Kids’ Tech University 2011

1 Dec

Children are full of “why” questions about the world.  The goal of Kids’ Tech University (KTU) is to explore questions that will spark kids’ interests and excitement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” – http://kidstechuniversityorg

Kids’ Tech University is a spring semester program developed by the Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech and Virginia 4-H.  KTU is open to kids between the ages of 9 and 12 (as of September 30, 2010) who reside within a 4 hour drive of Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.

450 children will be accepted into the program and online registration begins at 6:00pm EST on December 6, 2010.  For enrollment details, please click here.  The program is free; however, there is a $25 registration fee.  Parents may apply for scholarships for the registration fee.  The dates for KTU 2011 are:  January 29, February 26, March 26 and April 9.

Registration is limited so be sure to register online as soon as it begins on December 6th!


Museum Day is Coming! Free Admission 9/25/2010!

23 Sep

Museum Day is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian Media in which participating museums across the country open their doors for free to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket.

Here are just a few of the museums in Virginia offering free admission Saturday, September 25, 2010:

Amazement Square, The Rightmire Children’s Museum


Children’s Museum of Virginia


National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum


Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum


Virginia Museum of Transportation


National Civil War Life Museum


Old Stone Jail Museum and Holland Page Place Log Cabin

The Museum Day Ticket provides free admission to one person, plus a guest.

  • • One ticket per household
  • • A ticket will gain entry in only one museum and only participating museums
  • • Only an official Museum Day ticket is eligible for free entry.

Get your FREE TICKET by clicking HERE.

Here is a list of the participating museums in Virginia.

How to Make Laundry Detergent

21 Aug

I know this post doesn’t have anything to do with places to see and do with kids in Virginia; however, it was something Lil G and I did together and thought I would share.  Making your own laundry detergent is easy, a great way to save money and also a fun project to do with kids.

Here is what you will need:

Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

20 Mule Team Borax

1 Bar Soap (any type – make sure it’s a scent you like though because your clothes will smell like the soap).  We used a “soap” scented Dial that was 3 bars for $1 at the grocery store.

1 Five Gallon Bucket with Lid.  (We got one from Home Depot).

1 Smaller Container with Lid.  (This gave me a great excuse to finish the contents of this container!)

First step is to heat 4 cups of water to boiling in a medium pot.  While the water is heating up, cut up the bar of soap.  We used a cheese grater and this is what the soap looked like when we were done:

Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to a low boil or simmer and start adding the soap a little at a time.  Stir constantly to melt the soap.  Congratualtions!  You have now made Soap Soup.

After all of the soap has been dissolved, pour 4 gallons of hot/warm water into your bucket.  Add 1 cup of washing soda and 1/2 cup of Borax.  If you have a lot of REALLY dirty laundry, you may want to add a little more Borax.  Next, pour in your Soap Soup and stir it all together until dissolved.

Next step is to cover your bucket and put it aside for 24 hours.  Depending on the soap you used and the type of water you have, your detergent might be runny or thick and/or might have some clumps in it.  Stir it up again and pour some into your smaller container which is more manageable for doing laundry.  Use one cup of your homemade detergent for each large load of laundry.

Depending on your water type and how dirty your clothes get, you may need to adjust this recipe to work better for your needs.

You can find Borax and Washing Soda in the laundry stain remover section of your grocery/drug store.  The Food Lion near me had the Borax but not Washing Soda.  I went to Kroger and found both items.  Borax is about $4/box and Washing Soda abut $2.50.

FREE Admission to US National Parks This Weekend!

11 Aug

Time to put on some comfortable walking shoes and explore a few of our beautiful National Parks and Historic Sites this weekend!  August 14th and 15th, 2010, admission fees are waived for all National Parks.

In Virginia, we are very fortunate to have a great number of National Parks!  From the Appalachian Trail to the Yorktown National Cemetery, there is sure to be something for your family to explore and enjoy.

A few of our favorites that you might not be familiar with:

George Washington Birthplace National Monument – Westmoreland County, VA
Orignial birthsite with Memorial House in the background. George Washington, America’s first and greatest hero, was crucial to the establishment of the United States as a nation founded on the principles of liberty. George Washington Birthplace preserves the heart of the Washington lands and a memorial plantation. Here, in the peace and beauty of this place untouched by time, the staunch character of our hero comes to the imagination.DirectionsOperating Hours & Seasons
Green Springs – Louisa County, VA
??? house in Green Springs Green Springs National Historic Landmark District encompasses over 14,000 acres in the piedmont of central Virginia. The homes and farms are a continuum of Virginia rural vernacular architecture, reflective and respectful of their location, preserved in their original context with little alteration. Here the landscape has been enhanced, rather than despoiled, by the presence of civilization.DirectionsOperating Hours & Seasons
Claude Moore Colonial Farm – McLean, VA
Claude Moore Farmhouse Step back in time and experience life on a small farm in northern Virginia.  Living history programs and demonstrations offer a glimpse of what life was like for a poor farm family, just before the Revolutionary War.DirectionsOperating Hours & Seasons

A “What If” Wish List from Virginia is for Kids….

9 Aug

What if……………..

1.  A restaurant would go further than just having a kids menu and crayons to call themselves “kid friendly”?

2.  Public schools would have gardens and/or orchards to teach kids about healthy eating?

3.  There were town/city councils for kids so they could have input on the future of their communities?

4.  Schools or communities had “hand me down” sales twice a year so families could find affordable clothes, toys, etc. with funds raised going back into the community/school?

5.  Instead of taking a bus, kids could “opt out” and walk to school with an assigned volunteer chaperone each day?  In return for choosing to walk, Nike gave them a free pair of shoes at the end of the school year?

6.  Kids were taught the importance of smart financial decisions, saving money and budgeting as part of the school’s curriculum and sponsored by a local bank…EVERY year?

7.  Kids said “good morning” to their teacher each day when they arrived at school and “thank you for teaching me” before they left for the day?

8.  Before graduating from high school, students were required to take a class teaching them the basics of home maintenance?

9.  Home Economics became a required class…for all kids?

10.  Kids in Virginia really knew how fortunate they are to live in this beautiful Commonwealth?

11.  Grocery stores put fresh fruit at the checkout aisle instead of candy?

12.  The Virginia Lottery funded “learn to swim” classes for all Virginia kids?

What about you?  What is on your “What if” wish list for Virginia’s kids?

Taking the Train in Virginia

18 Jul

I was practically raised in an airport.  Well, not really, but for a large part of my life, I have spent time in the airport.  My father worked for the FAA and after I graduated from college, I became a Flight Attendant.  Needless to say, I have always been partial to flying….until recently.

The last time my son and I flew together, he was “selected” by TSA for inspection.  Yes, my 7 year old son who has been flying without terrorizing since he was 3 months old.  Between that and now having to pay for luggage to be checked, I’ve become very frustrated with the whole flying experience.

So, when we decided to take a trip to New York, we opted to take the Amtrak train.

The booking experience was quick and painless online.  With our AAA discount, the tickets were only $177 round trip for the two of us to travel from Lynchburg to Penn Station on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional.

While we arrived at the train station about an hour prior to our train departure, we learned as other’s arrived that it is really not necessary to be there so early.  We also learned that while Amtrak has a very liberal baggage policy, it’s best to pack a bag that’s easy to manage as you need to lug it onto this train yourself.

Our seats were spacious and comfy with lots of legroom.  We were both excited to see an electrical outlet next to our seats for all the electronic “toys” we had with us.  We didn’t use those toys for the first few hours though as the scenery heading north through Virginia was beautiful.  We passed pieces of history where there once was a thriving train industry.  We climbed mountains and crossed scenic rivers.  As we approached Washington DC, we had a great view of the Washington Monument.

Unfortunately, as we headed further north, the scenery became, well, not-so-scenic.  At that point, we headed to the dining car where there was a nice assortment of pre-made food at very reasonable prices.  In addition, I was able to get work done (thanks to my wifi card – Amtrak does not have wifi service on all of their trains) and answer business calls.  G had a great time watch videos, playing games and took a long nap.

Our trip to NYC took about 7 hours.  Overall, we found it to be a very low-stress and pleasant experience.  I hope to see Amtrak expand service to others areas in the Commonwealth – especially those areas that were once thriving railroad towns.  Beginning July 20th, Amtrak will begin daily round-trip service between Richmond and Washington DC.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is currently subsidizing some of the Amtrak routes in Virginia.  If the trains meet ridership goals, then service will continue and possibly expand.  Per recent news releases, expansion plans include Hampton Roads and Roanoke markets.

FREE Admission for Virginia Kids to Busch Gardens Williamsburg!

16 Jul

Are you a resident of the beautiful Commonwealth of Virginia?

Are you between the ages of 3 and 9?

Do you know a grown-up who will buy a full-price adult ticket to Busch Gardens Williamsburg online?

Congratulations!  You qualify for a FREE child’s ticket!

For a limited time, Virginia residents receive one free child single-day admission to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg with the purchase of a full-price single-day adult admission. Child ticket is valid for children 3 to 9 years old.

This offer is for Virginia residents only, and is only valid and must be used at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg from June 21, 2010 through August 31, 2010. This online offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.”

Click HERE to purchase this online-only offer.

Drive In Movie Theaters in Virginia

1 Jun

Vintage sign from the Keysville Drive-In

Believe it or not, the drive-in movie theater is still alive and well in many parts of Virginia. While many have been updated with new sound systems, radio frequencies and websites, the heart of the operation remains the same. An inexpensive, wholesome place to spend time with family and friends under the stars.

Many theaters are only open on certain dates/days so be sure to call ahead or visit their websites before going.  Also, be sure to bring cash as some theaters do not accept credit/debit cards.

The Moonlite Theatre in Abingdon (Washington County) was opened in 1949 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Starlite Drive-In in Christiansburg (Montgomery County) has been open since 1952.

The Fork Union Drive-In (Fluvanna County) is the smallest drive-in theater in Virginia and has a Facebook page.

Hull’s Drive-In in Lexington (Rockbridge County) was saved from closure by local residents and is pet friendly.

Keysville Drive-In (Charlotte County) has a new concessions menu for this year and a Facebook page.

Park Place Drive-In in Marion (Smyth County) is a newer facility built after the old theater was replaced with a Walmart.

Central Drive-In in Norton (Wise County) opened in 1952 and borders the Jefferson National Forest.

Family Drive-In in Stephens City (Frederick County) is the closest drive-in in Virginia to Washington DC.

Mayberry Drive-In in Moneta (Bedford County) opened in June of 2008 and is adjoined by a diner.

Goochland Drive-In in Hadensville (Goochland County) is the newest drive-in in Virginia; opening in August of 2009.

Here’s to the Heroes – FREE Admission to Busch Gardens Williamsburg

26 May

Throughout 2010, members of the US military and up to 3 of their dependents can get a free, single day pass to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg as part of their Here’s to the Heroes program.  To register, click here.    It is not necessary for military dependents to be accompanied by the service member (but they must be accompanied by someone over the age of 18).

We are proud to salute the men and women of our armed forces and their families. Throughout 2010, members of the military and as many as three direct dependents may enter SeaWorld, Busch Gardens or Sesame Place parks with a single-day complimentary admission.

For your service and sacrifice, we thank you.

Help a Virginia Community Get a New Playground

21 May

Families in a Blacksburg neighborhood are looking for your vote. They are one of ten national finalists for the KaBOOM! Promote Your Project Design Contest, a national competition hosted by the non-profit playground builder KaBOOM!.

Over 800,000 communities submitted playground designs for the contest, and now the Mt. Tabor Meadows Commons project is in the finals for up to $5,000 in playground equipment grants! Now the first-, second-, and third-place winners are being determined by a public vote.

Neighborhood resident Beth Lohman said the project started when the homeowners’ association got together to figure out what to do with the common space in their neighborhood.

“We wanted a place in our neighborhood for parents and kids to gather, share daily experiences and grow a sense of community,” Lohman said. “The mission for Mt. Tabor Meadows Commons is to create a place for unstructured play, socialization and environmental stewardship. These opportunities don’t currently exist, but by working together we can create an innovative and inspiring space that may motivate other communities to do the same.”

Since there are no public parks near the neighborhood, the residents decided that Mt. Tabor Meadows Commons should include a playground that neighborhood children could safely walk to and integrated natural elements with conventional playground equipment. Other plans include a community meeting space, an urban forest to serve as stormwater management and a community garden.

The residents worked with the Virginia Tech Community Design Assistance Center (CDAC) to secure a grant with the Virginia Department of Forestry to help offset about 40% of the design costs. CDAC will use the grant to create the conceptual master plan for the site.

Justin Boyle, builder and developer for Mt. Tabor Meadows and also a current resident, said the whole process of planning the common space and working on the contest has brought the neighborhood together in a special way.

“With everyone’s busy schedule, it’s often difficult to get to know your neighbors,” Boyle said. “Because we have had to express our opinions, likes/dislikes and come to a consensus, we’ve been given an opportunity to get to acquainted with one another.”

To win an equipment grant of up to $5,000 from a top national vendor, Mt. Tabor Meadows Commons needs to gather as many online votes as possible. To cast your vote, go online click here, sign up, and vote by May 31.


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