How to Babyproof at Grandma & Grandpa’s House

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If you are lucky, there is a grandparent just waiting to get their hands on your little one for a night or two. Making sure Grandma's house is safe, stocked and ready to go for a visit is your key to regular date nights! We have some suggestions to make visits to Grandma's house as fun and stress-free as possible for everyone involved. 

photo: 4Moms

1. A Place to Sleep & Play
Your little one needs safe spots to nap, sleep and play at Grandma's house! The good news is you don't need to take over their home and set up a separate nursery and playroom for your tiny tot to feel like they are at home. Get a great travel crib, like the 4Moms Breeze Plus above, you can use for overnights with the grandparents (and when you travel farther away). As a test run, let your little one spend some time, or even nap, in the travel crib at your place so they are not adjusting to both that and sleeping in new surroundings. If you don't already have one at home, check out a service like BabyQuip that will deliver one right to Grandma's front door. 

2. Baby Gate
Babies who are mobile, including crawlers, need baby gates on stairs to keep them safe. But there is no need to drill holes in the walls. Pressure-mounted baby gates will work on most stairs. This type of baby gate does not require any permanent hardware to be installed to be used safely. Instead, tension keeps these gates in place. That means you can remove them when you head home. To cut down on expenses, use the same gate in your home and bring it with you when you visit. 

3. Cabinet & Door Locks
Just like at home, it's important to keep little ones away from sharp objects, cleaning supplies, medications and other everyday household items that could pose a threat to baby's safety. Adhesive, magnetic cabinet and door locks are a great solution. These locks from Eco-Baby do not require any drilling to install, and they can be activated or de-activated with built-in latches. That means grandparents can babyproof her cabinets and drawers only when their favorite little person is over for a visit and open them freely when their house is a baby-free zone.

4. Outlet Covers
Once a baby starts crawling and for many years afterward, outlet covers are a must. These are small, unobtrusive, inexpensive, only need to be installed once, and are easy to remove. Just arrive at Grandma's house with a box and this babyproofing item can be knocked off your list in under 10 minutes! 

photo: Motorola

5. Baby Monitor
Grandma and Grandpa will need to keep an ear open for when baby wakes up from a nap or emits middle-of-the-night cries of hunger. Functionality and ease is the name of the game when it comes to a grandparent-friendly baby monitor. The Motorola Touch Connect has a large touchscreen for viewing, two-way communication and comes with pre-loaded lullabies. Plus, if Grandma accidentally wanders out of range with it, an alarm will go off.   

6. First Aid Kit
Buy a baby first aid kit to send to Grandma's house or make one of your own. If you go the DIY route, include some basic first aid and grooming items. A nasal aspirator, baby pain reliever and a thermometer are a must. Because no one likes getting scratched by little nails, try a grandma-friendly bbluv electric nail trimmer, which uses tiny emery boards rather than clippers to get the job done. To add a little humor to baby's stay, an Oh Sh*t Kit Max from Rafi Nova contains a variety of everyday essentials and hacks to make sure Grandma is prepared for (almost) any situation. Consider including a form that allows grandparents to consent to medical treatment in case of emergency. 

7. Make Grandma's Life Easier
Once baby starts solids, a couple of hacks can make a visit easier: Pack a variety of baby- or toddler-size portions of foods in a Bentgo box that Grandma can use for feedings at home or on the go. Make clean-up easier with the gift of a cordless wet-dry floor cleaner like a SLYDE. If more than one grandchild will be visiting, label everything with stickers from Mabel's Labels that are waterproof and nearly indestructible. 

—Jamie Davis Smith

featured photo: iStock

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Almost from the minute you learn you’re pregnant, you want to remember every detail. But babies grow quickly, and it can be easy to forget how things used to be. Here are six ways to capture what life with your child is really like.

photo: iStock

Photo Book
Creating a photo book ensures you can show your child what life was like when they were a baby, not just tell them! You are probably already taking tons of photos of your little one. Make it a point every year to print out some of those photos in an annual book. Tinybeans makes it easy to print a photo book using the photos you upload on the site. Choose a specific date, such as your child's birthday or Christmas, as the day you'll create your photo book so you don't miss a year. Find out more in our photo book FAQs.

Video Montage
Moving pictures also make great memory-keepers. You don't need to be a professional director to create a great family video. Use an app like 1SE to capture just one second a day to create a short video with a big punch at the end of baby's first year and beyond. The basic app is free, but the pro version allows you to capture longer snippets of video and add features like music. Otherwise, most phones contain basic video-editing software that will allow you to stitch together several short videos to create a great, moving memory capsule.

Letters
Even in the digital age, there is nothing quite like an old-fashioned handwritten letter. Notes from the heart in Mom and Dad's own handwriting will be treasured forever. A weekly letter to your child, even if it's short, will provide your child with warm memories of their childhood. Some parents choose to write letters to their child on their birthdays to highlight the previous year's major events and recap some of the day-to-day activities their child enjoyed that year. Some parents add letters on special occasions such as graduations. Collect your letters in a sturdy box and add photos or letters from siblings and other special people in your child's life. Or, wait until your child is 18 and collect the letters in a book. 

Journal
Keeping a journal gives the same ultra-personal feel as handwritten letters but with the convenience of having all of your notes to your child bound together in one place. Some parents-to-be even start journals to their baby when they are still expecting. We love the Baby journal from Write to Me. If you think you might get writer's block, try a guided journal like Stories for My Child: A Mother's Memory Journal, shown above. These types of journals provide prompts to guide you through what to write.

photo: istock

Keepsake Box
There are things you will probably want to keep to help tell your baby's story. It might be a hospital bracelet, the front page of the newspaper from the day your baby was born, the first time they met their grandparents, an early drawing or a lock from their first haircut. After you designate a box as the place to store these keepsakes, make the items come to life for you (and, in the future, for your child), by writing a small note to go with each one. Over time, you may add another box or two to your collection. This is a great way to keep all of these small but important things together to ensure they don't get lost. That way, when you walk down memory lane, you will have some tangible reminders of those long-ago days and the special stories to go with them.

Email
A simple way you can preserve memories of your baby is to create an email account for them. Send an email to your child to read in the future describing the events of that day or week. Include milestones but also details about your day-to-day life as a family, their friends, and how you feel about watching them grow. Some parents give their child the password to their email account when they turn 18, but there is no rule saying you need to wait that long. Be sure you log into your child's account at least once a month to keep it active! 

—Jamie Davis Smith

featured image: iStock

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Win Back 30+ Minutes in Your Day, New Moms!

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You’re selecting nursery furniture, choosing the perfect name, and creating a baby registry, but what about you? Your body and your life are going through big changes, and you need new ways to take care of yourself. Read on to find out the best things that expectant moms can do for themselves as they wait for their bundle of joy to arrive.

photo: iStock

1. Yoga
Taking a prenatal yoga class can do wonders for your aching muscles. If your body is struggling with the extra weight of your impending bundle of joy, squeezing in a yoga session even once a week can help keep you feeling lithe. Look for low-impact classes in person or online. 

2. Prenatal Massage
If it's in your budget, a prenatal massage can be one of the best things you do for yourself. Not only is a prenatal massage a welcome chance to focus on yourself for an hour or two, it's also a great way to leave stress behind. A good prenatal massage therapist will know how to work out your sore muscles in a way that's safe for you and baby.

3. Undies
Many pregnant women notice early on that their regular undies just aren't cutting it anymore. Hemp undies from WAMA are exceptionally breathable. They also have some give to accommodate a growing belly. If you find that you are leaking a little, Thinx underwear can be a lifesaver. They also work well for the postpartum stage. 

4. Relax...Just Do It
It's no secret that pregnant women are next-level tired a lot of the time. Since you can't add extra hours into the day to get more sleep, find ways to sneak some relaxation into your day. Decaf teas can help you unwind and bring some calm to the chaos of life when preparing for a new little one. Try a Vahdam Teas sampler pack of herbal teas to find a favorite flavor. LaRue 1680 has tea sets, including a Bridgerton Collection, for when you want to relax and feel fancy without leaving the house. A nice blanket for lying around is another great way to up your relaxation game. An Olive & Linen blanket makes couch time seem like an event. These blankets are made from premium Turkish cotton that truly works well for all seasons, as well as for snuggling with a baby! Light a candle from Sea Witch Botanicals. They're made with essential oils and plant-derived waxes instead of the plastic-based paraffin wax used in many candles. There are even unscented candles great for pregnant women sensitive to smells who still want the ambience of a candle-lit evening or bath.  

5. Safer Beauty
When growing a new life, many expectant moms start paying more attention to what's in their beauty products. Some don't like what they find when they start digging into the ingredients. Other pregnant people find that changing hormones mean they need to add to, or change, their normal beauty routine. It's common for pregnant women to find they no longer can tolerate the fragrance of their current products or that they suddenly need oil-free products. 

Costal Citizen is a fragrance-free, oil-free, no-rinse gentle cleansing water perfect for perking up skin when you are tired, which is probably all time time during pregnancy. Because Coastal Citizen is a no-rinse cleanser, it is a great option for expectant moms who need a quick refresh on-the-go. The Raw Beauty Company uses ingredients like cucumber fruit extract, green tea leaf extract, aloe leaf and other natural ingredients to create the super-moisturizers and derma-scrubs pregnant skin often needs. 

Spa Technologies uses nutrient-dense organic laminaria algae and other natural ingredients to moisturize, cleanse and revitalize skin. Pregnant women often need some extra TLC, and Spa Technologies delivers that extra punch to help them look and feel their best. Danielle Fishel of Boy Meets World fame created Be Free when she was pregnant and wanted to avoid harsh chemicals in her hair products. When other clean products left her hair looking dull, she took matters into her own hands. Be Free is the best of both worlds with natural ingredients that leave hair looking shiny and healthy.  

MyChelle Demaceuticals makes science-backed skin care products free of phthalates, parabens, petroleum, sulfates and artificial fragrances and colors. So the brand's line of moisturizers, masks and sun protection products are worth considering. Fragrance With Benefits is a great choice for expecting Moms who want to avoid the harsh chemicals in insect repellant. This perfume uses essential oils to help keep mosquitos and other critters away. TrapStix lip balm keeps lips moist with natural ingredients that are safer for pregnant women.

photo: iStock

6. Comfy Feet
As every mom can tell you, pregnancy takes a toll on your feet. Even if you are lucky enough not to experience feet that grow while nurturing a new life, chances are your feet will still be very sore. Footnanny has you covered with their unscented mommy cream. This light cream is perfect for feet (and hands) that need a refresh at the end of the day. If you are experiencing more pain in your feet, you may need something stronger! Mineralgia was created by doctors to help relieve pain and stimulate circulation with plant-based, unscented ingredients. Achy feet can also be soothed by infrared therapy. Bright Health offers at-home relief for achy feet quickly. You probably want your feet to look good too! Nail polish without the harsh chemicals found in many products are a good idea when expecting. Check out SOPHi nail polish, which is free from harsh chemicals, making it safer for baby. When you can't just sit down and relax, you can take some steps to keep comfy. Compression socks, like those from Dr. Motion, can do wonders for feet prone to swelling.  

7. The Best Shoes
One way to not need to pamper your feet so much is to make sure you are wearing the comfiest shoes possible. But this doesn't mean that pregnant moms need to sacrifice style. Try All Birds Wool Loungers. These shoes slip on so you won't need to bend over to put them on. This is useful both when you have a growing belly and during postpartum when your hands may be too busy holding a baby to worry about tying your shoes. Plus, they are super-soft inside which is a treat for achy feet. Need something a little dressier? NYDJ now makes heels with a focus on comfort. These classic pumps have a cushioned insole with memory foam padding so you can still be ready for the office or a dressy event while taking care of your pregnancy feet. 

8. Pregnancy Pillow
Nearly every pregnant person has experienced sleepless nights. Maybe it's because of a growing belly. Or perhaps you have a party baby who likes to wiggle around all night long. It could be that common pregnancy symptoms like nausea and heartburn make it hard to get to sleep. There are a few ways to make this easier. A Boppy Total Body Pillow is a contoured pillow the length of your body that works wonders by giving you support where you need it. Another type of pillow that can work great for pregnancy aches is the Zoey Sleep Curve Pillow. The Zoey pillow has a unique design that allows users to remove or add more filling to make the pillow just right for you! The unique cut-out shape also has space to mold to the contours of your neck. This is especially useful for people who sleep on their side. This is important during pregnancy because doctors recommend that all pregnant people sleep on their sides

9. Comfy Clothes
Your clothes probably stopped feeling comfortable sometime in your first trimester. Splurging on some new clothes that give you breathing room and make you feel pretty is something only you can do for yourself! There are plenty of maternity clothes you will wear during your pregnancy, but grabbing some flexible clothing that you can wear when you don't feel like wearing stretchy pants can go a long way toward helping you feel your best. Look for a skirt with an adjustable waistband and that can be worn a bit longer or shorter like the NuNuNu World layered skirt or a zippered hoodie in a size up that you can wear as you go up and down in size.

10. Splurge for the Baby
Usually there are a couple of things on the baby registry that will make you very happy. Don't wait for someone else to make that purchase. Save your mental energy and get that special item you are not sure anyone else will get for you. A popular choice is a cute going-home or birth-announcement outfit. This one from Tenth & Pine that declares "Hello I'm new here!" will make you smile every time you imagine your new baby wearing it. Another good choice is a personalized necklace from Tiny Tags. Order a necklace with every member of the family's name and have it ready to wear as soon baby makes their grand appearance. 

11. Self-Care
Hydration is key to feeling good throughout pregnancy. A small thing like a new water bottle can help motivate you to keep drinking throughout the day. A cute Welly water bottle is a good choice.  Make it easy to get a full serving of fruits and veggies everyday to make sure your growing baby gets the nutrition they need and to help you feel your best. A Nutribullet Pro personal blender is an easy way to quickly whip up a smoothie a day. Add some yogurt or peanut butter for a protein boost. 

12. Combat Pregnancy Brain
Being pregnant may mean developing pregnancy brain and forgetting important tasks. That may sometimes mean forgetting to charge your phone. An Anker battery pack that is lightweight is a must-have addition to any pregnant person's bag. Being able to charge on the go, or even just while walking around the house, can be a lifesaver and let you keep talking or strolling. Better organization is also a must when you don't feel like you are operating at full capacity. Consider a 1Thrive organizational board with a customizable combination of chalkboards, whiteboards and corkboards in various sizes. This is a lifesaver for keeping track of doctor's appointments and your ever-growing to-do list that comes along with preparing for a new baby. Anything that keeps you organized in other parts of your life can be helpful too. A Bow & Spring jewelry box, for example, is helps you keep jewelry organized, visible and easy to access. 

—Jamie Davis Smith

featured image: iStock

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Fall Bucket List! 25 Can’t Miss Things to Do with Kids

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The leaves are turning colors and kids everywhere are reaching for their sweatshirts. That means that fall has arrived. Read on for our best fall activity ideas from how to see the fall foliage to where to find the best pumpkins.

1.See Roer's Zoofari in a different light. Starting October 15th the LuminoCity Festival will bring the zoofari alive at night. Although the sheep and goats will be there, the life-size dinosaur and glowing panda bears will steal the show. 

2. Fall foliage in DC is a bright, beautiful sight to behold. Go on a kid-friendly hike in Rock Creek park or head to one the many regional parks in the area to take it all in. Make your hike a color hunt and look for leaves in every color of the rainbow.

3. Fall is pumpkin season! Head to one of the many pick-your-own pumpkin patches in the DC area to stock up for Halloween and to make sure your fall décor is farm-fresh. 

4. The DC area has no shortage of Fall Festivals! Many have corn mazes, hey rides and apple cider donuts that are worth buying by the dozen. Summers Farm has been hosting their Fall Festival for 25 years and counting! You can even rent your very own campfire site at the farm. 

5. Find your zen before the rush of the holiday season. Check out one (or all) of these kid-friendly places to watch a gorgeous sunset or take a family yoga class. 

6. Head to a children's theatre to see a Fall show. Adventure Theatre is showing Luchadora! and Imagination Stage is showing S.P.I.E.S. and The Lost Treasure of Atlantis

7. Enjoy the beautiful fall days that are too brief between DC's scorching hot summers and epic snowfalls. Jump in a leaf pile, make s'mores or check every activity off of our list 50 Fall Activities for Families

8. Farm animals become more active in fall. That makes it the perfect time to visit one of the DC area's many petting zoos

9. Zoo animals are also more fun to watch in fall. Plus, cooler temperatures means it's easier to walk up and down the National Zoo's hills. Check out our Ultimate Guide to the National Zoo and make a plan to visit before temperatures drop even more.

10. National Harbor is nice to visit any time of year but the crisp fall air makes fall an ideal time to explore, ride the Capital Wheel and dine at one of National Harbor's family-friendly eateries. Go for the day or make it a staycation at National Harbor's Gaylord National Resort.

11. Find something new! Think you've done it all? Check out our list of 100 Things to Do in DC and you will probably find somewhere new to explore. 

12. Get lost in a corn maze! Fall is the time of year when the corn husks seem to tower towards the sky. Everyone can find one they love. The biggest corn maze in the country is just a car ride away for any families up to challenge! 

13. Take advantage of the cooler weather and take a day trip to Baltimore. From kid-friendly museums to the National Aquarium to world-class science center Baltimore is worth the trip!

14. See the monuments at night! There is nothing quite like wandering the National Mall at night. The sun sets past many kids' bedtimes in the summer but once the leaves start falling it's possible to see the monuments illuminated by the moon and still get home in time for the kids to get a good night's sleep.  

15. Visit an amusement park. Fall is a great time to ride all the rides from carousels to roller coasters. 

16. A great way to see the fall foliage is by train! Take your pick from these kid-friendly train rides with great views. Have your camera ready to capture some breathtaking views!

17. Pick one of fall's long weekends (or play hooky) and hit the road. There are so many great options for road trips from DC. Chose from a beautiful national or state park or nearby caverns. 

18. When the leaves start dropping so the temperatures. When it's too chilly to head to your regular playground find an indoor space to play instead! 

19. Worried that your kids won't get enough exercise in the cooler weather? Not to worry! Head to an obstacle or rope course to get their bodies moving. 

20. Mini-golf is fun in every season but it's magical in fall when it's cool enough to finish the course without breaking a sweat but still warm enough to grab some ice cream when you're done! Find the perfect mini-golf course for your family here.

photo: iStock

21. Teach your kids about Black History by visiting key DC sites that tell the stories of Black Americans. From the U Street Corridor to the MLK monument. Seeing these sites is a thoughtful way to spend an afternoon. 

22. The National Book Festival is a staple of fall in DC. Every year is a little different but you can always count on some very popular children's authors showing up. 

23. Take your tricycle or two-wheeler out for a spin on a family-friendly bike path. From beginners to experts there is a bike path for everyone! As a bonus, most bike paths have pretty views of fall foliage. 

24. Fall means apple cider and apple pie. That makes it a great time to pick apples. Check out area orchards here then grab your overalls and go! 

25. Dropping temperatures doesn't mean you need to stop exploring. Just head indoors to one of DC's many kid-friendly museums

—Jamie Davis Smith

featured photo: iStock

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These Travel Cribs Will Make Family Vacations a Breeze

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Once you’re ready to hit the road for an overnight at Grandma’s house or somewhere more exotic, little ones will need a safe place to sleep. Be prepared with one of the best travel cribs available. Here are our top picks.

photo: 4moms

4moms Breeze Plus

The 4moms Breeze Plus ($245) is designed to do it all and last for years. The Breeze comes complete with a bassinet, making it suitable to use from birth. Once your little one outgrows the bassinet, simply remove it to give baby a larger place to sleep and play. The Breeze comes with a unique changer that can be flipped onto the crib when baby needs a new diaper. The Breeze Plus also lives up to the hype of a very easy set-up. It takes one push to open and one pull to close, which is great for anyone who anticipates setting up a travel crib or play yard frequently. The Breeze also comes with a travel bag for easy transport. 

photo: Nuna

Nuna Sena Aire

The Nuna Sena Aire ($379) is a sleek travel crib that's very easy to fold and unfold, making a great choice for trips where you need to set up and clean up quickly. This travel crib can be used from birth with the included bassinet that folds along with the main frame. Another useful feature is the adjustable mattress. This is great when setting down a sleeping baby or reaching in to get a baby up since the mattress can be positioned about mid-way up.The Sena Aire also makes a fun play yard at home or on-the-go. It has mesh on all sides so you can see inside from any angle. The Sena Aire comes complete with an organic sheet and travel bag. Need something even smaller? The Sena Aire also comes in mini ($200).

photo: Regalo

Regalo

The Regalo My Portable Bassinet ($80) is a no-frills travel crib that is perfect for when space is at a premium. This travel crib is light and can fit into an average-size carry-on bag. Regalo achieves the impossible by giving baby a safe place to sleep while truly traveling light. Its small size also makes it a great choice for travel or small bedrooms.

photo: DockATot

DockATot

The DockATot Deluxe+ ($175) is a space-saving ultra-light solution to providing a safe place for your tot to lounge on-the-go. This is the absolute lightest option for a travel crib because it does not have a frame. Instead, the DocATot Deluxe+ is a heavily padded nest suitable for babies up to eight months. There are endless options for covers to match any decor from pristine white to exotic leaves and chevron patterns. Add-ons include a travel bag for easy transport and a toy bar that transforms the DockATot into a place to play and practice tummy time. If your little one still loves the DockATot when they get bigger, check out the DockATot Grand, which is big enough for toddlers up to 36 months. 

photo: Silver Cross

Silver Cross Slumber

Silver Cross is known for being the brand of choice for the British Royals when it comes to strollers. Now, the Slumber travel crib ($300) meets the same high standards, making it fit for heirs to the throne and commoners alike. The Slumber is ready to use from birth through the toddler years right out of the box. The included bassinet can be used until baby starts to roll over or push up. Once that happens, extending the life of the Slumber is easy! Just unzip the bassinet and you have a ready-made full-size crib complete with a padded frame. Even better, the Slumber can be used as a play yard during the day. One of the sides is a clever zip-up door that is left closed when your little one is asleep but can be opened when you want to give your toddler the independence to get in and out during the day. The Slumber is incredibly easy to use since it can be unfolded with one hand. As a bonus, it comes with its own weatherproof travel bag great for putting in the trunk or checking on a plane. 

—Jamie Davis Smith

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14 Not-So-Spooky Halloween Events for Kids

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Halloween is almost upon us! Suit up as your favorite superhero, princess, ghost or goblin and head out to a great Halloween event. Halloween is more than just trick–or-treating. We’ve found some of the best not-so-spooky events around DC. Read on to find the one that’s best for your family from Halloween on ice to a not-so-scary safari and more.

Halloween Safari
The Bull Runs Mountain Conservancy has been running their Halloween Safari for over 20 year. Join the Conservancy for a not-so-spooky guided nighttime hike. Be prepared to meet native "wildlife." Stay after the hike to relax by the bonfire and listen to live music.

Where: 17405 Beverley Mill Drive Broad Run, VA
Cost: $10
When: Oct. 16, 22 & 23
Online: brmconservancy.org

Goblin Golf
Even ghosts and goblins like to play mini golf! Just before Halloween Burke Lake Park will host a not-so-spooky mini-golf goblin themed weekend. This will be a festive, socially-distanced Halloween event. Because it's just not Halloween without candy each mini-golfer will get a premade goodie bag to take home.

Where: 7315 Ox Road Fairfax Station, VA, 
Cost: $9-$10
When: Oct. 24-25
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov

Halloween on Ice
On Halloween weekend the Fairfax Ice Arena will host some very special guests. This is your chance to skate along side witches and ghosts! Don't miss the costume parade! As a bonus, the ice rink will award raffle prizes for future skate lessons and sessions.

Where: 3779 Pickett Rd., Fairfax, VA
Cost: $9.50
When: Oct. 30
Online: fairfaxicearena.com

Fall Frolic
Put on your costume and frolic in the garden of  the Lee-Fendall House! Activities include a not-so-spooky “ghost” hunt, crafts, and a costume parade. There are several timed sessions throughout the day so be sure to get your ticket early and arrive on time!

Where: 614 Oronoco St, Alexandria, VA
Cost: $5 - $15
When: Oct. 30
Online: leefendallhouse.org

photo: Montgomery County Parks

Eye Spy Halloween Trains
Not-so-spooky Halloween Eye Spy Trains run through Cabin John Park and Wheaton Park. Ride a mini-train while you look for pumpkins, gnomes and more along the rails. In past years Cabin John has been a little less spooky than Wheaton so keep that in mind if you are going with the littlest ghouls and goblins. Both Cabin John and Wheaton parts have big playgrounds so stay and make an afternoon of your outing. Be sure to get your tickets early as these popular weekend rides through "Trainslyvania" sometimes sell out.

Where: 7410 Tuckerman Lane Rockville (Cabin John) and 2002 Shorefield Road Wheaton, MD  (Wheaton)
Cost: $6.00
Open: Oct. Weekends
Online: montgomeryparks.org

Haunted Happenings
Haunted Happenings is a great way to explore historic Manassas while playing games and engaging in Halloween-themed activities. Enjoy a costume contest and games and activities throughout downtown Manassas. Visit local merchants will hand out candy. This is a great way to explore one of the DC's areas cutest historic downtown areas. As a bonus, this event is dog-friendly!  And, yes, dogs are encouraged to wear costumes too. While in the area visit Mayfield Civil War Fort.

Where: Downtown Historic Manassas
Cost: Fee
Open: October 30
Online: visitmanassas.org

ZooBoooo!
ZooBoooo! at the Baltimore Zoo is back Halloween weekend. This is a great opportunity to combine three favorite childhood pastimes - seeing animals, dressing up and eating candy! Check out carnival games, a costume contest, candy chutes, performances and more! There is even a not-so-spooky Halloween maze. Most activities are free with admission but reservations are required.

Where: 1 Safari Pl, Baltimore, MD
Cost: Tickets range from $18-$22
Open: October 29 - 31
Online: marylandzoo.org

Haunted Trail
The Haunted Trail at Salamander Resort is worth the drive! Salamander Resort's family-friendly .6 mile trail includes no fewer than ten different not-so-spooky Halloween scenes. After the trail linger to enjoy dinners and treats like s'mores and caramel apples Little ones who prefer to walk the trail without seeking any characters can do so at 6:30 every night to reduce the spooky-factor even further. '

Where: 500 North Pendleton St Middleburg, VA
Cost: $14
Open: October 27-30
Online: salamanderresort.com

Air & Scare
The annual Air & Scare and the Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center is a Halloween highlight for many DC families. They have everything from Star Wars to Boo Blasters. This year's event will be held outdoors with themed candy stations. Admission is free, but be sure to grab your timed-entry pass before you go. 

Where: 14390 Air & Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly, VA 
Cost: Free!
Open: Oct. 30
Online: airandspace.si.edu

photo: Courtesy Sesame Place

Port Discovery
Head to Port Discovery during the entire month of October for Monsters, Mystery & Magic month. Enjoy special guests, Halloween-themed crafts, a mysterious treasure hunt, pop-up science demonstrations and more. On Halloween Weekend enjoy a costume parade, a Mythical Monsters tour and more. Port Discovery's regular exhibits, including a three-story slide and a room where it's encouraged to get wet (raincoats provided) will be open during the Halloween festivities. Port Discovery is in Baltimore's Inner Harbor make a day of it!

Where: 35 Market Pl., Baltimore, MD 
Cost: $19.95, purchasing timed tickets in advance is required
Open: Wed., Fri., Sat. & Sun. from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Online:  portdiscovery.org

Witch Wartsmith's Halloween Spooktacular
The Puppet Co. Theatre brings the not-so-spooky tale of Witch Wartsmith's Halloween Spooktacular to their mainstage. The audience will vote on who wins the Spooktacular, which is sure to tickle your funny bone. The Halloween Spooktacular is a vintage telethon. Some contestants will change every year so you never know who will show up!  Regular visitors to The Puppet Co. Theatre will recognize Witch Wartsmith from the theatre's popular show Rapunzel. The show runs the entire month of October with a special Halloween eve performance. Since the Puppet Co. Theatre is in Glen Echo park stay after the show to ride the park's historic carousel and play in the playground.

Where: 7300 Macarthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD 
Cost: $15
Open: Sep. 30-Oct. 31
Online: thepuppetco.org

PumpkinPalooza & The Great Zucchini
It wouldn't be October without pumpkins. Check out The Great Zucchini at PumpkinPalooza hosted by the NoMa Business Improvement District. There will be a kids' costume contest, a "pick your own" pumpkin patch and more! The Great Zucchini is a favorite with the under 8 crowd and he is sure to add some not-so-spooky tricks and jokes to the event. Since PumpkinPalozza is in Alethia Tanner Park stick around and play in the playground or enjoy a picnic lunch. Be sure to make reservations in advance to ensure there are enough pumpkins for everyone!

Where: 227 Harry Thomas Way NE, Washington, DC
Cost: Free but reservations suggested.
Open: Oct. 28
Online: nomabid.org

The Count's Spooktacular 
Most amusement parks have not-so-spooky Halloween events. Busch Gardens features The Count's Spooktacular on weekends through October. Kids can enjoy dance parties with their favorite Sesame Street characters, a hay maze, a pumpkin scavenger hunt and more. Kids 9 and under can participated in a costume contest. Each weekend has a different theme including Elmo's Pumpkin Party and Rosita's Halloween Fiesta. All kids' activities end at 5:00 when the park transforms into a haunted landscape. If you are willing to drive a little farther Sesame Place just outside of Philadelphia is hosting their own Count's Spooktacular - without the nighttime scares.

Where: 1 Busch Gardens Blvd, Williamsburg, VA
Cost: $44.99, Half-price daytime kids tickets available for the Count's Spooktacular
Open: Weekends Sep. 25 - Oct. 31
Online: buschgardens.com/williamsburg

BOO by Day
Six Flags America has family-friendly BOO by Day including pumpkin painting, a corn maze and a trick-or-treat trail. Costumes are encouraged all day long. The park is covered with not-so-spooky decorations like spider webs and glowing pumpkins. Some rides have been reimagined to be Halloween themed. Antique Cars are now the Freaky Freeway. Bumper Cars are now Ghost Town Riders. Just be sure to take little ones home by nightfall when the park becomes haunted by ghoulish creatures!

Where:  13710 Central Ave, Bowie, MD 
Cost: $34.99
Open: Weekends Sep. 25 - Oct. 31
Online: sixflags.com/america

—Jamie Davis Smith

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Sharing the news that you’re pregnant calls for some creativity. Check out these fun ways to tell your partner, besties, grandparents-to-be and social media about your big announcement.

photo: iStock

This post is sponsored by Maxi-Cosi and the Tayla XP Travel System—the game-changing infant travel system equipped with all-wheel suspension, a 360° MaxShade mesh privacy shade and a removable lightweight carrier. 

Your Partner

Say It with Style
Whether you had an "oops" or have been trying for years, telling your partner that you are expecting can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. If you don't trust yourself to tell your partner without crying or screaming in excitement, buy a pair of "Mommy and Daddy" shirts or mugs. We like this Mama Bear + Papa Bear mug set from Chalk Full of Love. YETI tumblers or coffee mugs are another great choice that will last. These will also be nice mementos to have as your child grows. 

Sidekick on the Way
Surprise your partner with a matching shirt and onesie to wear after the baby is born. If your partner has a special interest, get them a pair in a theme, like Batman and Robin. Or, leave no room for doubt about your roles with First Time Mom and First Time Dad shirts from PatPat. Grab a matching First Steps romper for your birth announcement that will double as a cute outfit once baby is born. 

Surprise 
Some expectant moms want to catch their partner's reaction to the big news on camera. A professional photo shoot isn't necessary, but it can be fun to ask your partner to close his eyes then show him a chalkboard with the news "You're Going to Be a Daddy (again)!" while you have your camera rolling or are snapping away with your phone. Your partner's reaction will likely be priceless whether they are stunned, relieved, overjoyed or all three. Some moms-to-be get the video on the phone rolling and then lead their partner into a room with the big news displayed on a banner or posterboard. The video or photo can double as a pregnancy announcement on social media. Another fun way to surprise your partner is to whip out an ultrasound photo and wait for a reaction. 

All Kinds of Families

Surrogacy
Some parents-to-be want to celebrate the role of surrogacy in becoming parents. Including a surrogate in a pregnancy announcement is a great way to honor the role someone else played in the creation of your family. Be creative and light-hearted by announcing "My Bun, Her Oven" or "No Bump but so Pumped!" like Alexandra French did on her Instagram account, @alexandrafrenchrealty; see image above.

Adoption
Parents planning to adopt can share their news by letting the world know they were chosen to be the parents of a special little one. If travel is involved, share photos of the state or country where you will be going to meet your child with their expected date of arrival.

Single Parent
If you feel like traditional pregnancy announcements don't work for you, try these: For a first child, share a letterboard that states "Mommy Is Excited to Meet Me" with a due date. If you already have a child, have them announce that they are ready to be a big sister or brother. Some creative captions you could include are "And Then There Were Two" or "Best Oops Ever." 

Same-Sex Parents
Same-sex parents may want to celebrate that their baby will have two mommies or daddies. Highlight your rainbow family by including "Love Makes a Family" or sharing a photo of a onesie that says "My Mommies Love Me."

Pregnancy After Struggle

Some pregnancies go exactly as planned. Others happen a little differently. Pregnancies that come after a loss or through IVF can be celebrated with their own unique twist.

Pregnancy After Loss
Many parents of rainbow babies (babies born after a loss) like to honor the little one they lost when announcing their new arrival. This can be as subtle as incorporating a rainbow into a pregnancy announcement. Some parents also include a note thanking everyone who supported them through their difficult loss.

Pregnancy through Science
Whether you share how you got pregnant is a personal decision. Some parents may choose to keep their use of assistive reproductive technology to themselves, while others publicly acknowledge the role of science in helping them become parents. You can tell the world how your baby came to be with a photo of a onesie stating "Made with a Little Love and a Little Science." Another way to highlight the role of science in a pregnancy announcement is to surround an ultrasound photo with syringes arranged in the shape of a heart.   

Your Best Friends

Serve Pregnancy Delights
Telling your best friends you are pregnant should be an event! Invite them over for a girl's night and watch their reaction when you serve them pickles and ice cream. Have some (non-alcoholic) bubbly on hand to celebrate once they figure out why you've served them such an odd feast. Another fun option is to order custom cookies like these adorable treats from @betsys_cookie_co, above.

Skip the Cocktails
If you regularly go out for drinks with the girls or have a cocktail with dinner, changing your routine may raise some eyebrows. Be prepared with an epic mocktail order and let your friends know that will be your regular drink for the next nine months. 

An Interesting Fact
Once you are ready to spill the beans, tell your friends you want to show them something on your phone. Instead of pulling up another selfie, show them your pregnancy tracker app. Wait a moment for them to figure out what's going on, and then get ready for some massive hugs. 

This post is sponsored by Maxi-Cosi and the Tayla XP Travel System—the game-changing infant travel system equipped with all-wheel suspension, a 360° MaxShade mesh privacy shade and a removable lightweight carrier. 

Tell Your Parents

Gift with a Message
Many grandparents love spoiling their grandchildren with presents. Gifts are also a great way to let your parents know about the big changes coming. Surprise your parents with a set of "Grandma" and "Grandpa" mugs. Or, watch their surprise as they unwrap a onesie that says "I'd Rather Be at Grandma's." Check out more awesome grandparent messages you can get from @fabricatedkeepsakes above.

Mother's Day Surprise
If the timing is feasible, wait until Mother's Day or Father's Day to spring the news. If the baby you are announcing will be the first grandchild, buy a card meant for a grandmother or grandfather. Watch the grandparent-to-be's face as they work out why they got such a card! If the baby you are announcing is not the first grandchild, hide an ultrasound photo in a mother's day card and then have fun explaining when their special gift is due!

Sibling Secret
If an older sibling is in the picture, let the big sibling-to-be share the news! Dress your older child in a "Big Brother" or "Big Sister" shirt for a visit or video call with their grandparents. Or, enlist your older child to make a big show of telling their grandparents the secret. Your older child will be thrilled to be a part of the big reveal.

Social Media

Social media is a low-effort way to spread the good news far and wide, and you'll want an eye-catching photo to stand out.

Movie Poster
Even if you have limited photo-editing skills, you can come up with a unique and creative pregnancy announcement with a movie poster theme. Take a photo and then choose a tagline like "Meet the Parents" or "What's One More?" Incorporate your due date by typing "Coming This May" or "The Adventure Begins This December" at the bottom. If you don't trust your Photoshop skills, choose a customizable template from Etsy.

Say It with Balloons
Social media is largely a visual medium, and not everyone reads the captions, so get creative with balloons that say it all. A foolproof way to get your news out is to use Mylar letter balloons that spell out "baby!" Enlist a friend to take a photo of you and your partner holding the balloons. If there is a sibling-to-be, include them! If you wait until you have at least a little baby bump, announcing your pregnancy by standing in profile in front of a bunch of balloons will help accentuate your beautiful belly and create a celebratory mood. 

Plan Monthly Updates
Social media is a great way to keep family and friends updated about your pregnancy. Many pregnancy trackers compare your baby to the size of a fruit every week. Share your news by letting your followers know your baby is currently the size of a poppy seed, bean or lemon. Keep up the theme every time you post pregnancy news. 

This post is sponsored by Maxi-Cosi and the Tayla XP Travel System—the game-changing infant travel system equipped with all-wheel suspension, a 360° MaxShade mesh privacy shade and a removable lightweight carrier. 

—Jamie Davis Smith

featured image: iStock

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100 Things to Do with Kids in DC

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When you’re looking for things to do in Washington, DC with kids, the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum and the national monuments and memorials come to mind. But there is plenty to see and do beyond the National Mall. Keep reading for our list of favorite things to do with kids in the DMV.

1. The White House isn't just where the President lives it's also the People's House! This means it's open to the public and it's a must-do when visiting DC. You won't be able to visit all areas of the White House but you can visit the East Wing and the residence with some advance preparation. Contact your Congressional representative at least 21 days in advance of your visit to schedule a tour.

2. After checking out where the President lives swing over to Capitol Hill. There, you can walk the Capitol grounds and see the Capitol's majestic rotunda for yourself. Reservations are recommended to visit the Capitol Visitor's Center For an even more in-depth look, contact your Congressperson or Senator in advance of your visit for a tour of the Capitol itself.

3. Just a short walk from the Capitol is the Supreme Court. The Court is usually open to the public on weekdays with no reservations required. Even if you can't get inside it's worth a stop to take a photo on the Court's iconic stairs. 

4. DC is one of the few places in the United States you can see pandas. They are even more adorable in person. Be sure to visit the National Zoo to catch a glimpse for yourself. While at the zoo be sure to explore the rest of Asia Trail, play in the Pollinator Playground and seek out your favorite creatures from tigers to bald eagles. Admission is free! 

5. We are getting closer to the day where anyone might be able to travel to space. Until then visit the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum to get an up-close look at rockets, space science, and hands-on exhibits about how things fly. 

6. To see an actual space shuttle you will need to travel to the Udzar-Hazey Center, the Air & Space museum's satellite location near Dulles airport. The Udzar-Hazey center also houses a Star Wars X-Wing fighter. The Udzar-Hazey Center hosts regular family-friendly events so keep an eye on their events calendar.  

7. For those who prefer learning about the land, the National Museum of Natural History is a must-do. The Museum of Natural History is home to an impressive collection of dinosaurs but don't miss the indoor butterfly habitat and hall of gems while you are there! 

8. Visit National Harbor and Gaylord National Resort. It's easy to spend a day or two exploring National Harbor. Take a ride on the Capitol Wheel to catch great views of the city, shop and dine and spend time diffing on the beach. National Harbor frequently hosts special events like a Lantern Festival, outdoor movie, jazz festivals and more. Make the most of your visit with a stay at Gaylord National and experience an indoor laser and lights show in an impressive atrium, a family-friendly rooftop bar with incredible sunset views and augmented reality games. 

9. No trip to Washington, DC is complete without a visit to the National Mall to see the monuments. See the monuments for free by foot or book a tour by Segway, bike, or trolley. The monuments are magical at night so consider visiting after sundown if your kids can stay up past dark.

10. Go deep undercover at the International Spy Museum.  Learn essential spy skills like crawling through mock air ducts to eavesdrop and designing outfits for undercover agents.

11. Explore Rock Creek Park. DC is home to over 1,500 acres of national parkland. Spend a few hours or a few days exploring all this park has to offer.

12. Thanks to an arcane law that prohibited selling or disposing of parts of the Capitol removed during a 1958 renovation anyone can now visit the Capitol Stones. It's not easy to find the stones' "secret" location but it's actually just a short walk down a well-trodden path. Many children enjoy climbing on the stone but be careful!

13. Great Falls Park has some of the best natural views in the DC area. The Billy Goat Trail is one of the most popuar trails to tackle with kids. 

14. Roosevelt Island is a fantastic natural place to explore with kids just minutes from the National Mall. Explore on your own or join a ranger-led program

15. At United States Botanic Garden you can experience the jungle, the desert and see rare and endangered plants under one roof. Be sure to check out the outdoor Children's Garden and the canopy walk that give you a bird's eye view of the plants.

16. The National Arboretum is a huge oasis in the city. The highlight for many visitors is seeing the old columns from the Capitol Columns dating from the 1800s now sitting in a grassy knoll. Don't miss the extensive bonsai exhibit and state trees. 

17. Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens is one of DC's best kept secrets. The former home of the heiress to the Post Cereal fortune is now open for exploration. Take a kid-friendly tour of the stately mansion but stay for the expansive gardens including a Japanese garden, lunar lawn, French parterre, putting green, and more. Bring a picnic or grab something to enjoy at the estate's café. Keep an eye out for the heavy French and Russian influences throughout inspired by Mrs. Post's time accompanying her husband to his assignments as an Ambassador.  

18. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is an expansive garden featuring lotus blooms and lilies. Don't miss the boardwalk trail that is stroller-friendly.

19. The C&O Canal served as a 185 mile shipping and transportation route along the Potomac river for over 100 years. See a small part of it on your own or through one of the many events held along the canal. You can even take a boat ride along the canal. More adventurous families can even book a stay in a preserved canal house.

20. Brookside Gardens features acres of gardens and an extensive conservatory. There is something for everyone with an Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden, and the Woodland Walk. The Formal Gardens areas include a Perennial Garden, Yew Garden, the Maple Terrace, and Fragrance Garden. Check their website for seasonal events, such as Gardens of Light in the winter and the Wings of Fancy live butterfly exhibit in the Spring. 

photo: ARTECHOUSE

21. Visit Artechouse to see magic happen when art and technology collide. Artechouse's exhibits change every few months but they are always interactive, immersive and worth the trip. Past exhibits have focused on everything from Cherry Blossoms to the life of a neuron. Be sure to check out the bar before you leave which features themed drinks (including virgin versions) related to exhibit's theme complete with VR coasters. 

22, Not far from Artechouse is The Wharf DC. The Wharf is a great place to go if you have wanted to swing on a giant swing with river views or roast smores on a big firepit. Check out activities ranging from riding a free Water Jitney to renting a paddleboard. t's also a great destination for dining and seeing live music. 

23.See where George Washington and Martha lived by visiting their well preserved home in Virginia. Mount Vernon also features sprawling grounds perfect for exploring. While you are there you will also learn about the history of the slaves who lived and worked at Mount Vernon. Before you go check out the kids' activities on the estate.

25. The National Cathedral is a stunning masterpiece and the sixth largest cathedral in the world. Inside view colorful stained glass and search for the moonrock embedded in one of the windows. Visit the many chapels and look for carvings of luminaries including Rosa Parks and Hellen Keller. Outside look around for whimsical gargoyles.

26. The grounds of the National Cathedral are their own destination. The Bishop's Garden is a peaceful oasis in the city. Enjoy the beautiful landscaping, visit the Shadow House gazebo or bring a picnic and ball and enjoy the grounds. Just past the Bishop's Garden is Olmsted Woods with a contemplative circle and native flowers.

27. Kingman Island and Heritage Trail is home to rare ecosystems and over 100 species of birds. This unique spot was created when the Anacostia river was dredged over 100 years ago. Today it's a great place to look for frogs, ride a (free!) paddle boat, and hike. Check out their events calendar for family-friendly events focusing on helping the environment. 

28. Thrill seekers will love exploring the many amusement parks in the DC area. From the sprawling Six Flags America to the smaller Western-themed Adventure Park USA there is something for big and small adventurers alike. 

29. DC kids love to play! There is no shortage of playgrounds in the DC area. Check out some of the best and biggest or head to a playground with tons of shade to escape the DC heat.

30. The DC area is home to an extensive network of spray grounds. Open all summer long, these splash pads are a great place to cool down and let kids burn off some steam. Find spray grounds perfect for kids with disabilities, city kids and more.

photo: Glen Echo Park

31. Washington, DC is an international city and home to embassies from all over the world. Take a Self-Guided tour of Embassy Row starting at DuPont Circle to see some of the best. It's the fastest and easiest way to take a world tour!
 
32. The Culture House is an iconic spot for selfies in Southwest DC. The church building dating to the 19th Century is now painted in bright, bold colors and is home to a vibrant arts community. Check out their exhibitions to see what is on display. Before you head out make sure that Culture House is open to the public when you want to visit since it is a popular venue for private events. 
 
33. The Woodrow Wilson House is where the former president and his wife moved when the left the White House in 1921. This well preserved time capsule from the roaring 20s is just off of Embassy Row and hosts events including tours and vintage game nights. The Woodrow Wilson House strives to be historically accurate and has programs relating to the impact of President Wilson's controversial policies including the segregation of the federal workforce. 
 
34. The Underground Railroad Experience takes visitors on a trail that simulates the experience of slaves who fled the south in search of freedom. The trail starts at Woodlawn Manor
and take visitors through woods and fields. Take a guided tour or print out this map for a self-guided experience that explains how former slaves found hiding spots and the dangers they faced on their journey to freedom.
 
35. Woodlawn Manor House isn't just the start of the Underground Railroad Experience, it's also a well-preserved example of the Maryland of yesteryear. The manor includes a sprawling 19th century house. The grounds preserve Maryland's agricultural history. Events include public hikes, old fashioned games and demonstrations on churning butter by hand. 
 
36. The Clara Barton House tells the story of a remarkable woman who founded the Red Cross. Her home once served as the Red Cross's offices. Visitors can explore three levels of this beautiful home and learn more about Barton's life and work.
 
37. Adjacent to Clara Barton's home is the fun and interesting Glen Echo Park. The park was formerly an amusement park but is now a vibrant center of arts and fun. The park features the only carousel in a national park, a playground, a children's theater, a puppet theatre and a network of yurts where artists work and sell their wares. 
 
38. The National Museum of Women in the Arts, not surprisingly, is dedicated to showcasing art by women artists. It's a  great way to view work from artists who have historically been marginalized. 
 
39. The Renwick Gallery located across the street from the White House, is part of the Smithsonian's American Art Museum. This quirky museum has featured exhibits centering on the Art of Burning Man, floor-to-ceiling fiber installations, and Chicano revolutionary graphics. The Renwick Gallery hosts periodic family events so check their calendar before heading over.
 
40. Blagden Alley in DC's historic Shaw neighborhood is an off-the-beaten track destination worth exploring. The alley is home to well preserved townhomes and horse stables from the 19th Century which now house cafes, bars and restaurants. Don't miss the colorful "LOVE" mural which is a favorite spot for selfies. 

photo: Ben's Chili Bowl

41. Visit Luray Caverns to experience an underground marvel. These caverns are the largest in the Eastern part of the country and are less than two hours from DC.

42. Annapolis is less than an hour from DC and is worth the trip! This small town is home to the US Naval Academy, a charming Main Street, great seafood and more. A highlight for many families is Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake

43. Hungry bellies should head to Union Market is an open-style food hall with eats and drinks ranging from gourmet coffee and bagels to unconventional butcher cuts and esoteric wines. The market also features some unique shops. Keep your eye open for special events, including drive-in movies in the parking lot and expansive Sunday Suppers. 

44. The Torpedo Factory Art Center is a former munitions factory that now houses dozens of working artists. See artists letting their creative juices flow and browse what's for sale in their galleries. 

45. If you make a stop at one of the Smithsonian museums be sure to stop at their beautiful and expansive gardens. The Smithsonian's gardens are colorful, vibrant and span over 180 acres. One of the 13 public gardens maintained by the Smithsonian attracts butterflies and another features a classic Moon gate. 

46. Dine at one of DC's iconic political restaurants. The Old Ebbitt Grill, just a few blocks from the White House, is where movers and shakers have met to break bread for decades. Martin's Tavern in Georgetown has served every President since Harry S. Truman. Romantics will appreciate that this is where where JFK proposed to Jackie O.

47. If you want to skip politics and instead try DC's legendary half-smokes head to Ben's Chili Bowl. This U Street staple has been around for over 60 years and is an important part of DC's Black history and culture.

48. The Great Zucchini is a DC legend among local tots. His show is a unique blend of magic and comedy. While The Great Zucchini is a staple on the birthday party circuit he also has a number of public shows every year so everyone can experience that magical experience of seeing The Great Zucchini live.

49. Explore historic Georgetown for a leisurely afternoon of shopping and dining. While there, be sure to walk along the historic C&O canal.

50. Another historic neighborhood worth exploring is Old Town Alexandria. Old Town's King Street is lined with quaint ice cream stores, book shops, antique stores and restaurants. Be sure to take a trolley ride down to the waterfront. 

51. Visit the Library of Congress. While you have to be an elected representative to borrow books the Library of Congress's buildings are open to the public and they are magnificent! Rare and significant materials are often on display. 

52. The National Portrait Gallery is a fantastic way to learn about U.S history by viewing portraits of presidents, authors, athletes, movie stars and more. If you visit ask about their family kits for self-guided activities. 

53. The American Art Museum is connected to the National Portrait Gallery and showcases the best work of American artists. Don't miss the building's beautiful, soaring atrium, the Kogod Courtyard, located between the two museums. It's a great place to stop for a snack break.

54. The Sculpture Garden is a whimsical open space in the heart of the city. Walk through to explore larger-than-life installations including the façade of a giant red house and art deco vines, or make a pit-stop for lunch. During the winter, a giant fountain in the middle of the garden transforms into a ice skating rink. 

55. The National Gallery of Art features modern art in the East Wing and classic pieces in the West Wing. The museum is full of surprises, including a giant blue rooster on the roof and a magical walkway dotted with pinpoint lights. It's also home to one of the best cafes on the national Mall.

56. Just off the National Mall the Canadian Embassy holds a surprise. The domed rotunda just outside the main entrance creates the perfect echo chamber. Bring a bouncy ball of unlimited echoes. 

57. The National Children's Museum is a wonderland for the younger set. The museum is filled with hands-on activities including a green screen, a giant indoor slide, art projects and more.

58. Gravelly Point is a park that is perfectly situated for watching planes take off and land from the nearby Regan National Airport. Bring a picnic and settle in for an hour of two of epic activity in the sky.

59. East Potomac Park is a peaceful park with great water views. The park houses a golf course, mini golf course and public pool. The tip of the park is known as Hains Point and has a playground. 

60. Cabin John Park is an area favorite because it has a huge playground and plenty of shade. There is also a miniature train, picnic pavilions and plenty of room for sports.  

61. Watkins Regional Park is expansive. The highlight for many families is the Wizard of Oz themed playground complete with an Emerald place and ruby red slipper slides. The park also houses a mini-golf course, a petting farm and more. 

62. The DC area's climate is great for growing berries, apples, peaches, pumpkins and more. Check out this list of the best pick-your-own farms. Then, pull on your overalls and enjoy fruit fresh from the source! 

63. Practice your putting on of DC's fabulous mini-golf courses. From glow-in-the dark indoor courses to a classic mini-green overlooking the Potomac every family can find a fun spot to hit some balls. Find one near you here.

64. One of the best playgrounds in the DC area is also accessible to all kids. Clemyjontri Park has it all from a wheelchair accessible swing to an accessible carousel. The rest of the park features slides, climbing structures, a maze and more. 

65. You can't go too far in the DC area without finding a bowling alley. From the swanky Pinstripes to kid-friendly duck pin lanes you will find a lane that works for you. Check out a list of family-friendly bowling alleys here. 

66. Wheaton Regional Park is also known as Adventure Park for good reason. Multi-story slides and a huge blue pyramid great for climbing share space with a carousel, miniature train, digging area and more. 

67. The Hirshhorn Museum is a modern round building on the National Mall. This is the place to go to see modern art in DC. They also host regular family-friendly events with hands-on activities. 

68. Tregaron Conservancy is a beautiful network of woodland trails, streams, gardens, meadows and more. Not far from the National Zoo, this is a great place to explore and decompress after a busy day in the city.

69. The Mansion on O Street is the quirkiest place in DC! Spend an afternoon exploring the wacky rooms and look for hidden doors to nowhere. Find the stuffed life-sized bear, hidden wine cellar and more. Stay to dine or have tea in their eclectic restaurant. 

70. There is a real castle in the heart of DuPont Circle. The Brewmaster's Castle, otherwise known as Heurich House, has survived from the 1800s. Built by the owner of the largest brewery in 19th Century DC, this marvel features intricately carved fireplaces, mantles and more. Now open to the public, the Castle often hosts throwback game nights and family-friendly scavenger hunts. 

photo: Dumbarton Oaks

71. The Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic church in the United States and one of the tenth largest in the world. Open to visitors of all faiths, the Basilica has over 80 shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary representing cultures and traditions from around the globe. The Basilica is especially beautiful when decorated for Christmas but is worth a visit any time of year.

72. The National Museum of the American Indian tells the story of ingenious peoples throughout the Americas. This stunning building houses exhibits created with input from Native voices. It's a great way to learn about not only the complicated history surrounding American Indians but about vibrant Native culture and arts. Don't miss the award winning Mitsitam Café to sample traditional Native foods. Be sure to check out the play area where you can build an igloo and try your hand at Native-inspired crafts.

73. The National Museum of African American History and Culture tells the history of the African American experience in the United States from slavery through Jim Crow to the Civil Rights movement and beyond. This museum also highlights the rich contributions of African Americans to American Culture from music and film to food and sports. 

74. The National Museum of American History touches on nearly every aspect of American life. History exhibits explore the development of railroads and transportation, cultural exhibits explore everything from video game development to Julia Child's kitchen, political exhibits showcase First Ladies' inaugural ball dresses and pop culture exhibits feature iconic items like Dorothy's ruby red slippers from the Wizard of Oz. Don't miss the hands-on activity areas for kids of all ages. 

75. Want to see how money is made? Head over the to United States Mint just off the National Mall. Take a tour then visit the Coin Shop on your way out.

76. Tudor Place has been home to six generations of Martha Washington's descendants. Occupied through the 1980s, this home and its grounds are now open to the public. Visitors can tour the home and the Georgetown estate's 5 1/2 acres of land. Tudor Place hosts frequent family-friendly events including Tudor Tots. Keep an eye on the their calendar. 

77. Dumbarton Oaks is the former home of a distinguished ambassador and his wife. Now a research institute run by Harvard University, the home and expansive gardens are open to the public. Dumbarton Oaks has expansive gardens that were named one of the ten best in the world by National Geographic. They make a lovely spot to rest and explore after a busy day of eating and shopping in Georgetown.

78. The National Naval Museum is a hidden gem. This museum tells the story of the US Navy from covert submarine operations to the role of the Navy in conflicts starting with the Civil War. Many exhibits are hands-on and lots of fun.

79. The National Postal Museum is one of the Smithsonian's lesser known museums but it is definitely worth a visit. Learn the history of the Postal Services from its days as the Pony Express and trace how the agency became the high-tech operation it is today. Sit on a horse-drawn wagon, "drive" a big rig, hop on an old-fashioned mail hauling train and test your speed at sorting packages. Before you leave mail a postcard and get it hand-stamped. 

80. The National Aquarium in Baltimore is a massive home to all types of sea life. The centerpiece of the aquarium is shark alley where visitors are surrounded by over 200,000 square feet of a variety of species of sharks. Learn about jellyfish, see dolphins being playful, watch scuba divers feed deep sea creature and more.  

81. Baltimore's Maryland Science Center is the destination in the greater DC area for kids to get up close and personal with science. Learn about everything from gravity to space to electricity to how the human body functions. There are plenty of hands-on, interactive exhibits for kids and teens to enjoy. Check out the planetarium for a glimpse into the night sky. 

82. Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore is a wonderland for kids of all ages. Kids can get wet in the Wonders of Water room (raincoats provided!), slides down three stories from the very top to the very bottom of the museum, create in the art room, join in a story time, explore ancient Egypt and more. 

83. The written and spoken work dominate our lives but there has not been a museum dedicated to this essential part of our lives. Until now. Plant Word is dedicated to how people all over the world use language. Planet Word is full of voice activated and immersive exhibits. 

84. The National Building Museum is dedicated to buildings of all types. Past exhibits have centered around everything from art deco movie theatres, to eco-friendly homes, to designing livable neighborhoods. The National Building Museum is a popular family destination because of their two exhibit spaces dedicated to exploration and play. All of DC looks forward to the museum's annual Summer Block Party when a new fun, massive exhibit is installed for the season. 

85. Dino-fans of all ages should not miss Dinosaur Park. This park is home to an unbelievably large number of fossils still in the ground. Better yet, young archeologists get to dig themselves. If you dig up a rare fossil it is cataloged with your name and you could possibly see your name in a museum one day! Dinosaur park also has a playground that is, of course, dinosaur themed. 

86. When the original Walter Reed hospital and its grounds closed it transformed into The Parks at Walter Reed. This area, which had been closed to public for decades, now features a lovely rose garden, playground and more. Check out their calendar for regular events including farmers' markets, outdoor movies, jazz performances and more. 

87. Abraham Lincoln lived in what is now known as  President Lincoln's Cottage for over 25 years. Today, the home and grounds host events year-round. Take a tour of the home and explore President Lincoln's life in the adjacent visitors' center.

88. Fredrick Douglass National Historic Site commemorates the extraordinary life of the famed abolitionist. Take a tour of his DC home and view thousands of objects that belonged to Fredrick and Douglass and his family. This site is a unique look into the life of this former slave who dedicated his life to securing freedom for others. 

89. Ford's Theatre is where President Lincoln was shot with the bullet that would ultimately take his life. Tour the theatre to learn about one of history's most famous assignations or grab tickets to a play in this theatre which is still operational. 

90, After President Lincoln was shot he was carried to the Peterson House across the street from Ford's Theatre. Now known as The House Where Lincoln Died, the room where the president succumbed to his wounds has been preserved. Visitors who are not faint of heart can even see the pillow used while at the Peterson House, which is stained with the president's blood.

 

photo: Richard Barnes via The Reach at The Kennedy Center

91. Madame Tussaud's Wax Attraction is the place to be to hang out with everyone from Obama to Taylor Swift. Learn about everything from how the attraction's intricate wax figures are created to the civil rights movement to landing on the moon. Because this is DC, Madame Tussaud's has a wax figure of every president from George Washington. Take a photo with the current president in an Oval Office replica. This attraction is surprisingly interactive with the opportunity to pose for several photos with American luminaries, costumes, and a Virtual Reality option.

92.The Holocaust Museum teaches children about the Holocaust through the story of a child. Remember the Children: Daniel's Story tells the story of one child's experiences living in Nazi Germany. This exhibit is on the first floor of the museum close to the entrance so it's possible to visit with younger children without seeing the rest of the museum which may be upsetting to them. Older children can 

93. The REACH at the Kennedy Center honors President Kennedy's commitment to the arts. The REACH transformed the Kennedy Center from primarily a performance space to provide more room for arts education and community events. Check out their calendar to find a family-friendly event or spend some time wandering the grounds. Don't miss the reflecting pool! 

94. The National Archives in DC is a must-do for history buffs. In the soaring rotunda visitors can gaze at the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights and Magna Carta. Check out their events calendar for family-friendly events that turn little ones into history detectives. 

95. Fletcher's Cove is a hidden boathouse in Georgetown. With access to both the Potomac River and the C&O canal it's a great place to go paddling, row boating, canoeing and kayaking. Head out on your own or take a guided tour. For those who prefer to stay on land, Fletcher's also rents bicycles. 

96. Whether you live in DC or are just passing through it's good to shop local! Everything sold at Made in DC is made by a resident of the DC area. It's the best place to find something unique, something that celebrates DC, or your new favorite, snack, t-shirt or toy. 

97. National Geographic is best known for their stunning magazines. Those in-the-know also know that the National Geographic Museum is not only a place to see some of National Geographic's famous photos up-close it['s also a great family museum that showcases many of the topics covered by National Geographic in a fun and accessible way. Past exhibits have centered around Jane Goodall, ancient Egypt, and studying animals in the wild. 

98. Roer's Reston Safari lets visitors get up-close and personal with animals. This Safari has two parts. First, hop in your car to take a self-guided tour to see bison, llamas, deer and more. These animals will wander right up to your car for a treat. Then, head over to the zoo to visit with barnyard animals. Feed sheep and see goats, zebu and more! 

99. The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in DC is a magnificent place to explore for families of all faith traditions. The monastery has lovely gardens that are more than a century old featuring replicas of sacred shrines from around the world. Visitors can also tour the monastery itself. The highlight of a visit for many is the extensive underground catacombs. 

100. Take a mule drawn boat ride down the C&O canal. This truly 19th Century experience takes visitors on a scenic trip through Great Falls while they learn about those who lived and worked along the C&O canal in the late 1800s. Boats leave from the Great Falls Tavern.

—Jamie Davis Smith

photo: Jared Short via Unsplash

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Pre-Baby Getaway! How to Plan the Perfect Babymoon

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A babymoon is the perfect way to relax and reconnect with your partner before having to tackle sleepless nights, diaper changes and bottles. While there is no one right way to babymoon, there are some things every mom-to-be should consider when planning a pre-baby getaway. Read on for tips on how to choose when and where to go and what to pack. Can’t travel? We have you covered with great ideas for babymoon staycations.

photo: iStock

1. Choose the Right Time
Timing is key when it comes to planning a fun and relaxing babymoon. Most obstetricians think the best time to travel is between 14 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. This is the ideal time to plan a babymoon because the fatigue and nausea of the first trimester will have passed but the discomfort many moms-to-be experience in the third trimester will not have set in yet. Added bonus: Planning a trip for the second trimester will also give you something to look forward to when you're struggling through the worst of those early pregnancy symptoms. 

2. Find the Perfect Destination
With months of sleepless nights ahead, you'll want a destination that offers plenty of opportunities to relax. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has plenty of advice about how to stay safe on cruise ships, airplanes and during international travel, so nearly everything is on the table for expectant moms. If you have any concerns about your health and your baby's, select a destination that is not more than a few hours from your doctor or a large hospital capable of handling pregnancy complications. Consider your pregnancy symptoms as well. Even if you loved cruising before becoming pregnant, if you tend to get nauseated on the water, you may want to avoid any activity that could cause sea sickness.

3. Set Your Budget
Babies are expensive! Before getting carried away with your vacation, think about how much you can realistically spend. If the answer you come up with is "not a lot," don't worry. You can have an amazing babymoon on a budget. Consider a babymoon staycation! Look for mid-week hotel specials in your town or find a spa that gives prenatal massages and book a couple's day there. Or, look to nearby towns that are an easy drive from where you live to keep costs down. If you already have a lot of baby necessities from an older sibling or can snag hand-me-downs, consider asking family and friends for donations toward a babymoon rather than creating a baby registry. Instead of receiving baby gear you don't need, you can request gift certificates for dinner at a restaurant on the beach, a night at a hotel or a prenatal massage in the on-site spa.

4. Get Your Doctor's Okay
Before any babymoon plans are booked, check with your OB or midwife to make sure your trip is medically approved. Then schedule a pre-trip checkup to make sure you and the baby are in good health before jetting off. Since this appointment will be close to your departure date, most of your vacation plans will be set. That means it's a good opportunity to ask any questions you have about your destination, such as whether certain local foods are safe to eat or how to avoid Zika virus. Get the okay for any location-specific activities, like rock climbing or long hikes. This appointment is also a good time to ask travel-related questions, such as how often you should get up to walk during a flight or where to place your seatbelt for a long car ride. Pro tip: Some airlines and cruise ships have restrictions on when pregnant women can travel, so you can ask your doctor for a letter confirming your week of pregnancy at this appointment. 

photo: iStock

5. Pack Wisely
Stick to the essentials when packing so you won't have a mountain of laundry to do when you get home. You also want to be comfortable and cute! A babymoon is the perfect opportunity to refresh your wardrobe and get some basics to take you through the rest of your pregnancy and postpartum. A cute pair of Allbirds slip-ons will help ensure you are able to walk around in comfort on your babymoon. As a bonus, you will have a great pair of shoes you can put on hands-free once your bebe arrives. You can also justify picking up some new clothes to fit your growing belly, like a lounge dress or stretchy leggings from KyteBaby.

6. Plan Some Quality Couples Time
A babymoon is a great chance to strengthen your relationship with your partner. Remember what brought you together and enjoy each other's company as a couple before life changes. Take some time to talk about what you are looking forward to and what you are worrying about. If you need some ideas, The Adventure Challenge: Couples Edition is a fun scratch-off book full of ideas to make sure you don't always have the same old date night while on your babymoon.  

7. Babymoon at Home
Whether you have to stay close to home because you are on bed rest or because every extra penny is going to the baby, you can still have a great at-home babymoon. Treat your babymoon at home the same as you would if you were going out of town. Set an out-of-office auto-response for email and turn your ringer off. Plan to spend a long weekend (or more) doing nothing but pampering yourself, hanging with your main squeeze, eating all your favorite foods and binge-watching whatever you like. A long bath with candles and a weekend of lounging around can do wonders to help you reset and get ready for the next phase of pregnancy—and your baby!

—Jamie Davis Smith

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The Best Kid-Friendly Things to See & Do in National Harbor

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National Harbor is one of those rare places that really does have something for everyone. From kayaking the Potomac to family friendly dining at Bobby McKey’s, it’s the perfect spot for locals and out-of-towners to spend a few days exploring. Read on to learn about some of our favorite things to do and see at National Harbor!

photo: National Harbor

Shop & Eat!
National Harbor is full of restaurants and shopping. Some highlights include Savannah's Candy Kitchen featuring old-fashioned favorites like giant caramel apples, ice cream, candy by the pound, chocolates and more. Another family-friendly choice is Bobby McKey's kids and teen shows that include food, drink and entertainment for a flat fee. There is something for everyone. Plenty of causal restaurants from fast food to pizza are available in addition to white tablecloth dining with views of the harbor. When it comes to shopping check out Build-A-Bear at National Harbor and a number of gift and clothing stores perfect for browsing. For even more shopping check out Tangier Outlets just down the street from National Harbor.

National Harbor Restaurants and Shops
Online: nationalharbor.com

Bike the Sights
Bicycles are a great way to get around National Harbor. Bring your own or rent a bike from one of the Capital Bike Share sites scattered around the harbor. Get a 30 day pass and enjoy unlimited bike rides for 30 days. That's more than enough time to explore!

Capital Bike Share
Online: capitalbikeshare.com

Boats Galore
National Harbor has a few different ways to see the sights by boat. Monumental Boat Tours is a unique way to take a tour of Maryland and Virginia. Kids five and up and join an adult on a two-person boat to take a curated tour of the Potomac. This two-hour self-guided tour will take you past Mount Vernon, a lighthouse, Fort Washington and more. No boating experience is necessary but you may get wet! If you would rather have someone else steering the boat rent a FloatBoat360 for two hours. Up to seven can cruise the Potomac with a guide. Be sure to pack snacks! FloatBoat360 comes complete with a table, cooler and chairs for a leisurely ride.

Boating at National Harbor
Online: nationalharbor.com/play-locations/boating-in-dc

Watersports Adventures
National Harbor is a great destination for water activities. Rent a single or double kayak or an adorable duck-shaped paddle boat. Kids eight and up can try their hand a stand up paddle board or hydrobike. Any of these are a great way to add some adventure to a trip to National Harbor and try something new.

Boating In DC
Online: boatingindc.com

 

photo: Gaylord National

Make it a Staycation
Gaylord National is a destination itself. For locals it's the perfect place for a staycation. For those visiting from out of town, it's a family-friendly place to use as home base while visiting the DC area. Gaylord National features an indoor pool, soaring atrium with nightly light shows, a family-friendly rooftop lounge and more. It's the perfect jumping off spot to explore the rest of National Harbor no matter where you live! Insider Tip: Check for seasonal events hosted by Gaylord National. Past events have included a pop-up 80s themed lounge, an outdoor light display, breakfast with the Grinch, and an annual winter wonderland featuring larger than life ice displays. Even if you don't stay at Gaylord you can still enjoy much of what the hotel has to offer.

Gaylord National
Online: marriott.com

Experience the Capital Wheel
The Capital Wheel offers unique soaring views of the National Mall, National Harbor and Alexandria. Families get their own climate-controlled gondola. If you are afraid of heights you can ride with confidence knowing that there is a panic button in case you need to get off quickly. However, the ride is so smooth and the views are so impressive that you will probably forget your fears and enjoy the ride.  Even if you don't go for a ride be sure to look for Capital Wheel at night when it is illuminated and lights up the harbor. Insider tip: Check the Capital Wheel's website for information about their VIP car featuring leather seats and periodic specials.

The Capital Wheel
Online: thecapitalwheel.com

Ride the Carousel 
One of the best kept secrets in the DC area is the carousel at National Harbor. For under $10.00 kids get unlimited rides for the entire day on National Harbor's gorgeous Americana-themed carousel. Even better, parents ride free! Insider tip: The carousel is located within a pavilion that also has a playground and a shaded picnic area prefect for snacks.

National Harbor Carousel
Online: thecapitalwheel.com/carousel

Visit the Beach
National Harbor really does have it's very own beach. While you can't go swimming there is sand galore for kids to dig. National Harbor's beach also features the iconic statue The Awakening. Kids love climbing on the statue's 70' hands emerging from the sand. This is a great spot to spot a beautiful sunset over the harbor or to watch the Capital Wheel.

Look for Special Events
There is always something special happening at National Harbor! It's a popular spot for annual events like the UniverSoul Circus, ICE!, the Water Lantern Festival, outdoor movies, story time, outdoor fitness classes and more. Be sure to check out National Harbor's special events page to get the most out of your visit.

National Harbor Special Events
Online: www.nationalharbor.com/events

—Jamie Davis Smith

featured photo: Toddlin’ Across America 

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