Tag Archives: Watkins Regional Park

Over the Rainbow and Beyond at Watkins Regional Park

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Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, Md, was one of my early parent discoveries. And by parent discovery, I mean it took having a child to realize the place existed, even though I had lived in the area for years. We first start visiting when Owen began toddling around, not long after his first birthday, and it’s been a constant in our rotation of go-to outings since.

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So, the park is far from new to KFDC (as you probably knew if you’ve been reading the blog awhile…I recommend it quite often), but with a new, recently opened Wizard of Oz themed playground, it seems like a perfect time to spotlight one of our favorites.

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When I first heard about the playground, which was replacing an older one, I thought it could either be terribly cheesy or super cute. Luckily, it turned out to be the latter, full of vibrantly colored apparatuses that embrace the story of Dorothy and friends: Children can slide down ruby red slippers, swing over the rainbow, play in and on a farm house, romp down the yellow brick road, and so much more.

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That’s not all there is to do at Watkins — far from it, in fact. Just across the road from the playground are a the Chesapeake Carousel, Miniature Train, and Mini golf that open from mid-spring through summer. And just beyond that is Old Maryland Farm, where you can visit chickens, peacocks, turkeys, bunnies, llamas, cows, horses, and ducks.

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A bit further up the road, but still within walking distance is the Watkins Nature Center, one of the best in the area, in my opinion. Inside, rescued birds and reptilian creatures are on view in caged areas and terrariums, along with a small turtle pond. There are also sweet activity areas for puppet shows and bird watching. Outside, you can visit larger rescued birds like owls and hawks and stop by the frog pond and try to spot them hiding among the lily pads. A small amphitheater, where storytime sessions and other programs sometimes take place, is a fun place for performances when it’s not in use. And short trails nearby that loop through the surrounding woods make for nice easy hikes with the kids.

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Even more, the park is fantastic for birthday parties! Owen and Sasha had a joint bash at the Nature Center, and it was easily one of the best parties they’ve had. We’ve attended many others there and at Old Maryland Farm (which includes a hayride), and they’ve never disappointed. The Carousel area also offers parties during the season, though we’ve never been to one.

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The carousel, train, and golf, which all require a small fee, are only open during the week until early September and weekends through the end of month beyond that. The rest, though, is open year-round, and even better, it’s all free to explore and enjoy. And I highly recommend you do so.

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Watkins Regional Park is located at 301 Watkins Park Drive in Upper Marlboro, Md. Park hours are dawn to dusk, and admission is free, but some venues within the park have their own hours and fees:
Old Maryland Farm is open Tuesday – Friday 9am – 4pm, Saturday 9am – 4:30pm, Sunday 11:30am – 4:30pm
Watkins Nature Center is open Monday – Saturday 8:30am – 5pm, Sunday 11am – 4pm
– The Carousel, Train, and Golf are open seasonally – see the website for details. (And the Train, is unfortunately closed as this post goes live due to mechanical problems.)


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Filed under All ages, Animals, Birthday Parties, Educational, Exhibit, Farm, Free, Indoor Play, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Weekdays, Weekend

The 2014 KFDC Guide to Summer in DC

Summer in the city: Water play at Canal Park

Summer in the city: Water play at Canal Park



If you follow KidFriendly DC on Facebook, you may have seen this gem that I posted recently. To say I can relate is an understatement. Couple that with the fact that Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and you can probably guess where my mind is these days: Summer.

The season may not officially begin for a few more weeks, but now is when I start embracing the best of it. Luckily, there are loads of quintessential summer activities around DC that follow the same early timeline as me. Music and movies in the open air, special fests and feasts, water-inspired recreation, and bonus attractions at everyday places are just some of the ways we can enjoy summer in the area. This guide has details on all of them, most of it just updated from last year, plus a few choice additions. So, unpack the swimsuits and flip flops, start marking the stretch through Labor Day on the calendar, and get ready to have some FUN!

Outdoor Pool Season
Nothing says summer like swimming under the sun, and there are plenty of public pools in the area where you can jump in for free or a small admission fee.

  • DC outdoor public pools will open on Saturday, May 24, from 12 – 6pm and will be open weekends only until June 22 (though they will be open Memorial Day, Monday, May 26). 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 outdoor swimming outside of the city, Montgomery County outdoor public pools will be open on weekends May 24 – June 13, then weekdays, too, through Labor Day — the Department of Recreation website has locations and hours.
  • In Northern Virginia, Arlington’s Upton Hill has a whole water park 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 there are a few in other areas, too.

  • Georgetown Waterfront Park, right next to the Washington Harbour, has a fountain with arcing sprays that makes for a fun, refreshing way to cool off on a hot, summer day. The rest of its pretty green space along the Potomac is a great place to hang out, too.
  • The Yards Park is a favorite for many in the city with both super fun sprays and a wading pool, plus a great scenic location on the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard
  • A relative newcomer to DC’s recreational scene, Canal Park in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood has both a gentle, shallow fountain that is perfect for really little ones to enjoy, plus a bigger fountain with lots of sprays for more enthusiastic play where the ice rink is in the winter.
  • Starting May 24, DPR Spray Parks will be open for the season, but hours vary by location, so be sure to check their website for hours).
  • Some of the area’s most popular spray parks — Lyon Village Park, Hayes Park, and Drew Park — can be found in Arlington.
  • The interactive fountain in Downtown Silver Spring plaza is open daily from 10am – 9pm. While my kids have never played there, I recall seeing very happy youngsters playing in the sprays on the colorful mosaic design during my lunch breaks when I worked at Discovery. It always looked like a blast.
  • The fountain in the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza located at 14th and Park Road, NW is a great place to cool down on a hot day, with many sprays that surge up from a pretty, circular tiled surface. Do a little shopping while you’re there — Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and many other big retail stores are right there — and plan to grab a bite at one of many kid-friendly eateries around. And don’t miss a chance to stop in the Museum of Unnatural History at 826DC.

Water Parks
Giant water slides, wave pools, waterfalls, sprays and splash pads…this is the stuff kids’ summer dreams are made of. There are actually several water parks around the area offering many of these attractions, just about all of them opening Memorial Day weekend for limited hours, until they open daily in a few weeks. Here’s a quick list — visit the websites for more details.

Summer Concert Series
Free music in the fresh air has become a staple of the season, and there are opportunities to enjoy just about every genre regularly at outdoor venues all around the DC-Metro.

  • Already underway, the Yards Park Friday Concert Series presents a new band each week on the boardwalk stage overlooking the Anacostia River. Along with the free music, food and beverages are available for purchase (or you can BYO – adult beverages okay, too). I recommend getting there a little early, so the kids can play in the fountains before the concert starts. And on a hot summer day, it’s nice to continue the water fun even while the tunes are playing — you can still hear them from across the park!
  • Experience live music amid art at Jazz in the Garden, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s free concert series, every Friday from 5:30–8:30pm. The first performance of the season is this Friday, May 23, rain or shine. Spread out a blanket, pack a picnic dinner or purchase food and drink there, and enjoy the sounds of a variety of jazz artists. Note: Adult drinks are available from the pavilion; BYO alcohol is not permitted.
  • The U.S. Air Force Band 2014 Summer Concert Series kicks off Tuesday, June 3 at 8pm, on the U.S. Capitol West Steps. After that, you can catch free performances all summer long at locales around the DC-Metro area, including other iconic spots along with the Capitol steps, like the Air Force Memorial and the Air & Space Museum. Show times vary so be sure to check the U.S. Air Force Band website for the complete summer schedule.
  • All summer long, families can enjoy a variety of free fun at Rockville Town Square. Kids Night is every Tuesday from June 11 – August 20 with live entertainment for the younger set at 6:30pm and 7:30pm. And concerts for all ages on Friday evenings began May 2 and will run through September 26 — enjoy live music, good food, and beverages from 6:30-9:30pm.
  • Starting July 17, you can Rock the Row at Pentagon Row’s summer concert series every Thursday evening from 7-9pm through August 21. Join the fun behind Champps in the closed-off access street running between Pentagon Row and Pentagon City Mall.
  • Carter Barron Amphitheater’s annual concert series takes place amid the woods of Rock Creek Park. While most shows are free, a few require admission. The 2014 lineup has not yet been announced, but check the website for an update soon!

Festivals
Several stand-out events are anticipated around the area this time of year, celebrating everything from music to art & culture to neighborhoods to food.

  • Get folksy at Glen Echo Park May 31 – June 1, when the annual Washington Folk Festival showcases the diversity of traditional music in Washington. All of the artists hail from the DC area, but cultures from around the nation, as well as the world, will be represented through music, dance, crafts, and stories. The public is invited to enjoy the festival that is renown in the folk community.
  • It sounds like a grown-ups-only event, but the Vintage Virginia Wine & Food Festival offers plenty of family fun, too. Taking place May 31 – June 1 at Bull Run Park, festivities include wine tasting (of course), chef demos, food truck fare, live music, and a whole Family Tent with activities especially for kids.
  • Imagination Bethesda, an annual festival occurring in the heart of its namesake city, is all about children. On June 7 from 10am – 3pm, Auburn & Norfolk Avenues downtown will be lined with activity tents offering tons of fun for kids — arts & crafts, face painting, games, etc. There will also be live entertainment, food from local restaurants, and more. Admission is free.
  • Attend one of the biggest summer barbeques around on June 21-22 as the National Capital Barbeque Battle returns to pit some of the nation’s best barbequers against each other as they compete for big prizes. The reward for attendees: Samples from all the entrants (plus, more food), live music, cooking demos, kids’ fun, and more.
  • The DC Jazz Festival presents a variety of performers at venues all around the city from June 24-29. Keep up to date on details by visiting the website.
  • Every summer, the National Mall becomes stomping grounds of folks from around the globe to celebrate living cultural heritage and community traditions at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This year’s event will run from June 25–29 and July 2–6 celebrating Chinese creativity and heritage and the cultural and national heritage of Kenya.
  • The annual Del Ray Music Festival, always a popular event, is on June 28. Celebrating the community in Alexandria with a day of music and fun, the festival features food, games, and lots of kids’ activities along with a varied line-up of live entertainment.
  • It might run into fall, but it starts in August, so I’m counting the Maryland Renaissance Festival among the summer fun. Plus, it’s one of my very, very favorite annual events (more confirmation on that here). The merriment begins August 23 and will continue every weekend through October 19. Go. Just go.

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. Even better, all of them are FREE! (*Before you make plans to enjoy any of the series, be sure to check schedules, as some movies may not be appropriate for children.)

  • The NoMa Summer Screen, which includes a few family-friendly movies, begins May 28 and will run weekly on Wednesdays until August 20 on L Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue NE. Food and music start at 7pm, and the movie at dark. This year they are also hosting special Family Film Nights, which features flicks for all ages on four Tuesdays during the summer — see the list of them on the website.
  • The Capitol Riverfront will start presenting Canal Park Thursday Movies: It’s a Whole New Ballgame on June 5 and the series will run every Thursday evening at sundown through September 11. With a sports theme theme, the lineup includes plenty of movies that kids (probably elementary age) will enjoy
  • The National Harbor hosts Movies on the Potomac, with family films every Sunday night beginning May 25. Movies begin at sunset, usually around 8:30pm.
  • Movies on the Square will take place at Rockville Town Square Thursdays at 8:30pm June 12 – August 21, and several kids flicks are included among them.
  • The longest running, Screen on the Green, takes place on the National Mall on Mondays in July and August. See the lineup of films here.

Movies at Theaters Near You
Special summer movie series for families at local theaters are a great way to keep kids entertained and stay cool when the weather heats up. Even better, these programs invite guests to view films on the cheap.

  • The Regal Summer Movie Express presents flicks for kids on many Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 10am starting June 10. Admission is just $1. Be sure to check the website for the film schedule and theater locations, as it doesn’t run at all theaters every week.
  • Starting July 8, THEARC Theater will present Showtime Movie Tuesdays, free children’s movies every Tuesday from 10am – 12pm through August 13. Doors open at 9:30am, and the program includes a fun pre-show activity, snack, and movie screening — all on them.
  • Catch a movie at the museum at the National Gallery of Art’s Summer Famly Films series. There will be screenings of three films highlighting different artists this summer.
  • The Atlas Performing Arts Center presents a Summer Film Series every year, including A Family Series that takes place on Fridays at 5pm. The schedule has yet to be released, so stay tuned for an update

Mini Trains, Carousels, Mini Golf, & a Ferris Wheel!
These extra delights bring even more fun to several parks around the area that are already great outdoor places to hang with the kids.

  • Watkins Regional Park opened its attractions 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 May 26 (Memorial Day), July 4 (July Fourth Holiday; closes at 4pm) & September 1 (Labor Day).
  • Cabin John Regional Park opened its Miniature Train on weekends only back in April, but as of Memorial Day it’ll be operating daily 10am – 7pm through August. After that, hours will be limited, so check the schedule.
  • The Miniature Train and Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel at Wheaton Regional Park started taking guests for spins in early May and will continue daily through August 24 (limited times after that). Hours are 10am – 6pm Monday to Friday, and 10am – 7pm Saturday & Sunday.
  • The Clemyjontri carousel has been running on weekends since April, but will be offering rides daily starting May 26 on weekdays 9:30am – 1:00pm and weekends 9:30am – 6:30pm.
  • The Carousel at RIO Washingtonian in Gaithersburg will celebrate its Grand Opening on May 31 at 11am. Be among the first to take a spin or catch a ride another time. The Americana-themed classic carousel will feature 30 Allan Herschell-style dancing horses, whimsical creatures, and two chariots, allowing for up to 38 adult and 30 children passengers, with wheelchair access and chariot wheelchair positions. Rides are $3.
  • Kind of like a London Eye of the U.S., The Capital Wheel at National Harbor is set to open on Friday, May 23. The 42-gondola (all closed and climate-controlled with room for 8) will soar 180 feet above the Potomac River waterfront, offering vistas of the White House and Capitol, the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, and more amazing sites. Ticket prices start at $11.25.

Special Children’s Theatre Series
All the world’s an outdoor stage at these venues that present entertainment especially for children throughout the summer.

  • From late June through early August, Wolf Trap presents Children’s Theater-in-the-Woods, over 70 family-friendly performances at 10am 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, though I think kids even younger can enjoy them, too (mine have). Read a KFDC review of the series from a couple of summers ago. And tickets are on sale now, so go ahead and reserve yours!
  • Backyard Theater for Children, Strathmore’s summer theater series brings music and mystery of exotic locales from around the world to kids – all outdoors under a big tent. Weekly performances take place every Thursday at 9:30am and 11:30 from June 26 – July 31. Admission is $8, free for ages 2 and under. Check the calendar for the line-up of performances.

Summer Sports
Some of the season’s best action takes place in ballparks, stadiums, and arenas thanks to our local sports teams. Here’s where you can join the fan clubs.

  • A day at Nationals Park is all it takes to understand why baseball is America’s favorite pastime. Catching a Washington Nationals game is one of our family’s preferred ways to enjoy a nice summer (or spring) day (or evening), anyway. The excitement extends well beyond the diamond with games and activities in the park, a playground for kids, the Racing Presidents, fun in the stands, and more. And I highly recommend the Jr. Nationals Kids Club for children 12 and under. Just $20 gets them membership, which includes Nats swag, plus a coupon book with offers for free meals, BOGO tickets, a ballpark tour, and all kinds of discounts. Even a few months into the season, it’s still worth it!
  • Tennis, anyone? The Washington Kastles, the DC franchise of World TeamTennis, will bring some on-court thrills to The Wharf on the Southwest Waterfront, where Kastles Stadium is located, July 7-23. For some background, see this post and this one from a few years back.
  • Whether you’ve got a little soccer fan in your fam or not, DC United matches are fun experiences for all ages. And since games only last 90 minutes, it’s not too long for antsy young spectators. Be sure to check for any pre- or post-game activities for kids.
  • Can’t stand the heat? Head to the Verizon Center to see the Washington Mystics (w)hoop it up on the basketball court. Tickets start at $19.
  • Swing up to Charm City to see the Baltimore Orioles play. Camden Yards is a beautiful ballpark, and you can head to the Inner Harbor before or after to make a day of it up north.
  • If the Nats or O’s aren’t in town, or you want to see baseball on a smaller scale, you’ve got several great options around the area. Take ’em out to the minors at a Bowie Baysox, Potomac Nationals, or Aberdeen Ironbirds game. Summer collegiate team Bethesda Big Train is also very popular for non-majors baseball action.

Crab Feasts
Easily one of the best activities during summer in Maryland and neighboring areas (this is where I get non-DC-centric because I have to give credit where it’s due). Here are some suggestions for places to get ’em, though the “best” is always a subject for debate.

Museum Programs

  • The Corcoran Gallery of Art presents Free Summer Saturdays May 24 – August 31. Tours, workshops, demonstrations, and performances are all usually part of the museum’s programming, though this year’s schedule is not yet available. Be sure to check the website for an update on details soon.
  • The National Gallery of Art’s Summer Drop-In Series starts begins July 12 with art sessions for kids that are both educational and fun. Stories in Art, geared toward ages 4-7, is a fantastic program that introduces kids to art and encourages them to use their imaginations as they discover different works, this season they’ll be exploring Italy as they “meet” Italian artists and investigate their paintings and sculptures. Read a KFDC review of the program. Artful Conversations, designed for ages 8-11, uses observation and discussion to explore works of art in the museum’s collection.
  • Every year, the Newseum offers the Summer Fun Deal. From July 1 – September 1, there will be no admission fee for kids ages 18 and under. The promotion waives the $12.95 regular entrance charge for youth with one paid adult admission, senior admission, or Newseum membership (a benefit to ages 7 and up, as kids 6 and under are always free). Up to six kids can enter free with the offer. Read a KFDC take on the Newseum.
  • Find your way to — and through — the National Building Museum! For the first time ever this summer, the Museum, in partnership with BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, is creating a never-before-seen large-scale maze in its historic home. Soaring 18 feet high and measuring 61 feet by 61 feet, the birch plywood structure will boast a series of twists and turns for visitors to weave through and explore. The “BIG Maze” will be open July 4 to September 1.

Pick-Your-Own Berries
While the picking season starts in the spring with strawberries, it carries on through summer with even more delicious fruits — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, plus more produce you can gather yourself. The strawberry season usually lasts until about mid-June, and this post has a list of farms with pick-your-own patches and details. For other berry picking opportunities later on, this post from previous years will tell you where to go.

Have I left out anything really good? If you think so, feel free to let me know in the comments.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, Class, DC, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Sports, Summer, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

The 2013 KFDC Guide to Summer in DC

The fountain at Georgetown Waterfront Park, a summer favorite

A summer favorite: The fountain at Georgetown Waterfront Park



It’s that time of year when I declare the start of summer before the season officially begins. But as I’ve discussed several times now (see here, here, and here), this coming weekend — Memorial Day weekend — is when summer begins in my book (or blog, that is). This is when I start shifting gears, from close-toed shoes to sandals, jeans to shorts, martinis to margaritas (okay, not true…I’ll take that martini, thank you…it just sounded good). It’s when evening strolls prevail over early bedtimes, a dip in the pool counts as a bath, and the folks at the neighborhood gelato shop know the kids by name.

This weekend is also when we kick off many quintessential summer activities around DC. Music and movies in the open air, special fests and feasts, water-inspired recreation, and bonus attractions at everyday places are just some of the ways we can embrace summer in the area. This guide has details on all of them, much of it just updated from last year, plus a few choice additions. So, get out the sunblock and flip flops, start marking the Memorial Day to Labor Day stretch on the calendar, and prepare to have some FUN!

Outdoor Pool Season
Nothing says summer like swimming under the sun, and there are plenty of public pools in the area where you can jump in for free or a small admission fee.

  • DC outdoor public pools will open on Saturday, May 25, from 12 – 6pm and will be open weekends only until June 24 (though they will be open Memorial Day, Monday, May 27). 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 outdoor swimming outside of the city, Montgomery County outdoor public pools will be open on weekends May 25 – June 9, then weekdays, too, through Labor Day — the Department of Recreation website has locations and hours.
  • In Northern Virginia, Arlington’s Upton Hill has a whole water park 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 there are a few in other areas, too.

  • Georgetown Waterfront Park, right next to the Washington Harbour, has a fountain with arcing sprays that makes for a fun, refreshing way to cool off on a hot, summer day. The rest of its pretty green space along the Potomac is a great place to hang out, too.
  • A newcomer to DC’s recreational scene, Canal Park in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood has both a gentle, shallow fountain that is perfect for really little ones to enjoy, plus a bigger fountain with sprays for more enthusiastic play where the ice rink is in the winter.
  • Starting May 25, DPR Spray Parks will be open for the season, but hours vary by location, so be sure to check their website for hours).
  • Some of the area’s most popular spray parks — Lyon Village Park, Hayes Park, and Drew Park — can be found in Arlington.
  • The interactive fountain in Downtown Silver Spring plaza is open daily from 10am – 9pm. While my kids have never played there, I recall seeing very happy youngsters playing in the sprays on the colorful mosaic design during my lunch breaks when I worked at Discovery. It always looked like a blast.
  • The Yards Park has both super fun sprays and a wading pool, plus a great location on the Anacostia River, but the water features are closed while the park is undergoing construction. Check back soon for an update.
  • The fountain in the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza located at 14th and Park Road, NW is a great place to cool down on a hot day, with many sprays that surge up from a pretty, circular tiled surface. Do a little shopping while you’re there — Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and many other big retail stores are right there — and plan to grab a bite at one of many kid-friendly eateries around. And don’t miss a chance to stop in the Museum of Unnatural History at 826DC.

Water Parks
Giant water slides, wave pools, waterfalls, sprays and splash pads…this is the stuff kids’ summer dreams are made of. There are actually several water parks around the area offering many of these attractions, just about all of them opening Memorial Day weekend for limited hours, until they open daily in a few weeks. Here’s a quick list — visit the websites for more details.

Summer Concert Series
Free music in the fresh air has become a staple of the season, and there are opportunities to enjoy just about every genre regularly at outdoor venues all around the DC-Metro.

  • Already underway, the Yards Park Friday Concert Series presents a new band each week on the boardwalk stage overlooking the Anacostia River. Along with the free music, food and beverages are available for purchase (or you can BYO – adult beverages okay, too). When the fountains are on, I recommend getting there a little early, so the kids can play before the concert starts. And on a hot summer day, it’s nice to continue the water fun even while the tunes are playing — you can still hear them from across the park!
  • Experience live music amid art at Jazz in the Garden, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s free concert series, every Friday from 5:30–8:30pm. The first performance, featuring Ruthie and the Wranglers, is this Friday, May 24, rain or shine. Spread out a blanket, pack a picnic dinner or purchase food and drink there, and enjoy the sounds of a variety of jazz artists. Note: Adult drinks are available from the pavilion; BYO alcohol is not permitted.
  • The U.S. Air Force Band 2013 Summer Concert Series kicks off Friday, May 24, at 7pm, in Waldorf, Md. After that, you can catch free performances all summer long at locales around the DC-Metro area, including some iconic spots, like the west steps of the U.S. Capitol, the World War II Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, and the Air & Space Museum. Show times vary so be sure to check the U.S. Air Force Band website for the complete summer schedule.
  • All summer long, families can enjoy a variety of free fun at Rockville Town Square. Kids Night is every Tuesday from June 11 – August 20 with live entertainment for the younger set at 6:30pm and 7:30pm. And concerts for all ages on Friday evenings began May 3 and will run through September 27 — enjoy live music, good food, and beverages from 6:30-9:30pm.
  • Starting June 6, you can Rock at the Row at Pentagon Row’s summer concert series every Thursday evening from 7-9pm. Join the fun behind Champps in the closed-off access street running between Pentagon Row and Pentagon City Mall.
  • Carter Barron Amphitheater’s annual concert series takes place amid the woods of Rock Creek Park. While most shows are free, a few require admission. The 2013 lineup has not yet been announced, but check the website for an update soon!
  • Strathmore’s annual Free Summer Outdoor Concerts presents a lineup of genre-crashing, feel-good bands that’ll be playing the lawn for the public every Wednesday at 7pm from June 26 through August 14.

Festivals
Several stand-out events are anticipated around the area this time of year, celebrating everything from music to art & culture to neighborhoods to food.

  • It sounds like a grown-ups-only event, but the Vintage Virginia Wine & Food Festival offers plenty of family fun, too. Taking place June 1-2 at Bull Run Park, festivities include wine tasting (of course), chef demos, food truck fare, live music, and a whole Family Tent with activities especially for kids.
  • The DC Jazz Festival presents a variety of performers at venues all around the city from June 5-16, but the most family-friendly of them actually precede the main event. Jazz n’ Family Fun Days will take place June 1-2 with free shows for all ages at The Phillips Collection.
  • Imagination Bethesda, an annual festival occurring in the heart of its namesake city, is all about children. On June 1 from 11am – 4pm, Auburn & Norfolk Avenues downtown will be lined with activity tents offering tons of fun for kids — arts & crafts, face painting, games, etc. There will also be live entertainment, food from local restaurants, and more. Admission is free.
  • Attend one of the biggest summer barbeques around on June 22-23 as the National Capital Barbeque Battle returns to pit some of the nation’s best barbequers against each other as they compete for big prizes. The reward for attendees: Samples from all the entrants (plus, more food), live music, cooking demos, kids’ fun, and more.
  • The annual Del Ray Music Festival, always a popular event, is on June 22. Celebrating the community in Alexandria with a day of music and fun, the festival features food, games, and lots of kids’ activities along with a varied line-up of live entertainment.
  • Every summer, the National Mall becomes stomping grounds of folks from around the globe to celebrate living cultural heritage and community traditions at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This year’s event will run from June 26–30 and July 3–July 7 celebrating Hungarian Heritage, Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage, and African American Diversity, Style, and Identity.
  • It might run into fall, but it starts in August, so I’m counting the Maryland Renaissance Festival among the summer fun. Plus, it’s one of my very, very favorite annual events. The merriment begins August 23 and will continue every weekend through October 20. Go. Just go.

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. Even better, all of them are FREE! (*Before you make plans to enjoy any of the series, be sure to check schedules, as some movies may not be appropriate for children.)

  • The NoMa Summer Screen, which includes a few family-friendly movies, begins May 22 and will run weekly on Wednesdays until August 14 on L Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue NE. Food and music start at 7pm, and the movie at dark. This year they are also hosting a special Family Film Night, which features flicks for all ages on four Tuesdays during the summer — see the list of them on the website.
  • The Capitol Riverfront will start presenting Front Flicks on May 30 and the series will run every Thursday evening at sundown through August 8. With a DC vs. Marvel Comics theme, the lineup includes plenty of movies that kids (probably elementary age) will enjoy
  • The National Harbor hosts Movies on the Potomac, with family films every Sunday night beginning May 26. Movies begin at sunset, usually around 8:30pm.
  • Movies on the Square will take place at Rockville Town Square Wednesdays at 8:30pm June 12 – August 21, and several kids flicks are included among them.
  • The longest running, Screen on the Green, takes place on the National Mall on Mondays from July 22 – and August 12, and the lineup of films this year includes several that kids will dig too, including E.T., Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Tootsie.

Movies at Theaters Near You
Special summer movie series for families at local theaters are a great way to keep kids entertained and stay cool when the weather heats up. Even better, these programs invite guests to view films on the cheap.

  • The Regal Summer Movie Express presents flicks for kids on many Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 10am starting June 11. Admission is just $1. Be sure to check the website for the film schedule and theater locations, as it doesn’t run at all theaters every week.
  • Starting July 9, THEARC Theater will present Showtime Movie Tuesdays, free children’s movies every Tuesday from 10am – 12pm through August 13. Doors open at 9:30am, and the program includes a fun pre-show activity, snack, and movie screening — all on them.
  • Catch a movie at the museum at the National Gallery of Art’s Summer Famly Films series. In July, there will be three screenings of Movin’ & Groovin’ on July 6, 7, and 10. In August moviegoers can enjoy the beloved classic Mary Poppins on August 10 & 11.
  • The Atlas Performing Arts Center presents a Summer Film Series every year, including A Family Series that takes place on Fridays at 5pm. The schedule has yet to be released, so stay tuned for an update

Mini Trains, Carousels, & Mini Golf
These extra delights bring even more fun to several parks around the area that are already great outdoor places to hang with the kids.

  • Watkins Regional Park opened its attractions 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 May 27 (Memorial Day), July 4 (July Fourth Holiday; closes at 4pm) & September 4 (Labor Day).
  • Cabin John Regional Park opened its Miniature Train on weekends only back in April, but as of Memorial Day it’ll be operating daily 10am – 7pm through August. After that, hours will be limited, so check the schedule.
  • The Miniature Train and Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel at Wheaton Regional Park started taking guests for spins on May 1 and will continue daily through August 26 (limited times after that). Hours are 10am – 6pm Monday to Friday, and 10am – 7pm Saturday & Sunday.
  • The Clemyjontri carousel has been running on weekends since April, but will be offering rides daily starting May 27 on weekdays 9:30am – 1:00pm and weekends 9:30am – 6:30pm.

Special Children’s Theatre Series
All the world’s an outdoor stage at these venues that present entertainment especially for children throughout the summer.

  • From late June through early August, Wolf Trap presents Children’s Theater-in-the-Woods, over 70 family-friendly performances at 10am 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, though I think kids even younger can enjoy them, too (mine have). Read a KFDC review of the series from a couple of summers ago. And tickets are on sale now, so go ahead and reserve yours!
  • Backyard Theater for Children, Strathmore’s summer theater series brings music and mystery of exotic locales from around the world to kids – all outdoors under a big tent. Weekly performances take place every Thursday at 9:30am and 11:30 from July 11 – August 1. Admission is $8, free for ages 2 and under. Check the calendar for the line-up of performances.

Crab Feasts
Easily one of the best activities during summer in Maryland and neighboring areas (this is where I get non-DC-centric because I have to give credit where it’s due). Here are some suggestions for places to get ’em, though the “best” is always a subject for debate.

Museum Programs

  • The Corcoran Gallery of Art presents Free Summer Saturdays May 25 – August 31. Tours, workshops, demonstrations, and performances are all part of the museum’s programming. Be sure to check the website before you go to see what’s on the schedule — some sessions may be more appealing to kids than others, though Sidewalk Chalk Drawing will also take place every Saturday 10am -2pm.
  • The National Gallery of Art’s Summer Drop-In Series starts begins July 19 with art sessions for kids that are both educational and fun. Stories in Art, geared toward ages 4-7, is a fantastic program that introduces kids to art and encourages them to use their imaginations as they discover different works. Read a KFDC review of the program. Artful Conversations, designed for ages 8-11, uses observation and discussion to explore works of art in the museum’s collection.
  • Every year, the Newseum offers the Summer Fun Deal. From July 1 – September 1, there will be no admission fee for kids ages 18 and under. The promotion waives the $12.95 regular entrance charge for youth with one paid adult admission, senior admission, or Newseum membership (a benefit to ages 7 and up, as kids 6 and under are always free). Up to six kids can enter free with the offer. Read a KFDC take on the Newseum.
  • Tee up at the National Building Museum as they bring back a unique, interactive exhibit that explores the design of our built world: Mini Golf! With holes designed and built by leading architects, landscape architects, and contractors in the DC area, the attraction has been expanded to two nine-hole course options this year. Visitors to the Museum will be able to play the one-of-a-kind courses, designed for ages 4 and up, in air-conditioned comfort starting May 27. Cost is $5 per round per person. With purchase of full-price Museum exhibition admission ticket, the price per round is reduced to $3. Museum members play for $3. Open during Museum hours 10am – 5pm Monday – Saturday, and 11am – 5pm on Sunday. (Last entry at 4pm weekdays and 3pm weekends and holidays.)

Pick-Your-Own Berries
While the picking season starts in the spring with strawberries, it carries on through summer with even more delicious fruits — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, plus more produce you can gather yourself. The strawberry season usually lasts until about mid-June, and this post has a list of farms with pick-your-own patches and details. For other berry picking opportunities later on, this post from previous years will tell you where to go.

Have I left out anything really good? If you think so, feel free to let me know in the comments.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Eats, Educational, Festival, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Summer, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Summer in the City… and Surrounds

Fountain fun at the Yards Park, one of our favorite summer pursuits

 

It’s almost Memorial Day weekend, and if you were reading last year (or even two years ago) at this time, you know what that means to me.

Summer.

Forget the calendar or that school isn’t out yet. In my mind, we’re entering a new season. It’s time for water-inspired recreation, special eats, barefoot play, bonus attractions at everyday places, evening entertainment that might keep the kids up late on weekdays.  And we can experience all of it through some of the area’s quintessential summer activities, a few of which have already begun, many that are starting this weekend, and some that commence later on.

So, much of this list is reiterated from last year, but updated to reflect 2012 info. And this guide from the Washington Post  inspired some additions — all activities I’ve written about before, but just haven’t included in my “summer” post.

From swimming and spray grounds to al fresco music and films, pick-your-own berries to picking blue crabs, children’s theatre series to museum programs for kids, here are some of the best ways to experience summer in the city and its surrounds.

Outdoor Pool Season
Nothing says summer like swimming under the sun, and there are plenty of public pools in the area where you can jump in for free or a small admission fee.

  • DC outdoor public pools will open on Saturday, May 26, from 12 – 6pm and will be open weekends only until June 18.  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 outdoor swimming outside of the city, Montgomery County outdoor public pools will be open on weekends May 26 – June 10, then weekdays, too, through Labor Day — the Dept. of Recreation website has locations and hours.
  • In Northern Virginia, Arlington’s Upton Hill has a whole water park 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 there are a few in other areas, too.

  • Starting May 26, DPR Spray Parks will be open Saturdays from 11am – 4pm. On June 18, 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.
  • The fountains at Georgetown Waterfront Park are now open and welcoming guests to splash around.
  • Some of the area’s most popular spray parks—Lyon Village Park, Hayes Park, and Drew Park–can be found in Arlington.

Water Parks
Giant water slides, wave pools, waterfalls, sprays and splash pads…this is the stuff kids’ summer dreams are made of. There are actually several water parks around the area offering many of these attractions, just about all of them opening Memorial Day weekend for limited hours, until they open daily in a few weeks. Here’s a quick list — visit the websites for more details.

Summer Concert Series
Free music in the fresh air has become a staple of the season, and there are opportunities to enjoy just about every genre regularly at outdoor venues all around the area.

  • Experience live music amid art at Jazz in the Garden, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s free concert series, every Friday from 5:30–8:30pm. The first performance is this Friday, May 25, rain or shine. Spread out a blanket, pack a picnic dinner, and enjoy the sounds of a variety of jazz artists.
  • Already underway, the Yards Park Friday Concert Series presents a new band each week on the boardwalk stage overlooking the Anacostia River.  Along with the free music, food and beverages are available for purchase. I always recommend getting there a little early, so the kids can play in the fountains before the concert starts. And on a hot summer day, it’s nice to continue the water fun even while the tunes are playing — you can still hear them from across the park!
  • The U.S. Air Force Band 2012 Summer Concert Series kicks off Friday, June 1 at 8pm, at the Air Force Memorial.  After that, you can catch free performances all summer long at locales around the DC-Metro area, including soem iconic spots, like the west steps of the U.S. Capitol, the World War II Memorial, the Air Force Memorial,and the Air & Space Museum. Show times vary so be sure to check the U.S. Air Force Band website for the complete summer schedule.
  • The park known by most families for its puppet shows, children’s plays, and carousel will present the Glen Echo Summer Concert Series in its Bumper Car Pavilion on most Thursday evenings June 14 – August 23.  All performances are free and begin at 7:30pm, rain or shine. And that carousel will be open for rides from 7 – 9pm.
  • Carter Barron Amphitheater’s annual concert series takes place amid the woods of Rock Creek Park. While most shows are free, a few require admission. See the schedule (to be released on May 24) for details.
  • All summer long, families can enjoy a variety of free fun at Rockville Town Square. Kids Night is every Tuesday with concerts for the younger set at 6:30pm and 7:30pm. And concerts for all ages on Friday evenings begin May 4 and runs through September 28 — enjoy live music, good food and beverages from 6:30-9:30pm.
  • Starting June 5, Washing Harbour will present free performances by children’s musicians every Tuesday from 10:30am – 12pm in their Habour Kids series.

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. Even better, all of them are FREE! (*Before you make plans to enjoy any of the series, be sure to check schedules, as some movies may not be appropriate for children.)

  • The longest running, Screen on the Green, takes place on the National Mall on Mondays in July and August, though exact dates for 2012 have yet to be announced.
  • The NoMa Summer Screen, which includes a few family-friendly movies, begins May 23 and will run weekly on Wednesdays until August 8 on L Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue NE. Food and music start at 7pm, and the movie at dark.
  • The Capitol Riverfront will start Front Flicks on May 24 and run every Thursday evening at 8:45pm through July 26.
  • The National Harbor hosts  Movies on the Potomac, with a mix of films every Friday night starting May 25, and family movies every Sunday night beginning May 27.
  • Movies on the Square will take place at Rockville Town Square Thursdays at 8:45pm June 13 – August 22, and a bunch of kids flicks are included in the weekly line-up.

Movies at Theaters Near You
Special summer movie series for families at local theaters are a great way to keep kids entertained and stay cool when the weather heats up. Even better, these programs invite guests to view films on the cheap.

  • The Regal Summer Movie Express presents flicks for kids every Tuesday & Wednesday at 10am starting June 19. Admission is just $1. See the website to for the film schedule.
  • The Atlas Performing Arts Center presents a Summer Film Series every year, including A Family Series that usually takes place on Fridays at 5pm.  The schedule has yet to be released, so stay tuned for an update

Mini Trains, Carousels, & Mini Golf 
These extra delights bring even more fun to several parks around the area that are already great outdoor places to hang with the kids.

  • Watkins Regional Park opened its attractions 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 May 28 (Memorial Day), July 4 (July Fourth Holiday; closes at 4pm) & September 5 (Labor Day).
  • Cabin John Regional Park opened its Miniature Train on weekends only back in April, but as of June 1 it’ll be operating daily 10am – 7pm through August 26.  After that, hours will be limited, so check the schedule.
  • The Miniature Train and Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel at Wheaton Regional Park started taking guests for spins on May 1 and will continue daily through August 26 (limited times after that). Hours are 10am – 6pm Monday to Friday, and 10am – 7pm Saturday & Sunday.
  • The Clemyjontri carousel has been running on weekends since March, but will be offering rides daily starting May 28 on weekdays 9:30am – 1:00pm,  and weekends 9:30am – 6:30pm.

Special Children’s Theatre Series
All the world’s an outdoor stage at these venues that present entertainment especially for children throughout the summer.

  • From late June through early August, Wolf Trap presents Children’s Theater-in-the-Woods, over 70 family-friendly performances at 10am 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. And you can read a KFDC review of the series from last summer.
  • Backyard Theater for Children, Strathmore’s summer theater series brings music and mystery of exotic locales from around the world to kids – all outdoors under a big tent. Weekly performances take place every Thursday at 9:30am and 11:30 from July 12 – August 2. Admission is $8, free for ages 2 and under. Check the calendar for the line-up of performances.

Crab Feasts
Easily one of the best activities during summer in Maryland and neighboring areas (this is where I get non-DC-centric because I have to give credit where it’s due). Here are some suggestions for places to get ’em, though the “best” is always a subject for debate.

Pick-Your-Own Berries
While the picking season starts in the spring with strawberries, it carries on through summer with even more delicious fruits — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, plus more produce you can gather yourself. The strawberry season usually lasts until about mid-June, and this post has a list of farms with pick-your-own patches. For other berry picking opportunities later on, this post from last summer will tell you where to go (I’ll be posting an updated version as the season gets closer).

Museum Programs

  • The National Gallery of Art’s summer drop-in series starts begins July 15 with art sessions for kids that are both educational and fun. Stories in Art, geared toward ages 4-7, is a fantastic program that introduces kids to art and encourages them to use their imaginations as they discover different works. Artful Conversations, designed for ages 8-11, uses observation and discussion to explore works of art in the museum’s collection.
  • The Newseum, along with sponsor WTOP, is offering the Summer Fun Deal! From July 1 – September 3, there will be no admission fee for kids ages 18 and under.  The promotion waives the $12.95 regular entrance charge for youth with one paid adult admission, senior admission, or Newseum membership. Up to six kids can enter free with the offer.
  • Tee up at the National Building Museum with a unique, interactive exhibit that explores the design of our built world: a miniature golf course! With holes designed and built by some of the leading architects, landscape architects, and contractors in the Washington area, the course will be located inside one of the Museum’s galleries. Visitors to the Museum will be able to play this one-of-a-kind course, designed for ages 4 and up, in air-conditioned comfort from July 4 – September 3. Cost is $5 per round per person. With purchase of full-price Museum exhibition admission ticket, the price per round is reduced to $3. Museum members play for $3. Open during Museum hours 10 am – 5 pm Monday – Saturday, and 11 am – 5 pm on Sunday.

 

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Where to Play on the Weekdays: January 9-13

Observing the animals at Old Maryland Farm

 

Monday – Start the week with some magic and laughs as The Great Zucchini performs his weekly show at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Va. The fun begins at 10:30am, and tickets can be purchased at the door ($5/person).  Read more about his popular act and see the line-up of weekday children’s entertainment at the venue here.

Tuesday – Bounce on over to the Prince George’s Sport and Learning Complex in Landover, Md., for open play in the Gymnastics Center. Kids can spring on trampolines, climb rope ladders, walk balance beams, roll around on soft mats, and jump, swing, and slide into a big foam pit. The hour-long session begins at 11:30am. Admission is $6/child.

Wednesday – Visit the furry and feathery residents of Watkins Regional Park at Old Maryland Farm in Upper Marlboro, Md. Horses, llamas, rabbits, geese, peacocks, and cows are some of the animals you can see.  In the case of foul weather, head to the Watkins Nature Center instead to see a variety of creatures and critters. Admission to both is free.

Thursday – Discover American Indian culture through a variety of hands-on pursuits at imagiNATIONS, the family activity center at the National Museum of the American Indian located on the National Mall just across the street from the Air & Space Museum. Weave a big basket, build an igloo,  play in a teepee and models of native dwellings, and much more. See this post for more details about the space.

Friday – It’s opening day for Peter & the Wolf at The Puppet Co. in Glen Echo Park. Be among the first audiences to see the classic tale on stage; shows will take place at 10am and 11:30am.  Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online or at the Box Office.

 

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Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Farm, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Outdoor, Park, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Winter