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Dominion Blog

Fall Family Fun

Posted by Bob Houston on Oct 14, 2022 9:39:21 AM

We need not go far for bad news about how the online world impacts our children. From the 2020 film The Social Dilemma to breaking stories like British Ruling Pins Blame on Social Media for Teenager's Suicide (NYT), the negative consequences of the virtual abyss are increasingly apparent. A great synopsis (two-minute read) of its effects on GenerationZ, defined roughly as those born between 1997 and 2012, was published last week: What the Online World Is Doing To Us (C&C Blog). One takeaway is that Gen Zers, or "zoomers," spend an average of nine hours a day in front of a screen, not including school work. Screentime increased dramatically during COVID, and that has not changed with the end of the pandemic.

A wonderful aspect of the Dominion community is how families encourage their children to be resilient and different… If you will, to rebel against what have become sedentary social norms, whether through athletics, music, theater and the arts, reading, hobbies, healthy friendships and real-world social events, time in nature, exploration and travel, and others. Additionally, despite the traffic and cost of living in the DC area, it offers much in the way of family fun and personal growth. A few ideas for fall adventures:

The Battle of Cedar Creek Reenactment, held this weekend (10/15-16), is one of the largest Civil War reenactments anywhere and recommended for two reasons: 1) It is near Strasburg, VA, so very accessible, only an hour west of Fairfax; and 2) The land is held in a private foundation, so it is one of the few reenactments held on the actual battlefield. Most Civil War battlefields are national or state parks, which do not allow such activities. While Cedar Creek may be a lesser-known action, it was significant because Union victory there in 1864 ended any hope of a final Confederate offensive against Washington. More importantly, historians believe it contributed significantly to President Lincoln's reelection over General George McClellan just three weeks later. (Had the war-weary population chosen Democrat McClellan over Republican Lincoln, the Civil War might have concluded differently, but what a tribute to our Republic that we still held an election in the midst of an internal conflict that would kill 600,000 - 800,000 of our countrymen.)

Turning to science, the next Astronomy For Everyone night at Sky Meadows State Park (45-minute drive) is October 29. Sky Meadows was recently designated an “international dark sky park.” The astronomy nights begin with a short children's "Junior Astronomer" program, followed by a NASA presentation. Once dark enough, the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club provides a night sky tour and allows guests to look through its members' telescopes. This event is held periodically throughout the year. The advantage of the October session is it starts early enough for younger children to participate and occurs on a night with little moonlight to obscure the stars. Sky Meadows also has some really nice trails and 18th/19th-century historical sites if you arrive earlier.

The DC area has a plethora of museums. But, perhaps because it is so new - with a 2020 opening in the middle of a pandemic - the National Museum of the United States Army at Ft. Belvoir can be off the radar. It depicts the Army's history from the revolutionary period to today using various media and is well worth a few hours. So as not to play favorites, the National Museum of the Marine Corps is fantastic, too - just a little more of a trip to Quantico.

Like airplanes? The Flying Circus Airshow in Bealeton, a few miles south of Warrenton, runs every Sunday afternoon from May through October. It is a comedic barnstorming show of the type popularized in the interwar period - one of the last such shows still operating in the United States - with biplanes, stunts, wing walkers, and skydivers. Airplane rides also are available for purchase after the show. The Bealeton area is beautiful in the fall. An aviation bonus, though of the more modern variety: Gravelly Point Park. This Arlington location is one of the best in the country for commercial airplane spotting and watching. Air traffic in and out of Reagan National passes a mere 100-200 feet over your head.

Skyline Drive, one of the country's premier destinations for fall colors, is an easy day trip. Numerous overlooks and walks/hikes for all skill levels are accessible from the road. Check the Shenandoah National Park site for updates on the leaves, remembering the colors will peak at higher altitudes before they do here. Nobody would 'ever' suggest playing hooky from school or work on a weekday, but be aware that fall weekends can be very crowded in the park. If you go on a weekend, best to get an early start.

Colvin Run Mill, just off Route 7 in Great Falls, is one of those historic sites the guidebooks often forget. The fall is full of events and demonstrations at the mill - blacksmithing, grinding, cider making, wood carving, harvest day, and more.

Finally, the Museum of the Bible has current special exhibitions exploring the life and martyrdom of Watchman Nee, founder of the "Local Church” movement in China and one of the most influential Christians of the 20th century; and The Samaritans. Look for upcoming exhibits on The Bells of Bethlehem: Sounds of from the Church of the Nativity and other special Christmas season events, including Sing! An Irish Christmas with Keith and Kristyn Getty at the World Stage Theater. A live stage production of C.S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy opens in January.