Category Archives: Outdoor

5 Places for Shark Tooth Hunting Adventures Near the DC Area


Recently, another publication contacted me about using some of my photos for a piece they were doing about places in the area to go shark tooth hunting. I’m always happy to share, but it also got me thinking: If the publication didn’t have their own images, did that mean the writer hadn’t actually been to all of these places? Isn’t it better to get recommendations for an activity like this based on real experience rather than just research? (And am I being totally catty right now? 😼)

In that vein, I decided to put together this round-up of places within day-trip distance of DC to search for shark teeth and other remnants of millions-of-years-old marine life. Just about all of them have been either written up or at least mentioned on KFDC already, and it makes sense to have them all in one place. And I can assure you that we have, indeed, experienced every single one. Happy hunting!

Shark teeth for the picking at Purse State Park

Purse State Park

Purse State Park is by far our favorite place to gather shark teeth — and I say gather instead of search for, because chances are very good that you will collect lots of teeth and other prehistoric remains at this Charles County locale. The beach area at Purse is very narrow, but it stretches far along the Potomac River, and it is loaded with Paleocene Era gems, i.e. fossils from sharks, fish, shells, even crocodiles, that are up to 60 million years old.

It’s important to check the tide table (search Potomac River/Liverpool Point, MD) when you plan a visit to Purse, since the already thin strip of sand dwindles even more at high tide. If it’s warm, we often swim a bit, too, as the water is shallow and usually very mellow. There are no concessions or facilities, so bring a picnic and be prepared to pee in the woods or water.

To get there, follow GPS directions to Purse State Park in Nanjemoy, MD. It will take you to a wooded area with a very small parking area across from a trail head. Follow that trail about a half-mile to the beach, where your “treasure” hunting adventure will begin. Hours are sunrise to sunset, and admission is free. See more scenes from Purse State Park here.

Enjoy the calm waters as you search for shark teeth at Flag Ponds

Flag Ponds Nature Park

About an hour’s drive from DC in Calvert County, Flag Ponds Nature Park is just up the road from the well known Calvert Cliffs that are the source for many of the fossils found in that area. And in my opinion, it’s the best place to go for a day’s beach outing that involves shark tooth hunting. Not only can you search for teeth and other remains from the Miocene Era — that’s up to 30 million years old — there is a vast sandy expanse where kids can play, and the Chesapeake where they can swim (check for jellyfish first, though). Fossil finds, in our experience, aren’t as plentiful as they are at Purse State Park, but if you keep an eye out as you walk the shoreline or even sit in one spot and sift through shells and pebbles, you’re bound to come across some small teeth. And who knows… you might get really lucky and score a prized megalodon tooth — the largest shark ever existed during that time and its mega-sized teeth have been discovered there.

You pay to get in at an entrance gate, then park in a lot near the Visitor Center. From there, it’s about a quarter-mile walk on a paved road, then a dirt road to the beach. It’s best to set up close to the shoreline, as it can get buggy and hotter inland near ponds that form with the changing dunes and tides. There are restrooms and a rinsing shower at the entrance to the beach. And there are drink vending machines at the parking lot, but no other concessions, so be sure to bring snacks and water.

Flag Ponds Nature Park is located at 1525 Flag Ponds Parkway in Lusby, MD. From Labor Day to Memorial Day, hours are 9am – 4pm Friday and Monday, 9am -5pm Saturday and Sunday. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, hours are 9am – 6pm weekdays, 9am – 8pm weekends. Admission is $8/car. See more about Flag Ponds here.

Beach fun + shark tooth hunting at Calvert Cliffs

Calvert Cliffs State Park

This is the park that most people have heard about, it’s cliffs somewhat famous for the prehistoric treasures they hold. They were formed over 20 million years ago beneath what was then an ocean that submerged the region during the Miocene Era. As the waters receded and exposed the terrain below, the preserved remains of prehistoric sea life have also been revealed, and, hence wash up on Chesapeake shores now. However, while I like the park itself, in my experience it has not been a boon for shark tooth hunting; I have found only small amounts of fossils on my visits. (Perhaps this is why I have yet to do a write-up about it on the blog.)

The park is worth a visit, though. The beach area nestled between cliffs is very pretty, the water is swimmable, and fossil hunting makes for a nice activity while you’re enjoying a beach day. It’s about a two-mile hike through woods and marsh areas to the beach and cliffs, which adds some extra recreation and neat nature sights to an outing there, but also extra effort — something to keep in mind with little ones and/or strollers in tow.

Calvert Cliffs State Park is open daily, sunrise to sunset. Admission is $5 per vehicle. There are restrooms near the parking lot and portable toilets along the trail close to the beach. There are no concessions, so BYO food and drinks.

Younger days at Brownie’s Beach

Bayfront Park aka Brownie’s Beach

Brownie’s Beach was the first place we enjoying shark tooth hunting, though I use the term “hunting” loosely because it was almost effortless to find fossils there. The park in the town of Chesapeake Beach was our go-to, easy-from-DC beach destination when the kids were much younger. It’s a nice little spot with a small stretch of sand, gentle shallow water, and the cliffs edging the shoreline. It’s also a beach known for shark teeth finds, and they were always aplenty at Brownie’s. We would scoop up a handful of small shells and rocks near the water, wash away the sand, pick through, and small fossils were practically guaranteed in the mix.

I talk about Brownie’s (officially called Bay Front Park) in the past tense, because we haven’t been in several years, since they increased the summer admission fee to $18/adult, $10/age 3-11 for out-of-county residents. But the steep price likely means less people, so if you’re willing to pay, you probably get more shark tooth hunting space to yourself. You could also go during cooler months and avoid the cost.

Bayfront Park is open 6am – 9pm. As noted above, entrance fees from Memorial Day to Labor Day are $18/adult, $10/child and can only be paid by credit card — Visa, Mastercard, or Discover. While there are eateries in the town of Chesapeake Beach, there are no facilities or concessions at the park, so plan accordingly.

A pretty but chilly day at Matoaka Beach

Matoaka Beach

I can’t even remember where I learned about this beach a few years ago; the link above is a random one I just found. But after I read about it back then as a place to search for fossils, we checked it out with friends on a chilly February day (because who says all fossil hunting adventures have to be warm ones?). It was a pretty spot, less than 10 miles from Calvert Cliffs, in St. Leonard. We found a few shark teeth there, but it didn’t make a strong enough impression at the time to be post-worthy. We also paid $20 for parking to a man who seemed to be running things, even though I had read it was $5.

All that said, I’ve been thinking about giving it another go; we may have just been cold and not up for a long outing there. Again, there are no facilities or concessions, something to plan for. Find directions to Matoaka here. Once you park, it’s a very short walk to the beach.

The right footwear makes a big difference

Shark Tooth & Fossil Hunting Tips:

* Wear proper shoes! Water shoes in warm months and rubber boots in cold ones, so you can walk along the shell and rock laden shore without discomfort or freezing your tootsies off.

* Bring along a small shovel and sifter if you like to dig for your fossils.

* Hat and sunscreen always recommended, even on cold days… if it’s sunny, faces can still burn being outside for a long time.

* Bring water and snacks. Fossil hunting works up appetites!

* Take a good look at directions, maybe even write them down, in case GPS fails in remote areas (this has happened to us, but luckily I knew the way).

* Bring a container with a small hole cut in the lid to easily store your fossil finds.

* If you’re not sure whether or not something is a fossil, bring it home anyway and do some research to identify it when you get home.

* The Fossil Forum and Fossil Guy are great resources for more about your fossil finds.

* The Calvert Marine Museum is also a wonderful place to learn more about the Chesapeake Bay, including prehistoric marine life there.


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Filed under All ages, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays:
August 5-9

Electronic Superhighway at the Smithsonian American Art Museum


Monday – Visit the U.S. Botanic Garden, where there is so much for all ages to dig (literally, in one area) indoors and out. Let little ones flex their green thumbs in the Children’s Garden — they can water and plant, and play in and with lots of neat features. Explore the different plant collections, too, as you walk amid tropical rainforest, desert, and woodland flora. Then take a stroll through the lovely National Garden outside. Hours are 10am – 5pm. Admission is free. Read more about the USBG here and here.

Tuesday – Take little ones to hear Stories in Strawberry Park at the Mosaic District. The live interactive performances by a group of unique storytellers take place the first and third Tuesdays of each month and are designed for kids 10 and under. The fun starts at 10am, and admission is free. Plan to stay for fun in the interactive fountain and lunch at one of the many eateries there.

For an outing with older kids, hit the Billy Goat trail at Great Falls. The hike on the Maryland side of the park is challenging but fun, and offers fantastic views of the Potomac River’s Mather Gorge. Be sure to bring water, and pack a picnic lunch (or grab a bite at the snack bar there). And stop in the Visitor Center after for some insight into the area’s history. Hours are 7am to 30 minutes after sunset, the Visitor Center is open 10am – 4pm. Admission is $20/vehicle.

Wednesday – Plan an outing to the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. Take little ones to Story Time in the Explore! activity space at 11:45am, and plan for play among the interactive stations after. Of course, make time to tour the collections and hang out in the beautiful Kogod Courtyard, one of DC’s most stunning spaces where you can hang out with kids. Museum hours are 11:30am – 7pm. Admission is free. Read more about the Penn Quarter galleries in this KFDC post and this one.

Thursday – Head on down to the Howard Country Fair! Weekdays are a great time to go when the crowds aren’t overwhelming and the entry fee is cheaper. Enjoy rides, magic shows, pig races, pony rides, the Kids & Critters barn, and much more. Daily hours are 8am – 11pm. Admission on weekdays is $5 before 5pm, $7 after. And if you can’t make it, there are more county fairs coming up — get the scoop on all of them here.

Friday – Explore the woods and wetlands of Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria. Look for little creatures as you hike — turtles, frogs, fish, and birds are practically guaranteed wildlife sightings — and take in sweeping vistas of the marshland. Be sure to stop in the Visitors Center, where there are several interactive exhibits about the surrounding environment. Open daily from dawn to dusk. Admission is free.

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Filed under 2019, All ages, DC, Maryland, Outdoor, Seasonal, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays

County Fair Season Around the DC Area



Where do you get carnival rides and games, farm animals, the junk food gamut, live entertainment, pony rides, piglet races, and wares for sale all in once place? Down at the County Fair. The season for them runs from early August through mid-September, and you can get the lowdown on this year’s events around the area below. Happy Fairin’!

Fairfax County 4-H Fair and Carnival
What: Four days of festivities include livestock and dog demos, 4-H exhibits, fair food, carnival rides, games, vendors, live entertainment, and more.
When: August 1-4, see website for daily hours.
Where: Frying Pan Farm Park | 2709 West Ox Road, Herndon, VA
Cost: Tickets are $1 each or 24 for $20 (most ride are 3-5 tickets). Unlimited Ride Wristbands for Thursday or Friday are available for $25 — purchase by August 1.

Howard County Fair
What: The 74th annual fair begins this coming weekend, and you have through next Saturday to enjoy rides, magic shows, musical entertainment in the evenings, pig races and pony rides, the Kids & Critters barn, Demolition Derby, a pro rodeo, and more. Most of the rides cost extra, and packages are available, so be sure to check out the website to see what’s available if you plan to go.
When: August 3-10, 8am – 11pm daily, though activity times vary, so be sure to check schedules.
Where: 2210 Fairground Road | West Friendship, MD
Cost: Admission is $5-7/age 10+, $3/seniors, free/under 10. Rides and games are extra.

Montgomery County Fair
What: This fair is a family fave. (You can get a glimpse of one of our experiences there and read a review from a few years ago), so trust me when I say that there is so much to do, you have to see the schedule on the website for yourself to get the full scope. Highlights include lots of 4-H exhibits and demos, including opportunities to visit with some of the animals; animal races, pony rides, a KidZone with interactive games and activities, tons of carnival and kiddie rides, arts & crafts, monster trucks and a demolition derby, and much more.
When: August 9-17, times vary by day so check the schedule for specifics.
Where: Montgomery County Fairgrounds | 501 Perry Parkway, Gaithersburg, MD.
Cost: Admission is $12/advance $15/at gate for age 12+, free/11 & under. Tickets for rides cost extra. A one-day all-u-can-ride carnival wristband is available for $25. And note that parking is $10 at the fairgrounds, but FREE parking and shuttle bus service are available from Lakeforest Mall, located at Lost Knife Rd. and Odenhal Ave.

Prince William County Fair
What: Virginia’s largest annual county fair includes 4-H exhibits, rides, contests (think pie eating and water balloon tossing), animal shows, craft demos, the Children’s Barn, Kid’s Zone, live performances, and more. Note that August 9 is Kid’s Friday when all admissions are $6. And there are other special days with all kinds of promos, so be sure to check the schedule for details.
When: August 9-17, Hours vary by day, so check the daily schedules.
Where: Prince William County Fairgrounds | 10624 Dumfries, Manassas, VA.
Cost: Admission is $12/age 14-59, $6/seniors and age 5-13, free/4 & under. Be sure to look for daily specials, too!

Arlington County Fair
What: We’ve been and have had a great time. It’s big enough for a fun-filled day, but not so huge that it’s overwhelming, and you feel rushed to get to everything. There are carnival rides for everyone from toddlers to adults, and the kids especially loved the pony rides and piglet races. You can also check out competitive exhibits, enjoy live entertainment, cheer on a variety of racing animals, view outdoor movies, and take little ones to the Kids’ Court for moon bouncing, face painting, and more. And new this year: A beer garden and goat yoga!
When: August 14-18, hours vary by day, so check the schedule for specifics.
Where: Thomas Jefferson Community Center | 3501 Second St., Arlington, VA. Get parking/shuttle information here.
Cost: Admission is free. Buy tickets to use for rides and other activities: $1/ticket, $20/24 tickets, $40/48 tickets.

Prince George’s County Fair
What: A variety of entertainment and attractions for all ages — 4-H exhibits magic and dance shows, pig and duck races, a horse pull competition, a chain saw artist, a K-9 show, and much more.
When: September 5-8, hours vary by day.
Where: Showplace Arena | Upper Marlboro, MD.
Cost: Admission is $6/age 12+, $5/age 6-11, free/5 & under. Rides and games are extra.

Anne Arundel County Fair
What: Carnival rides and games, animal exhibits, monster trucks, pony rides, garden tractor pulls, pig races, pie eating contests, a talent show, live music and much more
When: September 11-15, check the website for hours.
Where: Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds | 1450 General’s Highway, Crownsville, MD
Cost: Admission is $10/age 9+,free/8 & under. Rides and games cost extra.

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Filed under 2019, All ages, Annual, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Farm, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Music, Outdoor, Seasonal, Special Event, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Spots Still Open in Remaining Weeks of DC Way Soccer Camp!


This post is sponsored by DC Way, however, I only promote programs, services, and events that I genuinely believe in and think would appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under 2019, Camp, DC, Outdoor, Sports, Summer, Weekdays