Showing posts with label Maryland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maryland. Show all posts

The Ultimate Family Guide to Zoos in the Mid-Atlantic

Over the past several years, I have visited a number of zoos around the Mid-Atlantic region - Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.  There are a lot of great choices, but here are my top choices of where to visit with your family!  Click the subtitle link on each zoo to see my full review and guide to visiting!

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore 


Saying hi to a penguin friend at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore - July 2020


This is our "local" zoo at just about 45 minutes away and an easy drive from our house.  The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is located in Druid Hill Park and is completely picturesque - with winding trails, easy to navigate areas, and a good variety of animals.  One of our favorite exhibits here are the penguins - they are simply too cute to miss!  

Smithsonian's National Zoo

Panda Bear at the Smithsonian Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. - December 2019

Welcome to Cumberland, MD - A Great Place for Active Families!



During the summer of COVID, our family has been hanging closer to home like many others.  So rather than boarding planes and planning large vacations, we grabbed our bikes and headed to many of the great local destinations to get outside, stay active, and spend time together.  One of the places we spent a weekend was nearby Cumberland, MD.  At just about 2 hours from our door, it's a great distance for a quick getaway.  While we've passed through Cumberland before, we really hadn't taken the time to truly visit the area.  During our visits, we enjoyed good food, friendly hospitality, and many outdoors-y activities for our family.  

Where We Stayed:  Fairfield Inn and Suites - Cumberland

As many of you know, paying for a hotel room is something our family tries to avoid - and we've been fortunate to avoid that often over the years thanks to points accrued through travel and travel credit cards.  We had a small amount of Marriott points that had been hanging out there for a while, but it was the perfect amount to grab 2 nights at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Cumberland.  The hotel location was absolutely perfect for what we were looking for during our stay.  We were planning on biking the C&O Canal as part of my son's summer quest to complete both the C&O Canal Towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage.  The hotel is quite literally on the C&O Canal Towpath - simply pedal your bike and roll out of the hotel parking lot!  But the location wasn't just great for cycling.  It was an easy walk to get around Cumberland and there are many great restaurants and entertainment options just outside the hotel in Canal Place.  The only caution to be aware of is that we happened to be there on nights that live bands were playing along the canal and at a nearby bar.  I don't know if this is always a concern in the summertime, or if the social distancing of COVID simply means more outdoor music this summer, but it was pretty noisy in our room until about 10PM.  It didn't stop our littles from falling asleep, but was very noticeable to us.

Fairfield Inn & Suites - Cumberland, MD


Besides the location, we were also really pleased with the hotel's COVID policies and features.  Fairfield Inn and Suites offers a free, hot breakfast each day.  During COVID, instead of the breakfast line being self-serve, they had hotel staff that would take your order, make your plate, then hand it off to you.  It's buffet breakfast food - not the best, but certainly good enough to get you out the door.  Waffles and/or oatmeal are always my go-to meals in these situations.  There is also an indoor pool and hot tub that was a great place to spend the afternoon.  During COVID, guests have to sign up for a time slot and no more than 6 people can be in the area during any one time spot.  Our family of 4 had the place to ourselves for our 90 minutes and enjoyed the chance to relax and unwind.  The hotel rooms are pretty standard - 2 queen beds for us, TV, nice bathroom.  Everything was clean and well maintained!

Want to know more about traveling during COVID?  Check out this post!

Where to Eat in Cumberland

We've been in Cumberland several times over the summer - sometimes just passing through and sometimes for an overnight.  With the time we spent in this Western MD city, we've quickly found some favorite places to visit for a meal while in town.  Here are a few of our favorites:

  • The Crabby Pig - Located right in Canal Place, this restaurant has ample outdoor seating (so important for COVID), live music, a casual atmosphere, kid-approved kid's menu, and yummy food.  This is a good place to sit and unwind after a long day on the trails!
  • Charis Winery - We really enjoy trying local wineries when we travel and were happy to find this little gem.  Also located in Canal Place, it was convenient to our hotel and had lots of outdoor seating as well.  The owner served us on both of our visits and was wonderful to talk to about how his winery started and the development of his wines.  Bonus points if you're traveling with kids - they have delicious lemonade made locally served in glass bottles.  My boys felt very grown up drinking their "fancy" drinks while mom and dad had a tasting.  
Charis Winery


  • Puccini Restaurant - Located right off of I-68, Puccini is a great find just a few miles outside of Cumberland.  As a vegetarian, I was happy to find a Beyond Meat Burger on the menu.  The wood-fired pizzas here were a big hit at our table as well.  Like the others, the easy location and several decks of outdoor seating made this a great choice.
  • Dig Deep Brewing Co. - This brewery was directly next to our hotel which made it very convenient.  While we didn't try any of their beverages while visiting, we did enjoy some of their entertainment.  They have live music on the weekends and also feature food trucks as they don't have their own menu.  I grabbed Thai food from the CVC food truck the weekend we were there and it was very good!

What To Do Around Cumberland, MD


When I think of traveling to Cumberland, I immediately think of getting outside.  Downtown is where the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trails meet.  These trails are popular for bikers, hikers, and runners and it was these trails that brought us to Cumberland this summer.  Everything is well-marked and well-maintained in town with these trails.  There's also a train between Frostburg and Cumberland that you can take your bike on normally.  The train wasn't running this summer due to COVID, but we'll be back to check that out when they're up and running again!

Want to know more about biking the Great Allegheny Passage? Check this out!


Visiting the Paw Paw Tunnel


There is also plenty of outdoor space to enjoy at nearby Rocky Gap State Park.  One of our favorite places to see was the Paw Paw Tunnel located on the C&O Canal.  It was so dark in there we really needed our flashlights!  There are so many beautiful natural areas to explore, you won't be disappointed.  

Biking the GAP Trail with Kids

Cycling the Great Allegheny Passage - Finishing in Cumberland, MD

Cycling has become a big part of our family's lives during this pandemic.  Both of our boys (ages 5 and 8) learned how to ride a bike at the start of COVID and before long we were hitting up trails and racking up the miles.  They even convinced their old mom to get back on a bike for the first time since I was a kid!  We spent weekends cycling the York Heritage Rail Trail in PA, the C&O Canal in Maryland, and some local neighborhood trails.  My 8 year old became especially enamored with the sport and started challenging himself with longer and longer rides.  By July, he was ready to tackle a big challenge - riding all 150 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP Trail) with his dad over 5 days.  Since our vacation plans were cancelled this summer, we pivoted and decided to make it a family road trip.

If you're not familiar with the Great Allegheny Passage, it's a 150 mile trail from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD where it then connects to the C&O Canal.  Planning a trip like this, my husband and I mapped out segments they would ride each day - ranging from 18 to 44 miles depending on the day.  There are long stretches of this trail that do involve up hill grade so you'll want to check out the maps on the GAP Trail website for more details about where to expect those.  Despite the climb, the trail is incredibly well maintained so you won't be spending time or energy fighting poor conditions.

Biking the GAP Trail? See how to make the most of your time in Cumberland, MD!


We opted to stay in two different hotels over the 5 nights we were away.  We spent the first two nights in the Hilton Garden Inn in Uniontown, PA for the northern part of the trail and then moved to the Hampton Inn in Somerset, PA for the remaining three nights.  These locations kept travel reasonable to trail access points.  They also gave us the opportunity to visit some other cool areas in Western PA including Ohiopyle, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, Laurel Hills State Park, Flight 93 National Memorial and Fort Necessity Battlefield.  The day that Brody and Dan rode in Pittsburgh, my youngest and I visited the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.  Needless to say, there were plenty of outdoor activities to do keep us busy when the boys wrapped up their biking each day!  When you end in Cumberland, there is a ton to do including a great little restaurant in The Crabby Pig, a cycling shop, winery, and ice cream. . .all directly at the trail's end.

Staying in a hotel during COVID? Read more about our first COVID travel experience here!


To hear more about biking and the Great Allegheny Passage, check out what my son had to say about the experience!


Want to donate to the C&O Canal as part of Brody's 50 mile ride fundraiser? 



Cycling is a great way to get outside, burn some energy, and stay active - especially during this time of social distancing!  We look forward to highlighting more cycling destinations as we travel and sharing our adventures with you.  Happy riding!

Go Wild! - Planning Your Visit to The Maryland Zoo

Visiting The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

"The zoo is an amazing place to be." 

My son looked up with a big smile on his face and said those words during our visit to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.  There is always something special about visiting a zoo.  I don't care if it's your first visit or your hundredth - new animals, a new angle, a special feeding - each visit can feel unique.  My family and I headed to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore in the beginning of July.  It wasn't our first visit, but it was a great experience all around.  Let's take a look inside the zoo and see how some things may be different during your visit in 2020 thanks to coronavirus precautions.

What to Pack for Your Visit to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore



If you're like me, I always pack a backpack for my kiddos whenever we ever travel regardless of how short or how long the day might be.  At the Maryland Zoo you are welcome to bring in your own food and drinks so we take advantage of that convenience to pack water and a snack.  I don't like to pack a big lunch and have to carry a cooler around so if we're visiting over a meal, I typically plan to grab food there though.  Don't forget to pack LOTS of water in the summer.  It gets hot out there as you're walking around all day.  We also bring sunscreen to reapply during our visit.  Lastly, you may want to consider bringing a stroller, even if your child doesn't alway use one anymore.  My youngest is 5 and can handle hikes and such without it, but The Maryland Zoo features a good bit of walking and some decent sized hills.  On a hot day, and particularly on this visit where he had a broken collarbone, the stroller was a lifesaver.


Our Favorite Animal Exhibits at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore



There's a lot to see and love at The Maryland Zoo, but below are our top 5 animal exhibits that you won't want to miss.  We spent roughly 3 hours at the zoo and had a chance to pretty much see everything that was open right now.  
  • Giraffes - The viewing for them is almost 360 as you walk the path on the African Journey so don't worry if they're not in a great spot for you when you first approach their area.  I bet you'll get a good look as you walk around!

  • Penguins - These were our FAVORITES!  They are so cute waddling around and there always seems to be zoo staff hanging around to answer questions so we got to know a lot about them.  They also do feedings twice a day where you can hear a more formal presentation from zoo staff.  Don't forget to go inside their exhibit where you can get some pretty cool underwater viewing!
  • Polar Bear - I think we were so happy to watch him playing because it was such a hot day and we were jealous of his swim time in his polar bear pool!  He looked so chill and like he was having such a great time.

  • Chimpanzee Forest - I've always enjoyed monkey exhibits at zoos, but this particular visit was even more special as their were two babies in the exhibit.  Watching them play was totally adorable.  And I really felt like I related to the parents who looked exhausted and like they were just trying to take a rest but the little ones kept pulling on their hands, arms, and feet.  Mom life, am I right???
  • Elephants - There is nothing quite as majestic as an elephant!  These guys are huge and they have a huge area to roam at the zoo meaning you have a number of places to view them.  One of our favorite things is to grab an ICEE at the Oasis and watch the elephants below!

Health and Safety at The Maryland Zoo during Coronavirus


Our summer fun plans look very different this summer due to coronavirus and many travel destinations are working hard to adjust their protocols to safely reopen.  As we are making choices about where to go and what to do, outside venues are really important to us which makes the zoo a perfect place to visit.  Here's a quick summary of some of the safety protocols in place at The Maryland Zoo.  For the most up-to-date information, please visit their website at http://www.marylandzoo.org



Staying in a hotel this summer? Check out what it's like to stay in a hotel during coronavirus.


  • Timed Entry - All guests, whether members or not, need to reserve a timed entry to the zoo.  Plan to arrive at your assigned time.  If you're early, they have a place outside of the main gates where you can wait while social distancing.  This system worked well.  Our entry time was 1:00 and we arrived at 12:59 so we were able to go right in.  It did what it was designed to do as there was no wait at the ticket booth to enter and crowds were light for a summer day.  All tickets also need to be either printed at home or displayed on your smartphone for easy, no contact scanning.
  • Masks - Masks are not required everywhere in the zoo.  When you are exploring outdoors and social distancing can be maintained, you don't have to wear a mask.  "Mask Zones" are clearly marked and include tight spaces, indoor areas, bathrooms, and places that a line form.  In those zones, all guests 9 and over are required to wear masks.  We opted to wear ours even at some of the outdoor exhibits that didn't require them if their were other families nearby and, even though it wasn't required, we opted to bring them for both of our children as did most families we saw.  To help with social distancing, the zoo has instituted a one-way traffic flow.  There were employees helping to point guests in the right direction and answer questions along the way.
  • Increased Cleaning / Sanitation - You'll be happy to know that zoo staff is EVERYWHERE cleaning.  I was really impressed by the friendliness and hard work of the whole staff during our visit.  High touch surfaces in particular were wiped down frequently.  There is also hand sanitizer throughout the entire zoo with easy-to-locate signs.  

  • Temporary Closures - There are some activities at the zoo that are not currently available including the carousel, train, climbing features, playground, certain programming, and some food locations.  While my kids asked about a few of these that they remembered from our previous visits, these closures didn't dampen our fun.  Not everything is cancelled though!  We were really excited to catch the penguin feeding which happens twice a day.  One of the biggest closures to note is that the shuttle is not running from the entrance to Zoo Central.  Getting to the zoo won't be a problem, but you will have a big hill to climb to the exit.  
Overall, throughout our visit we had a great time and felt safe exploring The Maryland Zoo.  I would definitely recommend heading outside, seeing some animals, and having fun with some furry friends!  

Thank you to The Maryland Zoo for hosting my visit so I could share these updates!


Port Discovery Children's Museum At Home Activities


Regular readers will know that my family and I have been longtime fans of Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore.  With everything being shut down and families at home trying to make their own fun, I was delighted to see that Port Discovery was posting fun and educational activities for young kids.  And the best part?  Usually the amazingness that is Port Discovery is something only my Mid-Atlantic readers get to experience, but these resources and activities can bring the learning and fun to all of you, regardless of where you live!

Want to check out fun to be found at Port Discovery? Check out some of the newest attractions!


Below is a list of the themes for the next several weeks.  If you want to receive more details about specific activities, sign up for their e-newsletter and give them a follow on Facebook!

  • Week of April 19 - Poetry
  • Week of April 26 - Theater
  • Week of May 3 - Health & Wellness
  • Week of May 10 - Early Education
  • Week of May 17 - STEM
  • Week of May 24 - Health & Wellness
  • Week of May 31 - Theater
They are also sharing activities and projects you can do with your children on their website and I have a few printables they shared with me that you can download here!

Did you know we had a birthday party at Port Discovery a few years ago?  Find out more about the party here!


I can't wait for things to get back to normal and have my kids playing again soon at Port Discovery Children's Museum!  You'll find activities for your little ones to enjoy all year long and special seasonal programs too.  But for now, enjoy these at-home resources and have fun learning with your little ones during this unprecedented time.  



New Exhibits Setting Sail at Port Discovery

Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore's Inner Harbor has been delighting families for years with entertaining exhibits that foster creativity and learning.  Whether you are visiting for the day, taking a field trip, or planning a birthday party, there is a lot to see and enjoy at this Charm City destination.  It has long been a favorite of our boys and I was delighted to join the fun opening weekend of two new exhibits that have provided a dramatic facelift to the museum.

My family and I received complimentary admission into the museum to share the excitement of these new exhibits!  As always, opinions are honest and my own.

What's New - The two big updates to Port Discovery are Sky Climber and The Port.  You can't miss either exhibit as you enter the museum on the first floor.  Past visitors of the children's museum will remember the large KidWorks climbing and sliding structure that spanned all three floors.  While my oldest always loved playing in KidWorks, it made this mom a little nervous as it was hard to keep track of little ones in the maze of cargo nets, slides, and tunnels.  Parents will be happy to hear that Sky Climber is much easier to keep an eye on little explorers as there is one way up on each side and then everyone comes down the slide.  Kids will be happy to hear that this is a challenging and fun climb that goes up four stories before taking the super fast twisty slide all the way back down to the first floor.  Grown-ups can join the fun too in this exhibit - although I will warn from personal experience that there are some tight squeezes, especially earlier on, and the climb may leave you feeling every bit of your age!  Guests may only wear socks on Sky Climber so come prepared!  They also have socks you can use at the base of Sky Climber, but even though they have a spot for clean and dirty socks, I still have a weird thing about sharing socks with someone else.

Learning about navigating a ship!

The other new exhibit is The Port which is again a multi-level experience for children.  Little minds can learn about the various operations that take place in a busy port - just like Baltimore!  Here they load and unload cargo, navigate a ship, and go through port security. . .and that's just the start.  The boys loved loading cargo and watching it climb up the lift.  On the lower level of the exhibit, young guests can explore the engine room.  There were several Port Discovery staff members around this exhibit to help guests navigate the new area and make sure kids were able to see and enjoy all there was to offer.

Old Favorites - If you've been to Port Discovery before, you'll be happy to know that many of your favorite exhibits are back and feature some fresh updates.  Our boys have always enjoyed Tiny's Diner where they can cook food and serve it to us in a restaurant.  The jukebox is working and the kitchen has received some new items.  The Adventure Expeditions exhibit has also gone through a quick makeover - not changing the contents of the exhibit, but getting everything working again.  The other favorite place for the kids to play was in the Water Works area where they could have fun, practice some engineering, and, of course, get a little wet!  My kids have outgrown the Tot Trails area which is designed specifically for children 3 and under, but this used to be a regular hangout for Caleb and I while Brody and Dan would be off playing elsewhere.  This large room features several sensory friendly environment for children and recently was updated with a private nursing areas for mothers.  I think one of my favorite things about visiting Port Discovery is that each time we go, the kids find new things to enjoy!

Will these objects sink or float? Let's make a hypothesis!
Thinking About Visiting? - Here's what you should know!
  • Admission is $17.95 for guests 1 and over.  I know parents with young children might be used to children under 3 getting into places for free, but believe me when I tell you that your littlest family members will have just as much fun here as older explorers.  
  • Parking is available throughout downtown Baltimore, but I recommend parking at the Harbor Park garage which is located right next to Port Discovery.  You can also have your parking validated for a reduced rate inside the museum so bring your parking ticket!
  • There is no dining option inside the museum, but there is a designated area to eat snacks or food that you bring with you and vending machines are located onsite.  Within a block radius of the museum there are ample restaurant choices from sit down locales to quick service options.  We like visiting Blaze Pizza and then grabbing an ice cream from Lucky's located in the old Power Plant on Baltimore's Inner Harbor, right next to Phillip's Seafood.
  • Lockers are available at Port Discovery and are FREE to use - parents with diaper bags rejoice!  You can set a combination to lock your bags up for the day and enter / lock as much as you need throughout the day.  I will say the code locks were a bit fickle, but after a few attempts we were able to get them working just fine.  
  • Port Discovery takes family safety very seriously.  When you enter, your entire family will receive wristbands with a unique code for each member.  Upon leaving the museum, staff will check wristbands at the exit to make sure that no kid is leaving with an adult they didn't come with - love this!
  • I would plan on your visit taking at least two hours.  Anything less than that and I think you'll be missing out on some exhibits your family may really enjoy.  I would say at a maximum you're looking at 4 hours roughly here.  Beyond that, I believe your children would be running out of steam despite the many rooms to explore.  The more that your family wants to participate in story times, music classes, and such, the longer you'll want to plan for your visit.


I hope that you enjoy planning a visit to Port Discovery Children's Museum with your family!  It's a perfect destination for early elementary and younger to play, learn, and explore for hours of fun.  For more information on planning your visit, be sure to visit www.portdiscovery.org.    I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!  

Frederick Running Festival 2019 Half Marathon

The sun did not shine
It was too wet to play
So we ran through Frederick
On that wet, wet, wet day

Okay. . .so maybe that's not exactly how Dr. Seuss wrote it, but that's my adaptation to intro you into a recap of the 2019 Frederick Running Festival Half Marathon.  I had never run a race before that rained (and rained hard!) most of the race, so this was definitely a first.  Let's recap - the good, the bad, and the wet!

This was my third time participating in the Frederick Running Festival. In 2014, I ran the Twilight 5K and in 2016 I completed the Nut Job Challenge by running the Twilight 5K on Saturday night and the half marathon on Sunday morning.  I've always enjoyed this race weekend for several reasons - number one probably being the company I get to keep when running!  Several of my friends participate in this race each year so it truly is a fun filled event.  In fact, one of the couples we are closest with lives in Frederick and play host to a pasta dinner on Saturday night and open their house to runners to sleep at the night before the half.  I also really enjoy the course in Frederick, or at least the first 10 miles of it.

Miles 1 through 10 of the race are ran primarily through the streets of downtown Frederick.  Whether you're running through the shopping and dining district or winding through neighborhoods, the course always brings out a good number of fans and the time in town passes quickly.  The last few miles of the course though are brutal.  The course opens up to basically be wide open road.  With all visual interest lost and a pretty terrible uphill climb through mile 11, it's easy to quickly fade out, especially in the rain.

So let's talk about the rain for a minute.  We knew a few days out that weather forecasts were predicting a soggy half marathon, but forecasts only increased rain totals as the hours drew closer.  Having never run a race in this type of steady and consistent rain before, I was seeking advice from my more experienced friends.  Armed with anti-chafe cream, a hat, and my poncho I took to the starting area ready to get this race started and finished.  Maybe the rain would motivate me to run faster?  About 5 minutes before the race started, the skies opened up big time.  As I'm standing at the starting line, I'm watching rain pour from gutters of the surrounding buildings and realize I'm already accumulating puddles of water in my already soaked shoes.  It was at this time I started to think that I had made a tremendous mistake.  Luckily, the rain eased up as the race began and by a mile into the race, it was a steady, but slow rain.  It picked up again around mile 6 and I was again trudging through a downpour for about 2 miles.  The highlight of that stretch was one of the volunteers standing outside cheering us on with the song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" blaring from his car!

After mile 8, the rain again slowed to a more manageable amount, but by this point I was thoroughly soaked and tired and I slowed considerably for the final miles of the race.  I was ahead of pace for where I wanted to be until then, running on average around 11:30 miles, but slowed to over 12:00 miles and then eventually closed in on the 13:00 mile pace.  I think I really need to build in some speed work before my next half because when I tried to "kick it in" at the end, I had nothing - no next gear whatsoever.  Despite this collapse at the end and the conditions, I actually set a new PR by 11 minutes, besting my previous time of 2:53 with a finish of 2:42.


Overall, I would say the day was a success.  With a new PR firmly in hand and proving to myself that I can conquer the weather, I was pretty pleased.  However, I think my favorite part of race day was the hot shower that was waiting for me at the end followed by the big greasy cheeseburger from McDonald's - and the bling! And a great perk post race is that Care First provides runners with FREE, yes FREE, race photos!   Missed the Frederick Half Marathon, but still looking for more great races in Maryland.  Corrigan Sports, the group that hosts the Frederick Half Marathon, also has both the Baltimore 10 Miler and the Baltimore Running Festival coming up in the weeks and months ahead.  If you're interested in learning more about the Baltimore Running Festival, check out my referral link here!

Tips for Preschoolers at MLB Games

My husband and I love going to Orioles games at Camden Yards here in Baltimore.  There have been plenty of games that we've gone to on mommy/daddy date nights, but we also enjoy bringing the little guys to the games.  On their best days, preschoolers can sometimes be a handful so it's always a good idea to have a plan when heading out on an adventure with them.

Food - With so many snacks and sweet treats, it's easy for kids to go overboard on cotton candy and ice cream.  Try talking with your child before you even leave the house about the plan for food.  If they are going to be allowed to have one snack after they finish their lunch, tell them that and then they'll be less likely to ask over and over again at the stadium.  You can also check your stadium's policy on bringing food into the stadium.  Brody is a really picky eater so we're lucky that Oriole Park lets you bring in food to the stadium.  Packing Brody his granola bars, goldfish, fruit and veggie pouches, and other favorites not only ensures that he has something to eat that he'll enjoy, but also saves money.

Souvenirs - Whether it's a stuffed Oriole bird, a baseball bat, or a foam finger, souvenirs are everywhere around the stadium and little kids will flock to them like the seagulls in Finding Nemo saying "Mine! Mine! Mine!" Again, I've found the best strategy to talk to Brody about a souvenir before we leave the house.  You can even give them their own money to be responsible for and then they get to pick whichever souvenir they want that fits in that budget.  You may be able to avoid the whole souvenir argument all together if you're able to pair up your game with a giveaway where your child will already feel like they're walking away with something just for entering the gates.

Take Breaks - Nine innings can be a long time for an adult attention span, but it's brutal for a preschooler.  Check out if your local ballpark has a play area for kids.  Camden Yards features a play area with sliding boards and climbing equipment as well as a spot to throw and hit like a big leaguer.  Brody loves going here to play during the game, but we also don't want to spend our whole game watching little kids play on the playground.  When we're at the game with Brody, we again set up a schedule ahead of time and communicate a plan to him.  After the first three innings, mommy will take him down for a play break.  Then during the seventh inning, daddy will take him down to play.

Preschoolers thrive on routine and knowing what to expect.  A baseball game is definitely a break from the norm of their daily lives so prepare them ahead of time as much as you can with what to expect so that they'll be ready to enjoy a fun-filled day!

Baltimore 10 Miler Recap

I can basically sum up the 2016 Baltimore 10 miler in three words - hills, heat, and humidity.  Leg 2 of the King Crab Challenge proved to be much tougher than the Frederick Half Marathon that took place just 4 short weeks earlier.  While the run was certainly not one of my best, it was a great course and took you through some beautiful parks in downtown Baltimore.  Runners should be prepared with an early June race that Maryland weather can be brutal this time of year.  Humidity at the 7:30AM start time was already 84% - I think I was sweating while I was waiting to start.

This was the first time that I've run the Baltimore 10 so I didn't know much going into the race.  The race begins at Druid Hill Lake Park which is also home to the Maryland Zoo.  There was plenty of parking for the race, even if traffic was backed up for quite a distance as parking is not the easily accessible large lots that you'll find by M & T Bank Stadium for the Baltimore Running Festival.  The race begins with a steady downhill as you wind down the park and towards 28th Street.  I was hoping that some part of the race would take us through the zoo, but that didn't happen.  The run through downtown didn't offer much scenery, but it was well supported with ample water stations and plenty of locals out to cheer us on.  

The race is an out and back course.  Runners enter Lake Montebello around mile 4 and exit near mile 5.  Adding to the excitement of passing the halfway point, there was a DJ blasting fun music to keep you motivated as you enter the mostly uphill second half of the race.  

Then comes mile 8.  

Oh, mile 8.  

The brutality of mile 8.  

Mile 8 is a tough uphill battle when your legs are burning and your chest is about to explode and the humidity is suffocating you.  Luckily, mile 9 flattens out and you finish back at the start line where a cold towel, fruit, and a few beers await all finishers.  This race is also well known throughout the area as having one of the best premiums around.  Between the nice jacket, fun medal, and challenging course, runners will walk away feeling a great sense of accomplishment.  


Next up in the King Crab Challenge is the Baltimore Running Festival in October.  I only need to complete the Baltimore Half that day to achieve my King Crab status, but I've decided to go for Balti-moron status and run the 5K and the Half in the same day.  Time to crank up my training!!

OCMD St. Patty's Day Boardwalk 5K Recap

This past weekend I ran the St. Patty's Day Boardwalk 5K in Ocean City, Maryland for the first time. Like you would expect from a St. Patrick's Day race, leprechauns and green costumes dotted the course as runners and walkers alike were out for a good time.  And I didn't do this race by myself - my mom signed up for this event as her very first 5K!  Prior to heading into town for the run, I grabbed a bagel from the shop down the street and, wouldn't you know, the bagel had the luck of the Irish with it.

Race day morning was perfect weather for a 5K by the beach - it was in the low 50s and overcast.  The 5K begins and ends at Shenanigan's on 4th Street and the Boardwalk.  There was a DJ outside of the restaurant getting the crowd energized before the start of the race and even a roaming leprechaun around for pictures and high fives.  Even the water they were handing out was in the St. Patrick's Day spirit and was dyed green.

One of my favorite things about running at the beach would be the flat terrain.  When compared to the hills that I run on at home, I feel like I'm just cruising along during these races.  After beginning at 4th Street, the race course started heading South to the pier and then around the tram stop at the inlet.  After making the turn, the course took runners north on the boardwalk to 16th Street where there was once again a 180 degree turnaround and then back south to end at 4th Street.  Running along the Ocean City boardwalk was beautiful with the sand and the water creating the perfect backdrop!  I've been training for my half-marathon using my run/walk intervals at home so I did that for the 5K - 90 seconds running, 60 seconds walking - and finished with a pace of 11:53 minutes per mile.  I felt good at the end of the race and hope that I can keep that kind of pace for my first half-marathon in less than 2 months.


At the end of the race, all finishers received a ribbon and each runner received a free drink.  If you head to the beach to run this race, be sure to stick around town afterwards for the St. Patrick's Day parade which takes place the same day as the run and begins at noon.  The parade runs from 61st Street to 45th Street along Coastal Highway.  While I didn't quite find a pot of gold that day, I did find a good time and festive event!  

Visiting National Harbor, Maryland

Some of the best trips occur as last minute surprises.  Our recent weekend getaway to National Harbor, Maryland proved this to be true!  On a Thursday night, we received a surprise phone call from a family member who had two nights at her time share available at the last minute.  Unable to use them, she offered the room to us for the weekend.  And with that, our little family piled into the minivan and drove the hour and a half to National Harbor!  Located just outside of Washington, D.C., it's convenient to our house and I was stunned that we haven't been here before.

National Harbor, MD located along the banks of the Potomac River
We stayed at the Wyndham Vacation Resorts at National Harbor in a 2 Bedroom Presidential Reserve Suite.  The room was incredible!  A two bedroom condo with living room, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, and laundry is definitely the way to travel with little kids.  We were able to put the kids to bed early and still enjoy the evening in the room watching TV and unwinding.  The resort itself also featured an indoor pool area.  Both of my boys enjoyed splashing around and my oldest even got over his fear of jumping in the pool after watching some of the other kids having fun too! 

Having fun in the pool at Wyndham Vacation Resorts at National Harbor
While in National Harbor there is so much to see and do!  We were there the first weekend that Christmas activities were taking place.  This meant that we got to see the Christmas tree in the downtown area in addition to The Wheel overlooking the Potomac River and enjoying time on the carousel.  While walking the streets downtown, we also took time to visit the Build-A-Bear workshop.  Even though this store is not unique to National Harbor, it was the first time Brody had experienced the store - he loved building his very own Snoopy!  However, the holiday highlight has to be found at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel.  The Gaylord is home to ICE! - an indoor spectacle of ice sculptures that look amazing!  There are also photo ops with Santa, Gingerbread houses, and even character dining on select days which featured Kris Kringle and Topper the Penguin from Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  

The carousel played Disney music all night - no wonder I loved it!
Every 30 minutes, the tree came to life with twinkling music and light show.

Brody was so excited to pick out and build his very own stuffed animal at Build-A-Bear Workshop!

Character dining at the Gaylord brought smiles and fun - a great breakfast to end our weekend getaway!
We only spent about 36 hours in National Harbor, but we packed in memories that will last a long time.  Dan and I are anxious to plan another trip when the weather is warm so we can take advantage of the water taxis to travel to nearby towns like Alexandria.  With so much to see and do packed into a just a few blocks, this is the perfect little spot to getaway to and a really nice alternative to the downtown D.C. area if you are planning travel to the region.