NPS Adventures: Thomas Stone National Historic Site

The Roarbots’ series of NPS Adventures takes a big-picture view of one location within the National Park Service and highlights some of the best activities that site has to offer. This is usually done through a kid-friendly lens and almost always includes activities and suggestions we can recommend from personal experience. And pictures. There are lots and lots of pictures. Glad to have you aboard!

Welcome to Thomas Stone National Historic Site!

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Adventure Theatre: Ella Enchanted

  • playing at Adventure Theatre MTC (Glen Echo, MD)
  • dates: now through March 19, 2017
  • directed by Mary Hall Surface
  • book by Karen Zacarias
  • music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
  • Roar Score: 4/5

It’s been a while since we caught a show at Adventure Theatre. When the kids were younger, shows there were one of our reliable standbys. Unclaimed weekend? Odds are, we found our way to Glen Echo Park for a show at either Adventure Theatre or its neighbor, The Puppet Co.

So it was with some excitement that we recently attended the opening of Adventure Theatre’s newest show: Ella Enchanted.

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Questions from a Kid: Conductor Justin Freer

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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 conductor Justin Freer.

We recently attended a performance of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: In Concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and yeah, it was pretty much as awesome as you’d expect. However, the highlight of the evening actually came before the doors even opened.

Zoey had the chance to sit down with conductor Justin Freer (who we also saw conduct Dreamworks in Concert at Wolf Trap a couple months ago) and geek out about music a bit. But even before that, she was treated to a guided backstage – and on-stage – tour!

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: In Concert

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  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: In Concert
  • Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, MD)
  • Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Justin Freer
  • Thursday, August 4, 2016
  • Roar Score: 5/5

This is the beginning of something wonderful. Beginning this summer, orchestras across the country (and around the world) will join forces with CineConcerts to present the entire score of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone played live while the film plays overhead on a massive screen.

This isn’t the first time movies have been screened in time with a live orchestra, but it IS the beginning of the Harry Potter Concert Series. All of the symphonies that signed up for the series have agreed to ultimately put on performances for all eight Harry Potter films. There’s not a schedule for the entire series yet, but if you’re a Potterphile, this is extraordinary news.

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NPS Adventures: Hampton National Historic Site

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The Roarbots’ series of NPS Adventures takes a big-picture view of one location within the National Park Service and highlights some of the best activities that site has to offer. This is usually done through a kid-friendly lens and almost always includes activities and suggestions we can recommend from personal experience. And pictures. There are lots and lots of pictures. Glad to have you aboard!

Welcome to Hampton National Historic Site!

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Giveaway: Day Out With Thomas at B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore

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Spring has (almost) sprung, and it’s time for that little blue engine Thomas to make his annual rounds. This month, the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD, is kicking things off the Day out with Thomas!

Click here and here for our reviews of previous Day out with Thomas events at the Strasburg Rail Road.

From April 22-24 and April 29-May 1, Thomas will be giving rides at the B&O! Additional activities include photo ops with Sir Topham Hatt, art-and-crafts stations, more train tables and Thomas toys that you’ve ever seen assembled in one place, sing-a-longs, magicians, and storytelling sessions, among other things.

Frankly, if your kids love Thomas, this event is everything they could ever want.

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Upcoming: Monster Jam

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Monster Jam is like my son’s dreams come true. Gigantic monster trucks crashing into each other 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!

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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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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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Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium – Baltimore

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It’s been a long time since I entertained the notion of going to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum. When I was a kid, I used to love them. But I also used to love Twinkies and Fun Dip.

I didn’t have very discerning taste, is what I’m trying to say.

Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but it seems like these places were a dime a dozen when I was younger. If you had asked 8-year-old me, a place wasn’t worth visiting if it didn’t have miniature golf, a wax museum, or either a Ripley’s museum or a Guinness Book of World Records museum.

As a kid, I ate these places up and couldn’t get enough of them. I loved ’em. But they weren’t very good. They were often thrown together for knucklehead kids like me who didn’t know any better. The museum was small, the exhibits were cheap, and you usually felt ripped off in the end.

It was therefore with some skepticism that we visited the brand-new Ripley’s Odditorium in Baltimore. I have to hand it to them, though, they know how to make themselves compelling. The museum has perfect placement right on the Inner Harbor, and that huge green dragon snaking its way around the entrance sure is eye-catching.

It caught the eye of my son, and that was all it took to bring me back inside a Ripley’s museum. And, believe it or not (sorry, had to do it at least once), this place is actually really great!

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ICE! at Gaylord National: Frosty the Snowman

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  • ICE! featuring Frosty the Snowman
  • Where: Gaylord National, National Harbor, MD
  • What: part of the annual Christmas on the Potomac events
  • When: Now through January 4, 2015

The annual Christmas on the Potomac events at the Gaylord National and National Harbor (just outside of DC) have become a family tradition with us. We’ve been every year (except one) since our oldest was born. We missed last year.

The reason why we skipped it last year is because we felt the ICE! attraction was getting smaller and more expensive every year. Plus, we had grown tired of the DreamWorks (Shrek) themes.

This year, I’m happy to say, ICE! is once again a must-do (if only because of nostalgia)! It’s themed to the classic Rankin Bass animated special Frosty the Snowman, and the sculptures are incredible!

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Disney’s The Little Mermaid

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Disney’s The Little Mermaid

  • playing at Olney Theatre Centre (Olney, MD)
  • dates: now through December 28, 2014
  • directed by Mark Waldrop
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Can you believe Disney’s The Little Mermaid is having its 25th anniversary this year? Hard to believe, I know. Ariel is all grown up.

Timed to coincide with this anniversary and capitalize on the perennial appeal of that red-headed mermaid, Olney Theatre Center in Olney, MD (about 45 minutes from both DC and Baltimore) recently launched its performance of the stage version.

Is it ok to use the word splashtastic? Probably not, but I will anyway. This production is very, very good.

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Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol

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Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol

  • playing at Adventure Theatre MTC (Glen Echo, MD)
  • dates: now through January 1, 2015
  • directed by Jerry Whiddon
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Christmas is coming. This invariably means performances of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol are (or soon will be) everywhere. Children’s theater is no exception. I’ll admit that we went into Adventure Theatre’s production of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol expecting it to be a scaled-down, “family-friendly” version of Dickens’s classic story.

Thankfully, we were wrong.

This show is funny—refreshingly, surprisingly funny. It’s not something you really expect out of A Christmas Carol, but the sharp script and fantastic acting combine to present the funniest version of the story you’re likely to see outside of Bill Murray’s Scrooged.

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The Night Fairy

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The Night Fairy

  • playing at Imagination Stage (Bethesda, MD)
  • dates: now through October 26, 2014
  • directed by Jeremy Skidmore
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Flory is a Night Fairy who is attacked by a bat. When her wings are damaged in the struggle, she is forced to learn how to survive in the daylight among the other birds and animals in a typical backyard. During her adventures, Flory makes new friends and eventually reconciles with her foe. By the time her wings begin to sprout back, Flory has discovered a renewed sense of creativity, diplomacy, and resilience that she never knew she had.

It’s no secret that we love Imagination Stage. We’ve been to nearly every show since Zoey was old enough to sit still, and her favorite play ever was an Imagination Stage production (Anime Momotaro–which also happens to be the best children’s theater performance I’ve ever seen).

Upon first seeing The Night Fairy poster at a performance of The BFG, Zoey was hooked. She had to see it.

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Maryland Renaissance Festival

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There are certain events in the DC region that we absolutely make a point to visit every year. The Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, MD, is one of these events. It runs every weekend from the end of August through most of October, which means the weather is usually glorious.

Generally considered to be the second largest Renaissance Festival in the United States, the Maryland fair is held in a permanent village called Revel Grove. This lends the fair an air of realism and…well…permanence that would be missing if the village were temporarily constructed for just one season.

This year, the festival brought to life the year 1521, King Henry VIII, and Queen Katherine of Aragon. For a few hours on the weekend, it really feels like 16th century England has come to life. Just a tad cleaner. And less plague-y.

If you’ve never been to a Renaissance fair, want to go to one, or are just curious. Here’s a few of our best shots from this year’s excursion….

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The BFG

The BFG

The BFG

  • playing at Imagination Stage (Bethesda, MD)
  • dates: now through August 10
  • directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer & Eric J. Van Wyk
  • Roar Score: 5/5

“Words’, he said, ‘is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me all my life. So you must simply try to be patient and stop squibbling. As I am telling you before, I know exactly what words I am wanting to say, but somehow or other they is always getting squiff-squiddled around.”

Since my kids were very young, we’ve been fans of children’s theater. Indeed, many of the earliest plays and puppet shows we’ve attended are already out of their memory. With several fantastic theaters in the area, Zoey’s been to more plays in her five years than many people will ever see.

Imagination Stage in Bethesda, MD, consistently puts on some of the best children’s theater in the region. Some of their performances are among the best I’ve ever seen. Their production of Anime Momotaro in 2013 ranks not only as the finest piece of children’s theater I’ve ever seen but also among the best theater I’ve ever seen. Period. (And I’ve seen a lot of Broadway shows.)

Their current show is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, and they’ve got another certifiable winner. Blending traditional theater with larger-than-life puppets is nothing new (even for Imagination Stage, which utilized the approach for Aslan in their production of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe), but the giants here are simply captivating.

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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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Once on This Island

Once on This Island

Last night (Thursday, April 10), Zoey and I attended a preview performance of Once on This Island at the Olney Theatre Center – a fantastic local theatre in Olney, MD, that puts on some amazing performances.

As long-time, regular supporters (and fans!) of Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo and Imagination Stage in Bethesda, we’re always looking for great kid-friendly theatre in the area. Once on This Island is part of Olney’s Family Series, so we decided to give it a shot.

Boy, are we glad we did. The performance we saw was a rehearsal and only the second performance in front of an audience, but it still felt incredibly polished. The house was only about half full, so we can only hope that will change once the show officially opens this weekend.

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