Saturday, June 27, 2015

WWII Living History comes to Sully Historic Site in Chantilly, Va.

Every year World War II Living History comes to Chantilly, Virginia at the Sully Historic Site in Fairfax County. At this event visitors can travel back in time and see first-hand how the war impacted life on the front lines and also on the home front.

(This is a repeat of an earlier post of this event. This post will include information for 2015. All photos were taken by me during previous WWII Living History events held at Sully Historic Site).

Update June 2016: I've been looking, but this event is not listed for 2016 on Sully's calendar. Usually, it's held every July, but it appears to not be taking place this year. The annual Civil War encampment does appear to be scheduled as it customarily is each August.  

For 2015 World War II Living History takes place on Sat., July 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sun., July 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can expect to see uniformed Axis and Allies troops, demonstrations, artifacts, music and memories from this notable time in 20th century history. 

While walking through Sully, you can stop at various camps and ask the living history re-enactors questions and get a keen view of life during World War II. You can also expect all re-enactors to remain fully in character, answering questions about jobs, experiences, food and general live during the 1940s. 
WWII Living History at Sully Historic Site
Living History reenactors 
I have attended this event a few times, the last being in 2012. During that weekend some of the things I saw included weapons and paratroopers' reenactments, a half-track demo and a cavalry demonstration. There was also a home front kitchen demo, which was interesting, as it focused on rationing and the alternate ways people learned how to cook in order to make do without the supplies they were accustomed to. The live music was fun to listen to and there was a WWII-themed craft area for the kids. I also learned what v-mail was.

WWII U.S. Army field kitchen in use - living history
WWII U.S. Army field kitchen in use

U.S. Army Paratroopers doing a reenactment of actions following their landing on D-Day
U.S. Army Paratroopers doing a reenactment of actions following their landing on D-Day

WWII living history weekend demonstration

WWII Army field camp
Field camp

Victory Garden at Sully Historic Site
Victory Gardens emerged in the 1940s to encourage people to grow and preserve their own food

Reservations are required to attend World War II Living History (it's a pretty popular event!). Same as last year, for 2015 the cost is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and children; veterans and active duty military have free admission. A tour of the 18th century Sully house and property is included with the admission.

Throughout the year Sully Historic Site hosts several other recurring and special events including antique and classic cars, Civil War Weekend, and 1812 Weekend, to name a few. In the winter, the themed candlelight tours (different eras) are always a good time.

Sully Historic Site

Friday, June 26, 2015

Photos on Friday: Summer of Sunflowers at Burnside Farms

Today's photos on Friday takes us out to Burnside Farms in Haymarket, Virginia. Every July the farm hosts its annual "Summer of Sunflowers" festival which usually takes place mid-month. At this time the dates are not yet known, but I'll definitely be posting about it as the time comes closer.

We've attended the farm's "Holland in Haymarket" tulip festival a couple of times and last year I finally made it out to the sunflower festival. It definitely did not disappoint! Here are some photos from last year's outing:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Celebrating July 4 in Washington D.C. with a parade and fireworks

June is already coming to a close and before we know it, the 4th of July will be upon us! As summertime kicks into full swing, what better place to celebrate America's day of Independence than in the U.S. Capital? Every year the large parade takes place along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Street. 

The parade features invited bands, fife and drum corps, military units, colonial re-enactors, giant floats and balloons, equestrian, drill teams, VIPs, national dignitaries and celebrities. This event is amazing and a grand event to celebrate America's birthday.

The parade takes place on (what else!) July 4th and, as customary, the parade begins at 11:45 a.m. I'd recommend you get there early because parking is bound to be a nightmare and the Metro will be jam-packed. You also want to ensure you get a good viewing of the parade so as not to miss a thing. It’s been a few years since I’ve attended, but we got there early and, despite a bit of a wait, had a great time. 

In addition to the parade, there are still a number of other activities going on throughout the day down on the National Mall, such as at the National Archives (this takes place at 10 a.m. before the parade). Also, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival typically coincides with America's birthday.

The National Mall area opens at 10 a.m. for public access and, keep in mind, you do need to go through security checkpoints to enter the area. Watch for signs, or if there is any construction going on, that can switch things up in any given year.

The spectacular and famous fireworks begin at dark, which typically falls around 9:15 p.m. (If you can't stay for the fireworks, these are also televised, it's probably not the same – just a guess on my part since we usually head out back to Virginia long before the fireworks – but my family thinks it’s still a great event to see on TV!)

Have a happy and safe July 4th!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fun indoor things to do with kids in the summer in the DC area

This is a "Throwback Thursday" post. This post was originally made about a year ago. Since these are perennial choices (and personal favorites) I decided to post it again with some additional links and minor changes.


Looking for something to do with the kids in the D.C. area this summer when it's too hot to be outside? There are plenty of things to do that are inside the comfort of air conditioned buildings and are very child-friendly.

With the end of the school year approaching, many parents might be wondering what to do to keep the kids busy. Especially on those days where it is just too hot to be outside. With temperatures likely to jump up into more seasonal summer hot temps in the near future, it might be a good time to start scouting some places to go to get the kids out of the house. There are many indoor places to go with the kids in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia to escape the heat. Many are right downtown and others are within an hour's drive or less.

Whether you're in town for a visit or live local and don't get the chance to visit during the busy school year, these are some fun ideas:

National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of American History

Run by The Smithsonian Institute, conveniently located right on the National Mall near a Metro Station, there are a number of museums on the Mall, however, the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History are both very kid-friendly. 
Holding a critter at Smithsonian Natural History Museum
The entomologists at the Natural History Museum often bring out critters where visitors can get a close up and personal look. Many times insects are allowed to be held.

The Natural History museum also houses the lovely Butterfly Pavilion. One of my favorite places, I've gone into this exhibit 3 times so far in 2015 alone). There is a fee for to enter the Butterfly Pavilion, but Tuesdays are free!

A word of advice, in my experience, mornings are usually a better time to visit due to high volumes of visitors (The American History Museum has tended to have long waits lately with its security line). The museums open at 10 a.m. For more information about other exhibits and summer hours, please see the museum's website

Ruby red slippers
Red slippers worn by "Dorothy" in the classic "Wizard of Oz" movie are housed at the American History Museum

Air & Space Museums


Are your kids fascinated by aircraft or outer space? If so, a trip to one of the two Smithsonian Air & Space Museums might be in order. One is located on the National Mall, the other about 25 miles west in Chantilly, Va. Each museum is full of things to see and do.  Additionally, both museums have an IMAX theatre that could add to a fun day in air conditioning. For more information, please see the museum's website for list of exhibits, movies and other scheduled events. 

Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery located at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

Skyline Caverns


About an hour's drive west of Washington, D.C. on Interstate 66 is the Skyline Caverns. This is a great summer activity since the temperatures inside the cavern are in the 50 degree range year-round. A nice way to beat the heat. The anthodites are really something! There are also a couple of other activities on the property, such as a mini-train ride and a house of mirrors for additional entrance fees.

Stalactites at Skyline Caverns
Skyline Caverns makes an interesting and fun trip during sweltering temps



There are many discounted, or free, movies offered on certain days of the week. Here's a list that offers some locations in Virginia. It's very possible there are some other theatres downtown that offer these types of deals as well. 

These are only a handful of the many kid-friendly places to go in the Washington area that are indoors, but there are a lot of other things to see and do (for instance, older kids and teens might enjoy touring a 19th century prison out in Warrenton, Va.) or visit one of the many museums or historical homes located in Alexandria, Va. and the surrounding areas.

Summer time is a time most kids look forward to, but on those days where it's just too hot to even be at the pool, there are many other things to be found in the Washington, D.C. region that can make for a fun day.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Places to go on Father's Day in Northern Virginia (2015)

Northern Virginia has a lot going on and Father's Day is no exception. Are you looking for a fun place to go with Dad this weekend? Here are a few ideas -

Antique Car Show


Every year the Sully Historic Site holds a number of family-friendly events during every season. One tradition is its Father’s Day event, the Antique Car Show. The 2015 Sully Antique Car Show will be held on June 21, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon holds a variety of events each year, and we always have a great time when visiting (living so close, we usually purchase annual passes and visit several times a year). 

This year's Father's Day celebration includes a presentation by General Washington himself, who speaks about his role as husband, stepfather and father to America. The restaurant at Mount Vernon is also offering a special Father's Day barbeque. See website for prices and more details. It appears reservations are recommended.

Gunston Hall

Gunston Hall is offering free admission to fathers and grandfathers to celebrate Father's Day. You can bring dad to learn more about George Mason, one of America's founding fathers and tour this beautiful property. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This is a great tour and I learn something new every time!

Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest


A full weekend event held on June 20 and June 21 at the Bull Run Regional Park, there's food, entertainment, arts & crafts and, of course, beer (wine too). The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on both days. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door (online appears to offer some special perks), see the official page for more information and also admission prices. Bull Run Park is located at 7700 Bull Run Drive, Centreville, Va.

These are only a handful of suggestions. Many historic sites across the area are offering free tours to dads, such as Gadby's Tavern, Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary and all Prince William County Historic Sites too (family members are $5 at PWC sites).  

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Photos on Friday: The Supreme Court Building

One of the most recognizable structures in the District is the Supreme Court. I've never been inside, but every so often I like to walk up Capitol Hill and go take photos of the highest court in the United States.

Built in the earlier half of the 20th century, its cornerstone was laid in 1932 and the Supreme Court was finished in 1935. It is located directly behind the U.S. Capitol and next door to the Library of Congress.

Here are some photos I'd taken in April 2015. You cannot see them in these photos, but there is a fountain/pool of water on each side.

Standing behind the U.S. Capitol looking to the Supreme Court

After climbing the stairs, I looked up and snapped this shot

Light fixture over the main entrance of the Supreme Court

The doors of the Supreme Court are made up of different panels depicting different moments in history. This is one of them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fun on Father’s Day: 42st Annual Sully Antique Car Show in Chantilly

Every year the Sully Historic Site holds a number of family-friendly events during every season. One tradition is its Father’s Day event, the Antique Car Show. The 2015 Sully Antique Car Show will be held on June 21, co-hosted by the Fairfax County Park Authority and the Model A Ford Club of America.

Now in its 42nd year, 2015's event will have more than 400 cars on display. Visitors can see both American and foreign-made antique and classic cars. This event also will feature musical entertainment, a flea market, food and, as customary at Sully, some fun for the kids. The historic 1794 house will also be open for tours, which is included in the car show's admission price. No reservations are required for this event.

Admission fees for the antique car show are as follows: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 for children. As always, parking is free. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

In general, I've found Sully’s themed days to be very family-friendly and typically a nice day out (one year I will get to this car show!). We've attended the World War II Weekend a couple of times, the Civil War Encampment Weekend, and I always enjoy the different holiday-themed weekends held during the winter holidays.  

Sully Historic Site is located just off Route 28, a few miles south of Dulles Airport and across the highway from the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian). Sully Historic Site's address is 3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly, Va.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Photos on Friday: Old Post Office at dusk

It's no secret, the Old Post Office is one of my favorite buildings in Washington. I just love its architecture and the views from the tower are spectacular. Usually, I only get to see (and previously go in) during the day, so it was a real treat recently to get to walk around the building and see it at night. 

The building is closed to the public as The Trump Organization continues to transform this beauty into a luxury hotel.

Of course, with the construction going on, the view was a bit different, however, nonetheless, the building is still beautiful. These photos do not do it justice. The first was taken a little earlier than the second, but it was actually darker outside than it appears in my photo.

[ More about this building and additional photos can be found in my previous post: A history of the Old Post Office Tower building ]

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Highlights of Manassas National Battlefield Park

Sandwiched between the bustle of Washington, D.C. and the serenity of the Shenandoah Valley region of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies Manassas National Battlefield Park. 

The park, located in Northern Virginia, is the site where two prominent battles occurred during the Civil War. The first battle of Manassas, commonly known as the First Battle of Bull Run, took place on these fields on July 21, 1861, the Second Battle of Bull Run took place in August 1862.

Today, this national park commemorates these historical events in American History. The National Park Service (NPS) has done a great job preserving its history and integrity, despite being located in such a heavily populated region. 

Within the park's confines it's dignified and totally focused on history, although two major roads do cross through the park areas.

Manassas Battlefield Park as it looked in May 2015

Manassas Battlefield
Manassas Battlefield Park on a winter's day

The park itself spans several miles and you'll find a small museum, the monument of General "Stonewall" Jackson, Civil-war era cannons, and other historic landmarks, most notably, the Henry House and the Stone House. The fields are open and resemble the way they would have looked during the Civil War era.

Stone House at Manassas Battlefield Park
Exterior of Stone House at Manassas Battlefield Park

This building has an interesting history as it was a residential home for many decades but its historic roots also include having been a tavern. Inside Stone House, everything has been restored to the way it would have looked during the Civil War era. The second floor is usually off limits but is occasionally opened for visitors to see.
Stone House at Manassas Battlefield
Interior of Stone House

Other ways to see and/or learn more about the history at Manassas National Battlefield Park:

  • Several self-guided walking tours
  • Henry Hill tour (approximately a mile)
  • First Manassas tour (5-mile loop)
  • Second Manassas tour (also approximately 5 miles)
  • Walking and nature trails
  • Park ranger-guided hikes or tours
  • Park ranger talks
  • Self-guided driving tour (16 miles, you can get a map at the Visitor's Center)

Other highlights to see in the park's boundaries include the Stone Bridge, Unfinished Railroad, Chinn Ridge, and Brawner Farm.

When planning a visit, it's a good idea to check with NPS schedules to determine what time each building closes. 

[Related reading: Civil War battlefields in Virginia]