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Hike — & Après Hike — at Sugarloaf Mountain & The Comus Inn

Hanging out on the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain

 

Two kinds of outings many of us are seeking these days are activities outdoors with space to social distance and dining outside that’s family-friendly and heated.  And when you easily can combine both into one adventure, well, that’s like hitting the Covid day trip jackpot.

Enjoying the scenic surrounds of The Comus Inn

We experienced such luck a little while back the day after Thanksgiving.  I got the best tip from a friend about The Comus Inn, a newly renovated restaurant (and more) just down the street from Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson, MD.  Her family had recently gone for a hike then stopped for a bite after, and she raved about the fantastic time they had there.

A view from the Sugarloaf summit

Hiking at Sugarloaf Mountain wasn’t new to us, but we usually paired it with a visit to the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, also a short drive down the road from the park.  We’re always up for something new, though, especially when it comes as a very enthusiastic recommendation.

Space to social distance

The start of the White trail

Sugarloaf Mountain, in Montgomery County about 10 miles south of Frederick, is a great place to go for a family hike.  If you’re with older kids or avid hikers, you can start at the base and opt for an seven-mile loop up and down the mountain.  With younger children, or if you just want a shorter, easier jaunt, you can drive farther up to the East View parking area, where several trails to hop on are nearby.  A couple of good ones are the white trail, which winds around and ascends gradually to the summit, and the orange trail that is a steeper, more direct climb up.  Drive a little further to the West View parking areas for more, similar options.  However you go, you’re guaranteed great views on the way and at the top.  

Group hike on the Orange

Scrambling up to the top

On this trip, we met up with friends and opted for the orange trail. While all of us parents followed the route, the kids went off-trail and scrambled up a hill and over rocks, but we all met at the summit.  It’s a large area, so you can enjoy the scenery and climb outer rocks.  There are no big drop offs, but it’s always a good idea to make sure kids aren’t doing anything precarious, of course.   You can also bring along a picnic and, if it’s not crowded, enjoy it on some of the large rocks along with sweeping views.  There are also picnic tables near the parking areas.  However, I highly recommend saving snack time for après hike…

 

A perfect setting for a post-hike meal

The Comus Inn is part of what made this whole adventure special.  The  family-friendly community recreation and entertainment destination (as they describe it) could be an outing in itself.  There is a lovely outdoor dining area with long wooden tables and smaller round ones, string lighting for added charm and ambiance, and more seating around a fountain and in the nearby expanse of grass. Tall heaters are placed throughout for warmth.  The menu has everything from snacks and starters to entrees with something for every palate, plus beer and wine and coffeehouse selections. The bonus: Fun games available to play — shuffleboard, corn hole, and ping pong.  And all of it is surrounded by gorgeous scenery.

Someone’s ready to eat

Ping pong to work up an appetite

Our large group walked right in and got seated, but I’m guessing that won’t be so easy as word gets out about The Comus Inn.  Unfortunately, they do not take reservations, but if there aren’t any tables readily available, it’s a pretty awesome place to have to wait.

Even more games to play… shuffleboard and corn hole

 

The Comus Inn is located at 23900 Old Hundred Road in Dickerson, MD. Hours are 7-11am and 4-8pm Thursday & Friday, and 7am – 8pm Saturday & Sunday.

Sugarloaf Mountain is located at 7901 Comus Road in Dickerson, MD, just over an hour drive from DC. Park ours are 8am – sunset.  Admission is a suggested donation of $5/vehicle.

 

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Filed under All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Free, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend

Ways to Celebrate MLK Day 2021

 

Perhaps now more than ever is the time to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dream of equality and justice — and continue the work to achieve it. Even during this unique time,  you can do just that, both virtually and in-person.   If you’re looking for ways to teach kids about MLK, want to give back on the Day of Service, or hope to join a special event — online or IRL — to celebrate his legacy, these recommendations will have you covered.

Day of Service
Where: Various locations around the DMV
When: January 18
Admission: Just your time

The Biden-Harris Inauguration Festivities honor MLK by including the annual Day of Service.  If you want to volunteer or be part of it by giving back, there are many ways and some places around the area where you can do, both virtually and in person. Start here to find opportunities that suit your family. (And see a specific one below.)

Weekend of Service
Where: Rock Creek Park | DC & MD
When: Throughout the long weekend
Admission: Just your time!

Through Rock Creek Conservancy’s MLK Weekend of Service, you can register to help with trash clean-up and invasive plant removal throughout Rock Creek Park. There are opportunities for all ages to volunteer on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

More Volunteer Ops
Where: Various locations around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Just your time

For more places to volunteer 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. (Also note that some of places do not have volunteer ops rights now due to Covid, but it’s worth checking.)

Free Parking
Where: National Parks around the region
When: January 18
Admission: Free!

In honor of MLK Day, it’s the first fee free day of the year for national parks, which means there’s no cost for entry where they usually charge to get in. Take advantage of complimentary admission and the day off from school. Some ideas: Hit the trail at Shenandoah or Great Falls, explore Prince William Forest Park, go to Fort McHenry, or visit Harpers Ferry.

Be the Light — Celebrating the Legacy of MLK Jr.
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When: January 16-17
Admission: $17.95/ages 1+, free for members

Join Port Discovery in celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy during their “Be the Light” event. Experience the strength of celebrating differences and stories in our community, take part in interactive programs and virtual performances designed to educate, inspire and help children understand the positive impact that their dreams and creativity can have on the world around them, inspired by Dr. King’s message.

MLK Virtual Peace Parade
Where: Online
When: January 18, 12pm
Admission: Free

The annual MLK Parade & Peace walk is going virtual this year with a rally, but you can still commemorate the life of MLK, Jr. with a festive experience. Tune into YouTube at noon on Monday, and be sure to follow on on YouTubeFacebookTwitter, and Instagram @mlkholidaydc115 for any update.  The parade will also be viewable on mlkholidaydc.org; and the Washington Informer website.

Artsy MLK Days: A Virtual Community Event
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Online
When: January 16-18, 11am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Though the pandemic has forced Annmarie to change the format of this annual event, they’ve reinvented all the elements to create a virtual at-home experience to keep everyone safe, connected, and ready to honor the dream with creative activities! Dr. King left us with a wealth of wisdom on how to create a more just, humane, and peaceful world — and they celebrate his legacy with art-inspired experiences centered around his nonviolent philosophy. Visit the website to see how you can tour an art exhibit  and make inspired artwork with their visiting artist from the comfort of home. Read more about the wonderful Annmarie Sculpture Garden in this KFDC post.

MLK Virtual Dare to Dream Day
Where: American Visionary Art Museum | Online
When: January 20, 11am
Admission: Free

Join in a free celebration honoring one of history’s greatest visionaries. Now accepting submissions for the Open Mic and Poetry Slam. Enjoy an artist talk with Kyle Yearwood, poetry slam and open mic, and a musical performance by Landis Expandis — all from the comfort of home. Read more about the fantastic AVAM here.

The People’s Holiday
Where: NMAAHC | Online
When: January 18, 4-5:30pm
Admission: Free

Tune into the National Museum of African American History & Culture its annual community program that honors Dr. Kings’ commitment to racial equality, justice, and service. Enjoy a digital performance by six-time Grammy award-winning bassist, composer, and educator Christian McBride inspired by his social justice-focused album entitled, The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons. The 45-minute concert of jazz and poetry will also feature performances of students from The Julliard School and a poetry reading by award winning poet, Evie Shockley. The program will conclude with a conversation between Christian McBride and Dr. Dwandalyn Reece, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs | Curator of Music and Performing Arts.

 

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Annual, Art, Black Lives Matter, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Free, Holidays, Maryland, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Special Event, Virginia, Weekend, Winter

National Theatre Presents Free Virtual Entertainment with Saturday Morning Live! At The National

 

The National Theatre Corporation cordially invites you and your children to continue celebrating the 40th Anniversary Season of Saturday Morning Live! At The National by tuning in for our second series of free virtual programs, Gonzo’s Multiverse, beginning this Saturday.

Gonzo’s Multiverse is a funhouse ride for children and their families through the wild imagination of storyteller, poet, and musician David Gonzalez. Each episode features a mix of digital and live-action storytelling, interviews with amazing artists, and explorations of miniature marvels in the natural world. New content will premiere each week along with regular segments that include: The Dynamic Mr. Dull, Rockin’ with Donny and Daryl, The Carnival of the Animals, Grassy’s Microverse, and more.

Episode One: THE TALE OF VOVO
premieres on
Saturday, November 21st at 9:30 AM on Facebook
In this episode, viewers will hear The Tale of Vovo, have a conversation with a Vegan Shark, visit with calligraphic artist Barbara Bash, jam to music with The Good Boat Trio, and more!

Episode Two: THE TALE OF THE THREE DOLLS
premieres on
Saturday, Dec 5th at 9:30 AM on Facebook

In this episode, viewers will meet the eccentric characters Toasty and Sammy the Sloth, hear the stories The Hummingbird and the Tree and The Tale of the Three Dolls, and visit with Afro-Cuban percussionist Pablo Shine.

Episode Three: THE LOUDEST SOUND IN THE WORLD
premieres on
Saturday, Dec 19th at 9:30 AM on Facebook

In this episode, viewers will visit with hip hop poet YOH, listen to the music The Swan performed by Frederic Chiu, and discover why The Grass Isn’t Always Greener.

The programs will be available to watch on Facebook and YouTube after they premiere where you can also view past series of shows, Paige and Friends! RSVP to the event on Facebook to hear updates about the show.

While this programming is best suited for children aged 4-10, siblings and friends of other ages are always welcome to join the fun. Presented by the National Theatre Corporation, Saturday Morning Live! At The National is made possible through the generosity of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

 

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Fall, Free, Live Entertainment, Social Distancing, Virtual Programs, Winter

Scenes from a Lovely Fall Outing to Brookside Gardens

 

Is it just me, or has this fall been especially beautiful?  The scenery seems ablaze with golden yellow, fiery orange, and deep red as the foliage puts on its seasonal performance. Perhaps the general gloom of this past year makes the bright spots that much more vivid, or maybe Mother Nature just knows how much we need it right now.

The fam framed by fall foliage

It’s this autumn luster that brought us to Brookside Gardens this past weekend — well, coupled with a little photography agenda.  We wanted to get out and enjoy the day before the rain came, someplace relaxing that would showcase the season.  So, I checked the round-up of the best outdoor places for ideas (yep, I use my own blog!), and in one glance I knew where we were going: Brookside Gardens, the beautiful public display garden within Wheaton Regional Park in the Montgomery Parks system.

Owen, circa 2010

Owen, circa 2015

The lead image in that post, the one of oh-so-sweet, four-year-old Owen chilling in the tree, was taken at Brookside almost exactly 10 years ago.  We recreated the photo when we happened to be back there five years later, so when I saw it again and did the math, I realized it was time for the next installment.

Paved paths traverse the gardens…

…as do leave strewn dirt trails

As those photos indicate, we’ve been enjoying Brookside Gardens for a long time.  Along with an occasional fall visit, we usually go for the wonderful annual Wings of Fancy butterfly exhibit and Garden of Lights holiday display, however, both were among the many beloved area events cancelled this year.  But this autumn outing was lovely and serene and perfect for right now.  Plus, we got that shot.

Owen at 14

Of course, we had to capture our best girl, too

Brookside Gardens is located at 1800 Glenallan Avenue in Wheaton, MD.  Right now, the grounds are open to wander and enjoy daily from sunrise to sunset, and the Visitor Center 10am – 2pm.   The sweet Children’s Garden is not accessible during Covid.  Along with the links above, read more about Brookside in this KFDC post.

And get more of a glimpse of the gorgeous fall in the pics below…

 

Goose watching

 

And it was all yellow

 

Japanese maple…wowza

 

View from a gazebo

 

Shimmering woods

 

A serene pond scene

 

This pergola turns into a fab pink walkway during Garden of Lights

 

Masks highly encouraged!

 

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Fall, Free, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend