Tag Archives: Family Activities

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). 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 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 โ€œI Have a Dreamโ€ 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.โ€™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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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Monuments & Memorials, Music, Outdoor, Parade, Park, Seasonal, Theatre, Virginia, Volunteer, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Adventure Theatre Presents “The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe” this Holiday Season (+Giveaway!)

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Halloween might be over, but not all of the witches have gone away. At least one is still lurking about, awaiting your arrival in Narnia. A land located (this holiday season, anyway) right in the heart Glen Echo Park.

This December, Adventure Theatre is bringing the beloved children’s classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to life in a two-actor show. And from what I hear, it promises to be a beautiful and magical experience. I’ve also got a Family 4-Pack of tickets to give away to one lucky KFDC reader!

Recommended for all ages, this one-hour version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe follows Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy as they are sent to live in the countryside home of professor Digory Kirke. As Lucy explores the house, she discovers a secret portal to a magical world called Narnia. With an evil White Witch ruling the kingdom, can Lucy, her new friend Mr. Tumnus, and her family band together to save Narnia?

Find out at Adventure Theatre from December 2-31! Tickets are $19.50 and can be purchased online or at the Box Office (I always recommend getting them in advance). Of course, you can also try winning them through the giveaway.

Giveaway: For a chance to win the Family 4-Pack of Tickets to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at Adventure Theatre, simply leave a comment below or on the KFDC Facebook page (but you must “like” it first!) letting me know which performance โ€” date and time โ€” you would prefer to see the show. This giveaway will run through Wednesday, November 16, 2016, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!

This post is sponsored by Adventure Theatre, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.

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

Discover the History of Fort McHenry

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Given the many, many years I’ve lived in DC and the frequency that we visit Baltimore, it’s kind of surprising I’d never been to Fort McHenry until recently. That’s not for lack of talking about going, though. I can’t count the number of times over the years that Levi and I drove nearby or through the tunnel bearing its name and remarked about wanting to go — starting before we even had children.

O, say can you see...my kids having a sweet moment?!

O, say can you see…my kids having a sweet moment?!

All that talk finally came to fruition when we made a trip to the national monument with the kids a few week ago. The site of the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 and birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner, Fort McHenry makes for a very interesting, informative, and enjoyable outing for all ages.

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There are all kinds of engaging exhibits both in the Visitors Center and throughout the grounds, from historical objects and structures to multimedia displays and interactives. We started at the Visitors Center, where we paid admission ($10/adult) and got a good background about the site from several exhibits. One of the kids’ and my favorites was a video featuring various artists performing the Star Spangled Banner (Whitney Houston’s Super Bowl rendition the best by far, of course.) There is also a 10-minute film depicting the history of Fort McHenry that is a must-see, with a little surprise at the end that I found very moving.

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With more knowledge of Fort McHenry, including details about defeating the British in battle in 1814 and the waving American flag that inspired the National Anthem, we headed outside to explore the actual fort. Having more insight into the history undoubtedly enhanced the tour, especially for the kids, since they had a better understanding of the site’s significance and could actually placed what they’d just learned where they now were.

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Many original structures remain at the fort and are open for exploration. In fact, most of the barracks and officer’s quarters now contain exhibits, some of them recreating what the spaces would have looked like back then, others displaying artifacts, and even more highlighting interesting aspects of the fort’s history. In one of them you can see the cross brace of the flag pole that hoisted the original star spangled banner. Along with the barracks, there are several underground areas, like prison cells and shelters, which the kids enjoyed exploring.

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Cannons sit at the forefront of it all, the guns aimed at the Chesapeake. You can walk along the bastion and take in the same view the soldiers did over two hundred years ago. What was once a battle scene is now a nice Baltimore vista. And if you look back at the fort, you’ll see the flag waving in the wind above.

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You can explore it all on a self-guided tour or join a Ranger Talk offered at 2:30pm this time of year. Other programs such as drill, musket, and artillery demonstrations by the Fort McHenry Guard occur seasonally, so it’s worth checking the website to see what might be on the schedule before you go. And you can help with the flag changes that place twice a day.

Fort McHenry is located in the Locust Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. It’s open daily, with exceptions of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Park hours are 9am – 5pm, and the fort and Visitors Center close at 4:45pm. Admission is $10/adult, free for children 15 and under. Free parking is available in a lot. You could also make an adventure of getting there and take a Water Taxi from the Inner Harbor.


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Filed under All ages, Educational, Exhibit, Maryland, Monuments & Memorials, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend

Enjoy the Ride(s) and Then Some at Kings Dominion

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Ever since we visited Kings Dominion back in May for a day at the Soak City Waterpark, the kids have been asking (no, begging) to return to experience the rest of it — the rides, roller coasters, and all of the other amusement packed in to the park. So, it worked out quite well that we were invited back to enjoy it all during KidsFest, when there are extra treats especially for children, like concerts, games, craft activities, and shows during a couple of weekends in July.

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It would have worked out even better if the day we opted to go hadn’t turned out to be one of the hottest of the summer. But we made the best of it. Spinning around and zipping along on the rides actually provided a rush of air that helped cool us off a bit.

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Kings Dominion has a nice variety of rides for all ages and levels of thrill seekers. There are several big roller coasters and exciting rides for those who want an adrenaline rush. And there are plenty of options for amusement park-goers who prefer a more “mellow” experience.

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Planet Snoopy is a whole section just for young children (and parents who aren’t so keen on the coasters) with gentler ways to whirl around, zip along tracks, and spin through the air. There is also a bounce house, and during KidsFest this is where the extra activities were located.

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I stuck with Sasha on the easier rides, since she was a few inches shy of the minimum height for the large coasters (that’s the reason I’m going with, anyway), while Levi and Owen went for the big thrills. Both kids had a blast, and we also joined up for a few family rides (tip: the White Water Canyon practically guarantees you’ll get wet if you want to cool off).

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While KidsFest only took place July 17-18 & 23-24, there is still tons to enjoy at Kings Dominion for all ages. Though I do recommend not going on the hottest day of the summer.

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Kings Dominion is located in Doswell, VA, about 75 miles from Washington, DC. It’s open daily through August, then on weekends through October. Hours vary, so be sure to check opening and closing times before you go. Admission prices vary — you can get an all-day ticket for $50, an after 4pm tickets for $40, and two-day tickets for $69. And you can often do a Google search to find special promotions or coupons to save on the entry fee.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company in conjunction with Blog Meets Brand, however, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own, and I only promote places and programs that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under All ages, Destination from DC, Live Entertainment, Outdoor, Park, Sponsored Post, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend