Category Archives: Ongoing

Explore the Power — & Magic! — of Language at Planet Word

 

Planet Word is sure to get people talking.  The museum dedicated to language recently opened in downtown DC with a mission to “inspire and renew a love of words, language, and reading in people of all ages.”  And with three levels full of interactive and immersive exhibits that engage, educate, entertain, and delight, they easily achieve that goal.

It’s a museum that can be enjoyed by all ages, but older kids probably will get more out of it than younger children, having more grammar lessons under their belts and generally better comprehension.  Owen and Sasha, 14 and 11, were great ages for it — and older teens and adults will love it, too. (In fact, I’d rank it among my favorites museums in DC!)

Listen up under the Speaking Willow

The exploration of language begins before you even enter the building.  In the courtyard next to the entrance is the Speaking Willow, a ingenious art installation designed to look like a tree, its branches dangling 500 speakers that play recordings in different languages as you walk beneath.  It’s a fantastic preview of the word and language focused fun — and magic — that awaits.

Inside, the Planet Word experience begins on the third level and flows down, taking visitors through multiple exhibits on every floor, each of them highlighting different aspects of language in creative and interactive ways.  It starts with First Words, a short video about how we first learn language as babies, a cute and fitting way to begin.

Greetings from the wall of words

Audience participation encouraged

But that’s just a warm-up for the grand introduction:  Where Do Words Come From.  Featuring a lofty wall of words that tells the story of the English language, this exhibit combines impressive state-of-the art technology, clever narration, and  some interactive fun — microphones set up in front of benches let visitors have their say, too!  The installation is complemented by graphs that illustrate the evolution of language, plus touch screens that test your knowledge, too. (Note: The museum provides stylus pens, so you don’t have to touch screens with your fingers.)

Interactive word play

Explore languages across the globe in The Spoken World

That leads to The Spoken World, a large room with a giant disco ball globe as its centerpiece with voice-activated and touchscreen kiosks placed all around it.  Here, you can listen to people from around the world speak their language and talk about what makes it unique.  You’re encouraged to speak some words, too!  This exhibit also includes more interactives along one wall, giving guests a chance to delve further into diverse languages.

Do you know?

 

A first look at the library

In a museum all about language and words, books are sure to be showcased, and that happens when you hit the second floor and enter the glorious library.  The sight of it will get you first. Lined with floor-to-ceiling wood shelves and a mirror on the ceiling, it’s a magnificent space.  But it’s what the library contains that makes it so extraordinary.  And this is where my write-up gets tricky… do I reveal the details that make it so magical, or let readers discover it themselves?  Let’s just say that books come to life in fantastic ways, and you’re in for quite a treat!

Magic awaits here

A peek into a picture

Painting with words

There’s more magic nearby that I will share:  Word Worlds lets you “paint” with words.  Dip your brush into “autumn” then run it along the wall and watch it turn into deep red and orange hues, or try “surreal” to see odd shapes and swirls.

A “surreal” scene

Watch notable speeches…

…and recite one

The rest of the exhibits on the second floor don’t include magical elements, but they let you share your charm.  After you learn what makes a memorable speech, you can recite one of your own. Find out why some jokes work and some fall flat, then test them out in a Joking Around game.  And, because words help make songs, there’s a music-focused exhibit, too — with karaoke!  (Of course, we took advantage.)

Easy to keep a straight face in the joke games 😉

Get your karaoke on

Back on the first floor you will be sold on words in an exhibit all about advertising and how language is used to make things sell.  Walk through an interactive whirl, check out ads new and old, and play games on the way.

A whirl of ad insight

Fun with Wordplay

From there, enter the Words Matter room, where you can share your own story, express yourself in a word, and enjoy a few more interactives.  Here — and in all parts of the museum, for that matter — don’t miss the words on the walls, in the doorways, even on ceilings.  You’ll see quotes from renowned writers along with phrases that have become fixtures in our vernacular.

Any guesses which is mine?

Outside voices are encouraged as you make your way through Planet Word, whether you’re interacting with elements in the exhibits, reading quotes on walls, or just expressing yourself. Some other good things to know:
* There is metered parking along nearby streets and a parking garage right next to the museum on 13th St.
* McPherson Square (Blue/Orange & Silver) and Metro Center (Red) are the closest Metro stations.
* Free lockers on the first floor let you store coats and belongings.
* As mentioned above, the museum provides stylus pens, so you don’t have to touch screens.
* Other safety precautions, like hand sanitizing stations and social distancing guides, are in place.
* You can take an elevator or stairs to access different floors.
* Tickets are free, and need to be reserved in advance, but a limited number of walk-up tickets are also available on the half hour.

 

In case it’s not evident, I highly recommend visiting Planet Word — and making it a priority.  This does take some planning. Free passes are available on a rolling, 30-day basis, which means you need to know the date you’d like to visit, and reserve tickets 30 days ahead. Of course, if you have an open schedule, you can check any day and reserve a time slot a month away.

I can assure you, it’s worth the wait.

Planet Word is located at 925 13th Street NW in Downtown DC. Hours are 10am – 5pm, Thursday through Saturday. Admission is free, but a donation is suggested.

 

Museum with karaoke?  Count us in!

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Museums, Ongoing, Weekdays, Weekend

Bike, Play, & Explore Within this Beautiful Stretch of the Anacostia River Trail

 

Biking with kids along the Anacostia River Trail is not a new recommendation from me.  Spanning the river from Southeast DC to College Park, MD, it’s one of our favorite trails to ride, plus the paved path with just a few gentle hills is a great one for families and kids of all ages to cruise together.

Tackling the whole trail at once would be a bit much for little riders, so biking shorter portions is the way to go with them.  And there is one stretch that is perfect for it, that includes recreation opportunities — hiking, exploring, playgrounding, paddling —  beyond two wheels: From Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to Bladensburg Waterfront Park (or vice versa).

A view of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

The wetlands at Kenilworth

It’s the locations themselves that help make this bike ride so great; both make for fantastic visits on their own, so even better when you can incorporate them into one outing.  Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens — boasting lily pad filled ponds, gorgeous lotus flowers and water lilies (in summer), and acres of wetlands — is unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in the area.  You can hike around, explore the different areas, and look for creatures like frogs, fish, turtles, and all kinds of birds.

Fall colors popping at the Aquatic Gardens

Paddlers at Bladensburg Waterfront Park

Bladensburg Waterfront Park offers different kinds of activities.  There are kayak and canoe rentals (weekends through Nov. 1), a riverside playground, a pedestrian bridge, gazebos to relax in, plus a train caboose and pontoon boat tours (though both are inaccessible during Covid).

Playground with a water view

The pedestrian bridge

The parks are just over two miles from each other on the Anacostia River Trail, a nice, easy distance for small pedalers to ride each way.  You will have to put your bikes on a rack and drive to whichever park you make your starting point (or you can bike, of course, but then it’s not a short ride anymore) — there are free parking lots at both places.

Open scenic stretches

The path leading into Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

You can visit one park first, ride to the other, visit the second one, then ride back. Or you can start off your adventure with the bike ride, visit one park, ride back, then visit the second.  You could also just visit one park, or even just do the bike ride.

Stop for some info and history on the area

Wind your way along the boardwalk

The route is scenic, flanked by expanses of wetlands, leafy trees and flowering plants, and lovely river views.  You’ll ride mostly along a paved path, but occasionally over boardwalks that wind through wooded areas and also right along the river.  It’s especially lovely right now brightened by brilliant fall colors.

Ride along the river

However you plan your outing, I recommend bringing along lunch or snacks and drinks.  There are picnic areas at both parks, but concessions are not available.  Other good things to know: Bike racks are located next to the entrance at Kenilworth and on the sidewalk by the river at Bladensburg.  There are portable restrooms at both. And as noted above, there are free parking lots at both.

A bit of art, too!

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are located at 1550 Anacostia Avenue NE in DC. Hours are 8am – 4pm daily.  Bladensburg Waterfront Park is located at 4601 Annapolis Road in BladensburgMD.  Hours are sunrise to sunset daily. Admission is free to both.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under All ages, DC, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend

The Weekend Round-Up: October 23-25

Fun and fall on a recent disc golf outing with friends

 

 

Happy Weekend!

Leaf Peep on the Trail
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Take in the brilliant color spectrum of autumn and get a little exercise to boot on a family hike. From right here in the city to country locales, you’ve got your pick of places where you can enjoy the fall foliage and some time outdoors. This post about good area hikes with kids started in the early KFDC days, and with many new recommendations added since — including a new write up about Sky Meadows State Park — there are lots of great recommendations to make for happy trampers.

Inside Out(ings)
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

Not all outing have to be outside. Lots of indoor places have reopened their doors, and they are all taking extra precautions to ensure safety during COVID. This post has details on outings that take place inside and this one has suggestions especially for little kids.

Spooktacular Drive-In Flicks
Where: Akridge Lot at Buzzard Point | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Friday
Admission: $20/vehicle

Grab your popcorn and join the Capitol Riverfront BID for a drive-in movie at the Akridge Lot (First and V St. SW) in Buzzard Point next to Audi Field.  The movie is a fun, contact-free experience for all ages with space for 75 vehicles set at an appropriate social distance.  Us  is the spooktacular flick being screened this weekend. Proceeds will be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.

Drive-In “Spooky” Movie Nights
Where: DC Party Box | Rockville, MD
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: $15/adult, $10/13 & under

Enjoy Sppoktacular theater at this drive-in, featuring an LED screen, FM broadcasting, and spooky surprises. There are two showings each night, a family-friendly film at 7pm and a classic or scary movie 10pm. This weekend it’s Goosebumps and Pet Sematary on Friday, Casper and The Exorcist on Saturday, and Gremlins and Scream on Sunday. Reserve in advance online, one reservation per car.

Halloween Szn at Park Up Drive-In
Where: RFK Parking Lot | Northeast DC
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission:

There are several films in Park Up’s drive-in movie lineup this weekend, both family-friendly and for adults. Hocus Pocus, Goosebumps, Vampire in Brooklyn, and Child’s Play are among the options. Visit the website for days and times.

More Wicked Fun
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

There are even more ways to get the Halloween party started that also allow for social distancing. See what’s coming up around the area and access virtual activities from some of your favorite places. This annual post has details on where to find the tricks and treats.

Victura Garten
Where: The REACH | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Admission: Free

On weekends, the grounds of The REACH, the Kennedy Center’s immersive extension, transform into Victura Park, an outdoor family-friendly pop-up wine garden & café. For October, however, they’ve partnered up with Solace Outpost for a Bavarian themed month at the Park. Enjoy craft beers and great foods as you hang out in the lovely outdoor area overlooking the Potomac River. Victura Park hours are Friday 3-10pm, Saturday 12-10pm, and Sunday 12-8pm (also, Thursday 3-10pm).

Pumpkins in the Park
Where: Canal Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Saturday, 12-4pm
Admission: $20

Canal Park will be transformed into the neighborhood’s very own “pumpkin patch” as the community is invited to pick their pumpkin in a safe, socially-distanced fashion (no more than 15 people in the pumpkin patch at one time) while supplies last. Take-home decorating kits will also be available along with the option to have your pumpkin painted by local artist Painted Palettes. Purchase tickets in advance.

Drive-Thru Trot or Treat
Where: North Star Stables | Delaplane, VA
When: Sunday
Admission: By donation

It’s all horsing around at the trick-or-treat for a cause! Support North Star’s equine team and therapeutic riding scholarship fund with a drive-thru trick-or-treat! While Covid restrictions preclude them from hosting their normal Halloween celebration, North Star is excited to offer a drive-thru Halloween! Join to see their awesome horses in costume and collect treats (non-candy treats available) along the facility’s fence line! They ask each car to contribute a small, monetary donation.

Fall Festing
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Celebrate the season at a fall festival. From pumpkin patches and petting zoos to corn mazes and hayrides, many farms around the DMV (or just beyond) are still offering traditional activities to enjoy in safe ways. This post has details on where all the fall fun is happening.

Other Autumn Adventures
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

Farm festivals may be the go-to autumn outing, but there are lots of other fantastic ways to enjoy the season around the area. This KFDC post lists a bunch of great places for fall adventures.

Disc Golfin’
Where: Courses around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

Hit the links, the chain links, that is! Disc golf is a great way to enjoy a nice fall day outdoors with the family. Not only is it fun and challenging, the courses, many of them set up in scenic places, are lovely this time of year. This post has info about one in College Park, and there are also great courses at Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, MD, and Burke Lake Park in Burke, VA.

Go Green Design Challenge Kick Off
Where: KID Museum | Online
When: Saturday, 10am
Admission: Free

KID Museum and Pepco are teaming up to bring you a free, family design challenge! Families are invited to use common household materials to come up with a prototype of their own environmentally-friendly invention. Your idea might involve the creative re-design of an existing item, like a more efficient window or appliance, or something entirely new. Join the museum on Saturday morning for the virtual kick-off, where you’ll receive a rundown of challenge guidelines, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the Pepco WaterShed Sustainability Center. Then put your imagination and your design skills to work!

Virtual Artful Conversations
Where: National Gallery of Art | Online
When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am
Admission: Free

The National Gallery of Art’s popular program for art enthusiasts ages 7–12 is returning virtually with a special guest. Haywood Turnipseed Jr., a writer and stand-up comedian, will help participants find the humor in art. Sign up for an online session — it’s free, but registration is required.

Crystalline
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: Through January 3
Admission: $12-17/child, $19-24/adult

To wrap up this unprecedented year, ARTECHOUSE has transformed their gallery into a blue-hued haven intended to evoke calm and peace during a turbulent time. Like all of their exhibitions, just about all of it is interactive, as the images change with viewers’ motions, encouraging play.  Immersing into the depths of the color, even just for a little while, is a beautiful — and fun — escape from the bizarre Covid world outside.

Euro Entertainment
Where: Online
When: Through November 29
Admission: Free

International travel may not be possible right now, but you can still enjoy European adventures. The annual Kids Euro Festival has gone digital this year, offering families all over the world access to an extended virtual festival with a full 6 weeks of online programming — all of it free! Through November 29, tune in for performances, concerts, workshops, movies, storytelling, puppetry, dance, and more.

Fun at Fairfax Parks
Where: Parks around Fairfax County, VA
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

The Fairfax County Park Authority hosts all kinds of events on weekends for guests of all ages. Make a scarecrow with the fam at Sully Historic Site. Solve a Halloween mystery at Riverbend Park. Appreciate colors of the forest at Lake Fairfax Park. Details and registration for these and many more nature activities this weekend and beyond are available here.

Monuments: Creative Forces
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: Through October 25
Admission: $5-30

This unique outdoor art installation throughout Strathmore’s 16 acres sounds like an ideal exhibition for COVID times, being in fresh air with a lot of space. Monuments: Creative Forces by Australian artist Craig Walsh features moving, dimensional video portraits of artists whose work and artistic endeavors are changing the shape of our community in profound ways. The expansive portraits of these creative heroes were chosen by a diverse panel of community and arts leaders are projected on to towering trees, transforming them into animated sculptural monuments.

Even More Activities
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

If you want even more ideas for things to do over the weekend, this post has plenty of inspo, listing both ongoing activities around the area as well as information on reopenings.

 

***MORE GOOD STUFF***
* Washingtonian’s recs for 6 nearby wineries with lots of space and great views.
* Tickets are available for Free Community Days at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Reserve them for November 1 and November 15.
* Due to COVID, the annual DC Bike Ride, usually a one-day event that takes place throughout DC streets, will become the DC Virtual Ride from November 1-21. Find out how to participate here.
* Get 25% off Tea Collection during their Friends & Family Event.
* Cancelled: Enchant Christmas, the event that transformed Nationals Park into a holiday wonderland last winter, will not take place this year.
* Watson Adventures has a Wizard School Virtual Scavenger Hunt coming up on November 15.  These fill up fast, so sign up soon!
* An informative article perfect for the weekend.😉
* The panda cam is always a heartwarmer.🐼

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Fall, Farm, Halloween, Maryland, Ongoing, Outdoor, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Virginia, Virtual Programs, Weekend

A Breath of Fresh Air at Sky Meadows State Park

 

When COVID hit, I put a pause on posting write-ups about individual places.  Between stay-at-home orders back in the spring and general uncertainty about what we should and shouldn’t be doing even as those orders let up, it seemed best to take a lighter approach to recommending outings.  I might have mentioned them among the Five Things or included them in larger round-ups, but they didn’t get the KFDC fan fare that they would have pre-coronavirus.

Hence, I now have some catching up to do.  Over the last many months (how long has it been now?), we’ve explored some new places and had some great adventures.  So, now that the DC area is well into new phases of reopening, it’s time to start rolling out write-ups about them — starting with Sky Meadows State Park in Northern Virginia.

Our first visit to the park was our first real outing during the coronavirus beyond the sidewalks and streets of Capitol Hill, where we live, back in the spring. Hiking was permitted, and it was one of few parks still open, plus we heard from friends who’d been that there were barely any other visitors. So, we made a trip out to Delaplane, VA, for an escape from our oh-so-familiar neighborhood walk routine and a literal and figurative breath of fresh air.  We enjoyed it so much, we went back again in the summer.

Sky Meadows encompasses over 1800 acres in a rural area of Fauquier County, about 50 miles west of DC. Rolling hills, knots of woods, and sprawling pastures offer a nice mix of recreational opportunities, beautiful scenery, and a bit of history.  Trails wind through clusters of trees and along ridges overlooking swaths of farmland.

There are 22 miles of trails to hike, including the Appalachian Trail — a three-mile stretch of it runs through the park. Some trails are open to biking and horseback riding (BYO horse) as well. Lengths vary, and there are plenty of short routes that would make for nice walks with little kids. There is even a whole Children’s Discovery Area and a Sensory Explorers Trail (which wasn’t open during our visits because of COVID).

Mount Bleak House located next to the main parking lot offers tours and programs for insight into the history of the park.  (The house was still closed on our visits, so we didn’t get to experience them, but programs have now resumed.) There are also picnic areas and shelters, cabins, and campsites that you can reserve.

On both of our visits, we hopped on a few different trails — many of them interconnect — but we explored different parts of the park each time. We meandered through forested areas, looked for fish in a small pond, wound our way up a hill to enjoy the valley views below, and followed paths edging cow grazing pastures.  There were very few other people there, so we were able to keep our masks off most of the time, too!

We followed up our summer visit with a stop at Barrel Oak Winery and Farm Taphouse, just minutes away (look for a post on that soon).  Some sampling of the house specialty along with a bite to eat was a perfect way to make the most of our time out there and wind down the day.

 

Sky Meadows State Park is located at 11012 Edmonds Lane in Delaplane, VA. The main entrance is on State Route 710. It’s open daily, 8am – dusk. The Visitor Center/Gift Shop is open Thursday – Monday, with weekday hours from 11am – 5pm, and weekends 10am – 5pm.

Leave a Comment

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