Sunday, December 29, 2013

Luray Caverns, Luray, VA.

Whether on summer vacation or winter break, Luray Caverns is a great place to take your kids. The temperature inside these caverns is consistently in the upper 50's, but with humidity, it feels like the 60's (no more than a sweatshirt is necessary). Additionally, this natural beauty is open 365 days per year, so any time is a good time to visit.

The ticket booth and building were built on top of the entrance to the caverns, so the purchase of tickets, as well as the wait to start the tour, take place indoors. Kids as young as 5 will truly enjoy the beauty and excitement of the natural caves. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable, and stopped to let us take a multitude of pictures, and ask questions every few steps. From start to finish, the entire tour is 1.25 miles long, and takes roughly 1 hour to complete. Inside, you will see beautiful stalactites and stalagmites that have naturally formed over thousands of years.

In addition to the natural beauty, they have also installed an organ that uses the stalactites and stalagmites to be able to play music (which they will demonstrate). There were also a few spots where water had pooled up, and made the reflection appear as a mirror image to all of the formations hanging from the ceiling. Ending the tour was a large wishing well, which has the proceeds donated to charities every year.

When you complete the tour, you come out in the gift shop, which had plenty of unique items in it. Additionally, in the same shopping center were a few Luray Museums, which you get free entrance to with the purchase of your caverns tickets, as well as a small ropes course, and a tree maze (each of which cost less than 10 dollars per person to add on.

This small day trip took us a little less than two hours each way from Wheaton, and was definitely worth the drive.


Adults: $24
Kids 6-12: $12
Under 6: Free


Tours begin each day at 9 am
The last tour departs at:
April 1 to June 14 – 6 pm
June 15 to Labor Day – 7 pm
Day after Labor Day to October 31 – 6 pm
November 1 to March 31 – 4 pm (5 pm on weekends)
(Tours run roughly every 20 minutes)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Trimpers Rides and Amusements, Ocean City, MD

Spending time on the boardwalk is one of our favorite family activities during the summer. There are tons of shops to visit, beach spots to play at, and most importantly, rides to enjoy. Trimpers Rides is a family favorite when visiting Ocean City, MD. Roughly three hours from the Silver Spring area, this can be a really long day trip or a day activity as part of a vacation. Our children love going here every year, and we have found it to really have a wide array of rides for kids ages 3 and up.

Rides include but are not limited to Bumper Cars, Bumper Boats, Merry-Go-Round, Mini Ferris Wheel, multiple mini-roller coasters, bounce toys, and more. The Happy Swing, Tea Cups, Rockin' Tug, Frog Hopper, Merry Mixer, and Tilt-a-Whirl are also popular rides. All of these can be enjoyed by younger children. However, they also have rides such as the Tidal Wave, Zipper, and Wipeout for older kids. There is a good mix of indoor and outdoor rides at this amusement park, which also includes individual pay games where kids can win prizes.

Tickets to the attractions cost $0.50 each, and most rides cost between 3-6 tickets. Sheets of 40 tickets can be purchased for 19 dollars each, but you can also buy a wristband which gives you unlimited rides for $23.00 per person. We found that the tickets went really quickly, and it was definitely worth it to buy the wristbands.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Dynamite Gymnastics, Rockville, MD

Dynamite Gymnastics is a great gym in the Rockville Area, that has classes for all ages of children. Additionally, they have open gym hours in 50 minute and 90 minute increments that provide an affordable place for kids to run around and blow off some steam on a variety of different activities. The staff is incredibly friendly, and was very helpful in supervising the area, and answering any questions that we had. They also worked hard to praise the efforts of the children and keep them safe and happy.

The equipment includes, but is not limited to, multiple trampolines, a rope swing/climb, and a runway trampoline leading kids to a jump into the massive foam pit. They also have a huge open gymnastics floor, high and low bars, and high and low beams. After one days visit, my kids were asking to go back the next day. Children as young as 3 were playing on all different types of equipment, and the gym was in immaculate shape. Staff members were roaming through the gym wiping down the equipment, and all children were asked to wipe off their feet with baby wipes before they came in. having a fun and clean place to play was an enjoyable experience, and this will continue to be a great rainy (and sunny) day excursion for our family.


Ages: 3 and up

Cost: as low as $7.00 for the 30 minute open gym

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC

Are you thinking of taking to our nation’s capital for the day? If so, make sure to stop by the Museum of Natural History! While I am sure most people are have heard of this fantastic museum, most could probably only point out that it has a huge stuffed elephant in the rotunda of the building. However, this building contains so many interesting exhibits, that our children were entertained for hours.
While there are many new and changing exhibits at this museum, some of the most impressive features are part of the permanent collection. On the first floor currently, they have Natures best photography, a discovery room, ocean, mammals, a massive fossil exhibit (including plants and animals), human origins, and of course the dinosaurs! This floor was definitely fun to look at and with such great big open spaces, there were plenty of places to roam. 

On the second level, exhibits on display included an area on genomes, a lot of the rocks and gems (including the Hope Diamond), an amazing insect zoo, which our kids were allowed to hold a few of, and a live butterfly exhibit (for a fee). My kids truly loved this floor as one child loved the large number of different rocks of various colors, while the other enjoyed holding huge bugs! There are several other wonderful exhibits in this museum as well, some that are permanent, and others that are temporary, and meant to keep the museum fresh and new.

The main level had a very large café, and there were multiple gift shops in the building. One of my favorite parts about living in this area are the wide array of activities to do, and one of my true favorite parts, is the amazing culture and history that is free and available to the public. While this museum is usually crowded throughout the day, this is worth the experience!

Cost: Free
Closest Metro station: Smithsonian
Wheelchair accessibility: Yes (there is a ramp to get into the building on at least one side, ramps throughout the museum when necessary, and several elevators to go from floor to floor.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Boomerang Pirate Ship, NW DC

Prepare to sail the seven seas…..or at least the Potomac River! This week, we went on the Boomerang Pirate ship, which docks on the Georgetown waterfront. While parking and the ride itself are expensive, the kids had a great time on this 1 hour boat tour. The group also does night tours and private parties for adults. The crew does a good job of swabbing the decks to make sure that the boat stays in pristine condition.

The activity consists of the pirates taking us out to sea to try and find the keys to their treasure chest (which had been stolen). After roughly 20 minutes, a smaller boat came driving by, waving the keys to the treasure chest at us. All of the children took to the railings and began blasting their water cannons at him. Once he surrendered, he passed the keys over, and we were able to open the treasure chest. Inside was candy and little pirate treasures that each child was allowed to pick from. 

Throughout the ride, the pirate employees did a great job of entertaining the kids with songs, games such as limbo, and pirate dancing. They also handed out temporary tattoos and did face painting as well. The staff was incredibly friendly and accommodating (both in person and on the phone when booking), provided a big cooler of water and cups, and made sure that everyone was safe and having a good time. They were more than willing to snap a few pictures with the kids, and made it an enjoyable experience. The only complaint besides for the cost was that they do not answer the phone when you call. You have to leave a message, and they will call you back pretty quickly. Also, remember to leave a significant amount of time to get there as traffic is always terrible in that area. It will take much longer than any GPS says it should take.

Age Range: 3 and up

Cost: $20 per person

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sportrock Climbing Centers (Alexandria and Sterling, VA)

Sportrock Climbing Center is a great place to do indoor rock climbing. This indoor gym was spacious, had a variety of walls to climb, and had various levels of difficulty for the beginners as well as the advanced. If you are trained to climb, you can use the gym on your own during open climb, or if you have never climbed or are a beginner, you can go to open hours and take turns climbing the walls with one of the staff members.

The gym has both rock climbing and bouldering available, and the walls range from under ten feet (bouldering without a harness) to 40 feet for rock climbing (with a harness). The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful, and really made the experience worthwhile. Throughout the open climb, they offered tips to help each person to improve, and I enjoyed doing something new and exciting.

This place is great for parties, camp groups, or individuals of varying ages. For open climb, they will take anybody age 6 and above. There is one person on duty for open climb, 12-5pm on Sat. and Sun. (except during the summer, when weekdays are also open), and depending on how busy it is, you can get in a decent amount of climbing or do a bit of waiting between turns. If you are interested in taking a more serious approach, they offer classes for yoga, bouldering, and rock climbing. The one downside is that the location is difficult to find, but overall we enjoyed ourselves, and plan to go back in the future.


Cost: $5.00 per climb during open climb hours

Age Range: 6 and up.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Terrapin Adventures, Savage, MD

Summer is upon us, which means that it is the season for getting out into nature and having a blast.
Today we visited Terrapin Adventures, an outdoor adventure program that offers a wide variety of activities to individuals and/or groups such as ziplines, ropes course, rock climbing etc... They also offer events such as kayaking, bike riding, tubing, fishing, windsurfing, horseback riding, and sailing.We decided to tackle the Terrapin challenge which is 4 hours of ropes course fun. The ropes course is shaded by large trees, but it can still get hot, so bring lots of water.

The number one thing about this trip besides for the fun activities was how friendly and safe the staff was to the participants. They interacted well with each individual, made everyone feel safe and comfortable, and set people up to have a great time. Each activity had a number of instructors guiding people through, but they also gave people the space to explore on the different challenges without hovering.

On this ropes course, there were children as young as 7-8 years old, and people in their 50's as well. The mix of families with young kids, teens, college kids, and adults having fun made the experience even more enjoyable. Everyone helped each other out and fostered strong communication skills and team building. As a person afraid of heights, they helped me to conquer my fears. I am sure that they will do the same for others as well. This company was also very good about rain checks if it is raining/storming. In the middle of our 4 hour activity it started to pour. All we had to do is ask, and they gave us certificates to use the rest of our 2.5 hours at another time. We are definitely going back soon!

Cost: Varies depending on the activities you choose

Hours: Check Website


Thursday, March 28, 2013

National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD

After waiting for the kids to be old enough to appreciate the Aquarium, we finally made the trek. The facilities were  clean, and the employees were friendly and knowledgeable. We waited in line for tickets for about 3-4 minutes. However, you may be standing outside for quite a while if it is crowded. They also provide the option of purchasing your tickets online with a service charge of $1.95 per ticket.

 The aquarium was broken up into three separate pavilions within the same building. Pier 3 Pavilion, which consisted of 5 levels, included Maryland: Mountains to the Sea, Surviving Through Adaptation, North Atlantic to the Pacific, Upland Tropical Rainforest, Atlantic Coral Reef, Shark Alley, and the Blacktip Reef which is set to open this summer. Our children enjoyed seeing the sharks, and having having freedom to roam in the open layout. Also remember to check online so that you can also find feeding times. The Tropical Rainforest was also a big hit as the children enjoyed seeing birds chirping and flying over their heads.
     In the Pier 4 Pavilion was a cafe, a wide array of different jellyfish that illuminated the dark room in their wing, and the dolphin show. The staff recommends arriving 20-30 minutes before the show to get a seat. This show runs roughly every 1.5 hours, and lasts for about 20 minutes. The first 4 rows were labeled “The splash zone”, and the rest was dry seating. The trainers were friendly, called up several volunteers, and the show was very child friendly. We got to see the dolphins jump, play catch, splash the front rows, and speed around the tank. The lead trainer shared that every show is different and that the tricks vary so you could go to multiple shows and see different performances in the same day.
     On the way from Pier 4 Pavilion to the Glass Pavilion are an animal planet gallery, restrooms, and the 4D Immersion Theater(an additional $5.00) as well as a Harbor overlook. Once in the Glass Pavilion, we got to experience the Animal Planet Australia exhibits.  The fish in this exhibit were very interesting, and one of the workers was even standing next to one of the tanks dangling an insect over the tank on a stick to demonstrate how one of the fish shoots water into the air to knock the bugs down into the water. The aquarium gift shop is also in this pavilion.
     Overall, we enjoyed our experience, but had a hard time spending over $100 for the 4 of us when there are so many other wonderful museums that are free or a fraction of the cost. I would recommend this place, as the customer service was great and there are wonderful exhibits, but it is usually over-crowded, and strollers are not permitted. Check the website for events and opportunities that change on a daily basis. If you live in the area and plan to go multiple times, you can buy a family membership for $159 for the year. The membership would be worth it if you were even planning on going twice per year.

Adults: $29.95
Children 3-11: $20.95
Under 3: Free

Mon–Thur          9 am–5 pm
Fri                         9 am–8 pm
Sat–Sun              9 am–5 pm

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Comedy Spot, Arlington, VA

The Comedy Spot in Arlington, Virginia is a great place to go for children and adults of all ages. While they are only open Thursday night-Saturday night, they tailor their impov comedy shows to a variety of different ages. Thursday nights are open mic night, which are geared towards teens and adults. In order to participate, you only need to email the comedy club. On Friday nights at 8pm and Saturday nights at 7:30pm, The Comedy Spot also hosts their comedy sportz program which has teams competing for points and laughs. This is a family friendly show and is meant to be kept clean, but may not necessarily be geared specifically towards children. However, Saturdays at 3pm, they specifically have a comedy sportz 4 kidz show which is kept strictly PG and is great for kids starting as young as first grade. Children are provided the opportunity to come up on stage and participate, and are aided by the comedy professionals that work there. On Saturday nights at 10pm, the club takes on a more adult feel as they offer the Blue Show, which offers adult humor with an R rating. Please make sure not to bring your children to this show as it is not appropriate for youths.

The shows range in price from $10-$15 and the place is well maintained (other than the restrooms which were a bit dirty). When we went to The Comedy Spot, it was on a Sunday night without kids, as they also offer private shows for work parties, birthday parties, and other occasions as well. The comedians were very funny, and did a great job of incorporating the audience into their show, calling people up or asking for audience participation for each skit that they did. While children were not around when we went, the comedians definitely seemed like they would do a fantastic job of putting on children’s birthday parties as well. If you are a fan of Whose Line is it Anyway or want to get your budding comedian a chance to participate in front of a larger audience than just family, this is a great place to go.

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes


Ballston Common Mall  
4238 Wilson Blvd - Arlington, VA


ComedySportz 8PM/$15/PG
The Blue Show 10PM/$15/R

ComedySportz4kidz 3PM/$10/PG
ComedySportz  7:30PM/$15/PG
The Blue Show 10pm/$15/R

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

That Bounce Place, Reisterstown, MD

That Bounce Place in Reisterstown, Maryland is a fun option for indoor play on both sunny and rainy days. On Tuesdays and Fridays, they have special preschool only bounce time which is a good option for younger kids, especially those who easily get intimidated by older kids. They offer a preschool section that is a little smaller and blocked off from bigger kids and they also have 2 other bounce equipment pieces with slides. There is a small slide and toy kitchen, a crayon castle bounce area and a moon bounce with 2 small slides in the preschool area. They had two other slides as well. There are also 3 obstacle courses, one multicolored one, another with an octopus on a ship, and a third with a dinosaur. These were geared more towards the older kids who seemed to be having a blast.

In terms of logistics upon arrival, they have coat hooks and lots of cubbies for your shoes. You must wear socks! I did not see a place to lock things away, so I suggest keeping valuables with you. There were a few party rooms, snacks and drinks available for purchase, and also some toys for sale as well. They also have tables and chairs right next to the bounce equipment so parents can eat while watching their kids. The day that I went, their wifi was not working, so if you need to get some work done while there, call ahead to make sure that their signal is up and running.
All in all, it was a really good time. They claim to be the largest inflatable bounce park in Maryland, so if you like moon bounces and obstacle courses, this is the place to go!


(410) 833-PLAY (7529)

Sunday 10:00am to 8:00pm
Monday-Thursday: noon to 8:00pm
Friday-Saturday: 10:00am to 10:00pm
Open Tuesday and Friday at 10:00am for pre-school bounce

Open Bounce:
Monday-Friday:  Four Hours                                            $6.95
Friday (night), Saturday-Sunday, Holidays: Two Hours       $8.95