Tag Archives: DC Family Activities

A Socially Distanced Ski Day at Whitetail Resort

 

Skiing is kind of a perfect activity for this Covid winter.  In any year, it’s a super fun and active way to take advantage of the season. During this time, it’s especially great since, in many ways, it’s already socially distanced.  Additionally, ski resorts are taking extra precautions to help ensure safety.

So, we hit the slopes a couple of weeks ago at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, PA.  About an hour and a half drive from DC, it’s one of the closest ski resorts to us, and easily a doable day trip. We went on the Tuesday between MLK Day and the Inauguration, when the kids had off from school.  We figured it was a good time to go, since it wasn’t a weekend or a holiday when more people would opt for ski day, too.

Happy to celebrate his birthday on the slopes

Advanced reservations are required, a policy implemented at many resorts to cut down on lines and because tickets sell out faster since capacity is limited.  We booked four days ahead with no problem, but I’ve seen some resorts sell out further in advance  for weekends — something to keep in mind. (And they will refund if for some reason you can’t go.)

Other safety precautions include masks required in certain areas, extra signage about physical distance, and reduced capacity of lifts and gondolas. Generally, common sense prevails, too:  Don’t line up for lifts too close to others (though skis automatically prevent this), and only ride up with people in your party. (Read more about Whitetail’s commitment to safety.)

A heads-up:  Despite the limited capacity and sparse crowd, there was a long, cold wait for ski rentals — about an hour and half, since they limit the number of parties that can be in the rental shop at a one time.  Unfortunately, this ate into our ski time.  KFDC Tip: Rent equipment ahead at Sun & Ski, so you’re geared up and ready to hit the mountain after a quick check-in. (We had looked into this, but everything was rented out because of the holidays around our day trip.)

Also good to know:  You cannot store shoes and belongings in lockers, but we just piled ours outside the ski rental shop as a lot of others did.  It’s doubtful that anyone would steal your shoes, but make sure you take the right ones home! (I brought Levi the wrong pair at first, which was both funny and kind of gross.)

Ready to head downhill

Once we were all equipped, we got right on the lifts.  I’m not the best skier (a result of growing up in South Florida… ask me about my tennis game, though), so I stuck to the greens and blues.  But everyone else enjoyed all the runs and found enough variety to have a really fun day.  (Though keep in mind, this is a small east coast resort, so no high expectations for fresh powder and long runs.)

The cafes are open, with both indoor and outdoor seating.  At lunchtime, we grabbed some food inside and took it out to eat, while friends brought lunch in a cooler that they kept it in their car.  We also got hot chocolate and coffee later in the day to warm up.

Maintaining good ski pole distance 🙂

 

Whitetail Resort is open daily 9am – 5pm Monday – Wednesday, and 9am – 9pm Thursday – Saturday, and 9am – 8pm on Sundays. Lift tickets start at $72 a day/adult, $59 a day/child. Night skiing begins at 3pm (Thurs-Sunday) and starts at $64/adult, $53/child.  Rentals are extra ($55 ski or snowboard). Whitetail is located at 13805 Blairs Valley Road in Mercersburg PA.  With limited capacity, there was plenty of parking, but still a short walk to the lodge.

More to note:
* Liberty and Roundtop, also among the closer ski resorts to DC, are within the same system as Whitetail, so much of what’s here applies to them as well.
* Whitetail (and the other resorts) also offer snow tubing, though only in two-hour sessions — maybe a bit short for the long drive to do just that, but good to tack onto skiing.

 

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Outdoor, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Sports, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Chill Time: Activities Around DC During the Covid Winter

A socially distanced visit to The REACH at the Kennedy Center

 

Winter is looming, and it’s going to be a lot different than any we’ve previously experienced.  Most of our usual go-to places for fun and entertainment (and warmth) inside aren’t accessible right now.  So, we adapt.  Instead of heading to museums and theatres and indoor play spaces this season, plan on adventures outdoors instead.  (Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!)  So, layer up, bundle up, invest in gear that makes the cold outdoors more comfy, and try some of these activities that aren’t just alternatives to the winter outings you aren’t enjoying, but that are awesome adventures in themselves.  Happy Winter!

 

TAKE A HIKE

GET AN ART FIX

EXPLORE A GARDEN

TRY SEASONAL SPORTS 

ENJOY ALL-YEAR ACTIVITIES

SEE THE LIGHTS

 

* * * * * 

 

TAKE A HIKE

A scenic break by the river at Turkey Run Park

Taking a walk in the woods probably seems like an obvious suggestion, but a reminder of some great places to go never hurts. Here are a few that are especially good to visit now, either because they don’t draw huge crowds or are big enough to offer plenty of space if they do.

Turkey Run Park
This seems to be one of the best overlooked parks in the area, as it’s never crowded when we go. Nearly 700 acres of woods contain trails that ramble along the Potomac, streams that flow down from the woods to the river, great views from the shoreline, and a variety of wildlife. Hikes are fairly easy, and you can opt for trails anywhere from about one to four miles long. There are clusters of big rocks on the riverbanks, where it’s nice to stop and take in the views. Scramble over fallen trees, cross a few small footbridges, and run through clearings. A few picnic areas with tables are perfect for lunch al fresco, and the open spaces are great areas to toss a Frisbee or kick a ball around. Access the park via the GW Parkway, right before the Beltway. Hours are 6am -10pm, and there is no admission fee.

Rock Creek Park
Our local national park is a great place to enjoy outdoor recreation right here in the city.  Layer up and hit one of the many trails. We usually park at the Nature Center lot or by Peirce Mill, then hop on a marked path from there.  Some areas might be closed right now, but there are maps on trees indicating where to go. Admission to Rock Creek Park is free.  [Note: Links above offer more info about the Nature Center and Peirce Mill, but both places are closed right now.]

Sky Meadows State Park
The park in Delaplane, VA, is vast, perfect for good social distancing, plus you can enjoy nice walks through woods and along pastures with beautiful scenic views. You can even hike the AT — a three-mile stretch of it runs through the park. There are bunch more trails to follow, plenty of them easy and short for young trampers, including a Sensory Trail especially for kids and a Children’s Discovery Area. The Visitor Center is open if you need facilities and a little warming up, but only Thursday – Monday, with weekday hours from 11am – 4:30pm, and weekends 10am – 4:30pm. The park is open 8am – dusk, and parking is $7/weekdays, $10/weekends.

Patapsco Valley State Park
With over 16,000 acres sprawling through Howard and Baltimore counties, there are hiking options galore at Patapsco. The trails vary, which keeps it interesting — there are easy, flat routes along the river and rooty paths that wind through the woods, some leading to waterfalls or crossing over footbridges. We usually head in at the Avalon or Hilton entrances and hit the trails from there.  Both offer the best access to trails that lead to the lovely Cascade Falls, plus other nice routes.  There is a playground next to the Hilton parking area for some extra fun for kids.  I recommend checking the Patapsco website or Trails.com to find the right hike for your family and detailed info.

Sugarloaf Mountain
Located in Dickerson, MD, just south Frederick, Sugarloaf is a great place to go for a family hike.  You can start at the base and opt for a 7-mile loop or drive farther up the mountain for a shorter hike — there are a bunch of trails to hop on close to the parking area.  A couple of good ones are the white trail, which winds around and ascends gradually to the summit, and the orange trail that is a steeper, more direct climb up.  However you go, you’re guaranteed great views on the way and at the top.  Afterward, plan a stop at the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard or The Comus Inn, both just down the road. The latter is a family-friendly restaurant with a great outdoor dining area, plus shuffleboard, corn hole, and ping pong — all of it surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Get a glimpse of our recent outing to Sugarloaf and Comus in my IG highlights.

Find even more great hikes around the area!


 

GET AN ART FIX

Some of the DC Statehood murals near The Atlas on H Street

You don’t always have to go into a museum to enjoy great works of art. They are outdoors in gardens, along our landscapes, and even the city streets. For many, seeing the creative output of others is such a fantastic boost — here are some varied ways to find that around the area.

DC Murals Tour
You can find art by local artists all over the city on sides of buildings, temporarily boarded-up storefronts, even right on the street. MuralsDC, an initiative from the DC Department of Public Works, is an excellent resource for locating, learning about, and touring local murals. You can refer to the digital map and find tours of collections, including the 51 Murals for DC Statehood and U Street Corridor Walking Tour.

Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
While all of the Smithsonian museums are currently closed, you can still enjoy the outdoor areas, including the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden on the National Mall. Take a stroll through the works, and check out this FAQ for more about visiting. You can pop in for free daily from 10am – 4:30pm. And to make the most of your time, visit the lovely garden between the Hirshhorn and Arts & Industries Building and the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the castle.

The REACH at the Kennedy Center
The beautiful grounds of The REACH, the Kennedy Center extension that opened just over a year ago, are open to visitors. Not only are there works of art located around the area, the artfully designed buildings are so impressive and amazing to view. You can stroll around, check out the sculptures and structures — and take in vistas of the Potomac. The Kennedy Center terrace and plaza are also open, and you can take a very short walk through The Reach indoors. Even more, Victura Park, an outdoor pop-up wine garden & café, is there on weekends, with a Winter Holiday Market, too. The REACH grounds are always open; indoors are Friday 4-8pm, Saturday 12-6pm, & Sunday 12-6pm; Victura Park hours are Friday 4-8pm, Saturday 12-8pm, ad Sunday 12-7pm. Admission to everything is free.   See my IG posts, here and here, for some REACH scenes.

Tour the Memorials
Surely, DC’s grand iconic structures can be considered artistic works. So, be a tourist in your hometown (unless you’re visiting, then just be a tourist), and take the opportunity to visit the many memorials on the Mall and around the Tidal Basin. Along with being marvel-worthy, there’s a lot to be gleaned from them, too. Learn about some of our country’s presidents and leaders — George, Abe, Tom, FDR, & MLK — from displays, park rangers, and in the Visitors Centers. And walk or bike among them all to add some exercise (and extra fun) to the venture.

Annmarie Sculpture Garden
The grounds of the arts center in Calvert County are filled with all kinds of creative works, from large abstract sculptures to “tree pops” and birdhouses to a few fairy houses left over from the annual summer exhibit. Some of the bigger works are part of the permanent collection, and many more are on loan from the Hirshhorn, National Gallery of Art, and other private collections. A stroll among all of it along a looping path is lovely, relaxing, and kind of magical. And the Fairy Lolly is the most delightful play area! The indoor galleries with even more art are also open and good for warming up (plus, restrooms). Hours right now are Sunday – Friday 12-3pm, and Saturday, 10am-3pm. Admission is free during Covid, but a donation of $5 is suggested. Read more about Annmarie here.


 

EXPLORE A GARDEN

Winter wetlands at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Exploring a garden might seem the same as a hike — after all, both involve mostly walking — but they’re quite different to me.  Gardens are deliberately designed with plantings that are thought out, and they usually offer more than walks, like pretty seating areas, special demo sections, and sometimes play areas and other structures.  Here are some places you can find all of those.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
With its lily pad-filled ponds, gorgeous lotus and water lilies (in summer), and acres of wetlands, Kenilworth  is unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in the area. Even without the colorful flower bloom or fall hues, the park is still a gorgeous oasis in the city during winter.  You can hike around and explore the different areas — wander the paths around the ponds or follow the boardwalk to the wetlands area.  A couple of lookouts showcase the natural scenery, and you may even spy a great blue heron in the distance.  A great way to get there is by bike along the Anacostia River Tail if that’s convenient for you; otherwise, parking is easy with a lot right there if you drive.

National Arboretum
Of course I have to include one of my very favorite outdoor places here. The Arboretum’s nearly 450 acres contain an amazing variety of plant, tree, and flower collections that are just as interesting to explore as they are beautiful. Trails and paths wind through them, and you’ll also find hidden seating areas to take a break and enjoy the scenery. The Old Capitol Columns standing smack in the middle of the Ellipse Meadow make for a striking scene, but tend to draw more people. I recommend heading to less visited areas like the dogwoods and conifers — it’s like strolling around a secret, magic garden. The herb garden is fun to sniff around, too! Unfortunately, the Youth Garden, natural play area, and Bonsai Museum are closed right now, but what’s open is plenty to enjoy. And if you bring along a picnic, the Grove of State Trees is a designated eating spot with tables. See more about the Arb here and here,

Brookside Gardens
The beautiful public display garden within Wheaton Regional Park in the Montgomery Parks system is lovely and relaxing to visit all year round.  You can stroll along paths through wooded areas, seek out gazebos and other nice spots to sit, and run through open grassy areas.  The turtle pond is especially pretty, with stone and wooden footbridges leading to different parts and a large gazebo, from which you can look for turtles swimming below or just sit in and enjoy the surroundings.  (There is also a sweet Children’s Garden with play structures, though it’s closed right now.)  Right now, the grounds are open to wander and enjoy daily from sunrise to sunset, and the Visitor Center 10am – 2pm.

Green Spring Gardens
Tucked away in Alexandria, Green Spring is a great place to hang out. It’s divided into sections of more than 20 thematic demonstration gardens, plus there’s a wooded stream valley with ponds. Stop in the Horticultural Center and ask for scavenger hunt instructions — this adds an element of adventure to your explorations. The grounds are open dawn to dusk, and the Horticultural Center 9:30am – 4pm. Admission is free.

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
The grounds at Meadowlark are gorgeous and vast and so nice to roam around. You can follow trails to the lake and check for geese and turtles, visit the Korean Bell Garden featuring pavilions, whimsical totems, and a lovely fountain, and visit a restored 18th Century log cabin. For warming up and restrooms, the Visitor Center is open with limited capacity. Hours are 10am – 4:30pm in November/December and 10am – 5pm January/February. Admission is $6/adults, $3/ages 7-17 and seniors, free for ages 6 and under.

Find a few more DC gardens to explore!


SEASONAL SPORTS

Hit the slopes for some seasonal fun

Take advantage of the season with a quintessential winter activity!  Hit the slopes, glide on ice, whiz down a hill, and enjoy thrills and delights only the cold and snow can bring.

Skiing
Not only is skiing a fun, active way to take advantage of winter, area ski resorts are open with Covid safety measures in place, notably advanced reservations required since admission is limited.  There are a bunch of resorts within a few hours’ drive that are great for young, newbie skiers (and veteran swooshers, too).  Some resorts to check out: LibertyWhitetail, Roundtop, Massanutten, Wintergreen, Seven SpringsHidden ValleyBryceSnowshoe, Timberline, and Wisp.

Snow Tubing
If you’re not into skiing, there’s another, easier, more comfy way to enjoy whizzing down a snow covered hill at a local resort — on an inner tube! It’s not nearly as pricey as skiing, and equipment (ie, inner tubes) are included.  All of the places listed above offer snow tubing, and here are direct links for all of them: Liberty, WhitetailSeven SpringsHidden ValleyBryceSnowshoe, and Wisp.

Ice Skating
While some places are not opening for the season, several area ice rinks have returned this year.  Pentagon RowSilver Spring at Veterans Plaza, Rockville Town Square, and Reston Town Center are once again welcoming skaters to glide the day — and night — away. The Color Burst Ice Rink at the Merriweather District in Columbia, MD, just started its inaugural skating season. The Winter Village at Cameron Run in Arlington also includes ice skating.  All rinks have Covid precautions in place for safe, socially distanced skating.

Sledding
This one obviously requires some help from Mother Nature, since we can’t make our snow like the ski resorts. Most of us have our local sledding spots, but if you’re looking for more places around the area, this Curbed post has suggestions. You just might see your local spot among them like ours — Capitol Hill is a blast for sledding (though it remains to be seen if it will be open to sledders to this Covid year.)


 

ALL-YEAR ACTIVITIES

Tee up for disc golf

Some pursuits can be enjoyed year-round with the right gear and clothing. Just add some extra layers, warm socks, and maybe bring along a thermos of hot chocolate or tea, and you’re ready for action. Here are some activities to enjoy during the cold (and warm) months!

Disc Golf
If you haven’t played or even heard of disc golf, or Frisbee golf as it’s sometimes called, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a combo of Frisbee and golf. Not only is it fun and challenging, many of the courses are set up in scenic places. This post has info about one in College Park, and there are also great courses at Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, MD, Patapsco Valley State Park in Marriottsville, MD, and Burke Lake Park in Burke, VA.

Golf
You can tee up all year at many local golf courses. Owen and his friends have been spending some time on the greens, and certainly it makes for a great family activity, too.  There are three courses in DC — East Potomac Park, Langston (near Anacostia Park), and Rock Creek — where the public is welcome to play. Family tees are available for younger beginner players. You can also just hit balls at the driving range, and if you don’t have clubs, East Potomac Park offers complimentary sanitized loaner clubs. For public golf courses beyond the District, go here.  And if you want to drive some balls in a private bay while hanging out and enjoying a bite to eat, check out Top Golf — there are area locations open at National Harbor and in Germantown and Loudoun.

Shark Tooth Hunting
Just because it takes place along beach areas, that doesn’t mean it’s a warm-weather-only activity. As long as you’re dressed for it (waterproof boots are a must!), searching for millions-of-years-old fossils can be just as fun and compelling in winter as it is in summer. There are several places to go in the region, all about an hour drive from DC. This post has a round-up of spots, and note that there are restrictions for at least one.

Geocaching
This is a really fun way to explore some of your favorite outdoor places and discover new ones. It’s like a scavenger hunt, and perfect for adding a little adventure to your outings. Even better, you can pick and choose where and when you want to do it. In fact, most of the hiking spots mentioned above (and in the larger round-up of hikes) likely have geocaches to find. This KFDC post has info on how to get started.

Biking
Don’t let the cold stop you from taking to two wheels! Biking is a great way to be active outdoors while social distancing. Just layer up for warmth and continue to enjoy cruising around the DC area. There are plenty of routes to ride, and there is something for every age and rider level. This post has a round-up of pedal-worthy places.

 

SEE THE LIGHTS

See Stars at Light Yards

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are are a staple of the season and some continue to shine into January. Visit one of several parks or gardens in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. While some you tour by car, others you can walk through for a truly enchanting experience.

Light Yards
The Yards’ annual holiday installation returns with “Stars,” larger-than-life illuminated star sculptures constructed from metallic mesh that twinkle with dancing lights and festive music.  There aren’t many of them, and it’s not interactive like most previous installations, but along with the sparkling Sundeck, it’s a nice, easy way to experience some socially-distanced holiday cheer and a bright start to 2021 — it will be lit nightly 6-10pm through January 10.  If it’s not too cold, you can pick up take-out from one of the many eateries at The Yards and enjoy dinner al fresco amid the lights or pair your visit with outdoor dining at one of the nearby restaurants.  A couple of take-out recs:  Takorean and Sweetgreen. Restaurants with heated outdoor seating: Agua 301Blue JacketOsteria MoriniNandos, and All Purpose Pizzeria and Salt Line are a short walk away by Nationals Park.

DC Holiday Lights
During December, Main Streets throughout the District are joining together to bring DC residents a spectacular holiday experience: DC Holiday Lights! Residents are invited to take a stroll down each of the participating corridors to experience a dazzling array of lights and decor, enjoy holiday promotions, and shop local. Visit the website to see where corridors are located and what to expect at each of them. You can also take a guided tour of the lights with Free Tours By Foot!

Festival of Lights
This spectacular holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for over 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car — bring a thermos of hot chocolate, put on some holiday music, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the adorably festive illuminated scenes. Purchase tickets in advance online and pay only $8.

Garden of Lights
The grounds of Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Lusby, MD, are transformed into an outdoor twinkling wonderland that transports to an enchanted world where you’ll discover glowing “light sculptures” and wondrous light installations. See wild animals, wintery wonderlands, musical holiday scenes, deep sea treasures, magical creatures, glowing trees, and more. New this year: An outdoor Holiday Market with shopping, music, fun holiday photo opps, and food and drink.

Find more holiday light displays and other holiday happenings around the area!

 

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Filed under 2020, 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

The KFDC Guide to the 2020 Fall Festival Season (yes, it’s happening!)

In the pumpkin patch back in very pre-COVID times

 

We’ve gotten so used to most annual events being canceled, it may come as a surprise (and delight) to learn that a bunch of fall festivals are still taking place this season.  The locales — outdoors with lots of space — make it possible, and all of them are taking extra precautions to keep guests safe (follow links to websites for specifics about each place).  With capacity limited at just about all of the festivals listed for safe social distancing, advanced reservations are recommended if not required.  So, put on those sweaters (and masks), grab a basket for apples (and a bottle of hand sanitizer), and go have some autumn fun.  Happy Fall, y’all!

 

Apple Gala & Cider Festival
Where: Great Country Farms | Bluemont, VA
When: Through September 30
Admission: $12-16/adult $10-14/child, free/2 & under 

Celebrate everything apple at Great Country with apple picking, apple cider donuts, and a romp in the 12-acre play area. On Saturdays & Sundays there’s also live music, marshmallow roasting, cider pressing demos and fresh cider samples.

 

Fall at Clark’s Elioak Farm
Where: Ellicott City, MD
When: Tuesday – Sunday through November 3
Admission: $8

This fairytale of a farm doesn’t have a special fall festival per se, but with so many activities, including seasonal delights like pumpkins, cider, and Halloween fun, it’s like a celebration all the time. And it all takes place on the sprawling grounds adorned with installations practically straight out of a storybook (they were actually salvaged from The Enchanted Forest, an old Ellicott City amusement park). See Humpty Dumpty, the Three Bears, Cinderella’s pumpkin coach,  the Old Woman’s shoe, and more. If that’s not enough, there are hayrides, cow train rides, slides, farm animals to pet, a pumpkin patch, the pine tree maze, and even more. See the website for hours by day. Closed Mondays.

 

Fall Fun Festival
Where: Gaver Farm | Mt. Airy, MD
When: Through November 3
Admission: $9/weekdays, $13.50/weekends, free/2 & under

Celebrate the arrival of fall in Frederick, MD with farm activities for the whole family family and other great seasonal traditions. Conquer twists and turns of the corn maze, jump on the giant pillow, pet and feed farm animals, and cruise down giant slides. There are over 50 attractions appropriate for any age including mini mazes, playgrounds, duck races, ball games, photo centers, and much more.

 

Harvest Festival
Where: Belvedere Plantation | Fredericksburg, VA
When: Through November 8
Admission: $9.95 – $16.95, depending on day/time

This heritage farm has loads to keep the whole gang entertained for hours. The Maize maze, slides, hayrides, ziplines, pumpkin patch, playground, flower picking, jumping pillow are just some of the attractions that little ones will love. New this year is the Sunflower September Spectacular, a pick-your-own sunflowers field open September 21-22, 24-26, and 27-29. Plan to eat there — the Red Rooster Grill offers a variety of grilled favorites to satisfy all appetites.

 

Corn Maze & Fall Festival
Where: Winterbrook Farms | Thurmont, MD
When: Through November 1
Admission: $12

The farm in Frederick County claims the largest corn maze in Maryland, and it comes with loads of other farm fun, including slides, a pumpkin patch, animals, the moo choo train, cornhole, zip lines pedal karts, apple cannons, a tractor tire mountain, and lots more.  Their first annual Sunflower Festival will be happening the weekend of September 19-20.

 

Colonial Market & Fair
Where: Mount Vernon, VA
When: September 19-20
Admission: $18-20/adult, $10/age 6-11, free/5 & under

At George Washington’s old stomping grounds, they re-create a lively early-American marketplace with demonstrations, crafts and entertainment. Take in the sights and sounds of it all on Mount Vernon’s 12-acre field and chat with colonial artisans selling traditional handcrafted food and wares. Colonial music transports you back to the 18th century as expert artisans demonstrate period crafting techniques. Learn how the Washingtons enjoyed ice cream and watch as interpreters showcase the process. There’s plenty of fun for the whole family!

 

Montpelier Farms Fall Festival
Where: Upper Marlboro, MD
When: September 19 – November 8
Admission: $12, free/2 & under

Enjoy all of the staples of a fall festival on the farm — pumpkins, hayrides, animals, hill slides, farm-themed games and rides, and much more. This year, it’s open on weekdays, too.  And a tip based on our experience there: Do not miss the corn maze. It’s EPIC.

 

Pumpkin Village Fall Fest
Where: Leesburg Animal Park | Leesburg, VA
When: September 19 – November 3
Admission: $16-18/adult, $14-15/child & senior, free/2 & under

The animals are usually the main draw at the park, but this time of year, there are activities galore that bring visitors to enjoy some seasonal fun. Guests can spend a crisp fall day enjoying loads of great activities such as giant hill slides, hay rides, moon bounces, pedal carts, and more.

 

Fall Festival
Where: Summers Farm | Frederick, MD
When: September 19 – November 8
Admission: $10-17, depending on time/day

With so much farm fun, there undoubtedly will be something to excite every kid. A pumpkin patch, giant jumping pillows, live entertainment, hay rides, hay slides, pig races, rubber ducks races, straw mountains, a mini obstacle course, even a campfire area if you want to “chill” out.

 

Reston Farm Garden Market Fall Fest
Where: Reston, VA
When: September 25 – November 1
Admission: $20/child + 1 adult, $5/add’l adult
This annual Fall Fest is on! Families will enjoy a pumpkin moon bounce and bouncy slides, inflatable corn maze, train rides and farm animals. There is also their talented balloon artist, face painter and caricature portrait artist, along with food, pumpkins and more for additional on-site purchases.

 

Wayside Farm Fall Fun
Where: Berryville, VA
When: September 26 – November 3
Admission: $12, free/2 & under (see discount below!)

There is farm fun for visitors of all ages. This year the 10-acre corn maze theme is Everyday Heroes to honor first responders — there is an an easy route and a challenging route depending on interest level. Families can make a reservation to pick pumpkins in the u-pick fields where they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. There are also have pig races, slides, a John Deere playground, apple cider donuts, and lots  more. KFDC readers can get $2 off the ticket price on Fridays and Mondays — use the code “Weekday” at check out!

 

Butler’s Orchard Pumpkin Festival
Where: Germantown, MD
When: Weekends September 28 – October 27
Admission: $13-15, free/2 & under

Enjoy a country outing and join Butler’s in celebrating the harvest with traditional autumn activities. Take a hayride, jump in the hay loft, visit Barnyard Buddies, navigate through a couple of mazes, play corn hole, and more! Make advance reservations.

 

Fall 2020 Activities
Where: Cox Farms | Centreville, VA
When: Through November 2
Admission: $15/drive-thru hayride

In normal times, the fall fest at Cox is massive, but out of lot of caution, they are greatly limiting activities. A self-drive “hayride” lets visitors will drive their cars through the traditional hayride route to pick a pumpkin. You can also load up on apple cider donuts and kettle corn from the farm market to enjoy on the ride.

 

Autumn Activities
Where: Larriland Farm | Woodbine, MD
When: Late September thru October
Admission: Free (fee for some activities)

Larriland is best known for their PYO fields, but in the fall, they offer a little more for farm-goers. Take a hayride out to the pumpkin patch to find a potential Jack-o-lantern, then play in the Boo Barn or make your way through the straw maze. Apple fritters and food trucks are available on Saturdays and Sunday’s.

 

Fall Pumpkin Harvest Festival
Where: Great Country Farms | Bluemont, VA
When: September 28 – October 31
Admission: $10-12/adult $8-10/child, free/2 & under

Great Country is known for its awesome festivals, and the Pumpkin Harvest is no exception. Thrills for little people (and grown-ups, too) include P-Rex, the pumpkin eating dinosaur; Rubber Ridge, the tractor tire mountain; the Pumpkin Princess in the pumpkin patch, a giant Pumpkin’ Jumpin’ Pillow; five mazes; 60-foot slides, rope swings, tractor rides, and even more fun in the country. Find a future jack o’ lantern in the pumpkin patch, the largest u-pick patch in the area.

 

Homestead Farm Fall Festival
Where: Poolesville, MD
When: Daily through October, 9am – 5pm
Admission: $2

While Homestead doesn’t have an official festival, the farm embraces the spirit of autumn every year. There are no hayrides out to the pumpkin patches this year, but you can still select a pumpkin, pick apples while they have them,  enjoy hot cider, see farm animals and scarecrows, and  enjoy the season with the family at this scenic locale.

 

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Annual, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Eats, Fall, Farm, Maryland, Outdoor, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

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.

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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