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As the weather warms up, a perfect family outing is the drive-in movie theater in Stephen's City (near Winchester, VA).  We love going to the drive-in! It is a wonderful way to spend the evening together, have fun, and see a couple movies. We rarely get to the regular movie theater because it is expensive to go without the kids (cost of tickets and babysitter, plus we generally like to have dinner as well), and our kids are still a little young to come along and quietly sit still through most movies. 

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The Family Drive-In allows us to see newly released movies with the kids and not have to worry if they are sitting still and being quiet.  They can watch the movie with the freedom to move around, talk, and play with toys we brought along.  We pack a picnic dinner, arrive early so we get a front row spot, let the kids play on the retro playground and turn the back of our van into a comfortable, cushiony space to settle in and watch the movie. 

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Every weekend (Friday- Sunday), the drive-in plays double features on 2 screens. Screen 1 is generally geared towards families, but this is dependent on release dates of family movies in theaters.  On screen 2 they play a double feature geared more towards adults.  Tickets this season are $8 for adults and $4 for children.  This price includes both movies on your screen, but you can leave after the first one if you don't want to stay for the second movie.

 
 
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I love live nativities and this one did not disappoint.  I like to visit live nativities to help remind myself and teach my children why we celebrate Christmas.  I enjoy the simple ones as well as the more elaborate.  Bethlehem Walk falls into the category of more elaborate.  It is is probably the best live nativity I've been to in the VA/DC area.  The event is spearheaded by Salem Baptist Church in Goochland, VA.  It is a free event they put together annually and is only held for one week at the end of November/beginning of December.  If you have never been, mark it on your calendar to check it out next year!
Bethlehem Walk
Salem Baptist Church
http://www.salembaptistchurch.info

First, we entered as a small group of visitors to Bethlehem through a main gate just as many travelers had back years ago when they were returning for the census.  The gate is a permanent structure that was built for this purpose so it feels more authentic than a prop would.  There were many, many cast members milling about as townspeople or roman soldiers.  Merchants had set up their stands and were selling their wares. They had live animals, real fires and authentic props.  As we walked through the town of Bethlehem, our group stopped to speak with Matthew the tax collector, merchants, townspeople, and the inn keeper who turns away Joseph and Mary.  Through these talks the setting was set, the background story was told, the anticipation for the Messiah was shared and we felt eager to move on and see what was coming next.  When we were turned away at the inn, we left the town to sleep by the fire the shepherds had built.  Here, the Christmas story picks up and we saw the angels visit the shepherds, went with them to see baby Jesus in the stable, talked with the Wise Men who were on their way to find the child, and saw Simeon and Anna at the temple and the blessing of Jesus.  The story did not stop there though, they followed Jesus through His ministry, to the cross and the resurrection, and finally ended with visiting Nicodemus and hearing his account of what Jesus shared with him regarding salvation. 

Bethlehem Walk is definitely worth the drive and the time!  I highly recommend going. Everyone enjoyed it and we left with a great reminder of what Christmas is truly about.

If you know of a Nativity in the VA/DC area, leave a comment.  We'd love to check it out!

 
 
Frying Pan Farm Park is an educational, fun, inexpensive outing for families with kids 6 and under.  Conveniently located in Fairfax County, this park gets bonus points for having so much FREE fun for kids.  We like to go mid-morning and take a picnic lunch with us.  The park has picnic tables throughout and some nice grassy spots if all the tables are full.  There is plenty of parking on-site.  We like to park on the right side because we start with the animals and end with lunch at the picnic area alongside the parking lot.


There are lots of animals to visit.  You can walk out along the fields and see animals out to pasture.  Then, walk through the barns and visit animals big and small.  Every time we've been, there have been baby animals to see too!  After visiting the animals, the kids can climb on tractors or head over to the two playground areas.  There are benches for parents and plenty of space to park strollers.


On site, there is a little store that sells snacks, drinks and souvenirs.  Honestly, we have never been inside.  There is also a hayride and carousel you can pay to ride.  With so many fun things to see and do, I have never had a problem keeping my kids engaged without buying tickets for these attractions.  We did ride the carousel once.  The kids enjoyed it as they do any carousel.  My one word of caution to parents is to keep a hand on little ones because it seemed to move a little more suddenly and faster than other carousels.


One drawback I've noted to visiting mid-morning is this seems to be their peak time.  All the playdates, school groups and moms like me (trying to wear out the kids before nap time) are there.  If you would prefer to visit when the farm is less busy, I'd suggest trying the afternoon.


I definitely recommend taking a trip to Frying Pan Farm Park.  It is free fun for the family any day of the week.  My 2 year old son asks DAILY if we can go to the farm. :)
Frying Pan Farm Park 
Open daily: dawn-dusk

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/fryingpanpark/kidwell.htm