Category Archives: Nature

Where to Play on the Weekdays: January 21-24

Bundle up for a day outdoors at Great Falls Park


Tuesday – Locate secret doors, see outrageously fabulous themed rooms, and browse a trove of secondhand treasures on a tour of The Mansion on O Street. The Dupont Circle landmark is a mansion, museum, restaurant, vintage store, and hotel all in one. It’s one of the neatest and most stunning spaces in DC! And visitors are welcome to explore (and shop!) it all. Tours are offered 11am – 3pm. Self-guided tours start at $25 — purchase tickets in advance online.

Wednesday – Get excited for the Lunar New Year at the Freer|Sackler Gallery, where you can view a remarkable collection of Asian art and special exhibits. Ask for activity cards and a family guide at the front desk when you arrive to help with kiddos with their art adventure. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.

Thursday – Bundle up for a hike and some nature fun at Great Falls Park. Whether you opt for the Maryland or Virginia side, you really can’t go wrong. Take in spectacular views of the falls and rapids from several overlooks, hike easy trails along the river or through the woods, and stop in the Visitor Center — there’s one on each side — to learn more about the area’s history and wildlife. Open 7am to 30 minutes after sunset. Admission is $20/vehicle.

Friday – See some entertainment especially for kids at The Puppet Co., where Rapunzel is the current Main Stage production. Showtime is 11am, and tickets are $12.


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Filed under 2020, All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays

Where to Play on the Weekdays: January 13-17

The National Arboetum is a great place to enjoy warmer-than-normal weather


Monday – Go to Story Time at the National Postal Museum. Taking place every Monday, the program includes a book reading and activities for little ones in the museum’s education space. Of course, stay to explore the rest of the museum, which is full of interactive exhibits that appeal to all ages. Story Time is at 10:30am and repeated at 11am. Admission is free. Read more about the museum in this KFDC post.

Tuesday – Take kiddos to bounce, climb, swing, tumble, and slide at the PG Sports & Learning Complex Gymnastics Center in Landover, MD. The hour-long weekly open play workshop is a great way for kiddos to be active indoors (it was a regular outing for us when the kids were younger)! The session begins at 11:30am, and admission is $7/child. This also takes place on Wednesdays at 11:30am and Fridays at 4:30pm. Read more about the open play sessions here.

Wednesday – Spend what’s forecast to be a warmer-than-normal winter day at one of the prettiest places in DC, the U.S. National Arboretum. Explore the plant collections on nature walks, view the bonsai exhibit, visit the Washington Youth Garden and romp on the natural playground, check out the old Capitol columns, picnic in the Grove of State Trees, and so much more. Hours are 8am – 5pm, and admission is free. Read even more about the Arboretum in the round-up of the best places to spend a day outdoors — it tops the list! — as well as this post and this one.

Thursday – Explore the local environment at Buddie Ford Nature Center. The facility in Alexandria houses fascinating exhibits (including live creatures!), hands-on activities, and a staff of friendly and knowledgeable naturalists that all ages will appreciate. Afterwards, take the fun outdoors with a short hike at the adjacent Dora Kelley Nature Park. Buddie Ford hours are 10am – 5pm (Wednesday – Saturday, 1-5pm Sunday). Admission is free.

Friday – Rock out with local kids’ fave Rocknocerous at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA. You can also nosh while you’re there — the smoothie, juice, acai bowl, and coffee menu will be available. Showtime is 10:30am, doors open at 10am. Tickets are $5.


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Filed under 2020, All ages, DC, Free, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Story Time, Virginia, Weekdays

A Very DC Hike at Theodore Roosevelt Island


Every now and then I have a realization that over all the years I’ve been publishing KFDC, I haven’t done a write-up about a place that we’ve been frequenting forever and is definitely deserving of its own post. This time it’s Theodore Roosevelt Island, a national park located on an actual 90-acre island in the Potomac River.

A recent visit with Sash

And one years ago with the fam

Roosevelt Island has been among our regular rotation of go-to spots for hiking and getting a nice, easy dose of nature in DC (despite accessing it from across the river, the island is part of the District) since before Levi and I even had kids. But with Owen and Sasha, especially when they were little, we’ve appreciated it even more. The park is ideal for family hikes with short, mellow trails; lots of great nature, wildlife sitings, even airplanes flying overhead; and a little history lesson, to boot, with a lovely memorial in the middle of it all dedicated to the president for which it’s named.

Teddy and little Owen on the Plaza

Younger Sash strikes a pose there

And fives years later

This is why I call it a very “DC” hike. The park’s Memorial Plaza is like a little annex to all of the other memorials on the National Mall, and instead of the long expanse of green grass or Tidal Basin to make it stand out grandly, woods and wetlands fittingly surround the stately granite and bronze tribute to Teddy Roosevelt, an early steward for conservation and the environment.

Trying to do some turtle spotting

From the parking lot, there is a long bridge to cross to get to the main part of park. We always stop on it to take in views of Georgetown in the distance and look for turtles in the water below. Once on the other side, there are three trails offering different hiking experiences. The short .3-mile Woods Trail leads through and right around the memorial on gravel and paved grounds. The .75-mile Upland Trail loops through the woods along the whole length of the island. And the 1.5-mile Swamp Trail includes both a dirt path that winds through woods and a boardwalk running over a swampy area lined by cattail, trees, and wild grass.

Kickin’ it on the Swamp Trail

When the kids were small, we’d pick one, but now we often do a combination of all three trails, starting at the plaza, then walking through the woods and on the boardwalk, before hopping on another path leading to the water and taking us around the island. Whatever you choose, you’re in for a nice hike.

Little Sash on the Upland Trail

On a recent visit with Sasha, we covered the whole island, enjoying its winter beauty. We loved seeing the leafless trees, the mess of branches and wild intertwining limbs. (Side note: Did anyone read The Overstory? While I found it kind of long and tedious, I appreciated the concept of communication among trees and always think about it when I’m among them.) But Roosevelt Island is great the rest of the year, too, with budding trees and views of the cherry blossoms in spring, lush green and lots of shade in summer, and colorful foliage in during autumn.

Bare branches during winter

There are no tables for picnicking, but the Memorial Plaza has seating and there are a few benches along the Swamp Trail where you could stop and snack. Another nice spot is a cluster of large rocks at the West end of the island. There are restrooms down the Woods Trail shortly before it meets the Swamp Trail, however they are only open April – October, but a portable one is there instead.

Hanging out in the shade during summer

The one negative of the park may be the parking situation. The lot is small, and fills up quickly, especially on a nice weekend day. There have been several times we’ve planned to go and have encountered a line of cars to get in. In those cases, we’ve headed to Turkey Run Park further down the GW Parkway in McLean or Potomac Overlook Park in Arlington. You can avoid parking altogether by riding bikes there instead — it’s right off the Mount Vernon Trail, and there are bike racks right at the entrance (biking is not permitted in the park). You can also Metro to Rosslyn then walk 10-15 minutes from there.

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Where: Potomac River | Washington, DC
Access: From the GW Parkway just before Spout Run
When: Daily year-round, 6am – 10pm
Admission: Free

Want even more suggestions for great local hikes with kids? This post has a bunch of them! And here are a few more pics from some visits over the years…

Welcome to the island…



Happy about her first visit to TRI



Leading the way on the trail


A little pop of color



View from a small beach


Teddy


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Filed under 2020, All ages, DC, Educational, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend

Scenes from a Fall Day at Huntley Meadows Park


Lately, it’s been a little harder for us to plan weekend outings as a family. Saturdays and Sundays are often busy with sports, and as the kids have gotten older, they (well, mostly Owen) want to hang out with their friends more than they want to with Levi and me (why? we’re so cool!).

So, it was really nice recently when we had a long stretch of time between a morning soccer practice and an evening soccer game, and no one had anything else going on. Well, I had one small errand to run in Alexandria, so we decided to plan around that. We wanted to take advantage of the beautiful fall day and opted for a hike at Huntley Meadows Park, easily one of the best places, in my opinion, to enjoy the outdoors in that area.

Huntley Meadows Park makes for a great outing any time of year, but it’s especially lovely now as the leaves start to turn, and the weather is pleasant for walking the boardwalk that spans the beautiful wetlands.

I first learned about the park from my friend Darcy nearly a decade ago, and we have been many times since. And even in the kids’ tween and teen years, they (we) still really enjoy a visit there — hiking the trail, looking for frogs and other creatures, and taking in the beautiful scenery. Better now, though, is that we don’t have to worry about them falling in the marsh! 😉

Huntley Meadows Park is located at 3701 Lockheed Blvd in Alexandria. It’s open daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free. You can read more about it in this post. And here are more scenes from our recent visit.





























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Filed under 2019, All ages, Educational, Fall, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend