Flip flops, check. Bathing suit, check. White pants…hmm, maybe not the best idea with small children around. But you probably know where I’m going with this: It’s summer!
Okay, so we still have a few weeks until the earth’s north-south axis is tilted to just the right angle to result in the longest day of the year and calendar start of the season (ie, June 21). Yet for many of us, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial summer kick-off. This is when when my mental switch automatically flips to casual. It’s also when some of the area’s quintessential summer activities begin. From outdoor swimming and fun in fountains to music in the garden and movies under the stars, here are some of the area’s best summer-only family pursuits.
Outdoor Pool Season
Nothing says summer like swimming under the sun. DC outdoor public pools will open on Saturday, May 28, from 12 – 6pmand will be open weekends only until June 21. After that, they will open daily, though all pools are closed one day a week for maintenance, so be sure to check the schedule before you go. For swimming outside of the city, Montgomery County outdoor public pools will be open May 28 through Labor Day — the Dept. of Recreation website has locations and hours. In Northern Virginia, Arlington’s Upton Hill has a whole waterpark for guests to enjoy, and Alexandria has several places where the public is welcome to swim. Be sure to check the website for hours, as they vary from pool to pool.
Play in the Spray
Kids can run through fountains and splash around at many area spraygrounds. Several are within the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, and you can find out where on their website. Starting this Saturday, May 28, DPR Spray Parks will be open Saturdays from 11am – 4pm. Starting June 21, they will open all other days of the week (check their website for hours). For spray fun with a riverfront view, the Yards Park has fountains and a great location on the Anacostia. And some of the area’s most popular spray parks—Lyon Village Park, Hayes Park, and Drew Park–can be found in Arlington.
Jazz in the Garden
Enjoy music amid art at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s free concert series, Jazz in the Garden, every Friday from 5:30 – 8:30pm. The first performance is this Friday, May 27, rain or shine. Spread out a blanket, pack a picnic dinner, and enjoy the sounds of a variety of jazz artists.
Yards Park Friday Concerts
Wind down your week on the river! Already underway, the Yards Park Friday Concert Series presents a new band each week on the boardwalk stage overlooking the Potomac. Along with the free music, food and beverages will be available for purchase. Children can enjoy a little extra entertainment in the CSX Kids Zone, where there will be activities especially for them.
U.S. Air Force Band Summer Concert Series
The U.S. Air Force Band 2011 Summer Concert Series kicks off Wednesday, June 1 at 6pm, at the World War II Memorial. After that, you can catch the free performances all summer on Tuesday evenings on the west steps of the U.S. Capitol, Wednesdays at varying locations around Washington (see the schedule for specifics), and on Friday evenings at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington. Aside from the first concert, most shows begin at 8pm. Check out the U.S. Air Force Band website for the complete summer schedule.
Glen Echo Summer Concert Series
The park known by most families for its puppet shows, children’s plays, and carousel will present music in the Bumper Car Pavilion on several Thursday evenings throughout the summer. All performances of the Glen Echo Summer Concert Series are free and will begin at 7:30pm rain or shine. And that carousel will be open for rides from 7 – 9pm.
Mini Train, Carousel, & Mini Golf at Watkins
These extra delights at Watkins Regional Park opened on a limited schedule in early May, but come Memorial Day weekend, they can be enjoyed for extended hours almost every day of the week. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10am – 7pm; Sundays 12 – 7 pm, closed Mondays except 5/30 (Memorial Day), 7/4 (July Fourth Holiday; closes at 4pm) & 9/5 (Labor Day).
The U.S. Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to spend time with the kids, and it’s even better during the warm months when the Children’s Garden is open. Kids can exercise their green thumbs with shovels and watercans and ground space to dig. There is also a working water pump, a couple of fountains, a bamboo “forest,” and a little garden house where kids can play. Like all things Smithsonian, admission is free.
Big Screen Under the Stars
Outdoor movies have become a DC summer tradition in the last few years with films al fresco in several neighborhoods. The longest running, Screen on the Green, takes place on the National Mall on Mondays in July and August, though exact dates for 2011 have yet to be announced. The NoMa Summer Screen, probably the most family-friendly of all the outdoor movie series, begins May 25 and will run weekly on Wednesdays until August 3 on L Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue NE. Food and music start at 7pm, and the movie at 9pm. The Capitol Riverfront will start Front Flicks on May 26 and run every Thursday evening at 8:45pm. And the National Harbor hosts Movies on the Potomac, with family movies every Sunday night beginning June 10. Before you make plans to enjoy any of series, be sure to check schedules, as some movies may not be appropriate for children.
From late June through early August, Wolf Trap presents over 70 family-friendly performances at 10am and 11:15am on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Amidst 117 rolling wooded acres and nestled in a shady grove, the stage is set for lively adventures in music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater. All of the productions are recommended for children between Kindergarten and 6th grade. The full schedule of shows in available of the Wolf Trap website.
Free Family Entertainment in Rockville
All summer long, families can enjoy a variety of free fun at Rockville Town Square — Kids Night every Tuesday, monthly Mommy & Me and Daddies Too play dates, and concerts for all ages on Thursday evenings. This post has details on each of the series.