Camping with Two Kids in Cunningham Falls State Park: The Good, the Not-So-Bad, and the Lessons Learned

"Camping with Two Kids at Cunningham Falls State Park: The Good, The Not-So-Bad, and the Lessons Learned" Thinking about camping with two kids? Here's what we enjoyed and what we'd do differently next time. (Photo: Orange, white and green tent on a packed dirt campsite in front of trees with a toy truck.)

Feeling the thump thump thump of kicking feet against my back and the cries of the baby who did not want to be in the car any longer, I thought, “What the hell was I thinking trying to go camping with two kids?” We were still 45 minutes from our site and things were already going very badly. Fortunately, a couple of potty breaks and some whining later, I realized that the camping trip this past weekend turned out a hell of a lot better than I expected it. In fact, it was easily our best camping trip so far.

It had been almost two years since we had gone camping with Sprout. It was the first time we went camping with two kids. Even though the times with Sprout were chaotic, from clueless packing to partying college students, I still wanted to go. There’s a genuine magic that makes all of the other nonsense worthwhile.

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A Day Out with Thomas at the B&O Railroad Museum

Text: "A Day Out with Thomas at the B&O Railway Museum / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Photo: Life-size version of Thomas the Train, with eyes that move.

While Sodor may be a dystopia where no longer “useful” sentient trains are threatened with getting melted down, my kid really, really loves trains. And therefore really, really loves Thomas the Train. So when my mom and dad offered to bring us to the Day Out with Thomas event at the B&O Railway Museum, I knew I couldn’t say no. Which led to us driving through Baltimore and pulling into the museum’s parking lot this past Sunday, ready for a day full of Thomas and his perky train friends.

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How to Make Your Day at the National Zoo Awesome

Text: "How to Make Your Day at the National Zoo Awesome / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Photo: Zebra eating grass

Washington D.C. has never felt hotter than when sitting on a bench at the National Zoo, holding a baby who won’t sleep and wondering when the hell your spouse will show up with some water. This was me two years ago at our first trip with the kid to the zoo. Despite grandparental support, it was a disaster.

But since then, we’ve had many successful, fun trips to the zoo, both to see the animals and ZooLights, their annual December extravaganza. Thankfully, we learned from our experience. I’m going to share those lessons learned so you have a better first (or second or third) experience!

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Cooperation in Flight: The Cherry Blossom Kite Festival

Text: "Cooperation in Flight: The Cherry Blossom Kite Festival / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Photo: Multi-colored kite flying on a cloudy sky in front of the Washington Monument with other kites in the background

Kite-flying does not come easily to my family. In Ocean City a few years ago, my mom and I sprinted through the sand over and over again to be met with a diving kite on the end of a limp string. We fell over laughing, but we never did get it up in the air. Thankfully, we had a lot more luck in both kite flying and cooperation this past weekend at the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival in Washington D.C.

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Wegman’s Wonderplace Children’s Area at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

Photo: Replica of Julia Child's kitchen as a toy kitchen for children with pots and pans hanging on the wall; Text: "Wegman's Wonderplace at the National Museum of American History / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So"

Despite having more museums per square mile than anywhere in the country, Washington D.C. doesn’t have a museum dedicated just to kids. In our ongoing survey of the children’s museums of the East Coast, there’s not a single one we can reach by Metro. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t kid-friendly spaces available. The Smithsonian is working to develop some exhibits that focus on small children, such as the Wegman’s Wonderplace in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. On a visit a few weeks ago, we found it to be a cute area for small children, especially in the context of a larger visit to the museum.

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Just Streetcars: The National Capital Trolley Museum

Photo: A Dutch electric streetcar with a Dutch and American flag on top; Text:

“I love things that drive and move and moons,” Sprout announced to me the other day. When you’ve watched trains and ridden the Metro so many times you’ve lost count, what’s the mom of a transit-loving kid to do? Bring them to the National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville, MD!

While the D.C. region has a wealth of museums, none of the others have trolleys (aka streetcars) you can actually ride on. If the idea of a 15-minute trolley ride through the woods doesn’t thrill you, this museum probably isn’t for you.

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A Preschoolers’ Guide to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

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The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History – a national treasure full of priceless specimens and engaging exhibits. But the perspective looks a whole lot different through the eyes of a preschooler, for better or worse. Living near Washington D.C., we make a trip to the museum at least once a year, typically in the coldest doldrums of winter.

Here’s a breakdown of the best and worst of several of the major exhibits, from a preschooler’s and a preschooler’s parent’s points of view:

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9 Things I Learned While Visiting the New York State Museum with a Three-Year-Old

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What has luminescent rocks, woolly mammoths and a Native American longhouse? Unless you’re from upstate New York, you probably didn’t answer “The New York State Museum.” But if you did, congrats! This long-standing institution was one of my favorite places as a deeply-nerdy child. We brought Sprout there when he was a mere year and a half old, but he had very limited comprehension of the whole thing. This Christmas vacation, I thought I would give it another try.

Here’s what I learned:

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On the Bus and Down the Rabbit Hole: Philadelphia’s Please Touch Children’s Museum

Photo: Picture of Chesire Cat from Alice in Wonderland and big card; text: "Philadelphia's Please Touch Children's Museum; We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So"

The heavy lion statues in front of the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia belie the raucous energy of the smallest visitors inside. Visiting Philly for our friends’ wedding, we made a full trip of it and visited both the Liberty Bell and this renowned children’s museum. (We’re working our way through the children’s museums of the Northeast U.S.) Despite some whining, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The museum is split into several sections, each of which focuses on a childhood theme: transportation, construction, water, fairy tales, and pretending to be an adult.

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