Monday – Experience WONDER at the Renwick Gallery. Even if you’ve already seen it, a repeat look is just as enchanting. And if it’s your first time, well, you’re in for quite a treat. Hours are 10am- 5:30pm. Admission is free.
Tuesday – Join the Loudon Heritage Farm Museum for Toddler Tuesday. Enjoy a themed story time, songs, and crafts with your little one, all free with regular Museum admission ($5/adult, $3/ages 2-12, free for under 2). The program begins at 10am and is best for ages 18 months to 4 years old.
Wednesday – Get a nature fix at the Brookside Nature Center in Wheaton, MD. Check out the plant and wildlife exhibits, including live animals, and play in the Children’s Discovery Room. Later in the day, head to Hooray for Books and listen to local author Laura Gehl read her new picture book, Peep and Egg: I’m Not Hatching! There will be free crafts, treats, and games at 4pm followed by a special story time at 5pm.
Thursday – Visit the Children’s Science Center Lab at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax. I just posted about the spot where kids of all ages can explore a variety of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts through fun, engaging hands-on exhibits and activities. Hours are 10am – 6pm. Admission is $12 (under 2 are free).
Friday – Explore some of our country’s most spectacular places at a viewing of National Parks Adventure 3D at the National History Museum’s Johnson IMAX Theater. The film is full of stunning cinematography and thrilling adventure that will transport you and spark wanderlust. Tickets are $9, and there are several showtimes throughout the day. And be sure to plan for some museum time beyond the movie — hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and admission is free.
A shopping mall might not be the first destination that comes to mind for STEM-focused fun and learning with the kids. But when it houses a place like the Children’s Science Center Lab, it makes perfect sense.
The interactive exploration center opened last summer with a mission “to instill a love of learning STEM in all children by providing unique opportunities to explore, create, and be inspired.” They do this through engaging exhibits and fun, interesting experiments, just about all of them hands-on, with something for a variety of ages. We visited shortly after they opened (I only recently realized I never wrote about it), and the kids had a fantastic time exploring them all.
The Lab is sectioned into four exhibit areas:
The Inspiration Hub shows real-world applications of STEM through stations like Chain Reaction, where you manipulate wall mounted ramps and wheels to move a ball from point A to B. Catching the Wind has guests design wind turbines then test them in a small wind farm. There is also a Gear Table, a whole room where you can build with Keva planks, and computers to participate in the design of the future Children’s Science Center.
The Tinker Shop welcomes kids to build, test, and deconstruct with a variety of hands-on projects. We send a good amount of time making flying crafts from paper and tape, then testing their flight capabilities in a vertical wind tube. Kids can also work with circuits and robotics and dissect machines and toys.
The Discovery Zone is designed for ages 5 and under, but my kids had some fun in there, too. That section has a special focus on collaborative learning with parents, caregivers and educators. There’s an Imagination Playground, Light & Shadow Play, and early hands-on science Discovery Boxes.
Finally, the Experiment Bar invites guests to explore the wonders of science through a rotating menu of experiments. With the help of staff and a tablet with instructions, they made magnetic slime and did some fun tests with it. Plus, they got to bring it home!
While the Lab can be experienced by ages 2 and up, it’s especially focused on preschool and elementary aged children — but can definitely be enjoyed by younger and older kids. And along with the permanent exhibits, the Lab occasionally hosts special events with varying themes for different ages groups.
The Lab is a great place to keep in mind for foul-weather days and when you’re seeking educational play. It’s also perfect if you want an outing with the kids and need to do some shopping, too. 🙂
The Children’s Science Center Lab is located at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax at the crossroads of US Interstate 66, Route 50 and West Ox Road. It’s on the lower level in the corridor off the Sears court, just past Cold Stone Creamery, on the left. Hours are 10am – 6pm daily, with occasional extended hours until 8pm. Admission is $13/general, $12/military & seniors, free for 2 and under, and tickets can be purchased online or at the Lab entrance.
Even though school wasn’t cancelled for the snow today (DCPS, anyway), it made me recall last winter, when there seemed to be an exorbitant amount of days off, between holidays, snow days, and other random administrative reasons. It’s a good reminder to have some activities in my back pocket that the kids and I could enjoy together, different than our usual go-to pursuits, but still ones we can count on happening just about any day.
Pinstripes in Georgetown recently made the cut. On one of those random days off, we took advantage of Kids Club Bowling at the venue that’s a bistro, bowling alley, and bocce court all in one. Every weekday from 10am to 12pm, kids can bowl for just $5, and there’s no cost at all for parents to join them. December 2016 Update: It now is from 11am – 1pm and is $3/child to bowl, plus $3 shoe rental. Adults still bowl free, and there’s a limit of 4 children per adult.
A little lemonade stand welcomes little guests
Cozy couches and nice tables where you can relax while you wait your turn and dine, too
So, when you think bowling alley, you probably picture a big, loud place that serves pizza, hot dogs, and fries that you probably have to eat in a separate area from where you bowl. Pinstripes is different. To start, the lanes are nice and modern; the seating/scoring area right behind them has cozy couches and a table, so you can eat right there; and the music isn’t blaring. On top of that, they have great menus (it’s also a bistro, after all), including a Kids Menu with several choices — for $8 they get a starter, entree, dessert, and drink — and a nice selection on the main menu.
Morning fare and kiddies options in addition to an extensive main menu
Grilled salmon at the bowling alley…yum!
The kids and I bowled a couple of rounds, eating lunch about halfway through. Ramps are available for little bowlers as are bumpers in a couple of lanes. The staff was incredibly nice and attentive, helping us find balls light enough for Sasha and taking food and drink orders and bringing everything right to us. It might seem a little luxurious for a bowling outing with kids, but there are no complaints here. The Tots Playtime is such a great deal, and regular bowling alleys often end up being just as, if not more, pricey.
A little help from the ramp
The tots deal isn’t the only reason to go to Pinstripes. They occasionally host special events for kids — they had an egg hunt last Easter, provided family entertainment at Taste of Georgetown, and held a Kids in the Garden day, where the chef taught guests about gardening, plants, and seeds. You can also host your own private events there, including children’s birthday parties, and there’s a special Sunday brunch that welcomes families. Of course, you can also go for a kid-free outing and enjoy a meal in the restaurant along with some bocce to top it off.
Pinstripes Georgetown is located in The Shops at Georgetown Park at 1064 Wisconsin Ave NW. Hours are Monday – Thursday: 10:00am – 11:00pm, Friday: 10:00am – 12:30am, Saturday: 10:00am – 12:30am, and Sunday: 10:00am – 10:00pm.
“Got my mind on my money and my money on my mind.”
Over the winter break we managed to check a couple of items off our list of places around the DC area we still have yet to visit (yes, we have a list, and a fairly lengthy one, at that). One of them was the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where visitors can take free tours to learn about and see the money-making process firsthand.
It took us awhile to get there for a few reasons: 1) It seemed best for kids old enough to have an understanding of money and how it works, 2) Tours are only offered on weekdays, when kids old enough to understand are usually in school, and 3) We deemed this an “Owen” activity, so we had to wait until I had a day to spend with just him.
The stars aligned over the winter break, as Sasha’s school was back in session earlier, so Owen and I made plans to take the money tour. Since you can’t make a reservation unless you have a large group, we just went to the Bureau’s Visitor Center located at 14th & C Streets SW and hoped for the best. We were lucky and arrived to a very short line outside — at this time of year, tours are offered every 15 minutes from 9-10:45am and 12:30-2pm — and waited about 10 minutes for someone to direct us through a metal detector then into the tour gallery area, where we waited for our tour to begin.
Plenty to see in the gallery before the tour
Early money folding machines
Many displays about the history of money and early money printing equipment are on display in that area, so we checked them out during the 15-minute wait. We saw how the engraving process works, machines that folded money to test its endurance, panels with information about the earliest forms of currency and other facts about money’s history, and a glass enclosed case of one million dollars stacked in ten-dollar notes.
The engraving process explained
One meeellion dollars!
Our tour began with a five-minute video offering an overview of the money printing process. From there, our guide took over, and our group of about 40 people lined up and followed her down an escalator to see the presses at work. There are four phases of the money printing process, and you can view them all through windows on either side of two long hallways. First the printers add background color to the paper, which is comprised of 25% linen and 75% cotton. Then the green and black ink is pressed into the notes and the seals are added. Then it goes through an inspection phase, given serial numbers, and divided up into individual notes. Most of the presses were in operation at the time, so we could see the machinery at work, a highlight for many kids on the tour. It really is pretty fascinating to see, especially when you think about just how much money is right there in a stack — thousands and thousands of dollars.
A wall of money in the gift shop
We learned a few neat facts while on the tour, like they also print official White House invitations; they only print notes, all coins are made at U.S. mints; the one hundred dollar bill is the largest amount in circulation, but that used to be the one hundred thousand dollar note and featured President Woodrow Wilson. I also asked and found out that there are actually five levels of money printing facilities in the DC location (there is one other location in Fort Worth, TX), but the tour just takes you through one level, though you do see the whole process.
Photography is not allowed in the printing press area, so unfortunately I can’t offer a glimpse of that part of the tour. You’ll just have to go see for yourself!
The whole tour, video included, takes about 35 minutes. It ends at the gift shop, where you can view a few more displays about money and pick up some souvenirs. Yep, they are keeping the money circulating!
If you go:
– If you take Metro, the Smithsonian station on Blue/Orange is the closest stop.
– There is street parking nearby, but most is only for one hour. That might not be enough time if you have a long wait for a tour.
– I recommend this for about ages 5 and up, though it does depend on the kid. Younger children will probably dig watching the presses at work, but won’t be able to follow along the explanation of the process. Plus, they might get antsy if there are long waits.
– While we barely had a wait, I have heard and read that it can be long — up to two hours. And since tours are first come, first served, you might want to have a back-up plan just in case the wait is too long or the tours are all full.