Author Topic: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC  (Read 9529 times)

markstache

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Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« on: June 04, 2013, 09:17:53 AM »
I have a conference at the University of Virginia this summer, and I'm bringing the wife and kids (ages 2.5 and 0.5). We'll be in Charlottesville for three days while I attend the conference, and then we are planning to head up to the DC area. We have some friends in Fairfax, VA, and we were thinking about staying there and using it for a jumping off point to visit museums in DC. Other than the conference date and location, we can be pretty flexible in where we go and where we stay.

Does anyone have any suggestions for things to do or places to go, especially that would interest a 2 year old? Given the large number of free museums in the DC area I have high hopes for fun, low-cost family outing.

homeymomma

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2013, 09:23:03 AM »
The whole of the National Mall is free and totally walkable and endlessly entertaining. Your two year old will probably especially love the National History Museum, and the Air and Space museum. Make sure to pack a lunch, though, because every vendor down there is crazy expensive. There is plenty of space to just plop down for a picnic. Your two year old might also love Clemyjontri playground (McLean) or Cabin John playground. Neither are terribly close to Fairfax, I'm afraid, but are perfect for that age group and are enough fun for at least half a day outing for a two year old.

Have a great trip!

davisgang90

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2013, 09:28:55 AM »
The Smithsonian Air and Space has a seperate facility out at Dulles Airport that costs to park but is otherwise free.  You can walk around a Concorde, SR-71, Space Shuttle etc.  Way cool for kids.

Natural Science is a good one on the Mall for kids, plus all the monuments.

Charlottesville and the UVA campus are very nice to explore too (said with grudging respect by a Va Tech grad).  There are a bunch of wineries near Cville for cheap/inexpensive tastings.

Enjoy!

homeymomma

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2013, 09:34:44 AM »
I said National History museum in my post. I meant museum of Natural History. oops! :)

sfb

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2013, 09:59:50 AM »
Great Falls national park has lots of rocks to climb over and great views of rapids.  It is a nice place to picnic.  Its $5 per car to get in and you have to get there early or else the line to get in gets long.

TrulyStashin

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2013, 10:01:23 AM »
Richmond, VA is worth a day also (yes, shameless plug for my city) and is just 60 miles or so east. 

There are tons of free/ fun things to do here (http://www.richmond.com/) and also an inexpensive but WONDERFUL children's museum that is worth the price of admission.   The James River runs right through town and we often have outdoor festivals along the river, plus there are miles of riverside hiking trails less than 1 mile from the downtown core so you can hike for a bit and then quickly find family-friendly places to rest/ eat.  Though too much for your toddler, the James has white water rafting on the part of the river that is near downtown but there is also flat-water kayaking on the more placid part of the river that is west of the city.  Depending on when you're coming, there's the Watermelon Festival in Carytown that is great fun in a part of the city that is very charming and walkable.  Also worth checking out is Swan Lake in Byrd Park and nearby Maymont.  Oh wow, I forgot about Maymont!  My kids are older so we haven't been in a long while but Maymont is just awesome and free.

Flat-water kayaking (with kayaks available to rent) is also available at Pocahontas State Park where they also have an amazing pool full of kid-friendly water toys.

I hope you enjoy beautiful Virginia!

zhelud

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2013, 10:23:55 AM »
The Zoo!  It's free but they will make you pay through the nose for parking. You can bring a lunch and have a nice picnic.  If you like to bike, you can bike there through Rock Creek Park.

Great Falls, both the VA and MD sides. Beautiful views, there are trails on both sides as well. The MD side has its well-known "Billy Goat Trail." The main trail, "A," might be too hard with a little kid but there are also the much less crowded  (and easier) B and C trails.  Also on the MD side you can take a ride in a canal boat.

The National Arboretum - free.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens - free.

Clemyjontri is an awesome, awesome playground.




homeymomma

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2013, 10:58:49 AM »
You can park at the top of the zoo for free.

oldtoyota

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2013, 11:48:05 AM »
The Zoo!  It's free but they will make you pay through the nose for parking. You can bring a lunch and have a nice picnic.  If you like to bike, you can bike there through Rock Creek Park.

Great Falls, both the VA and MD sides. Beautiful views, there are trails on both sides as well. The MD side has its well-known "Billy Goat Trail." The main trail, "A," might be too hard with a little kid but there are also the much less crowded  (and easier) B and C trails.  Also on the MD side you can take a ride in a canal boat.

The National Arboretum - free.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens - free.

Clemyjontri is an awesome, awesome playground.

The National Arboretum on NY Avenue now charges a fee. =-(

oldtoyota

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2013, 11:49:13 AM »
Monticello has a newish interpretative center with lots of kid-friendly activities.

twinge

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2013, 11:58:38 AM »
+1 to Great Falls, Museum of Natural History, and National Zoo
Smithsonian Museum of American History is a good one for kids too -- there's trains, subways, houses, classic characters, dollhouses, etc. (also free)
Roosevelt Island is a nice low-key nature walk that is stroller friendly.  Great Falls has a few stroller friendly trails and is more stunning--you can see the falls without a problem (and watch some amazing kayaking and rock climbing from a safe vantage point!) and many of the trails are pretty low-key and there's nice places to picnic.

If you're there during this any of the two week period it's around, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is a highlight for a range of ages:
http://www.festival.si.edu/


juliesunday

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2013, 12:00:58 PM »
If you can get access to bikes you can bike all the way from Arlington to Leesburg on an incredibly nice paved trail free from cars. I grew up with this trail (the W & OD trail, I believe it's called still) as my backyard and it's one of the best in the US! Roosevelt Island is also a really nice park, it's an island in the Potomac accessible by the GW Parkway near Rosslyn. The National Botanical Garden is at the base of Capitol Hill and an amazing free indoor garden space. It's part of the Capitol, not the Smithsonian, so it might not be listed on the SI websites but it's very close by.

simonsez

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2013, 12:21:43 PM »
The Smithsonian Air and Space has a seperate facility out at Dulles Airport that costs to park but is otherwise free.

Free parking after 4, Udvar-Hazy Center is open until 5:30.

http://airandspace.si.edu/parking/

It is also a 15 minute walk from Chantilly Crossing Shopping Center if you are feeling adventurous* and want to avoid the $15 parking.

*-intersection from shopping center across US 50 is not the most pedestrian-friendly and neither is the Air & Space Museum Parkway (no sidewalk)

Prince William Forest Park located in Dumfries, VA is pretty good.  Loads of trails with all different lengths.  Exit 150 on I-95 just south of Woodbridge.

Great Falls. +1

Roosevelt Island - avoid if you aren't getting there early (free parking that goes quickly) or if you aren't biking there, otherwise that place is great

ever since they took C-3PO out of the display case at American History, I haven't been back.........just kidding, all the Smithsonians on the mall are decent

If you want to pay-
Spy Museum and Newseum are good.  Spy Museum probably isn't worth it unless you are REALLY into that stuff. 
Ford's Theater Walking Tour was very good and fun/interactive for $7.50 (might have been groupon price?).  Detective dressed up in period clothes takes you around downtown detailing what happened while you are/were one of the various "eyewitnesses"

brand new stash

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2013, 12:21:56 PM »
Frying Pan Farm Park is fabulous fun for that age. 

I second the previous poster's suggestion of Clemyjontri Playground.  It's the most amazing playground I've ever been too.

Fairfax county has free kid's concerts at various parks on Saturday mornings:
http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/performances/downloads/13ArtsintheParksWebAdFINAL.pdf

markstache

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2013, 12:29:36 PM »
Wow! So many great suggestions.

A few notes:
- We're planning on being in DC 7/20 to 7/24 or so. We could sneak a day in before or after to visit other areas.
- I'm certainly bringing my folding bike. I'm favorably disposed to bringing the bike trailer (also folds) and a bike for the wife (would necessitate the use of carrier)/borrowing a bike for her. The upside of bringing her bike would be its use in Charlottesville and other destinations.
- We don't have to stay in Fairfax or could stay there for one or two days, and then move to a more strategic location (e.g. closer to some to a good bike path, that cool playground).


twinge

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2013, 12:29:53 PM »
oh yeah, +1 for Frying Pan Farm Park for a 2 year old.  Free, low-key, can pet animals and run around. There's sometimes horse, dog or 4-H shows going on.  There's a little playground too, and you can pay for a merry-go-round or hay ride.  It's on the northern part of Fairfax.

brand new stash

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2013, 12:41:30 PM »
Another great activity for that age is the Fairfax county nature centers.  http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/wp-nature.htm

hybrid

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2013, 02:41:23 PM »
Wow! So many great suggestions.

A few notes:
- We're planning on being in DC 7/20 to 7/24 or so. We could sneak a day in before or after to visit other areas.
- I'm certainly bringing my folding bike. I'm favorably disposed to bringing the bike trailer (also folds) and a bike for the wife (would necessitate the use of carrier)/borrowing a bike for her. The upside of bringing her bike would be its use in Charlottesville and other destinations.
- We don't have to stay in Fairfax or could stay there for one or two days, and then move to a more strategic location (e.g. closer to some to a good bike path, that cool playground).

Just be sure to plan for 95 degrees, hot, and humid.  The two year old may not appreciate the museums at the Mall, but all of you will appreciate 75 and dry!  I would shy away from too many outdoor activities.  But if I were to pick just one, the National Zoo would be near the top.

I would check out Monticello while in Charlottesville.

If you don't mind a jaunt up to Baltimore, the aquarium there is awesome and your kid will definitely like that.

CU Tiger

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2013, 08:11:36 PM »

Just be sure to plan for 95 degrees, hot, and humid.  The two year old may not appreciate the museums at the Mall, but all of you will appreciate 75 and dry!  I would shy away from too many outdoor activities.  But if I were to pick just one, the National Zoo would be near the top.

I would check out Monticello while in Charlottesville.

If you don't mind a jaunt up to Baltimore, the aquarium there is awesome and your kid will definitely like that.

If you come to Baltimore for the Aquarium, make a trip to the American Visionary Arts Museum, very near the Inner Harbor. It is a most interesting and unusual museum.

smalllife

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #19 on: June 04, 2013, 08:32:50 PM »
The Skyline drive is pretty close to C'ville - picnic lunch, beautiful views (Humpback Rock is an easy climb, although it's probably too much of a cliff for a two year old), and hidden parks/gems if you are into history.  I second the wineries, UVA grounds, and Monticello.  There is also Ashlawn and Mitchie Tavern on the same interstate exit as Monticello. 

Personally I think DC is overrated as a tourist destination - crowded, expensive, and something akin to punching a tourist-ticket (this from a person who is more into getting a feel for a city as opposed to seeing postcard places).   Richmond will get you art museums and history with much less hassle and traffic.  Free/cheap - Belle Isle, Maymont, Children's Museum and Science Museum.  There are an incredible number of small museums as well for under $10/person - just take your pick of American History. 

Williamsburg is also within reach (2 hours) of Charlottesville - lots to see, even just walking around the historic section.

Quote
Just be sure to plan for 95 degrees, hot, and humid.
+1

homeymomma

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #20 on: June 04, 2013, 08:44:23 PM »
If you do decide to do the zoo, definitely remember to bring your own food! I paid nearly $10 there a while back for a bottle of water and a banana. Seriously.

juliesunday

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #21 on: June 05, 2013, 12:13:29 PM »
Wow! So many great suggestions.

A few notes:
- We're planning on being in DC 7/20 to 7/24 or so. We could sneak a day in before or after to visit other areas.
- I'm certainly bringing my folding bike. I'm favorably disposed to bringing the bike trailer (also folds) and a bike for the wife (would necessitate the use of carrier)/borrowing a bike for her. The upside of bringing her bike would be its use in Charlottesville and other destinations.
- We don't have to stay in Fairfax or could stay there for one or two days, and then move to a more strategic location (e.g. closer to some to a good bike path, that cool playground).

here is the site for the W & OD trail, which also goes through Fairfax (though I'm only familiar with the Arlington access points). You could definitely make a full day's trip of biking on this trail and it goes by Roosevelt Island and it connects with trails that go all the way to Mt. Vernon along the Potomac, an incredibly beautiful ride! http://www.wodfriends.org/map1.html

dcheesi

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #22 on: June 05, 2013, 03:48:41 PM »
The Skyline drive is pretty close to C'ville - picnic lunch, beautiful views (Humpback Rock is an easy climb, although it's probably too much of a cliff for a two year old), and hidden parks/gems if you are into history.  I second the wineries, UVA grounds, and Monticello.  There is also Ashlawn and Mitchie Tavern on the same interstate exit as Monticello.
Agreed on all points, except I think Humpback is on the Blue Ridge Parkway (South from from rt250/I-64) as opposed to Skyline Drive (North from there). It's an important distinction since the Parkway is free, while Skyline is part of a National Park and requires an entry fee.

TrulyStashin

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #23 on: June 06, 2013, 07:55:22 AM »
+1 for Humpback Rock hike.   

For Colonial Williamsburg -- which has TONS of great kid-centric things and is educational -- here's a Groupon for half price (ending soon).  http://www.groupon.com/deals/colonial-williamsburg-5?p=1&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&sid=ba0acd28-8b55-4cc0-b463-46ab06565345&division=richmond&user=f4bff49527727c03c669395c1c5063eda51543986b8254cd8e7c1b2065bf1e87&date=20130605&s=body&c=deal_button&d=deal-page&utm_campaign=colonial-williamsburg-5

+1 for the point that DC is often overrated and overrun with ridiculous traffic.  I grew up in NoVA (rode my horse at Frying Pan Park even!) and refugeed south to Richmond where the cost of living is nearly half that of DC, our traffic is nonexistent (two cycles of a light and people get outraged at the delay), and the amenities are wonderful (Maymont, Belle Isle & Brown's Island, Monument Avenue, Libby Hill, Carytown, all the nearby battlefields, etc).  Richmond is the sleeper-best-city in Va IMHO.

Also, while in Charlottesville, find a u-pick'em place to pick peaches.  Carter's Mountain Orchard in near Monticello so it's a little pricey but there are others.  Late July is prime peach-pickin' time and they are so wonderful and juicy you'll never forget the taste.  Cut one in half and put it, cut side down, on a bbq grill for a minute or two and you'll die and go to heaven right then and there.  ;)

markstache

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #24 on: June 06, 2013, 08:07:45 AM »
So many great replies!

On the subject of traffic in the DC area: what is the public transit situation? I was assuming it would be an effective strategy to take a train into town to get to the National Mall and the museums. I figured if we were trying to arrive around 10am (when the museums open), we'd be able to miss the morning commute rush.

On a related note: since bringing bikes seems like a more and more likely option, are there good bike routes from the Fairfax area into DC?

jfer_rose

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #25 on: June 06, 2013, 08:17:34 AM »
I don't know about bike routes from Fairfax into town (as I've never felt the need to bike out to Fairfax, lol), but the DC metro is great and should easily get you to the mall! I highly recommend it. Bikes aren't allowed on the trains during rush hour, but if your plan is to travel into and out of the city outside of those hours you could easily bring your bikes on the train. If you didn't have a small child I would recommend using Capital Bikeshare instead but that won't work with a kid.

Here's the website for Metro: www.wmata.com

twinge

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #26 on: June 06, 2013, 08:28:35 AM »
Quote
On the subject of traffic in the DC area: what is the public transit situation? I was assuming it would be an effective strategy to take a train into town to get to the National Mall and the museums. I figured if we were trying to arrive around 10am (when the museums open), we'd be able to miss the morning commute rush.

You can take the Metro in from Fairfax (Vienna/GMU), but it may or may not be close to where you're staying.  Once you're on the metro post 9 AM is not as crowded.  It's not particularly cheap for a family--you get a card and are charged variably depending on how far you travel and Fairfax is a good 15 miles out -- there's a good transit website: http://www.wmata.com/   There are buses to the metro from many locations, but the bus system isn't particularly good (well it's probably better than average but I'm comparing it to Boston where it was just as good as the T).  You can park at the metro too.

As for biking from Fairfax to DC, it is 15-20+ mile ride depending on where you start.  You can get on the main W&OD trail directly if you're coming from the north side of fairfax or if you're on the south side you can take the fairfax county parkway trail and connect up to W&OD later. 




waltertyree

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #27 on: June 06, 2013, 02:47:06 PM »
You can get Interactive and printable bike maps for the DC area from waba.org (look under Resources)

For a hot day, with children I recommend the National Portrait Gallery. They have a large, enclosed atrium/cafe with AC. It's just North of the Mall and is free like the other Smithsonian museums.

The National Building Museum also has a large open, AC space where kids can run around a little but they have recently begun to charge admission to adults ($8).

For the little ones, I can also recommend the National Aquarium (not the famous one in Baltimore) which is under the Commerce building, right by the White House. It is free, of course, and quite small. So, it matches their attention span.

mmmj

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Re: Mustachian things to do in VA, DC
« Reply #28 on: June 06, 2013, 07:21:38 PM »
There are some great suggestions above. 

Definitely take some time to explore C'ville.  The Grounds are amazing as is Monticello.  If you are into hiking, Humpback Rock is a cool place to go.  Lots of cheap eats on the corner.   As a UVA grad, C'ville will always have a big spot in my heart.