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You can get the best of Out by Ten (and much, much more!) on Out by Ten's Facebook page "Family Friendly Prince George's."

I'm now a full-time work-outside-the-home mom and while we're still going on TONS of family adventures, making time for the adventures (verses making time for writing about them!) has taken priority in my life right now.

But have no fear! Our new Facebook page is a great resource for all the wonderful family-friendly stuff happening in Prince George's County and the greater Metro DC area. Be sure to check out the Out by Ten archives on the right for lots of great activities!

Head over and give me a like and I'll see you on your wall soon!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bladensburg Waterfront Park: Open House this Weekend

Have you been over to the Bladensburg Waterfront Park yet? If not, you're missing out! This treasure is located on the banks of the Anacostia River, just off of Annapolis road.

There's a public boat ramp and fishing pier, playground and B&O Railroad caboose. You can rent canoes, kayaks and rowboats on the weekends now through October. Canoeing and kayaking lessons are available as well. The hiker/biker bridge takes you directly to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System.

Free 45 minute pontoon boat tours, led by a park naturalist are offered Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 12 noon and Saturdays & Sundays at 5pm. No advance reservations required, just sign up when you arrive at the park. (You can count on another post about the Bladensburg Waterfront Park as soon as we have time to check out one of these awesome-sounding tours!)

If you've never stopped at this park before, this weekend is the perfect time! They are hosting a free open house this Saturday, May 30, from 9am until 3pm. There will be free canoeing demonstrations from 9-11:30am and 12:30-3pm and free fishing demonstrations from 9-11:30am. All ages welcome and all necessary materials will be provided.

Additional information:

Bladensburg Waterfront Park

4601 Annapolis Road Bladensburg, MD 20710
301-779-0371; TTY 301-699-2544

Open sunrise to sunset daily; Visitor's Center is open 9am-4pm daily

Original post by Out by Ten. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

College Park Aviation Museum

image via

A rainy day like today is the perfect day to check out the College Park Aviation Museum in College Park, MD. Did you know that this little airport is the oldest continuously operating airport in the world? Or, that Wilbur Wright taught the very first military aviators on its grounds? It's true!

We first visited the Aviation Museum when Lucas was about 18mos old and now that he's 3 1/2 it's still a favorite destination. Toddlers and preschoolers will love climbing into the cockpit, dressing up as an aviator, or playing with the fun crafts and puzzles available. (Be sure to decorate a craft bag and take it to the front desk on your way out--the lovely volunteers will fill it with small prizes!) Older kids (and moms and dads!) can learn all the specs on the many original and reproduction airplanes on display and will love the hands-on activities which demonstrate how airplanes actually fly.

In addition to the regular exhibits, lots of great events take place each month. Check out the calendar of events for all the details.

Other than recently running into a school group at the museum, we've found that there are usually just a handful of visitors at once. That, combined with the fact that most of the museum is one large open area, means that it is especially easy to keep track of one or more active preschoolers at this museum. If the day is nice, be sure to play with the ride-on airplanes outside of the gift shop and consider packing a picnic lunch to eat outside by the airport runways.

Additional details:

1985 Corporal Frank Scott Drive, College Park, Maryland 20740

Open daily from 10am to 5pm (except major holidays) for self-guided tours.

Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for children and students (children under 2 are free)

Original post by Out by Ten. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 18, 2009

UniverSoul Circus: Review and Giveaway!

The only time this mama stopped smiling Saturday night was when her jaw dropped open!

Abel, Lucas and I were guests of the UniverSoul Circus Saturday evening and not only did we get complementary seats to the show, we received complete behind-the-scenes access to the talent (human and animal alike!) as part of their blogger experience.

Blogging disclaimer: when the good folks from the UniverSoul circus e-mailed to ask if I wanted to be part of their blogger experience, I couldn't have written back faster with an emphatic yes! I was psyched to get behind-the-scenes--not to mention, free--access to the big tent that was going up right next door to my grocery store. However, the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone and would be the same had we paid our own way. (And quite frankly, by the time I purchased Lucas not one but two crazy light-up things, drinks and hot dogs--all a splurge because, hey, the tickets were free!--well, I pretty much did pay for 3 tickets!)

Now back to the show.

The problem is, I don't really know where to begin. This post would be 10 screens long if I tried to cover all the wonderful acts and tell you about all the talent we met. So, I guess I'll start with the first talent we encountered: 35 year old, 10,000lb Makia.

We really were this close! Lucas was desperate to give her a big hug.

Once we got into the big top, we outfitted Lucas with some ear plugs. He isn't a fan of loud noises overall and I had been warned that this show is LOUD. Indeed, it is incredibly loud. Lucas did well with the ear plugs and left them in for the beginning and end. He took them out in the middle and was fine.

We loved the China Soul Flyers trapeze artists. They are truly amazing--and adorable! They told us they loved travelling in the US but do miss their family back home. According to the circus, this is one of the most daring and dangerous trapeze acts currently performing. They do doubles and triples, fly over and under the trapeze and it is all hand to hand! I think my jaw hung open for this entire act!

At one point in the show we found ourselves suddenly transported to Trinidad & Tobago's celebration of Carnival with the Caribbean Zanti Trini Zanti and stilt walkers!

In many aspects, UniverSoul Circus is like any other circus--acrobats, trapeze, elephants, horses. But, in many other aspects, it is completely unique. As I've mentioned, I've never actually been to another circus, but I can't imagine that they all pull audience members into the ring for a soul train line. Or, that they have a dance off. Or, that their ring leader is a hysterical African American woman in a housecoat! (Performed, by the way, by Patrice Lovely, the first African American female ringleader.)

Because we got to go behind the scenes and meet so many of these performers, I couldn't help but think about them as individuals and not just as part of the act. We met, for example, 23 year old Fernando. He's 5th generation circus performer and is fluent in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. He was a clown and part of the flying trapeze before "retiring" at age 15! Now, as ring master, he oversees the entire show, coordinates rehearsals, rigging, lighting and helps select acts. What a life!

We also got to meet Johan Torres and Henry Gonzalez before we saw them perform the Wheel of Death and then got to talk Johan after their performance. All I could do was grin and gush, "That was amazing!" One of the other bloggers asked how long it would take to teach her to do the Wheel of Death. He estimated maybe 1 month or a little longer. Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! Johan, that's a lovely thought, but I don't think so!

The UniverSoul Circus will be at Capital Plaza Mall in Landover Hills through May 31. I truly recommend that you go check it out. Take your kids or get a sitter and make it a date night. You won't be disappointed!

And, now, Ladies and Gentleman, step right up to enter a giveaway!!

That's right: UniverSoul Circus has generously offered me 4 tickets to the 7:30 pm show on Wednesday, May 20 for a lucky reader! Time is short on this giveaway so please pay close attention to these details:

  • To enter, leave a comment below with your favorite circus act or memory before Tuesday, May 19 at 5:00pm eastern.

  • Please, please enter ONLY if you are available to attend the 7:30pm show this Wednesday, May 20.

  • To be entered, you must leave a valid e-mail address on the comment form (my eyes only) or in your comment (public).

  • I will randomly draw a winner after 5pm on May 19 and will notify the winner immediately.

  • If you have not left your first and last name on the comment then you will need to reply to my e-mail with your full name so the tickets can be left for you at will call on the night of the show.

  • You can earn a 2nd entry by tweeting this contest and leaving a comment linking to your tweet! Here's a sample tweet:

    @smilingmama @usoulcircus Win 4 tickets to the UniverSoul Circus 5/20 at 7:30pm in Prince George's County, MD!

Good luck!

Congratulations to Tech Savvy Mama with comment #4!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Circus is coming! The Circus is coming!

The Washington Post reported today that the UniverSoul Circus is coming to the Capital Plaza Mall in Landover Hills. But, I already had the scoop! Not only because I saw them setting up when I was doing my grocery shopping earlier this week, but because I've been invited to participate in the circus's blogger experience!

Abel, Lucas and I will make the quick 2 minute drive over to the circus grounds Saturday evening for a pre-show experience. We'll meet members of the cast and crew and see the behind-the-scenes action. Then, we'll sit down to enjoy the show. Something tells me that we won't be sitting for long, though. This circus is all about the music and crowd interaction. I. Can. Not. Wait.

I have a secret to tell you: I've never been to the circus! I've always wanted to go. But the closest I've ever gotten was the Elephant Parade in March. (You know, when Lucas was positively desperate to hug the elephants and was captivated by the, ahem, rear view!)

Among other sure-to-be-fantastic performers, according to The Washington Post, the act "features a troupe of 16 acrobats from the Chinese Olympic Acrobats who performed during the 2008 Beijing Olympics." The Olympics!

I found the history of the UniverSoul Circus fascinating. It was created in 1994 and "the vision was to explore the various talents other than singing and dancing that black performers had to offer. We had the idea to present something different, to create a show that presented a wide spectrum of black talent to a wide demographic of spectators. To reach deep into our culture and search for what talent and skills lie asleep in the black entertainment experience. We wanted to apply our gathered years of experience in the live appearance industry, to make a difference, to change the industry we lived in, creating growth and new opportunity." Reading more, I learned that the first show "lost every penny!" But, they were optimistic because "the idea was successful." And, so they persevered. (Read more about the history here.)

The circus begins tonight and runs through May 31. You can check times and purchase tickets here.

Additional information:

UniverSoul Circus:

Capital Plaza Mall
6900 Annapolis Rd.
Landover Hills, MD 20784

Cheverly Publick Playhouse: Annie

The Cheverly Young Actors' Guild is a nonprofit organization which "was formed in 1995 by parents seeking to offer local youth professional training and performance opportunities in the magical world of the dramatic arts." Each year they put on a full-scale production at the Cheverly Publick Playhouse. All the actors are local children ages 4-17 and the young thespians are accompanied by a professional orchestra as well as fabulous sets and costumes. This year's production of Annie even features a live Sandy! More than 100 kids have been rehearsing for months under professional directors and choreographers. The curtain goes up tomorrow and closes Sunday evening. I can't think of a better way to introduce children to live theater than this!

Show Times:

Thursday, May 14, 7:30 pm
Friday, May 15, 7:30 pm
Saturday, May 16, 2 pm & 7:30 pm
Sunday, May 17, 2 pm & 6:30 pm


$12; $10/seniors and students; $8/ages 12 and under

Tickets often sell out, so purchase your tickets now! You can buy tickets over the phone using a Visa or MasterCard by calling the Publick Playhouse Box Office at 301-277-1710. The tickets will be held for you at will call. Or, you can stop by in person.


Publick Playhouse
5445 Landover Road
Cheverly, MD 20784

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Arts District Hyattsville: Book Nook and Cafe Azul

Photo via Book Nook Bookstore Photo via Cafe Azul

Lucas and I spent a lovely morning at the Arts District Hyattsville on Route 1 (Baltimore Avenue) yesterday. Parking was plentiful on Longfellow Street and behind the shops.

First, we visited the Book Nook Bookstore, a lovely independent book store. We went in with a mission: a birthday present for a 3yo boy. We left with 3 books for the birthday boy and 1 for Lucas for just over $20. I love that their children's selections are arranged by theme. Lucas's eyes went straight toward the trucks, trains and dinosaur sections. The store is small enough that I could easily peruse books of interest to me while keeping an eye on Lucas. The owner, Angelisa Hawes, was incredibly helpful and even wrapped our gift books for free! The Book Nook is a small shop and if you can't find a specific book you are looking for, they will special order it for you at no extra charge. We will definitely be back!

Next, we walked up the street to Cafe Azul, a terrific cafe on the corner of Rt. 1 and Longfellow Street. Billed as "a fresh Mediterranean and Latin cafe" they serve great sandwiches, including Venezuelan arepas: "made from scratch daily, white corn cakes, soft and smooth within and a golden crispiness on the outside." I can't wait to go back to have one of those for breakfast. They have arepas lunch sandwiches, too, but because Lucas and I were going to share a sandwich, I chose something I was certain he'd eat. Our a turkey panini was definitely large enough to share and was delicious. He also enjoyed his banana strawberry smoothie. This is just a small cafe, but it is a perfect spot for breakfast or lunch. I don't drink coffee so can't vouch for it, but they seem to have an extensive espresso/latte/cappuccino menu, too.

Our visit, which was less than a 10 minute drive from Cheverly, was perfect timing to learn about the 2nd Annual Downtown Hyattsville Arts Festival happening this Saturday, May 16 from 12-5pm. There will be 35 exhibiting artists, live entertainment and great food for sale. Admission and parking are free and there is a free shuttle bus from the West Hyattsville Metro station.

Additional information:

2nd Annual Downtown Hyattsville Arts Festival
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm
All the details can be found here.

Book Nook Bookstore
5606 Baltimore Avenue
Hyattsville, MD 20781
Hours: T-F 11am-7pm, Sat. 10am-6pm, 301.209.0035

Cafe Azul
4423 Longfellow Street
Hyattsville, MD 20781
M-Sat. 10am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm, 301.209.0049

Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Train Day

On May 10, 1869, in Promontory Summit, Utah, the "golden spike" was driven into the final tie that joined 1,776 miles of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways, ceremonially creating the nation′s first transcontinental railroad. National Train Day was first celebrated on May 10, 2008 to commemorate the 139th anniversary of this historic event.

Saturday, May 9 is the 2nd annual celebration of National Train Day and tons of great activities are taking place at Washington, DC's historic Union Station from 10am to 3pm!

Events and Activities

Click here for the full schedule. Highlights include an Opening Ceremony with American Idol Judge Randy Jackson, live music with Karina Pasion and Vanessa Carlton and activities with the Radio Disney Road Crew. There will be musicians, face-painters, and much more to entertain the kids.


Many trains and pieces of train equipment will be on display, including The Georgia 300, President Obama’s historic inaugural private train car, the Dover Harbor, and several Superliners.


Saturday, May 9, 10am-3pm
Union Station
50 Mass. Ave., NE
Washington, DC 20002

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

National Harbor

Yesterday morning Lucas and I drove over to National Harbor, a 300 acre mixed-use development project recently built on the banks of the Potomac River in Prince George's County. In non-rush hour traffic, National Harbor is only a 15-minute drive from Cheverly. It is easily accessible from 295 and 495.

Our main goal was to check out the brand new Launch Zone for the National Children's Museum (opening in 2013). The Launch Zone is "is a place where children can prototype exhibit components and programs, share their ideas about what should be included in the new Museum, and participate in fun and educational programs related to the Museum’s core content areas."

The staff member who was there yesterday morning, Lorinda, was incredibly friendly and helpful. She got out all sorts of wonderful things for Lucas to touch, feel and explore. The Launch Zone is open 7 days a week, but it seems to me that the best times to visit will be when they have a program. Luckily, that's every Tuesday and Saturday through May! And, I anticipate they will continue to fill in programming throughout the summer.

After spending some time at the Launch Zone, we strolled down the street and encountered an amazing mosaic on the ground. The benches surrounding it make suggestions of items for you to find throughout the images, making it really easy to turn this from just a pretty design to something educational.

We continued toward the water to find The Awakening which has always been one of Abel and my favorite places to take visitors. We were sad to see it leave Haines Point but I love its new location right along the Potomac at National Harbor. Lucas had a blast playing in the sand, watching planes come into National Airport and seeing the ferries dock.

After playing in the sand we stopped at Potbelly Sandwich Works for lunch and then headed home.

Overall National Harbor was great. From the Launch Zone to the sand to simply enjoying the lapping water, docked boats and airplanes flying overhead, Lucas was engaged and active the entire time. I look forward to returning for a program at the Launch Zone and will definitely take Abel there on a date night to enjoy one of the many great waterfront restaurants.