Friday, August 30, 2013

Keep It Local: Ocean Dunes Waterpark and Mini Golf

Leave it to us to wait until the last seconds of summer to fit in a visit to a new (to us) waterpark. BUT seeing as summer is indeed almost over and this place (at least the waterpark part) is closed after Labor Day, we thought we'd share our super fun trip to Ocean Dunes Waterpark. We went right at opening and had a blast running back and forth between the dumping bucket playground and the shallow portion of the main pool. We've sort of outgrown the baby pool (although the one there looked great for babes), but we can't really swim on our own just yet. And that means that mom can have a bit of a hard time taking both of us to the pool by herself, but the fact that the main swim pool here is divided into zones by depth was perfect.  There was a clear line past which we knew we couldn't reach the bottom standing and that did the trick. 

We practiced our swimming skills, splashed for a while, and then had some lunch before heading over for a round of mini golf. The golf course and the batting cages are open later into the fall, but we aren't ones to miss out on a round of putt putt. If you can't tell, we have some mean, creative swings. And I don't know what it is about a mini golf course, but Cam insists on napping on all of them. Too funny.

We highly suggest trying to get out there this weekend if the weather holds. And if you can't, but you have a doggie who loves water, check out their Dog Days swimming event -- on September 7th, your pooch can swim some laps! 

Happy Labor Day!!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Keep It Local: Maryland Science Center

One of the best things about living in D.C. is all the free access to wonderful museums. It doesn't matter if we pop in for 20 minutes and one of us loses it, forcing everyone to leave. It was $free.99. Mom dislikes the pressure visiting paid museums puts on all of us. So she was a little nervous about driving all the way up to Baltimore to visit the Maryland Science Center. She showed us some of the exhibits online and made sure that we thought we'd like it ("cause we're not leaving once we're in," may have been tossed our way). Then she remembered that we joined the Franklin Institute last year and got reciprocal admission to the Science Center. Phew.

Turns out she had nothing to worry about, because we stayed at the Science Center for almost 6 hours. 6 HOURS. And even then we didn't want to leave.

We did almost everything, but our top hits included:
- the Kids Room (for kids 0 - 8) -- featuring a large waterplay area, an underwater play scene, a giant pinscreen and a whole slate of things to tinker with;

- the Dinosaur Mysteries Exhibit -- displaying over a dozen full size dinos and a working field lab and dig pits; and

- Newton's Alley -- providing hands-on demonstrations of Sir Isaac's principles.

The best thing, about all of the exhibits really, was that each of them offered lots of hands-on opportunities to explore and discover. We know this isn't technically a "kids museum," but it sure was designed with kids in mind. There were also ongoing demonstrations throughout the day and that helped break up some of the monotony that can develop from going to exhibit after exhibit (although that wasn't really a problem here in the first place).

Mom finally dragged us out around 3:30 -- worried that we'd hit traffic if we waited much longer. Then Cam decided she wanted to geocache and we set out looking for a supposed "easy find" (if there is one thing you can suck mom into doing, it's geocaching). We didn't find the cache, but we did find the carousel next door and then we just HAD to have a ride on that.

We wish it was just a bit closer, but the Science Center has still moved to the top of our favorite local museums list -- we can't wait to go back for the new Mummies of the World exhibit, opening at the end of September!

You can check out the Maryland Science Center's hours right here. Don't forget to look at all of the great programming they have as well -- we missed "Gizmos, Gadgets, and Gears: A DIY Summer" during our visit because we didn't check the schedule ahead of time. It's there only until Labor Day so go while you can!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fly Away: Boston, MA

We just returned from spending a long weekend in Boston. It was fabulous. Perhaps the most fabulous thing about it was that we didn't do all that much of anything. Well, that's not true. We did a whole lot, but we didn't PLAN a lot ahead of time and most of what we did was outside and more in the nature of exploring. We just sort of meandered about and ending up running into all kinds of cool things, like "hey -- that's Paul Revere's house," many of which are on the Freedom Trail (a walking tour of 16 historical sites). The weather was great. The food was awesome. And mom and dad even got some time sans kids at a great wedding (thanks to one of our favorite babysitters who moved to Boston last year from DC).

And now we are back home facing another two weeks of summer vacation! (mom types sarcastically) She's not much in the mood for a big comprehensive post. So, here was our weekend. Pictorially.

We stayed at a hotel right across the street from Boston Common, the oldest park in the country, which turned out to be a perfect location to stay with kids. We popped across the street regularly for a ginormous space to run and an awesome splash pond and playground. It was also within easy walking distance to the North End and the Back Bay areas of town, where we spent a lot of time as well. In a very nice turn of events for mom, dad offered to take us to the hotel pool while mom got a mani-pedi our first afternoon in town. After that we headed over to Boston Common for a bit and Kane had a blast pointing out all of the Revolutionary War scenes he could identify.

No visit to Boston is complete without dining out on Italian food in the North End. We had a great meal at Villa Francesca, which obliged my order for "butter noodles," and then headed just around the corner for our first taste at one of the city's dueling Italian bakeries -- Modern Pastry. We ordered cannoli filled on the spot and a sampling of delicious rainbow-colored cookies. HOLY COW.

Our only real planned activity for the weekend was to do the infamous Duck Tour. Mom had us all hyped up to get silly and touristy, but we had a rather tame driver. The adults seemed to think he was funny, but there wasn't a whole lot of quacking, which we were excited to do! We did get to drive the boat (I was unimpressed) and mom bought us quacking whistles afterwards, which did the trick (all over town).

We had a yummy lunch at Flour Bakery -- best PBJ in town -- and then a quick play at the playground across the street. We were a little cranky so although dad had made a great suggestion of trying to train it out to Salem, they decided instead to just walk around exploring. A little window shopping. A little geocaching. A walk through the Boston Public Garden to see the famous Ducklings statue.

A quick hotel rest and then back to the Common for splashing in the Frog Pond, face painting and playing at the Tadpole playground. FAB.

We'd already done Italian dining, so for Friday dinner, there was really one option left: lobstah. After a brief period of reservationer's remorse for not choosing Island Creek Oyster Bar (a hipper seafood joint), we were all just as happy to dine at Atlantic Fish Co. On the walk to dinner, I snoozed and we got a close up of the Arlington St. Church's Boston marathon prayers.

Mom and dad had a wedding to go to on Saturday, but we had a little time Saturday morning to walk over to Fanueil Hall, where Kane did some performing, Quincy Market, and explore some more of Little Italy. While the boys got their hair did at a legit barbershop, mom and I checked out boats and then headed over to the other dueling pastry shop -- Mike's Pastry -- for comparison's sake. The cannoli were already filled, so we tried a lobster tail and some rainbow cakes. HOLY COW. AGAIN. We think they're both worth a visit. And Kane got one of the best haircuts he's ever had -- when those guys say "sit still, buddy," you listen. We're going to have to go back to Boston just for that haircut (and the nearby cannoli).

Sunday morning was a little rough for the 'rents, but they pulled it together and we headed over to Cambridge and Harvard Square for a quick walk around campus and a delicious brunch at the quirky Upstairs on the Square. AND a stop in at the only official Curious George store in the world, which has lots of things beyond Curious George, including a great book selection and book nook. We each got to pick out a little something for good behavior (and to ensure cooperation on the plane ride back).


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Keep It Local: Great Falls, VA -- River Trail at Difficult Run Loop

It's been a few years since we hiked the Virginia side of Great Falls. In fact, we probably haven't been since I was just a few weeks old and the 'rents were desperately trying to get out of the house. Mom recalls trying to figure out the Baby Bjorn and being incredibly nervous about relinquishing me to daddy to carry because she was still recovering from a C-section and not allowed to lift that much weight.

But when No Monsters in My Bed linked to this Arlington Magazine article of great local hikes, mom thought a visit was due. Turns out she was just as nervous this time to relinquish control over our little bodies to ourselves as we perilously tottered along River Trail, which has serious drops off into the Potomac. It probably didn't help that she had the two of us and the dog by herself -- she was constantly playing a game of "who is nearest to plunging to their death now and who can I let go to save the other?" That being said, it was a really pretty 2.8-mile hike for those of us not so concerned with such things.

The first half of the loop winds through the woods and lots of historical sites from the Potomac Canal days, which was new to all of us (we had our snack at the remains of a lockkeeper's home). Then we made our way over to the River Trail for a little mom heart attack time. She generally insisted we stay on the trail a few feet back from the edge, but it can be hard to tell sometimes where the trail is and where well-worn jaunts lead. I insisted I was a "professional rockclimber," but mom made me stick to "bouldering" on the side of the trail away from the river, which has sufficiently large rocks for climbing.

At a particularly narrow part, mom directed us to walk right behind her -- only to turn around and find just Cam and Vegas. As she shrieked out for me at increasingly loud decibels and was met with no answer, I popped out just in time to tell mom I was bouldering like she said I could. She dragged us onward and we ran smack into some order of nuns singing prayers on rocks overlooking the river. We stopped and watched for a while until mom felt she had a little help from above and we finished the hike at one of the overlooks. Then Vegas hopped up on on the guardrail on all fours. Mom announced the hike was over.

Safe to say that the next time we go back, we'll have at least a 1:1 adult to child ratio!