Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Aug 15, 2013

Every Thursday, the Going Out Guide staff discusses concerts, happy hours, cheap date ideas, weekend getaways, new exhibits and other ways to have fun in the Washington D.C. area.

Summer's almost over, but the kids aren't heading back to school just yet. How do you fill the next few weeks? Join Weekend editor Amy Joyce and A Parent in Silver Spring blogger Jessica McFadden to talk about family activities and destinations.

Hi folks! We have Jessica McFadden (mom of three and blogger at with us today to answer all pressing questions you have about what to do with your kids in these waning days of summer. (Yes, we're bummed too.) I'll join in as I can as well -- I have two young boys who keep me busy when I'm not editing Weekend/Going Out Guide stories.

Our usual GOG gang is here to answer the more adult-related questions.

Ask away! And, as always, jump in with your own ideas.


Hi Gurus! I have some friends visiting next weekend, August 24-25. I'm going to optimistically hope the weather will still be beautiful. I've got my usual list of suspects, but was wondering if there were any special events being held in the area next weekend--county fairs, festivals, outdoor concerts, anything? Thanks for any tips!

Fairs are always a great call! The Montgomery County and Prince William County Fairs wrap up on Saturday evening 8/17, but the Maryland State Fair is happening Aug 23 - Sept 2 and the Maryland Renaissance Festival starts Aug 24. (If you are going to hit RennFest with kids, I recommend going early in the day for a little less bawd factor!)

Hubs & I are going to see Thievery Corporation tonight (Thurs) at the 9:30 Club. I have not been there in about 2 years -- ! time sure flies! The website says it starts at 7. Normally I would not buy that, but for a Thursday night show, with probably (?) no opening act, what do you think? Should we get there at 7, or do you think 8 is fine? With the enormous number of new eats over there, what is your pick for a quick bite beforehand?

The club says that Thievery is going on at 8:30. Given that tonight's show is sold out, I'd probably try to arrive a little after 8 so you don't get stuck in the back of the crowd.

For "quick" bites on 14th, given that Thursday's usually quite busy, I'd suggest grabbing something at the bar at Ghibellina, Bar di Bari or maybe something from the new menu at Saint-Ex. (The weather's gorgeous, so I'd love to steer you to Garden District if you have time. Last time I ate there, though, it took ages to find a seat and order food.)

If any of the Going Out Guide staff has attended the MC Fair, what were the key highlights that we cannot afford to miss in these last days? Geo K in Kensington

I went this past weekend, and it was a little too hectic to name highlights.  I also think it depends quite a bit on who you are and who you're going with. I was with young kids and they liked seeing the animals and sitting on the big tractors. But with one being 4 and the other one being 1, they were far too small to ride a lot of the rides, even the kiddie ones, without being accompanied. 

For me, the fun parts are the rides and deep-fried food. I liked that there was a good bit of international fare. I'll say this: If you're interesting in riding the rides, definitely get one of the carnival ride megapasses -- a single ride was about $5 in most cases, and forking over $25 for all rides seems like the best bargain.

I finally convinced my sister to visit me with my niece and nephew, ages 7 and 5. The Zoo, Natural History and Spy Museum and the monuments are on the top of the to-do list. Given my constant nagging about visiting, I need to make it a memorable trip - anything I'm forgetting?

If the weather is like this, take in a nice playground and train ride (particularly for the 5 year old). Wheaton Regional and Cabin John are great for that -- and you and your sis can sit back and enjoy a picnic lunch while the kids play.

Got to love this weather, right? I also love visiting farms with kids. My favs are Clarks Elioak Farm on the Howard/MoCo border - a retro fairy tale playground and farm animals to pet and feed! We held baby goats on our last visit. Open tues - sun 10am-5pm and Labor Day. You can also get those last berries at local pick-your-owns; find a farm at And Watkins Regional Park Old Maryland Farm in Upper Malboro has more adorbs farm animals.


Hi Gurus, I've got a date lined up for Truckeroo tomorrow. What else can we do or where can we go to grab a drink in the area without having to take metro? How sketchy is the Yards Park area after dark? Thanks!

Despite all the promises of development, the area around Nationals Park can still feel kind of sleepy after dark. It's going to be especially sleepy with the Nats out of town this weekend, but I think that's a better way to explore the area. I'd suggest getting a house-brewed beer at Gordon Biersch -- I had their IPA at Tuesday's DC Beer Week event and really enjoyed it. You could also get drinks on the patio at Park Tavern.

I don't think the area around the stadium is sketchy after dark -- just a little bit empty. It's more sketchy over by the Navy Yard at the base of Barracks Row. 

Trying to find more activities with 8.5 month boy. Nats game, clemyjontri, beach, playgrounds already done. Other ideas? Where can you find good deals on fabric baby books? Amazon is $12+ even with amazon mom. Other deals? Thx

Wow, your 8.5 month old has done more than most 10 year olds around here! When they are that little, it's fun to take them to things YOU enjoy. I loved taking my babes to the National Gallery (they could stare at the Caulders for, oh, three minutes at a time, which was lovely). But honestly, they would take in just about anything, and sit happily as I had a nice little lunch or coffee. Walking around the zoo is always good, as they can actually see things -- the newish seal/sea lion exhibit is perfect because they can see the animals swimming by at eye level.  A walk through the Sculpture Garden or the C&O path in Georgetown, along with the waterfront there would be good. Have you checked out National Harbor and the Children's Museum?

Storytimes and puppet shows are always winners with babies and toddlers, I think. Libraries and nature centers have frequent free ones, and in their descriptions list the target ages. The Puppet Co. at Glen Echo has special morning baby-centric puppet shows from a master puppeteer who has worked on Mr. Rogers. Look for their shows labeled "Tiny Tots."

New in the area. Would like suggestions for Best Happy Hour place for MATURE professionals in Bethesda, Adams Morgan or Dupont Circle. Thanks!

Welcome! Definitely check out Fritz's list of happy hours at restaurants, which is how most of us who are past our 20s here like to do happy hour in D.C. these days. I think you'd have luck at Ghibellina, which just got a warm welcome from Tom Sietsema. It's a bit out of your way, but Casa Luca is another good one, as is Lincoln or Teddy and the Bully Bar. In Dupont Circle, Black Fox has a great happy hour, plus live jazz; Veritas is a  wine bar that's a great option. In Bethesda, I'd do Vino Volo, which does half-price wine flights at happy hour. I think the key to finding a crowd that's mature is to stick to places that are a bit higher-end (ahem, price point is always a good indicator). That frequently that means classy new restaurants and wine bars. I'd stay away from Adams Morgan unless you're headed to Mintwood Place (seriously, go to Mintwood Place).

Hi! I'm helping to plan a bachelor party for this fall - we're thinking a nice dinner out, and then drinks at a bar (ideally at someplace with nice ambiance and fun drinks, like the Gibson). But one of the groomsmen is only 19 years old - can you recommend a fun place to get drinks that doesn't card at the door? He's fine drinking a Coke while everyone else is having the fun stuff, but we want to make sure he can get in. Thanks!

You don't say what night you're thinking, but that's going to make a big difference. Most places go hard-line on Friday and Saturday night. What I'd suggest is trying to find a restaurant with entertainment where you can stick around after dinner. I'd say something like Jack Rose -- maybe dinner on the rooftop followed by drinks and cigars at the tiki bar for the 21-and-over crowd afterwords? (I did this for a bachelor party recently and it was a lot of fun.) Cafe Saint-Ex or Pearl Dive would be other options.

The weather is so gorgeous today. What do you recommend for 2 kids, aged 8 for fun this late afternoon/early evening? We are based in DC.

I'm thinking about going home to play baseball in the front yard. Want to join? (Kidding, kidding.) It really is amazing today. How about you head to Georgetown's waterfront and take a walk along the canal? Try to see who can spot the first turtle. The playground behind the Cathedral (at the Beauvoir school) is amazing. You're thinking not for eight year olds? Oh, try again. It has a zipline, amazing climbing structures, an astroturf field, slides that go underground. 

Hey guys - taking my young daughter with us to Free Fest next month and will probably have to miss the headliners. Do you think that Robin Thicke and Vampire Weekend will be the last to play on the big stages that night? Thanks

We'll definitely know more in the coming weeks - we'll be having some fun with FreeFest, for sure.

For now, I do think that Vampire Weekend will likely play late, but I'm not sure that'll be true of Robin Thicke. I think we might see quite a few dance acts hit the stage later, to get the crowds moving, so I might peg him for a 5-6 set time, to give the audience a mid-day pick me up. Festivals are long, and you don't want to save all the good stuff for the end.  But definitely check back with us - we'll get the set times up as soon as we know them.

My little guy is obsessed with trains. He loves riding the train at Cabin John, but I'm not sure we can do that EVERY weekend. Got any more ideas? PS: Really looking forward to Christmas train displays. Hope you do another of these chats then.

Wheaton Regional has a nice train and carousel, and a sweet train display at Christmas time. The Trolley Museum is a good one to try (Jessica has details and is going to hop in here), and the American History museum has a good transportation exhibition for a change of scenery.

We love taking a trolley ride at the National Trolley Museum (in north Silver Spring)! Now that the ICC construction is over the trolleys are back up and running. 

The B&O Railroad museum in Baltimore is a fantastic day trip. Big trains to play on and you can take a train ride.

My kids also loving riding the Strasburg Railroad in Lancaster County, PA. It's a 2 hour drive and a reasonable overnight at one of the many family-friendly hotels. There miniature trains abound at the Choo Choo Barn and various "train table" museums with interactive kid train displays.

anything interesting gigs going on tomorrow night?

Thievery Corporation is doing one of its annual multi-night stands at the 9:30 Club, and if you haven't seen the band in full flow -- instrumentalists, rhythm section, guest vocalists jumping in and out -- I fully recommend it. Tonight's show is sold-out, tomorrow's isn't.

Also, I'm really stoked about the Miyakazi show at the Rock and Roll Hotel. They play a brooding kind of synthpop, analogous to early Joy Division, with great harmonies. Make sure you get there early for the opener, D.C.'s own Black Hills.

For something completely different, the avant garde '70s performance-art-meets-rock-band the Tubes is playing at the Hamilton.

We would love to go see a hot air balloon launch anywhere within a 3 hour drive with our 2 year old. We had been considering the Bealeton VA Festival this weekend, but it's an air show, so we're worried it will be too loud for our little one. Do you have any other suggestions? Thanks!

Totally go...if your kiddos are early risers! The hot air balloon portion of the day is not concurrent with the air show. See the hot air balloon launches from 7-9am and 6-8pm. The noise will be greatly reduced.

Just how packed will Lucky Bar be this Saturday morning for the season kick-off? Do they have a decent brunch, or perhaps an English breakfast?

Lucky Bar will be swarmed on Saturday, as will Fado and the Queen Vic. (The latter two will be busy early, as they have Liverpool leanings and that game kicks off at 7:45.) The food at Lucky Bar is greasy bar food. If you want to eat, I'd pick the Vic and Fado, in that order. The Queen Vic in particular does a really nice Full English.

I love going downtown during the summer - Eastern Market, museums, etc. but the Metro makes it SO painful. How do you suggest we make the trek from Western FX county worth it? I am interested in spending much of labor day in DC but foresee the metro closing many stops, as they usually do on holiday weekends.

Metro does frequently shutter stations  for work on holidays, when, you can guess, ridership is lower. (I wouldn't say many stops; typically, it's between one and three, and on a single line so as not to disable the whole system.) It doesn't help that the places you want to go -- including Eastern Market and the museums, are on the Orange Line, which always seems to let me down. 

There are ways to just drive here. Holidays are fee-free, as are Sundays. So sometimes, I just bite the bullet and tell people to drive into the District early in the morning (if you can get here by 11 a.m., you're golden), and stake out a parking spot. Don't worry; it's free parking in any metered spot on Sundays, and on the Monday (Labor Day). If you're bound for Eastern Market, try to get a spot on Pennyslvania Avenue SE, so you can get in and out easily. If you're headed to the  museums, consider parking on Independence Avenue, where there's plenty of parking spaces.

My parents, aunt, and uncle are coming to visit for my twins' 3rd birthday party this weekend. The party is on Friday. Do you have suggestions for what to do on Saturday and Sunday that would entertain the out-of-town adults as well as two toddlers? Thanks!

My current favorite way to combine the standard Smithsonian visit with out of town guests AND kids is the Telescopic Observing at Air & Space downtown. Daily before school starts from 12-3  kids can "use the Observatory's safe solar telescopes to take a close-up look at our nearest star, the Sun. Learn about solar activity and its effects on Earth from knowledgeable staff and volunteers." -- Obviously I am quoting the Smithsonian's website there!


Speaking of Air and Space, give Udvar Hazy a try. The flight deck is amazing for young and not-so young alike. You can watch planes take off and land at Dulles, and hear the chatter between the control tower and the pilots.

Oh and here's a summer "staycation" for the simulators at Udvar Hazy Props to Amy Miller of Our Kids for letting me know about that cool savings!

Hi - we are looking for something fun to do in lower Montgomery County on Sunday. there will be 2 elementary school aged boys, 6 adults, and 1 senior. We want to have brunch, then do something fun. We have enjoyed Brookside Gardens in the past. I was hoping there was a festival or fair of some type, or somewhere we can walk around, or maybe hang out and chat while the kids play. Do you have any thoughts? I'm at a loss!

How about an outdoor movie? Sunday evening you can drive in or bring chairs to see The Amazing Spider Man at the MCPS Education parking lot in Rockville. and there are other family-friendly films on Friday (Oz The Great and Powerful) and Saturday (Skyfall) nights, too.

I think the Sunday night outdoor films at the National Waterfront are worth the drive. This Sunday 8/18 is Dreamer.

Where in this area, say within a 90 minute drive, would you suggest for a not-too-strenuous hike in the woods? Not too strenuous defined for these purposes as not on manicured paved paths (though we have enjoyed some nature reserves), but also without steep climbs. A bit of mud is fine - skidding down a slope, not sure whether to hug a tree to stop, or to avoid it because you're picking up speed, is not fine! The paths around Great Falls, VA have served us well, while those along Skyline Drive were a bit too much for our level (see above comment about skidding down slopes. Ow.). Thank you!

I loved hiking in Sky Meadows. There are a ton of different trails, some more strenous than others. But definitely some that were flat(ish) yet beautiful. And, call me crazy, but give Rock Creek Park a try. Almost endless loops that make you feel like you're worlds away.

From our staff outdoors expert, Amy Orndorff:

That anecdote made me smile. Sliding down a mountain is a good way to ruin a hike and I’d be lying if I said that has never happened to me.

But on to your question. Patuxent Research Refuge jumps to mind for its flat trails, lovely visitor center and great bird watching. It is a perfect nearby place to spend an afternoon. Another place that jumps to mind is Calvert Cliffs State Park. Sure, there is the ever-popular hike to the beach, but there are 13 miles of mostly flat trails that you can also try. 

Last thought, “Country Walks Near Washington” is a good resource.

Does Jack's still have grills and such you can use after kayaking?

Ah, I've been a couple of times to the new Key Bridge Boathouse (Jack's closed, and the boathouse has new operators), and I didn't even look to see if they're still around. I just called and they said they do have a couple of working electric grills - but note that it's only a couple, so bring some sides to nosh on in case you have to wait your turn.

One of my favorite things to do during the summer is the Friday night concerts at Yards Park. They don't care what you bring to eat or drink, so you could grab food at Truckeroo and bring your own bottle of wine. (Tho the time I did this with friends, I got the wine and waited outside Truckeroo while they grabbed food, so the logistics might be difficult, since they check bags going into the Fairgrounds.)

Another option, but you shouldn't try to bring your own drinks into Truckeroo.

I know this is off-topic but I just wanted to tell Amy Joyce that I miss her old Life At Work columns very much!

Aw, I was just saying how I miss that column and especially miss chatting with all of you. Want a walk down memory lane?

I think Amy Joyce should have a new column or Post blog, maybe called "Mom at Work" -- her insights and writing are amazing...

Has the PostPoints Code been given?

Nope. It's always given at the end of the chat. You'll have to stick around until we're done.

why is the entire chat linked to the silver spring blog? a little weird that if you click on a question about the 8:30 club it will take you to a parenting blog

When we click on links to the 9:30 Club, it goes to the 9:30 Club link. What browser are you using?

Hi y'all! A good friend of mine just got engaged and we want to throw her a low key engagement party. In our 20s we would have done a happy hour, but since we're all in our 30s now and most have kids, we were thinking a Saturday afternoon get together would be better. We want to have it someplace that is kid friendly and hopefully dog friendly, we were thinking someplace like Barrel Oak Winery , but were hoping for something closer to Arlington (a place where we could provide food for everyone, but then they can buy their own alcohol). Any suggestions? Thanks so much!

So, I think your idea of heading to a Barrel Oak is a great one; another dog-friendly, beautiful winery is Bluemont, which might be a hair closer to Arlington? I just went to a new winery called The Barns and it was stunning, so cool and rustic  - there's a lower level that was having a bridal shower, and it was super cute. Folks can flow out onto the lawn, sip sangria, etc., while winery vistors pretty much stay out of your way.  Another option is to tag onto another event, like a Jazz in the Garden (before the event ends for the summer, of course), which is kid-friendly. But since it's an engagement party, you want to keep your attention on the happy couple, and doing a festival or something doesn't feel quite right.

Hey GoGs, I need your help if you please! It's my BFF's bday this Saturday and she has no idea where she wants to go out to that night. We are in Arlington but are looking to go to DC and mix it up a bit but I have no clue where I should suggest. We typically hang out at the Ballroom when we're in Clarendon and that's fun but pretty basic. We're looking to ramp it up a bit for her bday. However, the last few times we've been to DC have been disappointing. We've gone to Rhino and a couple other places along M Street in Georgetown, and we tried H Street with the Rock and Roll Hotel and Little Miss Whiskey's. Both experiences were pretty meh, the crowds were boring, dwindling or just kinda weird. We like to drink, dance and get our mingle on, but maybe we just don't know the hot spots to go to anymore? Can you please help!!

What time did you get to Little Miss Whiskey's? The place was packed the last time I was there on a Saturday. Reliable crowds for Saturday dancing include U Street Music Hall, which was just named one of the 10 best dance clubs in the country by Rolling Stone, Dodge City, Heist, El Centro D.F., the Park, Marvin, Shadow Room, the Huxley ... Heist and Huxley are fancier bottle-service kind of places. 

A lot of newer places don't have dance floors right now. It's a trend that's more about restaurant bars than dance clubs.

I'm not the OP, but every single question and answer appears on my screen as one big hyperlink to that blog. (I'm using Safari for Mac.)

Ouch. Thanks. Looking into it and will hopefully have a fix soon.

FYI, there are no station closures on the Orange line for Labor Day weekend...  (

If you don't want to drive into DC, try driving to Ballston and parking and taking the metro in. The neighborhood spots are free (and you don't need the parking pass that residents get) on Saturday, Sunday, and Labor Day Monday and the meters are free on Sunday and Labor Day Monday.

Yes, I am planning ahead. Labor Day weekend is coming, and I will be in town. I enjoy this, as SO many people leave town that I can often do things that I don't think of when I am enmeshed in regular life. So, any exhibits opening or closing that I ought to make sure to hit? And restaurants that are usually too crowded to consider that might be worth trying? (A few weeks ago I made sure to hit the Renwick before it closes for renovations, and the Corcoran for the Alien's Guide exhibit before it closes.)

I love this question, because you're absolutely right, a lot of summer's best events end on Labor Day, sniff. Here's a shortlist - it's the end of the kayak/boathouse season, the end of Jazz in the Garden, Minigolf at the Building Museum will end; and pools will close. Hill Country barbecues will end Saturday the 14th. Yes, some of the summer exhibits shutter too. "George Braques" at the Phillips Collection wraps up on Sept. 1;  The Hirshhorn's "Over Under Next" will end on Sept. 8; but "Ballet Russes" at the National Gallery has been extended, which is wonderful news.  While I will mourn the end of summertime outdoor fun,  personally, I don't love summer exhibitons, which I think have to toe the line between what regulars like and what the tourist summer crowds want to see.  Generally, I don't think they advance the conversation in a way that I get excited about. I think the fall should and the coldest days of winter (December-February) bring exhibitions that are the most compelling (the National Gallery's counter-programming with "Ballet Russes" and last year's heart-racing Joan Miro show being a much-welcome exception).

Thanks for joining us, everyone, and thanks to Amy Joyce and Jessica McFadden for their great ideas for the little ones. If you do have kids, sign up for our fantastic all-things-kids newsletter at  

Also, we’ll be giving away a few pairs of tickets to the Shakespeare Free  For All, which starts next Tuesday and runs through Sept. 1.  Follow us on Twitter @GoingOutGuide, or like the Going Out Guide on Facebook, and we’ll post instructions tomorrow on how you can score them. For you Post Pointers, the Post Points code for this week is GG7228. 

In This Chat
The Going Out Guide
The Going Out Guide staff are the experts behind The Washington Post's Going Out Guide. They write about restaurants, bars, movies, the arts, special events and visitor attractions, and they're out every night to keep you on top of the D.C. entertainment scene.
Amy Joyce
Amy Joyce has been at The Post, well, for a long time. Her first foray in to online chats were related to work. Now she's happy to chat about fun (but would like to believe the two can be one). An editor for Weekend and the Going Out Guide, she is particularly interested in movies, things to do with kids and things she can do on that rare date night. When not at work, she can be seen dodging wiffle balls in her front yard.
Jessica McFadden
Jessica McFadden is the author of the popular blog "A Parent in Silver Spring," which suggests fun activities and outings for families.
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