Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Great Kids Village in Silver Spring, Maryland


Looking to beat the heat, I took my son to Great Kids Village in Silver Spring. My wife had been to the Columbia, Maryland location and said that while expensive (15 dollars for the first child), the place had a great deal of rooms and activities for the kids (including a real and full sized fire truck). I was excited to try their new location because of so many wonderful looking pictures on their website. However, while the Columbia location is great (according to second hand reports), I was disappointed with most aspects of the Silver Spring location.
The location of Great Kids Village is not in the best of areas in Silver Spring, and when looking for the building, I found it by the address on the door instead of by a sign (There was no sign and the emptiness in the window made it look like an abandoned warehouse). Then we went in and in fact, it was not far off from an empty warehouse. I was disappointed to learn that it was one big room with a bunch of stage 2 children’s’ toys (which we could play with at the displays in Toys R Us for free). Apparently this is why it is five dollars cheaper at the Silver Spring location, but I was unimpressed nonetheless. I asked the lady where the toys from the website were and she said that those were in the Columbia location. The website should have delineated which activities or lack thereof was in each location. Additionally, I had called several times to see if the place was open and got only an answering machine. When I got into the place and asked the lady near the desk, she said that they don’t even have a phone at the location, which scared me for safety reasons.
Please note that all of their locations have closed down and they are looking to relocate. 
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cabin John Regional Park in Rockville, Maryland




Cabin John is a great hidden treasure. Its entrance is off of Tuckerman and one may think that it is just going to be a small little play area with a slide and swing set. However, when you drive into the parking lot, you see a huge variety of play equipment that is shaded by beautiful trees. The park can seem overwhelming if you go alone with your kids because each play area is different so you may spend a lot of time exploring. Not only will your child have fun, but you will get your exercise as well! If you are going with several children, you may need more than one set of eyes if your children are playing in different areas. That is the only difficulty with the park.
There is so much to play with, but it is spread out over a large area, so go with a few friends! The equipment ranges for different ability levels, however it is not handicap accessible. There are small stationary trains and climbing areas for wabbly toddlers and steep slides and a climbing wall for the more adventurous.
Another treat of the park is that it is surrounded by a ride on train that the children will love. It is just a short walk through a path to get to the train station so you can buy your ticket. The park has a public restroom and water fountain in the center of the park. One could easily spend several hours at the park, take a break for the train and then find one of the many picnic benches to enjoy lunch. The park also has baseball, soccer, and tennis courts/fields, an indoor ice skating rink, nature center, hiking, and camping grounds.
 Book Recommendations before going to a playground
Please Play Safe! Penguin’s Guide to Playground Safety(Margery Cuyler)
King of the Playground (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor)
Manners on the playground (Carrie Finn) 
Website: http://www.montgomeryparks.org/facilities/regional_parks/cabinjohn/
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White Oak Duckpin Lanes in Silver Spring, Maryland




White Oak Duckpin Lanes is a fun little bowling alley that is very child friendly for kids of all ages. Unlike 10 pin bowling, the duckpins and duckpin balls are much smaller which make it easier for younger children to pick up and control. This alley has many lanes and the option for regular duckpin bowling or duckpin bowling with bumpers. It is a relatively inexpensive but fun day out with the children and the alley is open 7 days per week. Additionally, the alley also hosts birthday parties in a small party room, has an arcade, a restaurant, leagues for all ages, and cosmic bowling on Saturday nights.
Hours:
Monday-Thursday 9:00am-11:00pm
Friday 9:00am-12:00am
Saturday 9:00am-1:00am
[Cosmic Bowling starts at 10:30pm on Sat-1:00]
Sunday 10:00am-11:00pm
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, Maryland





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The Maryland Science Center, located in downtown Baltimore has many different types of exhibits spread through its expansive 3 level building. The entry level is home to Newton’s alley, Dinosaur mysteries, Terralink, Fossils, Beakers CafĂ©, and the Science store. Our son enjoyed thrashing through the dinosaur hall and then moving into Newton’s alley where he got to experiment with all sorts of physical science activities including touching a “cloud” and trying to pick his own weight up in a chair. The science store also had a huge selection of toys and games to play with.
When we went to the second floor, we got to experience areas such as Our place in space, Spacelink, Cells, Bodylink, Your body, and the Wonder warehouse. In the wonder warehouse we saw and partook in exhibits such as moving a flashlight in a dark room and seeing the light pattern videotaped and creating flying crafts and seeing if they would in fact take off. We also walked around and learned about which sort of things take place in the human body. The different sounds were fascinating and fun!
On the third level was a huge interactive kids room that is specifically geared towards children from birth-8 years old. This room was the most fun for my son as he got to play in the water area (squirting water and filling up tubs, sailing a boat down the current, and connecting water pipes to redirect water). He also had fun shooting messages through a tube over his head, and building with pipes. There was also a big boat in a loft area and a really cool video screen under the boat where you can lay down and navigate your way through the ocean on a tv screen. Also on this level were the Science arcade, a blue crab exhibit, and an energy efficient car room. In this room he got the chance to build a model car on interactive touch computer screens.
Each level really had wonderful and interactive exhibits for kids and adults to play with and learn from. Additionally, they also have changing events that can be found on their website. The museum also has an IMAX theater and frequently plays fascinating movies for an additional cost. I would say the best ages to take kids to this museum range from 3-14 years old. I saw just as many adults interacting with exhibits as the kids and we were thrilled that we got to go. This museum is also right on the harbor so it makes it easy to spend a day having fun walking around the city and seeing other activities as well.
Pricing:
Adults: $ 14.95
Children: $11.95
(teachers are free with pay stub or I.D.)
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Track in Gaithersburg, Maryland




Racing fans, START YOUR ENGINES!!!! Today we went to "The Track" in Gaithersburg to experience a large radio control and slot car racing track. What sold me on going was a racer that was practicing at a nearby field at the beginning of the summer. He said that he goes to "The Track" all the time and that most of the people are incredibly friendly. Looking back on this experience, we had such a wonderful time at this big racetrack and the kids were entertained for several hours.

We got there at about 12:40 (40 minutes after it opened) and started by looking through the store section of the building. There were many cars and car parts in all of the glass cases which my son really enjoyed. After that we walked through a studio/garage area where many different people were working on building and fixing their cars. We found it fascinating to see all of the people working on different elements of their cars and all of the pieces that went into these great machines. The people working on cars ranged in their knowledge and experience level and most were very friendly and/or open to being asked questions. However, I caution that the lady that answers the phone is not so friendly, but don't be dissuaded by her as most of the other people in the building were very nice.

One gentleman in particular (dubbed "The Trackmaster") was incredibly friendly and shared his knowledge with us about the hobby. He said that some of the people really get the idea that it is important to get the kids out to "The Track" because it is a hobby that is meant for them. He said that he hopes that within the next year they will start renting out cars to younger kids so that they can have a chance to race as well as making it open for birthday parties. I believe they also have a camp for racers. Anyone who either buys a car (they are pricey) or builds their own can come and use this track for a fee (15 dollars for the whole day), but watching is totally free and really enjoyable. While many of the guys race their cars in tournaments and are at a very competitive level, others were novices as well, having only just started but enjoying the hobby nonetheless.

Once the track was set up (usually around 1:30pm), we took a seat on the chairs outside of the track and watched as the racers took their places on the pedestal over the track and began racing. Our kids had a great time watching cars zip by, doing the jumps, and crashing into each other. In another part of the studio was a separate smaller track for little cars that we also got to look at. One man was racing a car on that track and told us that the cars were moving at 100 mph. This track is ok for kids to bring their own little cars and push them around on.

All in all we had such a wonderful experience. However, I caution that you should call first to see if they are expecting to be racing that day or you could end up just touring the place quickly. Also, even if they don't have races going on, they seemed pretty comfortable with letting us use the little cars that we brought onto the small track. However, children are not allowed to go on the bigger track (and are only allowed to watch) unless they are racing a car fit for the track. The directions on the website are clear, but the place is not well marked so keep your eyes peeled and expect to have to U-turn when you notice the addresses and then skip right past it. While this place is not geared toward children, I definitely recommend that everyone race down and check this place out as it was good for a rainy day for kids ages 3-12 to watch for a little while. I would say your child would probably have to be around 7 or 8 (minimum) to do their own racing.

Hours:
Sunday and Monday 12-6pm
Tuesday- Friday 12-9pm
Saturday: 10am-9pm (or later)
Phone: (301) 417-9630
Website: http://rctrack.com/index.html

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