Tag Archives: Northern Virginia Kids Activities

Soar with the Wind at iFLY Loudoun

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A little tidbit of info about me: I am afraid of heights. Like heart-dropping-into-stomach, knees-turning-to-rubber scared anytime there is more than about 15 feet of space between the ground and my feet. I have mini panic attacks when my kids venture within 10 feet of a mountain’s edge on a hike, always opt for the aisle seat, and have to resort to my happy place when riding in glass elevators.

This doesn’t stop me from pursuing activities that frighten the bejeezus out of me. I’ve zipped hundreds of feet in the air over rainforest dangling from a wire, repelled over cliffs, even ridden a mule into the Grand Canyon (yes, put my life literally on the back of an ass as it slowly trod the rugged path, about a foot of trail between us and a 7,000-foot drop into the red rock abyss). Because while these pursuits are desperately terrifying, I also find them amazingly exhilarating. And I believe it’s important to veer from our comfort zones now and then and, as they say, conquer our fears.

However. One thing I will never, ever, ever, ever opt to do is skydive. No matter how thrilling or boundary-pushing it may be, or what a transcendental experience flying in the sky would offer… nope. Just the thought of hurling myself out of an airplane with the earth thousands of feet below makes me, ironically, want to hurl.

So, when iFLY Loudoun reached out to introduce their new simulated skydiving experience location I was immediately intrigued. I had never heard of this before. I could experience the feeling of flying without having to step foot in (then out of) an airplane? And it would be indoors with a “safety net” below? Sign me up!

If this is new to you as well, here’s how this is possible: Flights take place in a vertical wind tunnel, where a smooth cushion of air enables people to float. This air is created by high-powered fans at the top of the tunnel that draw air through the flight chamber, then push it back down the sides and underneath, then up again, lifting flyers. An operator just outside the chamber controls the speed of the wind, adjusting for the flyer’s weight and skill level.

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When I first arrived at the big blue structure right off a main road in Ashburn, VA, I was still clueless about the inner workings with all of my focus on the idea that I was going to fly. I was greeted by very friendly staff and taken on a little tour. In the lobby is the front desk, where guests can register as well as several kiosks for signing up and viewing and purchasing photos and videos after flights. There is also gear for sale for those who want iFLY souvenirs.

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All of the action takes place on the second floor. The large wind tunnel is at the center, with spectator benches just outside and an equipment area, a small classroom, restrooms, and a party room on the perimeter. The space seems compact compared to the building, but once you learn how it works, you can see how the facility is essentially built around the wind tunnel.

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They didn’t waste any time getting my session started, and my instructor, Trevor, took me into a classroom to give me a rundown of what to expect, demonstrate the body position for flying, and show me hand signals he would use to direct me in the tunnel (he would also be in there) — signs for bending my legs, straightening them, relaxing, and keeping my head up. He also answered all of my questions and was very reassuring and enthusiastic, which quelled any nervousness I had.

Flight suits for all sizes

Flight suits for all sizes

The lesson took about 10 minutes, and from there I suited up in my flight suit, helmet, ear plugs, and goggles, stowed my belongings in a locker, and prepared for lift off. Really, it was quick and easy as that, and in no time I entered the wind tunnel by leaning over and letting Trevor guide me. Before I knew it, I was flying.

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And, yowza, was it exhilarating! Any trepidation I may have had immediately disappeared once I felt the air lift and carry me. The wind blew loud and hard, but I barely noticed because I was so caught up in the thrill of it. I was flying! I spun around the tunnel, sometimes dropped a bit when I was out of position, lifted up again. Trevor helped with hand signals and some guidance, re-positioning as needed. I could not stop smiling, which was great, but also odd because it felt simultaneously like I was drooling and my mouth was drying out.

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There was a small audience during my session, as iFly welcomes folks to come in just to spectate. While I probably wasn’t the most exciting guest to watch, some flyers are skydiving enthusiasts who use the wind tunnel to practice skills and tricks, putting on a good show. While I took a break from one of my flights, Trevor jumped in a demonstrated just how artistic one can get in the air — quite an impressive show!

I took four flights, each lasting up to about 90 seconds, but it seems like they go on much longer. On the last two flights, Trevor flew with me and guided us high into the tunnel, at least 30 feet up and easily the most fun and exciting part of the experience. I didn’t for one second feel unsafe or disoriented. It seemed like I could gently bounce around on the wind forever. But, alas, my session came to an end.

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If there’s anything dangerous about iFLY, it’s probably that you could get hooked — and it’s not a cheap hobby. I’m already thinking about when I can go back with the rest of my crew. Anyone age 3 to 103 can experience the thrill, as long as they weigh less than 250 lbs, are not pregnant, and generally have good health and fitness (those with neck and back issues should consult a doctor first).

This may be a special occasion kind of adventure, since it’s a bit of a splurge: Pricing starts at $79.95/person for 2 flights, and there are also Family Packs and group rates available. (All worth it, in my opinion!) There is also a Kids Club, which offers discounts for multiple sessions.

And if you’re looking for a fantastic, unique way to celebrate a birthday, they also offer parties. Packages include a party coordinator for your event, a flight training class, all the necessary gear, hands-on instruction with each flyer, and a video of the flight session. Extras include a party room, catering, and a few more services. Contact iFLY for details.

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One quick tip: if you have long hair, be sure to tie it back tightly! My hair band must have been loose, because it came off during my flight, and my hair was a tangled mess afterwards. It took a lot of conditioner and slightly painful combing to get it back to normal.

iFLY Loudon is located at 20315 Commonwealth Center Drive in Ashburn, VA. Hours are Monday-Thursday 10am – 10pm, Friday 10am – 11pm, Saturday 9am – 11pm, and Sunday 9am – 10pm. It’s best to book in advance, they recommend a week ahead.

So, are you ready to fly?! Here’s a better look at what to expect…


Disclosure: iFLY Loudoun invited me in for a complimentary flight session, however, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own, and I only promote programs, products, and services that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under Indoor Play, Sports, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Wander & Wonder at Green Spring Gardens

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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.

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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.

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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 Glasshouse attached to the Center before making our way outside to begin the scavenger hunt adventure.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Field Tripping at Ticonderoga Farms

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Since I have a bit of experience planning activities for kids, Owen’s teacher asked if I might help organize a pumpkin patch field trip for the 2nd grade. Of course, I was more than happy to assist and knew immediately which locale I’d suggest: Ticonderoga Farms.

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I’d been on fall festival field trips before to other, more popular places, so I had some specific reasons for selecting Ticonderoga. It has enough attractions to keep a big group of 7-year-olds amused for hours, but it’s way more mellow than its well-known neighbor down the street (where I’ve had a mini panic attack or two thinking I’d lost a child amid the massive crowds). There are several long slides, an awesome giant jumping pillow, farm animals to visit, a playground with all kinds of fun features, old firetrucks to climb on, fire pits for warming up and making s’mores, a bamboo maze, and other play-inviting attractions scattered about the many acres. Plus, a hayride to a pumpkin patch is included in the field trip package, and all of the kids got to pick one to bring home.

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We practically had the place to ourselves — we definitely were the only field trip there — so there was no waiting to enjoy any of the attractions. It also made it easy for chaperons to keep track of all the kids. We had a designated area, in a barn with a few big tables, for storing belongings and eating lunch. And before boarding the bus to head back to school, we took advantage of the fire pits and enjoyed s’mores. The concession stand, which usually sells kits for making them, is closed weekdays, so I brought all the necessary components, and we ended the outing on a very sweet note.

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Ticonderoga Farms is located in Chantilly, Va. Hours are 9am – 6pm. Admission is $9.95 on weekdays (for field trips, too, but it includes the hayride and pumpkins) and $14.95 on weekends.

The farm is open every season during festival times, and the current fall fest runs through this Sunday, November 3, and I highly recommend going while you can! They’ll be welcoming visitors again at the end of November through mid-December for the Winter Christmas Festival, which you can read about and get a glimpse of here.

And I’ve got to give a shout-out to Utley’s Transportation Service and their friendly bus driver for getting us all there and back safely.

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Filed under All ages, Fall, Farm, Festival, Outdoor, School Event, Seasonal, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Festival Time at Ticonderoga Farms

Where to go first?! So much fun to be had in every direction.

 

It’s rare that I come home from an outing and immediately get on my computer to post about it here on the blog. Usually, I put it on my very long list of places and activities to write about and get to it… eventually.

But today was different. We had such a great time at Ticonderoga Farms for their Winter Christmas Festival — not to mention, there’s limited time left to enjoy it this season — that here I am, not even home 20 minutes, blogging about our visit there.  Yep, it was that much fun.

So, this was actually my first time at Ticonderoga.  (I could have sworn we’d been before, but I must have had it confused with another Virginia farm.) But I think I’m right to assume that the Winter Festival includes much of the same farm attractions as their fall fest, just with Christmas trees for sale (choose from the lot or cut down your own) and appearances by Santa.  Here’s a recap in pictures of our day there and a peek at some of the fun.

 

Jumping with pure joy

Jumping with pure joy

The "wobbly bridge" spans a pond where ducks hang out

The “wobbly bridge” spans a pond where ducks hang out

Wheeee! You've got your pick of slides to whiz down.

Wheeee! You’ve got your pick of slides to whiz down.

Peek-a-boo! Sash found a nice hiding place in an old firetruck

Peek-a-boo! Sash found a nice hiding place in an old firetruck

The bamboo maze includes doorways and a nice leafy canopy overhead

The bamboo maze includes doorways and a nice leafy canopy overhead

Hanging with the goats

Hanging with the goats

Chow time

Chow time

"Hey, lady...take a picture, it'll last longer"

“Hey, lady…take a picture, it’ll last longer”

Chickens, too! (They also have a couple of peacocks.)

Chickens, too! (They also have a couple of peacocks.)

The lovely playground area includes an old-school seesaw (ie, no handles...hold on tight, kids!)

The lovely playground area includes an old-school seesaw (ie, no handles…hold on tight, kids!)

All tired out, in a good way

All tired out, in a good way

And just because it was so much fun (grown-ups welcome, too!), another jumping pillow shot

And just because it was so much fun (grown-ups welcome, too!), another jumping pillow shot

 

What these pictures don’t include are even more things to play in and on, like swings, teepees, and tunnels. There are also fire pits where you can warm up and roast marshmallows for s’mores (kits are available at the concession stand), hayrides, and small “mountains” to climb. And my shots don’t begin to capture how pretty it is there. The scenery is gorgeous and peaceful — even with lots of kids running around shrieking with joy.

The Winter Christmas Festival at Ticonderoga Farms runs again tomorrow, December 2, and for two more weekends, December 8-9 and 15-16. Hours are 10am – 4pm. Admission is $5.95/person, free for 23 months and under. Concessions  are available at extra cost and include hotdogs, popcorn, cotton candy, chips, apple cider, hot chocolate and tea, cold drinks, and a few other treats.

 

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Filed under All ages, Animals, Annual, Fall, Farm, Festival, Holidays, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Virginia, Weekend, Winter

Outdoor & Indoor Play at Potomac Overlook Regional Park

All geared up with walking sticks for the 300-meter "trek" to the park's Nature Center

 

It’s a small blogging world around here.  And I experienced it firsthand on a visit to Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington a couple of weeks ago.  I got the idea to go there from No Monsters in My Bed when a friend and I were looking for a new place to take our little ones to play outside on a nice day.  Then, upon our arrival at the playground right next to the small parking area, I saw some familiar faces, adorable little ones that I recognized from Not-So-SAHM. It turned out their mom, Rebecca, and I both ended up at the park on the recommendation of Darcy (who write No Monsters).  What can I say… great minds think alike. ;)

Not only was it neat to run into one of my blogging compadres, it was also helpful — she had been there a while and gave me the lowdown on what to see and do at the park (read her review here), which included trail hikes and the Nature Center.  Since the kids were already immersed in playground action, we hung out there before venturing further.

The playground is pretty simple — a small area containing a log tree house with a small climbing wall, a steep and fast slide, and a double slide; picnic tables; and a couple of random exercise apparatus — but it kept the kids entertained for quite awhile.

Wheee!

We finally convinced the kids to move on by asking them if they wanted to see some animals; we knew from talking to Rebecca that there were live (and alive-looking) creatures on exhibit at the Nature Center, just a 300-meter walk down the road from the playground.

Once inside, the kids immediately stopped to ogle an exhibit (not live) near the entrance. From there, we headed downstairs to see the turtles and snakes in terrariums before entering the Kids Cave, a small room full of hands-on nature-related activities.

Owl and hawk and bear... oh my!

Hello, Mr. Snake

Kids in the Cave

When we left the Nature Center, we saw a sign for the live bird exhibit, so we walked up a short path to see a couple of owls and a hawk.  A park ranger explained they had been rescued, but their injuries prevented them from being released back into the wild, so they’re now permanent residents of the park.

He totally won the staring contest

Wishing for Italian Store? (Actually, that was me.)

By that time, we were all hungry and decided to head to nearby Italian Store and save a hike for another visit.

There definitely will be one, as Potomac Overlook  is one to put on the go-to list for a easy and free outing, both outdoors and in.

Potomac Overlook Regional Park is located at 2845 N. Marcey Road in Arlington (directions here). Hours are 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Saturday, and 1–5pm Sunday, closed on Monday.

 

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Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Free, Indoor Play, Outdoor, Park, Play, Spring, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend