Sunday, August 20, 2017

Urban Evolution, Alexandria, Va



Perhaps you’ve heard the word “Parkour” shouted before seeing someone attempt something daring outside. The odds are that you had no idea what they were talking about. Well let me tell you, today we had a great experience at a Parkour training gym called Urban Evolution which gave us a true understanding of parkour. With two Virginia locations, Urban Evolution helps train people in how to move from place to place within their environment in a safe and exciting manner.
 

       
Upon entering the gym, my kids were first greeted by an incredibly friendly staff member who helped us to sign our waivers. Once completed, we got to go into the gym which brought immediate reactions of “Dad, this place is awesome!” With walls covered with graffiti, cars to climb over and through, warped walls, poles to swing from, and wooden boxes to jump from (and over), this gym was the “it” place to be for my children. When speaking to the owner, he shared that they have worked with kids as young as 4 and people into their 80’s.

Once we started, it was immediately evident that our instructor was patient and that he put safety above everything else. He also helped my kids to understand that although it looks fun to do, speed takes a backseat to concentration and consistency. It was great to see my kids learning the proper ways to leap up, down, and over different obstacles. We also learned how difficult it was to balance and walk across metal pipes. 

After completing our balancing and jumping, we got to move onto how to roll without using our heads. The techniques were always well explained, and the kids really enjoyed learning the different strategies that they could employ to move safely from one place to another. Piecing together all of the different skills that we learned in an hour, everyone came away with a smile on their face, feeling a great sense of accomplishment. 

Urban Evolution is open for classes, private lessons, and camps. They offer class choices such as Parkour, Aerial Silks, Breakdancing, and UrbanFit. This is definitely not your run of the mill place. You will get a workout, and be more aware of how to interact with your surroundings.  While it is fun to play at a playground, why not make the world your playground after getting lessons from Urban Evolution? 


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Topgolf, Alexandria, VA

Topgolf in Alexandria makes driving ranges fun for everyone with their cutting edge technology! Gone are the days when you have to be a skilled golfer to truly enjoy hitting a bucket of golf balls. Now, even kids can play golf in the form of a game, without ever stepping foot on a course.

As I am sure you are aware, the purpose of a driving range is to improve your game. This driving range can still do that by providing the same thing as any other driving range.......balls, clubs, a tee, and a fairway. However, this is where the similarities end. When you arrive at the clubhouse (which is very clean and modern), you can either purchase a long term membership or a 30 day pass for $5 for adults and $3 for kids 12 and under. At that point you can purchase games, which on weekdays costs $5.50 per game from opening-3pm, and  $8 per game from 3pm-closing. On weekends it is $5.50 per game from opening-noon and $8 from noon-closing. Once you have purchased the number of games that you would like to play, they will give you an empty ball bucket and add those games to your membership card which has your name on it. You then bring your empty bucket to a ball machine and swipe your card which will unload your balls into your cart. Each ball has an electronic chip in it which has your name on the chip inside. Find your spot, and you are ready to go.

Once you have your tee, there is a small black bin (as shown behind me in the picture). Drop your ball into the hole and it will pop back out. There is a screen behind you which will now show that your ball has been scanned in, and is ready to be hit. As shown in the picture, there are large pods throughout the fairway. If you hit your ball into the pods, you will earn points, which will show up on the tv screen in your golf bay. If you are there with friends, you can use the range simply as a driving range, or you can compete to see who gets the most points.

There are several different games that you could play, but the most basic game rewards you for hitting into the pods, with bonus points for hitting in the center and/or for hitting it in the same pod consistently. Going with a friend who was not a golfer, we were both able to enjoy the game, as he got his points for hitting it into close pods, while I sometimes hit a great shot straight and far, but didn't hit it into a pod. This leveled the playing field for us as we could both work towards different goals, but still have fun on an outing together.

This venue also had climate controlled bays for all year use, free wifi, and waiters who served from a full menu of options for those interested. Additionally, they had tech guys on hand if there was ever a problem with the ball scanners or with the scoring screens. While there were a few small technological glitches while we were there, everyone was incredibly friendly and responsive, fixing the problems immediately. We really enjoyed this place, and will definitely be coming back again soon.

Note: They also have a location in Ashburn, VA.

Website: https://topgolf.com/us/alexandria/

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Board and Brew, College Park MD



If you're bored and looking to brew up some fun, have no fear. Board and Brew is a great place to go with kids or on a date night. Board and Brew, located in College Park MD, has over 600 board games to choose from. If you want to play a game that you are familiar with, this makes for a great environment to enjoy one of your favorite games. Additionally, on weekends and week nights, they also have a “game guru” on hand to help you out if you want to try a new game. When we went, the game guru told us that he knew how to play 380 of the 600 games, and would be happy to help us pick out a new game and teach us how to play. He asked us questions to figure out what type of game we were looking for (team, every person for themselves, players against the game, etc…), and was willing to sit with us until we felt comfortable. The game guru told us that on days when they are not busy, he would even learn a new game with us (one of the 220 he hadn’t learned yet).

Since this is a college town, the store is mostly filled with college students. You can come for a variety of different brews (coffee and/or beer) as well as small pastries. The store is incredibly clean, and also has some outdoor seating. If you are planning on going with younger children, mornings are probably much less hectic. Keep in mind that the game guru would be there on weekends, but not on weekday mornings. There is also a parking lot in the rear of the strip, with inexpensive parking. If you just want to play a game, the cost is $5 per person for unlimited gaming. If you are planning on adding drinks, Monday and Tuesday nights they run specials where if you spend $12 in food and drinks, your games are free. They also have Wine night Wednesday which coincides with Magic the Gathering night, and Trivia Thursday.

We had a great time at Board and Brew, and would definitely go back. 

Wheel Chair accessible: Yes


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Monday, July 24, 2017

Dave and Busters, Silver Spring MD



With three locations in Maryland (Capitol Heights, Hanover, and Silver Spring), there are plenty of options for arcade fun. Whichever one you choose will definitely have more games than most other arcades. The places are kept very clean and they do a good job of making the games spread far enough apart to be wheelchair accessible. With a wide variety of game choices, kids and adults 5 and older can find something that will pique their interest. The game cards that can be purchased are easy to reload, and all games with a green light by the card swipe are ticket bearing games, while blue lights are games just for fun. Games range from classics like Skeeball and Super Shot Basketball to newer games like Candy Crush, Angry Birds, and Fishbowl Frenzy. 

Once you have finished playing, they have a relatively large prize shop, where you can cash in your tickets for treats or toys. You can also have them put your tickets on your power card so that you can save up for something bigger. Our favorite time to go is on ½ priced Wednesdays, where you can really get twice as much bang for your buck. They also have a restaurant and a sports bar area. The Silver Spring location has three public parking garages nearby, and the location in Hanover has lots of free parking as it is in Arundel Mills Mall.

 Hours:

Sun - Thu 10:00am - Midnight
Fri - Sat 10:00am - 2:00am


Pricing:
$10 = 48 chips +$2 (+12 chips)
$20 = 100 chips +$3 (+25 chips)
$25 = 135 chips +$4 (+35 chips)
$35 = 200 chips +$5 (+50 chips)
$50 = 300 chips +$6 (+75 chips)
mega chips $75 = 550  or  $100 = 750/PER CARD

4 Player Pack (includes FREE supercharge)
$25 cards = 170 chips each
$35 cards = 250 chips each
$50 cards = 375 chips each

$5=24 chips available. Power Cards are rechargeable. New Power Cards have a $2 activation fee & include 10 chips.
 

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Harpers Ferry Adventure Center, Purcellville, VA

Are you looking for something that provides outdoor excitement and fun? Well, look no further than the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center. Located in Purcellville, VA, this company’s white water rafting trip was wonderful from start to finish. Upon arrival, the first thing that I noticed was how well the grounds were maintained. The ticket office was bright and well stocked, the signage was very clearly labeled, and they even had a building where you could leave your keys for safekeeping while on the trip. Further, they had all of their pavilions well marked for guests to find their place at the tubing and rafting stations.

In terms of customer service, each person was friendlier than the next. The girl who checked us in at the front desk was very kind, and explained what we needed to do and where to go. Then when we made it to the tubing area, we were greeted by friendly and fun staff members who helped us get our life vests and paddles. Once we were suited up, we took a bus from their main location directly to our insertion point on the Shenandoah.  As we rode on the bus, they explained all of the different terminology and procedures that we needed to follow. They also told us some of the history of the town as we passed through, using humor to help everyone enjoy the ride. While talking to the guides, they also shared that their company prides themselves on making these trips accessible to everyone. They have done trips with the “Wounded Warriors”, and have even done trips for people living with quadriplegia. They will find a way to make sure that everyone who wants to be outside and on a raft can do so!

Once in the water, our guide continued to give us friendly tips and made sure that everyone was safe and having fun.  All of the rapids that we encountered ranged from class 1 to class 3 (out of 5 classes). It was evident by the instruction that the guides knew the river very well, as they calmly navigated us through the rapids with three very simple and easy to remember commands. When we were not in the rapids, they allowed us to get out of the rafts and swim in the water. The water levels range from about 2-10 feet deep depending on the season (based on rainfall), and made for an enjoyable trip. We also stopped at a point where we could swim a rapid slide (for those interested), as well as to rehydrate from the cooler that they brought. The rafts were spacious, and they gave us tips on how to wedge our feet so that we would not fall out of our boats. Additionally, I was impressed with the level of historical knowledge that our guides had. As we rode through different parts of the 6-mile raft ride, the guides told us about specific landmarks and the history behind them, such as a collapsed bridge, a large rock face that used to have an advertisement, and the history of the town. They also told us when we split off out of the Shenandoah and went into the Potomac River.  

We finally finished our trip about 3 hours after we got out of the water. HFAC shared that they are the only company that has its own private extraction site at the water, which was greatly appreciated after a long day in the sun. Waiting for us was a large military-type diesel truck (think rugged hayride) that drove us back up to the main grounds for the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center. When we got back, I was excited to see that they had a separate bath house building that was incredibly clean and spacious. They had bathrooms, showers, and dressing stalls to clean off in a relaxing environment.

This trip was truly perfect for families and individuals who are looking for a great outdoor experience with friendly people. In addition to white water rafting, they also have tubing, off-road Segways, zip lining, a ropes course, camping (in cabins as well as riverside camp sites), and more. They provide a wide array of packages as well if you want to do multiple activities through their company. The Harpers Ferry Adventure Center really knows how to provide a wide variety of options for fun, and we will definitely be coming back here again in the future!

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Invicta Sports Club, Gaithersburg MD

While some activities offer the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the weather for a few months during the year, other places offer fun that can last year round! Invicta Sports Club is a place that you can spend quality time having fun, and learning a new sport or two regardless of the weather. Located in Gaithersburg, this is the perfect place to come to learn how to shoot archery and/or to learn the sport of fencing. Both sports are incredibly safe, and Invicta offers a variety of options such as 1-hour fun sessions (on weekends), 20-minute private lessons, or group classes. They also run camps in the summer, and are open for parties, and small group events.

Having gone on two separate days, I can say that both trainers that worked with us were passionate about their sport, were incredibly knowledgeable, and were great teachers. When we came for archery lessons, Dmitri took the time to explain some of the background of the sport, the different types of bows and arrows, as well as the different techniques that we would need to be successful. As we took aim at the target and emptied a round of shots, he would then give a critique of our form, and why certain things went the way they did and how we could improve. He was patient, and really took the time to help us learn the skills necessary to participate. He also gave a great understanding of the differences in the sport based on techniques and equipment from different countries and cultures. 



When we came back the second time, we tried our hand at fencing. For this sport as well, we found our trainer (Anastasia) to be incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. She walked us through the sport, and shared information about the different types of fencing swords, gear, technology, as well as how points are scored. After learning some of the history, she demonstrated the basic motions such as advancing, retreating, and lunging. Once we practiced the basics, we were able to suit up and have a few matches. The matches provided a good workout and our instructor gave us pointers along the way to help us better understand the different techniques and strategies that we were using. She always asked if we had any questions, and was encouraging us throughout the process.

One might think that these sports would be dangerous, but they are actually both very safe sports as long as you wear the protective gear that they provide, and that you follow instructions. You can tell from their enthusiasm in how they give over their lessons that they care about their sport and their clients. Between the two sports, fencing definitely has more terminology and nuances to learn, while providing a strong combination of mental and physical activity. Archery, had less terminology and rules to follow, but also requires concentration and strength. This activity is great for younger and older children as well as for adults. Their “fun sessions” (fencing) and archery sessions both provide a great opportunity for kids or adults to learn in a fun and safe setting while honing a new craft.

If you have any specific questions about either activity, they are good about responding via email. Their email address is info@invictasports.net . You can also leave a message on their phone, and they will get back to you within a reasonable amount of time. They are currently in the process of getting a new sign, so finding the place can be a bit challenging. If you put the address into your navigation system, it will tell you that you have arrived when you reach a small shopping center. Turn into the shopping center (you will see a store called J & C Upholstry). Drive around the back of J & C and you will see Invicta Sports Club.

Rates: (Prices vary depending on promotional rates)
Rates for Summer 2017

Archery: (reservations made online)
-Beginner Archery session: $20 per lesson, per person, 7 years of age and up.
1-hour session: Includes: safety, basic instruction, and all of the necessary materials.

-Advanced Archery session (use of club without instructor): $15 per person, 7 years of age and up.
1-hour session: Bring your own equipment, or rent theirs for an additional $15 dollars.

Fencing: (reservations made online)
-Fun Session: $20 per lesson (1 hour), per person, for all ages.
1-hour session: Includes safety, basic instruction, and all of the necessary materials.
-Group classes:
              Little Musketeers (ages 5-7):
                             Meets once per week for one month (4 sessions) $110
                             Meets twice per week for one month (8 sessions) $210
              Beginner (ages 8-13):
Meets once per week for one month (4 sessions) $130
                             Meets twice per week for one month (8 sessions) $240
              Adult (ages 13 & up):
Meets once per week for one month (4 sessions) $120
                             Meets twice per week for one month (8 sessions) $220
(Check website for meeting dates)


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Friday, July 14, 2017

Sligo Creek Footgolf Course, Silver Spring, MD


 
The 21st century thinker is always looking to create the next big thing. For this reason, there has been a massive surge in new and trendy activities that have been created by companies seeking to create that “wow factor” from their customers. However, people looking for a fun activity might find that there are really fun variations on activities that already exist, right under our noses.  
 
While operating for years as a traditional golf course, Sligo Creek Golf Course is now also home to Footgolf. Yes, you read that correctly, Footgolf.  This game is played on the same exact course as the golfers, the only real differences being that instead of hitting a golf ball with a club, you get to kick a soccer ball into a much larger hole. The rules of golf apply to this game as well, but even though Footgolf is 18 holes, the course is obviously much shorter than a golf course since one cannot kick nearly as far as one could hit with a golf club.
In terms of the nuances of this game, it plays much the same as golf, but because the ball is so much larger than a golf ball, it is much less about playing the rolls and reading angles. I found that the more you kicked straight at the hole, the more likely it would be to stay its course. While you can certainly rent a golf cart to ride the holes, it is definitely a great workout if you were to choose to walk the course.
Golf course etiquette is still in effect, so remember to wear a collared shirt, and the appropriate shoes for the course, and know that golfers are playing on the same course, so be aware of where they are and where you are at all times. This could be a really fun family event for those with older kids, and they have a family rate (2 adults and 2 children) after a certain time of day. I wouldn’t bring kids younger than 8 or 9 years old. This is also a great activity for adults. Their rates fluctuate in the $14-$18 dollar range for a round of 18, and you can either bring your own soccer ball (size 5 or above) or rent a ball at the course for an additional $3 per person. It is best to call for a tee time or book your start time online, but you can also just walk up and pay at the clubhouse.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington DC


 While only a seasonal event, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is a fantastic and free way to spend time in DC, having fun and learning about different cultures. Each year for roughly 2 weeks, the Smithsonian picks a different theme and different cultures to put on exhibits on the National Mall. There is food for sale specific to the countries that are performing, live demonstrations that are interactive and child friendly, as well as activities that are just for watching.



                 This year was a special circus theme, and we particularly enjoyed seeing the stilt walkers, trapeze artists, the Hebei Golden Eagle Acrobatic Troupe from China, and the Sailor Circus. While most years usually have all of the events outside, this year for the 50th anniversary, they had a large, air conditioned circus tent which hosted many shows. They have a complete schedule of all of the different performances, story-telling, and activities listed on their website, so make sure to check the times and dates as each day varies as to what will be open.

Living 30 minutes from DC, there is always the worry that the activity planned may not sustain attention for more than an hour. This is not a problem with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as there are so many events going on simultaneously, that you can always find something that will pique the interest of each visitor. Further, they have water stations set out so that you can refill your water bottles, which is incredibly helpful since there is minimal shade and the summer heat can be brutal. Additionally, if you do get too hot, it is well located so that you can go into any of the surrounding museums to cool off. The amount of time, thought, and effort put into this annual event is evident, and is something that our family looks forward to going to every year!

Regarding accessibility services, they list that accessible seating is available at all performances, with a limited number of wheel chairs and folding canes available for loan at the volunteer tent. They also provide ASL interpreters and real time captioning services for selected performances. The schedule of which performances this is available for is also listed on their website.

Website: http://www.festival.si.edu/

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Greenbrier State Park, Boonsboro MD

Located slightly over an hour from parts of the DMV area, Greenbrier State Park is a great place to go for a day at the "beach", a day on the trails, or for some overnight camping. Additionally, boat rentals and fishing make this a place ripe for fun!

If you are choosing to go to the beach area, know that the parking lot fills up quickly. The lake is man-made, and the front beach area is roped off and not more than 4 feet deep at any point. It also slowly gets deeper so little children can play by the shoreline and feel completely safe. They have lifeguards on duty during the summer with hours posted on their website. Our children had a blast playing in the water for hours, and it really felt warm and comfortable. Many people were on the shores as well, having barbecue's and relaxing in the pavilions.

Those who choose not to swim, could still make great use of the lake by renting boats or going fishing. The lake is stocked with several types of fish, and while we only saw a few fisherman, the ones we saw were catching, so this may be a good spot for young anglers (make sure that anglers of age have a fishing license. 

We chose to make use of their camp grounds, and the experience was great for first time campers. The sites were near to each other which allowed us to be maybe 100 feet from our friends (this could be a drawback if you are looking for a place with more privacy, but was a positive for us). There were multiple loops, so there were many campsites to choose from, and the actual camp site was in great shape. The staff had definitely come by before we checked in and raked the site to make sure that it was flat and clean, and the fire pit was also swept clean. Further, the bathrooms were nearby and clean, providing toilets, sinks, and showers. There was also a water pump located only a few campsites away from us which made drinking water readily accessible. The ranger station was also great about giving us information about the hiking trails, and sold ice and fire wood, which made life much easier for beginning campers.

Overall, this was a great experience, and a place that we would come back to in the future.
 All pricing is located on their website, as well as information about making reservations.
Website: http://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/western/greenbrier.aspx

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Historic Jerusalem Mill Village, Kingsville MD.

 Historic Jerusalem Mill Village is a cute little old fashioned "town" from the 18th and 19th centuries, which makes for a fun and educational trip. About an hour or so from Silver Spring, this historic area has a blacksmith, woodworking, a living museum, and a general store. The staff was incredibly friendly and were very knowledgeable about this history. They also had some old fashioned wooden toys that our kids enjoyed playing with. I would say that we were able to get about an hour out of this trip, watching the demonstrations from the staff. Additionally, they sometimes have concerts and other activities.

However, I would definitely make sure to look for other things in the area as well if you want to make a full day out of it. We typically try to swing through Baltimore on the way home. Also, make sure to check the website for the hours of operation and for which times the activities will be taking place as they have a few different things going on at different times. There are also some nice places to walk near the old mill. We found a nice bridge with some running water, that was fun for pictures.

Website: https://jerusalemmill.org/
Check the website for hours of operations and special events.
(not wheel chair accessible)

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