Giveaway: National Geographic Museum Presents Spinosaurus

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Published: 10/08/2014
Because I grew up in the Washington, DC area, I am something of a brat about paying for museums.  We have all these fantastic Smithsonians! They're free! Well, I mean, taxes, but they're free!! The first time we went to Philadelphia with a friend and I had to pay for a museum I just stared at the woman in horror- what do you mean there's an admission fee?? 


In the meantime, the Smithsonian Natural History Museum has shut it's dinosaur exhibit for cleaning and several museums have opened in DC that charge admission, including the National Geographic Museum, which is currently displaying Spinosaurus. 

And here's the thing about pay museums you guys, they do a nice job.  The exhibits are lovely and frequently feature interactive technology or very cool models.  The museum isn't packed to the brim the way the Smithsonians are frequently overflowing with people.  It's actually really lovely. 

 We learned that there are fossil stores in Morocco.  You can just go and buy gemstones and fossil parts.  Apparently you can't take them out of the country, but everybody does.  We are currently planning an imaginary field trip to Morocco, although if everyone wants to buy ads so I can actually go, I'm cool with that, too!
We loved learning about how this full-scale model was built using a 3D printer.  We would like to have a 3D printer at home, but will settle for watching videos about scanning fossils and printing dinosaurs.  That's pretty awesome. 
 Mandatory "Oh No! The Dino Got Logan!" picture.

 There are two other sections to the National Geographic Museum.  While we were there, they were redoing the International Food Exhibit.  Mars Up Close was open, though, and it's a very small, but interesting section and displays models of the various Mars rovers.

This is the outdoor model of Spinosaurus.  He's pretty cool and lets you know where to park ;) (17th and M)

So, overall, I would say that the National Geographic Museum is worth a look.  If you're paying to go, I would confirm that all the exhibits are open.  It's well done but small, and I would have been disappointed if I paid for admission and there was a section closed.  

Tickets are $11 for adults and $7 for children, or you can add a 3D movie (Admission/Movie is $16 adults, $12 kids).  The exhibits are well-done and the information is great.  The kids enjoyed walking through, and you can see everything in the museum in about 1-2 hours, depending on how much you're reading.  The gift shop is also very nice, if you're into that, which my kids totally are. 

If you want to go for less, group rates and field trips for schools are available. 

If you think your children would enjoy checking out Spinosaurus, you can enter using the Rafflecopter below to win your own family 4 pack of tickets to check out the National Geographic Museum in DC! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As always, by entering you agree to be bound by our giveaway rules, which you can read by clicking here. PwcMoms was provided with free admission to complete our review, but all opinions are our own.  PwcMoms is not responsible for DC traffic, your child deciding he wants a 3D printer for Christmas, your child deciding to never pay off their student loans because they're going to be a paleontologist and live in a tent in Africa, but we are happy to be fully responsible if you have a fantastic time, so let us know what you think if you go!

Touch a Truck (and a Giveaway!!)

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Published: 09/10/2014

Discovery Junction children's museum is hosting a Touch a Truck on Sunday, September 21 from 10am-2pm at NOVA Manassas! Admission is $5/child, the first 100 children will get a free diecast vehicle, and there will be vehicles, kid-friendly activities, food, demos, and more! Join the fun!

Want to win a family four pack? We'll pick two winners!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize provided by Discovery Junction.  By entering you agree to be bound by our Giveaway Rules.

Free Children's Day at Weems Botts Museum

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Published: 08/05/2014

Children's Museum of Richmond Fredericksburg Location

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Published: 07/21/2014

Giveaway: The Big Build/National Building Museum

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Published: 09/18/2013

Saturday, September 21, 10 am–4 pm

Be a builder for the day at the Big Build festival! Amateur builders young and old can discover what it’s like to build a brick wall, carve stone, hammer nails, and much more as they work side by side with designers, builders, and artisans demonstrating their skills. Meet plumbers, electricians, ironworkers, landscape architects, woodworkers, and experts in many other fields to learn about their professions and hobbies. At this year’s Big Build festival you can:
  • Climb aboard cranes and tractors
  • Build a brick wall
  • Construct a log cabin
  • Plant a tree and autumn plants
  • Carve stone
  • Imagine living in a tiny 500-square-foot house
  • Compete in a nail driving contest
  • Create a hardware wind chime to take home

New This Year

The Big Build Scavenger Hunt
Kids can pick up a construction hard hat from the Association of General Contractor’s table and collect stickers or signatures on their hat from the demonstrations and activities they participate in. Collect five and receive a prize!

Sidewalk Chalk City
What type of building or feature would you contribute to a cityscape? City streets will be marked on the G Street sidewalk just waiting for your chalk creation.

Getulio! A children’s play
Meet Getulio, the youngest of the Piccirilli brothers who carved the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. It’s a daunting task trying to carve the 19 foot statue on his own. Lend a hand and it just might get done.

Book Reading and Signing by author Isabel Hill
Isabel Hill will read her new book, Urban Animals of Washington, D.C. Join her to find the great architectural details that exist in our own neighborhoods. A book signing will follow the reading.
The Big Build goes green
This year, the Big Build festival goes green, celebrating the Green Schools exhibition with activities and demonstrations that explore how the construction industry helps preserve our resources. New exhibitors include Perkins+Will, Forbo Flooring, Love & Carrots, Little Main Street Playhouses, and Ideaventions.


Free access to the Great Hall,
historic building tours,
Museum Shop, & cafe.
Exhibition admission:
$8 for adults
$5 for youth, students, & seniors
$3 a person for Building Zone only
Free for Museum members.

And we've got a family 4 pack of tickets for the museum!! Enter by leaving your favorite thing to build with your child in the comments below.  Be sure to LEAVE YOUR EMAIL (do it like this: kristinalsk(at)yahoo no need to do the @ or put .com, I know the email extensions!) or make sure you'll check facebook to find the winner! Tickets are good for any day's admission, not just the big build. Winner will be selected Friday morning.

Giveaway Rules.  We haz 'em. 
This prize is provided by the National Building Museum, and this giveaway is not affiliated with Apple, the iTunes store, Android, Google Play, Facebook, or any other entity or business.  Winner is responsible for transportation and any additional purchases at the museum.  Entrants agree to be bound by all rules and regulations by entering. Good luck!

Free Weekend at Weems-Botts September 14/15, 2013

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Published: 09/08/2013

Guest Post: Toddler Tyme at the Manassas Museum

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Published: 07/31/2013

We have been pleasantly surprised with the Toddler Thyme program at the Manassas Museum this summer.  The title is a bit misleading as the classes are for children ages 3-5 years old (they said they are looking to change it for next time), but Love Bug (who is a little over 2 years old) was allowed to join since Sweet Girl was signed up for the classes.  The classes cost $10 per child. 

The classes are being held every Monday during the summer and there's something for everyone!  Themes range from railroads to life on the farm to pirates to police.  Classes are offered at two different times and last one hour.  One class is at 10:00 am and the other begins at 11:15 am.

The class is run by two young ladies who work for the museum.  Each class usually starts off with a book about the week's theme.  Then, we sing songs and/or do fingerplays.  Next, the children are invited to a table set up with supplies to do a craft.  Sometimes, we have done two crafts in one sitting if they are "small" crafts.  Other times, we have taken a break to play games or do something more active.  The class typically ends with one more story and then children are given a special take-home surprise before the class ends.

The children are throughly engaged for the entire hour.  They are learning new things about the theme of the week, practicing their good listening skills, taking turns, standing in line and using both fine and gross motor skills with the art projects and games.

I have to admit that I wasn't too sure about paying $10 per class for each child, but it is well worth it in my opinion.  The young ladies that run the class remember my girls' names and they are so friendly.  They work very well together and do a good job of keeping the children engaged for the full hour.  I like how parts (or all) of the classes are held outside--if the weather permits it.  The girls have loved the activities and proudly display their crafts at home.  The girls also look forward to the special take-home surprise at the end of each class.  We always leave class happy and excited about the theme of the week.

There is still time to try out this wonderful program, but there are only four more classes left this summer.  If you are interested in joining a class, check out the Manassas Museumwebsite.  They do recommend that you register in advance.

Side note:  There is a wonderful playground and picnic area that is open to the public behind the museum.  It's a great place to run around if you get to class a bit early or to have a picnic after class.
You'll walk past the beautiful Butterfly Garden on your way to the playground.
The playground and picnic area.
Check out the fun we've had at Toddler Tyme!
(Edit from Kristina: Visit Angela's Blog for pictures to go with each event- there were simply too many for me to copy and share each one!)
Craft:  Circus collage with stickers, paper and stamping
Games/Activities:  Circus songs, Pin the Tail on the Lion, Three-ring Beanbag Toss and Tight-rope Walking
Take-home surprise:  Circus animal tatoos
LIFE ON THE FARM (held at Liberia Plantation)
Craft:  Fuzzy Lamb 
Games/Activities:  Frog Fingerplay with frog finger puppets, Trying out a butter churn, Making real butter and Milking a pretend cow 
Take-home surprise:  Real lamb's wool
Craft:  Ocean sticker collage and Paper Plate Rainbow Fish 
Games/Activities:  Fish Fingerplay with finger puppets, Parachute fun with Blow-up Sea Animals and Magnetic Fishing 
Take-home surprise:  Fish tatoo and a fish or toad squeaky toy
Craft:  Pirate Hats, Paper Parrots and Pirate Coloring Page
Games/Activities:  Fingerplay, How to talk like a pirate and a Treasure Hunt with real "treasure" at the end!

Take-home surprise:  A "treasure chest" filled with loot:  play money, eye patch, necklace, tatoo, Manassas Bull Run Civil War patch

About the Author: 
The Master's Daughter, Angela Pounders, loves teaching and sharing her ideas with others. After working various teaching-type jobs, she now uses her God-given gifts with her children at home.

Disclaimer: This was an uncompensated post from a guest author.  All opinions are her own.  Visit Angela Pounders, aka "The Master's Daughter" at her website or on facebook

Kentucky: The Creation Museum

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Published: 07/27/2013
After we left West Virginia, we headed through Pennsylvania and Ohio into Kentucky, where we checked out the Creation Museum.  We homeschool, and I teach my kids multiple theories of creation, including the Big Bang, Evolution, and Creationism, offering them background and research on each one, so I was excited to bring them to check out this museum.  The Creation Museum is a gorgeous facility and focuses on Young Earth Creationism, or the idea that a literal interpretation of the Bible makes the Earth about 6,000 years old.  I realize that this post might not be for everyone, so if it's not for you, no need to start a fight, just move on to the next post.  Deal?
A lot of the museum was what I was expecting, there were beautiful exhibits showing diversity of species, there were some great exhibits detailing the differences between Natural Selection and Evolution, and there were a few great panels talking about the potential problems with radio-carbon dating as evidence of the age of the Earth.
There were some excellent collections of species diversity, and the kids really liked the displays with the insects.

When you enter the museum, there is a display on Lucy, and then there is a tunnel showing some modern issues that have arisen because of a lack of adherence to Biblical morals (they're mostly magazine covers with news stories about school shootings, etc).  After that, there is a room with some church history, and eventually you walk through a version of the Garden of Eden and a replica of Noah's Ark.

Many of the rooms feature animatronic people or animals, which are really neat.  Several of the characters will talk to you and let you ask preselected questions off a touch-screen in front of them, which the kids really enjoyed.
After you exit these portions of the museum, you enter into more exhibits detailing the differences between Creationism and Big Bang/Evolution, which was where most of the apologetics I was hoping we'd see were located.
Unfortunately, I had pretty much lost my kids at that point.  They did okay in the first room with images depicting problems we have in the world (see picture above) although the younger two found it slightly scary.  However, there's a room you walk through after the fall in the garden with video footage being projected onto the walls, and as far as I could tell, there wasn't really a way around it.  When we walked through, it was images of concentration camp victims and wars, and my two youngest were overwhelmed by it.  It would be really great if there was some kind of warning about what you were walking into, or an optional route for parents whose children might be particularly sensitive to strong images. If I had it to do over again, I would have taken my children though backwards, so we started with the exhibits on bugs, dinosaurs, and rocks, and then worked my way back, and skipped the images room and gone back to the beginning.
Photo Credit: Creation Museum

The Creation Museum has more than just the museum, although it was hot the day we went, so we opted to stay with just the indoor activities.  There's a beautiful botanical garden, a petting zoo, camel rides, a zip line, a planetarium, and frequent workshops and events for all ages.  There are also several movies that take place both as part of the tour and throughout the day, which are posted in the day's schedule.  You could easily spend an entire day here and have a lot of fun, both inside and out.  The entire museum facility is beautifully done and meticulously maintained.  Tickets are $29.95 for adults, $23.95 for seniors, $15.95 for children ages 5-12, and 5 and under are free.  Adults get $5 off on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and all tickets are valid for two days.  The planetarium is an additional fee. There are some special promotions, as well, with Mothers free on Mother's Day, Fathers free on Father's Day, everyone free on Christmas Eve Day, and Veterans free on Veteran's Day, Independence Day, and Memorial Day.

Wether your children would enjoy seeing familiar stories brought to life, or your older children would benefit from the apologetics, this museum is very well done, with the exception of the two rooms I mentioned being too much for younger children.  There were lots of younger children at the museum the day we went who didn't seem bothered, though, so it may have just been us.

Disclaimer: We were provided with tickets to attend the museum, but all opinions are my own.

February 2013 at the National Children's Museum

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Published: 02/03/2013

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD (Jan. 23, 2013) – Throughout the month of February, the National Children’s Museum (NCM) will feature innovative programming that aims to introduce children to different forms of music and dance.

Unless otherwise noted, all programs will take place at the National Children’s Museum at 151 St. George Blvd. at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Md. Tickets are available at the NCM box office and can also be purchased online in advance for weekend visits and days when attendance will be at capacity. If timed entry tickets are sold out online, tickets may still be available for purchase in person in advance for the next available admission time. For more information, visitors may go to, email or call the museum’s main number at 301.392.2400.

Free Family Night sponsored by GEICO
Friday, Feb. 15, 5-6:30 p.m., 6:30-8 p.m.
Families can enjoy free admission to the museum as well as hands-on activities and interactive play in the NCM theatre and exhibit areas. February’s Free Family Night will celebrate Festival of Nations. Please note: Families can attend one of two 90-minute shifts from either 5-6:30 p.m. or 6:30-8 p.m. Free tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the NCM box office beginning at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15. The museum will close for half an hour at 4:30 p.m. to give staff time to prepare for the event. 

Guest Performance: Cantaré’s ¡Mucha Música!
Saturday, Feb. 16, 11-11:30 a.m. and 1-1:30 p.m.
Celebrate Festival of Nations Week with Cantaré's ¡Mucha Música!, a 30-minute musical journey to Latin America. Each exciting, interactive performance will introduce families to the musical heritage of the Caribbean, Central and South America, Cantaré performs songs in Spanish and Portuguese and shares the music's cultural and historical background. Sharing in the same mission of the museum’s Our Worldexhibit, ¡Mucha Música! highlights cultural differences while also communicating the rich fusion that results when diverse traditions come together. Both performances will take place in the NCM Theatre; no separate tickets are required.

Guest Performance: Green Golly & Her Golden Flute
Monday, Feb. 18, 11-11:30 a.m. and 1-1:30 p.m.
This child-friendly introduction to classical music, created and performed by Keith Torgan and Barbara Siesel, inspires children to listen actively and imagine creatively. Based on the story of Rapunzel, Green Golly & Her Golden Flute tells the story of a girl who finds musical inspiration every day life. Both performances will take place in the NCM Theatre; no separate tickets are required.

NCM Celebrates Presidents’ Day
Monday, Feb. 18, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Events will take place throughout the day)
Visitors can learn about the rich history of the U.S. presidency and what it takes to hold one of the most important jobs in the country. Families can explore the Museum’s large library of presidential-themed books, create artwork from presidential shapes and household objects and write biographies about their favorite presidents.

In addition to its monthly programming, the museum will also begin offering field trip programs on Tuesday, Feb. 12. Field trips are available Tuesday-Friday from 10-11:30 a.m. and
11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.  Admission is $8 per child and $10 per adult, with one adult receiving free admission for every five children. For reservations or more information, educators can contact or 301.392.2450.

The National Children's Museum has served more than 30,000 visitors since opening in December 2012. The museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Labor Day and Memorial Day. During the summer months, the museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Standard admission is $10 per child or adult and $8 for seniors ages 65 and up. There is no cost of admission for infants 12 months or younger.

# # #

About National Children’s Museum
The National Children’s Museum (NCM) is a world-class cultural and educational center ( that inspires children to care about and improve the world. NCM opened in Dec. 2012 at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Md. After operating as a “museum without walls” for several years, the Museum is now Greater Washington’s premier family attraction and the only national museum dedicated especially to children and their families and caregivers. NCM was designated by Congress in 2003 and was founded in 1974 as the Capital Children’s Museum.

Air and Scare 2012

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Published: 10/17/2012

Trick-or-Treaters, Creepy Bugs and Spooky Science Invade the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum hosts its annual “Air & Scare” Family Day, from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. Visitors will enjoy safe, indoor trick-or-treating and spooky activities for all ages at this free event.
Designed with the whole family in mind, aerospace will come alive with fun activities, all with a Halloween twist. Participants will enjoy face painting, spooky crafts, trick-or-truth stations, science experiments and treat giveaways. The Tot Zone will feature story time and a dress-up corner. Free classic cartoons will be shown in the Airbus IMAX Theater. There will be hands-on activities for teens and tweens, including packing a parachute. Everyone’s favorite Star Wars and Ghostbusters characters will be on-hand for photo opportunities. This year’s newest editions to “Air & Scare” will include a performance of “Buzzy the Frog’s Treasure Box Trick” by the Magical Puppet Theater and a display of spiders and other creepy bugs by the Department of Entomology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Attendees are encouraged to come in their favorite space or flight-themed costume. Admission is free, but parking is $15. “Air & Scare” is made possible by Mars Snackfood US LLC. For more information and a full list of activities, visit
The National Air and Space Museum is on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. Regular daily hours for both facilities are from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25).

Project Butterfly Wings, Weems Botts Museum

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Published: 09/10/2012

Project Butterfly Wings

Free Children’s Day at the
Museum — October 6, 2012

10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

¨ Supplies are included
¨ Fun Crafts to do
¨ Snacks will be provided

¨ Dress for the weather
¨ Dress for the mess
¨ Use bug spray if needed
¨ Use Sunscreen if needed

Project Butterfly WINGS is a hands-on opportunity for youth to learn about butterflies, their habitat, behavior & more through developing their own butterfly observation site.  Learn how to make your own “Butterfly Garden!”  WINGS participants will monitor butterflies at Historic Dumfries, and can continue to conduct regular surveys of the butterfly’s visiting. Youth will contribute to national research…WOW!  Participants can expect to be out in nature, interact with WINGS technology, learn from expert Master Gardeners, make crafts, play games and have FUN!

Historical Native Plants of Virginia will be used!  Follow-up in the Spring to create a Colonial Vegetable Garden

Sponsored by:  PWC Cooperative Extension - Master Gardener Program,  4H Project Butterflies, PWC Historical Commission, Bel Air Woman’s Club and Historic Dumfries VA, Inc.

Please RSVP to Joann Barron at
Phone: 703-221-2218

The White House Tour

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Published: 05/06/2012
No pictures allowed inside the WH tour- so this is our only real "tour" photo
We love history.  In fact, we love history so much that it's almost dork-con 1 at our house all the time.  We have "Story of the World" on the full 4 set CD collection and listen to it for fun.


So we definitely appreciate historical sites.  We also love living outside of DC and enjoy the museums.  We're also some of those "crazy homeschoolers", so we partake of the National Park Service's Historic Sites on a regular basis.  My kids have filled out Junior Ranger books at Constitution Hall, Appomattox Court House, the Frederick Douglass House and a few more this school year alone.

I say that all to qualify the fact that we really don't recommend the White House Tour.  I know several of you disagreed on Facebook and said that it was worth a visit because it's such an historic place or because it's on your DC bucket list, but for us, it was probably our least favorite historic tour we've been on.  Here's why:

1) Booking your tour takes some coordination.  You can't just show up at the White House and get in the tour line.  You'll need to go through your Senator or Congressman and provide a list of social security numbers for everyone in your group.  (We were actually very blessed that someone from our group did this for us.  It's a little scary to give your SSNs to someone, but she did all the leg work).  Once you submit those you'll hear 10 days to 2 weeks before your scheduled time and then need to make it work. You can't just request a particular day and be guaranteed to get it.

2) Getting there isn't really that difficult.  Metro Center is very close, or you can drive in.  There's a parking garage right by the W hotel.  They'll tell you not to drive because parking is so limited, but if you're willing to spend the $15 or so dollars to park for the next few hours, you won't have any trouble.  Free and meter parking are nearly impossible, so don't plan on that.

3) Entering the park (the White House is both a residence, a business, and a National Park Museum) can be time consuming and a bit of a hassle.  You'll go through a few check points where you'll need photo ID for everyone over 18 that EXACTLY matches the registered name.  You can be refused entry if you're late for your time (although we were about 10 minutes later than the 15 minutes early they tell you to be and had no problem).  All told we waited in line for about 40 minutes, including going one at a time through a checkpoint where a dog sniffs you (a little scary for our 4 year old), and another with a metal detector.  This was a weekday with no school holidays that I'm aware of, so if you're doing this over summer or winter breaks, plan for a longer wait time.

IMPORTANT NOTE: There are NO STROLLERS, DIAPER BAGS, PURSES, FOOD (including cheerios and baby bottles), OF ANY KIND ALLOWED.  THERE IS NO STROLLER PARKING, EITHER.  They sent a woman from our group away because she had the smallest purse you've ever seen.  You'll need to literally stash everything in your car (if you brought one) or have a member of your crew stay outside to keep everything.  If you public transited, this can be a huge hassle, since you probably needed a stroller or some "stuff" (like diapers) to make it through the rest of your visit to DC.

4) Once you're inside there's isn't actually a tour.  You signed up for a "White House Tour", you're given a tour time, but once you get there, it's all self-guided.  Each room has a small sign on the floor with 1-3 sentences about the room and a fun fact, and there are Secret Service Agents stationed in each room to answer specific questions, but there is no tour guide or small overview as there is at most historic sites in the NPS.  On the main floor, you'll walk up a ramp of a few steps. There is a view of a garden, but we were not permitted to enter it.  There are a few picture frames on the walls with various themes (Presidential Pets, etc), and then you round a corner to the first 3 rooms, which are standard-sized doorways which have been roped off.  There's the Vermeil (that's Ver-may- gold plated French items), the China Room (with the China Patterns), and the library.  You can stick your head in the door and look left and right.  Across from the Vermeil Room, there's a set of stairs going up (I'm not sure if there's handicap access somewhere, but I'd assume there is).  At the top of the stairs, there are a few other rooms that you can actually enter and walk adjacent to- the East Room, Blue Room, Red Room, Green Room and State Dining Room.

All said and done, we waited 40 minutes for a tour that lasted about 5.  My 8 year old summed it up well when he said "Mommy, we could have just read the booklet and looked at pictures on the internet".  Being there in person didn't really add to the experience or knowledge base for us.

If it were me, I'd rather spend my time at one of the other DC historic sites that's less hassle and more interaction.  I totally understand the allure of going to the White House, but for us, we enjoyed it least of all the Historic Tours we've taken.

The White House Tour
Recommended for: Parties that ONLY have children old enough to walk and stand for at least an hour at a time in line, that do not require strollers or diaper bags, and can handle large crowds of people.

Pros: It's the White House.  You probably won't see the President, but it's still a neat thing to claim you did.

Cons: Requires a reservation in advance through your elected representative, no strollers or bags allowed, short tour for the wait and process. No guided tours, no presentations in each room.

Our favorite part of the tour- Milkshakes at the Potbelly across the street. 

Welcome Discovery Activities- April 17-22, 2012

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Published: 04/16/2012
 The following activities are planned according to the National Air and Space Museum.  These aren't in Prince William County, but come on, people, space shuttles flying over your head are way too historic to miss!!

The following "Welcome Discovery" activities will be presented by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in cooperation with NASA. Support for the "Welcome Discovery" Transfer Ceremony are provided by the Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation. Because weather conditions or other circumstances could cause delays or postponement, the public is asked to check the museum’s website and social media (Twitter and Facebook) for up-to-date information.

Fly-in Day, April 17
Discovery will depart NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a Boeing 747, in the early morning of Tuesday, April 17. It is expected to arrive in the Washington, D.C., area around midmorning and will land at Washington's Dulles International Airport. Discovery will fly over parts of the Washington metropolitan area. The exact path will not be publicized in advance. Depending on weather and other circumstances, it may be possible for media organizations to identify viewing locations that day.

Spot the Shuttle
People in the Washington area, from students to office workers, are invited to participate in Spot the Shuttle activities April 17:

Spot the Shuttle gatherings on rooftops, balconies and at outdoor restaurants are being planned.
Snap a Shot—the public is encouraged to take photos of Discovery and share them through the museum’s Flickr group, on Twitter with #SpotTheShuttle, on the museum’s Facebook page and Pinterest board or share videos on YouTube.
Register Your Name—people who the spot Discovery may register on the museum’s website and could win a chance to sit in the VIP section at the "Welcome Discovery" Transfer Ceremony April 19.
Park and View—As Discovery approaches, the museum will update its website constantly and make the information available to radio stations.
The best place to view the orbiter as it approaches Dulles International Airport is the parking lot of the Udvar-Hazy Center. Visitors are invited to BYOB—Bring Your Own Breakfast—and join fellow shuttle spotters in the lot. The parking lot will open early at 8 a.m. 

Airport Arrival
There will be no public access to see the actual touchdown at the airport, but arrangements are being made to broadcast the arrival on the Web and through media coverage. After the shuttle arrives, it will be taken to another area of the airport, where it will be de-mated from the 747 and made ready for towing to the museum. This process will take two days.

"Welcome Discovery" Celebration, April 19
Parking lot will open 8 a.m.; the Udvar-Hazy Center will open at 9 a.m. and close at 6:30 p.m.

Discovery will officially be transferred from NASA to the National Air and Space Museum in an outdoor public ceremony at the Udvar Hazy Center. The event will begin with Discovery’s arrival from adjacent Dulles Airport, onto the tow road behind the Center. A "parade" led by the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps will feature an Astronaut Escort representing Discovery’s missions. Discovery will be positioned next to Enterprise for the ceremony. Enterprise, which has been on view at the Udvar-Hazy Center since it opened in 2003, will be moved to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, on a date soon to be announced.

The ceremony will feature Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough, National Air and Space Museum Director J.R. "Jack" Dailey and a representative of NASA. Mezzo soprano Denyce Graves will perform the national anthem. Astronauts who participated in Discovery’s most historic missions will be introduced during a presentation on the orbiter’s achievements. The high point of the program will be the formal signing of the transfer document followed by a grand finale symbolizing the "launch" of Discovery’s new career—from champion of the shuttle fleet to American icon and educational treasure.

Following the ceremony, the public will be invited to view both Discovery and Enterprise and take photographs all afternoon.

Specialists from NASA and the museum’s Collections Division will begin repositioning Enterprise and Discovery later that afternoon. The outdoor viewing area will close at 6 p.m.

Celebration Day, April 19; Noon–6:30 p.m.
Both indoor and outdoor activities will take place at the Udvar-Hazy Center before and after the ceremony. NASA will present an outdoor display – Our Future in Space. Attractions inside will include spacesuit displays, photo opportunities, and talks by Discovery astronauts. Authors will sign space-themed books and shuttle-inspired IMAX movies will be presented. Visitors will have an opportunity to sign a commemorative Discovery banner which will be kept as a memento of the day.

Student Discovery Day, April 20; 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

Students are specially invited to take part in the second day of the "Welcome Discovery" festival on Student Discovery Day. Along with the other activities planned throughout the weekend, the student day will feature astronauts and scientists presenting educational talks designed for young people. The Museum’s educational efforts support the STEM initiative, focusing on Science, Technology, Education and Math.

Family Weekend, April 20 and 21; 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Among the highlights will be educational presentations about NASA’s planetary missions and NASA’s Our Future in Space exhibition trailer, and free screenings of Smithsonian Networks’ documentary, Space Shuttle: Final Countdown. Activities will also include Ask an Expert talks by curators and scientists, Discovery Station demonstrations, spacesuit displays, robot activities, interactive displays, and the opportunity to sign an actual shuttle tire, for future display.

Offsite Activities
Discovery activities will be presented in the "Moving Beyond Earth" exhibition, an interactive gallery located in the National Air and Space Museum’s building in Washington on the National Mall. Live simulcast of Discovery's arrival and the "Welcome Discovery" ceremony are planned.

Smithsonian Channel is celebrating the arrival of Discovery with Space Shuttle Week, April 16–22. The premiere of Space Shuttle: The Final Countdown will be broadcast April 22 at 8 p.m.

Tips for Participants

Parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center, which is $15 per car, is limited. Drivers are asked to allow ample time for traffic congestion. Cash payment, in the exact amount, is preferred. Carpooling is suggested.
Casual, comfortable dress is recommended, particularly shoes designed for walking.
For outdoor activities, especially viewing Discovery’s approach, binoculars are suggested.
Mobile devices are recommended for getting up-to-date information from the museum’s website and taking part in Web-based activities.

The International Spy Museum

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Published: 04/05/2012
Did you know that D.C. has the highest spy saturation in the world? 

True story. 

Did you also know there's a Spy Museum in DC? 

Also true.

And, further, did you know that "spies are AWESOME and REALLY COOL and if you have boys you should go to this museum because it's AWESOME and REALLY COOL"? (According to my 8 year old)

We had the chance to visit the International Spy Museum a few days ago and we had a great time. Children 6 and under are free.  You can purchase tickets online or buy them at the door.  After purchasing your tickets, you head to a line where you wait to get on one of two special elevators.  The elevators light up and talk to you.  At this point, we divided into two camps.  There was "Team This is Awesome" which consisted of my 8 year old son, my 5 year old son, and me, and there was "Team This is Not Awesome", which was entirely comprised of my 4 year old daughter.  She thought the elevator was a little disconcerting.  

Once you arrive at the top of the elevator, you pick a spy identity and then head in for a movie.  The boys thought this was awesome(!!) and had a great time selecting their spy names and alias information.  My daughter wanted to be a princess, which was not an option, and thought the movie was scary (it wasn't, the best I'd give it is "sections of ominous music").  From here on out, just assume she found some reason to complain about everything :) Apparently this wasn't her day.  We'll focus on the boys.
(All images courtesy of the International Spy Museum)
In the next room, you were able to test your spy alias knowledge and check out different spy skills and gadgets.  We learned how to pick a lock and saw several hidden compartment tools.  There was also a section on spy makeup, where the kids could see how a little plastic and a fake mustache could turn a middle aged white woman into a young terrorist operative.  It was really interesting!  
As you wind through a few other rooms, you learn about spies in popular culture (there's a Bond car!) and how spies helped alter the course of several wars.  There are sections on propaganda, the WWII spy effort, codes, the Cold War, and more.  There's even a section about pigeons that were used to take pictures and carry messages across enemy lines!
There are also sections where you walk through simulated tunnels, and there's a few videos and a section on spies who turn bad, as well as a section about cyberterrorism.  
We had a great time and the boys stayed interested the entire time.  The especially liked all of the spy tools and the areas that were designed to look like historical areas, especially the WWII farm house setup, underground tunnels, and the section about the Berlin Wall.  I would definitely say this is a must-see if you have visitors!!  The boys are STILL playing spy, and we picked up a hilarious Spy-themed Mad Libs from the gift shop, which is a favorite game around our house. 

International Spy Musuem
Recommended for: My 5 year old really enjoyed this museum, but as a rule, I think that anyone who's "free" isn't the intended audience, so I would say ages 7 and up are going to have the best possible experience.  It's set up well to be able to bring a younger sibling, though, as there's plenty to look at. The day we went there were tons of teenagers, and they all seemed to really enjoy the subject material! 

Pros: Exciting, engaging, and different, this museum was a nice change from our typical "visit the dinosaurs" trip into DC.  The boys really enjoyed the experience.

Cons: This museum can get BUSY so if you can plan to visit on a week when most people are in school/work, do! The day we visited several of the interactive computers/listening stations weren't working, and people tend to be at each station for a good amount of time.  Just be prepared to be a little patient.

Be prepared for: We went through in about 2 hours, and easily could have spent more.  There's a gift shop at the end (you knew it was coming!) but there are actually some great books, games, and "spy gear" in there, so if you're looking for a good place to pick up souvenirs, the kids section is well stocked. 

Also note: The Spy Museum has several additional programs that you can sign up for, including spy missions, overnights, and Spy Camp.  Check their website for details! 

We had an awesome time at the Spy Museum, and definitely recommend you check it out!  Want to go for free? We have a family 4 pack of tickets for a winner! 

Enter simply by leaving a comment! Good luck!  This contest will close on Sunday at midnight!

Disclosure: was provided with free admission to the International Spy Museum as well as an additional set of tickets as a giveaway.  All opinions expressed here are my own. 

Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum

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Published: 03/27/2011
On Saturday, we had a few extra friends hanging around the house, so we packed everyone up to check out Madame Tussaud's in DC.  Our crew included one mom and 3 first graders.

Madame Tussaud's is very easy to get to.  There's easy metro access, but we ended up driving (395-14th street-F street) and were there in about 30 minutes, including parking.  There's a $10 a day parking garage right across the street, but there's also lots of on-street parking available if you go on a day that isn't full of Cherry Blossom visitors trying to beat the snow!

When you enter Madame Tussaud's, there's a line to pay, then a few steps down to a brief video where they demonstrate how the wax figures are made.  You then head to the left (I'm mentioning this because I was a little unclear on where to go!)  and go through a few halls of presidents.  Several of the exhibits have a way to interact with the figures- for exmaple, George Washington has a "boat" that you can sit in and don a Washington-esque coat for a pictures.  Lincoln (depicted sitting in the balcony at Ford's theatre) also has a coat you can wear for your picture.  Bring. Your. Camera. If your kids are anything like the kids I took, you will hear "take my picture!! take my picture!!!" around 3,000 times :)

After you move through the presidents, there's a spot at the end where they take commemorative pictures in the "White House" or with the "Obamas", and then you move into some historical figures.  There's Rosa Parks and a bus background, Martin Luther King Junior, Malcom X, and also some historical figures in with the presidents like Jackie O, the Apollo astronauts, Winston Churchill, and others.

The final two sections are famous athletes and movie stars/singers.  The little girl that we brought was excited to point out the Jonas Brothers.  I took a picture with my future ex-husband, George Clooney ;) and my only complaint was probably that there was a Robert Pattinson who wasn't sparkly, and there was no shirtless Taylor Lautner.  Just saying.

The kids I took (all 7 years old) had a really great time.  They were super excited about people they recognized (Washington, Lincoln, Obama, Tiger Woods, Britney Spears, Jonas Brothers, astronauts) and anything that had an interactive component. They were also happy to have me take their picture with anyone who they thought looked cool.  I think that the ideal age to take here would be 9 or older, just because they would have exposure to more of the historical people and would be more excited to see them, and would be able to read the fun-facts more independently.  That said, I was totally happy with our trip and my 7's had a great time!! Fair Warning: The end of the tour dumps you into the gift shop, so be prepared to stop any wandering little hands.

Madame Tussauds was definitely a fun trip for us!! If you're looking to go and would like to save a little money on your trip, you have two options: 1- order online. You'll save 15% off the regular price.  Or, if it's still March 27th, check out our facebook ticket giveaway!

Worth Traveling For

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Published: 04/02/2010
Not liking the options here? Here are a few things around the Metro area that are worth leaving Prince William County for!

**$2 Tuesdays at University Mall Theatre in Burke
 On Tuesdays (all day and all night, too!) Tickets, small popcorns, small drinks, and candy boxes all sell for $2 each! The movies have usually been out a little longer, but it's still a great deal! Check their schedule at  

**Clemyjontri Park 
(6317 Georgetown Pike McLean, Virginia 22101) is a playground experience like no other.  Not only does this park have a fabulous carousel with rides for only $1.50, access is free to this completely accessible park, designed so that children with varying physical and mental abilities can play side by side.  Another bonus is that if you have a child who's running and one still in a stroller, you'll be able to chase your child around every structure at the park.  This one is definitely worth the ride!

**The Children's Museum of Richmond
(2626 West Broad Street Richmond, VA 23220) This fantastic children's museum is really more of an exploratory play space with tube slides, donated areas for fixing cars, banking, teaching, picking apples, making art and more.  There are also frequent special events, so be sure to check out their website before you go. (  The one gripe I have about this place is the price- it's not cheap at $8 per person (and yes, mom and dad have to shell out for passes, too).  Under 2's are free, though, and there is a special area just for the toddler set.  In addition, no "unaccompanied adults" are allowed in without a full staff escort- which means there's no one there without children, a nice safety touch in my book. 

**The National Building Museum
Seriously? Yes!! This museum is great because it's not on the top of every tourist in the world's to-do list! Plus, they have a Building Zone full of soft lego blocks, hard hats, tools, a house, and more that your child can enjoy.  On the weekends, expect a waiting list, but most weekdays you can walk right in.  There are frequent special events and building projects (see the schedule at, and for a $5 donation your child can check out a tool kit to help them explore the museum (free admission) more fully.  

Milla's Playland A Play Gym Designed for Parents and Children Aged 10 Months to 4 1/2 Years...