Enjoy Beautiful Butterflies Without Even Going Outdoors

Most people think bugs are gross, and they try to avoid them. However, there are a few exceptions. Ladybugs. Dragonflies. Lightning bugs. Butterflies. Although not all of them are technically bugs, each has some quality that we, as humans, find appealing.

We like ladybugs  because they’re red and shiny. (I’ll admit I found them a little unattractive when I awoke one morning in my mother’s house years ago, after having left the window open because she liked to keep the house at a dry 86 degrees in winter, to find hundreds of them covering the bedroom walls.)

We like dragonflies because with their size and brightly colored wings, they’re like beautiful airplanes. Plus, they eat mosquitoes, which are not pretty or fun. For some reason, dragon flies have become a common design on baby and children’s clothes, as if they were cute and snuggly.

We like lightning bugs because they light up. Light is generally considered a positive thing, and to create it with your own backside is just too cool. Its magic has been captured and distributed throughout the toddler world in the Eric Carle classic, The Very Lonely Firefly.

Butterflies are beloved to many. With their beautiful colored wings and quiet grace, they inspire people to stop and watch them alight on a branch or blossom. Especially if you live in the city, this may be a rare sight.

But there’s a solution now, and it’s the Butterfly Pavilion at the Museum of Natural History. Here, the butterflies float and flutter silently among the plants, and if you’re still, one may land on you.

The exhibit houses scores of butterflies from the U.S., Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia.

While you’re there, if you’re a huge insect fan, head up to the second floor to the O. Orkin Insect Zoo, where you can see caterpillars, grasshoppers, leaf bugs and more. Watch the tarantula feeding at 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.

The insect zoo — more than 40 years old — is the oldest operating zoo of its kind in the U.S. If you bring the kids, let them climb through the 14-foot-high replica of a termite mound.

If you’re on the Maryland side of the DMV, you can also see butterflies at Brookside Gardens, 1500 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton, MD. The Wings of Fancy exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends through Aug. 31. Tickets are $8 for ages 13+ and $5 for ages 3-12. Kids under 3 get in free.

Tickets: Adults (13-59), $7.50; seniors (60+), $7; children (2 to 12), $6.50; Free for everyone on Tuesdays, tickets still required due to timed entries.


Sample Some Culture This Weekend

If you’re not worn out from all the celebrating on the 4th of July, take a look at all the fun that’s happening in and around D.C. this weekend.


Dance the night away at the Reggae vs. Soca Carnival After Party from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. at Karma D.C., 2221 Adams Place NE. Featured artists include JP, Bimshire and Rage. Tickets are $20 each.

Gaze upon the showy blooms at the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14 at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, 1900 Anacostia Ave SE, Washington, DC 20020. Enjoy crafts, demonstrations, music for free. Food and beverages are for sale, but you can bring your own too.

Ooh la la, head over to Tenleytown on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. for the Bastille Day celebration at Fessenden Park, on Wisconsin Avenue. Sample crepes and profiteroles from Le Chat Noir and Matisse and taste some French wine, Orangina or Perrier. Bring the kids and let them try a craft project, then plant sunflowers to take home with you. Tickets are $20 each, kids 10 and under free with paid adult. Includes food, beverages, activities and entertainment.


Achtung, baby, it’s not just the French celebrating this weekend, it’s the Germans too! Take a drive up to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Timonium for the Maryland German Festival and steep yourself in German culture, music and food. From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14. Tickets are $7-$10.


Alexandria looks better than ever as it celebrates its 270th birthday from 7 to 10 p.m. tomorrow at Oronoco Bay Park, 100 Madison St., Alexandria. Enjoy entertainment, a cannon salute and fireworks finale. Free.

 Pay homage to the suffragists who fought for women’s right to vote at Tea with the Ladies from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 13, at Ellanor Lawrence Park, 5040 Walney Road, Chantilly. Listen to inspiring talks, learn about the marches on Washington, then blend your own tea. Tickets are $20 each.

Lotus Flower Festival This Weekend

The lotus flower is a symbol of hope and rebirth. It starts its life as a primitive bud submerged in murky waters. Slowly, it grows toward the light, breaking through the surface and blooming in all its glory.

Although the flower escapes its cloudy surroundings to bask in the sun’s rays, its roots keep it grounded, tethered to its humble beginnings, feeding the beauty it has become.  

This allegory may be part of the lotus flower’s appeal. Or it may be that anyone who catches sight of these plate-sized head-turners is simply wowed.

If you haven’t seen a lotus flower, this weekend is your chance. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is holding its annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14.

Get there early, before the sun opens the flowers, and you’ll have a better chance of seeing water birds, turtles, salamanders and snakes.

Festival organizers have a full schedule of activities planned, including samba, classical Indian dances, Brazilian drumming, jazz performances and yoga. Meet reptiles, birds of prey and other animals and learn water gardening for beginners. Kids of all ages can play games and do arts and crafts, including making paper lotus flowers.

Bring a blanket and a picnic basket (no alcohol) and spend the afternoon, or buy food onsite and head home when it’s naptime. Leashed dogs welcome.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, 1900 Anacostia Ave SE, Washington, DC 20020; (202) 692-6080


Family-Friendly Fourth Festivities

Most of us have seen A Capitol Fourth from the comfort of our living rooms after having eaten one too many hot dogs. But this close to the nation’s capital, it’s surely not the only celebration of freedom in town. If you’re looking to beat the crowd — that is, become part of a smaller, but no less festive, crowd — check out some of these sensible, family-friendly options below.

The District


If all the hoopla over the 4th caused you to forget what you were celebrating, head over to the National Archives for a reminder: It’s the 243rd anniversary of the writing of the Declaration of Independence. The annual ceremony will take place from 10 to 11 a.m., and kids can choose among fun, age-appropriate activities (including writing names with a quill pen and dressing in period clothing) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors can also check out the current exhibit, Rightfully Hers, dedicated to women attaining the right to vote. Can’t attend the ceremony? They will be live streaming it on YouTube for the folks at home.

Nats Park

What’s more American than baseball? Watch the Nats take on the Marlins starting at 11:05 a.m.

Ticket prices start at $18.


If you’d like to see the national fireworks from a comfortable distance, head to The Wharf. Three stages with bands will play live music from noon to 8 p.m. Snag a dockside seat at one of their fabulous restaurants and enjoy the fireworks.


 College Park

Come out to the University of Maryland’s Lot 1 for College Park’s annual festival, starting with good old American concessions (hot dogs, hamburgers and funnel cake) at 5 p.m. Stick around for a free concert at 7, and then fireworks at 9. Coolers are permitted, but the city asks that you don’t bring alcohol to this family-friendly event. Rain date July 5 (fireworks only).

Montgomery Village

Montgomery Village will be holding their July 4th Celebration/5K Race and Fun Run from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The 5K ($35) begins at 8:15 and the Fun Run for kids ($25) starts at 7:45. Online registration is closed, but day-of registration is still available during packet pickup, starting at 6:45 a.m. After the race, kids can join the annual parade with decorated bikes and trikes starting at 10 a.m. Finally, there’s something for everyone with carnival rides and games!

Northern Virginia


Herndon’s Fourth of July Celebration will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the softball field at Bready Park. This free event kicks off with games and arts and crafts for kids. At 7:15, cover band Guys in Thin Ties will be playing everyone’s favorites from the 80s. Fireworks will begin at 9:30 p.m. Food vendors will be on site, so come hungry!


Fairfax knows a thing or two about observing the fourth: A Hometown Celebration marks the 53rd year of festivities. This all-day event begins with a parade around Old Town Fairfax from 10 a.m. to noon (rain or shine). From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., tour the 1812 and 1927 sections of the historical Ratcliffe-Allison-Pozer House. In the evening, make your way to Fairfax High School at 6:30 for kids’ activities, food vendors and live music from The Darby Brothers on the football field. Fireworks begin at 9:30. Shuttles are provided to both locations. Rain date: July 5 (fireworks only).

Go Fly a Kite!

You’ve got a week to buy or build an amazing kite so you can take part in the Blossom Kite Festival on the National Mall next Saturday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Rain date Sunday, March 31.)

The kite festival — near 17th and Constitution — is a perennial favorite and showcases some of the most talented kite flyers, who come from far and wide to perform tricks for the crowd and compete for prizes.

You may think the wind doesn’t discriminate, but beware, cheap kites can sometimes be frustrating to fly. What’s worse than a kid with a kite that eternally spins and crashes is a second kid with a kite that works fine. So if you do buy cheap kites, maybe get an extra. Or bring some supplies with you like material to make a heavier tail, which can sometimes help with an unbalanced kite.

Other fun alternatives include having your kids makes their own kites at an activity station on the mall. This option is available only while supplies last, so get there early. Kites will also be for sale at the festival.

If you or your kids made your own kites, you can enter one of the kite-making competitions.

Registration for the Youth Kite Makers Competition starts at 10 a.m. on the Family Field. You can start practicing flying your kites and work out the kinks at 10:30, and the competition runs from 11 a.m. to noon. Awards will follow the competition from 12 to 12:30 p.m.

Preregistration for the adult handmade kite contest starts at 10:15 a.m., and the contest runs from 11 a.m. to noon on the Competition Field.

Demonstrations will be held from noon to 4 p.m., and prizes will be awarded from 4 to 4:30. The grand prize winner in the adult category gets a Samsung Galaxy S10+ phone.

All that kite flying is sure to make you hungry and thirsty, so check out this list of restaurants and bars participating in food and drink specials throughout the Cherry Blossom Festival.


Family-Friendly St. Patrick’s Day Events

Even if your days of drinking green beer are over, you can still celebrate the luck o’ the Irish with your little ones. Check out our calendar of kid-friendly St. Paddy’s Day events below.

March 2Alexandria’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Held by the Ballyshaners, a local group celebrating Irish heritage, this event will be Alexandria’s 38th annual parade, beginning at King and Alfred streets and ending at Lee and Cameron streets. There will be over 2,000 participants, including Irish dancers, historical re-enactors, and pipe and drum bands. If that doesn’t sound exciting enough, 30 costumed dogs will compete in multiple categories, including Best Human/Canine Lookalike Contest, from 11-12 on Market Square. Starts at 12:30 p.m., free.

March 10Annapolis St. Patrick’s Day Parade This will be the lucky 7th annual Annapolis St. Patrick’s Day parade. This year’s parade will benefit Warrior Events, a nonprofit serving wounded veterans and their families. John O’Leary will be leading the U.S. Naval Academy Pipes and Drums and many festive floats down West Street and Main Street. Starts at 1 p.m., free.

March 16Loudoun Station Shamrock & Roll Blackfinn Ameripub is ready to rock Loudoun Station with live music, Irish dancing and DJ sets. General admission gets you a drink and your choice of a breakfast taco or corned beef sandwich. There’s no better way to say “top o’ the mornin’ to ya” on St. Paddy’s Day than by kicking it all off with a free Pulse Inferno Burnout Class at 10 a.m. (included in admission). Event is 11-2 a.m., kid-friendly until 4 p.m., $10.

Bagpipers at the Gaithersburg Parade.

March 16 Gaithersburg St. Patrick’s Day Parade Unloading your leprechauns for Gaithersburg’s 19th annual celebration should be a breeze, since the city will be offering free parking in garages along Washington Boulevard. The parade begins at Rio Washington Center and will be emceed by DJ Albie Dee from 94.7 The Drive and JP Flaim of The Sports Junkies. There will be live music from The Lloyd Dobler Effect directly following the parade on the lakefront plaza. Starts at 10 a.m., free.

March 17Wear Green Campfire at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. Meet at Cabell’s Mill with your wee ones (ages 4 and up) to scout out green items in a meadow. This cute evening ends with a campfire to toast marshmallows with your little one. Registration required. Event is 5:30-6:30 p.m., $8.

Wondering where DC’s official parade is on this list? Unfortunately, it has been canceled this year so resources can be reallocated for next year. This means that next year’s 50th anniversary celebration should be nothing short of a pot of gold!

The D.C. Area’s Best Theaters

Washington D.C.’s film community isn’t the most visible, but if you look hard, you’ll see signs of passionate local filmmakers and film buffs. Whatever your relationship to watching films is, everyone wants comfy seats, tasty snacks, big screens and drinks on tap.

Here are the best theater-going experiences in the area:

Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW, Washington DC (Metro Center)

This indie theater in the heart of D.C. is the prime spot for showings of the kind of under-the-radar films that pop up during awards season and beyond.  With knowledgeable staff, occasional Q&As with the stars and custom-written guides on what’s playing, this is a great place for educated film-goers.

The highlight of their menu is the crab pretzels smothered in gooey cheese.  The beer menu offers a rotating selection of domestic and international beers, so be sure to ask about specials. The E Street bar also offers a wine menu with full bottles available. There’s limited seating to chill out on the bottom floor before your movie. For those in the mood for a non-alcoholic drink, E Street also makes gourmet Italian sodas.

Landmark’s sister theaters include:

Landmark West End, 2301 M St. NW, Washington DC (Foggy Bottom) — A smaller three-theater multiplex with cozier theaters offering second-run films and an abbreviated menu.

Landmark Atlantic Plumbing, 807 V St. NW, Washington DC (U Street-Cardozo) — Smack-dab in the middle of the swanky U Street corridor, this place serves unusual theater snacks such as ramen and has a virtual juke box you can select use via an app.

Landmark Bethesda Row, 7235 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda (Bethesda) — More of a mainstream cinema venue, but the full-service bar area is good place to chill. Check out the Cinema Art Bethesda for a moderated discussion and breakfast on the third Sunday of each month.

Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington (bus line off Pentagon City)

The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse has been a fixture on the local scene since 1985, when the current management bought it from a traditional movie house (the building is 70 years old) and turned it into a combination movie and live performance venue with a restaurant. The theater’s showings are mostly second-run, which means films that are between theater and DVD. Thus, tickets are cheaper, but even more so on Mondays — discount night.

The is also one of the premiere stand-up comedy venues in the area. Big names from Saturday Night Live to Comedy Central all pass through here (and can sometimes be found getting drunk somewhere along Columbia Pike after their set).

Cinema and Drafthouse is one of the few places where you can order a full meal without ever leaving your seat. Simply hold up your card and a waiter will sneak by and quietly take your order mid-show.  The menu includes a wide selection of drinks with a lot of specialty cocktails and martinis named after films including Pirates of the Caribbean (Malibu rum, pineapple juice and grenadine) or a Willy Wonka with chocolate liquor or a float made with Henry’s Hard Orange.

Angelika Film Center & Café at Mosaic, 2911 District Ave., Fairfax (Dunn Loring-Merrifield)

The Angelika shows indie films, blockbusters and has occasional screenings of old films and film festivals. The snack menu includes four types of gourmet hot dogs, three types of artisanal popcorn and a messy hodgepodge of salty and sweet treats.

Be sure to check out the upstairs café before your movie, where you’ll find a full bar (four kinds of drafts, in addition to stouts, ales and Potter’s Cranberry Orange Blossom) and a respectable menu. Play a board game while you hang out, and watch an old movie or sporting event.  If you hit the cafe after the film, you get half off.

On Tuesdays, students get a ticket and bag of popcorn for $9 with ID.

The recently constructed surrounding Mosaic District, boasting art studios, restaurants, community events and boutique shops, has breathed a lot of life into what just five years ago was a sleepy corner of suburbia.

Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market, 500 Penn St. NE (NoMa-Galludet)

Located within a mile of the NoMa-Galludet Metro stop and behind Union Market, the Angelika Pop-Up has a bare-bones feel with the look of an abandoned warehouse. The menu is consistent with the Angelika in the Mosaic District, only the lounge is just a waiting area with a few tables. The theaters aren’t tiered, so fair warning, don’t sit behind a tall dude.

The Avalon Theatre, 5612 Connecticut Ave. NW (Friendship Heights)

The oldest movie theater in the area (circa 1923), the Avalon closed in 2001 and was resurrected two years later with community support. Today, it is D.C.’s only nonprofit theater. Some of their proceeds go to scholarships for filmmaking camp, so you know some of your film dollars are going to a good cause. The film’s two screens are pretty enormous, like the old days. They show a lot of indie and small-scale films with the occasional blockbuster.

AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring (Silver Spring)

If you’ve ever heard of the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award or the prestigious AFI filmmaking school or the AFI anything else, this is the same organization. The art deco building is an impressive feature and the three-theater complex is probably the most high-profile theater in DC as well as the top destination for directors and movie stars doing any audience Q&As. Even with just three theaters, AFI has nearly everything: mainstream, indie, foreign and the best of the obscure. They serve beer on tap, spirits and a full wine bar, but not too much in the food department beyond candy and popcorn.






Family-Friendly Breweries in NoVa

The transition to parenthood is exciting. You love noticing your tot is cutting their first tooth and sitting up on their own. It’s right around this time you remember that you haven’t been to a bar in a while, and you’re thinking that you wouldn’t fit in with a baby strapped to your back, drooling in your hair.

How wrong you would be!

Many parents of young children resort to drinking Miller Lite Chuck E. Cheese. But you don’t have to. Here are a few local breweries serving up craft beverages you can enjoy with your family in tow.

  • Lake Anne Brew House (Reston) is a lakeside small-batch brewery. It’s in the same plaza as a used book store with a whimsical children’s section and is easily accessed from a paved walking trail. Try the Live-Work-Play IPA, which references the motto of Robert E. Simon (founder of Reston). As you spend time with your family overlooking the lake, you’ll be living out his vision!
  • Solace Brewing Company (Sterling) has a separate area for families divided by a half-wall. Because, hey, sometimes you want to be able to let your kid run around and only crash into people who know your struggle. Try Lucy Juicy, a fruity beer that still packs a heavy 8% ABV punch.
  • Caboose Commons (Fairfax) in the Mosaic District is the more child-friendly sister brewery to Caboose in Vienna. There are three floors, including an extra-comfy top level complete with couches. They have a kids’ menu that even the pickiest eaters will enjoy, and smartphone ordering makes everything easier. They’re hosting an upcoming Caboose Kidz event Feb. 6, featuring crafts and hot chocolate. For a citrusy, floral treat, try the Citra Session IPA.
  • Mustang Sally (Chantilly) has old-school arcade games and funky vintage couches that make it feel like a blast from the past. It’s near Dulles airport, so it’s perfect on your way in or out of town. For a malty classic beer that’s easy to drink, try the Article 1 Amber Ale.
  • Port City (Alexandria) offers public tours and ample seating even if you’re rolling deep. You can entertain your younger crew (or yourself, for that matter) with fun games like Jenga. Try the Optimal Wit, a crisp beer with hints of orange and coriander.
  • Chubby Squirrel (Fairfax) opened in 2018 as the first nanobrewery in Fairfax city. They have board games as well as chubby squirrel outlines for coloring. It’s an easy walk over to Old Town Square, with a splash pad for the summer months and Rock the Block every fourth Friday from May-October. A rotating food menu features delicious, unexpected treats like poutine fries and pierogies. Most of the house-brewed beers have charming, squirrelly names. Give the Black Squirrel a try — it’s a rich stout that’s sure to warm you up.