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Ring in the Weekend

Finding a babysitter on New Year’s Eve is like winning the lottery, despite the fact that you’re the one handing out the cash.  Kudos to all who hit that jackpot!  And if you didn’t, well, here are some family-friendly ways to celebrate the start of 2011 and enjoy it with the kids throughout the weekend.

Happy Weekend… and a Happy, Healthy New Year to all!

First Night AlexandriaEntertainment will be in abundance at the area’s largest family-friendy New Year’s Eve celebration. Starting at 7pm, 100 live perfomances in 17 venues throughout Old Town will thrill guests of all ages.  A capella ensembles, Argentinean tangoes, blues and jazz music, a kids magic show, storytelling, and many, many more fun acts are part of the line-up.  Along with performances, there will be interactive games, face painting, moon bounces, dancing, and crafts for kids.  The grand finale of the evening will be a fireworks display at the George Washington Masonic Memorial.  For details on where shows will take place, see the schedule on the website.  Tickets are $20, free for kids 12 and under, and can be purchased at the Durant Arts Center (1605 Cameron Street) beginning at 12:00 noon, Visitor Center at Ramsay House (221 King Street) from 10am – 5pm, or at all First Night Alexandria venues beginning 15 minutes before the first performance until the last performance.

FrostivalThe second annual festival celebrating winter is happening through the weeknd at the Dulles Expo Center. Among the attractions are more than 15 interactive rides, bounces, and play areas, entertainment from Rocknoceros and The Great Zucchini, puppet shows, storytellers, kids karaoke, arts & crafts, and science activities. For complete details, including ticket information, see this post from a couple of days ago.

New Years on Ice – Temperature are supposed to be around a whopping 50 this weekend, perfect for some outdoor skating.  You’ve got your choice of two area rinks:  The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink or the Pentagon Row Skating Plaza. The latter is open all weekend — 10am – 9pm on Friday, 10am – 11pm on Saturday, and 10am – 10pm on Sunday.  Admission is $8/adults, $7/kids 12 and under, $3/rentals. If you want to glide amidst art, you can go Friday 10am – 11pm  or Sunday 11am – 9pm.  Admission is $7/adults, $6/children 12 and under.

Geckos and Wild Sounds – You have merely days to catch the National Geographic Museum’s fascinating exhibits, Gecko: Tails to Toepads and Wild Music: Sounds & Songs of Life.  The last day of the latter is January 2, and the geckos will be gone after January 5. Admission to Geckos is $7/adults, $4/children under 12, and the Wild Music exhibit is free.  The National Geographic Museum is located at 1145 17th Street NW. Hours are 9am – 5pm daily.

Smithonsian is Open – Do some New Years Day museum hopping.  All of the Smithsonian galleries plus the National Zoo will be open this weekend, and some will even have extended hours.  Check the schedule for specifics. This is also your last chance to catch ZooLights – it’s closed on New Year’s Eve, but will be open for the final evening on Saturday.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Educational, Festival, Live Entertainment, Museums, Music, New Years, Outdoor, Weekend, Winter

Welcome Winter this Weekend

Who's ready for a snowball fight?

So, it’s not yet officially winter (and the photo is actually from last year), but I just couldn’t pass up the alliteration opportunity.  Besides, the weather we’ve put up with lately isn’t exactly the picture of autumn. But many of this weekend’s events embrace the winter spirit – holiday exhibits, Christmas performances, and seasonal celebrations. Here’s where you can find them, plus a few more non-winter pursuits.  Happy Weekend!

Trains, Planes, & Holiday CheerThe College Park Aviation Museum’s annual holiday exhibit opens tomorrow, December 18, showcasing mini locomotives, villages, tunnels, and depots that spark the imagination and bring history to life.  And the museum’s collection of historic aircraft and other flight-related displays will fascinate even more. Admission is $4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/ages 2-18, free/children under 2.  The Aviation Museum is located at 1985 Corporal Frank Scott Drive in College Park.  For other train and light exhibits in the area, check out this post.

National Christmas Tree – Bundle up and head to the Ellipse to see The National Christmas Tree close up and check out other holiday treats.  Visit Santa’s Workshop, watch model trains zip around the tree, and see the Nativity scene and Yule Log.  Choir performances take place on weekends from 4 – 8:30pm.  The Pathway of Peace around the tree is lit daily until 11pm, but Santa’s workshop has limited hours.

Holiday Classics on the Big ScreenThe AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring is running The Muppet Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Story starting today through Thursday, December 23.  Visit the website for showtimes and tickets.

Seasonal Shows on the Stage All of the classics are at our local theatres.  See this post for details on where you and the kids can see your favorites.

Childrens Tea Party & Storytelling – The Textile Museum is hosting its monthly Arts for Families program on Saturday. Guests can enjoy tea and tasty treats as they listen to readings from Tales Told in Tents: Stories from Central Asia by Sally Pomme Clayton. Parents are encouraged to bring a camera to snap photos of their kids trying on Turkmen clothing as they learn about life in the lands of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. The progam is free and recommended for kids ages 4 to 12. There are two seatings, at 2pm and 3pm.  The Textile Museum is located at 2320 S Street NW.

Family Christmas ConcertThe Kennedy Center isn’t a bad place to spend a Saturday afternoon.  The Choral Arts Society of Washington presents a Family Christmas Concert: The Night Before Christmas, a theatrical concert for audiences of all ages. For more information, see this post.  (Note: the Goldstar deal has expired, but regular-priced tickets are still available through the Kennedy Center.)

Mount Vernon by Candlelight Sunday evening is your last chance for an evening Christmas tour at George Washington’s estate (the Saturday evening tour is sold out). Join “Mrs. Washington” for candlelit tours, fireside caroling, and hot cider and ginger cookies.  Characters from the 18th-century will lead tours through the old house, and music and holiday shopping will take place in the more modern buildings.  Admission is $10/adults, $14/kids 11 and under. Hours are 5pm – 8:30pm.

Elmo’s Healthy HeroesTickets are still available for the Sesame Street Live! show at the Patriot Center this weekend.  For details on times and tickets, check out this post from a few days ago.

Christmas Stories at the American Art MuseumOn Saturday, celebrate “the most wonderful time of year” with dramatic readings from a selection of holiday favorites, including Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Clement C. Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicolas, and Francis P. Church’s Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.  The free activity is related to the exhibit “Telling Stories: Normal Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg,” so be sure to take a tour of it while you’re there. The free program starts at 2pm.  The American Art Museum is located at 8th and F Streets NW.

Winter Solstice Festival – The Winter Solstice is nearly upon us.  Celebrate the days getting longer at Cabin John Regional Park on Sunday, December 19, from 2:30 – 4:30. Guests can make their own luminaries, walk celestial spirals, learn to spin fire, and discover ancient customs and superstitions surrounding this magical time of the solar year.  Festivities will include hot cider and traditional treats around a blazing bonfire under the Great Sycamore and end with families preparing a sky lantern to bring back the light.  All ages are invited, and cost is $5.

National Geographic Exhibits – Take shelter from the cold and check out a couple of great exhibits.  Geckos: Tails to Toepads and Wild Music: Sounds & Songs of Life are fascinating for all ages. Read a review of both here.  Admission to Geckos is $7/adults, $4/children under 12, and the Wild Music exhibit is free.  The National Geographic Museum is located at 1145 17th Street NW.

Smithsonian Exhibits – Not that you need a reminder about all of the wonderful free museums on the Mall and in few other parts of the city, but if you want a daily schedule to help plan for storytime at Air & Space, tarantula feedings at Natural History, or animal encounters at the Zoo, then check out this calendar listing children’s activities this weekend.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Christmas, DC, Festival, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Movies, Museums, Music, Park, Seasonal, Theatre, Weekend, Winter

‘Tis the Weekend

The holiday season is upon us. This is evident by the holiday-themed events that have begun popping up around town. Of course, if you’re not quite ready to embrace the spirit, there are plenty of other things to do, such as Family Days at the museums and the Gustafer Yellowgold show at the Alden Theater. For more ideas for family fun this weekend, both with and without the turkeys and tinsel in mind, hear are some recommendations.

Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade
Get into the Turkey Day spirit a little early. On Saturday, November 20, the 13th Annual Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade will bring a procession of holiday fun to the streets of Downtown Silver Spring. Marching bands, floats, giant balloons, trained dogs, antique cars, and holiday displays will be part of the procession. The pageantry begins at 9:30am at Georgia and Ellsworth Avenues.

The National Harbor’s signature holiday attraction sounds pretty cool, both literally and figuratively. I have yet to experience it myself, so here’s the description from the website:

“Bringing to life the 1957 Dr. Seuss holiday classic tale, ICE! features 10 colorful scenes straight out of the pages of the original storybook. Sculpted from TWO-MILLION pounds of ice, the indoor walk-through attraction brilliantly showcases how the “Whoville-hating” Grinch learns the true meaning of Christmas. Visitors will take an adventure through the Grinch’s frozen world, see jaw-dropping ice sculptures and walk through larger-than-life scenes that re-create the original storyline. Little kids and big kids alike can even zip down two-story-tall slides made completely of ice!”

ICE! will be open through January 9. Tickets are $29/ages 13+, $18/kids 4-12 and can be purchased online for various times.

The Singing Lizard — for Free!
As part of their ARTdays at CHAW series, the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop presents a free concert for families. The Singing Lizard’s live shows are fast-paced, fun, and full of exciting songs that both kids and adults enjoy. The concert is from 10:00 -11:00 a.m. in CHAW’s Black Box Theater.

Grand Canyon Adventure
Just because the Natural History Museum isn’t hosting a Family Day this weekend, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit. Besides the incredible exhibits that get kids of all ages ogling – dinos, mammals, insects, butterflies – the IMAX theater has some compelling movies, including the recently opened Grand Cayon Adventure: River at Risk 3D. The film about a whitewater ride with inspirational message about water conservation is a more than worth every cent of the $9 tickets.

Jewish Folk Arts Festival
The Jewish Folk Arts Festival is a celebration of the talent and diversity of Jewish performing and visual arts in the Greater Washington DC/Baltimore region. The richness of values, culture, and heritage is passed from generation to generation through singers, writers, dancers, visual artists, storytellers and craftspeople. All performers and workshop presenters donate their time to the festival. In its final few days, the festival is being held at the JCC of Greater Washington located at 6125 Montrose Road in Rockville. Hours are 12pm – 6pm. Ticket prices vary by day and age; visit the website for specifics.

Holiday Shows
“Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer” opens at Adventure Theater today, November 19, and “A Christmas Carol” opens at Ford’s Theater tomorrow, November 20. See this post about holiday shows for complete details on both.

Ice Skate Amid the Sculptures
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink opened for the season last weekend, and mild temps over the next few days will make it a great time to get gliding. Afterward, treat yourself and the kids to hot chocolate and other goodies at the Pavilon Café. The rink is located on the National Mall at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Open Saturday 10am – 11pm and Sunday 11am – 9pm. Admission is $7/adults, $6/children 12 and under.

Geckos and Wild Music at the Nat Geo
There’s a reason why I keep recommending Geckos: Tales to Toepads and Wild Music: Sounds & Songs of Life at the National Geographic Museum: Both exhibits are awesome. For more details, photos, and a lengthier review, check out this post from a few weeks ago.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, Christmas, DC, Educational, Festival, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Movies, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Seasonal, Weekend

Celebrate World Animal Day with National Geographic


Geckos: Tails to Toepads will be on display at World Animal Day


The National Geographic Museum has some amazing exhibits going on right now, and this Saturday, October 16, they will be among the highlights of World Animal Day, a free event to celebrate species around the globe.

Recent posts about the new exhibits, “Geckos: Tail to Toepads” and “Wild Music: Sounds & Songs of Nature,” provided general details, but after visiting them a few days ago, here’s my take:  Both get two huge thumbs up. Owen and I spent at least two hours ogling the geckos and exploring different sounds and, had it not not been near closing time, could have stayed even longer.  The interactive installments in “Wild Music” were engaging and fun — we produced sounds of the city and nature in the jam room, listened to various bird whistles, whale calls, underwater noises, and world music, saw the measures of our own voices, and more.

The gecko exhibit was way more than a few lizards in cages.  The variety alone (18 different species) is fascinating, and trying to find some of the camouflaged creatures was an added interesting challenge.  Besides the geckos themselves, there’s a kids’ reading and drawing area, including texture patches on tables to color over to replicate gecko skin.  Interactive puzzles and games and large, striking images of close-up gecko features — eyes, skin, toes, tails — round out the display.


The Jam Room is one of Wild Music's many interactive exhibits


Along with those exhibits there will be plenty more to check out at World Animal Day.  View animals on the move in the “Great Migrations” photography exhibit, watch screenings of the cartoon Toot & Puddle, register for a family photography workshop with an award-winning documentary filmmaker, create animal art projects, listen to stories, and experience Animal Jam!, Nat Geo’s new virtual playground for kids.

The event  runs from 10am – 3pm. Admission is free, but tickets are required for Geckos ($7/adults, $4/children under 12).


Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Free, Museums, Weekend

Where the Wild Sounds Are

A new interactive exhibit opened at the National Geographic Museum this month that literally sounds like something any kid who is wild about nature will love.  “Wild Music: Sounds & Songs of Life” opened at the start of the month and will be on display until January 2, 2011.

Here’s the description from the Nat Geo website:  “Whales compose, bullfrogs chorus, songbirds greet the dawn, and people everywhere sing and dance. What do we all have in common? Long before the advent of iTunes, the musical instinct ran deep. Wild Music explores evidence for the biological origins of music through highly interactive exhibits and exceptional sound experiences, and – in the process – expands our understandings of what makes music. With its multicultural content and careful attention to accessibility Wild Music offers broad appeal for diverse, intergenerational audiences.”

And while you’re there, you can check out a live exhibit as well.  “Geckos: Tails to Toepads” features more than 70 live lizards from around the world with several interactive exhibits to complement.

Admission to “Wild Music” is free, and the “Geckos” exhibit is $7/adult, $4/ages 2-12.  The museum is open from 9am – 5pm daily.


Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Free, Museums