Our favorite way to spend a summer afternoon in Reston, hands down, is to explore the trails. A double stroller, a couple big bottles of water, a snack or two and we're good for an hour or so of poking at caterpillars with sticks and looking for turtles in the grass.
But despite having a rain cover for the stroller, I'm not all that keen on heading outside in a downpour. I know, I know, call me crazy. Not to mention how fierce some of the storms have been this summer – I'm not exactly looking forward to being crushed by a falling tree limb.
However. We have a small townhouse - a townhouse that seems even smaller when the days are dark and rainy and natural light is practically nonexistant – and those rainy days can sometimes feel like they drag on forever. The kids get bored and I get cabin fever in a record amount of time. Like, within fifteen minutes or something – it must be the mindset. I much prefer risking a full-body soaking on the way to the car to go somewhere than I do staying safe and warm and dry inside the house.
Of course, it gets a little more difficult during those times when it rains nonstop for an entire week. Sometimes, getting out of the house makes for an expensive adventure. I cannot be trusted to while away an afternoon at for example. There are only so many scented candles and inexpensive pairs of shoes one can buy without running her entire household into the ground. But we do have a few free options that are surefire crowd pleasers. And we use them. A lot.
PetSmart. For the record, no employee of this nationwide pet supply chain has ever given us the stinkeye for remaining in the store for nearly an hour without buying anything.
It's not that we NEVER buy anything even though we have a dog!. However, we have a low-maintenance dog, the kind who requires food and nothing else. I would say , 90 percent of the time we just wander the aisles, looking at the overwhelming selection of birds, reptiles, rodents, fish and cats.
And weirdly, poking at the bird toys. What is it about bird toys? My kids love bird toys, and they're not alone. Sometimes we're fighting for Bird Toy Aisle space with six other kids. Other highlights for my kids include a doggie training session (you can watch through a big glass wall) and seeing dogs get groomed in the big glass room in the back.
The childrens' section at bookstores. Here's how happy they are to let you browse at Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million: they've set up Thomas the Tank Engine train tables. Basically, that's like secret code for PLEASE LINGER.
There is seating for browsing books and keeping tabs on the little ones and at both locations, there are restrooms (although keep in mind that there is no changing table at the Books-a-Million location). While we love the atmosphere at B&N, the sudden arrival of what looks like a toy store in the back is kind of off-putting. Books-a-Million is a little more bare bones, and we always find great deals in the clearance section.
Compare Foods Supermarket. This supermarket is one big learning opportunity. We find ourselves fascinated by the produce department. There are items here that I've certainly never encountered before – in fact, sometimes we have to go home and look them up.
Compare Foods is an international grocery store (and a really large one, at that) which features Caribbean, South American, Peruvian, Chinese, Argentinean, Asian, American, Indian, Mexican, Cuban, Latin American, and Brazilian foodstuffs. Wandering through the aisles is like a field trip to 15 different exotic locales in one stop. We love looking for things that are familiar and things we have never, ever seen before. Not to mention that the staff is super friendly and accommodating.