Category Archives: Free

Take Your T(w)eens — or Enjoy a KidFree Visit — to Glenstone

 

You have to be on the ball to score tickets to Glenstone, the modern art museum sprawling gloriously over 300 acres in Potomac, MD.  Even pre-Covid, passes were hard to get.  They are released on the first of every month for timed-entry admission for the following two months.  So, tickets that are released tomorrow, April 1, will be for  visits in May and June.   This takes some patience and planning, but I promise it’s worth it.

Glenstone is more than just a museum; it’s a whole experience. One that transports you to what feels like a destination far, far away from the city.  Both indoor galleries (that should start to reopen April 8) and expansive grounds showcase a remarkable collection and traveling exhibits that are interesting, evocative, and beautiful.  Design and architectural features are practically works of art themselves, and you will likely find yourself studying lines of the buildings and the pool of aquatic plants in the courtyard as much as the paintings and sculptures.

 

Exploring all of it on foot in the galleries and along paved paths spanning through open grassy areas, trails winding through woods, and boardwalks that zigzag over thick brush (or straw during cold months) add some recreation to the outing.  It’s like an art-filled hike or an active art adventure.  There’s also a cafe to make it a lunch date or to enjoy a snack in a very scenic setting.

Pick up a paper map on your way in or scan a QR code for one.  You definitely want to know where you’re going as some of the outdoor installations are a bit hidden, and you don’t want to miss them.  Inside, the galleries are numbered, so make sure you count them all off, too.  There’s at least one that is easy to miss, and we had to search a bit to find it (though that also added some extra fun).

With its 12-and-older age policy for visitors, Glenstone is automatically a spot for the T(w)een Scene.  And while this may be a bummer to parents with younger kids,  I get why they do it.  It’s not just that the art might be considered sophisticated for little ones.  (In the “eye of the beholder” vein, I think all art could be enjoyed and  appreciated on some level by every age.)  Part of the Glenstone experience is the peaceful, “contemplative environment,” as they call it.  I could see it being tough to keep kiddos from wanting to bolt through wide open spaces outside and use inside voices in the echoing galleries.  I’ve been a few times sans kids, with friends, and on my own — a different season each visit — and I highly recommend it for a grown-up outing, whether a day date, a visit with friends, or solo.

That said, both of my kids are finally old enough to go, and I’m looking forward to bringing them.  I had tickets for all us to visit when they had a day off from school recently, but a crazy downpour that day thwarted those plans.  Thus, I’ll be online tomorrow trying to score those elusive tickets again.

 

Glenstone is located at 12100 Glen Road in Potomac, MD.  It’s currently open Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm.  You must have a ticket to visit.  As mentioned, free tickets are released the first day every month at 10am for the following two months. Photography is not permitted indoors, hence all the outdoor images here.

 

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Filed under Art, Exhibit, Free, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend

Scenes from the Start of Spring at the National Arboretum

 

This spring had to be the most anticipated one ever.  I mean, we always look forward to emerging from the cold and darkness of winter, to color returning to the landscape as trees begin to flower, to longer days, to renewal.  But this year it’s about so much more.

With this spring comes hope and optimism in a way that we couldn’t have fathomed in previous years. After a year of fear, uncertainty, disruption, and heartbreak that Covid heaved upon us, we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s still a ways to go, but that glimmer is getting brighter all the time.

This first day of spring did not disappoint.  The sun was shining, the weather pleasant, and it was a Saturday, so we could be out and about to enjoy it all.  We did that at one of our very favorite places in DC:  The National Arboretum.  We hadn’t been in awhile, because we thought there was a no dogs rule — we like being able to bring Teddy on our outings, especially if we’re hiking around outdoors — but we just learned that our pup can go to the Arb as long as he’s leashed.

So, that’s where we headed to ring in the new season.  If you’ve been reading KFDC awhile, you probably know how much I love the Arboretum — it tops the round-up of best outdoor spots.  (You can see more about it here, here, here, and here.) It’s a wonderful place to go any time of year, but this visit was especially auspicious as some of the cherry trees were blooming…on the first day of spring!

There is a self-guided cherry blossom tour to follow through the US National Arboretum app, or you can do what we did and see them as you wander around randomly and just refer to the app for the few that are blooming right now.

 

Be sure to explore the rest of the Arboretum to see even more bloom beginnings — rhododendrons, dogwoods, daffodils — and the many collections of plants and trees.  The Capitol Columns in the Ellipse Meadow are quite striking and have to be one of the most photographed spots in DC.

 

Get out and celebrate spring and all the hope that comes with it this year. The U.S. National Arboretum is located in Northeast DC, off of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue, the entrance at 24th & R Streets (from Bladensburg). Hours are 8am – 5pm. Admission is free.

PS: We are happy to report that Teddy loves the Arboretum just as much as we do.  And now that we know he can go, he’ll be a regular visitor, too!

 

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Spring, Weekdays, Weekend

Outdoor Recreation in NoVa at Fountainhead Regional Park

 

Even though I have a backlog of posts waiting to be written about places we’ve visited over the past many months, I’m skipping over them to cover a spot we just went to over the weekend:  Fountainhead Regional Park.  It actually should have been on the blog (or at least that long list), as we’d already been there several times, the first over 10 years ago.  But as it’s fresh in my mind and a great locale for enjoying the spring weather, here we are now.

Located in Fairfax Station, VA, about 35 minutes from DC, Fountainhead is a 2,000-acre sprawl of trails and the Occoquan Reservoir, all of it practically screaming active recreation.  It’s known as one of the better mountain biking spots in the DC area — and that’s what brought us there yesterday.  Levi, Owen, and some friends were eager to do some trail riding after a hiatus this winter.  (Even though we’d had nice weather before this past weekend, they were waiting until the trails were dry enough, so as not to damage them.)

I enjoy mountain biking, too, but prefer it a little more mellow than what they were planning to ride at Fountainhead.  There are lots of steep climbs, fast descents, rocky areas, and jumps within the 15 miles of biking routes in the Fountainhead woods (you can read more about it here).  The riding crew had a blast tackling several miles of it over a good couple of hours. However, Sasha and I decided to stay on our feet.

 

So, while the boys were two-wheeling it, a few of us parents, a couple of younger siblings, and our pups enjoyed a hike. The Bull Run Occoquan Trail winds through the park and actually continues through Bull Run Marina, Hemlock Overlook Park, and Bull Run Regional Park. We hiked out and back, a little over an hour each way, along the well-maintained trail.  There’s a lot of up and downhill, but it’s not too strenuous, and the path is mostly flat, with just a few rocky and rooty areas.  The surrounding scenery full of tall trees is lovely, most of it leafless this time of year, but come later spring and summer, the landscape turns into an oasis of green as the foliage returns.

 

 

A small 19th-century family cemetery is near the start of the trail, and there are several short footbridges to cross and small creeks on the way.  From some parts of the hike, glimpses of the Occoquan Reservoir can be caught through the trees from above, or you can walk down to the banks for closer views. And while we only saw small birds and squirrels on this visit, wildlife sightings could include deer, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, turkeys, snakes, and a few more small creatures.

 

Hiking and biking aren’t the only ways to enjoy Fountainhead.  Boat rentals are available from early March through mid-November, and you can paddle the reservoir by kayak, canoe, or standup paddleboard.  Or you can cruise the water in a jon boat. Fishing is permitted, too.  (See rates for all of them here.) If you’ve got your own watercraft, you can use the boat launch (for a fee).  We haven’t taken to the waters yet, but a paddling excursion is the plan the next time we go.

 

Fountainhead Regional Park is located at 10875 Hampton Road in Fairfax Station, VA.  It’s open daily sunrise to sunset.  Admission is free.  For mountain biking, be sure to check the park’s Facebook page for trail status.

Some good things to know:

* There are parking lots about a half-mile beyond the entrance to the park and near the boat rental area.

* Hiking and biking trails start right from the main parking area.

* Portable restrooms are located in the parking lot, and modern ones at the boat launch area.

* A concession stand is located in the boat launch area as well, operating when the rentals are open.

* Picnic tables are available in the park (one right next to the main parking lot) and pavilions can be reserved.

* Fountainhead is a great place to contemplate Objectivism. 😉

 

 

 

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Filed under All ages, Free, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Social Distancing, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Celebrate Black History, Online and Around DC Through February — and Beyond

 

February is Black History Month, and if you’re looking for ways to celebrate it with kids, you have plenty of options, both virtually and in person around the DC area.  Museum programs, guided and self-guided tours, visits to significant sites, story time sessions, online concerts, and more will be enlightening and entertaining for all ages. And while some of these are happening on specific dates this month, many of them are ongoing for year-round enjoyment and education.  For even more good reads and related content, check out the Black Lives Matter page.

African American History and Culture
Where: NMAAHC | Online
When: Through February
Admission: Free

The National Museum of African American History & Culture may just be the best place to learn about Black history and culture in America. And while the actual place is closed right now, there still are lots of digital resources available through the website that let you explore it all, including online exhibits, programming for children and adults, and a whole section on talking about race.

The Underground Railroad Experience Trail
Where: Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park | Sandy Spring, MD
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Take a hike that provides insight into the experience of enslaved peoples’ escape to freedom. This walk through woods and along edges of fields (with a map and explanation of the hike) is interesting and enlightening as well as an active, socially distanced way to spend time outdoors.

Visit BLM Plaza
Where: 16th Street NW | Downtown DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

The two blocks along 16th Street NW, between K Street and Lafayette Park just across from the White House, was emboldened with the giant yellow BLACK LIVES MATTER statement this past summer as the BLM movement began to swell after the murder of George Floyd. The now pedestrian area became a meeting place and focal point of protests and other events — and a site of historic significance in DC. The protest signs that covered the fence around the park have been removed, but the location still provides good context for a conversation with kids about BLM.

Tour Memorials
Where: Several locations in DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Tour some memorials around the city that highlight notable African Americans and related historic events. Head to the MLK Memorial at the Tidal Basin, where you can view the grand sculpture of Dr. King and read some of his most inspiring quote engraved in surrounding walls. From there, head to the Lincoln Memorial, where even more MLK words, “I Have a Dream” are etched into the steps where he gave his famous speech. In the Shaw neighborhood, the African American Civil War Memorial honors the service and sacrifice of soldiers and sailors who served in the U.S. Army and Navy.  On Capitol Hill, the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park isa tribute to the civil rights leader.

Discover Women’s Landmarks
Where: Various locations around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

The Wander Women Project, a has gathered all the places honoring pioneer black women in the DMV area (and slightly further). Since many indoor museums are closed due to Covid-19, mostly outdoor sites and online resources are listed, making outings to visit to them perfect for social distancing.

Black History in Alexandria
Where: Throughout Alexandria, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by activity
A new blog post from Visit Alexandria discusses their renewed commitment to racial equity that pre-dated the surge in the Black Lives Matter movement. There are new major projects and programs that highlight Black history experiences throughout the city, including the Duke Street Black History Trail, Courageous Journey: Alexandria’s Black History Driving Tour, a waterfront African American Heritage Trail and an Underground Railroad-themed tour from Manumission Tour Company.

Black History in MoCo Parks
Where: Parks around Montgomery County, MD
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies

Several sites within the Montgomery Parks system have connections to Black history. See Civil War ruins, visit a place named for the man who inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin, explore the site of a 19th century African American roadside community, and more. Get more details here.

Black History with PG Parks
Where: Parks around PG County, MD
When: Through February
Admission:

Celebrate and honor African American heritage with the PG County park system during Black History Month in February. From performances to history lessons to tours, there are a lot of exciting events and activities planned throughout Prince George’s County, both virtual and in person.

The Slave Memorial & Exhibits
Where: Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: $20/adult, $12/ages 6-11, free/5 & under

Make a point to see these on a visit to George Washington’s estate in Northern Virginia. The memorial is located approximately 50 yards southwest of George and Martha Washington’s tomb, on a bluff above the Potomac River. A gray, truncated, granite column which represents “life unfinished” is the center of three concentric brick circles. The three steps leading up to the column are inscribed, respectively, “Faith,” “Hope” and “Love” — the virtues that sustained those living in bondage. The exhibit Lives Bound Together explores the personal stories of the people enslaved at Mount Vernon while providing insight into George Washington’s evolving opposition to slavery.

Introducing…
Where: National Portrait Gallery | Online
When: February 3, 10, 17, and 24
Admission:

The National Portrait Gallery’s program for children ages 3+ shines a light on Black historymakers and their portraits this month. Kids will learn more about art, hear the stories behind the portraits, and even hear some new vocabulary.

Royal Fun with Culture Queen
Where: Online
When: February 6, 2-2:30pm & February 21, 1:30-2pm
Admission: Free

Culture Queen, the children’s author, entertainer, and educator known for presenting empowering entertainment — music, movement, and storytelling — for kids, has a couple of online events this month. Join for Black History Live on February 6 and for a Virtual Dance Party on February 21.

Library Programs
Where: DC Public Library | Online
When: Throughout February
Admission: Free

The DC Public Library proudly celebrates Black History Month during February with all kinds of online programs — story times, book discussions, crafts, and more. Visit the website to see when they are taking place.

Let It Shine
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When: February 6 & 13
Admission: $17.95

At the wonderful children’s museum in Baltimore, celebrate Black History Month by reading festive stories inside The Oasis at the Reading Corner. Of course, plan to enjoy the multiple levels of fun and educational exhibits while you’re there.

Black History Month at the Tiny Desk
Where: NPR Music | Online
When: Through February
Admission: Free

NPR Music’s awesome Tiny Desk Concert series is celebrating Black History Month by featuring 13 Tiny Desk (home) concerts by Black artists across genres and highlighting performances by Black artists from the archives with weekly curated playlists. The celebration will spotlight different genres and generations each week.

 

*Do you know of a Black History Month event or activity that you don’t see listed here?  Feel free to share in the comments!

 

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Annual, Black Lives Matter, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Maryland, Museums, Ongoing, Outdoor, Social Distancing, Special Event, Virginia, Virtual Programs, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter