Fall Family Weekend Fun

My original topic for News Channel 8 was supposed to be weekend fall fun.  Then it changed.  So, here are my original talking points, because I thought you guys would like them anyway :) Not all PWC, but a lot of fun ideas!! 

This last part of summer/early part of fall is perfect for getting outside.  It’s not too hot, not too cold, and the bugs are, hopefully, starting to die off.  One local park we really love is Potomac Overlook just off of 123.  They’ve got a great nature center and some gorgeous hiking.
If you have a little more time and you’ve got a 4th grader, you can get a FREE pass for them, and anyone else in their car, through the White House’s “Every Kid in a Park” campaign.  It’s not available until Sept 1, so mark your calendar, but we have so many great national parks to choose from- Shenandoah is one of our favorites- whether you’re cruising up and down Skyline Drive just to take in the scenery or doing a hike, we really like South River Falls and Rose River Halls for hiking- they’re both 2.6 miles, totally do-able with elementary kids, or toddlers in a backpack, even if you need to park it for lunch for a bit!
If you’re looking to take up the better part of a weekend- it’s not too late to go camping, either.  Even if you’re not ready to get the long johns out, there are several places that offer cabin camping.  My pick, though, is to go ahead and splurge on a $43 treehouse rental in Maryland.  (http://thetreehousecamp.com) If your family is a little bigger, for $70 you can rent a tree cottage.  This pretty much meets every requirement for my childhood dreams that I actually belonged in Swiss Family Robinson. Lake Anna (http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/lake-anna.shtml#cabins_camping) and Prince William Forest Park also have rental cabins. (http://www.nps.gov/prwi/planyourvisit/individual-cabins.htm)

One more great outdoor option is the Adventure Park at Sandy Springs School in Maryland.  This is a ropes course where you clip into a safety line- there’s a double carabeener system for safety, and you navigate through a challenge course and zipline down.  My son did this with us when he was in first grade, which was okay, but he’d have way more fun now because on some of the higher courses you need to have some leg reach- and he was a little short for some of the cool things he wanted to do.  But, if you’ve got taller kids aged 7 and up- you’re all set! http://sandyspringadventurepark.org

Next up, there are a TON of fall festivals that start happening and these are great for weekend fun! I am a little bit obsessed with Old Town Manassas (http://visitmanassas.org/events/page_offset:1/action:agenda/time_limit:1443267001/)  right now, I think it’s adorable and they host tons of fun events.  They’ve got Bands, Brews, and Barbeque on September 12th, an Orthodox Festival on September 18th, and a Chili Cook-Off and Kids Fest on September 26th.  However, no matter where you are, you can definitely find a great fall festival.  A few more options include:
·      Stonebridge Fall fest and Chili Cook Off (Woodbridge) http://stonebridgefallfest.com which ends with a family movie on the Jumbotron
·        The Maryland Renaissance Festival (http://www.rennfest.com/) runs from August to October, so that’s always an option
·      Be on the lookout for farm tours- these are awesome self-guided tours in places like Faquier and Prince William that let you visit a bunch of different farms in one day.  My favorite is the alpacas- they meep just like road runner! So cute! (http://www.pwcfarmtour.org)
·      Joe Gibbs Country Fair and Auction (http://www.youthfortomorrow.org/country-fair-and-auctions) helps a great cause and it’s really fun!
·      Kings Dominon and Busch Gardens both have fall hours on weekends
·      Your local fire station is also a great place to check for fun ideas! They often have fall open houses with moonbounces, facepainting, fire safety, and, of course, you get to try on the equipment!

There are also lots of family fun runs, most with a 5k option if you’re running enthusiasts, and those can be really fun for kids to do.  A lot of them have some kind of a fun activity at the end- my son and husband did the Freedom Center Turkey Trot for his birthday last year and had a great time.

If you’ve got time this weekend and are willing to take a drive, the Family Drive In Theatre in Stephens City does an amazing Labor Day Movie Marathon- it’s ALL NIGHT MOVIES!! We had so much fun doing this.  You can leave anytime or stay all night.  We popped open the tailgate and laid out sleeping bags in the back of our van- but the kids made it longer than I did! This year’s movies are Inside Out, Minions, Avengers Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and South Paw.  And, get this- it’s $8 for adults, $4 for kids up to age 11, and you can pay a $5 per car fee and bring your own food in.  We actually brought a picnic dinner and then later in the evening got the popcorn.  You just can’t resist that smell! If you’ve got older kids/teens, they’ve also got a second screen and will be showing “grown up” movies on that side, and ladies, Magic Mike XXL is on the lineup, if you’re into that. http://www.thefamilydriveintheatre.com

Obviously, we’re also heading into fall and that means you can officially break out the apples and pumpkins.  On the Maryland side of things, check out the Darlington Apple Festival the first weekend in October (http://www.darlingtonapplefestival.com) or you can just take the kids out to a pick your own farm.  We love to visit Hartland Orchard out 66 in Virginia, in Markham, and the kids love to help me peel apples to make crock pot applesauce when we get home.  You can also always pick a few extra to send into school, or make into a pie to send into school, if your child has already gotten on the teacher’s bad side!

For a little weekend fun on the cheap, it’s also never too early to get your kids a little school spirit.  Your local high school is a great option for fall football games, you pay so little you can leave when the kids get tired, and be on the lookout for their homecoming designated game, usually near the end of September.  I know around us the schools do parades that the kids love to attend, as well as the game being extra exciting with big halftime shows from the marching band.

If you need a few indoor ideas- sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate! There are lots of fun inside places to try new things! With younger kids, indoor thinking playspaces like at Animated Child in Montclair or at Vertical Rock in Manassas are fantastic! (You don’t have to climb, but I like to!) Also, if your child is studying something they are either struggling to appreciate or REALLY like, why not take a field trip to a museum? This seems so obvious, but a lot of families don’t think about all the great FREE museums we have!

Another great thing that our family just loves to do is volunteering together.  Places like ACTS in Dumfries, Reston Interfaith, or the DC Food Bank all have different requirements, but can usually take even younger students to help count or package rice.  Hypothermia shelters start opening and they don’t always provide dinner, so a supper in a sack project is great, or check out Feed My Starving Children, which we do every year at New Hope Church in Lorton, but they are around all over the place for packing events.  Kids as young as 6 can typically participate, and they get a hairnet!

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