Scary Stuff, eh Kids?

No offense to Laurel, MD, but there aren’t a whole lot of reasons to make the drive out there, unless you’re into thrifting or historic Arby’s signs. But for a few weeks around Halloween, Laurel is home to what is arguably the DMV’s best haunted house.

Laurel’s House of Horror has been doing their thing in an abandoned movie theater since 2014, and it’s one of the only haunted houses in the area that’s guaranteed to make you go bug-eyed and stupid.

They do the evil clown thing, the hair-over-her-face-Japanese-girl thing, the sneak-up-behind-you-and-scream thing. All clichés, but a welcome sort of cliché, if only because they still make your adrenalin levels redline.

No matter how cynical and tough you think you are, you’ll scream, you’ll jump, you’ll squeeze your partner’s hand so hard they’ll hiss at you to let go, and you’ll be immensely relieved — euphoric, even — when you finally get to the end of the 30-minute circuit.

Where else can you get that kind of jolt for only $25? It’s the last weekend before Halloween, so act now … if you dare.

Laurel’s House of Horror, 935 Fairlawn Ave, Laurel, MD, through Nov. 2, $25-40

Celebrate Oktoberfest for an Uber Good Time

Oktoberfest is in full swing in bars and restaurants all over the DMV, so don your lederhosen, braid your hair and hoist a mug in a toast to this revered, two-week festival dedicated to drinking beer.

The tradition of Oktoberfest comes specifically from the Bavarian section of Germany, in the southeast part of the country. According to Time magazine, the festival originated with the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen more than 200 years ago. Imagine if your wedding was so epic the celebration became a worldwide holiday?!

As much as we love to drink beer out of steins during Oktoberfest, the truth is, Germans drink different beers from many different vessels. For instance, glasses are considered more appropriate for lighter beers. Steins, on the other hand, are sturdy and meant for longer binges. You may have seen decorative steins with lids — these were originally intended to help prevent the spread of plague.

German beer glasses, mugs, and steins get waaaaaaaay more complicated than this — check out German Girl in America for a real in-depth analysis.

While the focus of Oktoberfest is on beer, traditional Bavarian music is also often a part of the fun. And as far as the food is concerned, you may be familiar with Bavarian cream donuts, but you have to eat your dinner first. This may consist of bratwurst, Wienerschnitzel or spatzle. Many of our local German eateries offer foods from all over the country, including pretzels, potato soup, burgers, hot dogs and sausages.

Lots of local bars will feature German beers as the festival continues through Oct. 6, but try to include a stop at one of these authentic, local biergartens, many of which have outdoor seating and are dog-friendly:

It’s Labor Day Weekend — Celebrate!

It’s almost here — the last hurrah of summer. Last dip in the pool, last ice cream dripping down the cone, last beer outside in a plastic Solo cup, last time to sleep in on a Tuesday. Back to pencils and books and meetings and fading tan lines.

Make sure your summer ends with a bang — plan to go to one of the fun Labor Day events listed below.

Labor Day Weekend Music Festival — Hear local bands and musicians play at this two-night fest for free; 7 – 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1, Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW.

National Symphony Orchestra Labor Day Concert — Singers Mykal Kilgore and Nova Payton will sing popular R&B songs, 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol; free.

Greenbelt Labor Day Festival — Enjoy carnival games, funnel cake, live music and more at this annual family-friendly fest, 6-11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30; 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31; noon-10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2; free admission.

Caribbean Boat Party — Hop aboard and enjoy food, drinks and dancing to a Caribbean beat, 9:15-11:15 p.m., Boomerang Yacht, 2nd level, Georgetown waterfront in front of Nick’s Riverside Grill; tickets, $35, food and drink extra.

Last Party of the Summer — Dig into your closet for some fringe, capes or bell bottoms and head over to see this Earth, Wind and Fire tribute band, 8:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 30, Gypsy Sally’s, 3401 K Street Northwest, Water St. NW.

Nats vs. Marlins, Mets — The Nats are playing at home every day tomorrow through Wednesday, Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol Street SE; tickets, $14-$415.

Reggae vs. Soca Fest — Dance the night away — or the whole weekend. Fest runs from 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31-4 a.m. Monday, Sept. 2, Karma DC, 2221 Adams Place NE; tickets, $20.

National Book Festival — More than 100 authors will speak, hold discussions and sign copies of their books, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Pl NW, Washington

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).

Fireworks: Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?

The last time I was interested in fireworks, I was 14 and I lived in Iowa, which basically means I was dumb as a box of rocks and bored stiff.

Since fireworks were illegal in Iowa at the time, we had to drive to Missouri to buy them. Entrepreneurs set up roadside stands 100 feet over the border, so you’d be screaming along at 70, 75 mph, and then when you saw that first stand, you’d slam on the brakes and go fishtailing along the gravel shoulder before coming to a stop at some point.

It wasn’t uncommon for a car or truck to plow right into or through the stand and go arcing over the ditch and into a soybean field.

No one cared about the stupid fireworks themselves; the allure was the risk, the chance we’d get to see something sobering, horrific, something we could talk about for a while, that would make us thankful for our lot in life instead of resentful.

We bought the big M-80s. If you put one in a mailbox and lit it, it would turn it into twisted scrap metal. Same with a toilet. (Ever wonder why park bathrooms have steel toilets now? That’s why.)

Just imagine what it would do to your hand!

We’d dare each other to hold a lit one until the very last instant before flinging it away, always wondering if the other person would misjudge, sending bone shards and singed meat flying across the yard. But somehow it never happened.

Our instincts for self-preservation were too deeply ingrained. Only once a did firecracker blow up in a friend’s hand. It was a faulty fuse, and halfway down, before we’d even started to get nervous, the thing exploded. We all stood there, shocked, and then, one by one, noticed that our friend’s hand was unmarked. His palm was slightly red, but that was it.

Does it hurt? Someone asked.

It’s just kind of numb, he said.

We were stunned but also sort of angry, in a disappointed way. Even the friend who’d been holding the firecracker when it went off was mad.

We discussed driving back down to Missouri and demanding our money back, but it was already the night of the 4th, and we knew that the guys had packed up their stands and gone back to being carnies or moonshiners or whatever they did outside the three weeks immediately preceding the 4th.

I haven’t been interested in fireworks since, and that includes the ones in the sky.

One of the strangest things about DC is how people set up blankets and folding chairs to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July, like they’re about to watch the finale of a prestige miniseries, and not just a bunch of loud noises and flashes of light. There’s not even a hint of danger there; it’s like watching a screensaver.

So what’s the allure? Are all those people pretending we’re at war, and the fireworks are the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, etc.? Or could it be as simple as they’re just enjoying looking at colors in the sky?

At a time when entire industries are dying because people are migrating toward insidiously addicting, endlessly novel media, I guess it counts as encouraging that people will still turn out in droves for something that’s so godawful boring.



Thanks, Mr. President!

Would you be surprised if I told you that Father’s Day has only been an official holiday since 1972, when it was signed into law by President Nixon, of all people?

The cynical point of view is that he was heading into an election that fall with a less-than-stellar approval rating, and the Father’s Day proclamation (which previous presidents had declined to issue) was a low-effort way to get a little publicity and appeal to male voters. If this is indeed what he had in mind, it worked; he won the election a few months later, taking 49 out of 50 states.

Of course, he never finished that term.

Father’s Day may be on its way out, too. It’s like when you watch live sports and they cut to the cheerleaders. “Society can’t possibly let this go on much longer,” you think. All the cultural currents are against it.

This isn’t a bad thing. I’ll miss cheerleaders more than Father’s Day, if only because I don’t have to drop $100 on them every year for bad cologne and a tie that’ll never be worn. (Half that money is overnight shipping, because who remembers Father’s Day until the last minute?)

Father’s Day was actually established as a response to Mother’s Day, which is, you know, not a great look.

After Mother’s Day celebrations became widespread, various people piped up and said, “Hey, what about DADS?” which must have provoked plenty of eye rolling, because back in the 1910s, fathers did basically zero parenting. They planted the seed, paid for the food and they were done.

But the cologne and tie industries stepped up their lobbying, and soon we had a new money pit.

There are actually religious traditions celebrating fathers that go back to the 14th century. These generally took place around the feast day of St. Joseph, which is kind of weird, because as I understand the story, Joseph didn’t, you know, actually father his son. We’ve been celebrating Stepdad’s Day all this time and we didn’t even know it!

I kid, I kid.

While mothers have always done way more of the work of parenting, and still do, dads are obviously impactful too. Not to get too neo-Freudian on you, but your relationship with your father basically establishes your relationship with the world. If you uncritically accept your dad, you’ll probably grow up to be the type of person who tears up at commercials and unironically says things like, “Heck, I dress like this for comfort!”

And if you generally disapprove of and roll your eyes at your dad, you’ll probably grow up to be the type of person who gets face tattoos and listens to podcasts about government conspiracies. Thanks, dads!

But as much as I joke about Father’s Day, I’m just like you. I couldn’t imagine not celebrating it and risking my dad thinking that I’ve forgotten about him.

So next Sunday, my dad will wake up to an overnighted Amazon package, read the accompanying note that says, “Why would you tell an 11yo that kissing girls gives you fatal diseases???” smile as he looks at the enclosed tie and cologne, and then put that tie and cologne in a dusty cupboard that already contains dozens of other unworn ties and unopened bottles of cologne.

Then he’ll go back to posting Minions memes in the comments section of Walmart’s Facebook page.



Ways to Say, “Thank You, Dad!”

Father’s Day can be a challenge. With Mother’s Day, you can usually get away with some flowers or candy, but there are fewer one-size-fits-all solution for Dad. Sometimes it’s hard just to buy a card. What if your Dad doesn’t golf and is a klutz with tools? Sucks to be you, because that’s all you’ll find on Father’s Day cards.

But it’s OK, because here’s a news flash — your dad doesn’t even want a card. So save yourself $5 and take him out instead to one of these fun happenings in and around D.C.:

Father’s Day Brunch Cruise: Combine two of your dad’s favorites — food and the open water — by taking him on a two-hour cruise of the Potomac. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the city from the deck of the Spirit of Washington. Those on the brunch cruise (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) get fresh fruit, pastries, eggs, bacon, sausage and potatoes, and families who opt for the dinner cruise (4 to 6 p.m.) get a buffet with salads, pasta, flounder, mashed potatoes, chicken and prime rib, plus mousse, brownies and a variety of cakes. Each cruise features games and music with a DJ. Sunday, June 16, the Wharf Marina, 600 Water St. SW; tickets: $74.90 per adult, $59.90 per child for brunch; $79.90 per adult $64.90 per child for dinner. Dads get a complimentary drink at dinner!

Father’s Day Jazz Brunch: If your dad gets seasick, take him to the Kellogg Conference Hotel to enjoy brunch and some music — the only thing moving will be feet tapping to the live jazz band. This brunch is sponsored by Beta Omega Social Services, a nonprofit devoted to youth and family development, which will award scholarships at the event to students transitioning to college. Noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Kellogg Conference Hotel, 800 Florida Avenue Northeast; tickets, $30-$65.

Nats vs. Diamondbacks: Take your dad out to the ball game for Father’s Day. Anibel Sanchez is scheduled to throw the first pitch at this 1:35 p.m. game Sunday. Tickets start at $16. If your dad’s the flashy type, you can sit behind the plate for $380 a seat. The Nats are 31-36 and the Diamondbacks are 35-33 so far this season, so we’re the underdogs, but we could still win.

Chinatown Community Festival — Come down to Chinatown and take part in this fun celebration of Asian and Pacific Island cultures from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15 in Chinatown Park (5th and I Street NW). The festival will feature fitness and Wushu demonstrations, Japanese drummers, dog tricks, and dance performances from Indonesia, Hawaii and Turkmenistan. Get your hands hennaed or your face painted, try your hand at 3-D paper crafts or test some K-Beauty skincare products.

DC Truck Touch — Kids, take your dad to this fun event where everyone gets to touch, climb on and pretend to steer more than 40 city vehicles, including fire trucks, trash trucks, snowplows, repair vehicles and more. Free; 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Robert F. Kennedy Stadium Lot 7, Benning Road and Oklahoma Avenue NE.

The DC JazzFest continues throughout the weekend at the Wharf and other locations.

Make a Splash This Memorial Day Weekend

If you’re looking to cool off this holiday weekend — and with expected high temps in the 80s and 90s, who’s not? — take a dip in one of the many local pools opening tomorrow. Ranging from free to $45 per person, our list has something for everyone.

D.C. Public Pools

Francis Pool, 2435 N Street, NW, Washington, D.C.; free for D.C. residents, prices range from $3 to $7 for nonresidents. Hours: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Mon., Wed., Thurs. & Fri, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sat & Sun. 

Banneker Pool2500 Georgia Ave, NW, Washington, D.C.; free for D.C. residents, prices range from $3 to $7 for nonresidents. Hours: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Mon., Tues., Wed. & Fri., 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sat & Sun. 

William H. Rumsey Aquatic Center635 North Carolina Avenue, SE, Washington, D.C.; free for D.C. residents, prices range from $3 to $7 for nonresidents. Hours: 6:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Mon. – Fri.: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sat & Sun.

Hotel Pools

The Liaison Capitol Hill Pool, 415 New Jersey Ave NW, Washington, D.C.;
$25 on weekdays, $35 on weekends. Hours: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily, 8 – 10 p.m. 21+.

Embassy Row Hotel Pool, 2015 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C.,
$30. Hours: Day pass entry begins at 3 p.m.

Courtyard by Marriott, 1900 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.,
$20. Hours: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Capitol Skyline Hotel, 10 I St. SW. Washington, D.C., $45. Hours: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily. Full summer-long memberships available for sale.

Suburban Pools

Martin Luther King Jr. Swim Center, 1201 Jackson Rd., Silver Spring, MD
$5-$7 for Montgomery County residents, $15 for nonresidents. Hours vary.

Sergeant Hector I. Ayala Wheaton/Glenmont Outdoor Pool, 12621 Dalewood Drive, Wheaton, $5-$7 for Montgomery County residents, $15 for nonresidents. Hours vary.

Wakefield Aquatics Center, 1325 S. Dinwiddie Street, Arlington, VA,
$2.65-$6.30 for residents, $5.25-$8.40 for nonresidents. Hours: 5:30-8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 6-8:30 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 5:30-8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 6-8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat.; 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.

The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole, 1400 Lake Fairfax Drive, Reston, VA, $16.50 over 48″ tall, weekends & holidays $15.50; over 48″ tall, Mon.-Fri. (except holidays) $12.75; under 48″ tall $9.50, 2 years old and under,  free. Hours: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays until June 14, then 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily.

Where to Eat on Mother’s Day

You know what your mom wants for Mother’s Day, right?

Yup, food. Food she didn’t have to shop for, prepare and cook herself. Food served on dishes she didn’t have to set out and won’t have to clean up.

You could cook a meal for her — if you knew how and had the time and a dining room with a table and chairs.

If you’re lacking any of that: Good news, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington has some deals for you! Dozens of restaurants throughout the DMV are offering food and drink specials throughout the day on Mother’s Day this Sunday, May 12.

Lots of places are offering brunch. Some are two, three or four courses, and some are all you can eat. Many have bottomless mimosas, so gauge how much you think your mom wants to eat and drink and book accordingly. A few also give moms a free flower, and some have live entertainment.

City Winery is venturing out of the brunch box by hosting a class where you and your mom can learn to make three fun cocktails.

And if your mom is super healthy, take her to brunch at Gentle Harvest, a grocery store and café offering local, organic, humane proteins and produce. Not only will it be really wholesome and responsible, at $12.99 each, it will be less than half the price of the standard Mother’s Day brunch. And you still get a flower and a mimosa!


Happy Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day is sort of a strange holiday; we’re thanking our mothers for concentrating all their youthful vitality into a baked potato-sized little being and then expelling it. Are we sure we should be grateful for this?

My mother always tells me, “Trust me, do NOT have kids.” I laugh and nod, because yeah, having kids is the absolute last thing I would ever do. But she’s also letting me know that her mistake — my existence — has ruined her life, which I can’t really argue with. I guess she’s still mad I crashed her car into a cemetery in high school.

She’s probably onto something, though.

One thing you notice when people you know have kids, is that no one’s life gets easier afterward. It only gets harder. But no, they always say when you point this out, aside from the sleep deprivation, premature graying, perpetual firehose-like outrush of cash and the eating of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets in the car on the way to karate because you don’t have time to make a real meal, no, aside from all that, it’s totally worth it when you see that kid smile at you.

To which I say, “But that kid just smiled at me, and all it cost me was a packet of stickers I bought at Target.”

But then, once in a while, you get a mother who, like my mother, admits it was probably a mistake. In those cases, you want to ask, “So why did you?”

The strange thing about having kids is, I’ve never heard anyone explain why they had kids. Usually you just get, “Because I wanted them,” which is really something you say when you get caught shoplifting a pair of headphones, not when you’re justifying the creation of another human being.

Not that simple desire isn’t adequate motivation to do something. I bought a leather jacket last week because I wanted it. But it isn’t kicking anyone’s airplane seat nonstop from NYC to Dallas.

I mean, we all know why people have kids.

mothers day

We all have, woven into our DNA, a biological imperative to transmit our genes into the future. But that’s never how parents justify having kids. They never say, “I just had this weird urge to transmit my genetic material, and then, boom!”

The disconnect between the real reasons mothers (and, yes, fathers) have kids and the reasons they give makes me wonder if there’s something necessarily self-deluding about the decision, that maybe you can’t undertake something as clearly ruinous and inadvisable as having kids without fooling yourself a little. And that when the fog clears, years later, and you see what you’ve wrought, reality kicks in.

Most people don’t admit to themselves, much less anyone else, that they feel this way. They say things like, “Who knows how my life would’ve turned out? Besides, sleeping 10 hours a night and having disposable income is overrated!” Or, “I’m so proud of my kids.” (Don’t think they’ve escaped unscathed: Was it Jung who said the biggest influence on a child is the unlived life of the parents?)

But then, once in a while, you get someone who’s honest, and comes right out with it, instead of perpetuating the whole scam. So yeah, thanks Mom, I guess. Happy Mother’s Day?