Tag Archives: DC Family Activties

NSO in Your Neighborhood Brings Free Music to Downtown & Penn Quarter

NSONeighborhood_Downtown_PennQuarter logo

The National Symphony Orchestra has brought back its wonderful NSO in Your Neighborhood initiative. From January 5-11, Downtown DC and Penn Quarter will be a hive of musical activity as the NSO presents a week’s worth of free events for the entire family.

The American Art Museum, International Spy Museum, MLK Library, community churches, local theatres, and more venues around the Downtown/Penn Quarter area will host a variety of presentations, including chamber music performances, orchestral concerts, and educational events.

The performances highlighted below will likely appeal to families with young children most, but just about all of the events can be appreciated by any age. You can view the complete schedule on the Kennedy Center website.

Saturday, January 9
The Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th & F Streets NW
All day & 7pm

There will be pop-up performances throughout the day, including the NSO Family Concert: Inspiration! at 2-3pm, plus instrument petting zoos. And the entire National Symphony Orchestra will perform a special evening concert in the Kogod Courtyard.

Calvary Baptist Church, 755 8th Street NW
Master Class, 10:3am – 12:30pm

Audiences are invited to observe NSO musician Holly Hamilton (violin) leading a master class for Symphony Kids of the Prince George’s Philharmonic.

Sunday, January 10
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street NW
Artistic Exchange: Music and Spoken Word, 2-4pm

NSO musician Glenn Donnellan (violin) performs with spoken word artists from Words, Beats & Life and members of the Hip Hop Orchestra of UMD.

International Spy Museum , 800 F Street NW
Spy-themed music 3-4pm

NSO musicians Nurit Bar-Josef (concertmaster), Natasha Bogachek (violin), Eric deWaardt (viola), and James Lee (cello) perform an espionage-themed program for this family-friendly event. Patrons who attend the performance will also receive a coupon for $5 off the price of admission to visit the museum’s exhibits.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Educational, Free, Live Entertainment, Museums, Music, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Savor a Day at Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard

Cheers to a perfect day at Sugarloaf!

Cheers to a perfect day at Sugarloaf!

You know those days that are just kind of perfect? Schedules line up, the weather is sublime, everyone is in good spirits, there’s a dose of spontaneity, the stars seem to align…and something about it all just feels extra special.


We had one of those days recently. It was over Labor Day weekend, after the second week of school, which Owen missed because he was out sick (after not missing a single day last year, go figure). Anyway, it was the first day he was really feeling better, and we were all ready to get out and enjoy the beautiful day.

As we were deciding what to do that morning, my friend Margaret texted asking what we were up to. We threw out a few ideas, and I mentioned Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, which I’d heard about from my friend Besa of Mom in DCity.

Long story short: Within a couple of hours, we were at the Dickerson, MD, locale enjoying the lovely scenery, awesome company, picnic lunch, relaxed family-friendly vibe, and a couple of bottles of the house special.


So, a vineyard may not be the first type of place that comes to mind when you’re planning a day out with the kids. But one visit to Sugarloaf, and you’ll understand why it’s a great option for a family outing.

For starters, they welcome children. Our crew was among many with kids in the mix, and they even have a designated Play Area for running around, kicking balls, tossing Frisbees, and other kinds of all-ages fun.



There are a few areas where you can set up camp for the day. We opted for one of many big round tables with umbrellas for shade in an open grassy space between the parking lot and grape fields, behind the big red barn. A wine tasting tent is also there, and you can sample a variety for $10. A level below that area is a patio with more tables. It’s closer to the road, but also where live music is performed — a guy on guitar entertained the crowd for hours that day. Behind the patio and next to the Play Area is a long stretch of grass, and folks are invited to bring blankets and chairs to hang out there, too.



The barn is at the center of it all — that’s where they make and sell wine and snacks, and indoor seating is available. Crackers, cheese, and summer sausage are the only munchies they have for sale (all of it the packaged, grocery store variety), but you can BYO food for a bigger picnic. That’s just what we did — a couple of coolers full of food made for a nice feast and nibbling throughout the day. Of course, we also purchased wine — outside alcoholic beverages are not permitted — and they also offer sangria by the glass.



There is terrific hiking nearby, and many folks actually make a stop at the Vineyard a reward after summiting Sugarloaf Mountain, located less than a mile away. It’s about a six-mile hike total up and down the mountain; we decided to skip it since Owen was just back to good health. Something to save for next time, as I hear it’s a great hike with fantastic vistas from the top.



Along with the picnic, we played games with the kids in our field, threw a Frisbee in the play area, spent some time on the patio listening to the music, and just relaxed, hung out, and savored the day.

A perfect day, at that.

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard is located at 18125 Comus Road in Dickerson, MD, less than an hour’s drive from DC. Hours are 12-6pm daily, and last call is at 5:30pm. Admission is free, but plan on spending anywhere from $19-30 per bottle of wine or $6 a glass for sangria. There are some tips and policies to be aware of before you go, which you can read here. Sugarloaf occasionally hosts special events, including a Grape Stomp coming up October 3-4 and 11-12. And, generally, fall will be a great time to go when you can enjoy both the foliage and the fun.

Wait, it gets even better! On the way back to DC, we stopped at Honey Pig in Germantown. If you haven’t been to the authentic Korean barbeque, I highly recommend going. The food is delicious, and it cooks on a grill right in the middle of your table. Plus, kids love the variety of fruity drinks and Korean pop music videos playing on TV’s around the restaurant.


Honey Pig in Germantown is located at 19743 Frederick Road. There are also a few other locations around the area.



Filed under All ages, DC, Farm, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Music, Outdoor, Weekdays, Weekend

“NSO in Your Neighborhood” Brings a Week of Free Programs to Capitol Hill


The National Symphony Orchestra is bringing back its NSO in Your Neighborhood initiative, this year to Capitol Hill. From January 7-13, the NSO will present a variety of activities, with an emphasis on chamber performances, education, and community engagement programs for audiences of all ages.

Union Station, public libraries, the Marine Barracks, coffee shops, and art centers on Capitol Hill will host everything from Shakespeare-inspired shows to violin ensembles to youth orchestra performances to instrument petting zoos to chamber music — and even more in between. And all of the events are free and open to the public.

The performances highlighted below are geared especially toward young audiences, but all of them can be appreciated by any age. You can view the complete schedule on the Kennedy Center website.

Viva Violins: From Baby Talk to Mozart

The violin grows up in the spotlight in this program which tells the tale of three little violins and how their mother teaches them to “sing.” Join violinists Elisabeth Adkins, Paula Akbar, Holly Hamilton, and Jane Bowyer Stewart as they grow the musical experience from sweet lullabies like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” all the way to breathtaking Bach. Immediately following the performance, young people will enjoy the Musical Instrument “Petting Zoo,” a project of the Women’s Committee for the NSO.


Hands-on fun with instruments! Children (and their parents) have the chance to get up close and personal with the orchestral instruments they will see professionally played on stage. The musical instrument “petting zoo” is a project of the Women’s Committee for the NSO.


Led by NSO Assistant Conductor Ankush Kumar Bahl and featuring WUSA Channel 9’s Andrea Roane as host, the National Symphony performs two full “train-themed” concerts at Union Station.

10:30am–12:30pm | DC SOUTHEAST LIBRARY, 403 7TH ST., SE

Hands-on fun with instruments! Children (and their parents) have the chance to get up close and personal with the orchestral instruments they see professionally played on stage. The musical instrument “petting zoo” is a project of the Women’s Committee for the NSO.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Free, Live Entertainment, Music, Weekdays, Weekend

NSO in Your Neighborhood


Want to expose the kids to a variety of symphonic sounds and enjoy some free music yourself?

You’ll be able to do that in the week ahead as the National Symphony Orchestra presents free activities in the U Street, Shaw, Howard, and Logan Circle neighborhoods. Starting tomorrow, January 8, through January 14, “NSO In Your Neighborhood” will offer more than 40 activities to the public, many inspired by the area’s rich cultural history, and several of them programs that kids can enjoy, too.

The opening event at Howard Theatre tomorrow is already at full capacity, but there will be many more performances throughout the series, including at the Logan Circle Whole Foods — you can view the complete schedule here.

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Filed under All ages, DC, Free, Live Entertainment, Music, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Shakespeare at Six

Eagerly awaiting the start of his first Shakespeare play


It never would have occurred to me to take Owen to see a Shakespeare play had the Shakespeare Theatre Company not hosted Family Week as A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at Sidney Harman Hall.  After all, I didn’t get my first dose of The Bard until I was in high school nor did I fully appreciate his work until I studied it as an English major in college.

But the Family Week promotion caught my attention. There were performances geared toward little ones during the week, along with special family ticket packages for the full-scale production that implied the play was appropriate for kids ages five and up. So, when I was offered a couple of complimentary tickets to see the show, I decided my theatre date would be six-year-old, Owen, instead of my husband.

That turned out to be an excellent decision.  Not only did Owen enjoy the play, it was a fantastic way for him to experience Shakespeare for the first time.  A lot of it had to do with the production itself — A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a light, fanciful tale filled with whimsy and humor.  Fairies, magic, and romantic mix-ups are factored well into the story, and plenty of comedy, both cheeky and physical, rounds out the fun. And this version has some touches that I think makes it a little more relatable for kids. The characters’ costumes look contemporary — Hermia and  Demetrius wear prep school uniforms — and Lysander seems familiar with his “dude”- like delivery and  jeans, flannel shirt, and guitar on his back.

It also helped that STC provided programs for kids that included a synopsis of the play as well as word games and other fun tidbits about Shakespeare and the show (they also had some craft projects for kids in the mezzanine lobby, though we skipped them).  I’d given Owen some background beforehand, but we also read the synopsis together, which definitely helped him follow the plot. And seeing other kids in the theatre — quite a few families took advantage of Family Week — likely made the whole experience less intimidating. In fact, the way Owen cackled at some of Bottom’s funniest moments, I’d say he was pretty darn comfortable being there.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be at Sidney Harman Hall in Penn Quarter through January 6. And even though Family Week is over, I still recommend giving it a go with the kids.  Give them some background beforehand, and it wouldn’t hurt to ask the theatre if they have any more of the kids’ guides.  Like me, you might be pleasantly surprised to find you have little Shakespeare fan in the family.

Tickets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream start at $43.  Performances take place most evenings with some afternoon shows on the weekends as well.


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Filed under DC, Gradeschoolers, Live Entertainment, Preteens, Teens, Theatre, Tweens, Weekdays, Weekend