garden, play in the trees, row on the river, visit animals at a farm or the Zoo. This post has a loooong list of ideas for al fresco fun.

DC United vs. Colorado Rapids
Where: RFK Stadium
When: Sunday, 8pm (parking lot opens at 4pm)
Admission: Ticket prices vary

End the weekend with some soccer action as the DC United host the Colorado Rapids Sunday evening. But get there early for activities at the Lot 8 Tailgate — you can enter to win an autographed jersey, plus Chris Pontius and Jaime Moreno will be there. Food Trucks will be open at 6pm, and gates open at 7pm.


Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Sports, Summer, Theatre, Virginia, Weekend

Wander & Wonder at Green Spring Gardens


A few weeks ago, as I was updating The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids, I did a quick read through the comments and realized something: My memory is shot.

Because as I was browsing, I saw a post recommending Greensprings [sic] in Alexandria and thought to myself, “Hmmm, I must have missed this comment because I’ve never heard of this place.” And that very well could have been the case if not for a reply from me right below it thanking her for the heads-up since I wasn’t previously aware of the locale. I have no recollection of ever reading or writing that (and I can’t even use the “too much wine” excuse because I wrote it at 10:57am and, well, even I have some limits).

Anyway, that “realization” came at just the right time, because my kids were going to be off camp the next day, so we could spend some extra time together, and Green Spring Gardens sounded like a great place to do that.


Northern Virginia keeps surprising me with these lovely places that seem to be hidden within the suburban sprawl. You’re driving along a main road past shopping centers and town house communities, then you make a turn into a parking lot behind a strip mall, and voila!, there’s this gorgeous park with a vast green space surrounded by gardens full of plants, flowers, art, whimsical structures, play spots for children, gazebos, and fountains. When we first walked in, I kind of couldn’t believe it existed there. Owen and Sasha also were delighted at first sight.



I wanted to get the lay of the land, so we walked over to the Horticultural Center, a large brown building that you can’t miss, to pick up a map and see if there was anything special we should know about. This was an auspicious decision, because along with the map, we received scavenger hunt instructions for the kids, which added some purposeful amusement to our visit. We took a walk through the the Glasshouse attached to the Center before making our way outside to begin the scavenger hunt adventure.



The grounds are comprised of 26 different areas, most of them small gardens, but also a historic house, ponds, and an overlook. We started off in the adorably whimsical Children’s Garden, where the kids spent a good amount of time playing and crossing off some of the hunt tasks, like finding a plant as tall as them, greeting a tree, and telling the time based on a sun dial. A teepee made of bamboo stick and vines, little garden house, small table and chairs, and sensory garden are part of the area, too.




From there, we toured the other areas and completed more tasks on the way — they sang songs in the gazebo, found flowers in their favorite colors, and searched for a caterpillar (to no avail). We took breaks from the hunt to roam around, walking on trails through woodsy areas and running through the open spaces, before making our way to the ponds at the back of the grounds.




The ponds are pretty and peaceful and deserve a close look — we saw several turtles swimming around and enjoyed the lotus flowers among the sights. After hanging out there for awhile, we made our way back to Horticultural Center where the kids picked up surprises for completing all of the scavenger hunt tasks (well, everything but the caterpillar find). While we were back there, I learned that Green Springs occasionally hosts classes and Family Days, which you can register for on their website.


Green Spring Gardens is located at 4603 Green Spring Road in Alexandria. Hours are 9am – 4:30pm Monday – Saturday, and 12-4:30pm on Sunday. Admission is free.

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Filed under All ages, Educational, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Kick off Back to School with Kiwi Crate

Did you get in on the Kiwi Crate free trial that I posted about a few weeks ago? Hopefully, you did and, hopefully, you’ve received the sample and now know firsthand what a great product and service the subscription craft box is for families. (If you didn’t, read about our experience with it.)

And Kiwi Crate has another great offer! If you join this month, you’ll not only get enriching hands-on projects delivered right to your door, you can save $10 on any new subscription and receive a bonus welcome kit! Just use the code BACKTOSCHOOL10 when you check out to get the discount and extra goodies.

For those who are learning about Kiwi Crate for the first time, it’s an award-winning, monthly subscription service that provides all the hands-on materials to inspire creative, educational fun. With themes like Music, Color, Robots, and Safari, these crates deliver everything needed for unique activities that you and your kids can enjoy together.

Happy Savings…and Crafting!

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Filed under All ages, Art, Deal, Product Review, Professional Service