Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The family C hits DC & Baltimore
Over the Memorial Day weekend, the family c decided to take to the road (with the M family). We went to DC and Maryland. It was fabulous. The weather was warm and sunny. The only bad thing was the crowds. I guess it's inevitable for the unofficial start of summer.
First we went to the Baltimore Aquarium. It was a nice aquarium. It was also rather small, deceptively so. The best part was the Atlantic Coral Reef (a 4 level tank, maybe even 5). They also had a huge tank that you encircle as you slowly make your way up to the Coral Reef tank where there were huge turtles and sting rays. They also had people in scuba gear feeding the fishes. It was great. g got to see them feed the stingray up close. We happened to be at the lower deck viewing area. The keepers brought the food right up to the window. We saw that little mouth just gobble the fish up. This area was really the main attraction for me.
The aquarium touts the Dolphin Show. I was less than impressed, having been to Shedd and SeaWorld. It was more focused on education (which is good, I guess) but I could get the same education watching Discovery Channel. The kids were glued to the Dolphins though. So it was a little below par for the been-there-done-that crowd but for little ones, the wonder was still there.
Some tips for those thinking of heading to the Aquarium:
- Parking - Get there early. There's a lot of street parking to be had for the early bird. The prime spots are the 4 hour spaces. You still have to shell out $1/hour but that beats parking at a lot. In a pinch, there are also 2 hour space and 1 hour spaces. We ended up parking in a lot. For those who would go that route, park a block or two further from the Aquarium for better prices. The parking garage in front of the aquarium was about $25. The one the next block over was $12 for the whole day.
- Timed Entry. On quiet regular days, this wouldn't matter much but on summer weekends and certain holidays (look here for best times to visit), entry time could be hours after your arrival. Unfortunately we were there on the Saturday of Memorial Day. So when we arrived at 11:00 AM, the next entry time was not until 3:00 PM. The next available Dolphin Show was not until 6:00 PM. So plan accordingly.
- NO STROLLERS!!! They rent backpacks but it's probably best to bring your own. To get to some exhibits, you would have to go through several levels of narrow escalators. Some viewing exhibits and tanks are also very small so stroller would have been hellish anyway.
In Summary - I don't think I fully appreciated this aquarium because of the crowds. However because of the cost, I don't know if I would go back. Maybe if we were in the area and there was nothing else to do.
Port Discovery Children's Museum
If we were in the area with nothing to do, I would most likely go here. This place was a lot of fun for g. She took to the multi-level play structure (although she was too chicken to go down the enclosed slide) I wish there were more pictures of her around the structure but I was too busy trying to keep up with her to take any. They had cool exhibits as well. My favorite (g's as well) is the Wonder of water where kids use water to play instruments, move a wheel, squeegee a window, float ducks and more. We attempted the Bubble Hoop together and actually got a hula hoop sized bubble to form for almost 2 feet before it popped. I loved that they provided rain ponchos and crocs for this area. There was no way I was going to keep g from being sopping wet without these.
We also did some art, a Japanese marbling technique called suminagashi.
I don't think we got through all the different play areas because the kids were so happy with the first few that they got to and that's a really good thing.
BTW, they had corporate program of which GS was on the list. So we got in for FREE. YES!!!!
In Summary - we'll definitely be back.
Next Stop - The National Zoo
First off, I love the fact that it is free. We went there last year and found it just okay. We were done in a few hours. This year saw the unveiling of the Asia Trail and I was impressed. Last time we went, the panda viewing area was a foot bridge overlooking the panda enclosure. It looked really great. The pandas are always awesome to see. Both kids liked it.
I liked the National Zoo for the way the enclosures seem to be configured. Though there is a good safe distance between the animals and the humans, there seems to be a sense of immediacy. I get blown away by the scale of the animal especially the elephants and the hippos.
Again since it was memorial day, it was pandemonium. We could have covered the zoo in about 3 hours including lunch but the crowds really make it pretty impossible. So we spent pretty much the whole day there. No regrets. Well, except that g was having a "moment" all day. Eventually we found out that she was just really hungry. She devoured her over-priced chicken nugget meal in 2 minutes.
The only annoyance of the National Zoo is its layout. It is shaped like a banana rather than a circle. So after you have done the zoo, you would have to walk through everything to get to where you started. This might be alleviated by the launch of the Elephant Walk in 2011. Who knows?
In Summary - Love it, but try not to go on a holiday weekend.
Now for the hotel...The Donovan House We got a great deal on this "hip luxury" hotel. "Hip luxury" might be code for "not so kid friendly." It is especially bad for little s. Ok, it is actually bad for us, good for s actually. s loved being able to explore everything and since "hip" seems to mean lots of furniture low to the ground, everything was within reach. She climbed onto the coffee table, knocked over the lamp and hid behind thick blackout curtains. Yes, bad for us, good for her.
The room was small. Thankfully we ordered a double room since gmom was going to be with us. It was just enough space for the beds, the well-appointed furnishings and the little walkway between these.
The "coolness" factor of the room must refer to a circular shower stall which, I admit, was cool until someone had to shower in it. gmom fell, g fell, s fell. They weren't playing either. They just fell because "coolness" doesn't involved putting treads or grooves on the shower floor. When wet, the floor becomes really slippery. Once inside though, the shower felt like a prefab shower (which it was.) For all the hip-ness, it doesn't stand up to close scrutiny.
The breakfast. It was a continental breakfast at its worst. They run out of things fairly quickly. They don't really have staff to manage this but use the front desk staff to refill napkins, muffins and water. No juice. No dining tables. They had coffee tables which is fine except when you are trying to wrangle a toddler (s).
In Summary - I would probably stay there again if there is another good deal. I will get my breakfast elsewhere and tread carefully while in the shower.
at 11:44 PM