by Micaela Williamson
Make Meaning, the award-winning entertainment and events destination for fun with creativity, opened its sixth U.S. location at Bethesda Row in Bethesda, MD last June. The colorful, 5,000 plus square foot venue includes a mix of interactive activities and experiences that allow families to create unique gifts and bond together in a fun, one-of-a-kind atmosphere.
"Make Meaning is a one of a kind place where adults and kids can both have fun with creativity. From a small playdate to a sweet 16 or corporate outing, we have something for everyone," says Make Making Bethesda.
Drop-in Activities include:
In addition to drop in activities, Make Meaning has also has private party rooms for events of all sizes, such as birthday parties, bridal parties, baby showers and even corporate events. They also do popular canvas painting events with wine for adults. Staff members are named Associate Creativity Enthusiasts (A.C.E.) and not only oversee projects, but also offer entertaining tips and tricks to enhance the Make Meaning experience. Find out more by visiting www.makemeaning.com/locations/bethesda-row/
Plus, Bethesda Row is a really fun place with dozens of hip, family-friendly restaurants, shops, a newly renovated state-of-the- art-movie theatre, and fun events year round.
4809 Bethesda Ave
Bethesda, 20814 Maryland
by Claudine Kurp
Image Credit: Pentagon Row Ice Skating Rink
It is officially time to enjoy some Winter 2015 adventures! Embrace the chilly temperatures and get outside. The DC Metro area doesn't always promise snow, but you can find awesome outdoor fun at a number of local ice rinks. Most local outdoor ice rinks are surrounded by restaurants and shops, so when you are done skating enjoy easy access to a nice cup of hot chocolate or a family-friendly meal.
Listed below are some of the most popular local outdoor rinks. For a complete listing of indoor and outdoor rinks with descriptions, check out our book, Kid Trips Northern Virginia Edition: Plus Top Picks For Family Fun In Washington DC!
Bonus! Our friends at the newly expanded Pentagon Row Ice Skating Rink are giving away a FREE "VIP Fun Pack for 4 People" to their outdoor skating rink. This contest is for TWO lucky winners! See details below.
Where's Smithy? Photo Challenge: Kids will love this game: figure out where in the museum "Smithy" the Smithsonian border collie is hiding in this photo. Visit the spot in the museum and take a picture of your family in the same location. Families can then share their photos by uploading them to a special Flickr group and have a chance to win a Smithy frisbee. For more information and photos of Smithy in other Smithsonian locations visit smithsonianeducation.org. Continue the fun throughout the museum by improvising your own "I Spy" game or scavenger hunt through each exhibit (e.g. "I spy something orange with fur," or "Find something that is bumpy, hard, and blue").
Sant Ocean Hall: Highlights of this impressive hall include a life-size model of a 45-foot North Atlantic right whale, 2 giant squids, and the 7-foot-tall jaws of a megalodon. The exhibit also contains the world's largest and most diverse collection of marine specimens and explains how scientists study ocean life. Other interesting exhibits teach visitors about the ecology of coral reefs, coastal ecosystems, and the differences between the north and south poles. A 13-minute video, Deep Ocean Exploration, takes visitors on a submersible dive to the bottom of the ocean.
Orkin Insect Zoo: Within the 15 main areas of the Insect Zoo kids can observe live insects, climb through insect dwellings, watch tarantulas being fed, and touch and hold some of the many-legged creatures brought out by volunteers. Curious kids can learn even more after they get home by downloading the new e-book from the Smithsonian Science Education Center: "Expedition Insects." The ebook includes interactive images, videos and sound, animated maps, coloring pages and more.
by Micaela Williamson
Chocolate Lovers Festival
February 7 & 8, 2015
The Chocolate Lovers Festival in the City of Fairfax keeps getting better each year. The two-day festival includes the Taste of Chocolate, the Chocolate Challenge, a Sweet History Walking Tour, the ever-popular Kiwanis Chocolate Chip Pancake Breakfast, open houses at historic buildings and much more. View the entire schedule online here.
Be My VALentine Fest at the Village at Leesburg
February 13, 2015
Come celebrate VALentines Day with the Village at Leesburg! Bring your sweetheart and enjoy evening horse drawn carriage rides, strolling musicians, VALentines characters and more!
February 14, 2015
This event includes great food (chocolate) and fun for the whole family. There will be games, activities, entertainment, face pairing, inflatables, a silent auction and more. All proceeds benefit Help Hungry Kids
Valentine's Tea and Garden Valentines at Green Spring Gardens
February 14, 2015
Register online for one of these fun events. The Valentine's Tea and Dance includes dancing, sampling of different teas, sweets, and a valentine craft. At Garden Sprout: Garden Valentines, explore our glasshouse to spot Valentine hearts in nature. Create a Valentine from pressed flowers for a favorite person. Sample the first strawberries of the season and learn the Native American story behind this Valentine berry.
Afternoon Tea at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens
February 14, 2015
Afternoon tea at the Oatlands is an iconic tradition. Dine on assorted sandwiches, scones with preserves & cream and delicious sweets in the historic Carriage House. Then take advantage of a discounted rate to tour the mansion. (Reservations required.)
Valentine's Card Crafts at the American Girl Doll Store
February 14, 2015
Tysons Corner, VA
Inspire your girl to give something extra-special to her Valentine: a cute handmade card and matching envelope! She’ll use stickers and decorative paper to make a one-of-a-kind card, then add a sweet message on the inside. Free!
Valentine's Day Campfire (Daytime)
February 14, 2015
Black Hill Nature Center
Head to the Visitor Center to enjoy a cozy fire, activities, hot cocoa, and nature crafts to give that you can make for someone you love. Drop in anytime during program hours. No registration required. Fee is $2 per person
Family Fun Cooking Class Valentine's Day Treats
February 14, 2015
Sur La Table
Get the family together to make decadent sweet treats like Valentine Kiss Cookies, Pink Chocolate-Dipped Krispy Pops and Heart Shaped Chocolate Cupcakes.
SteveSongs Valentine's Day Concert
Come jam with the award-winning SteveSongs, one of the most popular and fun children's artists in the nation. Plus, Jammin' Java is a special place to enjoy a sweet treat and for parents to sip on a specialty coffee drink. Two shows: 10:30 and 12:30 PM. Tickets available online.
ImaginAsia: Love in Every Language
February 14 & 15, 2015
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
View a digital slideshow of images of love in Asian art from the Freer|Sackler collections. In the classroom, use prints that say “love” in more than a dozen Asian languages and create a Valentine’s Day card to take home, Also, learn how to fold heart-shaped origami. All ages welcome.
Portrait Story Days: Abigail Adams and Valentines
February 14 & 15, 2015
National Portrait Gallery
Drop in to hear a special story about First Lady Abigail Adams and create a Valentine’s card for someone special. The story will be read at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. on Saturday and at 2, 3 and 4 p.m. on Sunday.
The Chocolate Tour of Washington DC
(ongoing, Saturday's and Sundays)
Georgetown, Washington DC
Come join your expert tour guide for a delightful stroll through some of the Washington's most decadent dessert boutiques and chocolatiers in the charming neighborhood of Georgetown. Tour includes stops and tastings at Sprinkles, Godiva, Thomas Sweet, Olivia Macaron, Dean & Deluca and Pie Sisters. Save up to 60% off by using this current Groupon.
Do you know of a local family-friendly Valentine's Day event to add? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will consider it for publication.
By Amy Suski
1 Help Others: More than just a day off from school, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an opportunity for families to honor the legacy of MLK by taking on a project during National Day of Service. Fun projects for kids include cleaning up local parks, bagging meals for shelters, and making cards for seniors. Find local service projects at www.nationalservice.gov, volunteermatch.org, Allforgood.org, Volunteerfairfax.org, www.montgomeryserves.org, www.volunteerhoward.org.
2 Visit the Memorial: Even if you're not up early enough for Monday morning's wreath-laying ceremony at 8:00-9:00 a.m., it is still a great weekend to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the downtown mall. National Park Service rangers will be on hand throughout the weekend to talk about MLK's legacy. www.nps.gov
3 Join a Parade: The Anacostia Peace Walk and Parade features the Ballou Marching Band and representatives from the community. The Peace Walk starts Monday at 11:30 a.m. and the Parade starts at noon. For route information see www.mlkholidaydc.org. The Annual Dr. Martin Luther King March and Celebration in Leesburg gathers Monday at the Leesburg Courthouse at 10:00 a.m. and begins at 10:30 a.m. For more info see www.facebook.com/MLKMarchLeesburg
4 Attend a Celebration: The Smithsonian Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Program will be held Friday, January 16, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the American Indian Museum. This year the theme of the celebration will be "The Beloved Community." Visit www.anacostia.si.edu for more information. Arlington's Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be held January 18 from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School. The program includes speakers and performances by the Saint Augustine Choir and The Dance Institute of Washington. www.arlington.us. Reston's 30th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration spans the entire weekend with events geared towards all ages including service projects, concerts, speeches, a student art display, commemorative march, and children's activities at locations throughout Reston. Some of the children's activities require registration. For more information click here. Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park Annual King Day Celebration will be held on Monday at the Hylton Memorial Chapel, 14640 Potomac Mills Road, in Woodbridge. The event includes a student oratorical contest, writing contest, and performances by the Martin Luther King Community Choir. www.pwcacdst.org
5 See a Play: Theatre IV's "I Have a Dream" depicts the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The theatrical production is appropriate for both kids and adults. The Alden Theatre, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Admission $10-$15. www.mcleancenter.org
Photo courtesy of www.nationalservice.gov
by: Claudine Kurp
Well the holidays have passed and the kids are back to school. If you are anything like me, I yearn for a fresh start each year and part of that want is ORGANIZATION! While I try to declutter and keep my house in order throughout the year, ineviably life catches up with me. The holidays are a killer for me and I feel like I need to reset and get ready for a new year.
Here are my ABC's of organization to make your home and mind less cluttered!
A. Tackle Storages Issues.
1. Tackle the change of seasons head on. It can be a messy and time consuming task to organize the clothes in your home, but you need face the beast. Start the process with your kids' gear. If you no longer have the need for a particular size or if an item has truly outlived its usefulness, it is time to say au revoir! Clothes should be sorted into piles including: KEEP, TOSS, DONATE or SELL. Toss the gear that is so stain ridden that is it officially a DNA experiment. Keep the clothes that you want for yourself or your family. Donate the items that might have worn out their welcome for you but a shelter would gladly take.
2. Items you KEEP for another child or for seasonal activities like snow, etc. should go in a bag or box and be tagged. I highly recommend the Space Saver Vacuum Bags that are sold at Bed, Bath and Beyond and Amazon. They squeeze every bit of air out of a bag and condense the amount of space you will need by half. Label the bag by size and season (e.g. Size 3T Fall/Winter). These bags are great for garages as they are air tight and keep water and bugs out.
3. TOSS the items that are beyond repair. Better yet, use them as kid safe smocks for painting, a cover for kids that refuse to wear a bib or...rip them into shreds and use them as rags for your house, car or garage cleaning.
4. DONATE! If you are ready to bid your STUFF a fond farewell, DONATE your goods to a local shelter, Salvation Army, Goodwill or a church clothing drive. Note, local Veterans and Lupus organizations will pick up unwanted clothes, art work, lamps, etc. All of these donations are tax deductible. Make sure to get receipts for your tax return.
5. SELL! If you have the time, inclination and wears, it might be an ideal time to have a garage sale. Misery loves company, invite a friend or neighbor to participate with you to sweeten the pot for potential customers. You can even advertise for free on http://www.craigslist.org/. You can also try your hand at selling on eBay or at a local consignment shop. Note, I recommend this only if you have the time and motivation. If you WAIT for the "Garage Sale Gods" to take you by the hand, it won't happen. Better to DONATE then wait and create further clutter.
6. Go Green - Use http://www.freecycle.org/. Freecycle is a grassroots, nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Membership is free.
B. Pay bills online. Save yourself the stamps and aggravation of bill paying. Create a folder for pending bills. Keep the folder close to your computer. File and pay bills as they come into your home. For static bill payments like your mortgage, car payment, school tuition fee, etc. set up a reoccurring payment that fires off a payment at a certain time every month. Almost every bank now offers online bill pay. It is easy, fast and saves time and money.
C. Buy in bulk or in multiples. Stop numerous trips to the store. If you need diapers, buy them in bulk and store the extra sleeves of diapers in the closet. If you are constantly running out of light bulbs, trash bags, toothpaste, baby lotion, moisturizer, etc. buy extra! This holds doubly true if you go to a specialty stores or buy online for certain products. Stop running out of Baby Tylenol and your favorite facial cleanser, buy two and replenish when you are getting low. It is wonderful to just go into your medicine cabinet and have a spare dye-free Baby Motrin bottle at 3am!
D. Create a master grocery list. Create a master list and leave room at the bottom for nonstandard items that crop up from time to time. Save a copy and print out a few sheets. It saves you the trouble of reinventing the wheel every week. Better yet, every major supermarket now has an app that can allow you to save a master grocery list and also allows you to save virtual coupons that can be used simply clicking on the coupon in your app and then using your grocer rewards card at checkout. You can also dial into savings on gasoline. The Safeway and Giant Foods app will track your purchases and tell you your exact gas rewards. Hint, sometimes stores give triple points for gift cards. Check advertised specials and save even more at the pump.
E. Beat the paper beast that invades your home! Our homes are invaded daily by intruders. They come in the form of mail and lots of it. Tackle that pile ASAP. Sort mail into bills, trash/shredder items, items to be reviewed (i.e. catalogs, magazines).
1. Pending bills should go into a folder with the highest urgency. Pay through online bill pay or standard snail mail and a checkbook. Get them done, out and filed quickly. Have stamps available and close at hand when paying bills.
2. Shred and trash solicitations. If you don't have a shredder, invest in one. With the threat of identity theft, they are worth their weight in gold.
3. Take catalogs and magazines and tackle them after dinner, on the treadmill, at the hairdresser, etc. Anywhere where downtime presents itself try to look through books, mags, catalogs, etc. Also, I keep my catalogs stacked in a special section of my closet as "Reference" material for decorating, product selection, etc. As new catalogs come in for Pottery Barn, etc I toss/recycle the old ones.
F. Book ahead and plan often. "It is never too early to plan" is my mantra. I book my sitter a month or two in advance. I make sure we have a reservation and a plan. There is nothing worse than finally getting a night out, making your way out the door and determining that there is no real plan. Stop the Chipotle madness!
1. Book dinner reservations early at http://www.opentable.com/.
2. Make your next hair appointment as you leave the salon.
3. Schedule future dentist and doctor appointments with the front desk as you exit the office.
4. Buy tons of diverse birthday cards at wholesale clubs where prices are cheaper. Have them on hand when a birthday or special event rolls around. You will save yourself the trip to CVS.
5. Pack two days out for a trip. Yes, it will still take you time, but the urgency isn't as great and there are no last minute surprises like no suntan lotion. Start with the laundry for this exercise.
G. Shop online. I think is it safe to say that everyone has discovered Amazon. They have the best prices and selection for everything from books to diapers and more! With a PRIME membership there isn't much I can't get to my door within 48 hours, plus free shipping! I even purchased my daughter's First Communion dress on Amazon. I also love Shoebuy.com for great prices on shoes. Some websites continue to offer tax-free alternatives. While brick and mortar stores will always be needed and appreciated, find some online love to make your life easier.
H. Store and use your coupons. Put all of your many paper coupons for Bed, Bath and Beyond, food items, Babies R Us, et al. in a large envelope or folder. Put it in your car and have it on hand for your weekly shopping trips. You won't have to sift through an overburden purse anymore and you will finally have that coupon when you need it!
I. Use an online calendar. I don't care if you grew up in a cult and have never used the multiple functions on your computer or smartphone. Read a book, review an online tutorial! This is a critical component to organization. Most computers come preloaded with a calendar. Every major online calendar program for Windows or Mac should give you the option of syncing with your smartphone. I live and die by my calendar. It is so nice to make an entry on my iPhone calendar and have it on my iMac and iPad at home. The cloud has gotten some bad press, but I still love it! You need to start to record upcoming events, activities, birthdays, etc. Set the alarms on your calendar to remind yourself of important events. View it often. Make sure to print out the calendar you created and hand the hardcopy to your spouse or partner. This avoids so much confusion and gets everyone on the same page. As kids get older it is even more critical.
J. Get help and outsource some of your needs. If your budget allows, there are some wonderful resources out there to help overburdened parents.
1. Get a cleaning service. I am down to once a month, but I can't give it up! My cleaning crew makes me happier than 99% of the population. That is just one relationship I can't abandon!
2. Get your groceries delivered. The average price of delivery hovers around $10.00 to $15.00. The price of gas and your time are worth that and more! One working mom I knew had her grocery delivery service stock a garage freezer and fridge while the nanny was home to let them into the garage. Don't forget to tip!
3. Hire a personal shopper. Many parents simply don't have the time to buy the perfect dress for their daughters 3rd birthday. Folks with enough money but not enough time, are turning more and more to professional concierge services. The web is filled with local options.
4. Hire a mother's helper. Seek out a younger tweener in the neighborhood and hire them on as a mother's helper. They can make sure your little ones are entertained while you tackle some bigger tasks in the house. Most mother's helpers are younger and don't command the salary that the average babysitter demands.
5. Get organizational help! Some of us are at the point where help is needed. There are a number of local services that can help you organize your home. I found a few on this SITE. I also love Rachel & Company. She has a great blog, a fun newsletter and is a respected local business owner that can assist clients with hands-on organizing, closet design, events and even large moves.
I hope you find this helpful. After I had my first daughter it became my roadmap to a calmer mind and a more organized abode. It isn't easy but so worth the effort! Good luck and here is to a very organization 2015!
by Micaela Williamson
Long gone are the days of boring dioramas and glaring at dead insects through glass cases. Modern science museums are fun, hands-on experiences where visitors engage with exhibits and each other. With the appeal for multiple age groups, we highly recommend science museums as an alternative to children's museums, which are often geared towards early childhood. Whether part of a family vacation or just a day trip, the east coast is packed with so many wonderful science museums. In geographical order from North to South, here are our top favorites:
Museum of Science
If there is only time to visit one museum in Boston, make it this one. The Museum of Science has hundreds of interactive exhibits on topics such as dinosaurs, the human body, conservation, energy, live animals, physics and much more. Don't miss the indoor lightning storm in the Theater of Electricity (occurring multiple times a day,) and the live animal shows. The museum is also host to New England's only IMAX® Dome screen and an amazing Butterfly Garden (additional fees apply.)
Liberty Science Center
Jersey City, NJ
This massive museum has tons of hands-on things to do on subjects such as sound, communication, animals, electricity, robotics, the human body and more. Besides discovery exhibits, there are also a lot of physical challenges. One of the most popular exhibits, the Touch Tunnel, is a dark maze where visitors crawl through by using their sense of touch. It can be scary for children, so parental supervision is recommended. Also, check out the new Infinity Climber is a suspended multi-story play ,and learn about cityscapes and view 9/11 artifacts in the Skyscraper exhibit. During warmer months, visit the Wildlife Challenge, where kids can crawl and climb like an animal through an outdoor obstacle course. For just a few dollars more than general admission, an IMAX of 3-D movie can be added onto admission tickets.
By Amy Suski
Thinking of traveling to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, or Europe later this year? Traveling by car or cruise ship and not sure whether everyone in the family needs a passport? Now is the perfect time to do your research and get your family's travel documents in order. Passport agencies aren’t as busy as they’ll be in the spring and summer and since the regular process can take 4-6 weeks, it makes sense to take care of the paperwork now. You should also be aware that many countries require passports to be valid for at least 6 months after the date you begin your visit, so even if your passport is valid for another few months at the time of your trip it may not be enough. In addition to a valid passport, depending on where you are visiting, you may also need a visa. And if you are traveling with children, special rules may apply. Seem like a lot to sort out? It is!
We recently booked a non-refundable ski trip to Canada and then panicked when we realized all of our passports were out of date. After some research we learned that the kids could travel to and from Canada with certified copies of their birth certificates, but I needed an expedited renewal of my passport (which we were able to obtain within 2-3 weeks by paying an extra fee). Learn from my mistake and ALWAYS check with the Department of State and the foreign country you plan to visit well in advance of your trip. Requirements can change and you don't want a missing document to ruin your big trip! To get you started, here are some general guidelines.
Image Credit: Toy Corner
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