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NEW Indoor Play Area for Washington, DC Kids in Silver Spring: Pop Up PlayZone


Pop Up PlayZone

Inflatables – Special Events – Edutainment – Games – Music

Grand Opening this Weekend Saturday November 22 at 9am

Andy’s Parties and the former Great Kids Village play spaces saved my family on many a cold winter weekend. Thanks to their amazing indoor offerings, my jumping-off-the-walls kids have played, bounced, made crafts, made friends….and my husband and I have retained our sanities.

Lucky us, because Andy has done it again…this time partnering with The Great Zucchini! They are launching Pop Up PlayZone in Silver Spring this Saturday November 22!

The indoor facility is filled with Great Kids Events and Andy’s Parties’ patented inflatables, touch screens, toys, play structures, crafting areas and more. Remember all that cool stuff that filled Great Kids Village or that you hire to have in your backyard party on a sunny spring day? It is all housed indoors for winter and our kids can enjoy. Stupendous!

Geared towards children ages 4-12, parents can bring their coffee, book, phone, etc. while the children play.

Check out photos of Pop Up PlayZone on their Facebook page.

Special events are happening all winter long, from performances by The Great Zucchini to princess tea parties to children’s author events. Check out the calendar and reserved your space for the fun.

Pop Up PlayZone is in a massive 20,000 square feet facility at 2211 Bel Pre Road, Silver Spring, MD in the Plaza del Mercado. It is located in North Silver Spring/Aspen Hill/Layhill/Glenmont…you know, by the Trolley Museum (and right near my house, I am so freaking lucky.) It is centrally located just minutes off the ICC (exit 10), a 15 minute drive to most of Montgomery County and much of Howard County. There is a Starbucks and McDonald’s right outside, for even more parenting convenience and coffee procurement. 

Note to Upper County families: A second Pop Up PlayZone is coming to Gaithersburg January 2nd. A Parent in Silver Spring will have the scoop soon! 

Pop Up PlayZone Sessions:

Monday-Friday, school days: 10am-1pm and 4pm-7pm 

Weekends and days off of school: 9am-12pm, 1pm-4pm and 5pm-8pm on days off.

Cost: $15 per child per session (includes one adult chaperone free admission) when you book online, walk-up tickets $20.

Pop Up PlayZone
2211 Bel Pre Road
Silver Spring, MD 20906
Phone: 844-4-Playzone

Win Tickets to ICE! 2014 at Gaylord National Harbor: GIVEAWAY + Twitter Party Prize


ICE! 2014 featuring Frosty the Snowman at Gaylord National Harbor 

November 14-16, 2014 and November 20, 2014 – January 4, 2015

$3 off promotion code for all A Parent in Silver Spring Readers: FROSTYFUN2014 (valid on non-peak dates) 

One family will win 4 tickets here on A Parent in Silver Spring. 

Another family will win 4 tickets during the #HollyJollyGN Twitter party on Tuesday November 11 from 8-9pm!

Heading to National Harbor to don the big blue coats and view the sparkling, interactive ice sculptures has become a family holiday tradition. And while I can get my Christmas kicks driving around listening to 97.1 holiday music and looking at Christmas lights, my kids? They really, really bliss out in the splendor of the annual ICE! show.

The 2014 theme is the classic holiday tune Frosty the Snowman, all brought to life in amazing detail and artistry. Hand-carved ice sculptures standing more than 20-feet high will tell the story of this holiday classic tale, and take a ride down a two-story-tall ice slide. The biggest hits for my kids are the ice slides. And those slides are not just for kids, grownups take rides too! This year there is also a special bonus area – The Frostbite Factory – a LIVE ice carving zone.

Another chance to win free tickets to ICE! – The #HollyJollyGN Twitter Party on Tuesday November 11 8-9pm

Tweet using the hashtag #HollyJollyGN on Tuesday night and everytime you answer a question or participate, you will be entered to win the grand prize:

A family 4 pack of tickets to see ICE! 2014!

The award-winning ICE! attraction is carved by a team of 40 master ice artisans from Harbin, China. These talented craftspeople spend more than a month in National Harbor creating our one-of-a-kind display. Harbin, known as the “ice city” of China, hosts the famed International Ice and Snow Festival annually, where more than 2,000 sculptors carve a 100-acre walk-through ice park using ice from the nearby Songhua River.

ICE! is kept at a frigid 9° Fahrenheit (-13° Celsius) so be sure to bring gloves and hats for your family.  Closed-toe shoes and long pants are required. Then you’ll be fitted with heavy bright blue winter parkas (that you wear on top of the coat you arrive in.)  After suiting up, you and your family walk through this unreal winter wonderland. Strollers are not allowed this year, fyi.

There are also so many other festive ways to celebrate the holidays at the Gaylord National! Head to ChristmasonthePotomac.com for all the holiday offerings at the resort. 

ICE! tickets


Adult (Ages 12+) Children 3-11 (Age 2 and under free)
Military (peak)
Military (peak)
Military (non-peak)
Military (non-peak)
Tour and Travel
Tour and Travel
Group (non-peak)
Group (non-peak)

View the calendar to see peak and non-peak dates *Prices subject to taxes and handling fees.
**Military rates are available at the ICE! box office, or they can also be purchased in advance over the phone at 301-965-4000. All military tickets must be picked up at the box office, and a military ID will be required for ticket purchases or ticket pick up. Purchase ICE! tickets online. Remember promotion code FROSTYFUN for $3 off all tickets during non-peak dates

If you really want to go for the holiday experience, you can stay overnight at the resort with even more options (most of which include your tickets to ICE!) 

Check out the ICE! + hotel stay Christmas on the Potomac resort package My family and I experienced a family fun package overnight at the Gaylord during the holidays a couple years ago and also as a fun winter mini-vacation It is the perfect nearby but super special getaway. I highly recommend.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: My family and I are invited to a media preview of ICE! No other compensation was received. 

Free Family Event Saturday November 15: Reimagining the Holidays Downtown Silver Spring


Mark your calendars for Reimagining the Holidays on Saturday November 15 on Fountain Plaza in Downtown Silver Spring. View the unveiling of “Silver Symphony.” Silver Symphony is a public art installation 35-foot interactive musical “please touch” tree. And the unveiling is just one aspect of an entertainment-packed, holiday party evening! 

This Year’s Important Theme: Music Education in Schools
The beautiful art tree “Silver Symphony” will be made of recycled chimes, bells, pinwheels and ribbons. The tree will be interactive, so guests can pull levies and strings and create their own music throughout the season! The instruments will then be donated to Hungry for Music, a local nonprofit that delivers musical instruments to schools in need.

Do not miss this incredible annual free party for families!
The fun goes down from 6-8 pm 11/15 on Ellsworth Drive at the Downtown Silver Spring fountain. Kids and grownups will have a blast…
Guest Host Tommy McFly from 94.7 Fresh FM
A capella performances by UMD’s Generics and Montgomery College Trio
Meet MYB dancers and Nutcrackers
Interactive music maker station with KID Museum
Face painting
Balloon artistry
Strolling entertainment
Fun Giveaways
Hot cocoa, shopping and dining specials and more!

All this awesome is thanks to Downtown Silver Spring and DARCARS, as well as artist Karl Unnasch.

Win a VIP Holiday Experience
If you think this sounds fun, imagine if you won seating in the VIP area with Tommy McFly, dinner for four to Copper Canyon (worth $200) and tickets to the Maryland Youth Ballet’s Nutcracker? Be sure to enter here for your chance to win!

Donate Used Instruments to Hungry for Music
If you have instruments you would like to donate to the art installation, that would be so great! Downtown Silver Spring is asking the community bring used musical instruments to the property beginning 11/15 through the holiday season – all donations will be given to Hungry for Music.

More Fun Downtown During the Holiday Season
Get into the holiday spirit at Downtown Silver Spring! Fun for the whole family every weekend throughout the holidays! Musical performances and strolling entertainment every Saturday- November 29, December 6, December 13, and December 20. Downtown Silver Spring will host musical performances by local schools’ choirs and bands every Saturday during the holiday season to draw attention to the importance of music education in schools.

Interested in performing?
Showcase your school’s choir or band on the Downtown Silver Spring Stage! Participating schools will receive an honorarium for their performances. If your school is interested in performing, please contact Jacqueline Fontana at jfontana@petersoncos.com.


Disclosure: Spreading the word about this event was sponsored by Peterson Companies and Downtown Silver Spring. All words and opinions are mine. 

DC Family Getaway: Lansdowne Resort

For a fabulous family vacation without a long drive or expensive airfare, Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg was perfection. This surprisingly affordable and simultaneously luxurious getaway was just what my family and I needed to relax and reconnect.

We arrived on a Friday evening after school and work, and upon pulling into the beautiful grounds we felt our stresses of the week melt away. The kids spotted a playground and Chris and I ooohhed and ahhhed over the gorgeous landscaping.


At check-in our luggage was whisked away to our room for us and the adults were handed glasses of champagne. The kids were given great goodie bags filled with kid swag, as well as a s’mores kit to be used at the on-site fire pit later!

Waiting for us in our room were three deluxe cookie decorating kits for the kids! They plowed into the sprinkles and frostings so quickly I could not even snap a picture. Lansdowne knows kids and goes above and beyond to let you know that this place is all about family love.

Of course, it is also very romantic and relaxing for a couple’s getaway. We even ran into one of my favorite and first love local bloggers, Karl of Silver Spring, Singular and his beautiful wife having a kids-free retreat. I had a fan girl moment.


The lobby is inviting and full of cozy nooks to play provided board games next to fires. Charlie and I snuggled down for chess and reading in comfy velvet chairs.



Friday night we sprang for dinner in the on-site restaurant Stonewall’s Tavern. At first glance it looked like a pub, but upon closer inspection we spotted lots of children. Kids are welcome to play billiards and other games. The kids’ menu was reasonable and full of healthy choices, but also provided the standard chicken strips and fries in addition to pastas, pizzas and veggies. Chris and I enjoyed our hearty sandwiches and drinks immensely. We had considered heading into the town of Leesburg to explore a new restaurant, but were happy we stayed on site in the warm embrace of our new home for the weekend.


We headed back to our room for an early turn-in. Our kids are always so stoked to sleep in new hotel room beds! A double bed standard room fit our family of five just fine. (When Alice turns four we know we will be heading into suite land for future getaways.) The television reception was a little fuzzy and the Lansdowne staff had a repair person there in less than five minutes to fix it! The kids were majorly impressed.

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The next morning we rose early to take advantage of the morning light, the iconic Virginia fall foliage and our proximity to esteemed family photographer Marian Lozano of Marian Lozano Photography. She shot our family in our annual photo shoot for our holiday card, for those framers to hang in our and the grandparents’ homes, and she brought out and captured our kids’ smiles.

I will be sharing the fruits of Marian’s labors in an upcoming post. As always, she captured literally hundreds of great shots and made us all look better than we actually look, all in about a half hour. She is seriously the best photographer I have ever worked with. We are so lucky to have her in our area! Check out her website to see the amazing photos of families, children, couples, babies, expectant mothers and events. She is my dear friend from way back in the ’90s, so blog or no I am lucky enough to mooch her services for free, but her rates are reasonable, especially for such high quality work!

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After our rough half hour of modeling, we ran for the brunch at Lansdowne’s Riverside Hearth. It had everything. Think the best hotel or cruise ship brunch buffet. Coffee and made-to-order omelets and smoked salmon for miles and a loaded granola bar and the best bacon on earth. The kids ate more than a hockey team and were full until dinner.

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After all that bacon, this woman needed to sweat. I headed to the Lansdowne Health and Fitness Center and lifted some weights and messed around on the treadmill. It was a truly beautiful gym. It felt much more luxe than my neighborhood Gold’s. Then I took a fabulous yoga class that did not cost extra (I am used to paying a class fee at other resorts/spa hotels for yoga.) The instructor tailored the yoga to the attendees’ needs and ability levels. Before savasana she went around and massaged all our shoulders with tea tree oil for extra relaxation.


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Chris took the kids to super-close-by Leesburg Animal Park, a family favorite. The kids went down slides and rode camels and had a marvelous time! Unfortunately, Chris’s phone was out so he didn’t get any pictures. I would complain, but see solo yoga shot above, so I’m keeping my trap shut. Just picture Alice on a camel!

During Halloween season Leesburg Animal Park morphs into the Pumpkin Village (formerly called Pumpkinville) — it is an ultimate area fall festival. Now it has reverted back to the animal park and the park it is open year-round! Fun note: Santa is coming to the Leesburg Animal Park Saturday December 6th! He will be there from 6-9pm and there will also be a bonfire for roasting marshmallows, hot chocolate, Christmas crafts for kids and the park will be open extra late.


After yoga, I walked around the gorgeous grounds of Lansdowne by myself! I KNOW! And then I checked in early for a spa appointment at Lansdowne’s Spa Minérale! I KNOW! Believe me, I did not take this alone time for granted. Today as the children are off for election day and crawling all over me, I am closing my eyes and thinking back on that blissful time.

Before my massage, I availed myself of all the tranquility centers at the spa. The therapy pool, steam room and dry hot sauna pulled all the toxins and negativity from my body and left me a clean-pored, positive ray of light. Or that is at least how I felt. I had an already relaxed groovy vibe going when I was greeted by Milos for my massage.

If you go to Lansdowne, get a massage from Milos. He was THE BEST. My back and shoulders have never felt so glorious. It felt divine during and felt fabulous after. It was an incredible Swedish massage. It was so good that I bought one for Marian (she had 47 families booked in October – that is a lot of camera lugging!) and if I win the lottery will buy one for mom reading this.  I may even travel back to Virginia some weekend simply to experience that perfect kneading again. THAT GOOD.


After all that princessy “me time,” I decided to grace my husband and children with my presence. We went for a family swim in the Lansdowne Aquatic Complex heated indoor pool. The outdoor pool area looks amazing, with water slides and loads of fun for the kids, but alas it closes in the fall when the chill sets in. The indoor pool was great fun. There is a box stocked with toys and pool noodles. The jacuzzi allows kids so we all had a family soak. The kids played with the one other family there which made it perfect. (Kids to play with but not a packed people soup.) As hotel indoor pools go, this was one of the very best.


For dinner that Saturday evening, we happily divided into two teams. We signed the kids up for the Lansdowne Kids Night Out with Peter Pan incarnate Erick. In a huge specially designated room in the Health and Fitness Center, the kids watched movies on a large projector, ordered kids meals for dinner from Stonewall’s Tavern, made friendship bracelets, played games and had a blast. They received bubbles and small toys. Lansdowne Kids Night Out is available on select Saturday evenings from 6-9pm and is a win-win for parents and children alike! Get the scoop.


While the kids had their night out, the old folks had ours. We had a schmancy dinner in the restaurant at The Golf Club at Lansdowne, The Crooked Billet. Our traditional steak house meal was to die for. We started by sharing a charcuterie and cheeses, moved on to an enormous steak for Chris and delicate duck for me. It was incredible. We were way too stuffed for dessert. It was elegant and delicious and the prices were much more reasonable than many other restaurants in this vein. Check out the menu.


The next morning, after swearing we would never eat again, we again availed ourselves of a massive morning meal at Riverside Hearth. The choices were different the next day but equally awesome. Then we went for a long family walk and took some time to play on the on-site playground.


After sadly checking out, we continued our #VirginiaLove with a beautiful Mass at St. John the Apostle’s new church in Leesburg, tramping around Sky Meadows State Park and enjoying all of their family programs (search for Virginia State Parks events.) The Sunday we were there included colonists from 1755, a corn maze, hay maze, pumpkin patch and blacksmith demos, as well as the trails for family hikes.

After all that worship and exercise, we rounded out our family day by visiting the most family-friendly winery ever, Barrel Oak. There the kids played in a giant sand play area right next to the outdoor tasting tables. Dog rescue enthusiasts had a meet-up so the kids ran around making friends with other children and dogs while we tasted wines. Kids also get free juice boxes when parents purchase a tasting. Wood-fired pizza was available that Sunday for purchase, and Barrel Oak has lots of vendors and family-friendly events each weekend. Check out the calendar.

PicMonkey Collage

I spent three days with my family eating, drinking, exercising and laughing. I did not wash a dish or do a load of laundry. It was really the best family vacation ever. No time spent in security lines. Very little time in the car. Lots of family bonding and relaxation and playtime. All five us were happy!

Thank you to Lansdowne for hosting us! All opinions are my own. 


PEP No-Drama Discipline Parent Talks

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Each year, the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP) invites national experts to come to the Washington community and speak to parents. On November 13th and 14th, 2014, PEP will host Tine Payne Bryson, Ph.D., to speak about parenting and her new book, No-Drama Discipline. Using humor and compassion and focusing on situations parents face every day, Dr. Payne Bryson will demonstrate how discipline with empathy works to teach children of all ages how to behave. Dr. Payne Bryson is a pediatric psychotherapist, school counselor, parent and co-author of The Whole-Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline. She presents research from various fields of science in a way that’s clear, realistic, humorous and helpful. She will give two talks:

Nov. 13, 7:30-9pm: Managing Strong Emotions: Revolutionary Strategies to Connect and Thrive with Your Child, Tween or Teen (for all parents)
Understanding the radical changes happening in the brain throughout childhood and into the tween/teen years can explain behavior, encourage connection and ultimately nurture your child’s academic and emotional health. Complete with candid parenting stories and a great deal of compassion and humor, this presentation will show you how to work with your child’s and teen’s developing mind to peacefully resolve conflicts, increase happiness and cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development that inspires more balanced, meaningful and connected lives.

Nov. 14, 9:30-11am: No-Drama Discipline: Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind (for parents of children age 2-12)
Based on the ideas in Dr. Bryson’s upcoming book No-Drama Discipline, co-authored with Daniel J. Siegel, this talk will highlight the fascinating link between a child’s neurological development and the way a parent reacts to misbehavior providing an effective, compassionate roadmap for dealing with tantrums, tensions and tears.

Tickets for each event at $28 per person and discounted to $25.20 PEP members. Register here before it sells out.

Neighborhood Toy Store Day Saturday at Dawn Price Baby


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Find the local Dawn Price Baby store nearest you.

iPic Theaters in North Bethesda Opening: Halloween Party, Free Tickets, Free Memberships

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Ground-breaking new luxury movie theater (that is actually affordable!) 

Free Halloween family event on Friday October 31 when school is out and open house celebrations through Thursday November 6

Free Premium Seating movie ticket when you join by November 5

Future fabulous dinner and movie date nights and memorable family movie experiences 

iPic Theater Opens in North Bethesda on Friday October 31

Have you heard about the new iPic Theater opening at North Bethesda’s Pike & Rose development? iPic Theaters are a visionary entertainment escape providing moviegoers an affordable luxury experience of ultimate comfort and service. It offers self-chosen reserved premier seating, some of it reclined with pillows and blankets, as well as elegant meals and libations that you can enjoy right in the theater.

Moviegoers can indulge in the most comfortable theatrical environment, an unprecedented level of service, and choice of Premium and Premium Plus seating, both offering plush leather seats. Premium Plus seating offers fully reclining seats, personal pillows and blankets, free popcorn and a special order-by-iPad system. Ninja-like servers are summoned at the touch of a button to deliver the gourmet “dining in the dark” iPic Express menu, expertly crafted by James Beard Award-winning Chef Sherry Yard, and a farm-to-glass cocktail program by nationally lauded iPic Mixologist and Master Sommelier Adam Seger. Premium seating ticketholders may purchase their food and beverage directly from iPic Express and carry it into the theater to enjoy at their seats.

Check out this video to view the iPic Theater experience.

9735_IPIC_PikeRose_FreeTicket_LandingPage_900xTBD_v2 (2)Family Open House on Halloween Friday (when school is out!)

iPic Theaters invites the public to family-friendly party to come see this awesome new theater in our community! The week-long event will kick off on Halloween with family-friendly events, including complimentary Halloween face painting and a Thriller dance crew. The daytime Halloween day fun happens from 12-4pm on Friday October 31. There are family-friendly movie screenings, too, like Alexander and the Terrible, No-Good…so stay to see a movie on the school holiday!

There is also live entertainment and activities for the duration of the week, such as stilt-walkers, selfie photo booths and DJ. These family activities will take place this weekend Saturday and Sunday from 12pm-9pm, and Monday through Thursday from 5pm-9p.. Perfectly timed for weekends and after school, families can enjoy a preview of the iPic experience with exciting culinary and mixology demonstrations. Check iPic North Bethesda for movies and showtimes.

Great Cause for Opening Week

iPic hopes to set a record for the largest movie theater opening fundraiser by raising $35,000 through a community watch-a-thon, Eyeballs for Charity. For all the movies viewed at iPic Oct. 31 through Nov. 6, local charities will receive donations!

iPic’s grand opening will benefit seven area charities: Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (10/31); NIH Charities (11/1); Children’s National Medical Center (11/2); Common Threads (11/3); Ryan Kerrigan Blitz For The Better Foundation (11/4); St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital (11/5); and National Organization for Missing and Exploited Kids (11/6). Net proceeds from ticket sales and food and beverage sales will benefit each individual charity on its dedicated day.

Membership Benefits + Free Tickets if You Attend Open House!

iPic Pike & Rose membership program means that you can reserve your movie seats ahead of time via iPic’s proprietary reservation system on www.ipic.com or via the iPic App. iPic’s membership program offers guests discounted pricing, priority access to purchase tickets to new release movies, exclusive access to special screenings and the ability to earn points on purchases redeemable for movie tickets and more.

The first level of membership is totally free; much like a store loyalty program! Members receive a specially-price menu every Tuesday and Tuesday $2 select beers and $5 house wine, and special e-mail offers. There are other reasonably-priced membership levels that offer more savings and benefits.

I will be joining as a Sapphire Member, which normally costs $15 but if you sign up before November 5th is totally free! This will allow me priority ticket purchasing: exclusive 24-hour, 72-hour, or 1-week advance access to tickets for new releases before they go on sale. I will also get a free birthday ticket, a free anniversary dessert and the ability to learn points on all ticket, food, and non-alcoholic beverage purchases redeemable for free tickets.

Sign up as an iPic Member before November 5th to receive a free Sapphire Membership AND a free movie ticket!

For more information on becoming an iPic member, visit www.ipictheaters.com/become-a-member.aspx.

See you there!

 iPic Theaters Pike & Rose

11830 Grand Park Avenue

North Bethesda, MD 20852


Disclosure: This post was sponsored by iPic Theaters. 



Frozen on Ice: Disney on Ice’s Finest Show Yet

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I know I always blog that Disney on Ice is so great for families, but OMG, Frozen on Ice is the best show yet.


The special effects, combined with everyone’s favorite winter’s tale of sisterly love, is incredible. My kids, jaded Disney on Ice regulars that we are, were astounded by the show’s beauty. The lights! The snow! Sven on skates! Olaf losing his head and butt! Kristoff does flips!

And most importantly ELSA and ANNA are there, singing and skating! Waving to you! You get to see them while sitting down and eating popcorn, versus a two hour line at Disney World. My three-year-old Alice could not contain herself during the show. She danced, sang and cried with excitement.

I thought the quality of the show was top-notch. It is basically a Broadway show of the animated film, complete with the soundtrack your children know and love.

Due to high demand new show times have been added to the schedule of showings (13 total!) at the George Mason University Patriot Center, offering you more options to see Elsa, Anna, Olaf and company.

Thursday, October 23rd @ 7:00 p.m.

Friday, October 24th @ 10:30 a.m. 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 25th @ 10:30 a.m. 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, October 26th @ 10:30 a.m. 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Monday, October 27th @ 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

All shows are at the Patriot Center, 4500 Patriot Circle, Fairfax, VA 22030. Get tickets.

Best Getaway: Salamander Resort and Spa


My husband Chris and I have never been away together for a weekend…without the kids. We have had a handful of overnights together (one of which was when Chris stayed the night in Holy Cross Hospital with me after Alice was born) and solo trips to see friends, family or do work. But this was the first time we spent two consecutive nights away without kids since December 2003…when our oldest child was born.

We are not martyrs. We are not helicopters. We just had not yet had the opportunity, or really, worked to make a kidless getaway happen. But thanks to the generous offer of our brother and sister-in-law (who have four kids themselves), we celebrated a Friday night through Sunday afternoon retreat at the most peaceful, beautiful, relaxing and chic resort we have ever visited: Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg, Virginia.

Heaven. On. Earth.


Over the years of A Parent in Silver Spring, readers have e-mailed me or left comments on the blog asking about getaways for couples. And I have not had any first-hand recommendations to offer. Sure, we have gone away for the weekend to Lancaster County to see trains and ride Ferris wheels. We love visiting beaches and amusement parks and taking trips with the kids. But a couple’s weekend? Clueless. I literally Googled “nearby Washington, DC getaway” and stumbled upon the Salamander’s idyllic photographs.

Now I have an emphatic, firsthand getaway recommendation for my parent friends: Head thee to Salamander. 


Family-friendly resort…but we went kid-free

I will write a piece in the future on all of the family-friendly offerings at Salamander Resort, and there are many. Kids are welcome, family activities are available, there are Kids Club nights, babysitters can be hired for evenings and we loved seeing children enjoying themselves throughout our weekend.

But last weekend, we really needed the chance to recharge our depleted parental batteries and enjoy some time together as a couple. And we wanted it to be relaxing and luxurious, a celebration of scoring sitters our marriage.

After ensconcing our kids with family, we headed to Middleburg, probably the most simultaneously chic and quaint city in America. We turned onto a graveled road and immediately entered the Salamander bubble.

Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill


Our car was whisked away, our luggage was deposited in our suite for us and we were immediately escorted to dinner in the resort’s signature restaurant, Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill. It is stunning, at once relaxed and luxe. From the octagonal dining room you can see views of the grounds, from fire pits to rolling greens and the equestrian barn.

We settled in with cocktails and dug into delicious fish and steaks. The food is nouveau steak house, with something decadent or healthy for everyone. Chris treated himself to a steak with the trimmings, I went with delicately-dressed rockfish and a sashimi starter. The wine list was well curated and diverse. We were too full to even consider dessert (that never happens with us!) Harrimans is a fabulous dinner choice even if you are not staying as overnight guests. I look forward to driving in for a special brunch or dinner in the future.



That night we walked the gorgeous grounds and were startled by all the stars. Since moving from downtown Silver Spring to northern Colesville/almost-Ashton-Silver Spring, we have been having some awesome astronomy nights. But nothing compares to the wealth of stars you can see in Middleburg. Salamander even provides Celestron Sky Scouts telescopes and start-gazing experiences if you are so inclined.

Remarkable rooms


Our suite was big and beautiful. We did not even use the sitting room, as the big king bed was ideal for reading and watching movies, and the massive bathroom provided lots of relaxing hangouts, from the claw-footed tub to the experiential shower. I am a sheet freak, and the linens were a perfect Pima cotton sateen. The gift shop manager said that sheet sets would be available for purchase soon, they have been so loved by guests. Each room has its own Keurig for coffee, tea and cocoa self-service, and the minibar was stocked with the two in-room must-haves: healthy snacks and spirits.

Equestrian experiences


We awoke refreshed and ready for our first resort activity: a tour of the equestrian center and a mini/modified Equi-Spective learning experience. Neither Chris nor I are experienced riders. Chris took lessons as a boy and I have bumped along on trail rides on friendly country horses, but absolutely all levels are welcome and will find an equestrian experience for them. From the never-ridden to the experienced rider with her own mount (you can bring your own horses with you and they will be lodged almost as luxuriously as the guests), everyone is accommodated.

I would live in Salamander’s stable if I could. It is flawless and like something out of a Ralph Lauren pictorial. Cocktail parties, conferences and formal events are frequently held in it, and I can see why. It is such a great combination of fancy and homey, with the friendly horses offering ears to be scratched, the fresh wood and hay smells and the Hermès-esque leather riding tack all around. I immediately started thinking of women’s blogging retreats being held in the glass conference room, followed by Yoga in the Stable sessions. (Who’s in?)


Sheryl Jordan, the Equestrian Center Director, led Chris and me in a one-hour Equi-Spective learning experience. There was no riding involved, instead we learned how our interactions with horses can teach us so much about ourselves and our leadership abilities. Chris is a director in his workplace, and I am constantly switching gears as a freelancer/consultant/blogger and of course, mom. We learned about self-carriage, how to better listen to others and our environment, how to be open-minded in our communications, how to lead with humility…all through interacting with the most incredible horse, Gentleman’s Quarterly aka Gent (named because he himself is very confident and stylish.)


We learned a great deal from Sheryl and Gent in just a small amount of time. It was exciting to lead Gent as he cantered around the ring (note: the flag stick I am holding visually directs the horse in the ring, it does not touch the animal) and then to signal to him to stop and lead him toward us. It may sound goofy, but I felt extremely calm and empowered and connected when I brought Gent to me with only my body language, and when he approached me to be petted and our heads touched, I felt pure happiness. We learned also how to lead Gent and have him follow us. We loved every second.

Learn more about the Equi-Spective experiences at Salamander.
Learn more about the various leveled equestrian programs at Salamander.


Gold Cup Wine Bar and Billiard Room


Invigorated by our new horse sense, we were ready for lunch (after believing we would never want to eat again after the night before) in the Gold Cup Wine Bar and Billiard Room. We loved the cozy leathery club feel of this more casual restaurant, located right next to the lobby and porches for perfect people watching. And dog watching! Salamander is extremely dog friendly, a rarity in a luxury resort.

Our lunch started with a Bloody Mary for Chris, a cappuccino for me and then a charcuterie board to share. Delish! Our sandwich and pasta entrees were yummy and healthy, too. We plotted future Saturdays of horse riding and then game-watching and lunch-eating in the Gold Cup. It would be a fabulous day destination, and the meal and service were truly great.


We headed back to our gorgeous room for a nap. For all the glamour surrounding us, an elusive nap in the middle of the day was one of the best items on our itinerary!

Salamander Spa and Wellness Center


I do adore a good spa treatment. It is a problem. But I feel so incredible for weeks after, I have to say that massages, facials and other wellness treatments are totally worth it. I have tried many spa locations, from the bare-bones to the schmancy, and Salamander’s Spa and Wellness Center does not disappoint.

It dazzles.

I recommend that everyone book a holistic spa treatment experience at the Salamander, no matter how small, simply to have access to the indoor vitality areas. The aromatic steam rooms, therapy pools, custom experience showers (you can program the shower to recreate a warm rain forest storm!) and spa-exclusive outdoor pool and cabanas are divine. There are other indoor and outdoor pools at the resort, but this special area is reserved for spa guests.


Chris and I each enjoyed a 50 minute massage, but we spent a few hours trying out all of the relaxation options available. The indoor relaxation areas are sorted into male and female areas, but we met up at the outdoor pool.

Our massages were amazing, tailored to our personal preferences and our bodies’ needs. I mentioned that I have been having more headaches lately, and my massage therapist, Colleen, recommended a scalp and temple treatment to help with that. I walked out of there feeling better than I have in a long time.

I loved choosing the aromatherapy scent that would be utilized during the massage and the absolute professionalism of the staff. Every breath we took while in the spa was infused with zen. It was such a treat, and such a retreat, too.


Feeling so naturally high and giddy as we approached 24 hours kid-free, Chris and I could not help goofily smiling as we walked around the resort taking pictures and soaking up the relaxation that permeated the place. We then walked the 3/4 mile path into Middleburg, and I will share our favorite finds in the town in an upcoming post.

Tree Top Zip Tours


The next morning we harnessed our adventurous spirits – literally – and suited up for our first ever tree canopy zip line tour. (Yes, we live one mile from Sandy Spring Adventure Park, but we have not yet tried.) It felt exciting to do something thrilling after experiencing so much relaxation.

Tree Top Zip Tours by Empower are based on the Salamander Property. You do not need to be a guest to sign up for a zip line tour. As this was our first time zip lining, we opted for the standard tour. We had a blast! We flew over 20 acres of trees and countryside via two “Indiana Jones”-esque bridges and five zip lines of various lengths. The tour lasted approximately two hours and we were led (and kept safe) by our two guides. We were joined by five other brand-new zip liners who were delightful. We created a fun community while up in the treetops, taking each other’s photos, filming videos and encouraging each other.

There are other, more intimate, intense or educational zip tour experiences available, as well. The tour is open to children who who are at least eight years old and weigh 75 pounds, and kids age 8-15 must be accompanied by an adult. Learn more.


Salamander Resort and Spa is the perfect weekend getaway

As we waited for the valet to bring our decidedly un-Salamander-chic minivan around, Chris and I could not help grinning. We were recharged, relaxed and just happy to be together. We were looking forward to reuniting with the children, and we missed them…but not as much as we expected. And we felt a little sheepish admitting that.

When we arrived at their aunt and uncle’s house, we found our kids playing with four cousins and two dogs, hardly looking up to greet us. The kids happily declared they did not miss us at all. It was a wonderful weekend for everyone.


Disclosure: I initiated our reservation at Salamander Resort and Spa, and we were prepared to pay full price for our weekend getaway. However, we were generously provided a reduced rate, upgrades and several comped experiences for review. All opinions are my own.