[Note: This post was written by KFDC Contributor Emily Moise, a local writer and mom of three young children, who just visited Koziar’s Christmas Village with her family. She always has excellent recommendations for kids’ activities around the DC area as well as products for little ones and more — see all of them here.]
Mix it up this holiday season with a quick getaway to a festive destination! When you feel like you’ve seen and done it all around DC, or just want to add a little extra magic to the season, road-trip-it to one of these locations less than three hours away from the DC metro area — and maybe make some fun stops on the way. Your kids will love the thrill of it all (and, for overnighters, your heavily-tinseled hotel)!
Koziar’s Christmas Village– Bernville, PA Experience an old-timey Christmas Village unlike anything in the DC area. The self-guided tour features a 75-year-old collection of lights and decor, housed displays of memorabilia, a garage of vintage sleighs, gift barns for your holiday shopping, and snack shops with candy cane straws for your hot cocoa. Arrive early to avoid long lines into the winter wonder-farm-land.
Busch Gardens Christmas Town – Williamsburg, VA
Go for the big thrills with a holiday celebration at this popular amusement park. Enjoy spectacular light displays, over 25 rides and coasters (many with a 48” height requirement), live entertainment and shows, the Mistletoe Marketplace, a holiday scavenger hunt, visits with Santa and Rudolph, and much more.
Old Tyme Christmas – Harpers Ferry, WV
This two-weekend-only Christmas celebration offers seasonal activities for the whole family. Featuring historic tours, wagon rides, caroling, a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, shopping at the Handmade Holiday Market, and much more. View the full schedule of activities for December 1-3 and December 9-10 here.
Sesame Place “A Very Furry Christmas” – Langhorne, PA
Bring the littles to a holiday celebration with their favorite Sesame Street friends. This amusement park is transformed with millions of twinkling lights and festive decorations. In addition to fun rides, you can sing and dance along at music and light shows, and enjoy the Sesame Street Christmas Parade with festive floats.
Schellville Enchanted Winter Celebration – Rehoboth Beach, DE
Head to the beach for this family-friendly event with endless activities—most included with your free admission. Featuring live music, train rides, sledding, roller skating, maze of lights, play house village, holiday shopping, beer garden, and visits with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. You can even splurge on a heated Alpenglobe.
[Note: This post was written by KFDC Contributor Emily Moise, a local writer and mom of three young children. She always has excellent recommendations for kids’ activities around the DC area. See some of them here, here, here, and here.]
In case you missed it, a Great Wolf Lodge opened this summer in Perryville, MD, less than two hours away from the DC metro area. The appeal of a sparkling new indoor water park and lodge – because we all know the wear and tear of kids – is a big draw. If Great Wolf has been on your radar, now’s a great time to check it off your kid bucket list.
Many bloggers can give you the ins and outs of Great Wolf, including this previous KidFriendly DC post, but there were a few main takeaways from my family’s visit this past month. Here are five things to know before you go…
1.Timing may be everything. We booked our August stay using an opening deal, however, summer was not ideal timing. Even on our weekday visit, the place was packed. If you’re crowd-phobic like me, try going on a random weekday during the school year. If the timing is right, take your child on their birthday (and add a birthday package).
2.Age matters. If your little ones need constant supervision in crowds or around water and they outnumber you, consider holding off. The water park is massive and not a place to “sittervise” (you’ll want to get in on the action anyways!). Expect to stay one-on-one with young children and to accompany confident, but young swimmers. Note that there are height restrictions for several water slides (42-48” requirements), as well as the indoor ropes course (48” requirement).
3.You’re not going for the food. We added the breakfast package, which ended up being unnecessary for my family. There is a Dunkin’ Donuts on-site which could have sufficed (bagels, breakfast sandwiches, COFFEE). We ate dinner at Barnwood, which offers reservations for up to 14 people. And we brought our own food for the rest. Rooms have mini-fridges, and coolers are allowed in the Lodge. No outside food or beverages are permitted in the water park.
4.After the water park, it’s the hotel lobby. The water park is the main attraction, MagiQuest is a must, and you’ll have to peel your kids out of the arcade… but there is something special about the free activities in the hotel lobby. The dance party was a highlight for us. Don’t miss the story time before bed and morning yoga if everyone can rally.
5.Less is more. If you’re local, a one night stay gives you two full days (read: plenty) of fun. Check-in is at 4pm, but guests can check in early to access the water park when it opens at 9am as well as other activities. Your room may or may not be ready early. Day passes are also available and more than feasible coming from the DC area.
2. Most Smithsonian museums have extended returned to regular hours being limited due to Covid,; just a few still are still closed one day a week — see all current hours here. And not a Smithsonian, but neighboring them them on the National Mall, the National Gallery of Art is open daily, 10am – 5pm (and the new Afro-Atlantic Histories exhibit there looks great!)
4. Did you know Little Free Library has an app? It shows you where nearby (or farther away) LFL’s are located, even providing directions and a map. Some of them also include sweet stories and background about the Library.
5. We’re spending Spring Break in Folly Beach and Charleston, SC, and highly recommend the area for family getaway! This is actually the second time we’ve spent a Spring Break here. Have you been? If so, what are some of your favorite things to do? (One of mine is fossil hunting — the shores in Folly are great for it!)
When it comes to family getaways, I’m not usually one to opt for the all-inclusive resort or “themey” vacation. Our trips tend to be more DIY; I like to piece it together, and where we stay is more of a home base for adventures beyond our lodging, not where we plan to spend the bulk of our time.
This is much of the reason why, until very recently, we had never been to Great Wolf Lodge. I’d been hearing about it for years from friends who had been to the indoor water park resort in Williamsburg, VA. I’d also heard about it from my kids, who’d heard about it from their friends, and asked many times if we could go. So when I received an invitation for my family to experience a stay at the lodge, it seemed like a good time to compromise on my own getaway preferences and take the Great Wolf plunge — literally (it’s a water park, after all).
And I am so glad I did because we had one really fun weekend! As you might imagine from a resort with a water park among its amenities, Great Wolf Lodge caters to families. From the moment we checked in on Friday evening when they gave us all head bands with wolf ears as a kiddie dance party was going on in the lobby with a Great Clock Tower as its centerpiece, there were treats and activities to be enjoyed by all ages.
So many great bonuses come with the Paw Pass
The kids each received a Paw Pass, which granted them all kinds of fun and games: A magic wand for MagiQuest (more on that in a sec!), yummy snacks, arcade tokens, a round of mini golf, photos, swim goggles, temporary tattoos, stuffed animals, a leather bracelet, and more. There was so much it took them all weekend to redeem everything.
The Majestic Bear Suite also has kitchen area and separate bedroom
The suites are all designed with families in mind. There are many room options at varying rates, and they all have a cozy, lodgey feel. Some even have a separate Kids Camp or Treehouse area with bunk beds for kids. Rooms also come with a mini fridge, microwave, and coffee maker for added convenience, plus you can bring in your own food, so you don’t have to buy everything from the resort snack stands and restaurants. (KFDC tip: There’s a Wal-Mart less than a mile down the road, where you can pick up snacks and beverages to keep in the room.) We stayed in the Majestic Bear Suite, which was very spacious, and I have to note the beds were especially comfortable!
Dining in the Loose Moose
We arrived pretty late on Friday, so most of our fun started on Saturday. We began with breakfast in the Loose Moose Bar and Grill, a huge buffet with myriad options, including healthy ones (same with dinner, which we also ate there). There is also a Dunkin Donuts in the resort if you want something quick and less expensive, plus a couple of other snack bars.
Selecting a wand in the MagiQuest Marketplace – it’s like the GWL version of Ollivanders
After eating, the kids picked out their wands for MagiQuest: Guardians of the Realm Portals. So, Great Wolf Lodge is WAY more than a resort with an indoor water park. Among the many fun activities for kids and families is this live-action game that takes kids on an adventure around the lodge with a magic wand and interactive displays. It’s like a virtual Harry Potter experience and kind of enchanting with hallways covered in forest designs and “magical” portals lining the walls. The kids loved this game, and we felt comfortable letting them roam the floors themselves to play (and saw many others doing the same).
On a quest for fun and adventure
Of course, we spent much of the day at the water park — and it was a total blast. There are several big slides, some the whole family can ride down on a raft, so you enjoy the thrill together. The Howling Tornado, a fast ride that drops into a funnel and spins you through to the end, was our favorite, but we enjoyed them all many times over — the waits in line were never too long, so the fun was ongoing. There is also a water fort to climb up and slide down, a wave pool, lazy river, a mellow pool area especially for toddlers, an obstacle course, plus two hot tubs — one for all ages and one for adults. There is also a food stand right in the water park area for poolside dining (and they sell beer!). And you just can’t beat the convenience of throwing on swim suits and walking down the hall to access it all!
We finally left the water park to enjoy some of the other activities around the lodge. We caught a “movie” at the Howly Wood XD Theater, an immersive 4-D adventure that really makes you feel like you’re part of a thrill ride. We did the Oliver’s Time Challenge, the kids used their Paw Passes, and of course, there was a lot of MagiQuest. And as the kids wandered, Levi and I grabbed some comfortable chairs and a bottle of wine for some relaxation. (And here I should note that our kids’ ages allowed for this… parents with younger children shouldn’t let them roam alone.)
Storytime in the lobby
There are also lots of free activities and programs to join throughout the day, many that younger children can enjoy, like storytimes, craft sessions, character appearances, family yoga, dance parties, and more. You can usually find one of them happening in the lobby at any given time. And for additional fun, you can conquer a ropes course, play mini golf, or go bowling.
On the mini links with the Howling Tornado looming in the backgroun
More of the same fun ensued on Sunday. And though we left by early afternoon, guests are welcome to spend the entire day at the resort, even after the 11am check-out time (and starting at 1pm on check-in day.) They really do want you to pack in the fun.
So, as skeptical as I was about the whole water park resort experience, I have to give Great Wolf Lodge huge props. It really was a fantastic and convenient weekend escape for our family. And we’re aiming for a winter weekend next time, when we can don swim suits and enjoy some water park fun indoors while it’s parka weather outside.
Great Wolf Lodge has many locations around the country, the closest to DC in Williamsburg, VA, about a three-hour drive away. Rates vary depending on when you go and which room you select, but all stays include water park access and daily programs. Special offers are always running, so be sure to see what’s available before you book.
Disclosure: I received most of our getaway complimentary of Great Wolf Lodge, however, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
Autumn in the Mid-Atlantic region is sublime, in my opinion. The weather is generally glorious, cool and crisp with lots of sunshine. The brilliant hues of fall foliage make everything seem to glow, like an Instagram filter has been applied to the landscape. It’s at once exhilarating and cozy, a perfect time to indulge in outdoor adventures — then nestle in back at home with warm food and snuggly kids.
We recently took advantage of the season on a day trip to Harpers Ferry. Just over an hour’s drive from DC, where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet, the West Virginia locale is a nice escape from the bustle of the city. And while fall is an excellent time to go, it’s a great destination any of time of year, with a pleasant mix of active recreation, historical explorations, and small-town site-seeing.
It had been quite a few years since we’d been to Harpers Ferry, Owen still a toddler the last time we visited. But it was a go-to for active fun back in the pre-kids day, especially for tubing excursions on the river. The shallow water, mellow flow, and adventure outfitters in the area make it a perfect place to spend a day on the water.
This time, though, we went for the exploring and hiking. Located along the famous Appalachian Trail, there are a few good options for tramping with the kids that wind through the woods, lead to overlooks with stunning views, and offer some active recreation in a pretty, rural setting.
We arrived in town, but immediately drove up to the parking area located about five minutes up the road. Part of the National Park System, it costs $20 to park (but if you have a 4th grader and the free National Park Pass, you don’t have to pay). A shuttle took us back into town, where many of the “shops” along the main street are actually museums offering a glimpse into the town’s past. There’s a clothing store, blacksmith, boarding house, industry museum, and more. You can walk into John Brown’s Fort, learn about the Civil War in Harper’s Ferry, and see the oldest surviving building in the town among many other historic sites.
Several eateries are located in the area for a meal or snack pre- or post- hike. We stopped for some fuel before walking across the bridge, the B&O Railroad Potomac River Crossing, to Maryland for some hiking. There are several trail options, from easy, flat nature walks to more strenuous uphill hikes. We opted for the popular Maryland Heights Overlook Cliffs Trail, about a two and a half-mile ascent to the cliffs overlooking the river and the town of Harpers Ferry. It was a bit challenging for the kids, but not too difficult. And the views at the top were a fantastic reward!
After hiking back down, we stopped for an ice cream treat, walked around a little more, then caught the shuttle back. While we headed back home that evening, Harpers Ferry also makes for a nice weekend trip to experience even more activities. There are many options for lodging, from quaint inns and chain hotels to cabins and campgrounds. During the warm months, tubing and paddling on the river are popular pursuits. And hiking and biking can be enjoyed during most of the year. The Harpers Ferry Adventure Center also offers zip line tours (as well as tubing and rafting excursions).
Still, I highly recommend going in the fall — and planning on chili for dinner after.
Harpers Ferry is located in Jefferson County, WV, about 70 miles from DC. The park is open daily from 9am – 5pm with the last shuttle bus departing Lower Town for the parking lot at 6:45pm. There is parking in town, though it’s restricted. Parking in the lot is $20 and includes ranger programs, and access to park museums, exhibits, and trails. It’s good for three days.