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Things I Love: Play Today DC

Things I Love logo Two things I love: tools that make my life easier and anything that makes me look like a fun mom! Play Today DC does BOTH!

There are many web sites that help parents find local events and family-friendly things to do and I love them all, but newcomer Play Today DC has a very clean sorting interface that allows you to choose the type of activity (i.e. sporting events, performances, educational opportunities and more), the time frame, and location you are looking for. Even better, you can register/purchase tickets right from the the Play Today DC site!  Once you set up an account, your activities are all saved into a calendar on the site and you can export them to several popular online calendars such as Google Calendar so you won’t double-book yourself.  You can share events with your friends via Twitter, +1, and Facebook so they may join you. This site is free, registration on the site just allows you to take advantage of the many features.  Currently they cover Vienna, Oakton, Falls Church, Great Falls, McLean, and Reston. Because the site is so new, I haven’t had enough time to find a way to break it <grin> but so far I like what I see. Being able to view my options, register for paid events, save them to my calendar, share them with friends and get directions all from one place is not only efficient, but helps people like me who are easily distracted by both kids and the computer!  Their FAQs hint at a future Reminders capability, which will make me love it any more.  (Now if only they’d add a laundry and dishwashing feature, we’d be all set, right?)

Want to get a better feel for the kinds of activities they will be letting you know about? Play Today DC is hosting a free Find the Fun Fair at Westwood Country Club in Vienna, VA, February 4, 10 am – 2pm for their official launch, with facepainting, moon bounces, soccer and golf, demos, giveaways and so much more from 50+ local businesses — find all the details here.

Additionally, they are having a sweepstakes on the Play Today DC Facebook page where you can enter to win an iPod Touch (value $199).  If you print the Play Today DC Facebook fan page, write your name, email, address and phone number on the page and bring it to the Find the Fun Fair you may enter to win an iPad (value $499)  at the fair.  See the Facebook page for complete sweepstakes rules, sweepstakes runs through February 3, 2012. (Really, I hesitated to tell you about the sweepstakes because I want that iPad all to myself, but fair is fair.)

Check out the website and let me know what you think — did I steer you in the right direction?

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Disclosure: I will be compensated for this post.  However, as you know, my policy is to “tell it like it is.”  If I don’t like a product, I will not recommend it. iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Corporation.

 

Port Discovery Welcomes New Clifford Exhibit

Clifford the Big Red DogClifford the Big Red Dog and his friends from Birdwell Island are at Baltimore’s Port Discovery as part of a traveling exhibit. If your kids are fans of this lovable canine and his adventures, I highly recommend visiting this well-planned exhibit as a lot of activities are packed into a small space.

postcard from Clifford the Big Red Dog exhibitThe exhibit is set up with different “stations” to represent parts of the island. There is, of course, Clifford himself, with his tail converted to a small slide. He has a large dog dish with a conveyor belt and gigantic bones that need to be loaded onto the belt to feed him (have I ever mentioned how much the JavaKids LOVE conveyor belts?) There is a ferry to “take” you to the island, complete with life jackets. A town library full of books and cozy places to plop down and read. A “sandcastle” (hard resin) puzzle area at T-Bone’s beach. You can place your orders or become the cook at Samuel’s Fish and Chips Shack. Perform on stage with a variety of instruments while wearing dressed in costumes of the various Birdwell island dogs. Or — and this is what captivated the interest of my son whom I worried was too old for the Clifford section – deliver laminated mail to the various island residents from the Post Office to their individual mail boxes. There is even a writing station to write your own note to one of the characters. (I LOVE that — hooray for encouraging writing!)

So many children’s exhibits miss the mark, but this one really found a way to engage children with many different interests. JavaGirl blew past some things and then spent considerable time on other activities. There were opportunities for those who were more physical/active (the slide, sandcastle area, conveyor belt area), the musical/performing types, those who like pretend play, those who like to bring order to chaos, and those who simply like to hang out and read books. The fact that even JavaBoy, at that very touchy age of seven, could find a comfort zone made me realize just how well-planned this museum display was. It’s a shame that it will leave Port Discovery May 5.

However, don’t despair; if you are not already familiar with the children’s museum, there is plenty else to do — from a three-story high climbing structure (ropes, tunnels, slides), to a pretend grocery store, water works room, and a very cool exhibit about Egypt. Keeping busy is never a challenge! Since our last visit they have added an interactive section about nanotechnology, which JavaDad and I enjoyed immensely — unfortunately by the time we got to it, our resident scientist, JavaBoy was already exhausted, or else I think he would’ve been a little more receptive. JavaGirl found the “build a carbon atom tunnel” interesting but some of the grander real-life applications of nanotechnology wasn’t of interest to her yet.

Planning a visit?  Every third Friday of the month is Target $2 Family Fun Night where general admission is just $2 per person from 4 pm to 7 pm, if you want to save some money. See the Port Discovery web site for more information about hours and ticket prices, other discounts and special events. Prepare for your visit by letting your kids enjoy some of these online Clifford games at PBS Kids, color printables, learn about the production of the shows, or check out some of the Scholastic books written by Norman Bridwell from the library or buy them online or at your local bookstore.

Disclosures: Clifford the Big Red Dog is a trademark of Norman Bridwell. My family and I were invited guests to the opening of the Clifford exhibit of Port Discovery, writing about the exhibit was neither a requirement of attendance nor did it impact what I wrote – I always tell it like it is. I am an Amazon Affiliate and have linked to Amazon in this post.

Sesame Place Opens for Winter: A Very Furry Christmas

Sesame Place show

Nothing like Sesame Street characters doing jazz hands!

Motherhood is an endless “To Do” list and taking my kids to Sesame Place has been on my list. Summer 2011, however, became The Summer That Swim Team Took Over Our Lives, so we never made it. Luckily, Sesame Place has opened its doors with a winter offering, “A Very Furry Christmas.”

Sesame Place Vapor Trail

Riding the Vapor Trail with JavaBoy -- just the right-sized thrill for him at this age.

The theme park has a holiday-themed makeover and while water rides are shut down, there are still many popular rides open including Elmo’s Flyin’ Fish, Blast Off, the Vapor Trail, Peek a Bug, Grover’s World Twirl and more.  There is an entire jungle gym type of area with climbing challenges for kids of all ages from the very small to much older kids (think cargo nets and a slippery Cookie Monster’s Mountain).

Sesame Place climbing sectionThere are multiple shows throughout the day that emphasize the values of sharing and giving in the holiday spirit (Christmas is the holiday that is most emphasized, though mostly in a secular sense).  You can find a description of the shows here

Sesame Place dancing with Cookie Monster

JavaBoy got called up on stage to join in the fun!

Having never been in the summertime, I cannot compare the experience to a summer visit.  What I can tell you is that the JavaKids thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  I worried whether JavaBoy, age 7, would be too old for the experience, but he enjoyed the rides, especially Blast Off.  Ever the ham, he got called up on stage to dance with Cookie Monster in one of the shows, which also made his day.  The climbing area was a huge hit and let them burn off a lot of steam.  JavaGirl is at the perfect age to take in the wonder of it all.  Our children are not theme park veterans, so if your kids have graduated to serious thrill rides this park may not be for them.  But what made Sesame Place and in particular, A Very Furry Christmas, nice for us as a family was that it was a miniaturized version of a Disney experience — you had characters, shows, rides, a parade and a big tree lighting, but weren’t completely overwhelmed.  We went on opening day and the lines were quick.  Everyone we encountered was polite.

For my children, seeing the characters in the shows was enough of an up-close experience, they didn’t even feel the need to wait in line to see hug them and get a photo.  However, if you choose, there is a character dining experience option available.  I peeked into the restaurant where it occurs and it isn’t particularly glamorous, though the kids looked happy.  Think of a large elementary school cafeteria with Abby Cadabby running around.

There is, of course, an option to get a photo with Santa and this was one of the few places we encountered a line.  Given that we were in jeans, we decided not to get a photo, but it had a lovely set to do so.

Sesame Place swings

We enjoyed the park from the moment it opened until closing.

The drive to get to Sesame Place was not bad from Northern Virginia and while it is possible to get there and back in a day, given the late hour of finishing up, we opted to get a hotel room and then check something else off my list — visit the Please Touch Museum.  If you haven’t been to Sesame Place before, be forewarned that though there are signs marking the highway exit, the last turn is not well marked, we nearly missed it!

Another hint — line up early for the parade, look for the dots on the edge of main street and that is where you are allowed to line up.  It may be worthwhile to pack a small towel or blanket to sit on while you wait, though the gift shop will be more than willing to sell you one!  Seating for most shows begin half an hour before showtime and it is worth it to get a good seat.  Lockers are available to store the various gear families invariably bring, no outside food allowed in.  Lesson learned the hard way — they do not sell camcorder supplies in their gift shops (oops) and I don’t remember seeing SD cards either.

My final take:  Definitely worth the trip if you live in the Metro DC area or closer, a family fun experience that will probably be one of those “remember when” memories forever, and it makes me even more determined to return in Summer 2012 to see what it’s like to visit in shorts!  For more information on ticket prices and other questions, visit this site.

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Disclosure: My family was invited to attend as media for opening day and received complimentary tickets.  I was not required to write about it nor did this impact my opinion of the event.

Fall Fun Guide Is Here!

2008 10 17_Great Country Farms peanuts and pumpkins_0025Fall began yesterday and the Fall Gun Guide is now officially up!  Just like its Summer companion, the Fall Fun Guide is filled with classes and events for kids and families.  Some are free, some are not, but somewhere in the guide there should be something for everyone.  I am always looking for new things to add to the guide, so please contact me if you know of something that you think should be on there.  And please check the guide frequently.  The Fall Fun Guide is “younger” than the Summer Fun Guide, so it is still maturing and is not quite as far-reaching yet — it has lots of room to grow!

It includes a list of children’s consignment sales (coming up – My Child’s Closet and Catholic Consignments), pumpkin patches and corn mazes, a list of activities by dates, classes and events, day and weekend trips, and so much more!

Go check it out and then tell all your friends about it!

Oh — and start letting me know about events you think should be included in the HOLIDAY FUN GUIDE!!

Summer Fun Guide is HERE!

For the past two years I have put together a Summer Fun Guide for my church’s women’s group (with the help of two wonderful women — thank you Cheryl, and Jami — as well as content input from lots of other women) and we have circulated it via a Word document in print and email.  It has been unbelievable to all of us how far and wide this document has circulated, as people I know tell me about how they received it from the sister of a neighbor of a friend of a cousin of friend of a someone who belongs to their pool.  Never underestimate the power of the Mommy Network!

This year, I have put it up on the blog, as a page rather than a single post, so it’s easier to find — if you look at the top of the screen, you’ll see tabbed pages, and there is a tab that says Summer Fun Guide — so even after this post falls off the page, you’ll always be able to find it.  Here’s a link as well.  By putting it online, I’m able to update it as I find new things throughout the summer.  AND  you can add comments if you know of new things!

It takes a lot of work to put this together, and it is a true labor of love.  I ask just two favors of you: please forward it on to your friends, and please leave a comment if you enjoyed it.  Comments help me know it’s worth doing and comments are the “currency” of the blog world when I try to look for sponsors or partners or later down the line, advertisers.  It’s a tangible way for the outside world to see people are actually reading this stuff!  ; ) 

I will try to put the Fall Fun Guide (last year was the first year) online as well when that rolls out.

Enjoy!  Spread the word!