Review: Locust Shade Park

Locust Shade Park is a great space in Triangle, down by Quantico just past Independent Hill if you're a 619 cruiser.  It's great because it's got several different amenities including mini golf, tennis, a batting cage, docks with rental paddle boats, gazebos, picnic areas, playgrounds, fitness trail, and an ampitheater. When you go in the main gate, the batting cage, mini golf, driving range and visitors center are directly to your left.  The ampitheater is further up on your right, and the playgrounds, hiking, and picnic areas are spread out along the road's loop.
 This is the boath house and gazebo just past the ampitheater parking.  We had a picnic in the gazebo, which isn't the cleanest gazebo I've ever seen, but the kids were quite happy with the shade!
Bonus: This dock is handicap accessible if you have people in wheelchairs.  This is also always good news for people with strollers. Boat rental is affordable at $4/half hour, and if you like to fish, they stock the water each year with trout and catfish. Note that you need a valid game license if you're over 16.

Locust Shade also has large-scale (and small) picnic facilities available for rental.  They're great for outdoor gatherings for birthdays, scouts, or church functions.  You can find a list of rates HERE. There are picnic areas that border playgrounds, which would be especially great for a child's party.
This picture of the ampitheater (credit: Prince William County Park Authority) does not picture the large overhead shade that is available.  They're triangles, make sure you get under them and don't end up in one of the gaps where there isn't shade or you'll cook (per our experience).  The ampitheater shows take cash or credit card, but they do handwritten receipt that includes your credit card number and charge you later.  If that makes you uncomfortable, be sure to take cash.  You can check out the ampitheater schedule on our calendar or HERE, but note that the season is obviously limited to times when outdoor weather will be conducive to a good time.

Locust Shade Park
Pros: Lots of different activites, no entrance fee
Cons: Wooded- beware of ticks and bring your bug spray
Caution: The boat ramp is VERY open and the sections that are "fenced" are spaced well enough that your small child could easily get in the water for a swim.  It's not that clean, I don't recommend it.


House of Bounce

The day that we were at House of Bounce the staff was fantastic.  There were 5 staff on site (which is more than I've ever seen elsewhere) and they were all very interactive.  There was one, in particular, a gentleman with a large diamond earring and blonde hair who was running around playing with the kids.  That's not to say they were enforcing any kind of rules, quite to the contrary, but the kids were all having a great time and the staff was interactive enough that most of the moms actually got to (gasp) relax for a moment.

We had so much fun at House of Bounce this week! The site isn't exactly remote- but it's in an office park area so it's a little difficult to identify which set of buildings you're going to at first.  There's good signage, though, and we very dutifully followed the minivan in front of us with the happy stick people family and ended up in the right place. 

Walking up to the door I loved that there's reserved party parking! Schlepping out the presents is tough if you don't get a good spot. 

The cost for open bounce is $9 per child or $5 for 2 and under.  1 adult is free with each paying child, additional adults are $5.  There is an awesome castle-themed birthday room with an inflatable throne off to the side of the pay area.  Socks are required, but if you forget there are socks available for sale.

Inside there is a 2 entry obstacle course, a 2 sided slide, a birthday cake shaped bouncer and a round bouncer.  I was there with a 3, 5, and 7 year old.  Note that on their website, House of Bounce alerts you to open bounces that will have a large group attending so that you can try to plan accordingly.  On the day we went there was a homeschool group meeting, which was fine with us!

This is the obstacle course.  3 couldn't do it and it made 5 cry because he wasn't "fast enough".  7 and his new buddies loved it and played on it the entire session. 

3 and 5 loved everything else, though.  3 especially loved the slides. 

Mommy loved the coffee bar. 

Suprisingly, one of the biggest "pros" for House of Bounce is also one of the biggest "cons".  This place is CLEAN.  The bathrooms were clean, the slides were clean, there was an employee walking into the play area with a giant vat of cleanser when we were leaving.  The carpet (which is cute!) is also CLEAN.  They have the whole facility professionally cleaned every week. 

Clean, however, also means SLIPPERY! Slippery equipment and notably, slippery carpet. However, I'll take the clean and tell my kids to slide carefully of a moonbounce any day over some other things we've seen at less clean places.

House of Bounce Breakdown
Cost- $9 for 3+, $5 for 2 and under, $5 for extra adults (one free per child)

Pros: Clean, well-staffed, well-spaced
Cons: Slippery, limited bounce options (4)
Overall: Recommended, especially for kids 3-9.  Older kids might like more intense options, younger won't enjoy the slide and obstacle course without a parent doing it with them. 


Summer Bucket List

Oh my mommies! I am terribly sorry for not posting this when I said I would.  It's been sitting in my "drafts" section for about a month as I added new ideas, and when we got to last Friday I got so wrapped up in 4th of July and packing for our trip to Pennsylvania that I totally forgot to push "publish".  I do hope you'll forgive me!!

Summer Bucket List 2011
A summer bucket list? Yes! How fun! The idea is that you sit down with your munchkins and decide on a list of things you HAVE to accomplish before summer ends.  They can be educational, trips, crafts, playdates, anything you want! Maybe you want to send artwork to all the grandparents, visit 1 new park each month, and ride a rollercoaster.  Maybe you want to visit an historical site, plant a tree, and learn all the words to livin on a prayer.  Whatever you want to do- write it down and check those suckers off!! It's a great cure for "what are we doing today??" and really fun to accomplish!! Here's my PWC Moms suggested Summer Bucket List for 2011.  With giveaways, of course.  I know how you all love a giveaway!

1. Pick Something.  We personally love to pick berries (especially those free blackberries that grow wild all over Virginia.  Watch for deerflies and pull the car over!) and peaches.  If you've never had a warm from the field peach you do not know what you're missing!!  We particularly love Hartland Orchard for peaches, which will start July 9th.  You drive your car directly into the fields and they give you very nifty baskets on a stick to use to get your fruit.  The more exposed to the sun (think top of the tree) the sweeter and jucier the fruit!! Want more ideas? Try THIS post.

2. Go to a PWC Waterpark.  Splashdown, Veterans, and WaterWorks are all fun!  They all also have affordable options including "playdate" times earlier in the morning and after 4pm prices.  Swimming in the neighborhood pool is great but there's nothing like adding a giant slide to make it a little more fun!! Want to cross this off your list? WaterWorks has given us 2 family 4 packs for after 4pm for lucky readers! 

3. Field Trip--DC.  We love the Smithsonian Museums and no summer would be complete without a visit to DC.  We love to plan our trips for weekdays and usually magically find street parking.  However, Metro from Springfield is a really fun option (bonus train ride!) and guarantees you won't have the headache.  Friday mornings until 2pm there is a farmer's market next to the Smithsonian Castle and the USDA provides free children's activities (think planting, digging, crafts and stories) as well as covered picnic seating.  Add that on to your trip for a totally fun (minus transportation) trip!!

4. 2 Words: Bouncy Castles.  Some days it is just too darn hot.  In those cases, we think it's time to head inside for a little inflatable fun.  House of Bounce would like to invite a PWC Moms reader to head over to their place and mark this off their bucket list- and maybe we'll see you there!! There's nothing better than wearing your kids out while you remain air conditioned!!

5. Eat Watermelon for dinner.  We have at least one day in the summer where we come inside completely exhausted and too hot to eat.  It's nights like those we make popcorn and watermelon for dinner.  It has to happen at least once- it's very exciting to have Mom throw the rules out the window.

6. Catch Fireflies.  There is nothing quite as magical as heading out at dusk to catch fireflies in a jar.  (Holes in the lid please- and let them back out before you go in for bed!).  While you're at it, why not join up with Operation Firefly and help determine where all the fireflies have gone.

7. Field Trip- Richmond.  The Children's Museum of Richmond, to be specific!! This incredibly fun museum is adjacent the Science Museum of Richmond and includes everything from creative play to dinosaurs to crafts to biomes.  If you've never been, you've got to go! Under a 2 hour ride and your kids can easily spend the better part of a day playing if they're anything like mine.  C-MOR has offered a free family pack of tickets to their beautiful museum to a PWC Moms reader so they can check this off their bucket list for summer 2011!! Delegate Rich Anderson, VA-51, who in the interest of full disclosure is a friend of our family after having worked on his campaigns, also invites any PWC Moms and their families to join him at the statehouse for a tour.  Call Ryan Galloway, his assistant (and in my experience, follow up with Ryan) to schedule at  571-264-9983

8. Host a Messy Playdate.  I started this tradition years ago when I ran a mom's group, and it's still going strong.  We run banner paper along the back fence and put out plates of fingerpaint.  We put out dishes of flour and buckets of mud.  There's glitter involved.  Water balloons, mud pies, flower planting, tie dying, the brightest colored popsicles you can find- get out anything that is typically forbidden and ask your guests to wear old swimsuits and bring a change of clothes.  Then, turn them loose in your back yard and just hose everything off when you're done- including the kids.  We have a great time each year and you can adapt this playdate to any age group from new-to-tactile infants on up. I bet tweens would love a paint fight.

9. Go to a concert.  Whether you go for free (Leesylvania, Harris Pavilion, and Sean Connaughton Plaza (that ugly 70's looking building when you enter to go to the Potomac Nationals Complex) all host free concerts throughout the summer) or pay to play (Wolf Trap, the Hylton Performing Arts Center and Locust Shade Ampitheatre offer great kid-friendly options) 

10.  Read a Classic.  We are of the opinion (this is the royal we here- my kids don't get a choice) that there is a great need for more fine children's literature in the world.  Abandon Junie B. for a minute and read to your kids from a great children's classic like "Trumpet of the Swan", "Charlotte's Web", "Black Beauty", "James and the Giant Peach", "Little House on the Prairie", "Stuart Little", or your personal favorite.  When you're done, be sure to record it to your Summer Quest form and check in at the library each week to claim your prize both for reading and for visiting the library each week this summer season!

11. Climb Something.  While we have some great options more locally, such as Hemlock Overlook in Fairfax, I've always always wanted to head over to the Adventure Park at Sand Springs School. It's the largest aerial forest adventure park in North America, and while it's definitely a field trip, it also looks totally B.A. (and no, I don't mean Bachelor of Arts).  You can join us in this one, too, because the Adventure Park has very generousl offered one PWC Moms reader a Family 4 Pack of Passes.  This would be great for an older kid- they recommend ages 7 and up, but there are restrictions for ages 7-13.  Even your teen could have a great time here, as far as I can guess (remember, I don't have teenagers, so take that with a grain of salt!)

12. Go to the Fair! It goes without saying we have to spend one (horrible, sticky, smoky) day at the fair.  My kids would kill me if we didn't.  We try to stay over in the children's barn and the exhibits as long a we can, and we'll even peek at the monster trucks or tractor pull, but I'm totally in touch with the fact that I'm going to have to buy a funnel cake and ride on the egg beater until I feel sick.  It's just a rule :) We like to watch for the discount days, and don't forget even if you can't bake you can show off your "goods" by entering your child in the beautiful baby contest!

We hope that you have a great summer- and we'd love to hear what your bucket list plans are!! If you're a blogger, link to PWC Moms and share your own bucket list.  Leave us a comment below with the link and what you'd like to win from our list!  If you're not a blogger, you can tag PWC Moms on a facebook status and share what you'd like to win for your own summer bucket list in a facebook note!  Happy Summering!


Big Time Rush at Jiffy Lube Live: Giveaway 2

Coming Soon...



Hi There!

I'm Kristina and I'm glad that you found my website!

PwcMoms started after a friend told me I should share the calendar I compiled each month for a playgroup with more people. I grew up in Prince William County and only left long enough to go to college at Holy Cross, get married, and come back.  I love it here, and I hope that my site of kid-friendly events will help keep your family happy and busy! 
Photo Credit: Mamaratzy Photography
I still reside here in the 703 with my husband and our three children, who we home educate, although I personally attended 13 years of Prince William County Public Schools and served as a one-term president of the PTA at my eldest child's elementary school- so if you're a PTA mom, I want to help!  Our children are a 4th grader, a 2nd grader, and a Kindergartner.  
Photo Credit: Keys Photography
My husband is amazing and works full-time as a software engineer to pay for web hosting, math books, and the seven thousand activities our children are enrolled in. He's wicked awesome.  

When I grow up, I would like to be a professor of religious studies, and in the past have worked as a children's minister at various local churches.  If anyone at Zondervan is reading this and wants to offer me a job writing books, I'm also up for that. 

I answer all my emails, well- the ones that aren't from Africa and promise me $100,000, so feel free to contact me anytime!

You can read more about my website (and me, not that anyone cares):
Discover PwcMoms! (DCMetromommy)
Spotlight on Kristina @ PwcMoms (Real Housewives Northern VA)
"Mommy Mafia Has Lowdown on Events"  (Potomac Local)
Enterprising Mom Creates Local Site for Parents  (Bristow Beat)
Going Places: Kristina Schnack Kotlus and PwcMoms (Prince William Living)
Lake Ridge Mom Recognized as Best Blogger in NoVA (Patch)
Mommy Bloggers (Washington Family Magazine)
D.C. Mom (and Dad!) Bloggers We Love (Red Tricycle) 

You can also find my writing at Potomac Local , Prince William Living Magazine, and Haymarket Lifestyle Magazine.  If I can just get them to let me on TV, I'll be a media mogul...like Martha Stewart, but without a rap sheet!

Thanks for coming by, and I hope you enjoy PWC Moms as a great resource for your family!!
My site is PR Friendly, and I'm happy to hear from you about kid-friendly events in and around Prince William County and the DC Metro Area.  I will occasionally accept product reviews, as well.

I accept guest blog submissions, but am specifically interested in local voices and authors.  If you're a northern Virginia local, especially in Prince William County, and would like a place to share your voice, I'd like to hear from you!  If you are a company trying to send me some bogus guest post because you just want a link back to your site that is based in another country and sells pharmaceuticals, fireworks, or anything else I wouldn't let my kids play with, the answer is probably no.

I do giveaway posts, which also include a product review.  I also do paid advertisement spots.  However, I always reserve the right to share my true experience with users.  That means that even if a sponsor provides me with free product, if I'm not happy with it, I'm going to tell you.  I also do a fairly extensive calendar.  Whenever I am informed of changes, I update the calendar to reflect them- but I'm not always told if a session changes or is cancelled.  Please call before you go to an event, especially if it is an outdoor venue and there is inclement weather.  I do my personal best to provide accurate content, but I am not responsible for changes that I am not informed of.  It is always free to post an event with me on the calendar- and I will list for any organization that falls within my guidelines as being child, teen, and/or family friendly. This includes religious organizations, community groups, and businesses.  I do not list classes that require a monthly or yearly subscription, but I do list walk-in classes or "open play" times.

Also, all content is mine.  And you can't have it without my permission because I share worse than your toddler.  In Big People Speak, that is to say:

© Kristina Schnack Kotlus, KSD, LLC and PwcMoms.com 2009-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Brief excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kristina Schnack Kotlus and PwcMoms.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content including a LIVE link. THIS INCLUDES OUR CALENDAR.  While all the events on our calendar are public domain, we write the information in, and you may not copy our calendar for public use or benefit to your business or website without our express permission. Individual readers are, of course, welcome to subscribe to our calendar, or to copy events for personal use any time.