Monthly Archives: June 2012

Experience 7 of 52: Bengies Drive-In Theatre

Bengies Drive-In Theatre in Baltimore, MD opened June 6, 1956.  According to its website, the theatre features the biggest movie theatre screen in the USA measuring 52 feet high and 120 feet wide!  That is an amazing 6,240 square feet of screen!  The theatre typically holds a triple feature on almost every Friday and Saturday night.

On June 30th, Susan, Grace and Kate attended a showing of the Disney Pixar movie “Brave”.  This unique nostalgic experience was worth the time and we would definitely attend a future showing of a desirable movie.

You should know that the entry fee is cash only but the snack bar accepts both Visa and Mastercard.  You should also check out the Bengies website to read their FAQ.  Outside food is strictly prohibited unless you pay $10 for a permit.

Time Spent: about 3 hours (arrive early to get a good parking spot)
Cost: $17 for the show (1 adult and 2 children under 10) + Snack bar funds (about $20)

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Experience 6 of 52: The Aviary at Rocky Gap State Park

For our fifth trip we visited the Aviary at Rocky Gap State Park.  The Aviary shelters previously injured raptors such as a Red-tailed Hawk, a Great Horned Owl, a Screech Owl, a Black Vulture and even a Bald Eagle. We learned that Red-tailed hawks get their name from their red upper tail and they are one of the most common hawks in North America.  They are incredible flyers able reach speeds from 20 to 40 mph on a normal basis but while diving for prey they can reach speeds exceeding 100 mph! We learned that the Great Horned Owl are the fiercest, most powerful and aggressive of all the owls!  With incredible strength in their talons and eyes that are 35 times more sensitive than a humans, they are keen hunters able to monitor prey as far as 100 yards away.

We learned that the Black Vulture soars above Turkey Vultures and can be recognized by white patches near the wingtips.  They mainly eat carrion and can often be seen along roadways.  They live together in groups of over 100.


Finally, we learned that the Bald Eagle, since 1782 the national bird of the United States, can grow up to 3 feet tall and can have a wingspan 8 feet wide!!  They mostly eat fish but have also been known to eat carrion.  The Bald Eagle at the Rocky Gap aviary was rescued after being hit by a car and losing its ability to fly.

The Bald Eagle was definitely prestigious and awesome to see!  It is truly an amazing looking bird.  The Black Vulture was also one of our favorites because it was extremely interactive with us!  The bird kept walking on the edge of its cage closest to us while pecking at the fence nearest us!

The Aviary also presents a “Scales and Tales” program that tells the stories of some of their animals and allows the children to touch snakes and turtles.  It’s a worthwhile experience for the kids.

Time Spent: About 30 minutes
Cost: Free

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Experience 5 of 52: The Great American Backyard Campout (GABC)

The “Great American Backyard Campout” is sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation as a way to “set an example for America’s kids that will get them excited about the outdoors and help them embrace an active, healthy outdoor lifestyle.”   Although admittedly unintentional, the stars aligned and we eagerly participated in the GABC while visiting the Frick House, located in Sykesville, MD.  Resplendently hosted by the Frick family themselves, our GABC adventure included four adults and seven children camping out in three tents on the estate property backing to a pristine forest preservation area.  Mr. Frick impeccably grilled the meats while Mrs. Frick entertained both children and adults alike.

As would be expected of someone of Mrs. Frick’s pedigree, the children were entertained with numerous games that resulted in prizes that would adorn hand-made sashes provided to each child.  Games and gifts splendidly designed to excite the children and ensure a marvelous time guaranteeing this GABC would be remembered for years to come.

The highlight of the night occurred as folks were regrettably (for the evening was coming to an end) retiring to the plush accommodations for the evening rest.  Shortly after descending into their pint-sized two-person tent quarters, Mr. and Mrs. Frick (who had already bedded down for the evening with their 60 pound Golden Retriever) were joined in their Lilliputian accommodations by two of their three charming and delightful children.  This made for quite a comical scene as you might think of the 1950’s of 1960’s era phone booth stuffing fad.

What did we learn from this cultural experience?  We learned during the GABC that Mrs. Frick will soon be famous not just for her and Mr. Frick’s ability to squeeze many living creatures  into the smallest possible tent, but more importantly for her invention of the Head Wedgie – an ingenious device that should be an accessory for children and adults alike.  “As Seen On TV, the Head Wedgie provides lateral support for the head and neck. Simply slip it over the head rest, nonslip back, weighted bottom with brace for a secure and universal fit.”

Although it is impossible to express every bit of fun we had during the GABC, we all had an incredible, memorable evening with the Frick Family and are humbled to have been hosted so admirably at their estate home.  If you have the pleasure of participating in this event in future years, I would, however, recommend bringing your own tent or at least select a tent separate from the Frick family as they tend to try to jam pack their tent with as many living, breathing, lovable creatures as possible even if the tent was only made for two.

Time Spent: About 18 hours
Cost: Priceless

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Experience 4 of 52: The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C.

On our walk back from the U.S. Capitol Building tour we stopped at the Folger Shakespeare Libraryhome to the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials and to major collections of other rare Renaissance books, manuscripts, and works of art”.  Although we didn’t tour the entire library, we stepped into the quaint Folger Theatre, spent a short time at the “Open City: London, 1500-1700” exhibit reading through some of the displays explaining the changing cultural landscape in London during the time of Shakespeare and visited the gift shop.

We did learn a few things about Shakespeare while we were here but this was more because we looked at some books in the gift shop then because of any displays.  Some of things we learned were:

  • Shakespeare lived from 1564 – 1616
  • His wife’s name was Anne Hathaway (probably a different Anne Hathaway then the one who starred in “The Princess Diaries” 😉 ).
  • He had three children
  • Shakespeare is said to have written 38 plays
  • Shakespeare was not as well-known in his time as he is now

If you’re a fan of Shakespeare then you’ll probably want to see one of his plays here.  If not, there may have more to see but since we’re not Shakespearean aficionados we wouldn’t make a return visit.  I had hoped to see more information on Shakespeare, his life and his impact on society to help my children understand his significance but I did not see any exhibits of this type.

Time Spent: About 40 minutes
Cost: Free (we parked on the street at no cost but it may not be so easy to locate parking during the week)

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Experience 3 of 52: U.S. Capitol Building

Today we toured the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.  Although lifetime Marylanders, this was the first time either of us had taken the opportunity to tour the place where the laws of the land are made.  We couldn’t have been given a better tour than the one provided by Susan’s cousin Lindsay who is currently interning at the U.S. Capitol.  Lindsay used her staff privileges to provide a personal tour while providing us the historical background and personal insights into her favorite part of the Capitol.  We hadn’t seen Lindsay for several years and seeing her today was our favorite part of the trip but we also learned a thing or two!

Some of the things we learned with our children were:

  • The Legislative Branch of government is housed at the U.S. Capital Building
  • George Washington laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol Building in 1793
  • The British burned down the U.S. Capitol Building in 1814
  • Abraham Lincoln continued the building of the capitol dome even during the Civil War because he saw it as affirmation that the union would continue: “”If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.”
  • The Supreme Court held session in the Capitol Building between 1800 and 1860
  • The most (in)famous case argued before the Supreme Court while it was held in the Capitol Building was Dred Scott v. Sandford
  • The Greek gods painted alongside George Washington on the dome of the rotunda include Athena, Poseidon, Hermes, Hephaestus and Demeter

We enjoyed this tour and it should definitely be part of a trip to Washington D.C.  We would recommend visiting during the week, however, when the Senate and House chambers are open for the tour (we weren’t able to see them even with Lindsay’s staff credentials).  We would also like to go back and visit while congress is in session so that we can experience congress in action.

Time Spent: About 2 hours
Cost: Free (we parked on the street at no cost but it may not be so easy to locate parking during the week)

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Experience 2 of 52: Arlington National Cemetery

We’d often said that we should visit the historic Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia but we never seemed to find the time or motivation to do so.  We finally took the plunge and we were not disappointed!  You may not think of a cemetery as a place to tour with the children but we found the stories of the men and women who had to perish to be buried here compelling and inspirational.  The Spanish philosopher, essayist and poet George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.  History is on display with every gravestone and we can only hope that we as a family, a community and a nation can learn not just from the service of the famous presidents but also from the sacrifice of the anonymous infantryman who are buried here side by side.

We decided to take the tram tour because it operates every 20 minutes and stopped at each of the three main sites in the cemetery: the Tomb of the Unknowns (Changing of the Guards), the Kennedy Gravesite and The Arlington House (Robert E. Lee Memorial).  We found this an ideal way to tour the cemetery because not only did the tram operator provide some history and point out some of the more famous grave sites, but maybe more importantly, we could take our time at each site and hop back on the next available tram on our own schedule.  I would recommend the tram tour not only for the insights and convenience but also because it gives a reprieve to little (and big) feet.

We expected to spend a couple of hours visiting the cemetery but ultimately ended up spending about 6 hours!  Some of the things we learned with our children were:

  • What was “The Arlington House”?
  • What was Robert E. Lee’s relation to George Washington?
  • Why did Robert E. Lee resign from the United States Army?
  • Why was this site chosen as a National Cemetery?
  • Where is the best view of the Washington D.C. skyline?
  • Who was Harry Blackmun?
  • Who was Thurgood Marshall?
  • Who was George Washington Parke Custis?
  • Who was Audie Leon Murphy?
  • What is the U.S.S. Maine Memorial memorializing and what famous phrase was used as a rallying cry for action during the Spanish American war?
  • What were the space shuttle disasters?

There is a ton more to see and learn at the Arlington National Cemetery and we highly recommend a visit.  We recommend preparing the children for the solemnity of the visit and helping them to understand that this isn’t a place to play or be loud.  It is a place of respect and admiration; of love and sacrifice; of honor and gratitude.

Time Spent: About 6 hours
Cost: $26.50 for the bus tour, $12.75 for parking

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Experience 1 of 52: Cumberland Visitor Center

On a rainy afternoon during a family camping trip to one of our favorite western Maryland campgrounds, and on the advice of the family of one of K’s best friends, we set out on our first “52 in 52”.  The Cumberland Visitor Center provided interactive exhibits about the history of the C&O Canal and Cumberland, Maryland.  Interestingly enough we had been to the beginning of the C&O canal in Georgetown in northwest Washington D.C. earlier in the year while returning from a trip to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air and Space Museum near Washington Dulles International Airport.  Visiting the Cumberland Visitor Center and the ending point of the C&O canal seemed appropriate since we were so close.

After passing through a replica canal tunnel called the “Paw Paw Tunnel”, we entered the museum area that provided a history of the C&O canal and its relationship to Cumberland.  The exhibit included a life-sized section of a canal boat, information about the canal’s construction and purpose, stories about life on the canal and operation of the locks.

Some of the things we learned during this experience:

  • A towpath is a trail on the bank of the canal where the mules would be used to tow the canal boat.
  • The tiller is used to steer the boat left or right.
  • A “lock” is used to raise or lower boats along the canal.  Water can be flooded into or out of the lock in order to raiser or lower the boat.
  • The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal never made it to Ohio because the railroad beat them to it.

The exhibits provided a nice respite from the rain and we couldn’t resist purchasing the book “Captain Kate” by Carolyn Reeder to read during our nightly family story-time.

Time Spent: About 1 hour
Cost: Free

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