NEW Dave and Buster’s in Downtown Silver Spring

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Theres a brand new Dave & Buster’s in downtown Silver Spring! Located on the 5th floor of Ellsworth Place (formerly City Place Mall), this was the biggest and most beautiful Dave & Busters we have ever played visited. It’s 40,000 square feet of top-of-the-line video games and a modern sports-bar style restaurant.

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The A Parent in Silver Spring kids and parents enjoyed playing as many of the 160 Dave & Buster’s games in the Million Dollar Midway as our $10 game cards would allow us. This amount kept us all busy for over an hour! Of course, we were there on Wednesday night, which was the awesome Half-Priced Games Night. Every Wednesday (open – close) all games are half-price.

Favorite games of the kids included the four-way air hockey table, the massive CandyCrush and Crossy Road games, blasting ghosts with the Ghostbusters and in Luigi’s Mansion, racing in the Star Wars Battle Pods.

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Dave & Buster’s requires adult companions aged at least 25 to be with all guests under age 18 — no drop offs — as there is a bar on-site. All minors must leave with their parents before 11 pm. These policies are to ensure a family-friendly experience for children. You are welcome to plan your child or teen’s birthday party at D&B SS, which provides a welcome venue for those of us who like to celebrate with the kids’ friends outside of our houses.

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All games earned our kids tickets in this one hour of play for them to select prizes of great quality, like emoji pillows, Bright Eyes Pets, basketballs and lots big movie-theater-size boxes of candy.

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We had dinner in the Dave & Busters restaurant and everyone enjoyed their meal immensely. Chris went for the classic BBQ ribs and mac ‘n cheese, and I ordered the healthy option Cabo Chicken, grilled with veggies and brown rice. Both options were part of the Eat & Play Combo special, in which you receive a $10 game play card along with your dinner (available all day Sunday-Thursday and until 5pm on Friday and Saturday).

There are drink specials for the parents featuring lots of frozen and fruity options, as well as Thursday, Sunday and Monday Game Day Specials like $5 appetizers and $3.50 22 oz. draft beer. Other specials at the Silver Spring location include Happy Hour on weekdays 4:30pm – 7pm, and Two For Tuesday: $2 select beer, $2 tacos and 2 free game plays (open – close).

The kids loved the kids’ menu, which had cool selections like pretzel dogs and the kids surf and turf: two sliders, fried shrimp and fries.

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Dave & Buster’s Silver Spring is located on the 5th floor in Ellsworth Place at 8661 Colesville Road. The hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday 11am – midnight, and Friday through Saturday 11am – 2am. Learn more.

We received review passes. No additional compensation received. All opinions are my own. 

ICE! at Gaylord National Harbor: Christmas on the Potomac

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Since Gaylord National Harbor brought ICE! and the Christmas on the Potomac celebrations to the Washington, DC area, our family has made this visit a treasured holiday tradition. It’s the perfect way to get excited for the season!

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This year the theme is especially magical, Christmas Around the World! Celebrate a world of cultures and celebrations, all done in amazing ice artistry.

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To experience ICE!, you walk through an ice wonderland village of over two million pounds of colored sculpted ice. Donning special blue parkas over your own winter clothing, you are protected from the sub-zero temps and you and your kids are able to comfortably take in the beauty of the frozen world. This year there are five different ice slides!

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ICE! opens daily from now through January 1. Tickets start at $29 for adults ages 12 and older and $21 for children ages 3 to 11 during non-peak days. Military and group ticket pricing is available. Hours vary and can be found at www.ChristmasOnThePotomac.com.

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For three days, Cyber Monday through Wednesday November 30, you can score 30 percent off ICE! tickets, overnight stays at the Gaylord National Harbor and Christmas on the Potomac packages! Get the deals while you can! 

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Additionally, there is free and just-a-few-dollars-fun to be had at Gaylord, in addition to ICE! New this year, visitors to the resort will discover a free, immersive way to experience a variety of the holiday offerings during Christmas on the Potomac. The Village of the North Pole, located in the hotel’s exhibit hall, provides all visitors with a decorated Christmas town square, complete with holiday merchandise, a hot chocolate stand, a gingerbread decorating area (for purchase). There are indoor carousel, teacup and train rides for purchase, too.

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We adore the Christmas tree suspended from the Gaylord National Harbor’s 19-story atrium. This 4,000 pound Starlight tree is comprised of 50 five-point stars that represent America’s 50 states.  The tree topper displays one large star, signifying the Capital, Washington, D.C. The tree is wrapped in handmade texturized green fabrics and illuminated garland that are designed to coordinate with the hotel atrium’s evening light show.

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The new Christmas tree is the star of the hotel’s nightly holiday fountain show, Sounds and Songs of Christmas, that occur at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. now through January 1, 2017. There is also indoor snowfall and gorgeous holiday music, and this spectacle is free to all.

Get all the info and tickets at Christmas on the Potomac.com!

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We received review day passes. No additional compensation received. All opinions are our own. 

DIAMOND GIVEAWAY from Best Shopping Destination: Disney Springs!

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Disney Springs is full of family fun for all ages of kids, for sure. 

But it is also jam-packed with the best shopping in the country! 

On my recent trip to Walt Disney World Resort, shopping at Disney Springs blew me away…but I didn’t blow all of my cash. I found incredible deals while finding unique gifts, fashion and beauty items that I could not locate anywhere else. The curated selection of shops provide an exciting mix of accessible but cutting-edge retail experiences.

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Pictured with fellow press trip Disney Springs explorers and new friends, Danielle Faust of OKDani.com and Jen Lawrence of JenOni.com

Levi’s Store and Tailor Shop

I was already Levi’s obsessed — the classic denim brand still makes the most on-trend, able-to-afford and figure flattering denim clothes. And I love a shop where I can pick out casual pieces for all five members of the family. But the icing on the cake is the Levi’s Disney Springs in-house Tailor Shop.levis-tailor-shopThe in-store Tailor Shop offers alteration, hemming, repairs and artistic customizations of your denim selections. This in-house service is unique to only a handful of Levi’s locations worldwide, of which Disney Springs is one. I had the chance to select a Levi’s Trucker Jacket (I went with the women’s Boyfriend Trucker in the light, vintage-feeling sunshine indigo wash) and have the Tailor Shop trick it out with any customizations I liked. They said to think of their service as a “tattoo shop” to personalize my denim and inject it with my own personality. I loved perusing the massive selection of patches and embroidery options, and settled on my nickname on the front. Check out the result and the some of the other personalization styles behind me.

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FIT2RUN

Have your running gait analyzed and experts recommend the best running shoes for you, as well as find the entire line of the exclusive  runDisney 2016 collection by New Balance.

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American Threads

Have you ever shopped this store? Their bricks-and-mortar locations are in the South, so I had never before shopped. Dani, Jen and I fell deeply in love with their gorgeous, cool, bohemian-inspired fashions, shoes and gifts. None of us had been in this shop before and all us ended up going home with something beautiful. They offer free transport back to your resort if you are staying on-property at Walt Disney World and free shipping home on purchases over $100. Their low prices and this convenience factor convinced me to pick up a slew of girlfriend gifts and a hat (similar to the one featured in photos here) to keep out the DC winter cold.

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Basin

You will only find this luxurious land of bath bombs and all-natural body butters at Disney and in Vegas. Their prices, scents and selection are the very best in the genre.

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Luxury of Time by Diamonds International

The Disney Springs store where I spent the most time in a fantasy fog was Luxury of Time by Diamonds International. It is a land of luxury watches, fine gemstone and diamond jewelry. They also provide champagne to shoppers, making it irresistible. I learned about the Crown of Light diamond cut that presents a uniquely curved faceted design that makes for amazing sparkle. I tried on tanzanite rings that looked like they should be in the Smithsonian Natural History museum next to the Hope Diamond.
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And best of all, I was chosen as a winner of a $300 diamond and tanzanite pendant from Diamonds International that I have decided to give away as a holiday gift to YOU! This Diamonds International Safi Kilima Diamond and Tanzanite Pendant features an oval tanzanite (.48 ctw) surrounded by a circle of sparkling round diamonds (.10 ctw). Set in sterling silver, it includes a matching 18-inch chain. The gemstones are guaranteed to have been ethically mined. The stunning piece retails for $295.

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One lucky reader winner will receive this pendant as an early present for herself or to gift to a loved one, thanks to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World! To enter to win, fill out the form below.

DISNEY SPRINGS DIAMOND GIVEAWAY

Disclosure: I was hosted to attend the Unwrap the Magic press event at Walt Disney World. I flew my family down with me and they enjoyed the parks while I “worked.” We received perks. Review product received. Additional days at the Walt Disney World Resort, family meals and personal shopping were covered by our family. No compensation received. All opinions are mine.

Why Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is So Worth It

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Last week my family and I experienced our first Walt Disney World visit during the holiday season, and as a member of the media I was invited to check out Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It was a Magic Kingdom experience like I have never seen before. On the party dates in November and December The regular rides are in operation, sure, but there are special surprises throughout the night that you can only experience during the party and snow machines blow beautiful flakes through the air.

See the Castle Burst Into Light: A Frozen Holiday Wish

The night begins with a performance by Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf on the Castle Forecourt Stage. This merry-and-bright seasonal show features singing of the favorite Frozen songs and culminates with Queen Elsa using her incredible powers to present a gift to everyone in the kingdom: transforming of Cinderella Castle into a glimmering ice palace for the holidays. Over half a million lights are used!

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Watch a Rockin’ Christmas Show: Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration

There’s a brand new stage show for the holidays that fills the air with music, dancing, laughter and shimmering snowflakes. You’ll see Mickey, Minnie, Donald and the his Caballeros, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Peter Pan, Alice and the White Rabbit, Woody and Jessie, Snow White and Dopey, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket and many more surprise guests sing and dance to Christmas carol favorites and original songs, too.

Free Holiday Treats and Drinks 

Included in your ticket price are treat stations throughout the park. The hot cocoa in Adventureland and warm ginger cookies in Liberty Square were my favs.

Special Character Meet and Greets

During Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you’re invited to share hugs, receive autographs and snap pictures with more than 15 beloved Disney Characters who are dressed in the holiday outfits they only wear this time of year. You’ll connect with hard-to-find characters such as Santa Jack Skellington aka “Sandy Clause: and Scrooge McDuck.

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Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade

Everyone loves a Disney Main Street, U.S.A. parade and this one is exclusively for the holidays. There are dancing gingerbread men, elves and reindeer, along with Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Olaf, Anna and Elsa, Pooh and Tigger, The Seven Dwarfs and a grand finale of Santa in his sleigh.

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Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

In Tomorrowland Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. and Stitch sing songs and wow the crowd. There’s a little kids-designated area in front of the stage.

Special Holiday Wishes Fireworks 

An exclusive holiday version of the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes fireworks takes place on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party nights at 10pm.

Tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are for select November and December evening celebrations from 7pm- midnight, however your party ticket allows you to enter the park at 4pm.

Disclosure: I was hosted to attend the Unwrap the Magic press event at Walt Disney World. I flew my family down with me and they enjoyed the parks while I “worked.” We received perks. Additional days at the Walt Disney World Resort were covered by our family. All dining and purchases with my children were covered by our family. No compensation received. All opinions are mine. 

The Nutcracker at Metropolitan Ballet Theatre

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Don’t miss Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s 28th Annual Production of The Nutcracker! Tickets are on sale now for these breathtaking performances at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center, Montgomery College, in Rockville.
Year after year audiences are enchanted by MBT’s performances which feature professional dancers and students, fabulous costumes and beautiful scenery including a Christmas tree that seemingly grows forever. There are magical dancing dolls, marching toy soldiers, giant mice, a dazzling blizzard with dancing snowflakes and a land of luscious sweets.

Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker is a fun family tradition that will lift your spirits this holiday season.

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays December 2 – 11, evenings and matinees.
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Disney Springs with Kids This Holiday Season and All Year

disney-springs-for-kidsEvery time I get together with friends in the DC area and we talk family vacations, the conversation always turns to Walt Disney World. All of us are angling to get back there as soon as we can with our kids, and we are constantly comparing notes. Where should we stay? When should we go? How should we plan our days? It’s hard not to become a bit obsessed with Disney after you realize how enjoyable and memorable it is for everyone in the family.  (And those $48-64 non-stop tickets from BWI-MCO on Southwest are tough to beat…especially to escape DC in winter!).

I love that there is a Walt Disney World destination that always gets my kids excited and does not require a park ticket: Disney Springs.

The newly reimagined Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney, but it’s completely redone, updated and different!) is a Walt Disney World family vacation must-do. Whether you are looking for world-class shopping, exciting entertainment, a ticket-less Disney destination on your arrival/departure day or fabulous dining, Disney Springs will blow you away. Our entire family enjoyed exploring the kid-friendly entertainment, activities and restaurants.

HOLIDAY FUN AT DISNEY SPRINGS 

Walk the Christmas Tree Trail 

The all-new Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail is filled with the most creative Disney-themed trees! Snow machines add to the magic of a winter wonderland as you admire Little Mermaid, Tangled, Alice in Wonderland, 101 Dalmations and more clever Christmas tree creations.

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Watch Starbright Holidays – An Intel Collaboration Light Show 

At Disney Springs every evening at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. through  January 8, 300 Intel Shooting Star show drones take to the sky over Disney Springs in synchronized choreography to holiday music. This is the first time a drone show of this scale has ever been performed in the U.S.!

Meet Santa Claus at Santa’s Chalet

If you thought meeting Santa was special, try meeting him at Disney! You can take a picture with jolly old St. Nicholas and tell him what you want for Christmas through December 24 at Disney Springs, and with Santa Goofy December 25 through December 30, 2016.

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Holiday Performances Throughout Disney Springs

You will be treated to live entertainment all throughout the holiday season. Toy solider and snowflake stilt walkers, pop carolers, acapella groups and more perform 6-11 p.m. through January 8. Performances specifically celebrating Kwanza happen on the Waterside Stage in the Marketplace on December 26 and December 27, and songs and stories in honor of Hanukkah happen at Waterview Park in The Landing, with evening performances from December 24 through January 1.

YEAR-ROUND FAMILY FUN AT DISNEY SPRINGS

Play at the LEGO Store 

Your kids will be able to spend tons of imaginative time at the many hands-on play tables and checking out the larger-than-life Disney models.

Ride the Marketplace Carousel

It’s a charming Venetian carousel in the heart of Disney Springs Marketplace, and it’s just $5 for two rides.

Run Through Fountains

Near Once Upon a Toy are two crazy fun fountains for interactive play. Swimsuit clad kids can get soaked, and kids in regular clothes can time their dashes to avoid the spray.

See La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil….or watch a free open practice

Walt Disney World’s own in-residence Cirque du Soleil has been updated with new acts for 2016. Experience aerial bamboo artists — bold tricks performed while dangling from a pole-like apparatus suspended from the ceiling! — as well as the world-famous B-Boy breakdancers. There are also acrobats, singers, trapeze artists, jugglers and clowns, all performed to the inspiring music of the live orchestra. The performances take place most Tuesdays through Saturday evenings at 6 and 9 p.m. at the ivory circus tent-looking Le Théâtre, located at the West Side of Disney Springs.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Disney Springs 

Your child can receive the royal treatment at the Disney Springs location of the BBB, which you might find easier to obtain a reservation at than the Magic Kingdom outpost during your vacation. Here young princesses age 3-12 (accompanied by an adult) can choose a hairstyle, make-up, nail color, accessories and a Disney princess costume. Boys can join in on the fun too, and be transformed into heroic knights. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 180 days in advance by calling (407) WDW-STYLE or (407) 939-7895.

Characters in Flight – the Disney Springs Hot Air Balloon

This 10-minute hot air balloon ride provides a breathtaking 360-degree view of the entire WDW Resort area for 10 miles in every direction. The balloon is really filled with helium and can hold up to 29 people.

EATS, DRINKS AND TREATS

The dining at Disney Springs is spectacular. At every restaurant kids are welcome and kids’ menus are available. Here are some of the dining locations that my family particularly enjoys:

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza: Customize your own fast-fire’d 11” artisanal pie by choosing from over 40 delicious toppings and sauces.

Coca-Cola Store Rooftop Beverage Bar: Come for the view, stay to recharge with one of the many refreshing bevvie choices.

Frontera Cocina: I am still dreaming about the haute Mexican cuisine presented by famous chef Rick Bayless and the Play With Fire spicy margaritas. The kids menu was particularly delicious and special.

Vivoli il Gelato: You’ll swear you’re in Florence when you taste the gelato, for this world-famous, family-run gelato shop from Florence, Italy has chosen to open its second storefront in its 85-year at Disney Springs.

Splitsville Dining Room: We had a decadent diner-style meal on the terrace of Splitsville and the kids loved the on-site balloon animal twisters and face painters, free to dining guests.

STK Orlando: We love how kids are welcomed at this chic steakhouse, and that the kids’ menu is just $10.

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KID-FRIENDLY SHOPPING

The array of shops at Disney Springs is of the parents shopper dreams, but the kids found their favorite stores, too!

Basin: Bath bomb and scented lotion nirvana.

Build-A-Dino by Build-A-Bear at T-Rex: Create your prehistoric pal.

Little Mismatched: Where the bright socks come in sets of three and polka dots go with everything.

Once Upon a Toy: Curate your custom Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head set and more Disney-themed toys.

Star Wars Galactic Outpost: All the Star Wars swag in the galaxy.

UNIQLO: Their Disney t-shirt and funky stuffed Mickey selection is as impressive as their affordable outfits for kids.

World of Disney: The biggest, best Disney store in the world!

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More: Best of Disney Springs at Walt Disney World (aka Downtown Disney 2.0)

Disclosure: I was hosted to attend the Unwrap the Magic press event at Walt Disney World. I flew my family down with me and they enjoyed the parks while I “worked.” We received perks. Additional days at the Walt Disney World Resort were covered by our family. All Disney Springs experiences, dining and purchases with my children were covered by our family. No compensation received. All opinions are mine. 

Holiday Must-Do: Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens

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It’s not the winter holidays in the DC area without a visit to Brookside Gardens’ Garden of Lights!

This gorgeous holiday outdoor walk-through light exhibit celebrates its 19th season, and my family and I have attended with our children every year since Charlie was a one-year-old, clapping his hands with delight at all of the lights.

Beginning November 25th through January 1st (except December 24th and 25th), families can enter this evening enchanted wonderland that is illuminated with more than one million lights.

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The images I have captured here with my camera do not do the magical visuals justice. There are lights of all colors, flashing in sophisticated designs. The lights are added to hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals and more natural elements. There are twinkling tree forms, fountains, snowflakes and gazebos full of holiday magic.

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Family favorites are the lighted “squirrels” and “cardinals” that dash and fly amongst the trees, just like animals native to the park. “Bullfrogs” of lights on twinkling “lily pads” also entertain, as do wolves, roses, rainclouds, rainbows and even sea serpents, all made of tiny bulbs.

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Another beloved element of the Garden of Lights experience is visiting the G-Scale model trains that speed through the Conservatory in a seasonal landscape.

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My children love watching the trains and searching for hidden treasures in the provided “I Spy” scavenger hunt for kids. A favorite item often on the hunt list: a tiny Yoda.

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Every night during Garden of Lights the Visitors Center hosts nightly musical performances and sells delicious hot cocoa.

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The Garden of Lights is one of the area’s most treasured holiday traditions, and one that brings the A Parent in Silver Spring crew joy every year. We hope to see you there!

Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens
1800 Glenallan Avenue
Wheaton, MD 20902
November 25th through January 1st
(closed December 24th and 25th)
Sunday – Thursday: 5:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 5:30 – 10:00 p.m.
Last car admitted 30 minutes before closing time each night.
For safety reasons, pedestrians are not admitted.

Admission
$25 per Car/Van (Sunday – Thursday)
$30 per Car/Van (Friday – Saturday)

$25 Advance Sale Tickets available at the gift shop at Brookside Gardens beginning November 1

$50 per 15-24 Passenger Bus/Van/Limo
$75 per 25-35 Passenger Bus
$120 per 36-57 Passenger Bus

This segment produced by Montgomery Community Media a few years ago provides a great overview of Garden of Lights.

Thank you to Montgomery Parks for sponsoring this blog post. All opinions are my own.

Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC) on Creating Playful Family Memories

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Today’s guest post is from Brooke Shoemaker, a Museum Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC). SEEC is an early childhood program that I love that you may be familiar with from past pieces on A Parent in Silver Spring. SEEC resides within the Smithsonian museums and utilizes the vast collections of the museums and the community to support its curriculum. SEEC has a full-time school during the week that serves children from two months to five years, while SEEC’s outreach arm, the Center for Innovation in Early Learning, brings playful museum learning to the public through family workshops. SEEC is typically known for its work with five-year-olds and under, but they have recently expanded our programming to include exciting offerings for kindergarten through third grade. Read on for the scoop! 

When crafting our programming at SEEC, we think about how to make educational experiences playful and engaging for children and caregivers because we know play is how children make sense of their world. As play theorist Vivian Paley states, “Play is, in fact, a complex occupation, requiring practice in dialogue, exposition, detailed imagery, social engineering, literary allusion, and abstract thinking. Being both work and love for young children, play is absolutely essential for their health and welfare.”

Although the importance of play has been proven, research shows that children’s play time has been declining every year. Play is the way children learn and develop lifelong skills such as teamwork, perspective taking, problem solving and critical thinking. And let’s face it, play is fun!

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Think about a really fun and playful memory from your childhood. You are likely to remember the details of it better than something more mundane like a trip to the grocery store or a ride to school. You can probably recall the details much better, for example, what you smelled, saw, what you were wearing, what you did, and perhaps most importantly, who you did this fun activity with. We all want to create positive memories with our children, and lasting memories are created when you are engaged in an experience together.

It is with this knowledge and belief that we have created our new offerings for an older audience, which utilize this playful approach to create fun, educational and memorable experiences for families. At SEEC we know how important play is for the development of children, and we believe that play should not end in kindergarten, but instead continue throughout our lives. Play might change and look different as we grow, but it is no less essential at any age, and SEEC Celebrations and Artful Afternoons embody these ideas.

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SEEC Celebrations

With SEEC Celebrations families can choose between an ancient Egypt or dinosaur themed party, in which children take on the role of archeologist or paleontologist to discover clues about the world long ago. Children start with several themed activities to begin the fun. These activities range from sensory play, to more creative art activities, ensuring options for all different types of interests and learners.

Next, children gather to learn more about our world long ago through an interactive book reading and dig. Children will take on the role of archeologist or paleontologist as they dig for artifacts. Through this role-play children get a hands-on experience in how an archeologist or paleontologist work, and puts them in the position of problem-solver as they decide which objects warrant more investigation.

After excavating the artifacts, where better to find more information about them then at the National Museum of Natural History? Children will work in teams with caregivers to search for their artifact and gather clues about what it could be. Seeing these objects up close will give children a rich sensory experience that they cannot get from pictures alone. Who else can say they saw a real dinosaur bone or mummy on their special day?

Back at the celebration space children will share their findings with their friends and families. To conclude the SEEC Celebration, families are invited to enjoy a celebratory treat and then head out to our playground for some outdoor fun before heading home. Themed goodie bags are provided to all guests, which come with extension ideas for families to continue exploring ancient Egypt or dinosaurs after the celebration has ended.

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Artful Afternoons

As children start elementary school they become more independent. Still want to have quality bonding time as a family? Head to one of SEEC’s Artful Afternoons, a once a month open studio program, which presents maker stations for families to explore together. Each station has a challenge or question based on the afternoon’s theme, but how you approach it is up to you!

This unstructured program is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon creating with your child while learning about a topic related to art. This type of play will nourish your child’s imagination and opens a world of possibilities that leads to innovative thinking.

Families often strive to make family time and special occasions ones that children will remember for years to come. Why not join SEEC for one of our K-3 programs to ensure that your family has smooth, stress-free, fun where you can focus on your child instead of logistics? For more information visit https://seecstories.com/.

Brooke Shoemaker of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center was a toddler and preschool educator before joining SEEC’s outreach arm, the Center for Innovation in Early Learning, as the Pre-K Museum Education Specialist.

This guest post is sponsored by SEEC. 

Rufus the Rednose Raindog at Arts Barn Gaithersburg

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Rufus the Rednosed Raindog

Performed by Blue Sky Puppet Theatre

December 3, 2016Purchase Tickets Online
December 10, 2016Purchase Tickets Online
December 17, 2016Purchase Tickets Online
All performances are at 3 p.m., tickets are $12

An entertaining and humorous puppet show to celebrate the holiday season.  A lost and lonely dog shows up at Santa’s workshop. At first he’s rejected because he has a red nose, but eventually he and everyone around him realizes how special he is. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

This post was sponsored by Arts Barn. 

Maryland Emancipation Day Weekend with Montgomery Parks

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Election anxiety got you down? Looking for educational activities with the family that teach of a time when our country righted its wrongs? The line-up of family events hosted by Montgomery Parks this weekend, November 4-6, fits the bill.

These historic learning opportunities celebrate Maryland Emancipation Day at historic sites throughout the county. On November 1, 1864, a Maryland state constitution freed all those held in bondage within its boundaries, abolishing slavery on the state level. Share these offerings with your children that thoughtfully, appropriately and significantly teach this historic landmark.

Park events on Saturday and Sunday are FREE, unless otherwise noted, and open to the public.

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SATURDAY

Underground Railroad Experience Guided Hike – 9am, 10am, 10:30am, Sandy Spring. This all-ages 2.5 hour hike is led by talented volunteer “conductors” who lead groups on a simulated Underground Railroad experience covering 2 miles from Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park along a wooded, natural surface trail to the historic Sandy Spring, then back to the park. Hikers will learn about various techniques that freedom seekers used to elude trackers, find food, and navigate their way North to freedom. Sign up details.

Woodlawn Visitor Center Open House – 10am-4pm, Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park, Sandy Spring. The newly-opened Woodlawn Visitor Center’s is not to be missed! The museum-quality exhibits in the restored stone barn tell the story of a bustling farm, its community, and those who made a bold bid for freedom on the Underground Railroad, guided by local Quakers. (See image above for an inside peek.)

Oakley Cabin African American History Museum, Farm and Park – 12-4pm, Brookeville. This home site of a free African American family will provide re-enactment learning with a Black history perspective, live music, johnny-cake making and more historic demonstrations. This is one of our family’s favorite learning trips, pictured below.

Sandy Spring Slave Museum and African Art Gallery – 11am-3pm, storytelling at 12pm, film at 1:30pm, Sandy Spring. Free admission for self-guided tours all day, food and drinks for sale. At noon storyteller Dianne Cross will present “A Long Overdue Story,” a story of the life of her great-grandfather who journeyed from slave, to Civil War soldier, to free man. At 1:30pm the hour-long documentary Community Cornerstones: African Americans in Montgomery County will be presented. This film presents reminiscences by elders from 5 historic African American churches and illustrates life during segregation.

Harper Cabin at Brookside Nature Center  – 10am-4pm, Wheaton. Step back in time at the 1870s at the Harper Homestead. Tour the cabin and experience demonstrations.

Button Farm Living History Center – 12-4pm, Germantown. Self-guided walking tours of our farm, animals and gardens. Scavenger hunt, bonfire and drinks and living history activities.

SUNDAY

Josiah Henson Park Open House – 12-4pm, North Bethesda. Open for special events only, the Josiah Henson Park is the former plantation property of Isaac Riley where Reverend Josiah Henson was enslaved from 1795-1830. It is also a historic resource of local, state, national and international significance because of its association with Reverend Josiah Henson, whose 1849 autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself, inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s landmark novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Activities at Josiah Henson Park will include guided tours, hands-on archaeology activities and screenings of the Time Team America documentary: “The Search for Josiah Henson.”

Underground Railroad Experience Guided Hike – 10am, Sandy Spring. (Info above.)

Woodlawn Visitor Center Open House – 10am-4pm, Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park, Sandy Spring. (Info above.)

Harper Cabin at Brookside Nature Center  – 1-4pm, Wheaton. (Info above.)

This is the final event weekend of the 2016 History in the Parks season. Group Tours & School Fieldtrips can be reserved year-round. The 2017 History in the Parks event season will restart the first weekend in April.