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Pontoon Boating on the Patuxent

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I’m not one to require an over-the-top observance of Mother’s Day, but I do like to celebrate it with a nice mix of family time and “me” time. Usually, we do a fun Bloody Mary brunch, then I head out for a little pampering with one of my momma cohorts. This year, however, we decided to go a little bigger and planned a pontoon boat excursion on the Patuxent River with friends (and a movie later on for the “me time” part). And with the gorgeous spring day we had that second Sunday of May, it turned out to be an ideal way spend the special day.

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We reserved the boat in advance from Solomons Boat Rental at Solomons Island, a peaceful fishing village just over an hour’s drive from DC where the Patuxent meets the Chesapeake Bay. The eight-person, 24-foot pontoon was perfect for our crew (there were actually 9 of us, but with small kids the fit was fine). You can rent it for one, two, four, or eight hours. We originally opted for two, but ended up tacking on extra when we realized that wouldn’t be enough to enjoy the beautiful day.

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We packed a couple of coolers for a picnic lunch aboard the boat (Bloody Mary fixings included to keep the tradition going :). The kids were required to wear life preservers the entire time, and there were some for adults on board as well.

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The folks at Solomons Boat Rental provided a map, and we headed toward the nearby Thomas Johnson Bridge and out on the river. We cruised along for awhile, enjoying the cool breeze and water spraying up on the boat. The scenery, consisting of both natural areas and pretty riverside houses, was lovely. As we got to more narrow waterways, we dropped anchor for some swimming, eating, and relaxing. Being on the water elicits such a great carefree feeling.

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After a good couple of hours on the river, we headed back to the boat house. It’s located right next to a small strip of sand, so the kids played on the beach and swam for a bit before taking a short walk to get ice cream cones.

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We headed home after that, though you can make a longer day of it and have a meal on Solomons Island. Several restaurants are right on the water, many serving crabs and shellfish, waterside kind of food. You can see a list of them here. And for more information about renting pontoon boats (or motor boats) from Solomons Boat Rental, visit their website.


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Filed under All ages, DC, Maryland, Outdoor, Seasonal, Spring, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

Year-Round Recreation at Canal Park

Racing through the Canal Park fountain

Racing through the Canal Park fountain



A few summers ago, when we were visiting friends in Portland, Oregon, I remember marveling at all of the interactive public fountains in the city. Right downtown, amid the buildings and retail shops and busy streets were places that welcomed folks to play in surging sprays, ebbing and flowing pools, and cascades of water. And many of them boasted architectural elements that were just as impressive as the water features were fun.

A much younger Owen waits for water to fill up in Portland's Jamison Square fountain

A much younger Owen waits for water to fill up in Portland’s Jamison Square fountain

At the time, we didn’t have anything like that here in DC. Sure there were a few spray parks in the suburbs, but nothing in the District that was integrated into the urban environment around it, providing a recreational oasis in the middle of the bustling city. I had major fountain envy.

That eventually dissipated with the opening of Yards Park in 2010 and Georgetown Waterfront Park last year. Both have their own awesome interactive fountains that have become popular spots for water play in DC.

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And now we can add another fantastic one to the list: Canal Park, which is open for its first summer. The recreational space in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood (just a block or so away from Yards Park, actually) has two 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. We’d waded in the tame one before, but the kids finally enjoyed a little more exciting play this past weekend and had an absolute blast racing through the sprays.

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The best part about Canal Park, however, is that the options for recreation don’t stop with the water features. The park’s developers thought the design through well, because 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. The fountain water jets are within the rink’s meandering paths.

You can see the water jets in the concrete beyond the rink

You can see the water jets in the concrete beyond the rink

There are also green, grassy spaces where children are invited to play and big, twisting metal sculptures adorning them. And the Il Parco restaurant on premises next to the fountain/ice rink has a nice menu, plus indoor and outdoor seating. (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.)

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The Park Tavern sports a green roof that reminds me of the High Line in NYC (and the book The Curious Garden)

The Park Tavern sports a green roof that reminds me of the High Line in NYC (and the book The Curious Garden)

Even more, Canal Park hosts regular free programs and events in the summer, including the Kids in Canal entertainment on Wednesdays at 10:30am, Thursday Night Movie Series, the Capitol Riverfront Farmers Market on Sundays from 10am – 2pm, and even Up Top Acres Rooftop Yoga on Mondays from 6-7pm . *Some of this information had been updated since the orginal post.

And if all that’s not enough, you can just sit, chill out, and watch the urban bustle around you.

Canal Park is located at 202 M Street SE. It’s easily accessible via Metro; the Navy Yard station on the Orange/Blue line is just a couple of blocks away. There is also street parking nearby, but keep in mind that spots fill up quickly on game days at Nats Park. Admission to the park and fountains is free; ice skating is $8/adults, $7/children, $3/rentals.

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Filed under All ages, DC, Free, Live Entertainment, Movies, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Play, Seasonal, Weekdays, Weekend

The Newseum Via the NOW Pass

The Newseum's state-of-the-art space



I finally made it to the Newseum.  And I have NOW Pass DC to thank for it. The museum dedicated to all things news and journalism has been high on my list of must-sees for years, but it was one of those places that, until very recently, I just hadn’t yet gotten to.

So, when the folks from NOW Pass DC approached me about partnering with them, I jumped at the opportunity.  The company offers great values for some of our city’s best attractions with the NOW Pass, a single card that grants access to the Newseum, the International Spy Museum, and a double decker bus tour of the city for much less than it would cost to do all of those things individually as well as discounts at restaurants, shops, and other DC businesses. And while it’s targeted to people visiting the city, it’s also a great deal for locals interested in those attractions, too, especially since you have a year to use it (though you can only use the pass once at each venue).

Viewing the Berlin Wall

When I learned about all of this I knew my first NOW Pass foray would be to the Newseum. We made it a family venture, as I wanted to see see how kid-friendly it would be. I’ll be frank: There are some exhibits that are way over kids’ heads (especially a 2.5 and 5-year-old’s), but there are several that they will enjoy and may, in fact, prompt a great learning experience with some preparation and discussion from parents. For kids I recommend these exhibits: Pictures of the Year; the Berlin Wall Gallery; First Dogs; the 4-D Theater (for older kids); Sports Theater; The Funny Pages; The President’s Photographer; Internet, TV, & Radio Gallery; Be a TV Reporter; and a ride on the hydraulic elevator to the top level where you can go out on the Pennsylvania Avenue Terrace for great views of the city.

Front page news

For adults, I recommend it all. In a nutshell, it is an incredible museum.  I actually spent two days there, one with the whole family and one on my own, so I could take my time viewing the exhibits that I couldn’t see with the kids. A Newseum ticket grants you two consecutive days to the museum, so it worked out well, though I plan to go back because I want to spend even more time taking it all in.

I’m off to a great start with my NOW Pass.  Next up, an open-top bus tour of the city!

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