GIVEAWAY: Busch Gardens and Water Country USA Weekend Getaway!

Our family turned a free summer weekend into a majorly marvelous summer vacation, simply by hopping in the car and heading to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA. We spent a full day at each park, spending one night in Williamsburg in between, and we created a season’s worth of amazing memories with our children.

Water Country USA is just a few miles down the road from Busch Gardens Williamsburg and these two parks are the perfect pair for your summer getaway. Water Country USA offers fun for the entire family in a cool beach vibe, with resort-style amenities and a great selection of water rides and attractions.

Busch Gardens has dozens of rides in an array of thrill levels, as well as incredible shows, fabulous food and drinks. The park is divided into different European country-themed areas, and each section has great food, rides for all levels and is uniquely picturesque. It is such a gorgeous park!

Our crew was able to enjoy both parks thanks to the 2 Park Flex Deal which allows you to enjoy both parks as often as you like for seven consecutive days through September 10th — which saves you $50 or more per ticket! We used the Busch Gardens Vacation Planner to put together our fab mini break itinerary and make the most of our two day trip.

We opted for Busch Gardens as our first stop, arriving just as the park opened at 10 a.m. on Friday. We did not overheat thanks to Busch Garden’s very shaded campus. We also made sure to hit all of the sprayground areas (Alice and Eve are pictured above in the Land of the Dragons Brook Play Area with water buckets and jets) and water rides, which all five our family members enjoyed for both the easy thrills and the cooling splashes.

Another awesome aspect of Busch Gardens is their big selection of KIDSiderate (kiddie) rides and animal exhibits. Toddlers and preschoolers will have their own thrills and never be bored. We saw the wolf pack playing and receiving treats from their zoo keepers, admired the bald eagles and got to pet and greet the iconic Clydesdale horses.

During the hottest times of the afternoon, our entire family enjoyed the truly entertaining shows at Busch Gardens. Our family favorites are Pet Shenanigans – featuring hilarious and highly-trained rescue animals, Celtic Fyre with top notch Irish dancing and singing, and Britmania’s ’60’s British rock Broadway-style revue. There is also All For One, a Musketeers swashbuckling spectacular in the Busch Gardens open-air Royal Palace Theatre.

Our teen, tween and the parents enjoyed taking shifts on the thrill rides. We rode the brand new and newly-opened InvadR – the new wooden coaster, an awesome addition to Busch Garden’s collection of world-class coasters. This ride is so exciting, but it is very smooth and does not invert, so this was a favorite with our cautious 11 year old as well as the hard-core thrill seekers in our group.

The wild coasters were a hit with our 13 year old, and the parents took turns accompanying him on the take-your-breath-away Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, Tempesto and more.

Thankfully, my stomach always recovered just in time for another libation or treat.

Although we were not able to make it through to the summer evening fireworks, after a full day of fun we checked in to our family resort hotel, the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel and Suites. There the kids loved the salt water pool, the big splash pad and complimentary mini golf.

We had a wonderful meal at the on-site Huzzah’s Eatery, where Chris and I ordered wine and fresh seafood while the kids crafted their own pizzas to be fired in the pizza oven. The next morning’s breakfast buffet was included for all hotel guests, and the kids chowed down on fruit, bacon and Belgian waffles.

Saturday, our second day in Williamsburg and included in our 2 Park Flex Deal, was all about the swimsuit-clad adventures at Water Country USA. Due to the nature of walking around in my suit all day without a pocket or a magically waterproof iPhone, I was not able to capture as many original photos to show you. Here’s my last one, snapped by Chris at the Surfers Bay Wave Pool that was our family’s “home base” at the park, before putting the camera away.

But the kids LOVED that Mom and Dad were not able to access our phones! With our lifelines to work and parent photography stashed safely in a locker, we gave Charlie, Eve and Alice our complete and undivided attention as we hurtled down slide after slide with them. Hitting a water park with the kids means you have completely unplugged time with them, which is rare and a bonding treat for everyone.

There are more than 20 different slides or water activities at Water Country USA. Unlike other amusement parks that may have simply a small water slide section, Water Country USA is huge and completely dedicated to water-centric fun.

Our favorites included racing each other as a family down the Nitro Racer, cruising in pairs down the Malibu Pipeline, and watching Charlie brave the big drop of Vanish Point. Colossal Curl, the newest thrill raft ride, is brand new and so exciting! The ride starts with a funnel feature that swishes and swirls your raft of up to four people, before whisking you through the ride’s enclosed colorful tubes on to a wave element high above the park.

All five members of our family had a completely glorious time at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA. And the folks at the parks would love to invite YOU to experience it too! One lucky A Parent in Silver Spring reader will win a family vacation including….

  • Four (4) 2 Park Flex tickets for Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA

  • One hotel room night’s stay at a Busch Gardens partner hotel (exact location TBD based upon date of travel)

  • One parking pass

This prize is valid to be redeemed through September 10, 2017. One winner will be randomly drawn through all forms of entry in the entry form below. Enter multiple ways to increase your chances of winning! 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Vacation!

Disclosure: My family and I received the same items for review as included in the giveaway package: park tickets, one night hotel stay and a parking pass. All meals and other expenses covered by me. All opinions are mine. 

The Aquabats Concert at the Fillmore Silver Spring + Giveaway


The AQUABATS! are a band of costume-clad crime fighters who “battle all things lame in the pursuit of ultimate radness” and produce some very entertaining and kid-friendly rock and roll, as well as a wacky TV show you can catch on Netflix and Hulu. These five singing superheroes are bringing their celebrated family rock show to The Fillmore Silver Spring on Friday evening!

The AQUABATS! are led by the fearless MC Bat Commander (Christian Jacobs, co-creator of the hit children’s television series Yo Gabba Gabba!) and their new album features guest vocals from Biz Markie, Strong Bad and more. Check out some of their songs and videos here.

The AQUABATS! at The Fillmore Silver Spring on Friday, July 21 

Get Tickets! 

Door time: 6:00 PM

Show time: 7:00 PM

Support Acts: Reggie and the Full Effect, CJ Ramone

Premium Services: Want to skip the line, get in early, or reserve a seat in advance? Call Matt Harris at 301-960-1912 to learn about your options!

Enter to win 4 free tickets to the show, thanks to The Fillmore Silver Spring! One winner will be randomly drawn from all forms of entry.

The AQUABATS Giveaway for 7/21/17 Fillmore Silver Spring Show

Badlands Playspace Rockville Rocks!

The most beautiful open gym and playspace my family and I have ever visited in the DMV is – hands down! – the new Badlands Playspace on Randolph Road in Rockville. This nature-inspired play space and interactive environment was designed with the goal of creating an interactive environment where “children can take risks, succeed at challenging themselves, and find their own way.”

Targeted to children ages 2-13, Badlands offers many diverse areas for learning and play. The focal point of the space is the massive kid-friendly, climb-friendly rock structures. Is there anything kids love more than climbing big rocks? And these safe man made structures have tunnels, bridges, ropes and slides! Badlands staff carefully instructs kids in an orientation session about safe climbing play.

No, that is not a Dwell magazine spread. Those are the Badlands Event Pavilions! These gorgeous rooms can host your Badlands birthdays, celebrations, group crafting sessions or other creative events.

At Badlands, founders Mikel and David Blair have thought of everything. There is a cafe with healthy snacks, coffee and even libations for parents! A butterfly garden. A maker room with numerous centers for building, crafting, making art and conducting science experiments. A field games area. A screening room. And all of these centers are just gorgeous to behold.

Taking your kids to this family-focused, education-rich space is a summer must do! Daily admission is $22.50 for kids 3+ and $12.50 for toddlers under age 3.

Activities and Cool New Products for a Hot 4th of July

Our family’s favorite 4th of July fun (not on the National Mall because we are officially too old for the long lines for the Metro home)…

July 1st: SummerFest at Bohrer Park, Gaithersburg

July 1st: Free Concert by the US Navy Band The Commodores at Black Rock Center for the Arts

July 4th: Takoma Park Independence Day Parade and Fireworks

July 4th: Kensington Children’s Bike Parade

July 4th: Palisades DC Parade and Picnic 

July 4th: Mid-County Sparkles at Einstein High School, Kensington

July 4th: Rockville Fireworks at King Farm

July 4th: Germantown Glory Fireworks at South Germantown Recreational Park

July 4th: Poolesville Festival and Fireworks

And for the brave and high energy: 4th of July on the National Mall Official

My favorite 4th of July party products, as discussed on Saturday’s Fox 5 DC Morning show…

VIVA XXXII Tequila is crafted so you can savor, priced so you can indulge! These affordable premium tequilas from VIVA XXXII also raise money for animal abuse prevention. Both the Joven and the Reposado tequilas are great for your fav 4th of July margaritas, of course, but the flavorful, pure tequilas are designed to be sipped on their own, no mixer required.

Nomadic State of Mind JC USA red, white and blue sandals are made from recycled and reused rope and are hand-crafted. They elevate and add interest to your 4th of July ensemble and work with casual and dressier looks.

ion8 Ulimate 2 water bottles are 100 percent leak proof and non-toxic. I love the one-touch flip top for easy hydration, and then it locks when you need no leaks on the go! The red, white and blue colors are patriotic year-round and of course, perfect for 4th of July

DynaTrap is a chemical- and pesticide-free, affordable, easy to maintain, environmentally friendly and effective insect trap. DynaTrap uses UV light and CO 2 (which mosquitoes find irresistible) to mimic human beings and maximize predatory insect attraction. Its strong yet silent fan then vacuums the insects into a retaining cage. Just plug and hang and run 24/7 during mosquito season to disrupt the mosquito life-cycle with maximum impact in 6-8 weeks.

Tervis currently offers tumblers in numerous sizes, water bottles, sippy cups and wine glasses, 1000s of original and licensed designs and emblems and a full complement of accessories. The Made in the USA patriotic designs help you show your country’s pride year-round and on Independence Day.

Culkin School of Irish Dance Summer Camp in July and August

Looking for a summer camp for your kid? Interested in learning Irish dancing, for boys and girls? The Culkin School of Irish Dance has teamed up with Glen Echo to offer an enriched series of summer camps for your Irish Dancer. The Culkin School offers summer camps for experienced Culkin dancers and for new-time beginner dancers who would like to give Irish dancing a try. Camps are held at Glen Echo Park, an historic landmark, geared to the arts.

Beginning Irish Dance: Footworks and Figures 10am-12pm for ages 6-10 
Sessions: July 17-21, July 24-28, July 31-Aug 4, Aug 7-11 

If you are brand new to Irish dance, a  current ‘Mini-Mester’ dancer, an afterschool program dancer, this is the class for you. This is a one-week, introductory class; through a series of figure (group) dances, students will learn the basics of Irish dance and music – no experience necessary! If you are interested in our Beginning Irish Dance: Footworks and Figures, click here to register!

Culkin Pre-Camp 8am-10am for ages 6 and up 
Sessions: July 10-14, July 17-21, July 24-28, July 31-Aug 4, Aug 7-11

For Culkin dancers who are enrolled in morning camps, we make it easy to extend your dancer’s day! Join us from 8am-10am for a supervised, relaxed Irish Dance Pre-Camp experience. Fun activities for all ages. It’s easy to enjoy a true summer camp experience at Glen Echo Park with Culkin. Click here to register!

Lunch Bunch 12-1pm 

Join the supervised “lunch bunch” in the Praline Café in the Spanish Ballroom until 1pm and experience a full-day camp experience. This option has a daily rate. Contact the Culkin school to set this up. And if you coordinate an afternoon camp at Glen Echo Park

Is your child a Current Culkin school dancer and or an experienced Irish dancer? Check out these other Culkin summer camp offerings for the experienced. 

A Parent in Silver Spring is a personal friend of the Culkin School founds and owners Sean and Denise Culkin and recommends their camps and classes. 

Imagination Stage’s Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure

This Saturday, I took my daughter Alice to see a rocking take on her her literary namesake at Imagination Stage. In Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure, Alice follows the White Rabbit into Wonderland where all of the familiar characters have been transformed into live musicians. Both my six-year-old and I adore the imaginative, modern musical based upon the classic story.

The writers have successfully translated Carroll’s irrational Wonderland to our own times and added lyrics and a beat that will make you want to twist and shout. The Mad Hatter and March Hare are scathingly funny, the Caterpillar is zen (but testy!), the Cheshire Cat is funky cool and all of the Wonderland characters have musical numbers to match their style.

Actor Erin Weaver, who I had previously adored as Marianne Dashwood in the Folger Theater’s Sense and Sensibility last fall, was an amazing Alice. She conveyed spunk and intelligence that my own little Alice identified with, and her singing was awesome. All of the cast were incredible vocalists and musicians, giving us a kid-friendly rock opera that was top notch theater. After the show, we enjoyed meeting the cast. Check out my Alice with Matthew Alan Ward, the Mad Hatter himself.

You have to see the show! Wonderland is playing now through August 13 at Imagination Stage. Get tickets.

I received two press passes for review. No additional compensation received. 

Perfect 4th of July Weekend Staycation: Gaylord National Resort SummerFest

Seeking to go somewhere fabulous with the family for 4th of July weekend, but want to skip the excruciating holiday traffic? Head to our family’s go-to vacation spot right in the DMV, Gaylord National Resort, for a SummerFest staycation!

Gaylord National Resort is offering reduced room rates June 30 through July 7, which allow you to book a night for as low as $129! There is also the amazing SummerFest package that starts at $299 but include big savings that make that weekend getaway more affordable: a $100 resort credit to use for the on-site restaurants and spa, two tickets to The Capital Wheel and free parking!

Why our crew loves a stay at the Gaylord National Resort in summer: 

Aquafina Summer Movie Matinees: Overnight guests enjoy musical movie magic by the pool during Gaylord National’s Summer Movie Matinees featuring films that include Sing, National Treasure and Moana. The indoor/outdoor pool and splash pad has the movies, kid-friendly pool and fountains for the kids, and a full bar and lots of lounge chairs for mom and dad.

Music Mystery Scavenger Hunt: This free activity encourages guests to search for hidden musical notes throughout the Gaylord resort’s atrium. Upon finding all the notes, guests can decode a song title and enter to win an overnight stay.

Awesome Restaurants: From a big brunch buffet to National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill with its Extraordinary Kids Menu, the dining at Gaylord National Resort is top notch for all ages.

Americana: The nightly atrium laser light show at takes place in the resort’s garden atrium to celebrate the music of America throughout the ages. During the show, viewers experience samples of some of America’s favorite tunes choreographed with a laser light show and dancing water from the resorts signature fountain.

More Fun at National Harbor: There are so many fun activities for families at National Harbor — check out our favorites in this post!  We also love the Urban Pirates National Harbor Cruise, check that link for our review.

And if you are considering a couple’s getaway or date night at National Harbor, check out these offerings at Gaylord National Resort: 

Sips and Sounds: Belvedere Lobby Bar on Friday July 1 – Visitors to Gaylord National can unwind with drinks, live music and breathtaking sunsets overlooking the Potomac River with music performances range from Jazz, Adult Contemporary, R&B and more.

Silent Disco Party: Pose Rooftop Lounge, July 1, 2 and 3 – Resort guests can experience the coolest new way to enjoy music at the resort’s 18th floor rooftop lounge. Participants are given special headphones to wear and can select different music mixes created by a DJ to dance along to. This is for guests 21+.

Happy summer!


Nava Wellness Diagnostic (+ Free Treatment for You!)

I have always wondered if I should give up gluten. Or dairy. Or eggs. Am I sensitive to these food types? I have given them up for weeks on end in the pursuit of wellness, but could never be sure if the effects made a difference in how I felt and looked.

And I have wondered about my thyroid, iron levels and hormone levels. My general practitioner says that I am overall in great health, but could I truly be better?

I have a cabinet full of vitamins and supplements. Whenever I read a book or an article lauding the health improving powers of a vitamin, I purchase it, take it for a few weeks…and gradually stop regular use. Which vitamins do I really need to be taking?

I know that so many busy parents wonder like this, but it is so easy to keep pushing ourselves to the bottom of our lists, as these health wonderings they seem like hard questions to answer.

That is why I was enthused to visit my local Nava Health and Vitality Center to review their Wellness Diagnostic services. Nava’s advanced Wellness Diagnostic services seek to reveal the underlying cause of your symptoms. The wellness diagnostic includes an adrenal function profile, micronutrient panel, food sensitivity and intolerance testing, and more.

I had heard about Nava Health from friends who had also undergone the Wellness Diagnostic, and I was eager to do a deep dive into my own personal health. I walked in the door of the North Bethesda Nava, located in the Pike & Rose shopping district, and was transported to a serene getaway in the midst of the urban cool.

I met with Kara Kelly, N.P. who immediately put me completely at ease. She explained the Nava philosophies and balanced integrative approaches to total wellness. She discussed how the information that Nava obtains in the Wellness Diagnostic is much more comprehensive than standard doctor’s office tests. We talked about my health concerns, which I always worried were pretty minute and standard for mothers my age, but Kara took completely seriously. From my acne, to my anxiety, to fatigue, to desire to lose weight, we talked about my seemingly healthy body that could use some fine tuning.

Kara was calm, open and extremely capable. I felt excited that I was going to have those “Am I still anemic? Am I gluten intolerant? Is my thyroid borderline slow?” questions answered…finally! After the consult, I headed to blood draw. The phlebotomist was a total pro, and the drawing of blood was quick and painless. We then set my follow up appointment for two weeks later, after the all the results were in.

The first words out of my mouth were, “Should I be gluten free?” and Kara laughed. We first went over my comprehensive metabolic panel results, and I was delighted to learn that most all of my nutrients were in balance and at the correct levels. The only vitamin I was low in was vitamin D, which is easily remedied (and I already possessed in my bloated supplement cabinet!).

We went over my thyroid panel, and all was working well. It felt great to wipe that wonder/worry off my list. We then went over my correct blood count with auto differentials results, and again it was a relief to learn that my results were fantastic…with no anemia! As someone who had been taking annoying (and constipating) iron supplements, wondering if I was tired due to anemia, this was a great information to receive.

We dove into my food sensitivities panel, which revealed the most surprising results: no allergies to gluten, dairy, eggs or the usual culprits, and no severe food sensitivities at all! It was so enlightening to realize that while processed white flour is never a good idea, I have no larger health reason to avoid gluten. The tests did find that I have a moderate sensitivity to coffee, which in hindsight makes total sense. When I am not drinking coffee, my skin is clearer and I am not as anxious, even though I tend to pour more coffee down my throat in tense times. Since receiving the results I have cut out coffee completely and feel so much better, and my skin is clearer, too.


The most telling portion of my diagnostic was my hormone results. Kara stated that she believed that I had adrenal fatigue, based upon the symptoms I had shared with her and my high DHEA-S level. She diagnosed this imbalance as a reason for my irritability and anxiety, and fatigue in the afternoons. She called me “wired but tired” and suggested some tools to help recharge my adrenal glands. The first step was an adrenal function supplement she recommended that Nava carried, and the second step was acupuncture. I made an appointment for an acupuncture treatment one week later.


I arrived for my acupuncture wound up and worried about work, acupuncturist Rachel made me feel at ease. I lay on the comfortable table in the spa treatment room, with relaxing music and smells making it feel very massage-like. As she evaluated my pulse, we spoke of my goals for less anxiety and my adrenal fatigue results. Then she went to work with her teensy needles. I am a fan of acupuncture, but it had been several years since my last treatment. I immediately fell into a relaxed fog that carried through the entire hour, and then the overall calm feeling followed me into my week. I definitely want to go back!

Acupuncture Therapy is one of the included treatments for NavaPreferred. The monthly cost to be a Preferred Client, $89, is essentially paid for by the free therapy you receive each month. You can choose acupuncture one month or massage or life coaching or other integrative, holistic health treatments the next. You also receive deep discounts up to 40% off on many other services and products. For instance, the comprehensive Wellness Diagnostic testing I received is $345, but discounted to $275 for Preferred. Acupuncture, massage, chiropractic therapy, facial peels and other treatments are regularly $140 each, but marked down to $89 for NavaPreferred.

Nava Wellness is currently offering a super deal for A Parent in Silver Spring readers: When you book a Nava Wellness Diagnostic, you can receive a complimentary therapy of your choice! Just call 1-800-762-6282 or your local Nava Wellness center and mention “A Parent in Silver Spring” or “Jessica McFadden in order to receive the free therapy with your Wellness Diagnostic purchase. 

I received a Wellness Diagnostic and a therapy of choice for review. 

Soccer Summer Camp with DC Way: Win a Week of Free Camp!

Your summer prayers are answered:

Local treasure DC Way is offering seven weeks of Summer Soccer Camp! Developed for boys and girls ages 5-14, the number one goal of DC Way’s soccer camp is that campers have a blast, as the coaches believe players learn best when they are having fun. DC Way uses simple and engaging games to challenge players and teach them essential skills. The program is for anyone at any level: true beginners, kids who have come in and out of soccer lessons and leagues, and experienced soccer students.

Parents Voted DC Way Best Summer Camp & Best Sports Coach 

DC Way’s coaches say, “Even without ever playing before, we guarantee your child will enjoy our camp.” Local parents overwhelmingly agree. Washington City Paper‘s Best of DC reader poll just named DC Way Soccer the Best Summer Camp! And DC Way’s Founding Coach Denis Chekuristov won the award for Best Sports Coach, too.

DC Way aims to help campers discover and learn the game of soccer, develop and perfect essential skills and have a amazingly positive experience summer enrichment experience. The camp’s skills work focuses on speed, footwork, one-on-one moves, creativity, vision and confidence.

Full Day, Half Day and Single Day Camp Options 

The 2017 DC Way Summer Camp location is on Capitol Hill at John Tyler Elementary.  You can choose between either a full or half day schedule for camp. The full day schedule goes from 9am-3pm and the half day from 9am-12pm. A week of full day camp is $240 and a week of half day camp is $154.50. You can also sign up for single days at $61.80 per day. 4th of July week is shortened to Wednesday-Friday, and thus fees are reduced to $195.51 full day and $106.49 half day.

Select your DC Way weeks and register now!

And be sure to enter the giveaway for a free week of half-day summer camp with DC Way!

Free Half Day Week of DC Way Soccer Camp

Free Half Day Week of DC Way Soccer Camp

Summer Ideas for Free Fun: Guest on WTOP’s Every Day is Kids’ Day Podcast

I had the pleasure of joining the Every Day is Kids’ Day podcast, hosted by WTOP’s Rachel Nania. As two working moms who strive to be engaged and make memories with our kids, we both had a lot of fun with the subject matter, and we brainstormed and researched some ideas for YOU.

From library summer programs to how to find a new park to the best ways to let the kids splash in their suits without worry, we covered a slew of options in the DC area for summer excitement you can find right in your neighborhood.

Read the article and give the Every Day is Kids’ Day podcast a listen.

Listen to all the podcasts in the the Every Day is Kids’ Day series! Travel with kids, summer camp tips, road trips and more great parenting information is covered, featuring some of my favorite DC parents as guests, like Guiomar Ochoa of Cosmomommy.

Please forgive basic PhotoShop skills – I forgot to take a pic when I was in the studio.