Feeling summer vibes at The Yards
This time of year, when we switch seasonal gears from spring to summer, is one of my favorites. As the weather warms up and the school year starts winding down, I always look forward to the changes and casual vibe it brings. Swimsuits and sandals come out of storage while sweaters and boots go in it. Baseball hats hang on coat hooks where there used to be a mess of jackets. The back patio is vibrant with flowers instead of littered with dried leaves. Stops at the gelato shop during evening walks are once again a brilliant idea. And that ridiculously giant bottle of tequila from Costco (it was such a good deal!) finally sees some action as margaritas replace red wine.😁
Even though summer doesn’t officially begin on the calendar for a few more weeks, seasonal activities in the area are starting up — and these warm months bring some of the area’s best recreation. From water-inspired fun to music and movies in the open air to special fests and feasts to bonus attractions at everyday places, the joys of summer are abundant in DC, and this annual guide will help you take advantage of it all.
So, unpack the flip flops, get out the blender for frozen drinks, bookmark this page, and start planning for summer fun. The 2019 KFDC Guide to the Best of Summer in DC has all the details and inspiration you need to make the season awesome. Happy Summer!
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Play in the Sprays
Outdoor Pool Season
Big Screen Under the Stars
Museum Programs & Seasonal Exhibits
Movies, Story times, & More
Mini Trains, Carousels, Mini Golf, & a Ferris Wheel
PLAY IN THE SPRAYS
A refreshing run through the sprays at The Wharf
Kids can run through fountains and splash around at many area spraygrounds. Several are within the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, but some of the best are built right into the urban landscape, making the concrete jungle a cool place to hang out during the hottest months.
One of the newer additions to the splash circuit is the in-ground fountain at The Wharf in Southwest. Kids can run through water shooting up from jets on opposite ends, play in mist spraying up in the center, and ride on waterproof rocking horses within all of it, all with the beautiful waterfront area as a backdrop.
Yards Park is a favorite for many in the city with two levels of super fun sprays, a wading pool and wall of water (essentially a water fall between the levels), plus a great scenic location on the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard.
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.
Canal Park in the Navy Yard is great for all ages with 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 Memorial Day Weekend, May 25, DPR Spray Parks will be open for the season from 10am – 7pm daily.
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 – 8pm. 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. Plan to stop in Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Co. at 826DC located nearby.
The Fountain on the Square at Rockville Town Square welcomes kids to splish splash from May to September. It’s open Monday – Saturday 11am to 9pm and Sunday 12-8pm, but it’s turned off for maintenance at certain times during the week, so be sure to check the schedule before you go.
The fountains in the Mosaic District welcome all to play in the sprays that jet up from concrete. Surrounded by retail stores and restaurants, you can make a day of it there with some shopping and eating, too. Plan to go on a Tuesday with little ones when you can also enjoy Stories from Strawberry Park.
There’s a new little in-ground fountain on Capitol Hill at the C Street Plaza right across from Eastern Market. It runs weekdays 10am – 10pm.
OUTDOOR POOL SEASON
Making a splash at Capitol Skyline
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 Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 25. Days and hours vary from pool to pool so be sure to check the schedules before you go. A couple of years ago, they began opening earlier on weekdays, at 11am, and that’s continuing! (And some open even earlier than that for lap swim.)
The pool at the Capitol Skyline Hotel in Southwest DC offers summer memberships as well as daily passes. And for those that remember it as a singles party spot, I can vouch that it’s become very family-friendly over the past couple of years.
For outdoor swimming outside of the city, Montgomery County outdoor public pools will open on May 26 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 City of Alexandria website for hours, as they vary by pool.
Make a splash at Soak City in Kings Dominion
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 a few weeks later. Here’s a quick list — visit the websites for more details.
Ocean Dunes Water Park at Upton Hill in Arlington
Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro, MD
Great Waves at Cameron Run in Alexandria
The Water Park at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg
Atlantis Water Park at Bull Run in Centreville
Splash Down Water Park in Manassas
Chesapeake Beach Water Park
Soak City Water Park at Kings Dominion
Water Country USA at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA
Catch a summer concert at an iconic DC spot
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.
Experience live music amid art at Jazz in the Garden, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s free concert series, every Friday from 5–8:30pm. The first performance of the season is May 17, rain or shine, and there will be weekly shows through August 23. Spread out a blanket, pack a picnic dinner or purchase food and drinks there, and enjoy the sounds of a variety of jazz artists. Note: Adult drinks are available from the pavilion; BYO alcohol is not permitted.
Get a nice dose of nature as you listen to live tunes at Potomac Overlook Park in Arlington on Second Saturdays of the month through early September. The free, family-friendly performances take place on a stage in the woods surrounded by trails to explore. (FYI: The Nature Center — with snakes, turtles, owls, hawks — is great, too.
At Riverdale Park Station’s Bear Square, enjoy live musical performances from some of the area’s most talented artists every Friday night from May 24 to August 30. From pop rock and folk acts to Latin- and Swing-themed nights, there is something for everyone playing this summer.
The U.S. Air Force Band’s Summer Concert Series begins May 25 and runs through Aug 27. They’ll perform throughout the summer at the U.S. Capitol (West Side Steps), Air Force Memorial, and on the National Plaza at National Harbor Outdoor concerts are subject to weather cancellation.
Enjoy outdoor performances at one of my favorite outdoor places places in the city, the National Arboretum every Thursday evening from June 6 – August 8. Bring a lawn chair or blanket, and relax in the Meadow below the Capital Columns. These concerts are free, but reservations are required. (Note: Children’s fave Rocknocerous is playing on July 25.).
The Capitol Riverfront Friday Night Concert Series at Yards Park begins June 7 and will run through August 30, presenting a different band each week on the boardwalk stage overlooking the Anacostia River. Along with the free music, food and beverages are available for purchase. (Unfortunately, the NO BYOB polic still holds). I recommend getting there early, so the kids can play in the fountains before the concert starts at 6:30pm. 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!
In Silver Spring, the TGIF Downtown Street Party brings free music once a month on Friday evenings to the Fountain Plaza 6:30-8:30pm. Enjoy everything from pop to jazz to R&B to classic rock — dates are June 14, July 12, August 9, and September 13.
All summer long, families can enjoy a variety of free fun at Rockville Town Square. Concerts for all ages on Friday evenings start June 7 and will run through September 20 — enjoy live music, good food, and beverages from 6-9pm.
Rock at the Row returns to Pentagon Row Thursdays June 13 – August 1. From 7-9pm, all are invited to the lounge on the new plaza for food samples and craft beer in the VIP section or to gather at one of the outdoor cafés while enjoying live music, giveaways, and merchant specials.
The U.S. Botanic Garden is bringing back the American Roots Music Concert Series every other Thursday 5-7pm. Celebrate American roots with Americana and folk, country, blues, jazz, and even zydeco outside on the Conservatory Terrace from June 13 – September 26
You can kick-start your weekends at Tysons Corner Center’s Fresh Artists Concert Series. Grab a blanket and enjoy performances ranging from ballet to blues, folk to funk, poetry to pop. Schedule still TBD, so check back.
Enjoy music in Northern Virginia parks! The Fairfax County Park Authority presents their Summer Entertainment Series, a summer-long calendar of shows, concerts and movies appropriate families held in local parks. Bring a picnic dinner, blankets, and lawn chairs to enjoy the best local and regional entertainers.
Strathmore, the North Bethesda performing arts center, hosts Live from the Lawn, free outdoor concerts, every Wednesday from July 10 – August 28.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival brings lively culture to the National Mall every summer
On May 25 and 26, Beast Coast Parkour will bring the world’s largest Parkour festival to Rosslyn’s Gateway Park where to practice, train, and demonstrate their high-octane sport and art. Beginners and experienced Parkour’ers alike are encouraged to attend — along with demos there will be seminars and speakers tailored for all levels of expertise.
Imagination Bethesda, an annual festival occurring in the heart of its namesake city, is all about children. On June 1 from 10am – 3pm, Woodmont & Elm 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.
Get folksy at Glen Echo Park June 1-2, when the 38th 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 free festival that is renown in the folk community.
Several stand-out events are anticipated around the area this time of year, celebrating everything from music to art & culture to neighborhoods to food.
The DC Jazz Festival presents a variety of performers at venues all around the city from June 8-17, but the most family-friendly of them actually precedes the main event. Jazz n’ Family Fun Days will take place June 1-2 with free shows for all ages at The Phillips Collection.
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 in Centreville, VA, festivities include wine tasting (of course), chef demos, food truck fare, live music, and a whole family-friendly area with activities especially for kids.
Celebrate Capital Pride June 8-9 at the annual parade and festival that culminates a week of gay pride events around the city. The Saturday procession is always a spectacular extravaganza of ornate floats, street performers, music and dancing, glitter and beads, and plenty of reveling. Sunday’s family-friendly festival, on Pennsylvania Avenue from 3rd to 7th Streets NW, features several stages of live entertainment, hundreds of exhibitors, and activities for all ages. It’s all a fun and fabulous opportunity to show support for the LGBTA community and join the celebration.
The annual Celebrate Fairfax! festival brings a whole weekend of fun June 7-9 with something for everyone — live music, carnival rides, children’s activities, art, food vendors, and much more to keep guests entertained throughout the weekend. And with Better Than Ezra and Smash Mouth headlining, you get a little time trip back to the 90’s, too!
Attend one of the biggest summer barbeques around 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.
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. However, this year’s event will only run two days, June 29-30, celebrating the Social Power of Music.
Independence Day in DC is a pretty big deal, the city being the nation’s capital and all, so the annual July 4th celebrations are pretty big. It starts with the National Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue. Then, this year more festivities will take place at the Salute to America event by the Lincoln Memorial, the A Capitol Fourth concert at the U.S. Capitol, and fireworks at West Potomac Park.
The lotus and water lilies in full bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are such a ravishing sight it calls for a celebration. Along with the spectacular display of flowers, the annual Lotus & Water Lily Festival July 21-22 will feature traditional Asian and African dancing and drumming, gardening workshops, park tours, arts & crafts, face painting, and other family-friendly pursuits. View scenes from a previous bloom here.
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 24 and will continue every weekend through October 20. (Go! I promise, it’s the best.)
Happy kids during a day at the Flag Ponds beach
Head out to Calvert County for a day at Flag Ponds Nature Park. Not only is there plenty of sand for playing and nice mellow waters for swimming, 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. Read more about Flag Ponds and see pics here and here.
Bayfront Park aka Brownie’s Beach is 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 admission fee: $18/adult, $10/child for non-residents of the county.
Calvert Cliffs State Park is 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 hike 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 quintessential summer fun. Open daily sunrise – sunset, and admission is $5-7/vehicle.
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. Hours are 6am – sunset. From May 1 through September, admission is $5/Maryland resident, $7/non-resident on weekend, and $4/ Maryland resident, $6/non-resident on weekdays.
The beach is narrow, and you’re on a river, but you still get sand and water at Purse State Park in Charles County, MD. 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. Open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.
Summer and beach trips go hand-in-hand, so why not hit one with the kids? You don’t have to drive all the way to the ocean for it; there are several places where you can get a nice dose of sand and surf that are within day trip-distance from DC.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy a film outdoors at the Union Market Drive-in
BIG SCREEN UNDER THE STARS
Catch a flick on the big screen from the comfort of your car at the Union Market Drive-In Series, occurring monthly on Fridays throughout the summer, with several family-friendly films in the mix. Get there as early as 6pm and have a bite to eat in the Market or bring food back to your car. The film starts at 8:30pm. Admission is $10/car, free for walk-ins. Advance purchase is recommended.
National Harbor’s Movies on the Potomac already started their Sunday night film series for families, and it will run through September 30. Movies are shown on the plaza screen starting at 6pm.
At the Navy Memorial Plaza on Pennsylvania Ave, catch Movies on the Memorial, a series of Navy-themed films that pay tribute to our rich maritime heritage. It will run Thursday evenings May 30 – August 29.
This year’s Who’s Got Game?-themed NoMa Summer Screen features a fun lineup of sports-related films. The 12-week outdoor film series starts on June 5 and runs weekly on Wednesdays through August 21 with lots of great family flicks mixed in. The movies begin at sunset, but you can get there early to picnic — BYO or grab a bite from a food truck
The Golden Triangle (BID) is raising the curtain on its Golden Cinema Film Series to be hosted this summer in Farragut Park. Outdoor movies will be shown at sunset every Friday beginning June 7 – August 2, and there are many family-friendly films among the line-up.
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.)
Every Friday starting June 7, Rosslyn Cinema presents a night of fun and films in Gateway Park. Bring a blanket or low chairs and a group of friends and enjoy a night under the stars with your favorite movies. Movies start at dusk, but the fun starts at 5 p.m. with games and their Pub in the Park. Kids and pups welcome!
Every Tuesday in June at 8:30pm, catch Downtown DC Summer Flicks at Freedom Plaza (13th & Pennsylvania Ave) as its transformed into an outdoor movie theater with a “Can I Kick It?” theme – a multimedia movie screening engagement brought to you by the DowntownDC BID. Each event features a classic (or cult contemporary classic) martial arts film that is scored with an original music soundtrack of hip hop, soul, and more mixed live by DJ 2-Tone Jones.
See your favorite stars beneath the stars at the Capitol Riverfront’s Canal Park Outdoor Movie Series. Catch films every Thursday evening at sundown from June 13 through August 22.
Friday and Saturday evenings are Movie Nights in Arlington this summer. Heroes and Sheroes: Movies with a Mission is the theme of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Project’s free outdoor movie series. From June 14 – August 25, catch a flick at Arlington Mill on Fridays and Penrose Square on Saturdays.
Georgetown Sunset Cinema presents films on Tuesdays throughout July. The “Out of Office” theme will feature films about vacations and trips. Grab a blanket, bring a picnic, and head to the beautiful Georgetown Waterfront Park to view films with the panoramic backdrop of the sunset, Potomac River, and Key Bridge. Films start at sunset–around 8:30/8:45 p.m. Arrive early to picnic and to get the best seating!
The Library of Congress will host the third annual “LOC Summer Movies on the Lawn” outdoor film festival this summer. The six-film series, which showcases iconic family-friendly films from the Library’s National Film Registry, will be presented on Thursday evenings at sundown from July 11 – August 15 on the north lawn of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, across the street from the U.S. Capitol.
Bethesda Outdoor Movies will bring five days of flicks al fresco to downtown at the corner of Norfolk and Auburn Avenues from July 24-27. Be sure to check the titles to see what’s appropriate for your kid.
The fairy houses always delight at Annmarie Sculpture Garden
MUSEUM PROGRAMS & SEASONAL EXHIBITS
Dinosaurs are returning to DC! The prehistoric beasts that were a highlight of the National Museum of Natural History went on a five-year hiatus during renovations. On June 8, the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils-Deep Time will reopen and the skeletal specimens along with their stories will be back. While this isn’t a seasonal exhibit — even better, it’s permanent! — it opens just in time for summer adventures, and is one to put on your must-do list.
The National Zoo is also presenting programs that highlight prehistoric beats with Dino Summer. Travel back in time with “DinoRoars”—a self-guided safari around the Smithsonian’s National Zoo — and meet massive animatronic dinosaurs that move and roar. From June 1 throurgh August 31, you can look up and listen as the roar of a 39-foot-long T. rex joins the symphony of Zoo animal chirps, squawks and chuffs. On exhibit will be Compsognathus, Dilophosaurus, Parasaurolophus and babies, Stegosaurus and baby, Quetzalcoatlus and babies and T. rex. Each dinosaur is fitted with electronic brains to activate and control movements and produce the sounds. Families can also catch “Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo Live,” a ticketed theatrical show featuring incredible larger-than-life dinosaur puppets in an interactive show all about dinos. Tickets are $8/child, $10/adult. Admission to the Zoo and “DinoRoars” is free.
First there was indoor mini-golf, after that it was a giant maze, then came the super awesome Beach, followed by Icebergs, then Hive buzzed in, and last year we played in the Fun House. summer, the National Building Museum is welcoming visitors to LAWN, an immersive installation features a vast, sloping green space taking up the entire Great Hall with activities, events, relaxation areas, and architectural elements for guests to enjoy. Admission $13/youth, $16/adult, free for members. Open July 4 through September 2.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is launching a series of gallery programs for children ages 0 to 8 years old this summer: Cultural Cuddles (0 to 12 months) will run Tuesdays in June, Toddling Treasures (13 to 35 months) will run Thursdays in June, Cultural Kids (3 to 5 years) and Friends for Freedom (6 to 8 years) will take place the first Saturdays of the month. Each program is designed to fulfill the museum’s mission to support the understanding and development of each child’s healthy racial identity, their joy in human diversity and inclusion, their sense of justice, and their capacity to act for their own and others’ fair treatment. Programs are free, but sign up in advance online.
ARTECHOUSE, the destination in Southwest DC known for fusing art and technology, will dazzle us once again with Infinite Space. Experience it June 13 – Sept 2. Admission is $16-20/adult, $8-10/12 & under.
Annmarie Sculpture Garden is enchanting any time of year, but it’s especially so in the summer when the fairy and gnome houses are on display. The adorable collection of little whimsical abodes for spritely creatures have all been selected from many submissions in an annual fairy house building contest. And they are just fantastic. Created by all ages, individuals and groups, each one has a different theme, but together they are a brilliant showcase of imagination and craftiness. View scenes from a past exhibit here.
You can walk amid a garden of butterflies at Brookside Garden’s amazing Wings of Fancy exhibit. The seasonal display featuring live butterflies and caterpillars from all over the world opened in April and will welcome visitors through September 22. Through June 30, it’s open Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm. July 1 – August 30 hours are 10am – 1pm Monday-Friday and 10am -5pm Saturday & Sunday. September 1-22 it’s open 10am – 5pm daily.Admission is $8/ages 13 and up, $5/3-12, free ages 0-2 (admission to the rest of Brookside is free). Read about a KFDC experience there and view even more pics here
Every year, the Newseum offers the Summer Fun Deal. From July 1 – September 2, there is 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 and look for a deal on adult admission here.
Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington, DC, is returning to the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden for its fourth year. From July 2 through September 2, the public is welcome to write wishes on small cards and tie them to the tree’s branches. They’re collected throughout the summer, then sent to Ono’s “Imagine Peace Tower” in Reykjavik, Iceland.
During the warm months, little ones can flex their green thumbs in the outdoor Children’s Garden at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Renovated not to long ago, the adorable outdoor area features dirt to dig in, plants to tend to, and a cute play structure to romp in. The rest of the USBG’s outdoor gardens are great to explore, too!
The National Archives hosts some free programs for kids and families in June and July, including it’s regular monthly drop-in storytime, Family Learning Labs, and a few special events on weekends. Some require advance registrations and have age recommendations, so check them out and sign up soon!
Extraordinary installations, lovely annual exhibits, kids’ programs during the school break, and admission deals are some of the special experiences at our museums and galleries to take take advantage of over the summer.
The National Gallery of Art’s Drop-In program returns this summer
MOVIES, STORY TIMES, & MORE FOR KIDS
The Regal Summer Movie Express presents flicks for kids on many Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 10am starting July 2. 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.
The Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse will also offer fun films for kids throughout the summer for just $1. Dates and films vary by theater, so check the schedule to see what’s playing at a theater near you
Family movies at local theaters are a great way to stay cool and keep kids entertained when the weather heats up. And several seasonal programs keep little ones engaged with story times and more interactive fun. Even better, they’re all free or super cheap!
On Thursdays from 4-5pm beginning June 6, the new Bear Square Kids Club in Riverdale, MD, will keep kids entertained and learning with a curated set of educational and fun activities. The fun includes interactive arts & crafts making, including DIY Terrarium and Marble Painting classes, to live singing and a magic show.
Kids in Canal is coming back with its weekly series of kid-friendly entertainment every Wednesday 10:30-11:30am beginning June 12. Bring little ones to the middle block of Canal Park to enjoy magic shows, kids tunes, science demonstrations, and puppet shows. Top off the day with a refreshing splash in the dancing water fountains!
On Wednesdays from June 6 to September 25, Kids Corner on The Plaza at CityCenter welcomes little ones for outdoor story time, singing, and fun with DC Public Library.
The National Gallery of Art’s wonderful drop-in program for children returns once again! Formerly Stories in Art, Art Investigators, geared toward ages 4-7, introduces kids to art and encourages them to make observations and use their imaginations as they discover different works. It’ll run Friday – Monday from July 12 to August 2. Read a KFDC review of the program from a few years back (we’ve been since, and it was just as good!).
The Mosaic District‘s Stories from Strawberry Park series takes it outdoors during the warm months (in the Angelika Film Center on rainy days and the rest of the year). Join them there on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 10:30am from May through September for live interactive performances by unique storytellers.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Ashburn welcomes families to Kids Camp, a movie series that is inexpensive ($1-3) and benefits local charities, to boot.
Old Greenbelt Theatre, a nonprofit cinema located in Greenbelt, MD, presents their School’s Out Summer Family Series every Tuesday at 1pm from June 18 – August 27. The movie line-up is all kid-friendly and admission to all of them is FREE!
Every Saturday this summer at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, one of CHAW’s amazing teaching artists will lead families in a guided art project from 10am – 12pm. It’s FREE and open to all (ages 4 and up with a caregiver), but donations encouraged to CHAW’s Paint Bucket for Tuition Assistance. First come, first served — space is limited. No registration required.
Go bowling for free! Select bowling centers and schools around the country are participating in the first ever Kids Bowl Free program — a couple of bowling centers in Maryland are participating.
Children whose age does not exceed a limit by a participating bowling center are eligible to register for two free games each day of the KBF program, all summer long, courtesy of the participating bowling centers along with the schools and organizations.
Go for a spin on the beautiful Dentzel Carousel at Glen Echo Park
MINI TRAINS, MINI GOLF, CAROUSELS, & A FERRIS WHEEL!
Watkins Regional Park opens 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 12–5 pm, closed Mondays except May 27 (Memorial Day), July 4 (July Fourth Holiday; closes at 4pm) & September 2 (Labor Day). Read about the rest of the fun you can enjoy at Watkins!
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 – 5pm through September 2. After that, hours will be limited, so check the schedule. Read about the wonderful Cabin John playground here
The Miniature Train and Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel at Wheaton Regional Park started taking guests for spins in early April on weekends and will be open daily May 18 through September 2 (limited times after that). Hours are 10am – 6pm Monday to Friday, and 10am – 7pm Saturday & Sunday. Read about the super fun Wheaton playground here.
The beautiful historic Dentzel Carousel is open for its 99th season at Glen Echo Park. Plan to go for a spin before or after a show at Adventure Theatre or The Puppet Co. From May through August, it’s open Wednesday – Friday 10am – 2pm, and Saturday and Sunday 11am – 5pm.
These extra delights bring even more fun to several parks around the area that are already great outdoor places to hang with the kids.
The Clemyjontri carousel has been running on weekends since April, but will be offering rides daily starting May 25 on weekdays 9:30am – 1:00pm and weekends 9:30am – 6:30pm. Read more about Clemyjontri here.
There are a couple of ways to go for a spin at National Harbor. Kind of like a London Eye of the U.S., The Capital Wheel is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of DC. The 42-gondola ride (all closed and climate-controlled with room for 8) soars 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 $15. For an on-ground whirl, the Carousel features a herd of whimsical creatures and the sparkling Potomac as a backdrop. It’s $7 for each rider, and they can ride an unlimited number of times. Read about both rides and more National Harbor fun here.
Burke Lake Park’s Mini Train and Carousel are open daily from Memorial Day – Labor Day 11:30am – 5:30pm. The park is free to access for Fairfax county residents. For non-county residents, the park is free on weekdays and has a $10 entrance fee on weekends/holidays for a car or large capacity van. Carousel rides are $2-3, and train rides are $3-4.
Rosslyn Putt-Putt, a pop-up mini golf experience is coming to the heart of Rosslyn this summer! From Friday, June 21, through the end of August/beginning of September, the Rosslyn BID will bring to life a favorite summer pastime for all ages. For $3, adults and children can enjoy an outdoor nine-hole mini-golf course decorated with recreations of Rosslyn landmarks including Dark Star Park, Key Bridge, Potomac Tower and others. An indoor cafe will include classic full-size video and carnival games, as well as a vintage-inspired Candy BAR with penny candy, novelty ice creams and more. Alcoholic beverages including craft beer, wine and sangria will be available for purchase. Open Fridays 5-9pm and Saturdays 10am – 6pm.
A setting as great as the entertainment at Children’s Theatre in the Woods
From late June through early August, Wolf Trap presents the fantastic 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 did!). Read a KFDC review of the series from a past summer.
Saturday Morning at the National, the free theatre program from National Theatre, runs on select Saturdays June 15 – August 17 with performances at 9:30am and 11:30am. Musicals, plays, storytelling, and comedy shows are all part of the live entertainment line-up. Reserve tickets in advance or get them day-of on a first come, first served basis.
Backyard Theater for Children, Strathmore’s summer theater series brings live music and fun to kids – all outdoors under a big tent. Weekly performances take place every Thursday at 9:30am and 11:30 from July 11-25. Admission is $8/advance, $10/day of, free/2 & under.
See a Shakespeare play in the park! The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company presents Shakespeare in the Ruins at the Picturesque Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City this summer. Love’s Labour’s Lost, a Shakespearean comedy, runs June 28 – July 28. Every Sunday is Family Fun Day with pre-show activities for kids. And not only can you picnic as you watch the play, kids are free (two for every adult). Advance reservations are recommended as tickets are limited.
All the world’s a summer stage at these venues that present special entertainment series for children and families throughout the season.
Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual Free For All will present Hamlet from July 10-21 this summer. The Washington tradition offers free performances of a Shakespearean classic to the public. Get tickets through an online lottery or waiting in line day-of with a limited number available.
Even more great live entertainment especially for children will be at theatres around the DC area this summer. See what’s coming to local stages in the early weeks for now, and the new seasonal entertainment guide will be posted soon!
Vamos United! Get your summer kicks at a soccer match
A day at Nationals Park is all it takes to understand why baseball is America’s favorite pastime. Catching a Nats 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. Before you go, check out these tips on doing a Nats game without breaking the bank. 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!
Whether or not you’ve got a little soccer fan in your fam, DC United matches are fun experiences for all ages. And the new Audi Field is a great venue for watching them. Plus, 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.
Tennis, anyone? The Washington Kastles, the DC franchise of World TeamTennis, will bring some on-court thrills to the city July 15-31. Even better, the new location of Kastles Stadium will be on the rooftop of Union Market! For some background, see this post and this one from a few years back.
Every summer, the Citi Open Tennis Tournament serves up exciting competition along with other fun activities for fans of all ages. See some of the sport’s top players in action and enjoy the thrills on and off the court at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center July 27 – August 4.
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 $16.
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 but still fun 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.
Women’s pro soccer team, Washington Spirit, plays in Germantown. Per a KFDC reader, “you get affordable tickets and concessions, picnic seating behind the goal, a really intimate, family-friendly environment, and top-level soccer.”
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.
One of the best treats of the season
Cantler’s is an Annapolis institution.
Mike’s Crab House in Annapolis also gets raves.
Enjoy great crabs and an awesome beach area at Kentmorr.
The Jetty on Kent Narrows has crabs, scenic views, and a fun beachy vibe.
In Baltimore, Bo Brooks on the Canton Waterfront is popular.
Enjoy a feast in the District at Ivy City Smokehouse.
Stay close to the city at Quarterdeck in Arlington.
Eat crabs in the ‘burbs at Bethesda Crab House.
Make it a day trip to Waterman’s in Rock Hall, MD.
Pick up your own at THe Fish Market at The Wharf. Buy them already steamed or get them while they’re still alive to cook at home.
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.
Don’t miss the spectacular sunflower bloom at McKee-Beshers
On Thursday evenings and some Saturdays during late spring and summer, the Anacostia Watershed Society hosts their free Discovery Series, which include boat tours, paddle tours, and wetland walks at a few local parks. Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Anacostia Park, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Kingman Island, and Diamond Teague Park are locations for these jaunts.
For other adventures on the water, a bunch of places around the area rent kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and stand up paddleboards. Fletcher’s Boathouse is a popular place to go and has a great riverside area to hang out and picnic when you’re off the water. You can also row from Ballpark Boathouse near Yards Park. Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis has paddling options along with lots of other outdoor recreation. This post has a whole round-up of even more places to go with the flow on local waterways.
Some particularly cool activities and offerings are only possible this time of year. Sure, you can say that’s most of this guide, but these experiences that fall into the “other” category shouldn’t be missed.
Pick your own produce at local farms. While it starts in the spring with strawberries, it carries on through summer with even more delicious fruits — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, plus veggies and more produce you can gather yourself. Find out where you can PYO around the DC area.
Join Anacostia Riverkeeper and Earth Conservation Corps on Friday evenings for Friday Night Fishing, their catch and release fishing program at the dock at Diamond Teague Park (located next to Yards Park), from June 29 through August 23. Rods, reels, bait, and instruction are free. No sign up is required.
Aaaaaar, mateys! As the weather warms up and cruising conditions become more comfortable, pirate voyages are offered on local waters. In DC, take a Family Treasure Hunt Cruise on the Boomerang Pirate Ship. Head out to Annapolis for Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake. Go for a jaunt with Urban Pirates in Baltimore or stay closer to home where they’re invading National Harbor.
Some of the most spectacular flower blooms occur during the summer. Enjoy a gorgeous display of azaleas. View a whole park bursting with pink, white, and peach-hued lotus flowers and water lilies. Fields upon fields of sunflowers are sure to brighten any day. Stop and smell the roses at a favorite National Mall spot. Get details on all of them in this post about our bloom town.
Get rolling in Southeast! The Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion, the only skating pavilion within a national park, opens May 25 and will welcome skaters daily from 9am – 5pm. Even better, both admission and skate rentals are FREE! And along with skating, Anacostia Park offers a multitude of water and land based recreation, including Ranger led programs, birding, tennis, fishing, biking, and three playgrounds. Read more about the park in this KFDC post.
Have I left out anything really good? If you think so, let me know in the comments below!