A visit to Harpers Ferry

This was my second visit to Harpers Ferry. I was pleasantly surprised to learn how much my first grader had learnt in school about President Abraham Lincoln and the abolishment of slavery. There were a lot of interesting facts about Harpers Ferry that we learnt in our visit - it being the marked as the place where John Brown decided  to start his fight against slavery and predicting the oncoming of the Civil War in the country. The state of Virginia which was pro-slavery put John Brown on trial and gave him death penalty for inciting slaves. The federal government did nothing at the time even though it was a federal building Brown attacked and killed federal workers. I felt the U.S president at the time, President Buchanan didn't do the right thing and instead followed a policy of moderation with the southern states like Virginia. Apart from these little factoids, we learnt about how the local economy worked at Harpers Ferry, the major industry - guns and ammunition and its importance during the Civil War.

I think this place is a very good starting point for kids who want to develop an interest in American history.


Review of Maryland's C&O park

Located off of Clara Barton Parkway in Maryland, this park is a feast to the eyes. The park appears to have entrances in Virginia and Maryland which seem equally good. Entrance fee is $5 for vehicles. You can park, take a walk or bike along the river with the kids or have a small picnic. The historic C&O canal runs side by side and you can also learn about its history.

Potomac is no Niagra. However, the park does pack a lot of punch with some falls, rapids, water gushing at high speeds, good views and occasionally a canoer can be seen bobbing up and down the rushing river.

Review of Dinosaur Park (Laurel, MD)

Warning: This is no amusement park. If the idea of possibly sitting on dirt which may very well be Astrodon poop alarms you, then be careful as well (remember the scene from Jurassic park with the sick triceratops).

The dinosaur park in PG County, Maryland is a very small fenced area where few years ago a builder discovered remnants of an Astrodon. Unlike other areas in the world or the United States where general public cannot easily access such sites, this particular one is open to public on the first and third Saturday of each month from 12pm to 4pm and you can actually meet real paleontologists and researchers. For elementary school kids or other dinosaur aficionados, this can be a worthwhile place to go to on a spring afternoon. There is no entry free and you can even get to keep some of your findings!

Though there is no playgrounds for the kids or any of the regular fun stuff you find in a Smithsonian museum or an amusement park (like Dinosaur Land, Virginia), kids can have a lot of fun in the dirt, going through stones, fossils and learning about how fossils get their impressions, identify differences between ironstone, lignite with plant impressions, bone fossils etc. It is a very good learning experience.

You can even surprise yourself by finding a real fossil as well. For example, the day we went there, we found an Astrodon tooth in the first half hour we were there and the volunteers there thought that was very impressive. Few other visitors that day found pieces of an Astrodon claw as well. If you find a real dinosaur fossil in the park, you will need to register it with one of the volunteers - it will be sent to the Smithsonian for evaluation. If it does end up in a museum in DC, I am sure your name will get there as well.


Review of C&O Chess Camp

This is a review of the C&O Chess Camp in Gaithersburg, MD.

Location: Just off of West Diamond Avenue, it is very near I270/Exit 10. The location appears to be a house and parking is a bit tight especially if you arrive when other parents are there.
Fee: Around $250 per week for a full day.

My son attended this camp in Spring for the full day and really liked it. There were about 20 other kids. He enjoys playing Chess and says he had a lot of fun. Coach Omar covers games and instruction in the morning and during the evening there is usually a field trip involved. In our case since it was spring, these trips happened to be to Adventure Park in Germantown and a trip to the movies.

In the past we have done some other chess classes in DC and after school as well. My son says he liked this camp "the best of all". Thanks to Coach Omar, Coach Ross, Coach James and Coach Carol for making this a fun week for the kids.


A review of Paramount Kings Dominion

This weekend we visited Paramount's esteemed theme park in Doswell, Virginia (near Richmond) and had some very interesting experiences I wanted to talk about and tell all the readers. First as a disclaimer, I should mention, we could not have picked a worse day in three years since this was one of the most crowded days in the park (the park sold tickets at half price on this day which turned out to be Bank of America day!). We planned to do only the kid rides this time, which formed about 30-40% of the rides so the long lines (sometimes an hour's wait) did not pose a big problem for us. We arrived at 11:30 AM and finished all the rides by 7:30 which was great. BTW, Paramount's website disallows all outside food and drinks inside the park which turned out to be a false alarm - I wish we would have taken some more drinks and snacks to make our movements inside the park much quicker.

On arriving, we started in Kidsville and soon decided that the level 1 rides there were not "thrilling" enough for a visit to a theme park. However these rides were fun and provide a lot of magic moments of fun for the family. Kids can go into these rides all on their own unlike the thrill rides. For a 36''-40'' toddler, the best rides in Kidsville were Taxi Jam, TOPCAT, Clipper, Airfield and Boulder Bumpers. Our second stop was Congo and the only ride do-able there was the the Scrambler - a level 3 ride. This was a pretty good ride as well. By far the best ride was in the Old Virginia section and our son loved it - Lumber Company roller coaster (where we picked up our fun photos as well to memorize the trip). Another interesting ride in this section was Flying Eagles. The last section we visited was the Waterpark and the ride we did there was the "Lazy Rider" - a fun family ride through a long and winded water stream.

That was it. We finished up with a few rides we skipped in Kidsville. Overall the trip was fun and we really had a good time. Kings Dominion was our favorite and value for money.

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Planning for a Kids destination for Memorial Day?

If you are planning a vacation or get away this memorial day, you may want to look in your backyard! Its expected that fewer Americans will drive far this memorial day amidst high gas prices and the economy on the rocks. I have already been getting fliers and booklets from my local state tourism department telling me about what's local and interesting.

Anyway, I live in Maryland and my two year old is fond of animals and getting near water. I took him to the DC National Zoo last weekend and he wouldn't stop gazing at the water streams and ponds there. Same at Reston Zoo, which is another great place for kids this age.

This memorial day I am planning to go to the Natural Bridge area in Virginia. Nestled somewhere in Blue Ridge mountains near Roanoke and about 2 hours drive from Luray Caverns, it offers quite a few interesting things. I haven't been there, but if you haven't finalized your plans yet, you may want to take a look at it. For 2-3 year olds, the Virgina Safari Park appears to be very interesting. Prof Cline's haunted monster museum and Dino Kingdom appear to be interesting as well. There is also a Natural Bridge Zoo in case you don't get tired of all those animals ;) I have been to Natural Bridge and the night show there and that is pretty decent as well. If you don't know, its one of the natural wonders of the world.

Another interesting destination for kids is Luray Caverns, but it has lesser attractions and the caverns themselves may be interesting for bigger kids.

If you want to browse the full set of attractions, click here.

I also found the following two sites extremely useful in planning the trip:

TripAdvisor and Wyndham Rewards Booking site for Hotels. TripAdvisor's reviews were very helpful in terms of picking attractions and the Wyndham Rewards site had the lowest hotel rates (lower than Orbitz and Hotels.com).


Checkout this latest report on Childrens Reading

This was on Radio today and all over the internet. What is the most amazing thing? It seems children read Dr Seuss till almost the third grade! I also found that the Horton series of Books (Horton hears a Who or Horton hatches an egg) are not as popular as Green Eggs and Ham. Checkout the full report here.