Category Archives: Outdoor

Open Swim: Places Around the DC Area that Welcome the Public to Take a Dip

Cool off in the river at Patapsco Valley State Park


It’s summer, it’s blazing hot, and many of us are looking for places to enjoy the quintessential seasonal activity — swimming! — to cool off and have some fun. I’ve recently shared a couple of links with some beach and swimming hole recs, but they weren’t especially comprehensive and/or lacked details, so I decided to compile my own round-up of places around the area to take a dip. We’ve been to many of these spots, and those we haven’t visited either get kudos from friends or have been touted enough by other resources to warrant inclusion. And if you know of other great locales to swim that are within day trip distance, feel free to share in the comments.

BEACHES on the BAY

Sandy Point State Park
Where: 1100 East College Parkway | Annapolis, MD
Hours: Daily, 7am – sunset
Admission: $5-7/May – Sept weekends, $4-6/weekdays

Enjoy views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from the beach at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis. At nearly 800 acres, it’s a big beach park with lots of recreational opportunities — swimming, picnicking, fishing, crabbing, hiking, and more. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are lifeguards on duty. And snack food and beach and picnic supplies are available.

Calvert Cliffs State Park
Where: 10540 H. G. Trueman Road | Lusby, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: $8/vehicle

Well known as a fossil hunting locale — as its cliffs erode, prehistoric remains of marine life are revealed — but it’s also nice for beach fun, swimming, and hiking. To access the beach, you have to tramp a couple of miles through woods (and there are even more trails if you’re up for it), but the walk is worth it for some sand and surf. Open daily sunrise – sunset, and admission is $5-7/vehicle.

Flag Ponds Nature Park
Where: 1525 Flag Ponds Parkway | Lusby, MD
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am – 6pm | Sat-Sunday, 9am – 8pm
Admission: $8/vehicle

Not only is there plenty of sand for playing and nice mellow waters for swimming in the Chesapeake Bay, it’s also a great spot for fossil hunting — look for shark teeth and other prehistoric remnants along the shores while you’re there, too! Hours are 9am – 6pm on weekdays and 9am – 8pm weekends from Memorial to Labor Day. Admission is $8/car. See more pics of Flag Ponds, and check out the official site here. Note: The park is currently open to Calvert County residents only, but this could change, so check back.

Bayfront Park
Where: 7255 Bayside Road | Chesapeake, MD
Hours: Daily, dawn to dusk
Admission: $18/adult, $10/child for non county residents

A nice little spot in Chesapeake Beach, MD. With a small but nice stretch of sand, gentle shallow water, shark teeth to fin, and cliffs edging the shoreline, it’s a great place to spend a day — especially with little ones since they can’t roam too far. The only downside is the steep admission fee. Note: The park is currently open to Calvert County residents only, but this could change, so check back.

Cape Henlopen State Park
Where: Lewes, DE
Hours: Open daily, 8am – sunset
Admission: $8-10/vehicle

It’s a little over two hours from DC, but still doable as a day trip if you leave early, especially on a weekday when there is less traffic. We just did this and had a fantastic day at the beach — packed up the car with a cooler and beach gear, got on the road early, and were on the beach by 10:30am. Enjoyed dinner outdoors and ice cream in town before heading back, arrived home at 9:15pm. Totally worth the time in the car.

LAKES & RIVERS

Patapsco Valley State Park
Where: 8020 Baltimore National Pike | Ellicott City, MD
Hours: Daily, 9am – sunset
Admission: $3-5/person weekend, $2-4/vehicle weekdays

There are several nice, shallow swimming areas in the park’s Patapsco River, most notably in the Avalon section near Cascade Falls. There are several entrances, and Avalon and Hilton are closest to that area. Depending on where you park, there is some up (and down) hill hiking on rooty trails, something to be aware of with little trampers. KFDC Tip: If an area is at capacity and closed, try another part of the park instead — list of areas via main park link above. See some pics from a visit there. (Note: A KFDC readers just alerted me that Howard County is not allowing river swimming as of July 1. While this is not reflected on the Patapsco Valley State Park website, be aware that it may not be permitted thee.)

Cunningham Falls State Park
Where: 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road | Thurmont, MD
Hours: Daily, 8am – sunset
Admission: $3-5/person

There are two parts to this park, and the lakes and beautiful waterfall (and camping) are located in the William Houck Area, three miles west of Thurmont on Route 77. The lake area welcomes swimmers and has a beach for hanging out. You can wade in the pools of the falls area, too. It’s a short hike to access, and there are a couple of trails to take, the half-mile Lower Trail is easy, and the 3/4 Cliffs Trail is more difficult with lots of rock scrambling.

Purse State Park
Where: Nanjemoy, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: Free

This is best if your main purpose is fossil hunting — it’s a great place to go for it — and you want to get in some “beach” time, too. Wear swimsuits, bring a picnic, and be sure to check the tide table so you can make the most of your time there.

Point Lookout State Park
Where: 11175 Point Lookout Road | Scotland, MD
Hours: Open daily, 7am – sunset weekdays, 6am – sunset weekends
Admission:

Located on a peninsula between the Chesapeake and the Potomac, the park includes a beach area where visitors can hang out and swim on the river side. A picnic area shaded by trees is nearby and close to the parking lot as well.

Gunpowder Falls State Park
Where: 7200 Graces Quarters Road | Middle River, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: $5-7/person

There are six areas of the park, and a swimming beach on the banks of the Gunpowder River is in the Hammerman Area, which is located in Middle River, MD. There are also playgrounds, canoe and kayak rentals, and hiking trails if you want more recreation.

Aguia Landing Park
Where: Stafford, VA
Hours: Open daily 8am – 8pm
Admission: $3-4.50/child, $4-6.50/adult

I read about this park in this article that I recently shared on the blog about beaches within day trip distance. It gets so-so reviews on Yelp, but there is a swimming beach with access to


SWIMMING HOLES & CREEKS

Seneca Creek
Where: 16315 Old River Road | Poolesville, MD
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Mentioned in this article, this “hidden” spot is located right off River Road on the way to Homestead Farm and the sunflower bloom at McKee-Beshers. You can apparently park at the Seneca Store parking lot (see address listed), and walk through a small field to the creek. Update: A KFDC reader just let me know you can’t park in the lot anymore, so you have to drive down the road a bit and park on the side of the road.

Overall Run
Where: Shenandoah National Park, VA
Hours: Ongoing
Admission: $30/vehicle

The flowing water from Overall Run Falls pools into a swimming hole that can be a nice reward after a long hike or an easier spot to access if you just want to swim. To keep it low key start from the Thompson Hollow trail head; for a long loop start at the Matthews Arm parking lot. FYI – We’ve done a portion of the hike to these falls before, but they were mostly dry, so I recommend doing some research (perhaps calling the park to check) before you go.

White Oak Canyon Trail
Where: Shenandoah National Park, VA
Hours: Ongoing
Admission: $30/vehicle

According to the NPS website, there are a range of hikes on this trail, from an easy two miles to a strenuous seven, to the waterfalls with several swimming holes along the way. It’s apparently popular, so expect to share the path and waters with others.

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU GO

* Generally, weekdays are less crowded than weekends at places.

* Capacity is limited at many spots, especially during COVID, so it’s best to get to places early or in the afternoon after early people leave.

* It’s a good idea to have a Plan B in case you do get turned away. See what other activities are nearby a location, so you can save the day, especially if it’s a long drive.

Do you know of other good swimming spots around the area? Please share in the comments, if so!


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Filed under All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Social Distancing, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Five Things for Today: July 15, 2020

Evening picnics in the park


1. Today, Opera Starts with Oh! is kicking off a weekly summer series with new opera lessons and experiences especially for kids every Wednesday. Sessions are live from 11:30am – 12pm on Zoom, and shortly after registrants will receive “at-home” activities to enjoy on their own time. Classes are ideal for ages 4-8, but all ages are more than welcome. Register for today’s “I Love to Act”-themed session and others coming up in July in August. Cost is pay-what-you-want ranging from free to $15.

2. Kids and families can embark on an urban farm adventure with the DC Farm Field Trip Challenge. Washington Youth Garden, Common Good City Farm, and City Blossoms have teamed up to bring youngsters across the DMV this fun challenge. It could be a backyard garden, an ant hill on your sidewalk, a local park — they want to see kids putting on their explorer eyes and learning about the natural world right in their own neighborhood or backyard. Enter by July 19 (it says June 30 on the website, but it’s still open) for a chance to win some cool prizes.

3. The annual Books in Bloom book festival — Columbia, Maryland’s ultimate celebration of the joy of books and reading — has gone virtual this year. Over the next six weeks, it will bring together some of the country’s best and brightest authors with panels, contests, workshops, and event partnerships with local businesses. This year’s festival will also continue its tradition of activism through literature by encouraging open dialogue on themes of diversity, racism, inequality, and culture through the art of books. Headlining the festival is sociologist Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility. View the schedule of upcoming events here.

4. Tips for picnicking during a pandemic. And a bunch of easy picnic food ideas.

5. Say his name: DJ Henry.

◾️ ◾️ ◾️ ◾️ ◾️

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Black Lives Matter, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Maryland, Outdoor, Social Distancing, Summer

What to Do on the Weekdays At Home During the Coronavirus

Our cat Lola’s “What are you still doing here” look that we’ll surely see a lot this week


For obvious reasons, the usual Where to Play on the Weekdays feature, offering ideas for activities with kids around DC each day of the week, is being replaced right now. We’re entering new territory as we begin this extended time at home that will include keeping up with school work, keeping everyone engaged and entertained, and — let’s be honest — keeping us all sane. Here are some ideas to help with all of that (be sure to check comments, too, for ideas shared by readers). Stay healthy and safe…and sane. 🙂

Get Schooled
Most of our kids still have assigned school work, plus we don’t want them to get out of the routine of learning. While many schools are setting up online instruction, parents may want to create a schedule for their kids to follow. Even if you have little ones who don’t have assigned work, learning activities and structure to the day could help them stay in “school mode” to make the transition back to the classroom easier. Here are some links I found to help.

* Kahn Academy is free and has tips, schedules, and programs especially for this time.

* Scholastic’s Learn at Home website is a free resource that provides children from pre-K to grade 6+ with 20 days of exciting articles and stories, videos, and fun learning challenges.

* Tips from homeschooling parents

* Kiwi Crate just launched this resource hub for parents to help with learning at home.

* Zoom is offering their video conferencing tools to schools for free (possibly something to share with your kids’ schools and educators)

* Here’s another suggested (perhaps, more realistic?) schedule.😉

* Here’s a huge list of all education companies offering free subscriptions now.

* Wirecutter’s recommended educational apps and learning games for kids.

* As an education institution, the International Spy Museum has free lesson plans (up to curriculum standards), resources, recommended reading, and at-home activities.

* On March 30, Capitol Teachers is launching, offering tutoring services, enrichment opportunities, and homeschooling programs to students in grades K-12.

* Kids and teens ages 8-18 can learn to code from home through live, online classes with CodeWizardsHQ.

* National Geographic is offering free access to all of their coronavirus coverage, including their Resources for Families with good articles and tips for being at home with the kids during this time.

* Adventure Theatre is going online with its classes for Grades K-5! Grades K-2, can join for PLAYlabs on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10am to act out a different story every session. Grades 3-5 can join for Acting Up!, a journey through the process of acting using creative drama and improvisation techniques, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10am. Classes begin April 13th.

* Ten digital education resources from the National Gallery of Art.

* Educational activities you can do at home from the National Zoo.

* JK Tutoring Group is now offering virtual tutoring sessions to maximize social distancing.

* The Nationals have created content especially for young fans offering free, online educational activities for kids in grades 1-6, including STEM lessons, reading resources, and fun pages.

* Flex Academies usually provides after school enrichment activities for students. With these new social distancing circumstances, they’ve gone virtual, and kids everywhere can now learn about the things they love with Flex Academies ONE!, ofering everything from Improv Acting to Taekwondo to Yoga and Mindfulness in a safe, secure, online program.

* Mully Lingua, founded by a local mom, provides language and cultural activities activities to families in the DMV. In response to COVID-19, services have been moved online and are available for free for the next few months.


Extracurriculars
I shared some links with suggestions for fun and games at home in this post, and here are even more ideas to keep everyone engaged, enriched, and entertained during this time.

* Air and Space Anywhere lets you enjoy the fave-of-many Smithsonian museum from wherever you are. Access virtual tours, games & activities, podcasts, K-12 programs and more.

* Art Bar Blog has been putting together this Art & Play Activity Guides for Learning at Home. (The rest of the blog is great for arts & crafts ideas, too!)

* Get the kids in the kitchen and cook together.

* It’s spring, so do some spring cleaning! This blog post has good ideas to get the kids involved.

* Kids will want to get moving. If you have a game system (or even if you don’t… apparently you can play it online), I highly recommend Just Dance.

* Let the kids capture this time… in photos! If they don’t have their own, give the kids your camera (ie, phone) and let them snap away. This website has fun ideas and activities to guide and encourage them.

* To keep everyone chill during this anxious time, how about some yoga? I found Cosmic Kids Yoga, which looks good for little ones. (Admittedly, I’m not much of a yoga person to know what’s good, so do a search for “kids yoga” on YouTube for even more videos.)

* Take a Virtual Field Trip while kids can’t go on real ones. There are a bunch of places around the world to explore (plus the moon!) online in fun and educational ways.

* While kids can’t experience DC in person right now, let them visit virtually.

* The Lane Social Club just launched “The Lane (Anti) Social Club” — virtual events for kids to help give parents a much needed break or concentrated time to actually be able to work. It’s a pay what you can model, so it’s accessible to all, but donations are greatly appreciated to help support their staff.

* The International Spy Museum can guide you to some intriguing home activities, including designing a spy gadget, cracking a top secret code, and a mind memory activity.

* Keep children active even when they can’t get outdoors with Kids Workouts to Do at Home.

* Kids of all ages can learn to code for free at home through online classes, websites, and apps.

* The very recently reopened National Children’s Museum launched a daily, digital “STEAMwork” Series on their Facebook page. Each day at 2:30pm, there are projects, challenges, experiments, and story times for children under 12 and their caregivers.

* Kidstir, a company that makes subscription boxes providing cooking inspiration for children, is giving away 15,000 kits to keep the joy of cooking and baking alive as families are affected by the coronavirus. Sign up to get one! (Note: there is a $4 shipping fee so they can support as many families as possible).

* Lots of kids love earning Junior Ranger badges from National Parks. While they can’t visit them right now, there are some badges that can be earned at home by mail, and this blog post lists all of them.

* If your kids are missing their league sports, consider activities that keep them “in the game”: You can search for easy at-home drills, find past games of some of their favorite teams on YouTube, and/or set up video chats with teammates.

* While the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore is closed, they have moved online, offering science activities and events (and even content for adults).

* While they can’t host their fantastic scavenger hunts in museums, Watson Adventures has come up with virtual activities to engage in some family fun: Trivia Slam, Family Edition is part trivia challenge and part home scavenger hunt as you compete against other teams all over. Our joined one and had a blast! They take place one Saturdays & Sundays through April and will likely be extended.

* Foublie, founded by a local mom, is full of ideas for free food-based activities with young children.

* A fun project with the kids: Grow a vegetable (and fruit) garden with your own scraps! More tips here.

* KID Museum has cool, free Make It! projects online. They also just launched Make It! Plus — live, interactive programming led by their Maker Educators, geared toward kids in Kindergarten – 4th grade for a fee.

* The American Visionary Art Museum has a bunch of online experiences available — how-to videos, instructions for projects, coloring pages, and more — that look really neat for kids and adults. Read more about the wonderful AVAM here.

* While we can’t be out and about in DC (and cities all over, for that matter), we can explore them virtually with Free Tours by Foot.

* Peloton just introduced Peloton Family, fitness classes parents and kids can do together! FYI: You can get a 90-day free trial right now.

* The Hirshhorn has introduced #HirshhornInsideOut, which includes creative ideas for kids at home that relate to their exhibits and pieces from the collections.

* It may be awhile before we can pitch a tent in the great outdoors, so why not do some camping indoors instead? REI has some great ideas for doing just that.

* A new Where’s Waldo-themed web portal has activities for quarantining families like downloadable activity sheets and fun videos.

* The National Museum of Women in the Arts has some online offerings kids can enjoy — the NMWA Coloring Book and the [email protected] Youtube playlist which now has several very charming “Story Time with Women in the Arts” videos.

* Tiny Chefs is launching Cooking Around the World, a virtual cooking series.

* Tinkergarten, known for their outdoor-based early childhood education programs, has just created Tinkergarten At Home, a free, weekly series of outdoor activity plans that help families keep young kids entertained, learning, and connected to nature during this challenging time.

* The Kennedy Center presents arts [email protected], where they offer background and insight on a variety of topics, plus dance lessons, resources for kids, art prompts, and more.


Read Up
This is a great opportunity to get kids reading more. Implement a set reading time each day (and plan to join them with your current book if they can read on their own). Rather than offer specific book recommendations — because there are SO many! — here are some links to help you pick out and purchase books for your kids, plus other story time activities.

* Stock up on books and support local small businesses by shopping online while you’re staying home and/or their brick-and-mortars are closed — some even deliver! Check out Kramerbooks, East City bookshop, Solid State Books, Politics and Prose, and Loyalty Bookstores.

* These Amazon Editors’ Picks include recommendations for kids books by age up to young adult.

* Common Sense Media also has good recommendations, plus plenty of ratings and details to help you decide if it’s appropriate for your child.

* So, it’s not actually reading, but Audible for Kids is a good way to access books without having to wait for deliveries or if multiple kids want to hear it. Also, kids who don’t read on their own yet can listen to stories while you’re getting work done. Even better, it’s FREE for kids for as long as schools are closed.

* Also not reading, but these This American Life stories are ones that kids seem to like.

* National Geographic Kids is always great to check out with children.

* On Thursdays at 7pm, tune in for Goodnight with Dolly as Dolly Parton begins a weekly series of reading bedtime stories for children.

* Port Discovery, the wonderful children’s museum in Baltimore, has loads of tips and resources for at-home play on their website, from art to STEM to theatre to health & wellness to sensory to music & movement.

* Want a super cute way to support kids during this challenging time? Call a Sesame Street character.

* The National Park Service is celebrating National Park Week (April 18-26) by offering all kinds of digital experiences on their website.

* The Hirshhorn has introduced #HirshhornInsideOut to experience the art museum while their doors are temporarily closed, which includes art prompts for kids, too.

* This new Where’s Waldo-themed web portal with activities for quarantining families like downloadable activity sheets and fun videos.

* It may be awhile before we can pitch a tent in the great outdoors, so why not do some camping indoors instead? REI has some great ideas for doing just that.


Screen Time
I think we’re all going to need some good shows and movies during this period of our lives, whether or not we’re big on screen time. (For the record, I’m pretty loose about it, but my kids do plenty of non-screen activities, too, and aren’t distracted from their school work by TV.) Anyway, if you’re looking for stuff for kids to watch, you can find recommendations through these links.

* My friend Darcy’s old blog, No Monsters in My Bed, had the best Family Movie Night list.

* Here’s a quick link to Kids’ TV on Netflix.

* Lots of our t(w)eens have already discovered The Office and Friends, but here are a few more faves from the past to introduce to them: My So Called Life, Felicity, Beverly Hills 90210, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Veronica Mars

* Common Sense Media’s Best Movie lists and Best TV lists are quick and easy go-tos for viewing ideas.

* Sasha digs this YouTube show (even though I think it’s weird).

* Amazon just made a bunch of their kids shows available for free.

* Amazon also just introduced Prime Video Cinema, access to the latest movies that were just released (or would have been) in theaters.

* As kids are missing their sleepovers and hanging out with friends, Netflix Party is a fun substitute — it lets them watch a movie or show and chat at the same time.

* Arts on the Horizon, which usually presents adorable productions especially for really young audiences, is now doing a Virtual Storytime Series for little ones (also adorable).

* Timing and luck will play a big part in this, but you can try to view the Northern Lights via web cam.

Hang Out(side)
While it is best to stay at home as much as possible right now, it’s tough to keep kids inside 24/7. If you feel the need to get out, do it responsibly for this time, and go where there is plenty of space to keep good social distance. These links have ideas to help with that, just be sure to check ahead that locales are open before you go.

UPDATE: I can’t stress enough that it’s best to stay at home right now, as even outdoor spots might draw too many visitors to make them safe. The National Arboretum closed to prevent the spread after the masses started flocking there. I also recently heard from a KFDC reader who went shark tooth hunting at Purse State Park that she felt very uncomfortable with so many others there, and it’s usually empty. Thus, I am now recommending you don’t go to those places.

* Hiking is still permitted for outdoor recreation during the coronavirus outbreak, and this WTOP article has really good tips for doing it safely.

* The KFDC round-up of Walks in the Woods has info on good places to hike with kids.

* The flowers blooms may not be happening, but this KFDC post highlights gardens around the area where you can roam around.

* A shark tooth hunting adventure gets you outdoors with lots of open space, plus it’s fun and kind of educational.

* A walk or bike ride close to home may be enough to get the indoor willies out.

Do you have recommendations for activities at home this week? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m sure they’ll be much appreciated.

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Filed under 2020, All ages, DC, Educational, Maryland, Outdoor, Virginia

Tips for Families Viewing the Cherry Blossoms (2020)

[Note: This was originally written in 2011 (hence, the now very outdated Lost reference) and has been updated every year since. But because the tips always apply, I’m re-posting yet again, just with a few minor updates applicable to this year’s bloom. Also, I realize that coronavirus may be a factor as you make plans to see the flowers; however, I am not a health expert, but know that KFDC has an audience of smart, discerning parents, so I will leave those judgements up to you.]

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, it is NOT recommended to go see the cherry blossoms, especially at the Tidal Basin and on the National Mall, as it is NOT conducive to social distancing. Instead, view them virtually from home or just wait to set them next year.

🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸

Taking the family to the National Mall to see some pretty flowers sounds easy enough. If only it actually was. The cherry blossom peak, predicted to occur March 27-30 this year, is one of the best times to visit DC. The city is at its most beautiful, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival provides loads of fun activities to help enjoy it all. But viewing the famous blooms can also be a bit challenging without being aware of a few things. Here are seven recommendations to consider if seeing the cherry blossoms is on your family’s spring agenda.

1. Don’t drive if you value your sanity. Take the Metro, ride the bus, bike, walk, jet pack. Get here however you can, just leave the car at home. Traffic is beyond frustrating during the cherry blossom peak, and your chances of finding decent parking are about as good as hitting the Powerball with Hurley’s numbers (okay, slight exaggeration, but it ishard). The masses descend on Washington, DC, this time of year, and way too many do so in their vehicles. Besides, kids love riding the Metro — it’s like an urban version of Hogwarts Express. The Smithsonian stop on the Blue/Orange Line is mere minutes from all of the blossom action, but it’s also guaranteed to be crowded. Consider riding to L’Enfant on Yellow/Green, Federal Center on Blue/Orange, or even a stop downtown or in Penn Quarter and taking a nice stroll to the Tidal Basin for the blossom scene. Another good option is the bus — the DC Circulator will run between Eastern Market and L’Enfant Plaza, a convenient route with even more to do on both ends. And the 32, 34, and 36 routes of Metrobus stop at the National Mall close to the Washington Monument. *If you absolutely must drive and need parking you might find a spot at Hains Point, where there is free and metered parking, then walk or take the Cherry Blossom Shuttle ($1/person) to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial at the Tidal Basin. There is also a parking garage at L’Enfant Plaza. Your best bet, though, might be to find a garage in the downtown or Penn Quarter area, then walk or Metro to the National Mall. You can ensure yourself a spot with Parking Panda, an online parking reservation service that lets you search for and reserve garage spaces in advance.

Flying amid the flowers

2. Visit on a weekday if you have the flexibility. Crowds are significantly smaller from Monday to Friday, so you can stroll around the Tidal Basin at a nice pace, and public transportation won’t be nearly as packed (though it still will be more crowded than usual). But if the kids are in school or daycare during the week, think about going later in the day. The National Mall and monuments look beautiful at sunset, and the blossoms make it even more sublime. In the same vein, if you can go super early, the morning light on the Mall makes for quite a picturesque setting, too.

Peak time around the National Mall

3. Consider using a child carrier instead of a stroller for little ones. This is especially applicable if you take Metro, since elevator lines can be very long and slow-going. I learned my lesson back in my kids’ baby days on a weekday and ended up taking my daughter out of the stroller and carrying both on the escalator, which was probably as unsafe as it was difficult. Even if you don’t take Metro, a carrier is still a wise option. Navigating crowded walkways while pushing a pram takes focus, and you could end up spending more time concentrating on not rolling over others’ heels than enjoying the sights you came to see. It’s a bonus for wee ones, too — perched on your back, your babe will get a better view of the blossoms.

4. Check the National Cherry Blossom Festival schedule, so you can plan your visit accordingly. Some of the city’s most anticipated events are part of the annual celebration, the Blossom Kite Festival, National Cherry Blossom Parade, and Sakura Matsuri among them, and there are many non-official festival happenings as well. Most events take place nearby the blossoms or an easy Metro ride away. Peak bloom is expected to occur mid-Festival this year, so you can enjoy blossom-inspired activities and the efflorescent trees at the same time. This post has details on the best cherry blossom season celebrations and activities for families.

Get a view of the blossoms from a paddle boat

5. Get a new view of the blossoms and enjoy a fun activity on the Potomac. Several companies offer boat rides along the river, many of them specifically for the season when the cherry trees are in bloom. Right now you can find great deals with Washington Marina National Ferry Corp, Capitol River Cruises, and Boomerang Boat Tours. Potomac Riverboat Company and DC Water Taxi are a couple more to check out. You can also opt for a paddling excursion and navigate the waters yourself.

Playing under blossoms at the Arboretum

6. Seek out other spots to see the cherry blossoms if you don’t want to deal with crowds and chaos around the Tidal Basin and National Mall. Several places around the DC-Metro area are well known for their annual cherry blossom displays. When I worked in Bethesda many years ago, it was an annual tradition for my colleagues and me to take a drive through Kenwood, a lovely neighborhood between Little Falls Parkway and River Road with cherry tree-lined streets. The National Arboretum also has a nice collection of the trees and offers a beautiful, peaceful environment in which to view them in bloom. Dumbarton Oaks Gardens is one of the prettiest places in DC and its annual blossoms only add to it. And Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, has a lovely collection of cherry trees, too.

7. Have your camera ready to take advantage of some of the best photo ops DC offers. The peak colors plus the memorials are about as iconic as you can get when photographing Washington. Get your kids to sit still — or even let them run and play for a fun candid — and you’ve got this year’s holiday card.

Can’t beat the blossom backdrop for photos



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Filed under 2020, All ages, Annual, DC, Free, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Special Event, Spring, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend