Tag Archives: Family Activities in DC

Passport to Fun: Kids Euro Fest Returns to DC!

 

Calling all curious kids and tiny travelers! Next month is your chance to experience European culture without a plane ticket.  Kids Euro Fest, the wonderful annual event that presents art and cultural programs for children, is returning to the DC area!

Kids Euro Fest has become a tradition in the nation’s capital.  For the last 14 years, it has been one of the largest performing arts festivals for children in America. Artists and performers from across the 27 European Union countries have participated, including puppeteers, dancers, musicians, and children’s book authors. 

For the first time this year, Kids Euro Fest will feature two in-person Family Days located at two different embassies in Washington!  The first will take place October 9 at the Embassy of France, and the second on October 16 at the Embassy of Sweden. From 12-4pm on both days, families are invited to enjoy an afternoon full of European performances, activities, crafts, games, and food.

The best part? Everything is FREE!

All kinds of fantastic cultural activities await:  Kids can learn from a Latvian children’s book illustrator, catch an Irish dance performance, and make Portuguese art. A German theatre will transport young minds into a fairy tale, and France will get kids thinking about climate change. Throughout the day, kids can get creative at the craft table, take part in traditional European outdoor games, and indulge in food from the embassy’s own chef.

Health and safety precautions will be in place at both Family Days, including masks for kids ages 2-12. Activities will take place both indoors and outdoors with social distancing and limited attendance; therefore, families should be sure to register ahead of time on the KEF website.

For those outside of the DC area, Kids Euro Fest will also launch virtual activities on October 9. These include online performances, storytelling, films, and workshops.

To learn more about Kids Euro Fest events and register to attend the Family Days, visit Kidseurofest.org.

 

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This post is sponsored by the European Union Delegation to the United States, however, I only promote events, programs, and places that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers. To learn about other Delegation events in the area, visit www.events.euintheus.org.

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Filed under 2021, All ages, DC, Fall, Festival, Weekend

Five Hidden Histories and Stories on and Around the National Mall

[Note: This is a guest post contributed by JoAnn Hill, a DC area educator and author of the book “Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.” ]

 

A carousel’s connection to the Civil Rights Movement, an accidental shooting by the US army, an anti-dancing law that rivals the injustices of Footloose, world-renowned graffiti, and a science-touting statue that just might make you smarter… these lesser-known, feel-good, and bizarre stories are just waiting to be explored on and around the infamous National Mall.

Below are five fascinating stories to uncover at familiar sites on your explorations around the National Mall.  Check out local DC author JoAnn Hill’s book Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure to learn more about the hidden histories below as well as to discover dozens of additional gems and off-the-beaten path locales in and around the Washington, DC area.

Carousel on the National Mall

“Round and Round: A Carousel Takes a Turn into the Civil Rights Movement”

For decades, the National Mall’s iconic carousel has been a prominent fixture on the city’s most popular strip of grassy land. The carousel, however, is much more than an exuberant ride; it also serves as a hopeful window into the Civil Rights Movement.

On August 28, 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech before a crowd of some 250,000 people during the March on Washington. On that same day, about 45 miles away outside of Baltimore, Gwynn Oak Amusement Park discontinued segregation. An 11-month-old baby named Sharon Langley was the first African American child to go on a ride there and rode the classic carousel, which was originally located in the park, along with two white children. The three children riding the carousel together exemplified King’s message of integration and racial harmony.

In 1981, the famous carousel made its way to its new home on the National Mall when a Smithsonian concessionaire purchased it, unaware of its historical significance. Seven years later, Donna and Stan Hunter purchased the special carousel and have owned and operated it ever since.

Read All About It: Learn more about how the beloved carousel reflects Civil Rights history on pages 74-75 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Thing to Know: Unfortunately, the Carousel is currently closed due to Covid.

Where: The Carousel is located on the National Mall: Jefferson Drive SW.

 

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Lincoln Memorial

“Oops! We Didn’t Mean to Shoot, Mr. President!”

The Lincoln Memorial is a national treasure, commemorating one of America’s most revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln. What many may be surprised to learn is that nearly 80 years ago, it was also the site of an accidental shooting by the US Army.

In 1942, as part of World War II defenses, an anti-aircraft gun was installed atop the US Department of Interior. The gun was positioned near a local bridge to protect the city against an air attack. On September 3, at 10am, a US Army soldier accidentally released a round of ammunition at the Lincoln Memorial. The accidental firing left its mark on the east side of the memorial. Bullets struck the structure’s frieze and damaged three of the 36 states’ names: Connecticut, Maryland, and Texas.

It is certainly safe to say that the Lincoln Memorial may just be the one US structure attacked by its own country.

Read All About It: Learn more about the US Army accidental shooting on the Lincoln Memorial on pages 186-187 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore:  A baseball-size indentation was imprinted into the marble of the memorial’s outer wall. The gouge has been fixed before, but the patchwork has fallen out. There are no plans to refill or fix the hole.

Where: The Lincoln Memorial is located at 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle NW.

 

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Jefferson Memorial

“Leave Those Dancing Shoes at Home”

There may be a time and place to dance like no one’s watching, but dance enthusiasts should beware of adding the Jefferson Memorial to their lists of dance venues.

On May 17, 2011, a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, declared expressive dancing as prohibited inside the Jefferson Memorial. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit stated that expressive dancing “falls into the spectrum” of prohibited activities, including picketing, demonstrations, and speechmaking, at the memorial. The rules are intended to ban conduct that has the propensity to attract spectators while detracting from the dignified and ceremonious setting of the national memorial.

The court’s ruling was in response to the 2008 arrest of several individuals silently dancing to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s 265th birthday. The dancers’ expressive performance was deemed as unlawful. The court viewed the performance as a distraction to fellow visitors, as well as an attraction to onlookers.

While some of the laws passed in our nation’s capital have caused many to scratch their heads, this one may just be among the strangest and surprising of them all.

Read All About It: Learn more about this bizarre law at the Jefferson Memorial on pages 2-3 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore:  The Jefferson Memorial is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Where: The Jefferson Memorial is located at 16 E. Basin Drive SW.

 

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World War II Memorial

“Bald-Headed and a Little Bit of Comfort”

Wandering around the World War II Memorial evokes numerous emotions: feelings of sorrow, honor, remembrance, and respect, just to name a few. Individuals walking near the Pennsylvania pillar, however, may find themselves feeling additional emotions of surprise and bewilderment.

During World War II, various drawings of a large-nosed, bald man peering over a fence next to the words, “Kilroy was here” popped up all over the globe wherever battles were being fought. The mysterious sketches were proof that an American comrade had previously been there, providing comfort and reassurance to many anxious soldiers. The identity of the artist behind the graffiti was unknown, resulting in many to be confused by these peculiar drawings.

While the popularity surrounding ‘Kilroy was here” eventually dwindled, the widely recognized graffiti symbol can still be seen around the world, causing some to fondly remember its historical meaning and others to scratch their own heads in bemusement.

Read All About It: Learn more about the worldwide “Kilroy Was Here” WWII drawings on pages 80-81 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: The “Kilroy Was Here” graffiti sketch is located behind the golden gate next to the Pennsylvania pillar.

Where: The World War II Memorial is located at 1750 Independence Avenue SW.

 

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Albert Einstein Bronze Statue

“Save a Seat for Science”

Many of the capital city’s monuments ask visitors to quietly reflect when visiting, creating tranquil and sometimes even somber memorial site settings. One lesser-known monument, however, has chosen to take a quite different approach; visitors coming to pay tribute to one of the world’s most famous scientists are encouraged not only to sit on his statue, but also to climb upon it.

Standing twelve feet tall and weighing approximately four tons, a bronze statue honoring physicist Albert Einstein is situated near the southwest corner of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) grounds. In 1979, the NAS unveiled the sizable statue to commemorate the centennial of Einstein’s birthday. The famous physicist appears relaxed, leisurely sitting on a three-step bench made of white granite.

The statue’s base is characterized by a star map—a 28-foot expanse of emerald pearl granite that’s embellished with more than 2,700 metal studs representing the sun, moon, stars, planets, and other astronomical objects precisely placed by astronomers from the US Naval Observatory as they were on the centennial date.

Read All About It: Learn more about this this bronze tribute to science on pages 184-185 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore:  Legend has it that if you rub Einstein’s nose, some of his genius will rub off on you!

Where: The Albert Einstein Statue is located at 2101 Constitution Avenue NW.

 

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JoAnn Hill has lived in Washington, DC, with her husband Thalamus and dog Jackson for over 19 years. An avid traveler and foodie, JoAnn writes about their DC living and dining experiences, as well as their global travel adventures, on her blog dcglobejotters.org. Her writing has been published in BELLA Magazine, Escape Artist, and Triptipedia. JoAnn served as a DC Public Schools teacher for 17 years before co-founding Capitol Teachers, a tutoring company servicing the greater DC area. This is her first book.

 

 

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Filed under DC, Educational, Monuments & Memorials

Spring Things to Get Excited About Around the DC Area (Beyond the Cherry Blosssoms)

 

Spring used to be a time when there were so many awesome events and activities around the area, it was sometimes hard to choose which to do.  While Covid has changed that this year, there still are plenty of exciting happenings — museum re-openings, sports seasons beginning, special exhibitions, flower blooms (beyond the cherry blossoms, which have passed the peak), berry picking, and more. Here are some things to get excited about this season, some mentioned already, some of them new, but now all in one place to help your planning. Happy Spring!

 

Interact with language at Planet Word

Planet Word
Where: | Downtown DC
When: Started April 1, Thursday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The museum dedicated to language opened briefly last fall before closing due to rising Covid rates, and they started welcoming visitors again on April 1. Three levels full of interactive and immersive exhibits engage, educate, entertain, and delight. Older kids, tweens and up (and that includes the kid in us adults), will get the most out of it, but elementary ages definitely could enjoy it, too. Free, timed-entry passes are available and must be reserved in advance through the website.

 

New signage at the ballpark

Baseball is Back
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Started April 6
Admission: Varies

The Nats season got off to an interesting start with the first series against the Mets  postponed for Covid-related reasons. Such is the times.  But it has now officially begun (with a walk-off from Soto!), and a limited number of fans, all Nats Plus ticket holders, will be welcome back to the ballpark for games. Most of us, though, will be watching the televised version, but we can do that out of the house at restaurants and bars around DC that have outdoor seating. Eater DC has a list of places for it, several of them family-friendly. Of course, rooting for our home team from home is fun, too.  Host a backyard viewing party — this post may be about a winter set up, but a bunch of the tips are spring-worthy, too.  Update!  The Nats are now offering single game tickets to the general public, including for every game throughout the upcoming homestand April 15-18 vs Arizona and April 19-21 vs. St. Louis. Tickets start at just $14 and will be sold in socially distanced pods of 1 to 6 tickets.

 

Enjoy the season in the trees

Adventure in the Trees
Where: Adventure Park at Sandy Spring
When: Ongoing, opened in March
Admission: Starts at $45/adult, $16/child

The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring has reopened for the season, offering its thrilling aerial forest experience again. Navigating ropes courses up in the trees is a super fun and challenging way to spend a day.  There are 15 trails of varying levels of difficulty, all of them with ziplines, and almost 200 challenge bridges — something for everyone! Extra safety measures are in place for Covid, including required advance reservations, so be sure to book ahead.  Read about one of our past experiences at the Adventure Park.  (There have been many more since then!)

 

Take a soundwalk around the Wolf Trap grounds

SOUNDWALK
Where: Wolf Trap | Vienna, VA
When: April 6 – September 6
Admission: Free

This free, public “sound-art” at Wolf Trap sounds like a unique way to enjoy springtime (and summer) outdoors. The GPS-enabled work created by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid, uses music to illuminate the natural environment. SOUNDWALK has been tailor-made for Wolf Trap and created to encourage calm, reflection, and introspection. It can be experienced while following social distancing guidelines. (PS: Did you know the performing arts venue is also a National Park?)

 

Marvel at the Great Hall again

National Building Museum Reopens
Where: 401 F Street NW | Judiciary Square, DC
When: Starting April 9, Friday – Sunday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: $10/adult, $7/child (free for members)

After a veerrry long wait, the National Building Museum is reopening! (Remember, it was closed for renovations pre-Covid?) The museum’s exhibits and shop will be open weekends, and of course you can roam the magnificent Great Hall, one of the most stunning spaces in DC, again. Popular, ongoing exhibitions House & Home and Animals, Collected are back, plus a couple of  important and timely exhibitions, Gun Violence Memorial Project and Justice is Beauty: The Work of MASS Design Group will be on view.

 

A beautiful installation at a past Georgetown Glow

Glow With It
Where: Georgetown, DC
When: Starting April 9, on view daily
Admission: Free

See Georgetown in a whole new, cool light — literally! Georgetown Glow, the annual exhibition that usually takes place during the holiday season, was rescheduled for this spring. See the neighborhood sparkle with modern light art installations throughout the bustling community. Works will be on display in both public and privately-owned spaces. You can take the fam to dinner, then go for a stroll to check them all out. Artworks will be viewable by day, but obviously much brighter at night! Special talks and walks will be available, too. Get a glimpse of a past Glow here.

 

Bluebells at Riverbend, the best local place to enjoy the periwinkle blooms

Bloom Town
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Varies by locale
Admission: Varies by locale

The cherry blossoms aren’t the only flowers in town! There are more big blooms to enjoy around the DC area, and they’re literally coming up soon. Bluebells, azaleas, tulips, and roses are what you can stop, smell, see, and relish in the loveliness of during spring. This post has details and when and where to catch them at their best.

 

A fairy house find in the Annmarie woods

Fairies in the Garden
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Lusby, MD
When: April 9 – September 6
Admission: $5 suggested donation

The annual magicalicious exhibit of fairy and gnome houses begins in spring. As if the sculpture garden in Calvert County wasn’t already wonderful, this annual display adds extra delight to a visit there with its display of handmade fairy and gnome homes scattered throughout the grounds. (The annual festival to celebrate them is still happening, but now you must reserve tickets in advance online.)  This is a place kids of all ages — and even the kid in us adults — will love. There are even more creative works and activities in the Arts Building if you’re comfortable going inside. Read more about Annmarie Sculpture Garden in this KFDC post and this one.

 

The Pop-Up Wine Garden at The REACH is returning

Victura Park Opens
Where: The REACH | Kennedy Center, DC
When: Starting April 9, Friday – Sunday
Admission: Free

The family-friendly outdoor pop-up and wine garden at The REACH, the Kennedy Center expansion, is reopening. Food and drinks are available to enjoy in an area set up with picnic tables. We visited several times in the fall, and it’s always a fun, lively vibe.  Be sure to explore the beautiful grounds, stop in The REACH Buildings (if open), stroll the Kennedy Center terrace, and take in sweeping views of the Potomac. Hours are Fridays 4-9pm, and Saturday and Sundays 12-9pm.  Get a glimpse of it in my highlights on IG, and getting there by bike is a perfect way to go to avoid parking.  But if you drive, you can park in the KC garage (though pricey) or try to find street parking nearby.

 

All aboard for a mini train ride!

Go for a Train or Carousel Spin
Where: Cabin John & Wheaton Regional Parks, MD
When: Starting April 9
Admission: $2.50

All aboard! Montgomery Park’s Cabin John Train and Wheaton Train and Carousel are opening for the season. Go for a spin around the parks on replicas of the 1863 C.P. Huntington, a 4-2-4T steam locomotive. Or enjoy a whirl on the beautiful Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel featuring 33 jumping horses, three zebras, and two chariots! Read more about Cabin John Regional Park in Bethesda here and Wheaton Regional Park here.

 

A paddle excursion on the Potomac

Go with the Flow
Where: Waterways around the DC area
When: Varies by place
Admission: Varies by place

With warmer weather comes opportunities to enjoy time on the water, and you can rent kayaks, canoes, and other vessels to paddle at a bunch of places around the area. Boating in DC now runs many of the boathouses in the District and nearby. The Wharf location is open, and Key Bridge, Fletcher’s, and Thompson are opening very soon, National Harbor later. A few places within the NoVA Parks system are also offering boat rentals now. And if you don’t want to do the work of paddling (though I highly recommend it!), enjoy a Water Taxi ride — there are several  options for places to catch it! See this post for a round-up of places to go with the flow, and read more about a couple of our paddling adventures around the area here and here.

 

The Tudor Place gardens and historic house are reopening

Tudor Place Reopens
Where: Georgetown, DC
When: Starting April 10, Saturday & Sunday, 12-4pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes

The Historic House & Garden in the heart of Georgetown will once again welcome guests on weekends. A model of Federal-period architecture in the nation’s capital, Tudor Place shares the stories of multiple generations of Martha Washington’s descendants and the enslaved workers and servants who lived and worked here. With over 18,000 objects, including the largest Washington Collection outside of Mount Vernon, Tudor Place sits on over five acres. Admission is free with a ticket, and note that one ticket offers three options: 1) Self-guided tour of the Historic House 2) Garden visit or 3) both.

 

Take an artsy, socially distanced stroll around Adams Morgan

AdMo Art Walk
Where: Around Adams Morgan, DC
When: April 12 – May 14
Admission: Free

You’ll be able to think of Adams Morgan as your own personal art gallery, thanks to this free, new way to experience art brought to you by the Adams Morgan Partnership BID, the DC Arts Center, local artists, and neighborhood businesses! Walk the streets of Adams Morgan and admire an impressive selection of artworks displayed in various storefronts in a self-guided tour starting April 12. While many events are currently paused, this allows everyone to explore on their own and experience the diverse and cultural arts scene throughout Adams Morgan.

 

DC United will welcome fans back to Audi Field!

Vamos United
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Starting April 16
Admission: Varies

The MLS season kicks off mid-April, and DC United will play its first match on April 17. Fans still won’t Fan will be welcome be back at Audi Field with new social distancing measures in place for Covid. And like baseball, you can also plan to watch games at different places around the area. Many of the restaurants and bars that show the Nats will also have screens dedicated to soccer.  And if you aren’t up for watching elsewhere, gear up to sport your United spirit at home!

 

Strawberry picking is a seasonal fave

Take Your Pick
Where: Farms around the DC Area
When: Varies by locale
Admission: Varies by locale

The pick-your-own season begins in late April/early May when strawberries are ripe and ready for harvest.  Several area farms welcome guests to come pick them, and some offer even more fun. This round-up of PYO places around the area has more details.  And it’s always a good idea to check websites or call ahead to confirm availability the day you plan to go. Sunscreen and hat also recommended.

 

Hang out and enjoy spring at The Yards

Opt Outside
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by locale

This one is very general and also pretty obvious, but take advantage of the outdoors! Spring is sublime in DC, plus many outside pursuits are great for social distancing. Get back to those places you missed all winter and, of course, discover some new ones. This huge round-up of places to hang outdoors will help with that.

 

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Maryland, Special Event, Spring, Virginia

A Very DC Hike at Theodore Roosevelt Island

Every now and then I have a realization that over all the years I’ve been publishing KFDC, I haven’t done a write-up about a place that we’ve been frequenting forever and is definitely deserving of its own post. This time it’s Theodore Roosevelt Island, a national park located on an actual 90-acre island in the Potomac River.

A recent visit with Sash

And one years ago with the fam

Roosevelt Island has been among our regular rotation of go-to spots for hiking and getting a nice, easy dose of nature in DC (despite accessing it from across the river, the island is part of the District) since before Levi and I even had kids. But with Owen and Sasha, especially when they were little, we’ve appreciated it even more. The park is ideal for family hikes with short, mellow trails; lots of great nature, wildlife sitings, even airplanes flying overhead; and a little history lesson, to boot, with a lovely memorial in the middle of it all dedicated to the president for which it’s named.

Teddy and little Owen on the Plaza

Younger Sash strikes a pose there

And fives years later

This is why I call it a very “DC” hike. The park’s Memorial Plaza is like a little annex to all of the other memorials on the National Mall.  However, instead of the expanse of green grass or Tidal Basin to make it stand out grandly, woods and wetlands fittingly surround the stately granite and bronze tribute to Teddy Roosevelt, an early steward for conservation and the environment.

Trying to do some turtle spotting

From the parking lot, there is a long bridge to cross to get to the main part of park. We always stop on it to take in views of Georgetown in the distance and look for turtles in the water below. Once on the other side, three trails offer different hiking experiences. The short .3-mile Woods Trail leads through and right around the memorial on gravel and paved grounds. The .75-mile Upland Trail loops through the woods along the whole length of the island. And the 1.5-mile Swamp Trail includes both a dirt path that winds through woods and a boardwalk running over a swampy area lined by cattail, trees, and wild grass.

Kickin’ it on the Swamp Trail

When the kids were small, we’d pick one, but now we often do a combination of all three trails, starting at the plaza, then walking through the woods and on the boardwalk, before hopping on another path leading to the water and taking us around the island. Whatever you choose, you’re in for a nice hike.

Little Sash on the Upland Trail

On a recent visit with Sasha, we covered the whole island, enjoying its winter beauty. We loved seeing the leafless trees, the mess of branches and wild intertwining limbs. (Side note: Did anyone read The Overstory? While I found it kind of long and tedious, I appreciated the concept of communication among trees and always think about it when I’m among them.) But Roosevelt Island is great the rest of the year, too, with budding trees and views of the cherry blossoms in spring, lush green and lots of shade in summer, and colorful foliage during autumn.

Bare branches during winter

There are no tables for picnicking, but the Memorial Plaza has seating, and there are a few benches along the Swamp Trail where you could stop and snack. Another nice spot is a cluster of large rocks at the west end of the island. And there are restrooms down the Woods Trail shortly before it meets the Swamp Trail.

Hanging out in the shade during summer

The one negative of the park may be the parking situation. The lot is small, and fills up quickly, especially on a nice weekend day. There have been several times we’ve planned to go and have encountered a line of cars to get in. In those cases, we’ve headed to Turkey Run Park further down the GW Parkway in McLean or Potomac Overlook Park in Arlington. You can avoid parking altogether by riding bikes there instead — it’s right off the Mount Vernon Trail, and there are bike racks right at the entrance (biking is not permitted in the park). You can also Metro to Rosslyn then walk 10-15 minutes from there.

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Where: Potomac River | Washington, DC
Access: From the GW Parkway just before Spout Run
When: Daily year-round, 6am – 10pm
Admission: Free

Want even more suggestions for great local hikes with kids? This post has a bunch of them! And here are a few more pics from some visits over the years…

Welcome to the island…

 

Happy about her first visit to TRI

 

Leading the way on the trail

 

A little pop of color

 

View from a small beach

 

Teddy

 

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Filed under 2020, All ages, DC, Educational, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend