Tag Archives: Family Activities

Open Swim: Places Around the DC Area that Welcome the Public to Take a Dip

Cool off in the river at Patapsco Valley State Park


It’s summer, it’s blazing hot, and many of us are looking for places to enjoy the quintessential seasonal activity — swimming! — to cool off and have some fun. I’ve recently shared a couple of links with some beach and swimming hole recs, but they weren’t especially comprehensive and/or lacked details, so I decided to compile my own round-up of places around the area to take a dip. We’ve been to many of these spots, and those we haven’t visited either get kudos from friends or have been touted enough by other resources to warrant inclusion. And if you know of other great locales to swim that are within day trip distance, feel free to share in the comments.

BEACHES on the BAY

Sandy Point State Park
Where: 1100 East College Parkway | Annapolis, MD
Hours: Daily, 7am – sunset
Admission: $5-7/May – Sept weekends, $4-6/weekdays

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.

Calvert Cliffs State Park
Where: 10540 H. G. Trueman Road | Lusby, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: $8/vehicle

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 tramp 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 sand and surf. Open daily sunrise – sunset, and admission is $5-7/vehicle.

Flag Ponds Nature Park
Where: 1525 Flag Ponds Parkway | Lusby, MD
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am – 6pm | Sat-Sunday, 9am – 8pm
Admission: $8/vehicle

Not only is there plenty of sand for playing and nice mellow waters for swimming in the Chesapeake Bay, 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. See more pics of Flag Ponds, and check out the official site here. Note: The park is currently open to Calvert County residents only, but this could change, so check back.

Bayfront Park
Where: 7255 Bayside Road | Chesapeake, MD
Hours: Daily, dawn to dusk
Admission: $18/adult, $10/child for non county residents

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 steep admission fee. Note: The park is currently open to Calvert County residents only, but this could change, so check back.

Cape Henlopen State Park
Where: Lewes, DE
Hours: Open daily, 8am – sunset
Admission: $8-10/vehicle

It’s a little over two hours from DC, but still doable as a day trip if you leave early, especially on a weekday when there is less traffic. We just did this and had a fantastic day at the beach — packed up the car with a cooler and beach gear, got on the road early, and were on the beach by 10:30am. Enjoyed dinner outdoors and ice cream in town before heading back, arrived home at 9:15pm. Totally worth the time in the car.

LAKES & RIVERS

Patapsco Valley State Park
Where: 8020 Baltimore National Pike | Ellicott City, MD
Hours: Daily, 9am – sunset
Admission: $3-5/person weekend, $2-4/vehicle weekdays

There are several nice, shallow swimming areas in the park’s Patapsco River, most notably in the Avalon section near Cascade Falls. There are several entrances, and Avalon and Hilton are closest to that area. Depending on where you park, there is some up (and down) hill hiking on rooty trails, something to be aware of with little trampers. KFDC Tip: If an area is at capacity and closed, try another part of the park instead — list of areas via main park link above. See some pics from a visit there. (Note: A KFDC readers just alerted me that Howard County is not allowing river swimming as of July 1. While this is not reflected on the Patapsco Valley State Park website, be aware that it may not be permitted thee.)

Cunningham Falls State Park
Where: 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road | Thurmont, MD
Hours: Daily, 8am – sunset
Admission: $3-5/person

There are two parts to this park, and the lakes and beautiful waterfall (and camping) are located in the William Houck Area, three miles west of Thurmont on Route 77. The lake area welcomes swimmers and has a beach for hanging out. You can wade in the pools of the falls area, too. It’s a short hike to access, and there are a couple of trails to take, the half-mile Lower Trail is easy, and the 3/4 Cliffs Trail is more difficult with lots of rock scrambling.

Purse State Park
Where: Nanjemoy, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: Free

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.

Point Lookout State Park
Where: 11175 Point Lookout Road | Scotland, MD
Hours: Open daily, 7am – sunset weekdays, 6am – sunset weekends
Admission:

Located on a peninsula between the Chesapeake and the Potomac, the park includes a beach area where visitors can hang out and swim on the river side. A picnic area shaded by trees is nearby and close to the parking lot as well.

Gunpowder Falls State Park
Where: 7200 Graces Quarters Road | Middle River, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: $5-7/person

There are six areas of the park, and a swimming beach on the banks of the Gunpowder River is in the Hammerman Area, which is located in Middle River, MD. There are also playgrounds, canoe and kayak rentals, and hiking trails if you want more recreation.

Aguia Landing Park
Where: Stafford, VA
Hours: Open daily 8am – 8pm
Admission: $3-4.50/child, $4-6.50/adult

I read about this park in this article that I recently shared on the blog about beaches within day trip distance. It gets so-so reviews on Yelp, but there is a swimming beach with access to


SWIMMING HOLES & CREEKS

Seneca Creek
Where: 16315 Old River Road | Poolesville, MD
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Mentioned in this article, this “hidden” spot is located right off River Road on the way to Homestead Farm and the sunflower bloom at McKee-Beshers. You can apparently park at the Seneca Store parking lot (see address listed), and walk through a small field to the creek. Update: A KFDC reader just let me know you can’t park in the lot anymore, so you have to drive down the road a bit and park on the side of the road.

Overall Run
Where: Shenandoah National Park, VA
Hours: Ongoing
Admission: $30/vehicle

The flowing water from Overall Run Falls pools into a swimming hole that can be a nice reward after a long hike or an easier spot to access if you just want to swim. To keep it low key start from the Thompson Hollow trail head; for a long loop start at the Matthews Arm parking lot. FYI – We’ve done a portion of the hike to these falls before, but they were mostly dry, so I recommend doing some research (perhaps calling the park to check) before you go.

White Oak Canyon Trail
Where: Shenandoah National Park, VA
Hours: Ongoing
Admission: $30/vehicle

According to the NPS website, there are a range of hikes on this trail, from an easy two miles to a strenuous seven, to the waterfalls with several swimming holes along the way. It’s apparently popular, so expect to share the path and waters with others.

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU GO

* Generally, weekdays are less crowded than weekends at places.

* Capacity is limited at many spots, especially during COVID, so it’s best to get to places early or in the afternoon after early people leave.

* It’s a good idea to have a Plan B in case you do get turned away. See what other activities are nearby a location, so you can save the day, especially if it’s a long drive.

Do you know of other good swimming spots around the area? Please share in the comments, if so!


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Filed under All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Social Distancing, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

February is Black History Month: Here’s Where to Celebrate it with Kids Around DC

Barack Obama will be a subject of Portrait Story Days this month at the National Portrait Gallery


February is Black History Month, and there are so many great events and activities throughout the DC area to celebrate it. Museum programs (including an entire museum), special events, tours and exhibits, live entertainment, story time sessions, and more will be enlightening and fun for all ages. Here’s where many are happening over the next few weeks.

Tour the NMAAHC
Where: National Museum of African American History & Culture
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

This museum is the best place to learn about black history and culture in America. September through February, which is off-peak season, you can get in on weekdays without tickets, but timed entry passes are still required for weekend admission. They are available online on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 6:30am until they run out. Be sure to read the KFDC Guide to Visiting the National Museum of African American History & Culture with Kids before you go.

Portrait Story Days
Where: National Portrait Gallery | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Most Saturdays & Sundays, 1-4pm
Admission: Free

Drop in to the Portrait Gallery to listen to a story from friends at the DC Public Library about a notable person featured in the collection and complete a hands-on art project. All through February, the program highlights black Americans in honor of Black History Month — this year, Rosa Parks, Barack Obama, Frederick Douglass, and Michelle Obama will be in the spotlight. Read more about the program and museum here.

Museum & Memorial Tour
Where: African American Civil War Museum | Shaw, DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Take a tour of another museum dedicated to the contributions of the 209,145 members of the United States Colored Troops. The African American Civil War Museum tells the stories and preserves for posterity the historic roles these brave men of African, European, and Hispanic descent played in ending slavery and keeping America united under one flag. A rich collection of artifacts, documents, primary sources, and technology create a meaningful learning experience for families, students, Civil War enthusiasts and historians about the period from the American Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond. Be sure to stop by the nearby African American Civil War Memorial, too.

Library Programs
Where: Public Libraries throughout DC
When: Throughout February
Admission: Free

The DC Public Library proudly celebrates Black History Month during February with all kinds of programs — author talks, lectures, arts & crafts, and story times. Visit the website to see what activities are going on at a location near you.

Jim Crow on Streetcars
Where: National Trolley Museum | Colesville, MD
When: Through February, Saturdays & Sundays, 12-5pm
Admission: $10/adult, $8/child

In recognition of Black History Month, the Museum presents this temporary exhibit. Learn about the nature of segregation aboard the cars in 19th century New York, the efforts to black the practice as it developed across the South, and the eventual success in opening employment opportunities.

Frederick Douglass House Tour
Where: Frederick Douglass Historic Site | Anascostia, DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: $1

Learn about the life of Frederick Douglass on a guided tour is his historic house — it’s the only way to see the inside. Rangers guide interpretive tours of the house every day at the scheduled times (listed on the website). Tours cover the first and second floors and last about 30 minutes.

Lunch and Learn: Black History Month
Where: Sully Historic Site | Fairfax, VA
When: February 5, 12-1pm
Admission: $5

When Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week in 1926, he wanted schools and other organizations to study black history. The week of recognition has since grown to Black History Month. In honor of this month, learn about the enslaved people who made Sully their home during the 18th century. The program includes a visual presentation and hands-on elements. Bring your lunch and your questions, as discussion is welcome. For ages 12+.

African American Pioneers in Aviation and Space
Where: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center | Chantilly, VA
When: February 8, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free, but parking is $15

Join the Air & Space museum as they celebrate African American History Month by revealing past pioneers and giving families the opportunity to inspire the next generation of innovators in aviation and space. African Americans have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to flight and space exploration despite the overwhelming obstacles they had to overcome. Enjoy guest speakers as they share their personal tales of triumph, participate in hands-on activities that will challenge families to be pioneers in space and aviation, and hear inspiring stories of African Americans who have overcome challenges and refused to be hidden figures.

The “Lives Bound Together” exhibit focuses on slavery at the Mount Vernon estate

The Slave Memorial & Exhibits
Where: Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: $20/adult, $12/ages 6-11, free/5 & under

Make a point to see these on a visit to George Washington’s estate. The memorial is located approximately 50 yards southwest of George and Martha Washington’s tomb, on a bluff above the Potomac River. A gray, truncated, granite column which represents “life unfinished” is the center of three concentric brick circles. The three steps leading up to the column are inscribed, respectively, “Faith,” “Hope” and “Love” — the virtues that sustained those living in bondage. The exhibit Lives Bound Together explores the personal stories of the people enslaved at Mount Vernon while providing insight into George Washington’s evolving opposition to slavery. (Note: The mansion at Mount Vernon will not be open to visitors through February 9, and tickets are 25% off during that time. The rest of the exhibits and grounds are still open!)

Show What You Know: African American Inventors
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When: Select dates in February
Admission: $17.95

Head to the children’s museum in Baltimore for all kinds of kid play, including this fun game being offered during February: Test your knowledge in this museum floor game show. Match and learn about famous inventions from African American men and women throughout history. Play with others for the chance to win multiple prizes! Read more about Port Discovery in this recent post.

African Fabric Workshop
Where: Museum of Industry | Baltimore, MD
When: February 8, 10-11:30am
Admission: $10/adult, $5/child

Celebrate Black History Month with an intergenerational workshop on the meaning behind African printed fabrics led by Baltimore-based designer Akos “Sunday” Regal. Register in advance! The fee includes museum admission for the day (open 10am – 4pm), the 90 minute workshop, and a fabric swatch to take home. Read more about the Baltimore Museum of Industry in this KFDC post.

Into the Great Unknown: African American Adventurers and Explorers
Where: Discovery Theater | National Mall, DC
When: February 11-13
Tickets: $3-8

Leadership, courage, and adventure take center stage in this inspiring Discovery Theater original. From Matthew Henson, co-discoverer of the North Pole, to astronaut Mae Jemison, meet a century’s worth of bold men and women who challenged the Western frontier, the highest of mountains, and the vastness of outer space—and triumphed. In the histories and heroism of these explorers and adventurers, young audiences find models to help them reach their own highest goals.

The Snowy Day & Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats
Where: Adventure Theatre | Glen Echo, MD
When: February 14 – April 5
Tickets: $23 (find discount)

Ezra Jack Keats’ was a pioneer in children’s literature as his stories were the first to break racial barriers, and his stories are perfectly timed to come to life on stage at Adventure Theatre starting this month. This beautiful show follows the character of Peter and his friend Archie around the neighborhood in four of Keats’ beloved tales, The Snowy Day, Whistle for Willie, Goggles!, and A Letter to Amy. Renowned for his tender personality, the character of Peter faces relatable everyday challenges to which children of all ages will find delightfully entertaining.

Black History Month Family Day
Where: Woodlawn Manor | Sandy Spring, MD
When: February 8
Admission: $5-7

Bring the entire family out to celebrate African American Culture. TThe event will feature presentations and hands-on activities for children, taking place inside Woodlawn Manor. Limited tickets sold day of program at the Visitor Center, so sign up in advance.

Young Portrait Explorers: Martin Luther King Jr.
Where: National Portrait Gallery | Penn Quarter, DC
When: February 24, 10:30-11:30am
Admission: Free

Join the National Portrait Gallery to learn about Barack Obama in a program that touches on art and history through storytelling. For toddlers up to age 5 and their adult companions. Registration is required. Class size is limited — register in advance! Parents and guardians must remain with their children.

Frederick Douglass Annual Birthday Commemoration
Where: Various locations | Anacostia, DC
When: February 15
Admission: Free

Join the National Park Service as they celebrate the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass as well as the Centennial of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Following the Opening Ceremony at Anacostia High School Auditorium (1601 16th Street SE), there will be special themed house tours at Cedar Hill and an art program in the visitor center. There will also be programming at the Anacostia Arts Center and Anacostia High School that will include guest lectures, an exhibit by the DC League of Women Voters, and performances in the lobby.

National Philharmonic Black Classical Music Pioneers
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: February 22
Admission: $89/adult, free/age 7-17

This concert highlights the works of African American pioneers of classical music… Wild Strumming of Fiddle, by Wynton Marsalis (born 1961), comes from a remarkable 12-movement work that fuses jazz and symphonic music to create a dizzying array of sounds, rhythms and melodies. The Violin Concerto No. 1 (1939) by Florence Price (1887-1953) is a highly accomplished work in the models of the European classical concerto, by the first African-American woman to be widely recognized as a symphonic composer. The Lyric for Strings (1946) by George Walker (1922-2018), the first African-American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, is a work of intimate beauty. The Symphony No. 1 (1930) by William Grant Still (1895-1978) is the first symphony written by an African-American composer. Its subtitle (“Afro-American”) points to the unique style of the work, which includes elements of blues and jazz. Recommended for ages 7+.

Going the Distance
Where: Discovery Theater | National Mall, DC
When: February 20-28
Tickets: $3-8

Race to the finish line at Discovery Theater with two black Olympians who changed history! Soaring music and the exhilaration of world-class sorts motivate us to greatness in this vivid portrayal of the lives of Jesse Owens and Wilma Rudolph. Join them as they them overcome childhood illness, infirmity, and poverty to become the world’s fastest man and woman, winning the greatest honor in all athletics: the Olympic gold medal. The John Cornelius II score speaks to the heart and soul of the winner in all of us.

Black History Month Winter Walking Tour
Where: Woodlawn Manor Park | Sandy Spring, MD
When: February 29, 10am – 2pm
Admission: $8

Take a guided tour of the grounds and buildings of Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park and discover the role enslaved labor played on this 19th century farm. Explore how the enslaved could have nature for escape and evasion while seeking freedom. This guided tour includes exterior space and a natural trail. Participants are recommended to dress to be in the elements. Best for ages 8+. Register in advance.


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Valentine’s Day Activities Around DC that Kids (and You!) Will Love

Make-your-own Valentines at the National Postal Museum’s annual workshop


Do you ❤️ celebrating Valentine’s Day with your little (and big) sweeties? If you’re looking for ways to celebrate and prep for the day, here’s an array of activities happening around the area over the next couple of weeks — with something for everyone to love. Happy V-Day!

Chocolate Lovers Festival
Where: Several locations in the City of Fairfax, VA
When: January 31 – February 2
Admission: Varies by activity

Valentine’s Day and chocolate go hand-in-hand, and you can savor it and then some at this sweetevent. The City of Fairfax presents its annual festival centered around one of the most wonderful things in the world: Chocolate! There will be all kinds of activities for all ages throughout the weekend, both chocolate and non-chocolate themed — tastings, story time, puppet shows, face painting, chocolate challenges, a chocolate caper mock trial, and much more. The schedule of events has details.

Valentine’s Day Cards for Kids & Cookies for Caregivers
Where: Your location in the DMV
When: Through February 14
Admission: Your time and card making/baking efforts

Celebrate the Valentine’s Day by giving back with Eliana’s Light. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to make cards for children who have to be in a DC, MD, or VA pediatric hospital over the holiday and cookies for the caregivers who support them. During this community service activity, participating adults and young people discuss topics such as empathy, kindness, helping others, volunteering, friendship, respect for diversity, and making a positive impact in life. The card and cookie recipients have reflected they’re touched and moved to know members of their community really care about them, and are sending them positive uplifts during their challenging times. This small act of kindness can have a big impact. More details about this volunteering program are here.

Heart String Art DIY Project
Where: Home Depot locations around the DMV
When: February 1, 9am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Create a loving memory with your child at this Heart String Art Workshop. As you help your child piece together the symbol of Valentine’s Day, they will develop hands-on skills by sanding, nailing, painting and more. Celebrate the moment as your child makes a unique keepsake. All kids’ workshop attendees must be accompanied by a parent or adult at all times. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin while supplies last. Register in advance — visit the website to find a store near you offering the class.

Kids Handmade Valentines Workshop
Where: The Paper Source | Various stores in the DMV
When: February 1, 1-3pm & February 5, 2-4pm
Admission: $30

Grab your BFF for a workshop that will give you heart eyes! Make 5-6 Valentines for your classmates, friends, and family using your favorite stickers, stamps, washi and more. Buy two seats at the same time and save 10% off each seat. For kids ages 6 and up. Area Paper Source locations are in Georgetown, Bethesda, Alexandria, and Reston.

Valentine’s Day Card Workshop
Where: National Postal Museum | Union Station Area, DC
When: February 8-9, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Homemade love is in the air at the National Postal Museum’s annual Valentine’s Day Card Workshop! We’ve attended this event many times, so I can tell you firsthand it’s one you’ll adore. They provide pretty papers, stamps, and all kinds of Valentine-themed supplies for making cards; all you need to bring is your creativity and readiness for a good time. For more about the museum, see this KFDC post.

Open Studio: Love in Every Language
Where: Freer|Sackler Gallery | National Mall, DC
When: February 8-9, 12–4 pm
Admission: Free

Head to the ImaginAsia Studio in the Sackler Gallery for an afternoon all about love and art. Enjoy a digital slideshow of images of love in Asian art, then create Valentine’s Day cards using woodblock prints that say “love” in more than a dozen Asian languages, and fold heart-shaped origami.

Love Note Holder Workshop
Where: Lowe’s locations around the DMV
When: February 8, 9am – 12pm
Admission: Free

This monthly DIY workshop for kids has a focus on love…love notes, anyway. The project is perfect for holding all your child’s Valentine’s cards and treats. Workshops take 15-30 minutes, and children must be accompanied by parent/guardian. Check-in by 11am. Space is limited, so sign up in advance!

Unshrink My Heart
Where: Gateway Arts Center | Brentwood, MD
When: February 8, 2-4pm
Admission: Free

This annual Valentine’s workshop with an 80’s twist is back! Create handmade Valentine keepsakes for your loved ones using Shrinky Dinks amazing, shrinkable sheets. Craft your own jewelry, key chains, and any other Valentine’s Day gift you can imagine. Children will receive their first two sheets of blank Shrinky Dinks free, additional sheets will be available for purchase for 50 cents each.

Animal Sweethearts Dance
Where: Hidden Pond Nature Center | Springfield, VA
When: February 8, 10am – 12pm
Admission: $10

The social event of Hidden Pond’s winter season is back! There will be dancing, refreshments, crafts, and live animals to entertain. Recommended for children ages 3-5. Register in advance.

Valentine’s Party for Little Luv Bugs
Where: Foundry United Methodist Church | Downtown DC
When: February 8, 10:30–11:30am
Admission: Free, but please RSVP

Join Friends of Stead Park and Treehouse Atelier for a SWEET time making valentines and other fun crafts. Your family will also enjoy treats and hot chocolate. They also collaborating with Eliana’s Light (see above!) and asking kids to make additional valentines that will go to a child who will be in the hospital on Valentine’s Day. The church is located at 1500 16th St NW.

Animal Valentines
Where: Hidden Pond Nature Center | Springfield, VA
When: February 9, 1:30-2:15pm
Admission: $8

Play musical valentines and critter sweetheart games as you learn how animals find a mate. Meet live animals and make an animal valentine craft. Recommended for ages 4-8. Sign up in advance online.

Library Love
Where: DC Public Libraries | Around DC
When: Various dates
Admission: Free

Join story times, craft sessions, and sing-alongs at some of the city’s libraries; Valentine’s Day-themed activities are taking places on several dates over the next couple of weeks. Find one that your child will love here.

Nature Valentines
Where: Brookside Nature Center | Wheaton, MD
When: February 11, 1-2pm
Admission: $7

Everyone loves homemade Valentines and none are sweeter than those made by your preschooler! We’ll go on a short walk in search of nuts, sticks, and other natural items to decorate with, and then come inside and get to work! Recommended for ages 3-5.

Storytime: Love
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: February 12, 10-11am
Admission: Free

Can an artwork depict love? Join the Hirhshorn for a special Valentine’s Day program. Look at the large photo print Untitled (for Jeff) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres and read the book Love by Matt de la Peña. Following the story, little artists will create their own works for a friend or loved one.

Valentine’s Afternoon Tea
Where: Willard Continental | Downtown DC
When: February 14, 1-4pm
Admission: $68-75/adult, $30/age5-12

Enjoy a broad selection of the finest estate and boutique blended loose leaf tea, savory finger sandwiches, decadent pastries and The Willard’s famous freshly baked scones at this specialty tea service offered on Valentine’s Day. Reservations required — book on OpenTable. (PS: For a couple more Valentine offerings for adults, see the Willard calendar here.)

Woo at the Zoo (KidFree Suggestion!)
Where: National Zoo | Woodley Park, DC
When: February 14, 7-10pm
Admission: $50/FONZ members, $60/non-members

Bring a special someone, grab a cocktail, learn about animal mating and dance the night away at a throwback ‘80s prom. Tickets include complimentary desserts. Guests will be given one drink ticket each for a specialty cocktail, beer, or wine. The ‘80s prom dance party will feature a DJ in a heated tent, plus there will be trivia and an Instagram-friendly photo station. When purchasing tickets, guests can add an exclusive Valentine’s Day gift to their ticket—a mini Adopt a Species package to pick up at the Zoo the night of the event.

Seeing Deeper: Cathedral Prom (KidFree Suggestion!)
Where: Washington National Cathedral
When: February 14, 7:30-10:30pm
Admission: $20

Dive into a magical underwater experience at this Second Chance Prom, where everyone gets a do-over on the high school dances they want to relive, forget, or experience for the first time. They provide the crepe-paper seaweed, bubbles, and snacks for an evening of Enchantment Under the Sea, and all you need to bring is your sweetie, bestie, or just yourself to the this Valentine’s dance party. Flashback to your childhood and add bricks to a LEGO model to help reach the goal of 100,000 bricks by March 1.

Valentine’s Day Cookie Decorating Class for Kids
Where: Willard Continental | Downtown DC
When: February 15
Admission: $45/child

Sweeten your Valentine’s Day weekend for your littlest ones at the Willard InterContinental. Led by Executive Pastry Chef Jason Jimenez, junior bakers will receive hands-on instruction to cookie decorating using a variety of techniques and decorating tools. Ideal for children ages 4-12 years old, and they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian (2 parents or guardians max per ticketed child).

Naked Scavenger Hunts (KidFree Suggestion!)
Where: National Gallery of Art & American Art Museum, DC
When: February 15
Admission: $24

No, you don’t get naked on these scavenger hunts with Watson Adventures! Rather, you search for nude artworks throughout the museums by tracking down tricky clues and answer quirky questions to uncover alluring and amusing pieces. The National Gallery of Art hunt is at 1pm. The American Art Museum hunt is at 4pm. Follow links for more details about both.

Wild Love
Where: City Wildlife | Northeast DC
When: February 16, 12-5pm
Admission: Suggested donation $20/person, $40/family

Take advantage of this rare occasion to visit City Wildlife, the animal rescue and rehabilitation center, as it’s the only time of the year they open their doors to the public. At the 6th Annual Valentine’s Day Open House, get a behind-the-scenes tour of the rehabilitation facility, enjoy some goodies, and get a gift for your Valentine. Free-will donations are collected to ensure that the Center can help its animal patients.

Rumpus Room Family Valentine’s Day Dance Party
Where: Black Cat | 14th Street NW, DC
When: February 16, 2-4:30
Admission: $12

They choo choo choose you…to join them with your entire family on the dance floor! (They get all the credit for the great Simpsons reference.) DC’s only family dance party is back with a special groove session to celebrate the holiday on Valentine’s Day weekend. Practice those sweet moves and get ready to have fun!

All You Need Is Love 8: A Tribute to The Beatles & Love Songs (KidFree Suggestion!)
Where: Jammin Java
When: February 16, 7pm
Admission: $16

Are you in love, looking for love, or scorning love? Either way, this is how love songs are meant to be heard — intimate and stripped down. Jammin Java’s official Valentine’s tradition is back by popular demand. Anthony Fiacco, Todd Wright and Luke Brindley pay homage to the group that influenced every musician out there with covers of your favorite Beatles love songs as well as originals of their own. Three singer/songwriters sharing the stage, telling stories, and playing songs, it’s like seeing the best local musicians singing your favorite songs in your living room.


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Filed under 2020, All ages, Animals, Annual, Art, Date Night, DC, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Outdoor, Special Event, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Scenes from the 2019 Season’s Greening Exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Up close and personal with a model of a topiary flamingo


The U.S. Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to visit any time of year, but it gets the most attention during the holidays when its annual Season’s Greenings exhibit is on display — and for good reason. Featuring the most delightful train display, models of DC landmarks in the festively decorated conservatory, plus concerts and extended hours, it’s one of the best ways to enjoy some holiday fun around DC.

The highlight, especially for kids (and the kid in all of us adults) is the garden railway, which is always beautiful, whimsical, and uniquely crafted from plant materials. This year’s theme is America’s Gardens with recreations of structures — conservatories, fountains, and sculptures — from botanical gardens around the country. See the Canopy Cathedral Treehouse from Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania (random fact: I worked there when I was in high school), the Science Pyramid from the Denver Botanic Gardens, the World’s Largest Concrete Garden Gnome from Iowa’s Reiman Gardens, the USBG’s own Bartholdi Fountain, the Biltmore Conservatory, Topiary Flamingos from Ohio, and many, many more fantastically imaginative works. The model trains zipping through it all adds another layer of whimsy and delight.

Try to get a close look to see how the individual leaves, seed pods, stems, and other plant parts are placed to create the works — it really is impressive. Stand back, too, to take it all in and appreciate the mini botanical wonderland.

Once again, in the main Garden Court you can also view Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials as well as poinsettias and other vibrant flora. And be sure to stop in the West Gallery where there is a 26-foot Christmas tree with its own model train whizzing by recreations of DC row houses — all made of plant materials and based on real homes on Capitol Hill and Georgetown.

For more holiday magic at the Botanic Garden, there are concerts Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when hours are extended until 8pm. This is my favorite time to go. The music adds extra spirit and it’s lovely to see the exhibit and plant collections illuminated by colorful lights. Plus, there’s usually no wait to get in then.

Be aware that lines to get in do get long, especially on weekends and when kids are on Winter Break from school. Your best bet for avoiding a wait is to go on a weekday before they’re off for the holidays (think after school activity) or on one of the Tuesday or Thursday evenings in December.

And if you get there and the line is just too long, there is more than just the Seasons Greenings exhibit to enjoy. Explore the plant collections, both inside and out, and pick up a Plant Hunt guide, so the kids can search for specific species. And be sure to check out Patrick Doherty’s amazing Stickwork Sculpture Installation in the National Garden. Bartholdi Garden, also part of the USBG right across Independence Avenue, will also be festively decorated this year.

Season’s Greenings opens on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, and runs through January 5, 2020, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Hours are 10am – 5pm daily (and noted 8pm closings on Tuesdays and Thursdays in December). Admission is free. Get more of a glimpse in the photos below, but definitely plan a visit there to enjoy it all in person!















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Filed under 2019, 2020, All ages, Annual, Christmas, DC, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Holidays, Seasonal, Special Event, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter