Sleepover at the National Archives

All Photos: Jeffrey Reed of the National Archives

There’s certainly no shortage of amazing, unique opportunities in Washington, DC. Most visitors to the city hit a lot of the same standard hot spots: the White House, the Capitol Building, a Smithsonian museum or two, the Washington Monument, and so on.

But there’s so much more. And if you have the time – or if you’re a local looking for something truly special – you really should consider spending the night at the National Archives.

What’s that? Didn’t know you could stay at the Archives? Well, normally you can’t. But twice a year, the National Archives Foundation hosts a Sleepover at the National Archives. The next sleepover will be held on October 14, 2017, and you can reserve your spot(s) now. If you’re interested, I highly recommend reserving your spot as early as possible. These events DO sell out.

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Kennedy Center: Bud, Not Buddy

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 15, 2017
  • directed by Clarke Peters
  • script by Kirsten Greenidge
  • music by Terence Blanchard
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Christopher Paul Curtis’s novel Bud, Not Buddy first slipped onto my radar in 2012. Yes, the book was published in 1999, and it won both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000. But it was in 2012 that I saw Curtis speak and read from his book in Chicago at the International Reading Association’s annual conference (now the International Literacy Association).

I was blown away.

So I was incredibly excited to catch the stage adaptation of the book this week at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. With a couple familiar faces in the cast and a full jazz band on stage, the show didn’t disappoint.

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Kennedy Center: Into the Woods

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 8, 2017
  • directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld
  • music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
  • Roar Score: 5/5

I have a checkered history with Sondheim’s Into the Woods. I came to the show very late. I listened to the recording and was not overly impressed. I saw an amateur production and left even less enthralled. Then I saw the 2014 Disney movie and was blown away. I saw the story for what it was (and could be), and I fell in love.

And my kids? Even more so. At 4 and 6, they absolutely adored the film, and we went to see it multiple times in the theater. And when she was 5, my daughter had the opportunity to solo Red Riding Hood’s “I Know Things Now,” so the show has become a family favorite.

Obviously, it was with much excitement that we went to the Kennedy Center to check out Fiasco Theater’s “experimental” production of the musical, which had an acclaimed Broadway run and is in town for the holidays.

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Kennedy Center: Where Words Once Were

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  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through November 27, 2016
  • directed by Colin Hovde
  • written by Finegan Kruckemeyer
  • Roar Score: 5/5

We’ve long been fans of “children’s theater,” which is really an unfortunate and unfair category since so many shows that fall under this umbrella are truly phenomenal plays that deserve a wider audience than just children or families with young kids. One of the benefits of living in the DC region is that there’s no shortage of wonderful plays and theaters targeting young audiences.

And the Kennedy Center certainly never fails to deliver. Case in point: the latest production in their Theater for Young Audiences series (which also happens to be a world-premiere Kennedy Center commission), Where Words Once Were.

The show conjures an overcrowded, dystopian city that houses what is presumably the last of humanity after the sea levels rise and cover the world in water. The City, ruled by an authoritarian government straight out of 1984 or Brave New World, has learned to weaponize language.

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Questions from a Kid: Dr. Scott Sampson

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions from a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson.

If you have young kids with even the slightest interest in dinosaurs, chances are very good you’ve heard of Dr. Scott the Paleontologist. If you’ve ever seen an episode of the PBS Kids / Jim Henson show Dinosaur Train, then you’ve seen Dr. Scott. He appears at the end of every episode, talks about the science behind each story, makes connections between the prehistoric world and the more familiar world in which kids live, and ends every episode by encouraging kids to “get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries!”

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Ticket Giveaway: Disney On Ice Presents Treasure Trove

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It’s that time again. Disney on Ice is returning to the Baltimore/Washington area, and they’re bringing a new show. This time around, it’s called Treasure Trove, and it’s got some familiar faces and fresh acts.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Disney On Ice shows, check out our reviews of World of Fantasy and 100 Years of Magic. They should give you a good idea of what to expect: Mickey and the gang act as hosts, a variety of characters perform routines to well-known songs, and there’s a big finale at the end with everyone.

Treasure Trove promises acts from many of the princesses, Peter Pan, The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland, and Toy Story. As usual, they’ve tried to divide the show up so the acts target stereotypical “boys” and “girls” properties equally.

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Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play!

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Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play!

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 3, 2016
  • directed by Jerry Whiddon
  • Roar Score: 5/5

We are huge fans of Mo Willems’s Elephant & Piggie books in this house. If you’re not already familiar with these characters, do yourself a favor and go correct that oversight immediately – especially if you have kids who love fun and being silly. I mean, there are 24 of them now; you really have no excuse.

Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie are best friends and have somewhat opposite personalities. Gerald is careful and quiet. Piggie is spirited and energetic. But they’re the bestest of best friends, and each book is a shining example of how children’s books can tackle themes such as friendship, cooperation, fear, and forgiveness with playfulness and charm.

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LEGO Prototyping Challenge

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The National Week of Making was a few weeks back in June, and the event coincided with the National Maker Faire here in Washington, DC. The White House even joined in the fun, and President Obama called for a nation of makers. It was a pretty big deal.

In case you missed it, or in case you’d like to celebrate the Maker Movement every day, LEGO is answering that call and continuing the celebration with a national prototyping challenge. The contest is called “Are You a LEGO Maker?” and LEGO is providing “prototyping kits” to 50 makers (age 13 and up) so they can make working version of their own inventions.

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Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament (Baltimore)

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I have to admit, I didn’t quite know what to expect as we walked into Medieval Times. I mean, the reputation kind of precedes it (i.e., The Cable Guy), so I suppose I was prepared for an evening of cheesy theatrics masquerading as entertainment.

I was not prepared to be genuinely entertained…and surprised at how well-executed the entire experience is.

We visited the Baltimore Castle, which—despite the name—is actually located about 20 minutes south of Baltimore.

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Ticket Giveaway: Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy

5855019_origDisney on Ice is still putting costumed characters on ice skates. Seems dangerous to me, but the performers at these shows are actually pretty impressive.

The Worlds of Fantasy show includes four separate storylines: Tinker Bell, The Little Mermaid, Cars, and Toy Story. Ostensibly, that’s two “for the girls” and two “for the boys.”

McQueen and Mater should be interesting—I’m not exactly sure how that’ll work or if there will actually be people inside on ice skates.

One thing that’s for sure, though, is that there will be plenty of familiar songs for the kids to groove along to. With these four storylines, we’re sure to at least get Under the Sea, Part of Your World, and You’ve Got a Friend in Me.

I’ve even got a nice little surprise for this one. Click here to download a coloring sheet with these characters. Enjoy!

If you’re in the Washington, DC area, Disney on Ice is returning to the area in the Verizon Center from February 11–16. Here’s the full schedule:

  • Wednesday, February 11: 7:30
  • Thursday, February 12: 10:30, 7:30
  • Friday, February 13: 7:30
  • Saturday, February 14: 10:30, 2:30, 6:30
  • Sunday, February 15: 12:30, 4:30
  • Monday, February 16: 12:30

Tickets are available at the Verizon Center box office, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800-745-3000. Seats start at $20, but Roarbots readers can save $5 off tickets by using the codeword PRINT.

However! I have a family 4-pack of tickets to giveaway to a lucky reader. The tickets are for the 7:30 pm show on Wednesday, February 11, 2015. Just enter with the widget below, and good luck!

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Ticket Giveaway: Monster Jam

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This is one my son will go absolutely bananas for. Gigantic monster trucks crashing into and crushing things in their way? That’s pretty much his whole schtick while playing with his cars.

Approximately 12 feet tall and about 12 feet wide, Monster Jam trucks are custom-designed machines that sit atop 66-inch-tall tires and weigh a minimum of 10,000 pounds. Built for short, high-powered bursts of speed, the trucks generate 1,500 to 2,000 horsepower and are capable of speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. They can fly up to 125 to 130 feet (a distance greater than 14 cars side by side) and up to 35 feet in the air!

If you’re in the Washington, DC area, the Monster Jam show is returning to the area in the Verizon Center on January 24 and 25.

Seats start at $25 for adults and $10 for kids (ages 2-12). Pit Party Passes for Saturday and Sunday are also available for purchase (which include up-close views of the massive Monster Jam trucks and the opportunity to meet some of the drivers).

Tickets are available at the Verizon Center box office, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800-745-3000.

However! I have a family 4-pack of tickets to giveaway to a lucky reader. The tickets are for the 2:00 show on Saturday, January 24, 2015. Just enter with the widget below, and good luck!

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The Capital Wheel at National Harbor

IMG_1755So, apparently huge Ferris wheels are now a thing. This trend probably traces its roots to the opening of the London Eye (still one of the granddaddies of these tourist wheels) in 2000.

Ever since, huge Ferris wheels have been popping up all over the place. And in May of 2014, Washington DC got its very own…..sort of. The Capital Wheel is actually located at the National Harbor, which is in Maryland just across the Potomac River from Alexandria, VA, about a 20-minute drive from downtown DC.

The National Harbor itself is still a relatively new addition to the region. “Phase 1” opened in 2008, and the area is now home to more than 150 shops, 30 restaurants, several hotels (including the massive Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center), the National Children’s Museum, and a Tanger Outlets. And it continues to expand.

The Capital Wheel is one of the newest attractions to open, and we finally got a chance to check it out while the National Harbor was decked out for the holidays.

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The BIG Maze – National Building Museum

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The National Building Museum in Washington, DC, is one of our favorite places in the city. It has been since the kids were very young. It’s a great escape from crowds of tourists, it’s got a fantastic kids play area (Building Zone), and…well…it’s drop-dead gorgeous. It looks like something a giant would’ve built.

This summer, the museum has constructed an enormous maze (60×60 feet), which is surprisingly still dwarfed by the museum’s massive columns (that never fail to impress, no matter how times we visit).

The maze is 18 feet high around the perimeter, but is slopes down to a mere 2-3 feet in the middle. This creates a unique experience while inside, allowing you to peek over the walls as you close in on the center.

This inventive design makes the maze something truly creative—it is essentially a work of art in itself.

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Madame Tussauds Washington, DC

Madame Tussauds DCA bit of history: when I was a kid, I used to love wax museums. If we saw one, I’d make my parents take me. I remember with such clarity one (I think it might have been at Niagara Falls) that was all about medieval torture devices. That one had a lot of gore. 10-year-old me adored it.

I haven’t been to a wax museum in years. Madame Tussauds is undoubtedly the “rockstar” of modern wax museums, but I’d never been to one. There were always too many other things I wanted to see in whatever city happened to have one. I just couldn’t justify a trip to a wax museum whenever I was in London, Las Vegas, or New York.

However, there’s one in my hometown, and it was only a matter of time before I made it inside. This past weekend, we took the kids downtown and finally visited Madame Tussauds DC.

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5 Questions with a Smithsonian Paleontologist

(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey sits down with Dr. Michael Brett-Surman, Museum Specialist for Dinosaurs and other Fossil Reptiles at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Zoey has gone through several phases regarding the “what I want to be when I grow up” question. Currently, she’s all about being a paleontologist. When she was 3, she could name more dinosaurs than she could name months of the year. She knew at least 10. (Let’s give credit where credit is due: much of that is thanks to Dinosaur Train.)

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One-Day Hike 2014

OK, this isn’t really kids’ stuff, but it’s my blog, and I want to share. Every year in late April, the Sierra Club and a whole gaggle of amazing volunteers sponsor and put on the One-Day Hike. The 100k hike goes along the C&O Canal towpath from Georgetown in DC (the southern end) to Harper’s Ferry. The 50k version starts halfway up the same trail, at White’s Ferry, and ends at the same place.

This past Saturday (April 26) was the 2014 event. I’ve attempted the 100k twice before but unfortunately had to drop out both times. The first time was at 35 miles (blisters) and the second time was at 42 miles (exhaustion). This year, I finished!

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The Big Build – National Building Museum

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This past Saturday was The Big Build at the National Building Museum in DC. We’re big fans of the museum, but we’ve never been to this annual event. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be adding it to our regular late summer/early fall rotation. We had an awesome time. Definitely recommended.

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