Northern Virginia has plenty of family-friendly activities!
My wife and I have three wonderful kids, a fifteen-year old boy, a thirteen-year old girl and a ten-year old boy. We’re always on the lookout for fun (and different) things to do in the Northern Virginia area.
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Save $5 at Madame Tussauds
Show your SmarTrip card and save!
I received the following email from WMATA (Metro) yesterday:
Metro has partnered with Madame Tussauds, Washington, DC to reward you with valuable savings just by showing your SmarTripÂ® card. Just present your SmarTripÂ® card at the time of purchase and receive $5 off an adult admission ticket. Bring friends and family, this offer is valid for up to 8 guests. Offer expires 12/31/13.
Take Metrorail to Madame Tussauds at 1001 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004
Red, Blue, Orange lines – Exit Metro Center – 11th and G Streets, NW
Red, Green, Yellow lines – Exit Gallery Place – 9th and G Streets, NW
This discount offer is not valid for advance ticket purchases and cannot be combined with any other offers. The Madame Tussauds may close for special events, so please call 1-866-823-9565 or visit their website for updates www.madametussaudsDC.com.
Enjoy Madame Tussauds and thanks for riding Metro!
I couldn’t find any official press release or web page confirming this coupon; however, Unsuck DC Metro has a blog post about the same e-mail.
The circus is coming…
Lions, tigers and bears… oh my!
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus is coming to the Washington, D.C. area. Shows at the Verizon Center will take place from March 20th to March 24th. The circus makes a stop in Northern Virginia at the Patriot Center from April 10th to April 21st. More details to come…
Do you like movies?
If you like movies, check out my newest lens, DC Film Festivals. I’m just getting started with this lens and will be adding content regularly.
National Museum of the Marine Corps
National Museum of the Marine Corps
National Museum of the Marine Corps
The National Museum of the Marine Corps is located about 35 miles south of Washington, D.C. in Triangle, VA. The museum is very easy to get to. From D.C., take I-95 South to exit 150A and follow the signs to the museum. As your approach the musesum, you’ll see the stunning design of the building, which evokes the iconic photograph of Marines raising the American flag on the island of Iwo Jima. There’s plenty of parking.
The first thing we did upon entering the musesum was to watch the brief 15-minute movie about the Marine Corps. The film was a series of interviews with current (and former) Marines that was a patriotic, yet honest and gritty, look at what being a Marine means. The movie runs every twenty minutes starting at the top of the hour. For you afficianados of military time, that’s 00, 20 and 40.
In the central gallery, there are several life-sized displays that all visitors will be awed at, especially the youngest ones. In addition to aircraft hanging from the ceiling, there are a couple of large displays, including a helicopter and simulated beach landing.
The permanent exhibits in the museum are laid out in sections chronologically, starting with the birth of the Marine Corps in 1775. The first exhibit that we visited was Making a Marine. Starting with the bus that transports the new recruits, the exhibit walks visitors through the intake process. As you walk past the bus, you immediately notice the series of footprints, heels touching with toes pointed outward at an angle, painted on the ground. Next to the bus is a barber’s chair and a series of changing photos that show young recruits before and after their first haircut. My two younger kids enjoyed this part of the museum the most. There are plenty of interactive hands-on activities, including a backpack to lift, pull up bars to pull up on and even a firing range where you can try your hand at shooting a laser beam using an M-16 at targets downrange. There is an additional cost ($5 in July 2011) for this activity. Each participant gets 10 shots. The M-16 is heavy and can be difficult for a small child to hold. There are stands that you can use to help steady the weapon. At the end of the 10 shots, you get a printout that shows you where each shot fell on the target.
The permanent exhibits in the musesum are impressive in the amount of information provided, as well as the quality of the pieces shown. If you like military memorabilia, you’ll love the Marine Corps Museum. You can see the Marine Corps uniform as it changes over the years. There are hundreds of flags, medals, swords, weapons and vehicles (ground, air and water) throughout the museum. Kids will love the larger displays where you, the museum goer, are part of the action. One minute, you’ve boarded an amphibious vehicle ready to storm the beachhead, the next minute, you’re outdoors in the dead of winter helping defend your position from the relentless enemy. All in all, the exhibits are extremely well done, with the right combination of information and objects to look at and interact with.
The museum has two restaurants, both located on the second floor. The Mess Hall is a casual, cafeteria style restaurant. On the day we visited, the Mess Hall was serving typical fare like pizza, hot dogs and cheese fries. The second is Tun’s Tavern, a slightly more upscale sit-down place. While we didn’t eat at either restaurant during our visit, the prices in both restaurants were very reasonable. There is a museum store that carries all kinds of Marine Corps sourvenirs. Again, the prices in the store seemed reasonable compared to other muesum stores I’ve visited. If you prefer to bring your own lunch, there is an outdoor picnic area with a great looking playground.
The Marine Corps Muesum is open daily, except Christmas, and is a terrific place to visit for adults and kids alike. For more information, check out the Marine Corps Museum web site.
Are you a sports fan?
If you (of someone you love) is a sports fan, check out my DC Sports Squidoo Lens. Recent posts include Potomac Nationals single game tickets going on sale and the UVA Cavaliers football team holding a spring scrimmage in Alexandria.
Laser tag fun in Sterling, VA
My son and I joined a group of middle-school aged kids from our church and went to LaserNation in Sterling, VA to play laser tag on a recent Friday night. LaserNation is located in the same strip mall as Big Lots, but the front of the store is not visible from the main entrance, so you may have to look for it. Our group, one adult and six kids, arrived at LaserNation around 8PM and each one of us purchased an all-night, unlimited laser tag pass for $13.
After we paid for our unlimited pass, we were given individual wrist bands to wear. Each band has a specific color and you’re playing with the same group of people that have the same colored wristband. On the night we visited, there were two other groups that had the same color wristbands as we did. One group had about 10 people, mostly adults. The other groups was 10 teenagers. When your color is announced, you head to the briefing room. In the briefing room, the Game Master briefs you on the game. Our Game Master was a tall, lanky teenage boy (high school junior/senior, perhaps?) who did a good job reciting the rules and answering the handful of questions that the adults asked. The stated “goal” of the game is a form of three-way capture-the-flag, but, based on my experience, it quickly becomes a free-for-all, every-person-for-himself (most laser tag participants seem to be teenage boys) shooting extravaganza 🙂
We stayed at LaserNation for about two hours and played four games of laser tag. I’m not sure how long the actual gameplay lasts, but the time flies by quickly while you’re playing. You spend most of your time in the briefing room (prior to playing), vesting (getting your vest on) or waiting for your score (after the game is done).
In between games, there isn’t a whole lot to do. Like many others laser tag places, LaserNation has a handful of arcade games, including classics such as Ms. Pac Man, Galaga, and Ocean Hunter. Most of the games were priced between $0.50 and $0.75 so pack plenty of quarters (or dollars, since there is a change machine). Our group ate dinner prior to going to LaserNation so we didn’t eat there. I saw a couple of vending machines. Sodas were $1.25 and snacks were around a dollar. The prices didn’t seem outrageously high. While the web site claims that they can accommodate groups up to 200 people, I’m really not sure where those people who weren’t actively playing laser tag would stand or sit. There are a couple of open areas for people to sit while waiting for their game to start. There were a few party rooms, but we didn’t get a chance to look at those.
Overall, it was a fun experience. While I’m not a hardcode laser tag enthusiast, I had a fun time playing at LaserNation. It’s definitely fun to go with a group of people.
D.C. Metro: Passing Train
D.C. Metro: Passing Train
A convenient, but pricey, way to get around Virginia, D.C., and Maryland
The D.C. Metro system (officially known as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority or WMATA) is a great way get around with the metropolitan D.C. area (which includes D.C., Virginia and Maryland). While Metro includes rail, bus and accessibility services, this post will focus primarily on the subway (rail) system. Those of you who live or work in the D.C. area may want to skip to the end of this post for my tips on traveling on Metro with your family.
The Metro (or Metrorail) system serves 86 stations and covers 106 miles of track. The subway system is open from 5AM. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 5AM to 3AM on Friday, 7AM to 3AM on Saturday, and 7AM to midnight on Sunday. Metro does occasionally extend their operating hours for large public events such as the Presidential Inauguration or the Marine Corps Marathon. In addition, Metro has single-tracked trains, which causes delays, or even closed stations for emergeny or maintenance purposes. During the most recent big snowstorm in the D.C. area (December 2009), Metro had to close its above-ground stations to prevent weather-related breakdowns in service. Check the Metro web site for updated service information.
As of January 2010, regular (or peak) Metro fares range from $1.65 to $4.50. Peak fares are typically charged during weekday morning and afternoon rush hours. Off-peak fares (all other days and times) range between $1.35 and $2.35. Up to two children, 4 years and younger, ride free with each adult paying full fare. Children 5 and older pay adult fares. Everyone who must pay a fare must have his own fare card.
Metro offers a paper fare card as well as a Smartrip card, a plastic rechargeable fare card. If you’re visiting the D.C. area for a short period of time and don’t need to pay for parking, it probably doesn’t make sense to buy a Smartrip card. Metro charges a $5 surcharge for the purchase of a Smartrip card. You can buy a Smartrip card online or at certain Metrorail stations. You can buy the paper fare cards with cash or credit/debit cards at all stations. Most, if not all, of the stations that have parking lots and/or garages sell the Smartrip card.
In addition, Metro does offer Metrorail passes, although they’re not promoted or advertised much. A one-day pass, valid for one day of unlimited Metrorail travel on weekdays after 9:30 a.m. or all day on Saturdays, Sundays, and some federal holidays, goes for $7.80. Metro also offers a 7-day short trip pass and a 7-day fast pass. Check this WMATA web page for more details.
Here are my tips for families traveling on the Metro. First, please walk on the left and stand on the right on all stairs and escalators in and around the Metro system, especially during weekday rush hour. Second, all Metro trains are stopping at the front end of all platforms. Eight-car trains will fill the entire platform; however, shorter trains will have space behind them on the platform. You should wait in the middle or towards the front platform. Third, if you’re going to use the paper fare card, you feed the card (the card will show what direction it should go) in the front part of the gate and the card is returned to you via a slot on top of the gate. You must take the card out before the fare gate will open. Fourth, if you’re going to park in one of the Metro parking lots or garages during a normal weekday (when Metro does collect a parking fee), check to see if the Metro station where you want to park accepts credit cards. If the station doesn’t accept credit cards — some stations, like Franconia-Springfield have specific gates that accept credit card payment — you’ll need to buy a Smartrip card to pay the parking fee to exit the parking lot. Fifth, please be careful when riding Metro escalators. While it doesn’t happen often, passengers especially kids, have been known to get their shoes or clothing stuck on the escalator. Also, some of the escalators, like Wheaton (Red line) and Rosslyn (Blue and Orange line), are pretty tall (long?), so you definitely don’t want to play on those. Lastly, eating and drinking is prohibited on the Metro. Please help to keep the Metrorail system clean!
I hope I haven’t scared you away from using the Metro. Despite the many caveats in the post, the Metro is a great way for families to get in and around the D.C. metropolitan area. Please leave feedback on my lens with your questions or tips on using Metro.