Tag Archives: DC hikes with Kids

Explore the Anacostia Watershed at Kingman & Heritage Islands



I’ve chaperoned a lot of field trips with my kids’ classes over the years, and one of my favorites is the annual third grade excursion to Kingman and Heritage Islands as part of the Anacostia Watershed Society’s Rice Rangers program. The visit involves planting arrow arum and wild rice in the muddy banks of the Anacostia River to help restore the wetlands, and there’s also a guided hike around the park to learn more about the ecosystem.

Rice Ranger, Sasha

And Owen a few years ago

It was the field trip with Sasha’s class this week that prompted me to feature Kingman Island here on the blog. We’ve been to the park many times for various activities. It’s located next to RFK Stadium — you actually have to go through the RFK parking lot to access the entrance — which isn’t too far from our house. Besides field trips, we’ve gone for short hikes and just to get an easy dose of nature close to home. And, of course, we’ve also been for the Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival, which is probably what the park is best known for (and which I highly recommend attending if you enjoy bluegrass music).

The reason I haven’t covered Kingman Island on the blog until now is because I wasn’t sure if it was a great recommendation for a kid outing. The location is somewhat isolated, and there have been some safety concerns (this WaPo article from a few years ago touches on that). But on this recent visit, we saw several people there that weren’t part of our group hiking, biking, walking their dogs, and enjoying the natural oasis. The park is owned by the District, but operated by Living Classrooms, and along with other organizations like the Anacostia Watershed Society, they are working to help the area thrive and make it more accessible to the community.

There are two long wooden bridges in the park — the first crosses over to Heritage Island, the second takes you to Kingman Island. Both offer views of the wetlands, and you can spot turtles in the water below and birds all around. On this visit, we saw a box turtle, lots of tree swallows, mallards, geese, and a hawk. In the past, we’ve also spotted egrets, great blue herons, frogs, and foxes. There are short trails on both islands to hike, check out the vegetation, and try to spy wildlife. Some other things to know: Several tables are available in nice spots for a picnic, and a couple of port-a-potties are located along the trail on Kingman Island.

Occasionally, the Anacostia Watershed Society leads explorations of Kingman Island along with boat tours of the river. And some events in their Anacostia River Discovery Series take place at Kingman, too.

Duck, duck…goose!

Kingman & Heritage Islands are accessible from RFK Parking Lot 6 near 575 Oklahoma Avenue NE. It’s open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.

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

Where to Play on the Weekdays: December 26-30

Checking out some of the Q?rius collection

Checking out some of the Q?rius collection



Monday – Take advantage of The Beauvoir School’s Winter Break and head to their fantastic playground, open to the public when class is not in session. Open all day. Admission is free.

Tuesday – Hit the trail for a hike. It should be a great day for it as the mercury rises a bit. Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Huntley Meadows in Alexandria, and Roosevelt Island are all great for tramping with kids. And this post has even more recommendations for local walks in the woods.

Wednesday – Head up to Baltimore on a Winter Break day off! Learn about the city’s early business days at the Museum of Industry. The Inner Harbor attraction highlights the trades and people that helped build the port city through exhibits that showcase relics from the past and recreate various industry environments. Hours are 10am – 4pm (Tuesday – Sunday). Admission is $12/adult, $7/ages 7-12, free for 6 and under. If you prefer some fresh air, take a tour of Fort McHenry, birthplace of the National Anthem. The park is open 9am – 5pm. Admission is $10/adult, children 15 and under are free.

Thursday – Get Q?rius at the National Museum of Natural History. During winter break, the interactive and experiential learning space opens earlier at 10am (instead of 2pm). Visitors can view up close — and in many cases handle — real artifacts and specimens from the museum’s collections. It’s recommended for ages 11 and up, but some younger ages could also enjoy it. For really little ones, there is Q?rius Jr: A Discovery Room for more age-appropriate exploring. And, of course, there’s the whole rest of the museum for everyone. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.

Friday – Reach new heights of fun at ClimbZone in Laurel, MD. Kids and adults will have a blast scaling the many colorful, whimsically-themed walls at the new indoor climbing center. Hours are 10am – 9pm (10am – 8pm other weekdays). Admission is $25/ages 6 and up, $12/5 and under for a three-hour session.

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Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Virginia, Weekdays, Winter

Where to Play on the Weekdays: September 15-19

A life-size "in the flesh" model of Spinosaurus in the Nat Geo courtyard is a must-see along with the exhibit

See a life-size “in the flesh” model of Spinosaurus in the Nat Geo courtyard along with the exhibit

Crocs, Inc.


Monday – Visit the National Geographic Museum to see the brand new Spinosaurus: Lost Giants of the Cretaceous. All ages can enjoy the exhibit, whether it’s to learn about the discovery of the prehistoric beasts or just to gawk at the colossal skeleton models and real dino fossils. Hours are 10am – 6pm. Admission is $11/adult, $9/senior, $7/ages 5-12, free for 4 and under.

Tuesday – Get a dose of nature and history in one fell swoop, while also enjoying the sublime weather at Roosevelt Island. Hike the easy trails, look out for wildlife, and explore the Memorial Plaza to learn about the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt. The entrance to the park is located right off the GW Parkway, just past the Roosevelt Bridge. It’s accessible only from the northbound lanes. Hours are 6am – 10pm. Admission is free.

Wednesday – Check out some art at the Corcoran Gallery. Thanks to a recent merger with George Washington University and the National Gallery of Art, admission to the museum is now FREE. Be sure to take the kids upstairs to see the exhibit American Metal: The Art Of Albert Paley, which includes models of incredible metal sculptures of animal scenes that Paley created for the St. Louis Zoo and Cleveland Botanical Garden. Museum hours are 10am – 5pm (Wednesday – Sunday).

Thursday – Play the day away at Anacostia Park. The locale stretching along the Anacostia River in SE DC is full of opportunities for recreation with three playgrounds, including one that’s pirate themed; a skating pavilion; a nature center; tennis courts; and fields for playing ball or tossing a Frisbee. Plus, you can walk, run, or bike along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail or just find a table or nice spot in the grass to relax, have a picnic, and take in the views. Open dawn to dusk. Admission is free.

Friday – Be among the first audiences to see Rapunzel at The Puppet Co. The marionette version of the classic Grimm’s fairytale is opening at the Glen Echo theatre for a three-week run. Showtimes are 10am and 11:30am. Tickets are $10. Plan to stay at the park after to romp on the playground and go for a spin on the carousel.


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

Take a Hike at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

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We love Great Falls Park, but we also know from experience that on a nice weekend day, chances are it’s going to be pretty crowded. So, we often seek out alternatives in that area if we want a similar hiking experience — trails that meander through lush woods, leading to lovely hang out spots and great views of the Potomac, all within a not-too-far drive from home.

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This is what led us to Scott’s Run Nature Preserve a couple of weekends ago. The locale in McLean is just a couple of miles away from Great Falls. And while it doesn’t have the spectacular vistas that its larger, better known neighbor does, Scott’s Run is peaceful and pretty and makes for a nice hiking experience with kids.

scotts_rocks

scotts_stream

There are two places to park and start a trip there. Both are right off Georgetown Pike, just past the Beltway. We opted for the second lot adjacent to the main creek (the actual Scott’s Run) that flows through the park, eventually into the Potomac. We walked along the creek a bit on a wide gravel path that also leads to the river, crossing offshoots of the creek en route. Along the way, we spotted several chipmunks and caterpillar eggs, and enjoyed the shade of the leafy canopy above.

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scotts_stairs

It was probably a little less than a mile to the river from our parking lot. There’s a great waterfall and pool of water surrounded by boulders and a small sandy area, which would have been an ideal place to stop for a picnic had it not been occupied already. We opted for a nearby area, sitting on a fallen tree to eat lunch and hang out before exploring a grassy area stretching along the water.

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On the way back, we chose a different route along a trail that snaked through the woods and took us by what looked like remnants of an old fireplace and chimney. This way was longer and deeper in the woods, but generally a flat, easy hike. Though we only encountered it near the waterfall, I hear there are many areas with rocky cliffs in the park — something to keep in mind if you’re with little ones who tend to wander. All in all, we probably hiked about three miles total that day, but you can easily extend or shorten that depending on what your family is up for when you go.

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Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is located in McLean, VA, just off Georgetown Pike. It’s open from just before sunrise to just after sunset. Admission is free.

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Filed under All ages, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Volunteer, Weekdays