a fun, free resource for DC area families

Marvel Universe LIVE! Coming to DC and Fairfax

Marvel-Live

Marvel Universe Live! Arrives in D.C. Area Sept. 4 – 21
Performances featuring your favorite Marvel characters at both the Verizon Center and Patriot Center

Marvel Universe LIVE! is an action-packed entertainment show for families featuring the most Marvel characters ever assembled in one production. The show is flying into the nation’s capital with performances at the Verizon Center starting September 4 and at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia starting September 12 through September 21.

Favorite Marvel Super Heroes including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine and more will flex their poweres in this comic extravaganza that brings both heroes and villains to life. There are special effects, stunts and never before seen story in this family-friendly live action adventure. Here is a video sneak peek.

Marvel Universe LIVE! is the newest and largest show ever produced by Feld Entertainment. See Marvel Universe Live! September 4-7 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC and at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia September 12-14 and 19-21. Please note that this will be the only performances of Marvel Universe Live! in the D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia area. Tickets for Marvel Universe LIVE! start at $45 and are on sale now at www.marveluniverselive.com and Ticketmaster.com .

WASHINGTON, DC
Verizon Center | September 4-7
Show times:
Thursday, September 4 at 7:30 PM
Friday, September 5 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, September 6 at 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM
Sunday, September 7 at 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM
Get tickets

FAIRFAX, VA
Patriot Center | September 12-21
Show times:
Friday, September 12 at 7:00 PM
Saturday, September 13 at 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM
Sunday, September 14 at 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM
Friday, September 19 at 7:00 PM
Saturday, September 20 at 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM
Sunday, September 21 at 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM
Get tickets

Tickets can also be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 800-745-3000, via www.ticketmaster.com, and at the Verizon Center and Patriot Center box offices.

All Ticket prices start at $35.00. Ticket pricing is subject to change based on market demand.

Join Marvel fans of all ages for this once-in-a-lifetime, monumental performance. The fate of the universe depends on it!

Disclosure: My family and I will be reviewing the performance. No additional or monetary compensation received. 

GIVEAWAY: GameTruck Party (our family LOVED it!)

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GameTruck was an exciting experience for our kids and their friends

My family and I received an offer from GameTruck of Howard County to host a GameTruck party for our children and 17 of their friends. Although no one had a birthday any time soon, we thought this was an incredible way to celebrate summer.

GameTruck offers a premier party experience in an interactive, multi-player environment that accommodates 16 or more players (the GameTruck Howard County vehicle can hold 20 kids.) Totally self-powered and climate-controlled, the GameTruck trailer was outfitted with comfortable seating, six flat-screen HDTVs, and enhanced sound systems.

The parents and I LOVED how the truck offered these big gorgeous windows that lifted up to create an indoor-outdoor experience. We parents were hanging out outside the window and able to watch the kids play within. KidzBop music played on a sound system, contributing to the outdoor party feel.

Kids can choose from more than three dozen of the latest multiplayer video games and all the major video game consoles such as XBOX360, Nintendo WiiU and Playstation. GameTruck Howard County’s owner Erik Maxwell called me before the event and we discussed which games would be most appropriate for our group of kids age 6-13. We removed all rated M for Mature games and he stocked the truck with sports games like FIFA soccer, Madden Football and group games that would appeal to all ages like Super Mario Kart, JustDance and Minecraft.

game truck in action

It was ridiculously exciting seeing the big green truck pull into our driveway. As our friends drove up and walked over, their kids started jumping up and down and running towards the truck. Although I have been hosting child birthday parties for 10 years, I have never seen reactions like these.

Our party’s GameCoach was owner Erik. He or another GameTruck staff member serves as the Coach and manages each event, promoting fair, interactive play. He helped kids take turns, select games and calmly managed all the children’s wants and turns with complete patience. It was seamless. The other parents and I simply got to enjoy watching the kids play without any moderation. It was heavenly!

I wondered how interactive this party would be for the kids. However, I saw that the children were totally interacting and chatting, sitting right next to each other and enjoying their company. They were bonding and spending more time together than they would at an arcade or in a laser tag maze.

game truck dancing

I also wondered if the experience would make my kids hunger for more video games. Right now in the summer we are limiting gaming and screen time to encourage more outdoor and traditional play. We often talk about taking games out of our home completely, or only pulling our Wii console out for winter parties. But what we adored about the GameTruck experience was that it turned video gaming into a total treat. It became a special occurrence to share with friends, rather than something you do every day, alone, for hours.

And I have to admit, I know the parents, my personal adult friends, were a lot happier to drive a few blocks over to our pad and enjoy some bevies and snacks in our kitchen versus driving a ways to a party location. While the kids played in the GameTruck in the driveway, the parents had our own party alongside theirs.

No food or drink is allowed in the GameTruck, so we had refreshments inside the house. The kids drifted in and out when they needed a lemonade or a cookie boost.

GameTruck is recommended for kids age six years and up. We had several younger siblings at the party and I agree with this age assessment. Most of the kids younger than six simply wanted to watch the big kids, or play with our house LEGOS and yard toys.

The prices for GameTruck Howard County are comparable to other birthday party options: $325 for 2 hours on a week day, $375 for 2 hours on a weekend (prices always subject to change.)

I hope I am explaining adequately how utterly wonderful was our GameTruck experience. I completely, totally recommend!

To book your own GameTruck party with GameTruck of HowardCounty, just call owner and operator Erik Maxwell at 888.978.5232 or e-mail him at erik.maxwell@gametruckparty.com. You can also coordinate your party on the GameTruck website, GameTruckParty.com.

Would you like to win your very own GameTruck party — totally for free?  Here are the giveaway details!

Prize: One (1) GameTruck party.

GameTruck party must be booked for a weekday.

Winner needs to be within a designated GameTruck franchise service area. Check available See locations before entering.

GameTruck party must be redeemed by Dec 31, 2014.

Only one (1) entry per person is allowed.

Only residents of the U.S. that are 18 and older with a valid address are eligible to enter.

The awarding of the giveaway prize is the responsibility of GameTruck.

Interested in entering the GameTruck giveaway? Go here to the A Parent in Silver Spring Facebook page and leave ONE comment on the GameTruck post.

One comment per Facebook account/user.

One winner will be randomly drawn from all Facebook comments on the GameTruck Facebook post on Monday, August 25, 2014 at midnight.

Game Truck group shot

Embassy Suites for Family Travel is the Best

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When I was a kid — one of five children — my dad became the Embassy Suites hotel chain’s number one fan. For the price of a standard hotel room, a family gets two rooms, three beds, a massive cooked-to-order breakfast buffet and an evening reception with bevvies and snacks. Room to breathe, house your crew and feed them on-site without added expense? The Embassy Suites was a godsend to families when they started popping up around the U.S. in the 1980′s.

When my husband Chris and I got married in 2002, we chose the Embassy Suites Washington DC as the hotel for our out-of-town wedding guests. It was perfect for families and groups of twenty-somethings alike. Every breakfast became a morning party for our group, and every evening Manager’s Reception became the happiest of happy hours.

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But it was not until becoming a family of five that I completely understand why Dad was so gung-ho about Embassy Suites.

The roominess and two-room layout of standard rooms — every room is a suite — means Chris and I can put the kids down in one room while we watch a movie in the other, freeing us from whispering to each other at 8:30pm at night and laying there paralyzed in the dark until sleep mercifully descends. A group of five family members in an Embassy Suites room does not require an extra room charge or calling down for a roll-a-way. With two double or queen beds and a queen pull-out from the suite’s sitting room sofa, we have many options of sleeping configurations.

The kids love the hotels’ airy atrium styles with fountains, greenery, pools and activities in the centers. Getting a juice or a forbidden Coke and a plate full of goldfish and tortilla chips in the evenings, often right after checking in to the hotel after a long flight or drive, always makes the kids happy. Chris and I likewise appreciate the cold soda or cocktail, depending on the intensity of the day’s travel, and noshing with the kids.

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And the big included breakfast in the morning makes traveling so so easy. It is incredible to not have to pack breakfast items or forage in the morning for food or a family-friendly restaurant. Knowing that right downstairs is a buffet full of custom eggs, waffles, a cereal bar, pastries, juices, fruit and bottomless carafes of coffee makes me want to text my dad in all caps, “NOW I GET IT.”

I have stayed at many Embassy Suites, but most recently this summer my family and I stayed two nights at the Embassy Suites Williamsburg when we made a weekend trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. In between visiting Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens Williamsburg, we chilled out, noshed, breakfasted, swam and comfortably slept at the nearby Embassy Suites. We have stayed at several Williamsburg-area hotels in the past, and this was by far the nicest in the $130/night range (sometimes you will be able to book an Embassy Suites suite for less, other times the price will be more — depends on the date and location, of course.)

embassy-suites-breakfast

For your family travel this summer, fall and beyond, my family and I (including my Dad, who is himself staying in an Embassy Suites right now as he moves my brother into his law school housing!), heartily recommend Embassy Suites.

Disclosure: Embassy Suites provided my family with a two-night stay in the location of my choice and a gift card for travel amenities. No additional compensation received. All opinions are mine. 

 

YMCA Summer Food Program

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This guest post is provided by and sponsored by the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. 

As summer tourists flood the local DC area, it seems like life is good. Individuals from all over come to our nation’s capital each year, and spend 1.71 billion on food and beverage alone!

The sad reality is that millions of DC area children and families suffer from food insecurity and food hardship. Twelve percent of District of Columbia households report having limited or uncertain amounts of food, and nearly 15 percent reported not having enough money in the past twelve months to buy food for themselves or their families.

30.5 percent of households with children in the DC area say they are unable to afford enough food for their families.

This is the second highest percentage in the United States.

Although children enrolled in local public and charter schools receive free breakfast, and free or reduced-price lunches, during the summer months many families are hungry. Nationally, only 2.3 million of the 30 million children who receive nutritional benefits take advantage of the federal school meals programs during the summer months.

The YMCA of the United States has partnered with the Walmart Foundation to provide 5 million meals and snacks to more than 150,000 children and teenagers this summer. The summer food program is open to children and teens ages 5 to 18 in more than 1,000 communities nationwide, including the YMCA serving the DC area.

In addition to nutritious and delicious meals, the summer food program will provide activities, including summer day camps, swimming, art, and fitness for these children to help them get their fill of food and fun during the summer.

To learn more or to find a Y in your community, visit the YMCA Summer Food Program website.

DC-Are Blow Out Perfection at Blo Blow Dry Bar and Body By Blo in Gaithersburg

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Blo Blow Dry Bar and Body by Blo in Gaithersburg

at 317 Ellington Blvd, near the Rio Washingtonian

Now you do not have to wait for that New York work trip, or haul yourself down to DC or Bethesda for that hair style perfection that comes from walking into a blow dry bar. The brand new Blo Blow Dry Bar and Body by Blo location in Gaithersburg took me just 10 minutes from my house in Silver Spring using the Inter County Connector (ICC), offered free parking next door, and took my hair from frizzled and floppy to flawless. The ‘do looked glamorous for two days (OK, I pushed it to three with dry shampoo.)

Owner Laurie Tucker (@Tressed2Impr3ss on Twitter and Instagram) welcomed me at the door and gave me a tour of the just-opened salon. The site is stunning and was a relaxing haven after my crazy home littered with the detritus of my summer kids. From the glamorous blow dry stations, private waxing rooms and luxe mani and pedi areas, I was delighted to leave my cares at the door and enjoy being hottified.

I was offered one service for review, but since I was in desperate need of some maintenance and relaxation, I personally added on a couple more treatments. Before my blow out, I opted for a 10 minute, $10 head massage that was heaven. I was drooling by the end and felt as relaxed afterwards as if I had had a full body massage. In the midst of the summer juggle stress, it was such an easy, affordable way to chill out before my blow out.

Then I perused the Blo Hair Menu to choose my style. There were so many awesome options, I wanted them all! From beachy waves, to glam curls, to super-sleek-straight, to high bun perfection, even that on-trend fishtail braid, every hair style option on the menu looked amazing. I went for the big, bouncy Red Carpet which infused body and polish into my flat, thin, humidity-zapped tresses. Laurie’s thick mane looked amazing after being styled in the Pillow Talk — her beachy waves look ready for a magazine shoot!

blo menu

I also received a manicure that looked so modern and cool! It looked a lot more glam and professional than a standard mini mall nail place mani (although I don’t know if you can tell from my shaky iPhone picture above.) My housework worn hands and neglected nails were transformed. I loved the non-toxic, thick Morgan Taylor polish used and was impressed by how long it lasted without chips (four days without a chip – a record for me.) If you are a fan of gel manicures, you can opt for those as well, or treat yourself to a body manicure with extra treatments and pampering. Of course, your toes can be beautified, too. Here is the entire nail menu.

Additionally, it is tough to find a reliable waxing salon in the DC area and Maryland suburbs. Although I was already smooth, I will be trying Body by Blo next time. The prices are great and I feel like Body by Blo gets the on-trend looks we are going for when it comes to brow shaping and looking our best in our swimsuits. Guys can have their backs, chests, tummies, noses, etc. handled here, too with a minimum of 40 Year Old Virgin weirdness. Check out the wax menu.

I highly recommend Blo Blow Dry Bar and Body by Blo in Gaithersburg. I will be back.

317 Ellington Boulevard
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878

To book a blo, mani, pedi, waxing or other service call
301.216.0256 or email
blogaithersburg@blomedry.com

Click here for map.

Disclosure: My blow out was complimentary for media review. Other services and gratuity covered by me. No compensation received. All opinions? Mine. 

7 Best Things About Busch Gardens Williamsburg

busch-gardens

Have you taken your family to Busch Gardens WilliamsburgI applied to serve as a Busch Gardens Williamsburg blog ambassador, and was selected to review the experience with my family during the 2014 season. We just returned from our visit to this massive, marvelous, seriously beautiful amusement park. Our day at the park was full of spectacular summer memories. Here were my family’s 7 favorite aspects of Busch Gardens Williamsburg. 

1. The Rides for Families

family rides

Our family ages from early forties to preschool, but we located loads of rides that our entire group could enjoy! The best multi-age rides we experienced:

Europe in the Air

Escape from Pompeii

Le Scoot

Rhine River Cruise

Roman Rapids

The Flying Machine

Busch Gardens Railway

Skyride

2. The Shows

We took in a lot of shows, big and small, and felt at the day’s end that we had spent a day on Broadway. We found a mixture of rides and performances a great way to recharge and cool off during the day.

The newest show is London Rocks,a musical journey that explores the roots of rock-n-roll and transforms Busch Gardens’ Globe Theatre into a rousing 25-minute live action and multi-media rock spectacular.

We loved having our lunch at the traditional beer hall,Busch Gardens Das Festhaus, and watching the fairy tale musical Entwined: Tales of Good and Evil, while we noshed on our German and kids meal fare. 

We also caught the amusing More Pet Shenanigans, featuring trained rescue pet animals, and rounded out our day with Celtic Fyre, a live Irish dance and musical show in which the performers actually jigged on our pub table.

Just because the 4th of July has passed does not mean the fireworks are over at Busch Gardens Williamsburg! The celebration of America continues through August 10 with Star Spangled Nights. This massive nightly fireworks show is choreographed to inspiring music. You can also hop aboard the Rhine River Fireworks Cruise ($15 per person) for the best view of the splendor.

3. The Attractions for Littles

kiddie

We were so pleased that the park was packed with experiences our pint-sized preschooler Alice could enjoy. From rides to play areas to splash pads, Alice did not feel she was missing out for a second. All attractions for littles are labeled KIDsiderate so they are easy to located on the map, the park app and the signs. At the park entrance Alice received a colored bracelet that corresponded to her height so it was easy for us and the ride handlers to deems which ones she could ride.

4. The Rides for Thrill Seekers

If you have roller coaster warriors in your house, they will be in heaven. There are FIVE major coasters that are considered some of the best in the entire freaking world.

Alpengeist - From a height of 195 feet, riders are hurtled through six staggering inversions at speeds up to 67 miles per hour.

Apollo’s Chariot - The super smooth, crazy fast, no-upside-down coaster that makes you feel as if you are flying in Maverick’s mig.

Griffon – I will admit that I was too chicken for this one! It features a205-foot, 90-degree, 75 mph free fall. 

Loch Ness Monster – Massive loop-de-loops on the Loch Ness! The interlocking, double-looping coaster stretches a monstrous 13 stories tall with a 114-foot drop, with speeds as fast as 60 miles per hour.

Verbolten – A combination indoor/outdoor coaster, with chills, speed and surprises.

5. The Beautiful Grounds

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Lush green gardens, fields of flowers, pastures with animals grazing, lakes and fountains…this is one breathtakingly beautiful amusement park! Some sections reminded us of botanical gardens, other medieval city squares, but every inch was pristine and pretty.

6. The Food and Drink Options

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Dining at Busch Gardens was delicious and diverse. I will confess that all five of us ate our way through the delicacies at the parks, and two of us thoroughly enjoyed sampling the selections of beer and wine. If your children are partial to traditional kids meal food, you will find it, sure. But you are not limited to chicken nuggets! You will find food native to the countries featured: Germany (and Oktoberfest), Italy, Scotland, Ireland, England and France. You will also find stands and shops selling treats, sweets and drinks. All in all there are 22 restaurants and even more food stalls throughout the park. You will not be hungry!

7. The Proximity to DC

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Driving to Busch Gardens Williamsburg from the DC area is a quick and easy three hour drive. You can leave in the morning and be at the park well before the park opens at 10am, or you can choose to make it a two day adventure by staying in one of the oodles of nearby hotels. Pack your swimsuits and on your second day splash your heart out at Water Country USA!

Are you a Busch Gardens Williamsburg fan? What is your favorite aspect of the park? 

 

 

GIVEAWAY: Madame Tussauds DC Tickets, and Review

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I will admit that it never occurred to me to visit Madame Tussauds in Washington DC until they reached out to me.

In this town of  free admissions to some of the best museums in the world, why would I pay to visit a collection of wax figures? Is not that place simply for tourists? Even when in London I have never had the desire to check out the original Madame Tussauds.

But in the spirit of blogger journalism and a feeling of obligation to at least try this family-focused attraction in my area, my crew and I headed down one Saturday in May.

I was skeptical. I readied myself for the cheese.

But what I was not expecting was how much my children would enjoy it, and how much Madame Tussauds piqued their interest in history!

At Charlie and Eve’s elementary school, the fifth graders traditionally host an American history “wax museum” in which the students dress as historical figures and provide short oral histories in character for the other students. So Charlie and Eve were already familiar with the wax museum concept, and as kids who visit museums monthly, they are seasoned exhibit viewers.

Immediately Charlie, Eve and Alice all captured the spirit of fun history that permeates Madame Tussauds. With big smiles and loads of enthusiasm, these sometimes less-than-enthusiastic kids had dropped any disaffected tween airs and were shouting to me to take their pictures.

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Mind you, these are kids who have been bugged by their mom to pose for photos for my blog for the last seven or so years. I will confess that I often have to promise money and treats and make tasteless jokes to get them to smile in front of attractions. But at Madame Tussauds the children were initiating the photos. All of the pics in this post were posed by the children themselves, even the ones featuring me and my husband Chris.

Charlie and Eve read the didatic placards on their own, both for the figures they recognized and ones they did not. Chris and I left the kids to explore at their own pace. Visitors are allowed, even encouraged, to touch the displays, so it was a relief to relax at a museum with kids (especially three-year-old Alice) and let them paw everything.

I was impressed that the Washington, DC location focuses mostly on American history and makes an effort to represent culturally diverse American figures. There are all 44 Presidents in the Presidents Room and a Civil Rights Room featuring Dr. King, Rosa Parks and more. The Media Room also feels educational and very “DC”, featuring television journalists, perfectly posed to “interview” their living guests. The Sports Zone will be a hit with your young sports fan, allowing Caps fans to take a pic with Ovechkin or play catcher to The Babe.

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The only room that lived up to my preconceived notions of cheese was the Glamour Room, but I will admit it was fun to snap pics with reproductions of Beyonce, Justin Bieber and more pop culture icons.

The museum is smaller than I expected and we finished our tour in less than one hour. The kids thought this was the perfect amount of time, and all children remained whine-free.

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In short, give up your cultured cool and give Madame Tussauds Washington, DC  a try. Your kids will love it and they will learn. After logging hours with your kids in front of our town’s Degas, Cassatts, Hope Diamonds and Wright Flyers, I think you will enjoy embracing (literally) those manufactured wax figures of history.

To win five free tickets for your family and friends, enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: My family was provided with tickets and more for giveaway. No compensation received. All opinions are my own.

Live Music Night Out + Dads Eat Free Father’s Day at Taste Gastropub

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Taste Gastropub in Olney has two extremely cool events next week that I am attending and I hope you do too!

First off is an exclusive one-year anniversary celebration of Taste on Thursday evening June 12 from 8-9pm. Great music, drinks and food will celebrate Taste’s work in the past year of providing a super community gastropub as well as a socially conscious dining experience.

Owners Vic and Biana Seested put all proceeds from Taste back into non-profit community support and outreach, supporting programs such as Hearts and Homes for Youth and the Jubilee Association of Maryland. Taste’s mission is to provide high quality, freshly prepared and sustainable food at reasonable prices while providing patrons an opportunity to directly support their local community.

The Thursday night June 12 event will featuring drink and dining specials. But what I am most excited about is the exclusive performance by Ludwig & Stiegler, a duo featuring trumpet virtuoso Spencer Ludwig (of music group Capital Cities fame) and DJ Stiegler. The performances by Ludwig & Stiegler is scheduled for 9PM. A percentage of bar proceeds from the event will go to the Rock the Vote organization.

Give Dad the day off on Father’s Day June 15 and take him to the Taste Dad’s Eat Free pig roast! Check out the flyer below for all the delicious options and specials. Reservations are recommended for this popular celebration.

Check out this video about Taste Gastropub which explains their offerings and mission.

Taste Gastropub 3418 Olney Laytonnsville Rd. Olney MD Reservations: 301.774.2500

Disclosure: The owners of Taste have invited my family and I to attend these events. No additional compensation received.

GIVEAWAY: RIO Washington Carousel Family Pack – tickets + cupcakes!

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This past weekend the RIO Washingtonian welcomed its brand-new Carousel.

Made possible by Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, this Americana-themed classic carousel features 30 Allan Herschell-style dancing horses, whimsical creatures, and two chariots. The ride can carry up to 38 adult and 30 children passengers, with wheelchair access and chariot wheelchair positions. It is super conveniently located next to the playground.

It is open daily from 11am – 8pm and is $3 per ride. Kids under 42″ tall must ride with an adult.

Would you like to win 4 tickets for the carousel, plus 4 carousel-themed cupcakes from Lilly Magilly’s Cupcakery?

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Then try your hand at giving this carousel horse a name to get your horsey seats and your treats!

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Do you think this horse looks like a Betsy? That’s all I’ve got. I trust you can do better! 

Leave your proposed name for this fine steed in the comments below.

The winner will be selected on Friday, and named in time for you to enjoy your carousel rides and cupcakes this weekend.

The winner will also receive recognition on the RIO Washingtonian’s Facebook page (go on and give ‘em a Like.)