Sunday, August 31, 2008
N. Harrison St. & 27th St. N.
Arlington, Virginia 22213
This is a large and fun space to play. It is great for toddlers, preschoolers, and school aged children. There is lots of equipment and places to climb (both high and low), 4 bucket swings, regular swings (2 are with the bucket swings), and more.
Another great aspect of this playground is the 'car lot' as I call it. There are a bunch plastic Little Tykes cars and push toys that are for communal use. The asphalt path that encircles the large jungle gym guarantees plenty of driving room.
LG is, of course, in love with the little houses in the sand area. There are play kitchens and small booths set up that are perfect for playing house or restaurant. Lately, I have been recreated these small houses indoors with couch cushions (no big deal since I don't sit down much when she is awake anyway). She delights in the simple act of someone ordering some food from her. Sometimes she will bring it to you and sometimes she eats it.
The sand area is huge but it is that dirt sand that we aren't really fond of (you know the kind that turns to mud when it rains). I would prefer a smaller sandbox with the nice play sand like they have at Hayes. The kids don't seem to care, but then again, they don't need to clean the car, house, shoes, and clothes that suffer.
The park is a mix of shade and sun so it is good during any type of weather (though after rain, it is prone to mud puddles). Parking is limited to street parking. There are restrooms and water fountains on site.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
National Museum of Natural History
10th Street & Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20560
As with most of the Smithsonian museums, this museum is huge with many exhibits. It is advisable that you browse the website and select the exhibits that you would like to spend time in before heading out to the museum.
Today we went in for the Butterfly exhibit. The butterfly pavilion features live butterflies in a garden setting and is very cool. I have been to larger contained butterfly gardens but given that this one is in the middle of a museum, it is a good size. We decided to forgo the ridiculous charges for purchasing the tickets in advance and risked not being able to enter. We were in luck - perhaps because we got there before 10:30 am. We were able to purchase tickets for the next entry time and had a short wait in line.
LG really liked seeing the butterflies up close and was very excited when one landed on Dada. She really wanted one to land on her but it didn't happen. We only lasted about 10-15 minutes in the exhibit but it was a good time.
Tips for success:
- The museum staff said that mornings are the best time to see the butterflies because this is when they are most active.
- Get there early to avoid long lines. Even if you purchase your tickets in advance the time stamped on the ticket is not your guaranteed time of entry.
- Strollers are not permitted in the garden.
- Some children are scared of the idea of butterflies flying so close and landing on them. Be prepared to leave if your child needs to.
- Diligence is required. Children should not touch the butterflies and must be careful not to step on them.
- It is really humid in the pavilion. There are water misters that go off frequently.
After seeing the butterflies, we headed off to the Mammal Hall where we saw lots of 'sleeping' animals. LG decided that they were sleeping; we did not tell her that (but we did agree with her).
We then decided to eat in the cafeteria; this was a bad idea. It was expensive and dare I say, gross? We had a hot dog, fries, a hamburger, sandwich, and 2 fountain drinks - for 30 dollars. The sandwich was the only thing worth eating (and was actually large enough to feed the whole family). It wasn't a great sandwich but in comparison to the grill fare it was much better. Next time we will head home earlier or bring our own food for LG.
After the metro ride home, we were all tired but we had a good time so that is what counts.
COST: Museum ~ Free; Butterfly Pavilion ~ $6 per adult, $5 per child, free for those under 2
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Various locations, please check website
I recently ran into my former Stroller Strides instructor and remembered what a great experience it had been. I would still be doing stroller strides now if I had: 1. a daughter would would sit in a stroller for an hour; 2. a running stroller (I was fine with my Bumbleride when she was little but I think that now a running stroller, preferably a BOB would be much better for both of us).
I wish I had started striding when my daughter was about 3 months old. I think that is when I would have first been able to handle the workout (which is more intense than you might imagine) and LG would have been very content in her stroller. As it was, I didn't sign up until LG was already 9 months old and so I really only got in 3 good months of exercise before LG was walking and wearing me out at home. Had I stuck with it, I could probably still convince her to stay in her stroller that long because it would be a regular occurrence. There were a lot of mother's who had walkers that were content in the stroller. Somehow, I just don't see LG as being one of them. Or perhaps that is just my excuse so that I don't have to work out. :)
The workouts I was a part of focused less on walking/running and more on strength training. We would walk for a short while and then stop to do some resistance training with the elastic bands or some pushups or leg lifts. We also did cardio bursts, which really did me in.
It was a great place to connect with other moms and get in shape. Of course, everyone was always really understanding when you just 'had to go' or your child would not stop crying/screaming, or in my case, your child threw up all over her stroller.
Wow, I have almost inspired myself to try it again. Almost.
You can register at anytime during the year. The classes usually take place outside but when the weather gets to cold or hot, they move inside. There are a couple of pricing packages available and I would recommend starting with a ten class pass so that you can determine how many times a week you can handle it.
Monday, August 25, 2008
442 S. Washington St.
Falls Church, VA
Since I mentioned Elevation Burger in my post about Johnny Rockets, I feel as though I should give the restaurant a proper review.
Currently (as of Aug 2008) there seems to be only one location in Falls Church. However, according to this article more locations can be expected.
It is a casual environment where you order at the counter and seat yourself (highchairs and booster seats available). It is clean and the staff is friendly. Food comes out pretty quickly and we have retrieved it ourselves and also had it brought to us so I am not sure what the SOP is. There are small high top tables and large lower tables but no booths. Given how crowded it is, you might end up sharing a large table with another family.
Dada loves Elevation Burger. He says that they are some of the best burgers in the area. I take his word for it. LG is pretty happy with her burgers from there as well. Mama is happy because they have Veggie Burgers! Two types actually and both are good depending on what you are in the mood for but Mama does prefer turkey burgers. (Hey Elevation Burger, want to add to your menu? Can you PLEASE add a Turkey burger? Thanks!) The milkshakes are fantastic.
Elevation burger has replaced Five Guys for us since Five Guys uses peanut oil (a no-no for LG) and does not have Veggie or Turkey burgers for Mama (they have some sad little thing that they call a Veggie sandwich but I have nicknamed it the toppings sandwich because there is nothing to it but burger toppings).
Thankfully, Elevation Burger now has Sunday hours 11am to 5pm so we can head there for lunch on the weekends.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Pentagon City Mall
Shirlington Town Center
A fun atmosphere where you don't mind if you kid's are loud or make a mess. A good burger for Mom and Dad and milkshakes all around. At the Georgetown location the wait staff performs during certain songs and I have seen quite a few birthday celebrations there as well. The Pentagon City location is by far the least festive. The wait staff is fine, but doesn't usually cater to children. Still a decent choice if you are at the mall and need something besides the food court.
I like the Turkey burgers here and there is a veggie option as well. My favorite is a #12 and Dada likes the Original.
Watch out for: kid's menu prices, for some items it is actually less expensive to order off the adult menu. A la carte ordering can be pricey as well. The french fries do not come with meals and can quickly add to your bill.
Overall: An expensive but kid friendly option.
Other options for a good burger: Elevation Burger in Falls Church (perhaps a better option)
Never underestimate the value of a good walk outside. I am always amazed at what fascinates LG as we make our way through Arlington. On this particular adventure it was the ATM at Wachovia. She was touching the buttons and asking, "Where's the money?" (mostly in sign language). Keep in mind that I have stopped at the ATM with her only a handful of times in the past 6 months. I was surprised to find that she knew what the ATM was for. She was very disappointed when we had to leave because someone actually wanted to use the ATM.
LG also found excitement in her stroller (a Bumbleride Flyer). She has been very into clasps and hooks and buttons lately so the stroller provided at least 15 minutes of entertainment.
Some great places to walk around outside:
Urban: Ballston Metro area (not right next to the metro but in the area around it) there are fountains to explore (head toward the Westin Hotel); birds to feed (in the open area next to Cosi is usually good); and wide open sidewalks to accomodate strollers.
Nature: Lubber Run has trails that are stroller friendly. The community center on site ensures that you will have access to a bathroom if necessary and there is also a playground an picnic pavillion.
Waterside: Mount Vernon Trail this paved trail provides a beautiful view overlooking the Potomac River.
Added bonus for all this walking? Mommy gets a work out!
Friday, August 22, 2008
1015 N. Quincy St.
Arlington, VA 22201
I am raising a book worm. We go to the library all the time. LG loves it. Mama loves it. Good times for all and a money saver to boot.
Our closest library is the Central Library at Quincy Park and for LG it is so much more than a place to get books. She loves the puzzles and playing hide and go seek in the rows of books. She adores watching the other children and the music collection. I have frequently made the mistake of thinking we could pop into the library only to find us still there 45 minutes later. I have learned to never go to the library when we have somewhere else we need to be.
Other things we have learned:
- If Mama wants books too, it is best that she place them on hold using the online catalog. This way, Mama's books are waiting at the check out desk and there is no need to bring LG upstairs.
- Story hour(s) are on Friday. There is a 2 years and under story hour upstairs at 10am and 11am. There is also a 2 years and up story hour downstairs at 10am and 11am. I do not know which is best if you have multiple ages to entertain but I imagine that is more dependent on your family dynamics than anything else.
- The library staff is extremely helpful. If you do not know which books to select for your child, try going to the help desk. They can find some great books that you would never have time to find on your own.
- The library is a good spot to meet up with other parents. For some reason it is easier to maintain a conversation with another parent here than at other indoor locations.
- Self-checkout is not hard to do. If you do not have books on hold, try self-checkout (especially if your child is contained in a stroller).
Thursday, August 21, 2008
2900 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201
Not unique to our area but kid friendly all the same. A kid's menu is not available but since the portions are so large, you can probably get away with just having your little one eat off your plate. There is a toddler plate that servers will bring out for free (ask if they do not do so automatically). It consists of bread, bananas, and strawberries. The smoothies at Cheesecake are also made with real fruit so if you have a smoothie nut like we do, that might be a good option as well.
LG's favorite part is the bread and bacon:
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Find out more about the classes here.
You can register for classes online starting at 8am. If you don't already have a log in, I suggest you get one today. If you are not planning on registering online, you can fax or mail in your registration but you must have a paper copy of the catalog of classes to do so. Enjoy Arlington! Class Catalogs are available at the libraries and community centers.
1021 N. Quincy St.
Arlington, Virginia 22201
My daughter really wanted to go to the library today but it was so gorgeous outside that I had to make sure we had some outside time as well so after our visit to the Central Library we walked over to the playground area of Quincy Park.
We don't usually go to this park because there aren't any swings but I am glad that we went over today. Now that LG is old enough to climb stairs and crawl through tunnels, this park is a nice outing in combination with the library (not really a destination in and of itself though). There is a sandbox that was in the shade of some nice large trees but the remainder of the park is hit or miss with the sun depending on the time of day. The too larger slides were both already too hot for sensitive toddler skin at 10:45 this morning. Luckily the two smaller slides had not heated up yet and were perfect for LG.
Quincy Park is really a sporting park so in addition to the playground there are tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, a baseball diamond, basketball court, and soccer field. There is plenty of run around space and people watching opportunities (LG likes to watch older kids/adults play sports). There are multiple picnic spots available as well.
Next time we will bring a ball and let her down on the soccer fields!
Friday, August 15, 2008
7052 Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003
YUM! So delicious and yet kid friendly. The atmosphere is relaxed and loud enough so that you don't have to worry if your toddler is having an off day. No table clothes to worry about and booster seats and highchairs are readily available.
Best part? Mom and Dad get a GREAT meal. Starting with the delicious breads from Best Bun Company (extra good during brunch times) and moving right on through to the unbelievable chocolate waffle for dessert I have yet to have miss here. My personal favorites include: the Tex Mex Eggrolls, Silverado Roast Chicken Salad, Sweet Potato Fries, and the chocolate waffle. No one likes the chocolate waffle more than my husband. He will crave it and devors it quickly. Since my daughter has a dairy allergy she has limited participation in this portion of the meal, but has already learned that the chocolate star that decorates the plate is hers (just a decorative dose of dark chocolate but for her it is heaven).
Watch out for: No kids' cups. Odd in a place that is so kid friendly but they serve children's drinks in glasses with coffee lids. Some children may be able to handle this but for us, it is a disaster waiting to happen. We bring our own cup.
For kids under 12...served with fountain soda or milk
- Cheeseburger with choice of fries, unsweetened applesauce or carrots
- Cheese Quesadilla with choice of fries, unsweetened applesauce or carrots
- Chicken Fingers with choice of fries, unsweetened applesauce or carrots
- Grilled Cheese with choice of fries, unsweetened applesauce or carrots
- Grilled Short Smoked Salmon with choice of fries, unsweetened applesauce or carrots
13th St. & N. Vermont St.
Arlington, Virginia 22201
Clarenford Station Park is one of our regular stomping grounds. It is small and over looks Route 66 (yes, you can hear the traffic) but we like it anyway.
Why do we love it?
- It is hardly ever crowded. Most days we have the place to ourselves so it feels more like our backyard than a playground.
- The small size and fence allow freedom of movement without a helicopter for a mother (bonus for child and mother).
- Bucket swings! (2)
- Slides: 1 small set with easy stair access, 1 small twist slide with stair access, and 1 tall twisting set with multiple access points but none that easy enough for a child to get up (unassisted) if s/he is not ready to go down the big slide.
- Climbing mountain (a big plastic mountain to climb up, one of the access points to the larger slides)
- Merry-go-round (the old fashion metal kind that can make you sick but are great fun to ride or run around)
- Sand box with TOYS! (lots of different toys that provide many opportunities for pretend play)
- Proximity to Route 66 (and on some days its road kill)
Overall, it is a nice place to go when you just want to play!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tysons Corner Kids Play Area (located by the 3rd floor food court)
A place to explore and slide. Brightly colored with a padded surface it was truly designed with toddlers in mind. My daughter loves the tunnel that goes under the tree and the many different animals decorating the floor.
Some words of caution: Go early because it gets crowded fast. Be careful because frequently children are unsupervised and run a muck.
Monday, August 11, 2008
6317 Georgetown Pike
McLean, Virginia 22101
WOW! This playground is unbelievable. Located in McLean it is under 30 minutes from most anywhere in Arlington and well worth the trip. Clemyjontri (named for the 4 children of the family who funded the creation of the park) is accessible to children of all abilities (think ramps, special swings, wide spaces for wheelchairs) and is a toddler's delight.
The playground has 4 main sections that surround a carousel. To fully explore each section you would probably need to stay at the park for 3 hours, however, since most toddlers cannot handle three continuous hours of running, you should not plan on doing everything in one visit. There are picnic pavilions available for use and they can also be rented for parties. The entire playground has a special track like surface that makes falls fairly painless.
We started our visit with a ride on the carousel. During the week the carousel is free and on weekends tokens are required. Each token is $1.50. Children under 42 inches must be accompanied by an adult and this adult does not need a token to ride. The carousel is beautiful. Children have the option of riding on a horse that goes up and down or one that stays stationary. There is also a teacup that spins and a chariot to sit in. The chariot is a nice option if you have a child who can not yet sit on his or her own since you can hold the child on your lap. The staff was really sweet with the kids and boarding and unloading was very efficient. My daughter had never been on a carousel and was absolutely delighted with just sitting on the horse. When the carousel started to move she was thrilled. The carousel is fully covered but stops operation on October 26th. As of September 1st the carousel will only be operational on the weekends.
We then had to go find the swings (of course) which are located in the Rainbow Room section of the playground. There were regular swings, bucket swings, chair swings, tire swings, and adapted bucket swings. We opted for a chair swing followed by a bucket swing.
From the swings we sprinted to a ramp accessible jungle gym. There were numerous steering wheels and other fun things to touch along the way to the slides. There are numerous jungle gyms of varying sizes throughout the playground. This one happened to be in the Schoolhouse and Maze section of the playground. Later in our visit we did go to the maze but our daughter didn't particularly enjoy it. She was confused and a little frightened by the walls. According to another parent, 26 months is the magic age where that starts to be fun.
In the Movin and Groovin Transportation section kids are able to play on every type of vehicle I could imagine. There were cars, planes, school buses, fire trucks, and trains for kids to climb on, 'drive', and just explore. We liked the school bus and the fire truck (which has a slide). There is also a track for foot races and many different bouncers. The frog was our daughter's favorite.
It was then that the playhouse was spotted. The playhouse is very similar to any playhouse at any playground but it caught our daughter's eye. We played restaurant (Mommy orders food, LG brings it to her, Mommy pays) until it was time to go on the carousel again.
The final section Fitness and Fun is geared towards older children but the balance beams (3 different types all with bars to hold on to) and seesaw were a big hit. The huge jungle gym has a lot to explore but for now was just fun to run on.
One more time around the carousel and then it was time to go. We were tired but happy.
Parking ~ there is a parking lot at the site of the playground but it fills up quickly. The overflow lot is a good walk so you might want to have a stroller on hand in case you cannot get close parking. There is a drop off area at the front of the park.
Bikes ~ though there is a very cool 'road' and tricycle parking spots located throughout the park, tricycles and bicycles are not allowed (safety issues I imagine). Wheelchairs and strollers are permitted.
Weather Warning ~ this park is new and the trees are young so there is very little shade. My daughter melts easily in the heat so we cannot go if it is over 80 degrees outside. The park surface and equipment absorb a lot of heat so be careful of burns on fragile toddler feet and hands.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Weekdays at 10:30am is tot rock. The performer changes with the day. We happen to like Mondays with Miss Belle and Thursdays with Oh Susannah. We have not been to Rocknoceros Wednesdays but I have heard good things (especially if you have school aged children).
The space is large and appealing to walkers and dancers (crawlers will also delight but their parents may not as the floor reminds me of a typical bar floor). The coffee is good for mom or dad and Cheerios and other toddler snacks are available for purchase.
There are also many weekend shows that vary in price. Usually the weekend shows are more appropriate for kids ages 4 and up, but it depends on your child's tolerance for crowds and noise.
COST: $5.00/child (adults are free)
Friday, August 8, 2008
There is also going to be a petting zoo, pony rides, and carnival rides. Our daughter is too young to partake in most of these activities but she will have fun watching and maybe there will be a carousel for her.
Thomas Jefferson Community Center
3501 2nd Street South
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Classes we have previously taken include:
Swimming with the little ones. My husband did this class with my daughter when she was about 10 months old and it was nice time for them to bond together. He actually learned a lot of techniques for playing with her in a swimming pool and getting her comfortable in the water.
Cost: $90 for 11 sessions
Location: Various locations and times available.
Tiny Time ~
Gymnastics and movement class. I signed up to take this class with my daughter when she was 13 months old. We only were able to attend 3 classes due to illness and planned vacations. Those three classes were quite the workout for me! Since the classes meet in the normal gymnastics center at Barcroft, all the equipment is there for your little one to explore (i.e get hurt on). It is hard to keep a 13 month old from wandering off to various locations. The activities were a little advanced but she had fun just playing with the items that were appropriate for her. I think that now she would enjoy it more since she is comfortable walking and likes to balance, climb, and jump. At 13 months just walking around was enough for her.
Cost: $127 for 13 sessions
Location: Barcroft, multiple days/times available
Signing Smart Beginner Play Class ~
Signing was something that I really wanted to do with my daughter. I was dedicated enough to sign to her for 6 months with no signs from her. Now she has about 100 signs and regularly uses them to communicate. The signs help her to clarify her speech or say things that she doesn't have the words for yet. I highly recommend signing with your child.
That said, we didn't learn a lot of the signs from this class. I liked the instructor and I thought that she was wonderful with the kids. She had lots for them to play with and really made age appropriate choices. The materials we had to purchase for the class were good and bad. The video was terrible (there are much better videos available) but the 'manual' for the parents was very helpful. The parent guide had all the information that that class taught, which was very valuable because I could rarely learn anything from the 'lecture' section of the class due to noise and since I was also trying to entertain my daughter. Overall, it was a great place to meet other parents who shared your interest in signing and it was a nice playgroup for my daughter.
Cost: $147 for 10 sessions PLUS a $47 materials fee
Locations: Various locations and times
Classes that we are considering for this fall:
Tumbling for Toddlers
Friday, August 1, 2008
Stacy's Coffee Shop
Thursday mornings at 10:30am this cute little coffee shop becomes a rockin' spot for the little ones. Mr. Skip (pictured) performs weekly for about 45 minutes. He appeals to the kids sense of humor and engages them in movement while he strums out favorites and original songs. My daughter enjoys her cinnamon raisin bagel served by the ever smiling Jeff and the lattes are pretty good for the mommies. It varies in how crowded it is so to secure a seat I do recommend showing up a little early.
COST: $5.00/child (adults are free)
Arlington County has great libraries. We frequent the Central Library on Quincy. The children's section is large with room to read, puzzles, and computers. There is a weekly all ages story hour, which if my daughter could sit through it, would be very fun. Children as young as 2 years old can have a library card.
Tree Top Kids
We are lucky enough to live about 5 minutes from a Tree Top Kids store. WE LOVE IT! My daughter will play here for about an hour. There are so many toys out for the kids to explore, which I really appreciate because I don't like having to select a toy without touching it. This allows me to see which toys my daughter really likes - if it can hold her attention in a store full of toys, it ought to do well at home. The stuffed animal selection here is fantastic. Some of the toys that they have out include: push toys, a train table, a play kitchen.
Kinder Haus Toys
Similar to Tree Top Kids, but smaller. It does have a nice area with a train table and another table for the kids to play at. Again, there is a good stuffed animal selection. Kinder Haus also sells ballet shoes and accessories.
Borders Bookstore - in Bailey's Crossroads
Bookstores are always fun. This Borders happens to have a very large children's section on the first floor. Tons of books, stuffed animals, and other fun things.
Barnes and Noble Bookstore - in Clarendon
Located upstairs, the children's section is a large portion of this bookstore. There is a train table, a stage area, and reading spaces. Perhaps a smaller selection of toddler books than Borders, but still a lot to see. If you are looking for a large selection, try the Tysons Corner location - every board book you can imagine!
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that DC had an aquarium. Though small, it is the perfect hot day activity. It is located at the Department of Commerce Building and is a fairly easy metro ride from Arlington. Most of the viewing tanks are high off the ground but the first one you see has turtles and alligators and that is on a toddler level. We spent a lot of time watching the turtles.
No restaurant but a nice store.
COST: $7.00/adult, $3.00/ages 2-10, FREE/under 2 years
A 25 minute metro ride from
The Building Zone is intended for children ages 2-6 but really it is appropriate for any child who can walk and I know a few 9 year olds who would love it. It is a wide open space with every type of block you can imagine, dress up construction clothes, trucks and cars, bean bags (to load up in the trucks), a book corner, a tool center, and even a small model house. I cannot tell you who had more fun my daughter or me but we played for an hour.
In addition to the building zone, your little one can blow off steam by running laps in the HUGE lobby area. Complete with a large fountain that has benches by it for a quick snack this area is a toddler's delight.
There is a Firehook Bakery on sight and an extensive store where you might find time to snag a cute gift for someone.
COST: Donation of $5.00