Tag Archives: Old Town ALexandria

Minimal Play at The Art League’s New Exhibit

Playing with one of the few interactive pieces at the "Play" exhibit.


Penning a blog that includes recommendations for upcoming events can be tricky.  Obviously, if they are upcoming, I haven’t actually been to them. So, I have to base my suggestions on how they sound based on the information available to me. Most events and adventures that sound promising actually meet or even exceed expectations.  But every now and then, something doesn’t hit the mark.

Unfortunately, this was the case with The Art League’s new Play exhibit currently on display at The Torpedo Factory.  I posted about it twice last week, both in weekday recommendations and in the round-up of weekend activities.  The promo materials said it was a “juried exhibit exploring whimsical, playful works, the activity or idea of fun and play, or actual interactive works which encourage visitors to become involved in artwork on an entirely new level.”  The call for submissions encouraged interactive works that could be handled, added to, moved around. And it’s being presented with the art initiative Minds Wide Open: Virginia Celebrates Children and the Arts.

All of these things combined made it sound like art nirvana for kids. I pictured a gallery filled with cool, interactive art installations, my children happily playing with them and creating some of their own artwork.

So, we headed to Old Town yesterday afternoon, excited for something new.  When we first walked into the gallery, we saw a couple of pieces on a pedestal with a little “Touch Me” tag on the side, and the kids immediately headed over to play with a small, pretty diorama adorned with cut-out pictures and natural materials like twigs, feathers, and grass as well as a box of colorful blocks. It held their interest for about two minutes.  There were a few more interactive pieces hanging on walls (designated with the “Touch Me” tag), but they were too high for the kids to reach and didn’t offer much for them to do anyway. Needless to say, we were disappointed.

When I asked the woman working there about it, she explained that they don’t actually know what the exhibit will include until the last minute when the jury selects the works from the pool of entries submitted. And looking back at the press materials, I realize they didn’t really promise what I pictured… but it just sounded like it could have been all that and more.  All was not lost though. We enjoyed a stroll by the water and the gorgeous day, and the kids got an ice cream treat before heading back home.

In short: I won’t say that you shouldn’t see “Play” — there are some whimsical works to see, just not much to touch — but I wouldn’t make a trip to The Torpedo Factory just for the exhibit.  If you’re in Old Town and have time to spare, pop in for a look. But plan for some other fun activities, too.

“Play” is on exhibit in The Art League Gallery at the Torpedo Factory through April 2. Admission is free.



Filed under All ages, Art, Free, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

A Water Taxi Adventure

Owen and his friend Dylan cruise the Potomac

When DCPS students had a day off last week, my friend Torey and I decided to make it a “Big Boy Day” with our pre-K kids, since our little ones get more time alone with us during the week when their brothers are at school.  We were thinking about what to do when she remarked that she wished we could take them on a boat ride to enjoy the nice day.  Immediately, my mental recreation Rolodex did a quick spin, and I recalled a post from No Monsters in My Bed about taking a Water Taxi between Old Town Alexandria and the National Harbor. Some easy online research and — voila! — we had a great plan set for the day.

The Potomac Riverboat Company operates their Water Taxi between the two destinations on the river several times throughout the day, seven days a week.  One-way tickets are $10/adults and $5/children ages 2-11. We opted to catch the ferry at National Harbor then have lunch and hang out in Old Town before cruising back. The schedule worked better for us that way, plus we figured parking would be easy at our starting point, and there would be more lunch options at our destination.

Who needs a playground when you have the Awakening?

After parking easily in a garage at National Harbor and buying our Water Taxi tickets, we had about 25 minutes until the boat arrived.  It was just enough time to browse through the new Peeps store (the company’s first retail outlet) and for the boys to play on the Awakening sculpture, which was relocated there from Hains Point a couple of years ago.

The Water Taxi arrived right on schedule, and it wasn’t very crowded, so we made our way to the front where we could see the sights and enjoy the beautiful day. Of course, the boys wanted to explore the boat, so we eventually went inside, then to the back, and made many more of those rotations throughout the trip. Of course, the ride itself and the sights along the way were the biggest thrills–we all loved seeing a new perspective of the DC landmarks, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge above us as we passed beneath, and a bird nesting on a buoy in the middle of the Potomac River.

Happy ice cream faces

After the 20-minute ride, we disembarked at the Alexandria Waterfront and made our way to King Street for lunch at the Fish Market. The kids menu was great, and the boys loved checking out the tank of live lobsters near the entrance.  From there, we walked around the area, hoping to take a ride on the Old Town Trolley, though the schedule wasn’t working in our favor. But it was nice to stroll around, stop for ice cream, and spend time outside on a lovely day.

The boys enjoyed the return ride on the Water Taxi just as much, if not more, than they did on the way there, since they were veteran riders by then. Next time — and there definitely will be one — we’ll go the opposite route to put a twist on the adventure.

For more information about Water Taxi rides check out the Potomac Riverboat Company website.


Filed under All ages, Maryland, Outdoor, Virginia