DC/NoVA Adventures ~ Visit the River Farm!

The weather is starting to cool down a little bit, but the humidity and bugs are still fighting us aren’t they? We just need to hold out a little bit longer for those to finally leave us, but the weekends as we approach October and Fall are perfect for outdoor adventures! One of my favorite places to take the kids is also one of my favorite free places to go!! The River Farm is located in Alexandria, Virginia and is only a hop, skip and a jump from Mount Vernon; and was once part of George Washington’s five original farm properties. It also just happens to be the headquarters for the American Horticulture Society.

There are so many cool things to see here, and I love trying to visit during the different seasons because it changes so much. While you visit you can see White House gates that were at the WH in 1820, a teaching garden, a children’s garden, a really cool meadow that my kids call a maze, and all sorts of fun little things. The beautiful Manor on the estates has a lower level open to the public, and sometimes features rotating displays from artists. The River Farm would also make a beautiful wedding venue. I’m imagining the pictures one could take and its so beautiful in my mind. The stunning views of the Potamac alone are just beautiful.

At the gift shop on-site you can peruse items from local makers, which is just another cool part of coming to visit this place. Homemade soaps, wooden bowls, stained glass and all sorts of gardening supplies for children are there. What I also love about the River Farm is that they want to preserve and encourage gardening for and to the next generation. I definitely consider it a dying art. It is something I remember my grandmother doing, and unlike her love of crochet, the gardening didn’t stick. But its on my list of things to get back into because I think it is a valuable thing for children.

Visiting the farm is free, and so is parking. However, we always leave a donation when we go to visit. I encourage you to check out this really neat, and I believe undervalued ‘Site to See’ in the DC/VA area.

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A Day Trip With My Biggest Littles {Antietam Battle Field}

Spending time with the kids, going on an adventure, is one of my favorite parts of parenting. I love that I have little explorers in my family. Mr. Air Force and I have also believed that it was important to expose our children to as much life as possible even if they were too young to fully appreciate it. We’ve also taken them on day trips, camping, hikes, road trips and lots of other things from the time they were very young. So, on one of our free weekends we planned on taking a day trip out to Antietam Battle Field. However, our littlest little decided he was going to have a bit of tummy trouble that day. Hubby insisted I don’t postpone the trip, even though I really wanted to experience this with him. So we dropped off the hubs and the little and we set out on our adventure!

Antietam isn’t far from the DC area but its a good little drive none the less. I had packed up snacks, some of my favorite road-trip games from The Joys of Boys and Capturing Joys, and the kids also put together their backpacks full of items of their choice {usually books, a few toys, and car-friendly art supplies}. These are things I keep handy in the car all the time because we  try to use technology only sparingly in the car. The Visitor Center and Battlefield were amazing! You could do so much there. We chose to do a partial walking tour and then we did the driving portion – stopping at different landmarks along the way and exploring.

We are currently going through a “Wearing our uniform every chance get” phase. They are only young once and I love that he is so proud of his daddy…even if it is the wrong branch. But seriously, finding the kid Air Force uniforms is hard!! 

It was such a beautiful location, stretching out for miles. Trying to image the horrors that occurred here so very many years ago can be difficult at times. It is both humbling and an incredible honor to be able to walk these grounds.

One of the cool things that we didn’t really get to explore was Burnside Bridge. It is currently be restored, as are several things on the Battlefield property. Burnside Bridge is dedicated to Ambrose Burnside, whose name and crazy facial hair gave us the term ‘Sideburns’, and was also the first president of the National Rifle Association.

There is a monument to President McKinley, that was dedicated after he was assassinated. He had played such a large role in the Battle here that they wanted to pay particular homage to him. 

On the way out we stopped at the National Cemetery at Antietam. There is a beautiful church on the property as well Civil War grave sites. It is almost exclusively for Civil War soldiers, with a few exceptions from WWII and the Korean War. The cemetery lies in the town of Sharpsburg which was where the Civil War era hospital was located. When an official plan for the cemetery was created and the place officially dedicated (on the fifth anniversary of the Battle of Antietam) President Andrew Johnson came out.

My sweet little milkid wanted to put as many flowers on as many graves as she possible could. Having been to Arlington so many times, she was deeply concerned about who comes to spend time at these graves and wanted to visit as many as she could. 

 If you are looking for a great starter Battle Field to go to I would absolutely recommend Antietam to you. Having been to several this was really one of the better ones as far as things to see and do. We went on a weekend and it wasn’t unbearably crowded. The kids had space to jog up ahead of us, and lots to see so they could keep their minds active. It is surrounded by several great towns, including Sharpsburg and Boonsboro. They are both great little towns with little shops, ice cream and places to eat. They each have their own history to check out.

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Summertime Fun for Families in Washington, DC! {Military Discounts Included}

I’m really excited because Summertime is on its way! Although here on the East Coast, Mother Nature is really trying to hard to keep it at bay. We recently had some ridiculous number of days {like 27 days} straight of some type of rain with absolutely no sun. It was really starting to wear on me. But, looking forward to summer helps pull me out of the funk. Getting out of the house is my jam, and as an extrovert this should come as no surprise. I try to get the kids out of the house a lot during the summer vacation and they are all about it. In most of posts about getting out with the kids I’m always talking about how important it is to travel with your kids, even if its local. My kids love going on the Metro, into DC, road trips – so try to make it something normal for your kids.

On to the good stuff! So, you find yourself in the DC area this summer, now what?! There is so much to do here and one could easily get overwhelmed, but there’s a few things that we do almost every year and as much as we can. So while I could go on and on about the things to do, here are a few of our favorites!!!

1. Twilight Tattoo –  This is an event on Fort Myer Army base, open to civilians as well. It is sort of hard to describe, but its a show really. And really, its almost best described in descriptive words – Singing, cannons, guns shooting, guns twirling, bayonets and horses!! Twilight Tattoo kicks off the season and we try to go at least once, but really going more than that is my goal. We pack up a dinner, bring a blanket and hang out. I would show up 45 min early, picnic and then when the show starts you’ll be ready to go. What is so great about it is we give the kids the camera and they head out on the field after the show to snatch pictures and talk to the soldiers. It really is a great opportunity for them to get up close and personal.

2. Baseball Games – I love baseball in the Washington, DC area. We have the major league Washington Nationals, and the minor league Potomac Nationals. Both of them offer military discounts (the Potomac military tickets are such an affordable price) and are great for the whole family.

3. The National Mall – There is so much to do down in the National Mall area. We frequently go down there and just hang out. Walk around, let the kids run around in the grass, take a picnic. Sometimes its super crowded, sometimes its not. If you head down there, make sure you snag your tickets for Washington Monument. They are free to request online (with a small fee) or you can just show up first thing and hope for a walk on.

4. Smithsonian Museums – If you’re going to head out down into DC there are a ton of museums to check out, with the majority of them being free. Our personal favorites are the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of American History.

*visiting the Wizard of Oz props at the American History Museum*

5. The Spy Museum *military discount*- If you’ve got older kids or the opportunity to sneak away with just adults, make sure to check out The Spy Museum. Aside from the Crime Museum, this one is my favorite! The store itself is full of cool things. There are also special guests and speakers…including real-life retired spies, that come into the museum from time to time. Go around the corner to Shake Shack to eat and you can thank me later.

6. Blue Star Museums – from Memorial Day to Labor Day Blue Star Families, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, offers free admittance to museums across the country. The link takes you directly to museums in Washington, DC, however check out museums in other states as well. There are some really good ones on this list to check out. In particular check out President Woodrow Wilson House, The Dumbarton House and the National Building Museum which have quite a hefty admission fee.

7. Mt Vernon – This isn’t located in DC, but just outside. It’s worth the trek out if you’re staying in the city. They have a great discount for military, but also if you purchase online which is nice. Also, ages 0-5 are free which I think is just so cool. For the free rate to go up so high is something I feel like you never see, so that’s why I like to mention it. Lots of places to run around outside and get your ya ya’s out before the house tour, or as a reward for being good through the house. It is a very manageable length of time inside the house. If you are visiting during Christmas time try to take the special house tour. It is the only time of year they open the very top level. They also have the Christmas camel out and fun actors.

8. Fort Myer MWR – Fort Myer is accessible fairly easily by Metro. Most people take the Blue or Yellow Line to Pentagon and you can walk over if need be. Hop on over to the community center for discounted tickets to various sites in the DC, Virginia and Maryland area. If you are close to another base near you, you can probably access the tickets you need there as well. But there are lots of local specials that you may only be able to access here locally.

9. Busch Gardens and Water Country USA – if you’re a local for feel like taking a drive you can check out Busch Gardens and Water Country USA down in Williamsburg! You can use your Waves of Honor discount to snatch free and/or discounted tickets! Check out my post about Busch Gardens, and tips for doing it with kids on the cheap!

10. Great Falls – We love going to Great Falls. The falls are gorgeous, but there’s open grass area for hanging out, throwing a ball around or having a picnic (bring a trashcan, its a take in, take out park). There are several walking trails and lots of shade. It’s humid here, so you have to contend with that, but its fun.

11. RecCenter or Base Pools – There are tons of indoor pools at all the local rec centers, as well as great pools on one of the local bases in the area. We spend a lot of our summer at the pool on base, but we have used the Rec Center pools before and they are really great. If you want to get really wild and crazy you can travel out to CubRun Rec Center out in Chantilly. There they have indoor slides and water park attractions, with a rec center price tag.

12. Baltimore – Take a trip out the Baltimore Harbor area for the day or overnight! The Harbor has attractions and sites like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, Science Museum, Children’s Museum, the Aquarium and huge historic ships that are docked there. Most of those things have great military discounts available. Check out my post for more details on that.

13. Delaware City, Delaware – This is definitely worth the trip if you are looking for something that is maybe more than a daytrip, but still close enough that you don’t feel like you are packing up for a huge, complicated vacation. We had so much fun in Delaware City!

I could go on with so much more. The DC/VA/MD area is so full of so much to do! You could even branch out further a take a day trip up to Philadelphia or head up to Annapolis. Not to mention one of the beaches like Virginia, Bethany or Ocean City. The options are endless and could take three or four blog posts to get through and still barely have scratched the surface. So have a great summer and drink it all in! There are sometimes it really does feel like a magical place, even after four years of being here.

happy summer!!!!

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Peter and the Wolf Comes to the Hylton Performing Arts Center {Academy of Russian Ballet}

I’m so very excited to share with you the Northern Virginia Youth Ballet and the Academy of Russian Ballet’s perfomance of Peter and the Wolf. We were privileged to see these amazing performers in The Nutcracker this past winter, and were thoroughly impressed. The NVYB is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for young dancers to perform and grow as dancers. One of the things that particularly struck me about this ballet company was the dancers themselves, after they done with the Ballet. My daughter, who is by nature more introverted, was bound and determined to meet some of the dancers. So, we went up to them. They bent down and spoke to her and took pictures. They were completely comfortable with that and it really touched me deeply. The talent in this company for the young age of the dancers is wonderful, and you can tell that there is extreme dedication happening. As someone who has ballet in their blood, these are all things that I look for, and I just can’t help it. I find myself look at the small details that most people wouldn’t notice. Is there a sickled foot, is it winged up in arabesque? I know I know, I realize I might just have lost you there, but I’m a ballet geek what can I say!

 

If you are looking for something to do this Friday consider snagging tickets for this excellent production. Bonus: Military families are provided a discount. Just makes me love this organization more. That’s not something that they are required to do or even have to do. But it is a window into generosity that makes me want to patronize a company or organization more.  

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Peter and the Wolf features Australian guest dancer Victor Leo Smith in the title role. He will wow the audience with his huge jumps and multiple turns.

 
Paquita has Melissa Zoebisch and Alexandru Glusacov from the Colorado Ballet in the Principal roles.
Very family friendly production and a fun way to spend the evening together! 
 
Supporting roles performed by members of NVYB and ARB, many of whom just competed at the 2016 Youth America Grand Prix international finals against over 1200 dancers from 36 countries.
 

Purchase your tickets here! {tickets are also available at the door – subject to availability}

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Day Trip Tips – Baltimore, Maryland

When you live in a large tri-state type area, the possibilities for day trips are endless! And if you’re an adventurous family the opportunities are endless. The Cammo Style Love family was able to head on out to Baltimore a family get away. We experienced three of Baltimore’s attractions that I would highly recommend to all of you. It was such a wonderful experienced for Mr. Air Force and I, and the kids.

First stop – Ripley’s Believe it Or Not!

We were kind of concerned about how the kid’s would do. Would they be interested in it? Would they run around and not pay attention to any of it? In fact, they loved it! We all had a fabulous time. They were interested in things, we got to look around and actually enjoy ourselves. I think all the years of taking our littles everywhere are really paying off for us. They still talk about going and want to go back. It’s just the right amount of weird, gross, fun, hands on stuff. My daughter’s favorite part was the piano stairs. But I think the guy that looks like a snake was a close second. But I’m not going to give away much more. You’ll just have to check out. And if you aren’t in Baltimore see if there’s a Ripley’s near you! Make sure you stop by to grab a wax hand. It was well worth the wait (on the weekend there’s birthday parties!) and my kids just love looking at their little hands.

Second stop – Historic Ships of Baltimore

These amazing ships that sit in the harbor are just beautiful. It’s been awhile since my kids have seen ships like this, and I’m almost positive that none of them really remember going on them. We figured we could squeeze in a couple of them to finish out our day before it got too dark. We ended up seeing three of the four; and FYI to my military readers, there is an amazing discount for military families (Guard and Reserve included). You can visit a Civil War Vessel, a Coast Guard ship, a submarine and a lighthouse vessel. The experience, especially on the USS Constitution was incredible. Our four year old did extremely well on all the ships.

Last Stop – Brick Oven Pizza in Baltimore

Seriously guys, the best gluten free restaurant pizza I have ever ever had! Great atmosphere, amazing staff and seriously good pizza. Plus, it was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so you know it’s gonna be goo.

Final Tips

We stayed outside the city, in Linthicum, MD near the airport. It was not trouble to hop right over to the city, and there are tons of nice hotels to stay at all right here in that area. We stayed at the Westin BWI, which was a lovely hotel. Customer service was impeccable, the bed was amazing. However, I don’t know that I would stay there again. It didn’t really fit our needs. There’s a cooling station, for drinks, and not an actual refrigerator. The wifi isn’t free and there is no continental breakfast unless you upgrade to the executive suite. Then you can access their club. We got a wonderful deal so that went into the decision, and I did want a more fancy experience for Mr. Air Force, since this was a “return from deployment” family getaway.

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