8 Super-Neat Factory Tours for Kids

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If you’ve exhausted every episode of “How It’s Made” and your “Curious George” is still on the hunt for more details, consider one of these nearby factory tours, where you can learn the ins-and-outs of everything from the chocolate bars to dollar bills.

Photo: Turkey Hill

Turkey Hill Ice Cream
Be a Turkey Hill ice cream maker for a day on this unforgettable tour. You’ll learn all about dairy culture, sit in a milk truck, milk a mechanical cow and even star in a Turkey Hill commercial. Most importantly, you’ll visit the Turkey Hill taste lab to create your own flavor.

301 Linden St. (Columbia, Pa)
Online: turkeyhillexperience.com

Snyder’s of Hanover
Pretzels, baby! Your kids have probably eaten hundreds of them, but here’s a chance to watch (and smell) them as they bake in a large pretzel oven. You’ll tour all the rooms where Snyder’s products are made and watch as they’re sorted and packaged. And there are plenty of free samples too!

1350 York St. (Hanover, Pa)
Online: snydersofhanover.com

SPAGnVOLA Chocolateir
Learn how cocoa beans are cultivated and harvested, and then watch those beans transform into some of the tastiest chocolate around. See how chocolate is shaped into all of your favorite candies, from truffles to bonbons to bar. Yes, you can load up on samples!

360 Main St. (Gaithersburg, Md)
Online: spagnvola.com/

Photo: Paul Reed Smith Guitars

Paul Reed Smith Guitars
Novices and experts alike will learn a lot from this detailed tour of guitar production. Walk through the production line for a sneak peak at how electric guitars, acoustic guitars and amplifiers are made and manufactured. At the end of the tour, you get to test an assortment of guitars. Don’t be surprised if your little Jimi Hendrix asks you to buy one

380 Log Canoe Cir. (Stevensville, Md)
Online: prsguitars.com

Zeke’s Coffee
Your kids don’t have to be coffee drinkers (they will be soon enough) to enjoy touring Zeke’s roastery, where coffee beans are continuously agitated by a stream of hot air to create what looks like a coffee bean fountain. You’ll watch the the beans go from the roaster to the bag, and every step in between.

3003 Montebello Ter. (Baltimore, Md)
Online: zekescoffee.com

Photo: Harper Macaw Chocolate

Harper Macaw Chocolate
Get up-close-and-personal with Harper Macaw’s chocolate-making process at this in-depth tour from a conservation-minded chocolatier. Learn how Harper Macaw works to produce the finest chocolate flavor using pre-and-post-harvest practices that are environmentally and economically sustainable. You’ll get an in-depth look at the meticulous craft of turning cocoa into edible art.

3160 Bladensburg Rd., NE
Online: harpermacaw.com

Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Next time you say to your little one, Hey, I’m not a money factory!” you can follow that with:but I’ll take you to see one.” At the Bureau of Printing and Engraving you can walk along a gallery overlooking the production floor as millions upon millions of dollars are made. It’s mesmerizing for grown-ups and minis alike. Sorry, no samples to take home.

14th and C Sts., S.W
Online: moneyfactory.gov

Route 11 Potato Chips 
Take a chip trip to Route 11, where potato chips are hand-cooked right in front of you. While you aren’t able to walk through the factory itself, you can watch the chips in progress from large observation windows. Yes, there are plenty of yummy samples to try. Call in advance for a reservation.

11 Edwards Way (Mount Jackson, Va)
Online: rt11.com

Do you know of any other cool factory tours open to the public? Tell us in the comments section below. 

—Jamy Bond

Hello, Skinny Jeans! Local Gyms with Childcare

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Sure, you’ve got some baby weight still to lose ((just a little!) and you wish your arms were more muscular, but no one can blame you for never going to the gym because you don’t have a babysitter to watch the kids while you enjoy a workout, right? Wrong. Many of the latest and greatest health clubs wipe that excuse away with in-house childcare. It’s like a play date at the gym and you walk away stronger, leaner and happier. Here’s a list of area healthcare clubs that take the stress of childcare off your shoulders so you can lift a few extra pounds at the bench.

photo: Lifetime Fitness

Lifetime Fitness

Lifetime Fitness takes a holistic approach to staying fit and that includes a family-oriented workout environment. The Lifetime Kids program engages your little ones in a variety of healthy activities while you work out. The Child Center is open to children 3 months to 11 years and features different zones with active learning experiences that include games, arts and crafts, pretend play and tummy time for infants, along with more structured play for older children. This isn’t just childcare; it’s an active learning program. You can work out with ease, knowing that your children are benefiting from positive role models in an engaging environment that inspires youngsters to make healthy life choices.

7220 Lee DeForest Dr. (Columbia, Md)
410-953-0022
Online: lifetimefitness.com

photo: April Hasson via FB

Barre3

This Georgetown studio that features body-shaping classes through a unique mix of yoga, Pilates and the ballet barre, offers childcare with experienced staff for ages 6 weeks through 8 years. The cost is $5 per class or you can purchase a 10-pack for $45. The service is available for most weekday classes and many weekend classes. Reservations are highly recommended and you can do it all online.

1100 Wisconsin Ave. NW (Georgetown)
202-450-3905
Online: barre3.com 

photo: Women's Center

The Women's Club

With a name like The Women’s Club, you would expect them to offer childcare and you would be right. Childcare is offered 7 days a week with no reservations necessary. You can breeze in at any time and pump some iron while your little ones enjoy everything from musical activities, to fitness classes, to computer games, to arts and crafts, and more. There’s a separate infant room with diaper changing services for children 3 years and under. The cost is $5 for one child and $4 for each additional child. Or you can have unlimited access for $9.50 bi-weekly for one child and $5 bi-weekly for each additional child (billed with your monthly dues).

14175 Sullyfield Cir., Ste. 100 (Chantilly, Va)
703-817-0700
Online: thewomens-club.com

photo: X-Sport

XSport Fitness

XSport Fitness has just about everything you could want in a gym, including a very active play area for their “littlest” members that features interactive toys, videos, and a tot-friendly climbing wall. And if there’s one thing that could make free childcare while you work out even better, XSport Fitness has that too: you can watch your child on closed-circuit TV monitors while she plays and you sweat. Yes, you read that right. With five different Northern Virginia locations, you really have no reason not to be in shape!

4300 King St. (Alexandria, Va)
703-922-9333
Online: xsportfitness.com

photo: Sport and Health

Sport and Health

Here’s a place where you can spend a couple of hours working up a sweat and know that your kids are having a good time too. Sport & Health’s Kidz Klub features a well-maintained play area with separate spaces for older and younger children, including cribs, swings and lots of toys. And it’s all included in your membership fees!

4001 Brandywine St., NW
202-244-6090
Online: sportandhealth.com 

Does your gym have a daycare? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

–Jamy Bond

 

Gone Spelunking: 6 Area Caves to Explore

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If your kids love getting down and dirty, then spelunking is a great way to let them play in the dirt while learning about science. Spelunking is a fancy way of saying “underground cave exploration, and our area has some of the most amazing caves in the country. Limestone rock formations create a landscape that will take your breath away. And if you’re lucky, you’ll glimpse a few cave crickets—all white crickets that live completely in the dark. Different caves offer different experiences. Some you can easily walk through without getting dirty, while others let you don a hard hat and a head lamp as you squeeze through narrow, muddy spaces. Whatever your preference, here are some that are open year-round and well worth exploring.

Photo: Luray Caverns

Luray Caverns
Originally discovered in 1878, Luray Caverns is the largest series of caverns in the Eastern US, featuring multiple rooms filled with amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Some rooms have ceilings that are 10 stories high. Luray is a popular tourist spot, and if you’re looking for an easy caving experience (Grandma can do it!) then this is your spot. Don’t miss the Great Stalacpipe Organ, a stalactite formation that sings when you gently tap it. There are other fun things here too, including a garden 

maze, rope adventure park, and the Luray Valley Museum.

101 Cave Hill Rd. (Luray, Va)
340-743-6551
Cost: $14 and up
Online: luraycaverns.com

Lost World Caverns
If you’ve experienced some of the easier caving tours and you’re interested in a more adventurous experience, then take the Wild Cave Tour at Lost World Caverns. These tours let you explore the undeveloped parts of the cavern with an expert guide who leads you on an unforgettable 4-hour trip through more than a mile of chambers and passageways. This tour requires some strength and agility as you negotiate narrow spaces with names such as The Birth Canal, The Squeeze Box and The Drain. You’ll get up-close and personal with some spectacular formations. No special equipment is needed. Lost World provides helmets, lights, knee pads and gloves. Be sure to wear athletic clothes and expect to emerge from this tour covered in a whole lot of mud.
907 Lost World Rd. (Lewisburg, Wv)
304-645-6677

Cost: $6 kids 6-12; $12 adults; $79 for Wild Tours (must be 10 and up)
Online: lostworldcaverns.com

Photo: Shenandoah Caverns

Shenandoah Caverns
Like Luray, Shenandoah offers an easy caving experience (they even have an elevator). Take a guided one-hour tour through 17 amazing rooms and see some truly unique formations, including the infamous Bacon Room, where limestone formations look exactly like sizzling pieces of bacon (really), as well as the gorgeous Rainbow Lake where your little ones will squeal at the pink and purple light display. The caverns are a comfortable 54 degree year round. There’s also a museum and café here. Combine your tour with a scenic drive through the Shenandoah Valley for the ultimate above and below ground experience.

261 Caverns Rd. (Quicksurg, Va)
Cost: $12 for kids, 6-12; $24 for adults, $21; under 5 free
Online: shenandoahcaverns.com

Grand Caverns
As one of the the oldest operating caves, Grand Caverns beneath the Shenandoah Valley has an impressive array of limestone shield formations and other features such as flowstone, stalactites and stalagmites. You’ll also find lots of other fun activities here, including swimming, fishing, hiking and mini-golf, all in a beautiful park setting. On the first Saturday in October, you can attend the Fall Festival, as well as a fancy ball in the Grand Ballroom. On the first Saturday in December, you can experience Caroling Caverns when carolers sing Christmas carols throughout the caves.

5 Grand Caverns Blvd. (Grottoes, Va)
540-249-5705
Cost: $11 for kids 6-12; $20 for adults; under 6 free
Online: grandcaverns.com

Photo: Endless Caverns

Endless Caverns
If you’d like a weekend camping getaway with an added caving adventure, then Endless Caverns is your place. The property maintains 148 wooded pull-through and back-in RV sites, along with a large swimming pool and hiking trails. The six-mile long cave that rests at the foot of Virginia’s Massanutten Mountain features a 75-minute guided tour through tunnels, channels, and beautiful rock formations by knowledgeable guides who share unique geological and historical facts.

1800 Endless Caverns Rd. (New Market, Va)
540-896-2283
Cost: $9 for kids 4–12; $20 for adults; under 3/free
Online: endlesscaverns.com 

Crystal Grottoes Caverns
Overall, Crystal Grottoes is smaller and less busy than the better known Virginia caves, but it has more formations per square foot than any other cave known to man. It’s also the only cave in the whole state of Maryland. Located near Boonsboro, a quaint town just 63 miles outside of D.C., you can combine a caving trip with stops at several important civil war sites, a hike on the nearby Appalachian Trail, or some antique shopping for a fun weekend excursion.

19821 Shepherdstown Pike (Boonsboro, Md)
301-432-6336
Cost: $10 for kids 11 and under; $20 for adults (cash only)
Online: crystalgrottoescaverns.com

Have you been spelunking at any of these caves? Tell us about your experience below. 

—Jamy Bond

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Ordering in? Tired of the same ol’ same ol’? We know how you can put pizazz in pizza night or turn up the taste on taco Tuesdays. Thanks to all the food delivery services sprouting up across the city, you can have just about anything you want for dinner without ever leaving the house. Here’s our list of kid-friendly food delivery choices that will keep their bellies warm and you out of the kitchen.

Photo: Totilladora

Tortilladora
Take Taco Tuesday to a new level by having delicious taco ingredients ready to assemble and delivered to your door. Choose from three different meal kits. Steak Tacos, Pork Tacos, or Mushroom Risotto and Achno Beans. Yum!

1369 New York Ave., NE (Ivy City)
202-710-1220
Online: myfavoritetaco.com
Delivery times: Tue.-Sun.; order 24 hours in advance.
Cost: $25 minimum for delivery

Photo: Sprig and Sprout

Sprig and Sprout
Make order-in night a little healthier with this fresh alternative to ramen noodles. Kids love noodles, and Sprig and Sprout lets you build your own Pho bowls by choosing your favorite broth, sauce, meat and veggies, plus additional add-ons that will fire up the flavor. There are three menus you can order from: regular, vegetarian-n-vegan, and gluten-free, so everyone in the family will find their favorite pho.

2317 Wisconsin Ave., NW
202-333-2569
Online: sprigandsproutdc.com
Delivery times: Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun.-Mon., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Photo: Chaia

Chaia

Farm to taco is the motto for this popular vegetarian and vegan café. Customers swear by the deliciousness of their creative and healthy taco dishes, so here’s a chance to turn taco night into veggie night without the kids even realizing it. Choose from taco flavors such as mushroom feta, creamy kale and potato, cumin-roasted cauliflower, and roasted beet.

3207 Grace St., NW
202-333-5222
Online: chaiadc.com
Delivery times:
Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.–9 p.m.

Photo: Chopt DC

Chopt Creative Salad
Turn your kids on to the wonders of salad through Chopt, where you can craft your own colorful salad bowl full of your favorites things. Choose from a handful of greens, such as kale, arugula or spinach, and a huge list of fun toppings, such as edamame, roasted squash, and rainbow carrots. Throw on a cheese of your choice, such as blue, parmesan, or feta. Add some grains such as tri-color quinoa or soba noodles, and something that crunches, such as fried onions or pita chips Finish it with a protein such as grilled chicken, wild shrimp, or grass-fed steak, and top it with a homemade dressing such as lemon tahini or tex mex ranch. Have it delivered to your door for a new tradition: Saturday salad night!

Multiple locations across the DMV
Online: choptsalad.com
Delivery: $7.50 minimum order

Photo: We, the Pizza

We, the Pizza
There’s pizza and then there’s pizza and We, the Pizza knows the difference. Fresh, warm and full of flavor, you can keep it simple with a sausage pie, indulge your kid’s “more cheese, please” frenzy with a four-cheese pie, get sweet with honey ham and pineapple, or turn up the heat with Cajun chicken and andouille.

Capitol Hill and Crystal City
305 Penn Ave.
202-544-4008
Delivery times: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Online: wethepizza.com

Photo: Cookie Jar DC

The Cookie Jar DC
You no longer have to feel guilty for sneaking cookie dough from the mixing bowl, because The Cookie Jar DC gives you your own personal jar of edible, egg-free dough. Choose from signature flavors like snickerdoodle, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, and more. You can order online and pickup from a variety of places across the city, or choose from several delivery services that will bring it right to your door. Late night cookie fix? Check!

At Rise Bakery
2409 18th St., NW
202-316-0866
Online: thecookiejardc.com
Delivery times: Sun., 7 a.m.-10:45 a.m.; Mon.-Wed., 7 p.m.-9:45 p.m.

Do your kids have a favorite delivery spot? Tell us in the comments below. 

–Jamy Bond

10 Cool Spots for Frame Worthy Selfies

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Lose the stress of posed family photos and get creative with the latest craze: family selfies. The good thing about a family selfie is that you’ll no longer need a professional photographer and everyone still gets to be in the photo. You’re free to be goofy. Kids won’t pose or smile perfectly? Who cares, it’s just a selfie! Here are some hot spots for family photos, along with directions on ways to make the most of each shot.

Photo: S. Davis via flickr 

Washington Monument
Nothing says cool family on D.C. excursion” like a selfie with the Washington Monument in the background.

Selfie Tip: Distance! Don’t get too close or all we’ll see are white bricks. Also, try putting the monument to the side of everyone in the shot, this will avoid making it grow from the top of someone’s head (unless that’s what you’re going for). Probably the best spot is to stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

2 15th St. NW

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial with Fala
Capture your family’s puppy love through a selfie with of one of the most famous presidential pets, FDR’s beloved Scottish Terrier, Fala.

Selfie Tip: There is plenty of room to get the whole family around Fala for a selfie, and even include your own pets in the photo.

1850 West Basin Dr. SW

Albert Einstein Memorial Statue
Record your family’s love of thinking through a selfie with one of our ultimate thinkers, Albert Einstein. This charismatic statue outside of the National Academy of Sciences Building is fun to explore.

Selfie Tip: This statue is so big the whole family can climb up and find a cozy spot, and at least one lucky family member gets to sit right in the middle of Einstein’s lap!

2101 Constitution Ave. NW

Gravelly Point Park
This popular spot for picnicking and watching airplanes come in for landing at Regan National Airport is a great spot for a fun family selfie.

Selfie tip: If will take a few attempts before you’ll get just the right angle to capture your faces and a plane overhead, but keep trying. That’s the fun of it!

George Washington Pkwy. (Arlington, Va)

T Rex Dinosaur Skeleton
Life-sized dinosaur skeletons make cool pictures in and of themselves, but snapping a family selfie in the mouth of T Rex is super cool.

Selfie tip: The T Rex is posed in just a way that you can position the kids on one side of his enormous jaws while you stand with the camera on the other. It will look like he’s about to eat them!

National Museum of Natural History (10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW)

The Exorcist Steps
So maybe the kids are a little young to be fans of iconic horror films, but one day they will be older, and you’ll be able to pull out this family shot at the foot of the infamous staircase from the 1973 film The Exorcist.

Selfie tip: Take your photo at night when the streets lights glow from above the steps. Use the black and white mode on your camera for added creepiness!

Corner of Prospect St., NW and 36th St., NW (Georgetown)

Friendship Archway in Chinatown
Standing beneath this iconic feature of DC’s Chinatown makes for a dramatic family selfie.

Selfie tip: If you’re wondering how to get the whole family into the middle of a busy road for this shot, rest assured that the intersection is a four-way stop, allowing you to get into position safely for a few seconds.

H St., NW and 7th St., NW

The Bridge at Yards Park
The unique architecture of the bridge makes it a gorgeous selfie spot.

Selfie tip: Visit when a game is not happening and you’ll have the bridge to yourself. Stand at one end of the bridge and let it stretch into the sky behind you. If you time your shot for dusk, just after the lights of the bridge come on, you’ll have a gorgeous backdrop.

Water St. and 3rd St., SE

Blind Whino SW Arts Club Building
One word: color! A selfie anywhere in front of D.C.’s most colorful building will be one worth framing.

Selfie Tip: You can stand anywhere near this building and get a gorgeous rainbow of color as your back drop, but don’t just take your photo and run. Spend some time inside this urban renewal project which features outstanding art exhibits.

700 Delaware Ave., SW

Funky George Washington Mural
There are so many cool murals in Washington, DC, but nothing mixes history and color quite like this George Washington mural by artist MADSTEEZ in NoMa (north or Massachusetts Ave).

Selfie tip: Get some distance, this piece is big. Stand across the street, with the mural in the background.

331 N St. NE

Do you have a favorite family selfie spot? Tell us about it in the comments section.

–Jamy Bond

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Cooking with your children during the holidays can build important family bonds. The kitchen becomes a sacred place where you teach them about health and nutrition, build their confidence through praise and compliments, encourage generosity through sharing food, and revel in the rewards of creation. The D.C. area has several holiday-themed cooking classes to help you and your kids learn new recipes, perfect your decorating techniques, and maximize your time in the kitchen together.

Photo: Cookology

Baked Hack of Holiday Goodies
Cookology will transform your family into a team of culinary wizards as you learn to make the kind of holiday goodies only found in fancy bakeries. Chef Jenna Dawson will show you the secrets of cranberry bliss bars, sugar cookie snowmen, and peppermint mocha treats.

Date: Nov. 26
Time: 1 p.m.–3 p.m.
Ages: 8 and up
Cost: $65 

Cookology
21100 Dulles Town Cir. (Sterling, Va)
703-433-1909
Online: classes.cookologyonline.com

Family Gingerbread Decorating
Let Cookology deal with the stress and the mess while you and the kids learn to build and decorate the ultimate take-home gingerbread house to take home.

Date: Dec. 10
Time: 12 p.m.-2 p.m. or 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
Ages: All
Cost: $55 

Cookology
21100 Dulles Town Circle (Sterling, Va)
703-433-1909
Online: classes.cookologyonline.com

Parent/Teen Holiday Cookie Swap
Looking for a way to bond with your teen over the holidays? At L’Academie you can learn how to create some Instagram worthy cookies to share with friends and family. On the menu are perfect sugar cookies, cranberry pistachio shortbread, and peppermint chocolate cookies.

Date: Dec. 2
Time: 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Cost: $165

L’Academie de Cuisine
5021 Wilson Ln. (Bethesda, Md)
301-986-9490
Online: recreational.lacademie.com

Holiday Kids Cooking
Talk about a win/win. At D.C.’s Anthony Bowen YMCA branch, you can squeeze in a workout while your kids learn a few holiday cooking techniques. It’s part of the YMCA’s healthy lifestyle program which features a variety of cooking classes for kids and adults.

YMCA Anthony Bowen Branch
1325 W St. NW (U Street)
Online: ymcadc.org/cooking-classes

Date: Dec. 5
Time: 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Ages: 8-12
Cost: $60

Jr Chef Winter Wonderland Cupcake Workshop
Sign your tweens and teens up for a lesson in creating festive cupcakes and frostings. You’ll learn how to take delicious treats to the next level with enhanced decorating techniques. On the menu are gingerbread cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream, chocolate cupcakes with peppermint sprinkles and Santa’s red velvet cupcakes with vanilla buttercream.

Date: Dec. 19
Time: 2pm – 5pm
Cost: $65
Ages: 9 and up

Culinaria Cooking School
110 Pleasant St. NW (Vienna, Va)
703-865-7920
Online: culinariacookingschool.com

What is your favorite holiday recipe? Tell us in the comments. 

-Jamy Bond

6 Kid-Friendly Post-Thanksgiving Hikes

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What to do after your lavish Thanksgiving-day feast when that post-meal lull creeps in? Grandpa is nodding off in front of the television and you’ve got energetic, well-fed kids to entertain. It doesn’t need to be complicated. You live in an area that offers spectacular natural settings where kids can wander, and wonder, carefree. Take them on an outdoor holiday hike and give thanks for beauty of our natural world. Here are some favorite holiday day hikes where you can enjoy fall colors, fresh air, and just enough activity to earn a second slice of pie.

Photo: Virginia State Parks via flickr

Great Falls
If you really want to give thanks for nature’s magnificence, the falls at Great Falls is the perfect place. If you have older children who like to scramble over rocks, try the Billy Goat trail on the Maryland side. If you need to tone it down for little ones, stick to the riverside trails on the Virginia side. Just be sure to make a stop at the falls, because they are spectacular. ($1O per car or $5 per for walking or bikes (15 and under/free)

9200 Old Dominion Dr. (McLean, Va)
Online: nps.gov/grfa

Riverbend Park
Just a few miles down Georgetown Pike from Great Falls on the Virginia side, Riverbend is your spot if you’re looking to enjoy a river hike, but need to accommodate small kids in strollers. The park’s 2.5- mile Potomac Heritage Trail, which begins at the nature center and ends at the falls of Mather Gorge, features a paved, stroller-accessible portion called the Duff-n-Stuff. There are also picnic tables for resting, and plenty of wide open spaces for those with energy to burn.

8700 Potomac Hills St. (Great Falls, Va)
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov

Huntley Meadows
The Boardwalk Trail at Huntley Meadows runs directly over a marsh area and features plenty of cool wildlife sightings, including big, small and medium-sized turtles, stoic great blue herons, colorful cardinals and a plethora of frogs. At only a mile long, the Boardwalk is perfect for small kids and strollers. If you want longer, more challenging hikes, you’ll find plenty of those in the 1,425 acres of woods and wetlands here.

3701 Lockheed Blvd. (Alexandria, Va)
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov

Rock Creek
Hopefully, you are not new to this captivating park that run through the middle of the city. Here you’ll find 32 miles of paved paths and dirt trails designed for hiking and biking. From the two primary hiking trails, the green Western Ridge Trail and the pink Valley Trail, you can branch off onto a variety of smaller loops. We suggest you start at the park’s Nature Center where you can take the 2-mile Rapids Bridge hike, the 1.75 mile Milkhouse Ford hike, or the 3-mile Rock Creek Ramble, all of which begin and end at the same spot. If you want less hike and more unleashed exploration, take the .25-mile Wooded Trail just behind the Nature Center where you’ll discover some of the most common trees found in the park.

Nature Center
5200 Glover Rd., NW
Online: nps.gov/rocr

Patapsco Valley State Park
If variety is what you prefer, head north of the city to Patapsco Valley in Howard County. This park extends over 32 miles along the Patapsco River and features more than 70 hike-worthy trails. If you have younger kids, stick to one of the shorter 3-mile trails that follows the stream.

8020 Baltimore National Pike (Ellicott City, Md)
Online: dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands

Greenbelt Park
It may surprise you to learn that Greenbelt Park, just 15 minutes north of the city, is one of the best local spots for kid-friendly hikes. Choose from four different trails that range from one to five miles. Plus, there’s a playground you can throw into the mix. The shortest hike is the Blueberry Trail (0.8 miles) that begins at the Ranger Station. The longest hike is the Perimeter Trail that begins at the park’s entrance, but has several access points throughout the park. The Azalea Trail (1.2 miles) begins at the Sweetgum Picnic area and the Dogwood Trail (1.5 miles) begins at the parking area along Park Central Road. Pick up a map at the Ranger Station near the campground.

6565 Greenbelt Rd. (Greenbelt, Md)
Online: Greenbelt Park

Do you take a hike after Thanksgiving dinner? Tell us where you go in the comments below. 

–Jamy Bond

15 Things to Do on a Thursday

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The Wednesday hump is over, but Friday isn’t here, it’s Thursday! Here are 15 spur-of-the-moment activities to make your Thursday easy and fun with the kids. No need to plan ahead, buy tickets or pre-register, just grab the kids and drop in.

Photo: Joe Lewis via flickr

1. Visit with the Butterflies
While D.C.’s Natural History Museum has a ton of cool things to treat your kids to, nothing brings a thrill quite li
ke mingling with live butterflies. Spend a Thursday in the museum’s Butterfly Pavilion where butterflies fly freely around, landing on living plants, fresh fruits, and even your shoulder! You can purchase tickets in advance, but you don’t have to, just stop by the ticket counter just outside of the pavilion when you arrive.

Second Floor of the Natural History Museum
10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW or Madison Ave. between 9th and 12th Sts., NW
Cost: $5/kids; $6/adults
Online: naturalhistory.si.edu

2. Visit the Gardens at Tudor Place
More than five acres of landscaped beauty in Georgetown gives you an excellent opportunity to stop and smell the roses at this historic property that served as the home to six generations of descendants of George Washington’s wife. Drop in for a self-guided tour of the gardens. Stop by the Visitor Center for an annotated map.

1644 31st St. NW
202-965-0400
Cost: Self-guided tours $3; Children under 5 are free
Online: tudorplace.org

3. Play Putt Putt at East Potomac Park
Mini-golf is always a safe bet for an hour or two of fun. East Potomac Park is a glorious place that extends from the grounds of the Jefferson Memorial straight down to the point where the Potomac and Anacostia rivers merge. The park’s mini-golf course is the oldest in the nation and the only one in the District. After you play this entertaining course you can head to the Club House and Potomac Grille for a bite to eat.

972 Ohio Dr., SW
202-554-7660
Cost: Starting at $6 
Online: golfdc.com/miniature-golf 

4. Watch Money Being Made
What’s a better day than a quiet Thursday to watch money in action? You can do just that of at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing where you can see millions of dollars being printed as you walk along the gallery overlooking the production floor.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing
14
th and C Sts., SW
202-874-2330
Cost: Free
Online: bep.gov

5. Discover a Forest in the City
You can hike, run, picnic, and explore wildlife in this 1,800-acre oasis that runs smack dab through the center of our bustling city. Rock Creek features hardwood trees, a meandering brook, rocky outcrops, and majestic wildlife. Plus, there’s a Nature Center, Planetarium, Old Stone House, Peirce Mill and Barn, Carter Barron Amphitheatre and more. Visit the website to see locations throughout the city where you can enter the park.

Rock Creek Park
Online: nps.gov/rocr

                                                                                         Photo: Diann Bayes via flickr

6. Go Food Truck Hopping
You might think there’s nothing to be had at those noisy but colorful food trucks you see lined up and down the streets of downtown, but think again. If you’re looking for a Thursday food fix, you can take your taste buds on a trip around the world in the space of one city block. Choices include barbecue, seafood, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Asian fusion, funnel cakes, mac and cheese, and of course good old greasy hotdogs!

Online: Roaming Hunger Food Trucks

7. See the World Through a Lens
Stunning photography (just like the magazine) and interactive experiences are what you’ll find on a spin through this unique museum profiling explorers, photographers, and scientists all working to inspire people and preserve the planet. Photography exhibits in the Museum’s M Street gallery and outdoors are free.

National Geographic Museum
1145 17th St., NW
202-857-7700
Cost: Free
Online: www.ngmuseum.org

8. Learn about Conservation at Theodore Roosevelt Island
This 91-acre wilderness preserve honors our 26th president who made significant contributions to the conservation of public lands for forests, national parks and wildlife refuges. Hike the foot trails, see the amazing flora and fauna, and marvel at four 21-foot granite tablets inscribed with Roosevelt’s philosophy of conservation.

George Washington Memorial Parkway
703-289-2500
Cost: Free
Online: nps.gov/this

9. Paddle the Potomac River
What an amazing way to see the city on a lonely Thursday afternoon. Georgetown’s Key Bridge Boathouse lets you paddle past the Georgetown waterfront, Roosevelt Island and other DC monuments with kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards. You can make advance reservations online or you can just show up and rent by the hour.

Key Bridge Boathouse
3500 Water St. NW
202-337-9642
Cost: $20 and up
Online: boatingindc.com

Photo: CSBaltimore via flickr

10. Zip through the National Zoo
Where else but D.C. can you enjoy one of the best zoos in the country for free? Easy parking and metro accessibility (Woodley Park, red line) make this an optimal destination for a Thursday play date with the kids. See all 2,000 of the zoo’s animal friends here or make a beeline for the giant pandas (they are adorable!).

3001 Connecticut Ave., NW
Cost: Free
Online: nationalzoo.si.edu/

11. Get Interactive at SkillZone
Known as the Apple Store of play places, you can kill hours here enjoying free coffee and WiFi while the kids engage in focused play through structured classes and activities. You can reserve a space in advance or join a monthly club, but you can also just drop in and purchase a pass for the day.

709 8th St., SE
202-763-7629
Cost: $20 for a family with 1 child
Online: skillzonedc.com

12. Become an Architect at the Building Zone
If you don’t know about the National Building Museum’s popular Building Zone where have you been? This is a mama’s dream when it comes to entertaining the kids for a few hours. This hands-on introduction to the building arts is designed for ages 2-6 and features a host of imaginary play and building activities that will help your kids make sense of the world around them.

National Building Museum
401 F. St., NW
202-272-2448
Cost: $7 and up
Online: nbm.org

13. Watch Airplanes Zoom Overhead
They’re loud, they’re enormous, and they come amazingly close to your head on their way to landing at Reagan National Airport. Take a picnic and a blanket, lay down, look up, and marvel at the metal birds soaring across the sky.

Gravelly Point Park
George Washington Parkway North of Regan Airport (Arlington, Va)
703-289-2500
Cost: Free
Online: virginia.org

Photo: cdorobek via flickr

14. Play at Beauvoir Playground
You don’t have to be a student to come enjoy one of the coolest playgrounds in the city. Beauvoir encourages natural curiosity and exploration in a joyful and safe environment. No brightly colored plastic structures here. All of the equipment consists of natural materials with natural finishes intended to blend into the landscape. You can bring food and drinks to the playground, but be aware that there are no restrooms.

Washington National Cathedral Elementary School
3500 Woodley Rd., NW
202-537-6485
Cost: Free
Online: beauvoirschool.org

15. Follow the Yellow Brick Road at Watkins Regional Park
This Wizard of Oz-themed park lets you follow the yellow brick road through an Oz-like experience with ruby red slipper slides, an Emerald City of climbing walls, slides, tunnels and bridges and more. Adjacent to the Oz park you’ll find a miniature train, an antique carousel, a nature center and the Old Maryland Farm where you can interact with cows, donkeys, llamas and rabbits.

301 Watkins Park Dr. (Upper Marlboro, Md)
301-218-6770
Cost: Free
Online: pgparks.com

What’s your favorite Thursday activity? Tell us in the comments. 

–Jamy Bond

Read next

Yes, D.C.’s Smithsonian Zoo is free and awesome and if you haven’t paid a visit you must go (Pandas!). But if you’ve been there, done that, and you need a unique animal-loving fix, consider a visit to the Metro Richmond Zoo, one of the largest and most unique in our area that’s just a quick two-hour drive south of the city. With more than 2,000 animals spread across 70 acres of land, answering the call of the wild can feel a bit overwhelming. Here are five places to get started. 

#1 The Feeding Giraffes
One feature that makes this zoo so popular and fun is the ample opportunity you’ll have to interact with a variety of animals. In the African Plains section, which features addax, impala, zebra, and kudu, along with storks, cranes, ostriches, cheetahs and elephants, you can actually feed the giraffes from a special platform. The zoo houses a herd of nine reticulated giraffe and they are all too happy to nibble some pre-purchased treats from your hand. You can also feed deer, goats, sheep, donkeys and antelope in the children’s farm area.

#2 Monkey Business
Primates are a favorite here and you’ll find rows of lemurs, marmosets, tamarins, New and Old World monkeys, as well as quite a few apes, including siamangs, orangutans, and chimpanzees. You can get up-close-and-personal (but maintain a modicum of safety) through a glass window with Farley and Zoe, two goofy orangutans.

#3 Birds of a Feather…
If birds are your thing, you’ll marvel at the Chilean flamingos and African penguins, and a walk-through aviary of ducks, pheasants, ibises, and spoonbills. The kids will love being able to enter the budgie exhibit and feed the brightly-colored budgerigars, aka parakeets, from feed sticks.

#4 Cats Steal the Show
Favor cute things with whiskers? You’ll enjoy the fact that Metro Richmond Zoo is a Cheetah Breeding Center and has gained worldwide attention for facilitating multiple births of adorable cheetah cubs.

#5 Hitch a Ride
Perhaps the ultimate interactive el
ement at Metro Richmond Zoo is the newly added Treetop Zoofari zip line adventure, where you can zip from tree to tree like Tarzan and get a bird’s eye view of the animals. But if zip lining requires a little too much adrenaline for you, take advantage of the zoo’s Safari Sky Ride, which will give you a similar view, but from the comfort of a moving seat. Or if you prefer to stay closer to the ground, you can take the safari train for a special view of India and Chinese natives, such as blackbuck, mouflon, Himalayan tahr and takin. Impress your little ones by mentioning that the takin is considered a national treasure in China, much like the giant pandas.

Metro Richmond Zoo
8300 Beaver Bridge Rd. (Moseley, Va)
Open: Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Cost: $17.25; kids ages 2-11/$11.25
804-739-5666
Online: metrorichmondzoo.com

Have you visited this zoo yet? Tell us about your favorite part in the comments below. 

–Jamy Bond