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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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Rockville Escape Room, Rockville MD.

Escape rooms have been popping up all over the DMV area over the past few years. This year, Rockville Escape Room opened its doors to the public. Groups of 2-10 people can sign up try out one of four different rooms. The current rooms available include Pharaoh's Quest, The Great Diamond Heist, A Pirates Quest, and The Mad Dentist. They also have several other rooms that will be opening soon. See their website for age restrictions and the number of participants allowed for each one.

The purpose of this activity is to use skills, smarts, and teamwork to crack the clues that are found throughout the room to help you escape. Each room has a 60 minute timer that is shown on a screen. If the timer runs out before you get out, you lose. The clues are helpful, but if you think that it is going to be simple to crack the codes, and find your way out, you are going to be surprised. The clues are definitely breakable, but also provided a true challenge.
The staff provides you with a walkie talkie so that you can receive help up to three times while you are in the room. Those clues should help propel you forward to the next task. During my group's 60 minutes, we made it through all but two clues before our time ran out.  Despite not "escaping the room," all participants had a lot of fun.  I definitely think this activity is geared towards students high school aged and older.

Cost: $29 dollars per person
Website: http://www.rockvilleescaperoom.com/

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Watkins Regional Park, Upper Marlboro, MD

Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro is a great little park that has great facilities. As you enter, follow the yellow brick road as this park is themed to The Wizard of Oz! In addition to a mix of shaded and sunny spots, this park is also equipped with a colorful rubber mat, Dorothy's house, ruby red slipper slides, and more. There are also several slides, places to climb, and many swings, so the lines never seemed to long. We also really appreciated that there were clean restrooms (not portapotties), a water fountain right on the premises, and many shaded picnic tables lining the back of the park.

When you are finished having fun at the park, simply walk across the parking lot and you will also find Watkins Regional Park's other great amenities, including a small walking farm, mini golf, carousel, nature center, tennis bubble, and train. They also have camping sites and hiking trails that allow you to immerse yourself in nature. This park definitely has what it takes to keep younger and older kids happy for quite a while. I would say 2-9 years old are the most appropriate ages to enjoy the park. (Note: The park is wheelchair accessible, but the actual playground does not have much in the way of ramps. However, the small walking farm is wheelchair accessible).

Hours for the train, mini golf and carousel:
-Summer hours (Tues-Sat, 10am-7pm; Sundays 12 noon-5pm)
-These amenities are closed on Mondays
-Operating hours are subject to change without notice due to inclement weather and unforeseen emergencies

Park is open from dawn to dusk

Contact Info:
General Information:
301-218-6700; TTY 301-699-2544 
Camping Information:
301-218-6702; TTY 301-699-2544
Picnic Area Reservations:
301-699-2400; TTY 301-699-2544
Athletic Field Permits:
301-446-6800; TTY 301-699-2544

Website: http://www.pgparks.com/Things_To_Do/Nature/Watkins_Regional_Park.htm

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington DC

Were you ever curious about how money was made? Did you ever wonder why it would be so difficult to make counterfeit money? Or perhaps you might have interest in how much money they print each day? All of these questions and more are answered on this tour. 

There are certainly a great deal of benefits to living so close to our nation's capital. One of those benefits is the ability to visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. With only two locations in the United states where paper currency is made (the other is Texas), this is a very cool tour that kept my 7 and 9 year old boys interested for the full 40 minute tour. As you walk through the building led by a tour guide, she takes the group through the 4 stages of how money is made. My kids were fascinated by the huge printing presses and the box showing what 1 million dollars in 10 dollar bills looks like. They also loved the friendly factory worker who made sure that even though we were at a window above the factory, he held up the sheets of money for us to see, and then behind the glass wall, he pulled out a laminated sign that he made that said "I love my job"! We all got a good chuckle from that.

In terms of acquiring tickets, there is a ticket booth on the side of the building, where you wait in line for FREE tickets. The line opens up at 8am. You wait in line and get tickets based on availability (you get to choose from the available times). The booth is only open until they are all out of tickets. We got there at 8:15am and there was already a long line. The line did move quickly, but by the time we got to the front, all of the 9:00am and 9:15am tickets were already given out. We could have chosen a time in the afternoon and went to do something else, but we chose 9:30am, and waited by the front of the building until it was our turn. Once you go inside, you are not allowed to take pictures other than in the lobby before the start of the tour, and afterwards in the small gift shop that you come out into at the end of the tour. All in all, this was an enjoyable trip that my boys will remember.

Website: http://www.moneyfactory.gov/washingtondctours.html

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Capital SUP, Annapolis, MD

Summer is the time for new experiences. If you are looking to get your feet wet (put intended), stand up paddle boarding is the way to go. Capital SUP is located in Annapolis, is a great company that has wonderful staff, and a nice venue for enjoying time on the water. If you have never SUP’ed (stand up paddle board) before, they offer lessons. I chose to forego the lesson and just figured out the balance on my own. They provide you with the board the paddle and a life jacket. However, even though I didn’t sign up for lessons, the staffer on the dock gave me a few basic tips to make sure that I did okay. In the end, I only fell in the water 3 times (not bad for a first timer). The feeling of floating on the water without being in a boat is a as close to surfing as you can get without being in waves. This was a very cool experience.

In addition to hourly rentals and lessons, they also offer guided tours, LED night tours, race training, special events (such as Full Moon LED lit Sup Yoga), day time SUP Yoga, and more. I went with my son (8 years old at the time) and he and I had a blast. Make sure to bring lots of sunscreen as it gets hot on the water.

Standard Rate $25
Local/Military $20
Standard Rate $45
Local/Military $40
Special Pricing
1-Hour $15; 2-Hour $30
Ladies Night (TH) 4PM-8PM $15

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Monday, July 4, 2016

Zava Zone, Rockville MD

Growing in popularity all over the country, ninja warrior  and ropes courses have rapidly started popping up all around the country. Recently, a new place called Zavazone opened up in Rockville, MD. This new gym offers a wide array of great options for a quick drop in, membership, or parties.  Some of their features include, a two leveled ropes course, a foam jousting pit, trampolines (regular, dodgeball, and basketball, as well as a rock climbing wall. They also have a tall pole walk and a timed ninja warrior challenge course.
The gym had children of all ages, as well as many adults who came for a challenge. Each participant was able to find things that fit their skill level. I would say that the most ideal ages are 6 and up as the larger obstacles will not be doable for really small children. The staff was friendly, and the place was very clean. They also do training sessions before anyone goes on the ropes courses to make sure that everyone is safe. I highly recommend that anybody planning to participate bring work out gloves as the ropes will wear on your hands. If you forget them, they do sell gloves as well.

Website: www.zavazone.com
All ZAVAZONE activities are included with admission.  
 1 Hour   ------------------------------ $19.50
2nd Hour ---------------------------- $14.50
3rd Hour ----------------------------- $10.00
4th Hour ----------------------------- $10.00
 Add and Hour ---------------------$16.00

*There is a 10% discount for groups of 10 or more and 20% for groups of 20 or more on non-holiday weekdays (Tuesday-Thursday)

ZAVAZONE will be open on the following schedule from June 27th through August 28th 2016:
 Monday:              CLOSED
Tuesday:              10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Wednesday:        10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Thursday:            12:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Friday:                  12:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Saturday:             10:00 am to 10:00 pm
Sunday:                10:00 am to 8:00 pm
*All Hours Subject to Change

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Frontier Town, Berlin, MD

If you happen to be in Ocean City on a nice summer day, but you are tired of spending your time on the beach and the boardwalk, you should definitely make a stop at Frontier Town. Just 10 minutes from the boardwalk in Berlin, Maryland, This place has tons of fun for families. In addition to offering camping sites and cabins, Frontier Town also offers Mini Golf, Wild West shows, and a High Adventure Ropes Course. Not interested in dry activities? Well, they also have a wonderful water park complete with lazy river, kiddie pool, multiple slides, and a flume ride. Our kids spent most of their time in the water park, with my youngest preferring to stick to the play pool, and my older children sticking with the flume and lazy river. Needless to say, this is a great change of pace when at the beach at a more affordable rate than some of the larger water parks.

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Unlimited Water Park & Mini-Golf | 10:00AM-6:00PM
42" tall or taller
Under 42" tall
Children 3 & under
$90.00 per person
Unlimited Day Mini-Golf | 10:00AM-6:00PM
Ages 11+
$4.00 per person
Ages 4 to 10
$2.00 per person
Children 3 & under
Unlimited Night Mini-Golf | 6:00PM-10:00PM
Ages 11+
$4.00 per person
Ages 4 to 10
$2.00 per person
Children 3 & under
Wild West Show, Unlimited Water Park & Unlimited Mini-Golf | 10:00AM-6:00PM
42" tall or taller
$24.00 per person
Under 42" tall
$20.00 per person
Children 3 & under


Shadowland Laser Tag, Gaithersburg, MD

Shadowland Laser Tag has multiple locations, including Gaithersburg, Columbia, Alexandria, Chantilly, and Frederick. Speaking on behalf of the Gaithersburg location, I can tell you that the staff is friendly, the arena is clean, and the activity provided a ton of fun for my 6 and 8 year old children. In addition to having a big arena, there are lots of ramps and alleys to hide in, and a lot of action depending on the size of the group. While the activity is a ton of fun, you should keep in mind that the arena is dark (black lights are used), so it is important to prep your child(ren) before going in so that they know what to expect.

Note: This is not an activity for kids that are terrified of the dark. Additionally, it always helps to call ahead to see if they have people there, because you could end up going and if you only have 3-4 people with you, and nobody else is there, it could be a pretty quiet game. Alternatively, if there are a ton of people there, you may have to wait in the lobby for a bit until it is your turn to go in.
When you arrive at Shadowland, you will have the option of playing arcade games or filling out the waiver and going into the training room to begin learning how to play. In the training room, a staff member will debrief you on which type of game you are going to play, how the game is played, and how much time you will have in the arena. Most games, including the explanation of rules takes about 30 minutes. After they give you all of the instructions, you will follow them into a vesting room, where they will give you your laser tag vest and gun. You will then be let into the arena, where you can quickly get set up on a spot that you would like before the game starts. Once the game starts, know that you may not be with your child unless you request that they put you on the same team when you sign in and fill out the waiver.

The first time we went to this location as a group of parents with our kids. Expecting that this would be more of an activity for our kids was certainly a mistake. The adults not only had an amazing time as well, but a few weeks later, we arranged a couples night out at laser tag. They were great at accommodating for our group, for which they offer discounts once you have at least 10 people. This activity also provided for a ton of great exercise. Be prepared for a lot of running and a great workout. At the end of the game, the “Marshall” (who is in the arena the whole time in case of an equipment malfunction) calls everyone out of the arena, and participants can wait for their score cards to see how well each person did, where they finished in the rankings overall, how many times they shot each person, and how many times each person shot them. We are planning on going back again soon!

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Monday: 11am-6pm
Tues-Thurs: 11am-10pm
Friday: 11am-midnight
Saturday: 10am-midnight
Sunday: 10am-10pm

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ski Liberty, Fairfield, PA.

 Only an hour and 20 minutes from the Silver Spring area, Ski Liberty is a great winter activity which provides hours of fun in the snow! In addition to being a resort and conference center, they offer snow tubing on Boulder Ridge, as well as skiing and snow boarding. It is important to call ahead to make sure that they are open and that the conditions are right for your activity.

We went for the snow tubing which allows for tickets to be purchased for either 1 or 2 hours at a time and includes the cost of the tube rental. Rates range from $20-$32 dollars per person depending on peak and non-peak times. Depending on the day and time, you might find shorter or longer lines, so I advise calling ahead to see when their busier hours are.

I took my 6 and 8 year old children on this trip, and each one got their own tube. They also have a small tubing area (at a reduced price) for kids that are 2-4 years old so that the really little ones can have fun too. They also have a lodge if you need to go in before, during, and after your tubing experience to warm up. The lines moved relatively quickly for the number of people at the ski hill, and they had a covered electric ramp which took you from the bottom of the hill to the top.

The day that we went, the lines were bigger at first, and died down a bit towards the end of our two hours. I believe that we went down the hill 6-7 times during our two hours, and the staff was friendly and maintained a safe environment. Before each person went down the hill, you could request to go regular or fast, and straight down or spinning. My more adventurous son preferred the fast spinning while my more timid son chose fast but straight down.  By the end of the day, my kids were exhausted and had smiles on their faces.

Website: http://www.libertymountainresort.com/

Liberty Mountain Resort
78 Country Club Trail
Carroll Valley, PA 17320
(717) 642-8282

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

ClimbZone, Laurel, MD

                                                                                                                                                                         ClimbZone in Laurel offers a unique opportunity for kids to get started on indoor rock climbing in a fun and safe setting. Upon entering, it is clear that this is no ordinary climbing gym. Since ClimbZone opened its doors last year, they have been bringing in people in swarms to climb these unique "rock" faces. In order to save time upon arrival, you can fill out the safety waiver online so that you can get climbing sooner.

Once you've paid and gotten harnessed, you are taken over to a practice climbing wall where an instructor shows each person how to use their unique climbing system, which involves one pulley system up top, attached to another belay clip on the floor. They show each climber (kid and adult) how to hook on your belay clip to the top rope and then how to un-clip from the floor. Once you have done your sample climb to show that you understand how to use the equipment, you are free to climb on any open wall. There are at least 20-30 different wall faces to climb and each one poses a different challenge and theme.

Throughout our time at ClimbZone, we found the employees to be friendly and helpful. If anyone  was having difficulties, they came over and offered help. Kids as little as around 5 years old seemed to be having fun climbing (sometimes with a parent and sometimes alone), and the slow release rope system that lets climbers down from the wall slowly allowed climbers to feel safe as they slowly rappelled down the walls. While this is mostly geared towards 6-16 year old kids, kids as young as 5 and all the way up to adults can grab a hold of these climbing walls and have a great time!

Additionally, most rock climbing places require you to take a course or be trained to belay in order to use their facilities. Otherwise you are confined to crowded open climb hours that charge you per climb. However, since ClimbZone has its special self-belaying system and training, you can go to whichever wall you would like, wait in line, and climb as many times as you would like. Instead of being charged per climb you are charged for 3 hours of climbing.In addition to the climbing, they also have several large inflatables available to play on at no additional charge, as well as a few arcade games, food for sale, tables to eat at, and an area to rent out for parties. We will definitely be coming back here soon!

ClimbZone Indoor Climbing
13200 Mid Atlantic Boulevard
Suite 130
Laurel, MD 20708
Phone: (301) 317-1970

Recommended ages: 6 and up

2-5 years old: $12
6 and up: $25

Monday-Thursday: 10am-8pm
Friday: 10am-9pm
Saturday-Sunday and public holidays 9am-9pm

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Website: http://www.climbzone.us/

Friday, August 21, 2015

Atlantis Waterpark at Bull Run, Centreville, VA.

Atlantis Waterpark is just another one of Virginia's great waterparks at an affordable price. They have a kiddie pool with a mini slide, a very large pool with two giant slides as well as some smaller slides in the middle of the pool, and a splash and play area with no standing water and a massive bucket that dumps 500 gallons of water every few minutes (A bell alerts you to when this is about to happen). Additionally, there is a small sand area next to the kiddie pool that allows for kids to dig and get a sense of that beach feel without having to drive all the way out to the beach.

On the day that we went, the pool was a bit crowded, but due to the massive size of the main pool, it did not feel like we were cramped. They also had plenty of beach chairs on the premises. When the craving for food and drink hits you, they also have Neptunes Reef Cafe.

While most water parks will set you back at least $25 dollars per person, Atlantis is only $8.25 for those above 48" and $7 for under 48". They also offer reduced rates for seniors and for people that come to the pool after 4pm on weekdays. Overall, the park was clean and there were a lot of lifeguards on the premises rotating on and off duty.

Most appropriate ages: 2-13
Wheel chair accessibility: Yes for entry to facilities, no zero depth entry
May 26 – June 18
Monday – Friday: Closed
Weekends:     11:00 AM – 7:00 PM
June 19:   12:00 PM – 7:00 PM
June 20 – August 23
Daily:     11:00 AM – 7:00 PM
July 4:     11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
August 24 – September 4
Monday – Friday:    11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Saturdays and Sundays:     11:00 AM – 7:00 PM

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 Website: http://www.atlantisbullrun.com/

Monday, August 10, 2015

Patapsco Valley State Park, Ellicott City, MD

Looking for a nice place to hike, fish, picnic, camp, boat, and bike? Patapsco Valley State Park has many wonderful opportunities to be out in nature. One of the more popular trails is the Cascade Falls trail which is a 2.1 mile loop that is moderate in difficulty, and has a nice small waterfall that kids can play in. The water is no more than about 2.5 feet deep and is a nice first experience with waterfalls. It is not a really large area (the falls) and can get crowded at times, but people seem to move in and out of the area within 15 minutes or so, allowing for pockets of less crowded time.

In addition to the hike, there are also places that you can go right into the water and play where it is shallow. We saw kids of all ages splashing around, but because it is such a large park, there was plenty of room for people to spread out and have their own space. One thing to take into account is that there are several entrances to the different trails, and you should make sure to find the parking area that is best for where you want to enter. I believe that some entrances are in different cities, so plan ahead to know where you want to go.

Using Waze, we typed in Cascade Falls Trail rather than Patapsco Valley State Park in order to get directions to the trail we were looking for. There is a small entrance fee for cars coming in ($2 for Maryland residents).

Website: http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/patapsco.aspx

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

National Geographic Museum, Washington, DC

With its frequently rotating exhibits, the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC is a fun place to take your kids. We went a few weeks ago to see the current exhibits which were Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Architecture as well as the Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants exhibit. Both exhibits were interesting, and provided about 2 hours worth of entertainment. While there were not a ton of hands on exhibits for really young kids, fish enthusiasts and Indiana Jones fans will go home happy.
The Indiana Jones exhibit was mostly movie props, a few archaeological finds, and tv screens. Each visitor received a headset and iPad type of device. As you walk through the exhibit each item or tv had a code on it. Once you type the code into your electronic device you essentially get to either watch a clip from the movie, or get an audio tour guide that explains the exhibit that you are looking at.

The Monster Fish exhibit had a kids fishing game, a boat to sit in and watch videos about fishing and fish conservation, as well as some large model fish that can be observed. They also had a few small hands on exhibits. Since the exhibits change semi-frequently, make sure to look on the website or call ahead to see which exhibits are on display before going.

Regular: $15
Member: $12
Student: $12
Military: $12
Senior: $12
Child (5-11): $10
Under 5: Free


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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ski Roundtop, Lewisberry, PA

Here’s an exciting new activity for most..... OGO balling!!! That’s right, if you aren’t a huge fan of the upside down, stomach is in your throat, jerking back and forth motion of a roller coaster, but love a fun and fast ride, OGO balling is the activity for you. Located at Ski Roundtop, this is the perfect summer activity. While there are only 3 locations in the U.S. that have OGO balling (also called Zorbing), Roundtop is the only one that charges a set fee for the day, meaning that you can go as many times as you’d like.  Children as young as 6 could be seen flying down the hill in this fun ride.

So what is an OGO ball? An OGO ball is a 10 foot plastic ball, with another plastic ball suspended inside of it. There is a small hole in the side that is opened up, and then the inner ball is filled with a few gallons of water. Once the bottom of the inner ball has water in it, up to 3 riders can climb inside and sit up to their waists in water (warning: the water is a little cold). Once seated, the staff zips up the hole, opens the gate, and sends you rolling down the hill. They use their winter snow tubing hill as their summer OGO balling track. Let me tell you, the first time going down the hill is a little unsettling due to the cold water, and not knowing where to place your hands. However, by the third and fourth times you go down, it’s just an amazing ride, and an incredibly unique experience. 

In addition to OGO balling, Roundtop’s summer activities also include a ropes course, maze, bumper boats, gem mining, paintball, ziplining and a scenic chair lift up one of their ski hills. They also have a great deck that overlooks the OGO balling course that is perfect for enjoying lunch. While we went during the summer to experience all of these great activities (for one price), they also are known for their great skiing and snow tubing in the winter. We are looking forward to making this a frequent summer stop for years to come!

Website: https://www.skiroundtop.com/