Tag Archives: Claude Moore Colonial Farm

Experience 18th-Century Living History at Claude Moore Colonial Farm

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It’s one thing to learn about the past through books, at a museum, or a visit to a historic site. It’s something else entirely to engage with history in an immersive way that makes you feel as if you’ve been transported back in time. This is just the kind of experience Claude Moore Colonial Farm offers its visitors. The living history locale in McLean, VA, portrays family life on a small, low-income farm just prior to the Revolutionary War with an authenticity that goes well beyond artifacts to view and sites to explore.

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The park recreates life on a tobacco farm in the year 1771. Not only is Claude Moore set up to look as a farm would have in the 18th century, a family portrays life on the farm and goes about what would have been daily activities back then. Even more (yes, there more!), visitors are not just welcome, but encouraged to participate in those activities and get a real feel for what life was like nearly 250 years ago.

All of this is open for the public to enjoy from April through December — visitors are welcome on a walk-in basis Wednesdays to Sundays. Claude Moore Colonial Farm also offers special programs and events for enhanced and more insightful farm experiences.

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Junior Interpretor Program
Kids ages 10 to 17 can truly find out what working on a colonial farm is like through this unique program. If accepted, Junior Interpreters portray, in costume, the colonial farm family’s children, working at least one day per month. While the program is fun, it also requires work — planting, weeding, tending to and harvesting crops in the fields and kitchen garden, performing maintenance tasks on the 18th century site, cleaning animal pens, assist with cooking, and much more — in all weather conditions. Read more about the program and application process here.

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18th Century Colonial Market Fairs
Three weekends a year, the Farm hosts Market Fairs that draw both locals and visitors from across the country. Showcasing 18th-century life in a festive way, the events feature demos by tradesmen and artisans, a variety of musical and dramatic performances, arts & crafts for kids and adults, and savory food (often cooked on spits), and more. It’s like Ren Fest on a smaller scale, in a different era and place. Fun and educational for all, the Market Fairs are easily a family bucket list item.

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Farm Membership
Once you visit Claude Moore Colonial Farm, there’s very good chance you’ll go back, making membership worth it. Rates are very reasonable ($40/family per year), and benefits include a season pass giving you unlimited admission, entry to all three Market Fairs and other special events, discounts on workshops and gift shop items, and use of the Farm’s library. Ready to sign up? Fill out then mail in the application form or call 703.442-7557 for more information.

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You can read even more about Claude Moore Colonial Farm in this post about our first visit there. But I highly recommend you go experience it for yourself.

Claude Moore Colonial Farm is located at 6310 Georgetown Pike in McLean VA — direction are available here. Hours are 10am – 4:30pm Wedsnesday – Sunday from April 1 – December 31. Regular admission is $3/adult, $2/children & seniors, free for ages 2 and under. Market Fair admission is $8/adult, $4/senior, $3/child, free for ages 2 and under.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Claude Moore Colonial Farm, however, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own, and I only promote places, products, and services that I truly enjoy and believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Farm, Festival, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Sponsored Post, Spring, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

The Weekend Round-Up: December 9-11

Capitol replica made entirely of natural materials at Season's Greening

 

We’re in the throes of the holiday season. Lights are twinkling, mini trains are chugging, sugar plum fairies are dancing, and suckers like me are spending. Here’s a quick list of where your family can enjoy the festivities, plus some non-holiday activities, too.  Happy Weekend!

Celebrate the SeasonExperience a frozen wonderland, visit Santa in his workshop, view nature and DC-inspired holiday exhibits, drive or stroll through holiday lights, see intricately constructed model train displays.  There’s no shortage of activities that celebrate the season; the tough part is deciding which to do.  To help choose, check out this guide to DC’s best holiday events.

Holidays on Stage – All of the classics are at our local theatres. This post has details on where you and the kids can see your favorites.

Merriment in GeorgetownThe neighborhood is always bustling, but it will be even more so on Saturday as the Merriment in Georgetown Kick-Off Party celebrates 12 days (December 9-20) of holiday shopping events and promotions at over 50 stores. Festivities will include special sales, pedicab rides, a gingerbread house making contest, musical performances, culinary treats, and more. This will all take place from 1-4pm in the PNC Bank Lot at Wisconsin & M Streets. Admission is free, and parking is just $2.

Christmas Dreams at the National Snowflakes and Sugar Plum Sweets are in the air as the Virginia Ballet Company and School present selections for their magical, glittering Nutcracker at this week’s Saturday Morning at the National performance. Familiar music, lively dances, lovely costumes and charming characters from Tchaikovsky’s classic confection will bring elegant holiday cheer. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Only one ticket per person, and all attendees must be standing in line to receive a ticket. Children must be accompanied by an adult, who remains present for the entire performance. Seating is limited, so get there early.

Jingle All the Way to Georgetown – This fun family event taking place on Sunday from 4-8pm is an opportunity to support a wonderful cause and help make the holiday season brighter for children and families coping with cancer. The 6th Annual Georgetown Jingle is includes a silent auction, tastings by leading DC area chefs, kids activities, and live entertainment, including a visit from Santa and his friends. Themed holiday trees and vignettes created by the Washington area’s top designers will also be showcased for guests to view. And especially for young attendees is the Children’s Workshop, where they can enjoy holiday crafts, decorate cookies, watch movies, and dance. See this post for more information about the event and purchasing tickets.

Scribble, Dot, Pop!Kids have another weekend to explore art through film at The National Gallery of Art’s monthly film program. This weekend they’ll present a series of animated shorts that celebrate the qualities that make artists.  Guests can get a glimpse into the life and art of Andy Warhol in the fun and gentle film Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Andy Warhol, a family-friendly biography of Warhol and an introduction to pop art, along with a few other animated shorts about art, all of the kid-friendly variety. Sessions are at 10:30am on Saturday and 11:30am on Sunday in the East Building Auditorium. The program is free, and seating is offered on a first-come, first-seated basis. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Caroling at the GalleryIf you want to put some holiday spirit into your National Gallery visit, go in the afternoon for caroling in the seasonally decorated West Building Rotunda. Guest choirs will lead afternoon sing-alongs that all ages are welcome to join. Carol along with The Mandoleers on Saturday, and the Alexandria Choral Society on Sunday.  Performances are at 1:30pm and 2:30pm both days.

Colonial WassailGather in the orchard of Claude Moore Colonial Farm on Sunday from 1-4pm to toast the winter apple trees with singing, dancing, and chants to ensure a “howling crop” next year. Enjoy hot spiced cider, sugar cakes, a roaring bonfire, and 18th-century games along with the wassailing festivities. Admission is $3/adults, $2/children.

Nat Geo Exhibits Take shelter from the cold and check out a couple of fun kids’ exhibits at the National Geographic Museum. Animal Grossology and Weird But True are fun and fascinating for kids of all ages. Admission is $8/adults, $6/ages 5-12, free for children under 5.  The National Geographic Museum is located at 1145 17th Street NW.

Puppet Fun at Discovery TheaterThere are a couple of programs for kids to enjoy at the Ripley Center on Saturday. At 12pm, join master artist Bob Brown for Winter Wonderland, a jolly romp with delightful trick marionettes who are out frolicking in the cold. The friendly little critters—bunny, penguin and snowman—perform feats of skill and daring that will leave your young audience holiday-happy. Enjoy the fun and fantasy, mirth and merriment, giggles and amazement—and the sound of favorite holiday music. Recommended for kids ages 2-8. Tickets are $3-8.  Children ages 3 and up can join Michele and Ingrid from the popular puppet theatre, Dinorock, for a Puppet Workshop, where they’ll make their own puppets inspired by the little characters from the show. The workshop runs from 10am – 1pm. Tickets are $5/Smithsonian Resident Associate members, $10/non-members. Get your tickets today, as they will not be available the day of the workshop.

Alternative Gifting –  If you’re planning to do some holiday shopping this weekend and are looking for unique presents, then check out Gifts That Give Hope: Arlington’s Alternative Gift Fair this Saturday, where shoppers make donations in honor of friends and family as holiday presents. You’ll have an opportunity to learn about and support 13 local non-profits. And if you can’t make the fair, you can still shop online through December 20.

Recreation on IceEnjoy a cold-weather outdoor activity and impressive works of art all at once at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.  For details and even more places to do your best Boitano or Kerrigan, check out this post about area ice skating venues, both outdoors and in.

The Wright StuffIt’s Second Saturday at the Air & Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center from 10am -3pm. With a new theme every month, the program engages visitors of all ages in topics related to aviation and space exploration. This weekend will celebrate the world’s first aviators, the Wright Brothers. While admission is free, parking is $15 /car.

Bieber Fever Builds in DC – This is not an activity recommendation; rather it’s a heads-up that the Building Zone at the National Building Museum will be closed from Saturday through Monday, and the entire Museum will be closed on Sunday as the holiday special “Christmas in Washington” takes place there.  Justin Bieber will be part of the show, and word has it they are expecting a mob scene because if it, hence the closing of the Building Zone.

And two links that are always useful:

The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids

Rainy Day Recreation (ie, Indoor Fun)


 

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, Christmas, DC, Educational, Festival, Free, Fundraiser, Gradeschoolers, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Museums, Music, Preschoolers, Preteens, Seasonal, Shop, Theatre, Toddlers, Weekend, Winter

Falling for the Weekend

An older photo, but a fall fave

Forgive the corny, cliché title of this post – it’s hard to come up with something clever week after week (not that they ever were that clever…). But trite or not, the reference to autumn is apropos for this roundup of weekend events, as so many of them salute the season.  Of course, there are also recommendations that make no allusion to the time of year. No matter what you and the kids decide to pursue, fall-themed or not, have a great time doing it. Happy Weekend!

Kids Euro Festival Thanks to the French-American Cultural Foundation, 27 EU embassies, and more than a dozen major cultural institutions, Europe is coming to us via the Kids Euro Festival, a virtual passport to four weeks of continental artistic adventures. This is the first weekend of the event that will present more than 200 FREE children’s performances all around the metro area. Mimes, storytellers, dancers, and puppeteers are just a few of the exciting acts that will perform at a variety of venues from October 14 – November 10.  See what’s on the schedule this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Autumn Colonial Market FairClaude Moore Colonial Farm is holding its annual fair on Saturday and Sunday from 11am – 4pm both days. Tradesmen and artisans — blacksmiths, potters, silversmiths, candle makers, and more —from all over the country will be there to demo their work and sell their wares.  Guests can also enjoy all kinds of colonial fare and watch as food cooks right over a fire pit, just like olden times. Along with the fair, you can also tour the farm, which is straight out of the 18th-century. Admission to the farm on the Autumn Market Fair weekend is $6/adults, $3/ages 3-12, free for children 2 and under.

Rock Creek Fall Heritage Day at Peirce MillStep back in time somewhere else on Saturday for a day-long celebration marking the re-opening of historic Peirce Mill during Rock Creek Park Heritage Day. Artists, craftspeople, and historians will line the mill yard and grounds, restored to their 1800’s appearance, to bring history alive. Visitors can join them for hands-on demonstrations, while park rangers and historian shed light on what life was like in the 19th century. There will also be tours of the restored mill, which will be grinding grain, as it did more than a century ago. A schedule of the day’s events and more info is available of the NPS website.

Truck TouchKids can pretend to drive a school bus, explore construction rigs, learn about EMS & recycling trucks, and many more vehicles at Suburban Nursery School’s annual Truck Touch. Along with the cool rides, guests can enjoy homemade baked goods and lunch from some favorite local vendors (pizza, ice cream, & hotdogs). It will all take place in the school’s parking lot on Saturday from 10am – 3pm. Admission is $5/person, free for children under 2. All programs benefit Suburban Nursery School, a non-profit, parent-run cooperative nursery school for over 50 years.

Pinkalicous and the Pink PumpkinRoom & Board is hosting a special event featuring award-winning author and illustrator Victoria Kann, reading from her latest book Pinkalicious and the Pink Pumpkin. Bring the kids, decorate pumpkins, and enter for a chance to win our kid-sized Jill table and four Little Jake chairs. Books are available for purchase at the event. It all takes place from 11am – 1pm, and the reading begins at noon.  The event is free, RSVP to roomandboard@brandlinkdcrsvp.com.

Taste of GeorgetownIn its 18th year, the Taste of Georgetown will showcase the spectacular cuisine of 30 of the neighborhood’s finest eateries, highlighting Georgetown’s culinary personalities and featuring nearly 60 delectable dishes to sample, as well as wine pairings, the jazz talents of Blues Alley artists, and children’s activities such as caricatures, jugglers, and balloon artists. Wisconsin and M Streets NW is where this will all go down on Saturday from 11am – 4pm. Tasting tickets can be purchased online or at the event.

Best in ShowsDrumming with Dishes at the Atlas, The Three Billy Goats Gruff at The Puppet Co. Playhouse, Krazy Kitchen Science at Discovery Theater,  and Saturday Morning at the National are just a few children’s productions you can catch this weekend.  For even more performances, see this post about live entertainment this season.

What’s Grosser than Gross? – The National Geographic Museum’s latest exhibit for kids, “Animal Grossology,” features some of the slimiest, stinkiest, yuckiest creatures on earth…and their natural bodily functions. Yes, there’s plenty about poop, puke, and other icky processes all presented through many cool, creative, interactive installments.  Kids will love it (and so will adults). Admission is $8/adults, $6/ages 5-12, free for children 4 and under and includes the fun Weird But True exhibit as well as entrance to Ocean Soul: Photographs by Brian Skerry, a beautiful collection of images from oceans around the world that any photography buff or wildlife lover will find mesmerizing.

Fall FestsBurgundy Farm Country Day School and South Mountain Creamery are holding their annual fall festivals this weekend. And many more seasonal celebrations are taking place at local farms and other venues around the area.  See this post for details on all of them.

Family Day in the White House ‘HoodThe Neighbors to the President’s Consortium, a group of historic sites and museums in the White House neighborhood, is hosting a day of activities for families. Activities will include a scavenger hunt at the Renwick Gallery, an art safari at the Corcoran, candle making at the DAR Museum, and more. Detailed activity descriptions are available on the NTPC website.

Hop on the Halloween TrainThe “Eye Spy” Halloween Train at Cabin John Regional Park rides again! Get on board this Friday, Saturday and Sunday – tickets sales begin at 2pm, and rides are every half hour from 3-8pm. Tickets are $6 person and include “Eye Spy” game card and other activities for kids.

Family Fun Literacy DayThe Play With Words Children’s Museum in Vienna, in partnership with the Vienna Whole Foods Market and PBS Kids, is hosting a Family Fun Literacy Day on Saturday from 12-3pm. Join them, along with the characters from PBS Kids “Super Why” TV show, for a fun afternoon of literacy-related activities, including hands-on activities and a treasure hunt throughout the Vienna Whole Foods store, with prizes for the first 200 children. More information is available on the Play With Words website.

And the forecast is looking great for this weekend, so this post will come in handy if you want to take advantage of the weather:

The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids 

But if indoor pursuits sound like a better plan, you can get some ideas for them here:

Rainy Day Recreation (ie, Indoor Fun)

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Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Eats, Educational, Fall, Farm, Festival, Free, Halloween, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Theatre, Trains, Virginia, Weekend

Autumn Fun at Claude Moore Colonial Farm

The start of our little time trip

It was quite serendipitous that our family visited Claude Moore Colonial Farm this past weekend.  We were on our way to a fall festival in northern Virginia when we hit traffic, massive traffic.  And looking ahead down I-66, it didn’t seem like it was going to let up soon enough for us to inch through it patiently.  So, we got off at the next exit and changed plans.

This is one of the great things about living in the DC- metro.  There is so much to do all over the area, you can revamp your day with one simple decision, no matter where you are, and still have a good time. In our case, we were fairly close to the Beltway, so I did a quick flip through my mental Rolodex of family recreation and, voila!, I remembered I had just read about Claude Moore as I was browsing No Monsters in My Bed and knew it was a convenient detour from where we were. I’d seen the sign for it on the GW Parkway countless times, and had always wondered about the attraction, but just hadn’t made it there.

Well, thanks to bad traffic we finally did, and it couldn’t have worked out better (except that we were a week early for one of their biggest weekends, which I’ll tell you more about in a bit).

An 18th-century farm relic

Claude Moore Colonial Farm is straight out of the 18th-century, a living history farm. Everything there has been recreated to look just as it did in 1771, with a tobacco barn, farm house, garden, orchard, animals, even a family (portrayed by actors) who live and work on the farm and go about their daily life as visitors pass through. A self-guided tour begins in the gift shop where you buy tickets ($3/adult, $2/children 3 and up) and get a bit of background on the farm.  There, we learned that all of the crops and trees are planted from heirloom seeds with origins that date back to the region during the 18th century. We were also told that we could feel free to pitch in and help the Bradley family with any farm work.

Owen leads the way

The farm isn’t huge — the whole walk is about 3/4 of a mile, and there is a dirt path that winds through it. A simple map given out in the gift shop depicts the layout, and Owen easily navigated for us.  After stopping to see geese in a wooden cage along the path, we explored the tobacco barn, where we could see part of the curing process as tobacco stalks hung from rafters to dry out, and 18th-century tools and equipment offered an idea of how it all worked. Just outside the barn, turkeys making some of the loudest gobbling noises I’ve ever heard (which thrilled the kids) sat in a wooden cage, and nearby along the path a few big hogs lolled about in their pen.

A farm family member show us her home

From there, we may our way to the farm house, passing by the garden and through the orchard on the way.  The farm house was easily the highlight of our tour, as we got to see 18th-century farm life in progress. Several members of the farm family were mashing potatoes for cottage pie (this is what we were later told by a woman who works there) on a table outside of the house, as chickens roamed freely around them. When one went inside the house to put something on the fireplace to cook, we followed and watched.  The house is literally one room, with a fireplace along one wall, a table pushed against another, a few chairs sitting in corners, herbs hanging from ceiling rafters to dry, a couple of shelves on the walls holding ceramic cups and containers.  Sleeping quarters are in a loft above; the whole family shares the space, sleeping on feather-filled mattresses. Family members were happy to answer questions, speaking in 18th-century vernacular, which fascinated the kids just as much as their home.

Sasha's favorite part of the farm

The rest of our tour we strolled around, winding through the orchard, checking out the root cellar where potatoes are stored, and visiting the farm fowl again. Our entire visit probably took less than two hours, but it was a quite an enjoyable learning experience for all us, and a great way to spend a nice day outdoors together.

And serendipity came into play again when I learned that this coming weekend is one of the best times to visit. The Autumn Colonial Market Fair will take place Saturday and Sunday, October 15-16, from 11am – 4pm both days.  This is when tradesmen and artisans — blacksmiths, potters, silversmiths, candle makers, and more — come from all over to demo their work and sell their wares.  Guests can also enjoy all kinds of colonial fare and watch as food cooks right over a fire pit, just like olden times. Admission to the farm on the Autumn Market Fair weekend is $6/adults, $3/ages 3-12, free for children 2 and under.  More information is available on the Claude Moore Colonial Farm website.

 

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Filed under All ages, Animals, Annual, Eats, Educational, Fall, Farm, Festival, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Virginia, Weekend

The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids

Now, this is how to enjoy a beautiful day



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Today’s superb weather inspired me to put together a list of places that are made for beautiful days like this. Most of these locales have been recommended before, but never in one easy go-to list.  Certainly, there are many more, so I’ll continually add new recommendations.  In the meantime, may there be many great days ahead to try them out.

The old Capitol columns at the National Arboretum

The old Capitol columns at the National Arboretum

U.S. National Arboretum
Hands down one of the best places in the city to chill out with the kids outdoors — which is why I recommend it so often. Its nearly 450 acres contain an amazing variety of plant, tree, and flower collections. Even if little ones aren’t into the flora, there still is plenty they will enjoy. The old National Capitol columns standing smack in middle of the Ellipse Meadow are a big draw – kids can play amid the pillars and check out the fountain, which flows down from the middle to a pool below. You can hike through woods, cross footbridges over small creeks, and seek out “magic” sitting areas like gazebos and spaces beneath tree canopies. The wonderful Washington Youth Garden invites visitors to watch the cultivation process, and the natural playground lets them engage in fun activities. The koi pond at the visitor center is great fun – the fish will swim right up to the edge and even pop their faces above the surface in hopes of a feeding. Little ones will also delight in the little trees at the bonsai exhibits. And the Grove of State Trees, a collection of trees from all 50 states, is a designated eating area with wooden tables and nice flat spots to spread out a blanket for a picnic.


An urban oasis at The Yards

An urban oasis at The Yards

The Yards Park
One of the other best places to chill out with the kids, this relatively new recreational space is not a new recommendation from me, and for good reason. The centerpiece of the still-developing Capitol Riverfront neighborhood has many elements that make it a gem — open grassy spaces, lots of artistically designed benches and seating areas, a boardwalk along the Anacostia, the sculptural Pedestrian Bridge, and a fantastic view of the river. But the real bonus for kids is the fountains. Located on the park’s two levels, the water features aren’t just there for people to look at; those who want to get wet can play in the sprays above and wade in the shallow pool below. Just be sure to bring a change of clothes for the kids – getting soaked is guaranteed. (February 2015 Update: There’s even more to enjoy now, as The Yards has developed quite a bit since this was originally posted — more eateries, kayaks for rent (see Ballpark Boathouse below), a fantastic summer concert series, and lots of fun events hosted there. However, the fountains and boat rentals and not on during the cold months.)



The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

The National Mall
This is an obvious suggestion, but sometimes those are the very ones we need to be reminded of, especially when it’s easy to get lured into the many museums surrounding the Mall that beckon with wonderful collections and free admission.  But there’s plenty of  art and history along with active recreation to enjoy outside of the galleries, too. Walk or bike among the monuments and memorials,  but be sure to stop and take in the magnificent architecture and design.  View art al fresco — kids will love the whimsical creations at the National Gallery of Art and Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Gardens. Stop and smell the roses and other pretty flowers at the Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Castle. Take a spin on The Carousel for $3.75 a ride.  Rent a paddle boat and cruise the Tidal Basin ($12/hour for 2 people, $19/hour for 4 people.



Visiting peacocks at Old Maryland Farm

Visiting peacocks at Old Maryland Farm

Watkins Regional Park
Plan on several trips to this PG County park — there is so much to do here, that you need a few outings to thoroughly enjoy it all.  Visit bunnies, chickens, peacocks, ducks, llamas, cows, ponies and sheep at  Old Maryland Farm. Bring quarters for the food dispensers to feed the birds, and the Watkins Nature Center will have even more critters for guests to see.  From there, head over to the sprawling colorful Wizard of Oz-themed playground.  As if all that isn’t enough, Watkins gets even better in the spring, when the antique carousel, train, and mini golf open for the season — be sure to check the schedule for days and times.



On the Cunningham Falls trail

On the Cunningham Falls trail

Walks in the Woods
One of my favorite ways to relish in a great day is on the trail, immersed in nature. Last spring I discussed how having kids changed the way my husband and I approach outdoor recreation, particularly hiking. We have to be mindful of our babes’ capabilities when hitting the trail, from how far their little legs can take them to how long they have before boredom kicks in. So, we try to find hikes that are short, not too strenuous, and include sights that we know they will appreciate. This post contains a list of some of the best places we’ve found to tramp with the kids.



A pony ride at the Rock Creek Horse Center

A pony ride at the Rock Creek Horse Center

Rock Creek Park
The sprawling urban park regularly offers all kinds of ranger-led programs and activities for children, many for free.  There are hikes, horseback rides, nature tours, and more.  On any given weekend and select dates during the week, there’s something going on to bring kids closer to nature.  One of our favorite stops is the Horse Center, where guests can visit equine residents at the stables and sign up for a pony ride through the woods ($20 – check the schedule for days and times).



Great views abound at Great Falls

Great views abound at Great Falls

Great Falls Park
I mentioned this park that straddles the Potomac River in Maryland and Virginia in my post about hikes with kids awhile back. But it’s more than just a great place for walks in the woods. Along with numerous trails, Great Falls is a showcase of some of the area’s best natural scenery and a harbor of historical sights. The falls, gushing furiously over jagged rocks in the Mather Gorge, are a magnificent must-see. You can view them from a few different overlooks that are easily accessible via wooden footbridges or hike down (or up) dirt trails where it’s less crowded. Remnants of 18th-century locks are still on the Maryland side along the C&O canal, and if you look closely, you can find stone mason marks created to identify their work. Ranger-led programs and tours are available – info about both can be found on the National Park Service website.



Hanging by the river

Hanging by the river

Riverbend Park
This is where we go when we arrive at Great Falls to find a long line of cars at the entrance, which is not uncommon on a beautiful day. Riverbend is just a few miles away from its more popular neighbor on the Virginia side of the Potomac in Fairfax County. There are no awe-inspiring falls, and at 400 acres it’s about half the size, but it’s low-key, peaceful, and a lovely riverfront retreat. Hike through the woods along the water or stick to paved paths near the Visitor Center. Picnic tables are available, so pack a lunch to enjoy a bite by the water.



Strolling the boardwalk

Strolling the boardwalk

Huntley Meadows
There are trails, wildlife sightings, and plenty of nature to explore on the 1,425 acres of woods and wetlands throughout this park in Alexandria.   Hike along the paved, dirt, and boardwalk trails, and you’re practically guaranteed to spot turtles of all sizes, frogs, great blue herons, cardinals, and a variety of other birds.  The entire hike is just over a mile, and there are  lookouts and benches where you can stop for breaks and snacks along the way to make it a few hours’ outing. Don’t forget sunscreen, hats, and water, as there’s no shade through the wetlands section of the park. Get directions to the Huntley Meadows here.


What up, Teddy!

What up, Teddy!

Roosevelt Island
I always think of this national memorial honoring President Theodore Roosevelt and his contributions to the environment as very “DC.”  Its 91 acres are located amidst a natural woodsy setting accessible by long wooden footbridge crossing the Potomac.  Vegetation grows thickly along two and a half miles of paved paths looping through the preserve. And smack in the middle of it all – the “DC” part — is a stone tribute to Roosevelt, a 17-foot bronze statue of Teddy himself, flowing fountains, and large granite slabs inscribed with Roosevelt’s tenets on conservation. It’s all quite impressive to both kids and adults.  And the island itself is perfect for an outing with kids with short, easy hikes, wildlife sightings (we’ve seen deer and other small animals there), and a chance to splash around in water a bit (just hands and feet – there’s no jumping in these fountains).



George's riverfront lawn

George’s riverfront lawn

Mount Vernon
George Washington’s old digs, sprawling along the banks of the Potomac across the river from DC, offer a history lesson, some of the best views around, and a good time all in one. Get a glimpse into the life of the first POTUS by touring the Mansion and other buildings, several gardens, and a four-acre working farm on the estate.  Staff dressed in costume roam the estate and tell stories about the old days.  That’s often a favorite for kids along with the stables, seeing the farm animals, and generally getting an idea of what life was like over 200 years ago.  Don’t miss a stroll on the Mansion’s east lawn — the stretch of green grass right along the water offers a beautiful lookout over the Potomac.  Admission is $17/adult, $9/ages 6-11, free for children 5 and under.



Exploring Brookside's Children's Garden

Exploring Brookside’s Children’s Garden

Brookside Gardens
This public display garden in Wheaton is beautiful any time of year with spectacular blooms in the spring, the Wings of Fancy butterfly exhibit in the summer, brilliant foliage during fall, and holiday lights in the winter. Along with many incredible plant and flower collections there’s a turtle pond, a children’s garden complete with gnome hut and tree house, and plenty of open space for roaming and enjoying the scenery. Admission is free, though there is a fee for Wings of Fancy.



The Hains Point playground

The Hains Point playground

East Potomac Park | Hains Point
Many people, including me, call the whole 300+acre peninsula Hains Point, but that particular locale is actually only the southern part of the entire park.  Situated between the Washington Channel and the Potomac River just south of the Tidal Basin, East Potomac Park contains a nice variety of recreation, and it all comes with great views of the water as well as the boats and airplanes that cruise and fly alongside it.  Within the park there’s a golf course, a mini-golf course, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a playground, and plenty of space to run, play, and picnic.  Ohio Drive, the road that runs the perimeter of the park is a popular training course for competitive cyclers and runners, but the flat, scenic loop is good for family bike rides, too.



Plane view at Gravelly Point

Plane view at Gravelly Point

Gravelly Point
The small, scenic park just off the GW Parkway next to Ronald Reagan Airport  is an ideal spot to picnic, people watch, play ball, and walk along the river — if you really like airplanes.  I have to warn:  it’s hit or miss with kids (and adults, for that matter).  The park is adjacent to the airport runway, so planes take off or land (depending on which way they are going that day) literally right overhead. That’s the hit or miss part.  It’s loud and potentially scary for those who don’t like the looks of a plane coming right at them.  But for kids who don’t mind and love airplanes, it’s quite a thrill.



PYO apples at Homestead

PYO apples at Homestead

Homestead Farms
During fruit and veggie harvests, this is one of our family’s favorite farms to visit.  It’s not open to guests until strawberry season begins in May, but when it does open, it’s a great place to pick your own produce and enjoy some time on the farm. Homestead scores just as high on aesthetics as it does on its crops—the lovely pastoral setting in Montgomery County makes you feel like you’re way more than 20 miles from the city. Before you go, be sure to check the website for hours and to see what’s  ripe for picking.



Strolling and browsing the market

Strolling and browsing the market

Weekends at Eastern Market
This one is quite special to me, as it’s just blocks from our house and one of my favorite things about living on Capitol Hill. Something about spending time there feels like a vacation in my own neighborhood.  The market is both a community touchstone and a big draw for folks who don’t live here, especially on the weekends when the flea market, stretching along 7th Street SE, is in full swing.  Local farmers sell fresh produce and other vendors sell art, jewelry, housewares, clothes and accessories, food, and a variety of other goods.  Live music and food trucks parked nearby are additional treats.  Of course, you can’t miss the centerpiece of it all, Eastern Market itself.  Inside, food stalls offer all kinds of fresh fare, from meats and cheese to produce and baked goods to fish and flowers.  The Market Lunch is an institution, serving some of the best pancakes and crab cakes around (don’t let the name fool ya… the breakfast is legendary.)  But if the line is too long for little ones to wait, there are plenty of other places both in the market and the immediate area to grab a bite to eat.



The bridge from WV to MD

The bridge from WV to MD

Harpers Ferry
Just over an hour’s drive from DC, where the Potomac meets the Shenandoah River, this West Virginia locale is a great day trip destination and an easy escape from the Metro-area bustle.  Outdoor recreation, historic landmarks, and small-town strolling give visitors plenty to see and do.  Located along the famous Appalachian Trail, there are ample tramping options, many that lead to overlooks offering incredible views (these tend to be steep and strenuous so be prepared with little ones).  Civil War remnants provide a glimpse into the past.  The charming town with quaint shops and cobblestone streets is a fun area to roam and explore.  And if the kids are older and confident on the water, take them tubing on the river for a glorious way to enjoy a warm-weather day.



Wheee!

Wheee!

Cabin John Regional Park Adventure Playland
The beautiful natural setting and abundance of play  options put Cabin John among the top area playgrounds. A variety of primary-colored play structures are scattered throughout a sublime wooded section of the park. Tall trees surround the area, and their long shadows streak across sunlit surfaces. Kids can climb up, slide down, scramble over, swing from, even pretend to drive the apparatuses. And while there are many structures of all kinds of configurations for varying ages, there’s also a lot of open space in which to run around. As if that’s not enough, there is also a Miniature Train that offers rides through the woods ($1.75 for ages 3 and up, free for 2 and under with adult). For a complete review of this playground nirvana, see this post.



Catching a taxi ride

Catching a taxi ride

Potomac by Water Taxi
The Potomac Riverboat Company operates daily between the National Harbor and Old Town Alexandria. It’s about a 20-minute ride on the river, plenty of time to thrill young mariners. Catch the taxi from either point, cruise to the other side, then stay awhile to eat and explore.  Round-trip rides are $10/adults and $5/kids ages 5-11. A coupon for $2 off is available on the company’s website.



Stay Cool at an Outdoor Pool
Nothing says summer like swimming under the sun. Starting Memorial Day weekend, DC outdoor public pools are open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 – 6pm.  They open daily a few weeks later, 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 are open Memorial Day 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.



Heading for home plate

Heading for home plate

Nationals Park
When baseball season is in full swing, a day at the ballpark can be a great family activity. (I think so, anyway.  As mentioned in an early KFDC post, not all folks agree).  It’s an experience that extends beyond just the game  — there are the Racing Presidents during the fourth inning; the Family Fun Area outfitted with corporate-sponsored interactive games and activities;  the Jungle Gym, full of twisty climbs, tunnels, and slides; and plenty of JumboTron entertainment.  Go on Sundays for Kids Run the Bases—after the game children ages 4 and up are invited to loop the infield, high-fiving Nationals mascot Screech and the Racing Presidents along the way.


Spray play at The Yards

Spray play at The Yards

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. DPR Spray Parks open Memorial Day weekend on a Saturday-only basis, hours are 11am – 4pm. Starting June 21, they will open daily (check the 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.


King of the jungle in the city zoo

King of the jungle in the city zoo

National Zoo
Lions and tigers and bears…and elephants and pandas and gorillas…oh, yeah!  What kid doesn’t love to see the beasts they usually only read about in books or see on TV — all in one place?  Our zoo has it all, and it seems to get better all the time with new habitats for many animals and more exhibits for visitors (though updates also require construction, which also seems to be ongoing).  Ambitious zoo-goers can tour all of it in a day, but I find it easier to pick a few exhibits in one area and take our time. Cafes and food stands offer a small selection of food, or you can also pack lunch and picnic in the grassy area by the Kids’ Farm (or just find an empty bench). The new Elephant Trails exhibit is quite popular as is the Giant Panda Habitat and lion cubs. And there are always daily programs and special events, so be sure to check the calendar before you go to help plan your visit. Woodley Park on the Red Line is the closest Metro stop, or you can pay $15 to park in the Zoo lot (or hope to get lucky and find street parking along Connecticut Avenue or nearby side street).


There was an old woman...

There was an old woman…


Clark’s Elioak Farm
From a kid’s eye view, this farm must be magical. And from a parent’s perspective, it’s the kind of place that makes me wish I were a kid again. The grounds are straight out of a fairytale, charmingly adorned with recovered installations from an old storybook park. Kids can peek in the windows of the Three Bears’ house, zip down a slide of the Old Woman Who Lived in A Shoe, tumble down a hill with Jack & Jill, climb aboard Cinderella’s pumpkin, sit on Humpty Dumpty’s wall. If that’s not enough, there are also hayrides, cow train rides, pony rides, a playground area (not that the whole thing isn’t a giant playground), and farm animals – goats, ponies, sheep, and chickens—including a petting area that kids can actually enter to feed and pet baby goats. Check the calendar for hours and special events spring through fall when it’s open to visitors, including pumpkin patch fun in autumn. Clark Elioak’s Farm is located in Ellicott City, Maryland, about a 45-minute drive from DC. Admission is $5/person (free for children under 1), $2 each for pony rides, cow train rides, and hayrides.


Time trip at Claude Moore

Time trip at Claude Moore

Claude Moore Colonial Farm
This living history farm in McLean is straight out of the 18th-century. Everything at Claude Moore has been recreated to look just as it did in 1771, with a tobacco barn, farm house, garden, orchard, animals, even a family (portrayed by actors) who live and work on the farm and go about their daily life as visitors pass through. The farm isn’t huge — the whole walk is about 3/4 of a mile, and there is a dirt path that winds through it — but it’s a wonderful earning experience for all ages as well as a great way to spend a nice day outside.  Admission is $3/adult, $2/children 3 and up. The farm is closed during the winter, but will reopens in early April.


All ages and abilities can play at Clemyjontri

All ages and abilities can play at Clemyjontri

Clemyjontri Park
The park’s tag line, “Where every child can play…”, really says it all. Unique among DC area playgrounds, Clemyjontri was designed with children of all abilities in mind and accommodates those who use wheelchairs, braces, and walkers, or who have sensory or developmental disabilities.  Swings have high backs and added safety features, ramps and rubber surfacing allow wheelchairs to navigate the entire area, wider openings offer better access to play structures, and monkey bars are lowered for easier climbing.  And the beautiful American Classic Carousel is at ground level for wheelchair accessibility. Just looking at the sprawling expanse of brightly colored play structures with a fairytale-esque carousel at its center is an instant boost to any kid’s excitement meter.  Parents are often equally captivated by the park, and not just because they know their kids will have a blast there, but also because of the idea that just about any kid can enjoy it. Clemyjontri Park is located at 6317 Georgetown Pike in McLean.  Hours are 7am – Dusk, admission is free, and carousel rides are $1.50 when it’s in operation (check the calendar).


Giant lily pads at the Gardens

Giant lily pads at the Gardens

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
It’s hard to believe something like this exists right in the city. Yet there it is in northeast Washington, right on the other side of the Arboretum.  However, you have to go around to 295 to access the entrance. Numerous ponds are filled with giant lily pads, lotus flowers, water lilies, and a variety of interesting aquatic plants. Paths winding among them make for excellent nature walks, letting visitors get a close look at the flora and fauna that thrives there. Along with the vegetation, it’s quite possible to see any number of marshland residents — frogs, turtles, geese, great blue herons, and more. The best times to go is when the weather is warmer and the flowers are in bloom.  But a stroll through the gardens any time of year is a wonderful way to get a nature fix without even leaving the city. Hours are 8am – 4pm.  Find directions to the Gardens here.


The Children's Garden at River Farm

The Children’s Garden at River Farm

River Farm
The American Horticultural Society’s headquarters located right off the GW Parkway on the way to Mount Vernon are, in a word, lovely. Over looking the Potomac River, the grounds welcome visitors to explore, relax, and play.  That’s right, the Children’s Gardens on the north side of the house include all kinds of mini gardens designed to stimulate children’s interest in plants and nature. There’s a little fort that kids can crawl under or over; the Boat Garden with a real row boat to climb aboard; a Little House on the Prairie Garden with – yup! – a little house to play in; and many more charming areas for kids to enjoy.  And right next to it all are more gardens with beautiful flowers, plants, brick paths, and nice seating areas that would make great picnic spots. The large house on premises is also open to tour and contains the office, art to view, and bathrooms. Rocking chairs on the back porch practically beckon you to sit and enjoy the tranquil surroundings and beautiful riverside view. River Farm is located at 7931 East Boulevard Drive in Alexandria. It’s open from 9am – 5pm Monday through Friday all year, and 9am – 1pm on Saturday from April through September.


Peek-a-boo pig at Oxon Hill

Peek-a-boo pig at Oxon Hill

Oxon Hill Farm
This park in Prince George’s county, just minutes from the National Harbor, makes for a wonderful outing with the kids. Not only is it super fun for little ones, with animals to visit and lots of space to run around, it’s also scenic and serene, a nice escape from the city bustle.  And it never seems to be crowded, so parking isn’t a problem and seeing the sights is easy. Along with the animals, there are historical exhibits, including old farm equipment, a display about grain uses, and an area demonstrating the agriculture (tobacco and wheat) of the farm’s past. Be sure to stop in the Visitor Center, where there is a small play area for kids, and to find out about any special programs taking place when you’re there.  Oxon Hill Farm is open daily from 8am – 4:30pm. Admission is free.


Yum!

Yum!

Strawberry Fields
One of the activities I anticipate most every spring is strawberry picking. I love heading out to the farm and gathering produce with the kids. The slow pace and open space are a nice change from the hubbub and confines of the city.  It’s a fun, active way for little ones to see where their food comes from.  And then there’s the obvious: the enjoyment continues with a basketful of delicious hand-picked berries at home. Lucky for us, there are many farms within an easy drive from DC that offer pick-your-own opportunities.  And some of them host festivals to celebrate the fruit, to boot.  For a list of them, see this post about PYO places in the area.


Roses are red (and yellow and pink) outside at the USBG

Roses are red (and yellow and pink) outside at the USBG

U.S. Botanic Garden
A great destination no matter what the weather, but even better on a nice day when you can enjoy the wonderful outdoor areas too.  Little ones always love the Children’s Garden where they can flex their green thumbs with shovels, water cans, and  planters and ground space to dig in. There’s also a working water pump and fountains, a bamboo “forest,” and a little garden house (with a real green roof!) where kids can play. Outside of the building is the National Garden, which is terrific for all ages to tour and explore. The roses are gorgeous, there are little foot bridges spanning a small stream (where Sasha claims the Grumpy Old Troll lives), a mini amphitheater, and the First Ladies Water Garden, a lovely fountain where you can cool your feet, relax among the beautiful plants and flowers, and take in iconic DC views all at once.


Burke Lake Park
Whether you’re up for an outdoorsy experience or just seeking kiddie amusement in a nice setting, this is an ideal place to go. Encompassing nearly 900 acres, the park offers alfresco adventures to suit every age and interest.  You can hike, bike, fish, run, rent rowboats, spot wildlife, play sports. Back in the pre-kids day, we loved flinging discs through the Frisbee golf course, and there’s also an 18-hole golf course and driving range, volleyball courts, and playing fields for other games.  Especially for little ones are the mini train and carousel (open seasonally) , and playgrounds.  Choose your pursuit (or two) and make a day of it, or pick a few and overnight it — campgrounds are open to visitors late April through most of October. Admission to Burke Lake is $10/vehicle and some of the activities cost extra. For more info and specific costs, visit the website here.


Put a skip in your step at Dumbarton Oaks

Put a skip in your step at Dumbarton Oaks

Dumbarton Oaks Gardens
The grounds of this historic estate tucked away in a relatively non-bustling area of Georgetown are absolutely enchanting. It’s sprawling acres are graced with beautifully landscaped plats, artfully designed terraces, and glorious stretches of green grass. Stone and brick passageways meander in every direction to many different areas, each one seeming more lovely than the last. Some of them you arrive at directly, the path leading to the next obvious place. Others you feel like you encounter by chance, as if you’ve discovered a secret oasis within the larger, wonderful retreat. You can easily spend a good few hours strolling the grounds and relaxing in the many seating areas. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 2-6pm. Admission is $8/adults, $5/children ages 3 and up, free for 2 and under. There are a lot of stairs and bumpy stone paths, so if you’re bringing a little one, I recommend a wearable carrier over a stroller. (Note: From mid-November to mid-March, admission to the gardens is FREE!)


Hurray for the sprays!

Hurray for the sprays!

Georgetown Waterfront Park
This recently opened park is like a Joni Mitchell song in reverse: They unpaved a parking lot and put up paradise. A 10-acre sliver of local paradise, anyway. Where there once was a big fenced-in blacktop area where you could overpay to leave your car for a few hours, is now a wonderful stretch of recreational space right along the Potomac River. And with elements that make it great for play and relaxation, plus a location that’s both scenic and convenient, it’s quickly becoming one of the city’s best go-to spots to hang outdoors. Along with a wonderful in-ground fountain that visitors can play in, there’s lots of open green space for relaxing, paths to stroll, artistic elements, and, of course, the gorgeous setting along the Potomac River. Open from dawn to dusk, and free to the public.


Ready to walk among the trees

Ready to walk among the trees

The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring
The locale’s five acres of Maryland woods are like a natural amusement park, outfitted with 10 ropes courses that have a total of 180 obstacles — all amid the trees.  Guests navigate from tree to tree via “bridges” made from ropes, wooden boards and slats, nets, and wires (connected by carabiners to wires, of course).  You might walk up a thick tree branch, duck through large metal hoops, and whiz gleefully down zip lines to get to the next platform. It’s all self-guided, and they give first-timers a lesson on handling the ropes before starting. In a nutshell: It’s So. Much. Fun. The park is open weekends through November 25 from 9am – dusk, and during September and October on Thursdays from 3pm – dusk and Fridays from 1pm – dusk. In the spring, it’s open weekends and some weekdays 9am – 7pm. During summer, open daily 9am – 8pm. Participants must be at least 5 years old, and there is a package for ages 5-6: accompanied by an adult (and it must be a one-to-one ratio), they have access to their two easiest ropes courses for 90 minutes for $34 total for kid and adult. Admission for a 3-hour adventure is $48/ages 12 and up, $43/ages 10-11, $38/ages 7-9.


Meadowlark's Korean Bell Garden

Meadowlark’s Korean Bell Garden

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
This park in Vienna is, in two words, absolutely glorious. Large open expanses of soft grass are traversed by paved paths with plant and flowers collections on view all around. A couple of ponds are great places to see some wildlife — turtles, fish, ducks, and geese can be easily spotted in and around the water. A new Korean Bell Garden is a pretty and peaceful area with Korean inspired structures and art. A woodsy area contains a small creek and bridges to cross it. There is also a little Butterfly Garden, whimsical botanic-themed sculptures, and some live animals to view in the Visitors Center.  Meadowlark open 10am – 8pm in August, but it closes an hour earlier every month until November (then stays open later again beginning in March). Admission is $5/adults, $2.50 for ages 7-17 and 55 and up, free for kids 6 and under.


Trail guide in training

Trail guide in training

Turkey Run Park
A great option for hiking with kids. Located right off the GW Parkway near 495, Turkey Run contains nearly 700 acres of woods, trails that ramble along the Potomac, streams that flow down from the woods to the river, great views from the shoreline, and a variety of wildlife. Hikes are fairly easy, and you can opt for trails anywhere from about one to four miles long. There are clusters of big rocks on the riverbanks where it’s nice to stop and take in the views — or have a picnic if you’re so inclined. Fallen trees are fun to scramble over or walk upon, and a few small footbridges let you cross over streams. Birds and squirrels are easy to spy, and keep your eyes peeled for deer. A few picnic areas with tables are perfect for lunch al fresco, and open spaces are great areas to toss a Frisbee or kick a ball around. Access the park via the GW Parkway, right before the Beltway. Hours are 6am -10pm, and there is no admission fee.


Row, row, row...

Row, row, row…

Fletcher’s Boathouse
While the grounds at Fletcher’s are a nice place to hang out, it’s actually more of a starting point for even more fun: Paddling on the Potomac. Canoes, kayaks, and row boats are available for rent for an hour or the whole day for some fun on the river. The Boathouse is open from 7am – 7pm daily mid-March through October. Canoe rentals are $14/hour or $28/day. Kayaks are $11/hour or $33/day for a single and $20/hour or $45/day for a double. Rowboats are $14/hour or $25/day. And if you’re not up for water time, Fletcher’s is still a nice place to enjoy a picnic and Potomac views — an open grassy area includes grills, tables, and space to toss a Frisbee.


Soaking up the fun

Soaking up the fun

Canal Park
The relatively new park in the Navy Yard offers both active and relaxing recreation year-round. During the warm seasons, there are two interactive fountains for the public to enjoy: A 135-foot long, 20-foot wide fountain with a gentle, shallow cascade flowing down its scrim surface is a perfect place for really little ones to play. Then there’s the fountain with jets embedded into the concrete over about a 40-foot diameter area that splash water several feet in the air. And the space is not wasted with the changing seasons. Where there’s the big spray fountain during the warm months, is the ice skating rink in late fall and winter, a unique at that with meandering paths on either end. There are green, grassy areas where children are welcome to play, and big, twisting metal sculptures adorning them. And Il Parco, the restaurant next to the fountain/ice rink, has tasty food and outdoor seating when weather permits (adults can relax with a beverage and watch the kids play at the same time). Good Guys and Subway are also right across the street, and food trucks park nearby during lunchtime if you want to grab something fast and inexpensive.


Play the day away in Wheaton

Play the day away in Wheaton

Wheaton Regional Park Playground
A variety of primary-colored equipment sprawls over a fairly large area over two levels that you can access by ramped paths or climbable walls. Kids of all ages can slide through several tunnels, climb netted apparatuses, play on swings, and more. There’s an area especially for babies and toddlers, facilities to accommodate children with special needs, and a climbable mound keeps children of all ages entertained for awhile (who knew?). And the park setting with tall, leafy trees and grassy spaces dotted with picnic tables needs to be noted, too. It’s a pretty place to spend a few hours while the kids romp. And bathrooms are nearby the playground for added convenience. Open sunrise to sunset, free admission.


Paddling the Anacostia

Paddling the Anacostia

Ballpark Boathouse
Yards Park is continually adding new awesome features, and Ballpark Boathouse is among them. Single and double kayaks and canoes are available for rent for some recreation on the Anacostia River. This paddling excursion is more about the views from the water than the nature around it, since the area is very developed. You can get fresh perspectives of Nationals Park, Yards Park, and the Navy Yard, places most of us usually just see on land. One of the coolest sites is the USS Barry, the display ship moored at the Navy Yard, that you can paddle up close to (2015 Update: The ship is no longer berthed there). Rental rates are $20 per hour and pro-rated in 10-minute increments beyond that. You pay upon return, so there’s no limit to how much time you spend on the water. Really small kids need to be in a boat with parents, but older children can paddle on their own. After a jaunt on the water, hang out at the park, where you can picnic, play, and watch the boats go by.


The Potomac at the end of the trail

The Potomac at the end of the trail

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve
Another fantastic alternative when Great Falls is crowded (or even when it’s not) Scott’s Run offers a nice local dose of nature in a short drive from the city. Trails that meander through lush woods lead to lovely hang out spots and great views of the Potomac. The spot may not boast the spectacular vistas that its larger, better known neighbor does, but it’s peaceful and pretty and makes for a nice hiking experience with kids. Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is located in McLean just off Georgetown Pike. It’s open from just before sunrise to just after sunset. Admission is free.


gsgp_childrensGreen Spring Gardens
You’re driving along a main road in Northern Virginia past shopping centers and town house communities, then you make a turn into a parking lot behind a strip mall, and voila!, there’s this gorgeous park with a large green space surrounded by gardens full of plants, flowers, art, whimsical structures, play spots for children, gazebos, and fountains. A fun way to explore it all with the kids is on a scavenger hunt — stop in the Horticultural Center to pick up instructions. Cute tasks for children include finding a plant as tall as them, greeting a tree, and telling the time based on a sun dial. Of course, wandering the grounds aimlessly or even finding a pretty spot to just sit and relax is a perfect way to enjoy Green Springs, too. Find it at 4603 Green Spring Road in Alexandria. Hours are 9am – 4:30pm Monday – Saturday, and 12-4:30pm on Sunday. Admission is free.


monastery_gardensThe Franciscan Monastery in Brookland
The “Oasis of Peace” in northeast DC was one of several “secret” spots on a round-up of places that many people (myself included until I read the list) don’t even know exist here. The locale includes the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the centerpiece of the Monastery, beautifully manicured grounds immediately surrounding it, and a gorgeous, peaceful garden area adjacent to that. Christian sculptures and shrines adorn the site and are interesting to explore, regardless of religious views. Of course, you can just go for a stroll and enjoy the gardens — the flowers are spectacular in the spring. It’s all open for visitors to enjoy for free, but be sure to check times as they vary by day.


glassforest_omirrorsThe Glass Forest
This hidden gem really is just that — if I hadn’t known to look for it, I never would have known it was there. Another DC “secret,” the collection of sculptures made from natural and scrap materials, is located in a small patch of woods next to the Palisades Playground. There are tree branches artistically stacked and bound together. Pieces of broken mirrors and glass on strands hang from trees looking like an oversized wind chime. Metal and plastic pipes, parts of bike frames, thick pieces of bamboo, and other odds and ends like small pans dangle from strings, some creating actual chimes that you can play. There’s a colorful, glittering mosaic piece and a wood and glass design that resembles a large sun catcher. And something about it being tucked away unobtrusively among the trees adds to the enchantment of it all.


Play with extra zip!

Play with extra zip!

Beauvoir Playground
Easily one of the best playgrounds in the District. The National Cathedral Elementary School’s outdoor area clearly reflects the school’s philosophy on the importance of outdoor play in children’s development. There are structures and spaces for all ages to enjoy. Kids can climb interesting treehouses then walk among them along wobbly wooden bridges and take a twisty underground slide from one level of the playground to a lower one. There are more cool climbing structures, swings, a kid-size basketball court, a small soccer pitch, and…wait for it…a zipline! And it’s not just Beauvoir students who benefit. The public is welcome to enjoy it all when school or camp is not in session — after school, weekends, and days off. View the school calendar for details.


Searching for shark teeth

Searching for shark teeth

Flag Ponds Nature Park
This day trip destination in Calvert County about an hour out of DC is nirvana for beach-going budding paleontologists. You can enjoy the sand and surf and hunt for shark teeth and other fossils that are said to be millions of years old! With a wide expanse of sand, sea grass blowing along the dunes, and pond-like inlets formed by sand washing in, it’s a lovely relaxing setting. And the calm, shallow water makes it a nice swim spot for children. Perhaps the only negative is the half-mile hike from the parking lot to the beach, then another short trek through the sand to the water. But bring along a wagon, good stroller, and rolling cooler for stacking your beach gear, and you’ll be all set.


Whimsy abounds at Annmarie

Whimsy abounds at Annmarie

Annmarie Sculpture Garden
Plan to spend many, many hours at this enchanting park and arts center in Solomons, MD. Annmarie is full of art and whimsy that is both wonderful to view and glorious to experience. From eye-popping exhibits indoors to sculptures (and summer fairy houses) scattered about the grounds outside, the works appeal to all ages. Special hands-on activities, including an artLAB full of crafty possibilities invite guests to create. And the Fairy Lolly, perhaps the most charming playground you’ll ever encounter, is a fantastic delight in itself. If there’s any place worth an hour-plus drive to visit, Annmarie is it.


Combing the sand for fossils

Combing the sand for fossils

Purse State Park
Just over an hour’s drive away from DC along a part of the river called Wades Bay, where woods meet water, you’ll find this pretty and peaceful beach area. A narrow strip of sand stretches along the shoreline, tree branches from the woods overhanging in a few spots. But the best parts of this locale are hidden among the piles of shells and small rocks at the water’s edge; that’s where you’ll easily find fossils from sharks, fish, shells, even crocodiles, many of them over 30 million and some up to 60 million years old. Be sure to go at low tide, as the already narrow strip of sand thins out even more at high tide (check the tide table here). Bring along a container to store your finds, because you’re guaranteed to go home with a good-sized stash.


Anacostia Parrrrk's pirate playground

Anacostia Parrrrk’s pirate playground

Anacostia Park –
Stretching along the river for which it’s named in southeast DC, Anacostia Park offers recreation galore for visitors. You can bike, run, or walk on a riverside trails. Big grassy fields host all kinds of rec league sports and are also great for pick-up games, kicking a ball, or just running around. Kids love the three playgrounds, especially one with a pirate theme. There are also tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool, and a skating pavilion for even more active fun. The Anacostia Community Boathouse is located on the west shore of the river, and includes a marina with a public boat launch and canoe rentals during the summer (free Paddle Nights are also offered through the Anacostia Watershed Society). You can bring along food on your visit — there are lots of tables and lovely spots to picnic. Is that enough activity for you? And it’s all going to get even better when Anacostia Crossing, the 11th Street Bridge Park coming to southeast DC, is developed over the next several years.

These boots were made for walkin'

These boots were made for walkin’

Woodend Nature Sanctuary
The 40-acre property in Chevy Chase, MD, is home to the Audubon Naturalist Society, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conservation and education. The grounds are open to the public and free to roam daily. It’s perfect for hiking excursions with little ones, with easy trails that wind through the woods and through open, meadow-y spaces. Wildlife sightings are plentiful — deer, frogs, chipmunks, small fish, and, of course, lots of birds reside in the woods. There is a look-out to climb for better viewing and a small pond where you’ll find some creatures, too. A few exhibits like a bird feeding area, bees nests, and a composting station are worth checking out. And when tired little legs need a break, there are plenty of benches and nice, peaceful seating areas around. The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free.

Paddling options complement the on-land activities

Paddling options complement the on-land activities

Quiet Waters Park
This beautiful locale in Annapolis boasts 340-acres of recreational bliss. There are hiking and biking trails that wind through the woods and paved paths that stretch along large grassy fields and other areas of the park. There’s plenty of room for picnics and pick-up games, a garden adorned with sculptures, a Visitor Center with art galleries, scenic views of the water, and perhaps best of all, paddling opportunities on the South River. A hike could take you by old farm farm equipment and a composting demo, and there’s a chance of spotting deer, small animals, and some cool birds (we saw a woodpecker merely a few feet away). Bring along a picnic lunch — there are plenty of beautiful spots to eat al fresco. Or plan to go for crabs after, as one often does when in Annapolis. Quiet Waters Park is open 7am – dusk every day but Tuesday, when the park is closed. Admission is $6/car.


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