The look of summer fun
I love this time of year as we make the casual shift into summer. The weather is warming up (though maybe a little too fast for some). We’re swapping boots for sandals, replacing jackets with baseball caps on coat hooks, and enjoying slushies outside instead of hot chocolate indoors. The end-of-school-year excitement is starting to build.
Even though summer doesn’t officially begin for a few more weeks, seasonal activities around the area are starting to kick off, and the warm months bring some of the area’s best recreation. From water-inspired fun to music and movies in the open air to special fests and feasts to bonus attractions at everyday places, the joys of summer are abundant around DC — and this annual guide will help you take advantage of it all!
So, unpack the flip flops, get out the blender for frozen drinks (slushies for kids, margaritas for adults), bookmark this page, and start planning your local summer fun. The 2018 KFDC Guide to the Best of Summer in the DC area has all the details and inspiration you need!
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Play in the Sprays
Outdoor Pool Season
Big Screen Under the Stars
Museum Programs & Seasonal Exhibits
Movies, Storytimes, & More
Mini Trains, Carousels, Mini Golf, & a Ferris Wheel
PLAY IN THE SPRAYS
A refreshing run through the sprays at Georgetown Waterfront Park
Kids can run through fountains and splash around at many area spraygrounds. Several are within the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, but some of the best are built right into the urban landscape, making the concrete jungle a cool place to hang out during the hottest months.
Georgetown Waterfront Park, right next to the Washington Harbour, has a fountain with arcing sprays that makes for a fun, refreshing way to cool off on a hot, summer day. The rest of its pretty green space along the Potomac is a great place to hang out, too.
Yards Park is a favorite for many in the city with two levels of super fun sprays, a wading pool and wall of water (essentially a water fall between the levels), plus a great scenic location on the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard.
The newest addition to the splash circuit is the in-ground fountain at The Wharf in Southwest. Kids can run through water shooting up from jets on opposite ends, play in mist spraying up in the center, and ride on waterproof rocking horses amid all of it, all with the beautiful new waterfront area as a backdrop.
Canal Park in the Navy Yard is great for all ages with both a gentle, shallow fountain that is perfect for really little ones to enjoy, plus a bigger fountain with lots of sprays for more enthusiastic play where the ice rink is in the winter.
Starting Memorial Day Weekend, May 26, DPR Spray Parks will be open for the season from 10am – 7pm daily.
Some of the area’s most popular spray parks — Lyon Village Park, Hayes Park, and Drew Park — can be found in Arlington.
The interactive fountain in Downtown Silver Spring plaza is open daily from 10am – 8pm. While my kids have never played there, I recall seeing very happy youngsters playing in the sprays on the colorful mosaic design during my lunch breaks when I worked at Discovery. It always looked like a blast.
The fountain in the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza located at 14th and Park Road, NW is a great place to cool down on a hot day, with many sprays that surge up from a pretty, circular tiled surface. Do a little shopping while you’re there — Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and many other big retail stores are right there — and plan to grab a bite at one of many kid-friendly eateries around. Plan to stop in Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Co. at 826DC located nearby.
The Fountain on the Square at Rockville Town Square welcomes kids to splish splash from May to September. It’s open Monday – Saturday 11am to 9pm and Sunday 12-8pm, but it’s turned off for maintenance at certain times during the week, so be sure to check the schedule before you go.
Also on the sprayground scene, the fountains in the Mosaic District welcome all to play in the sprays that jet up from concrete. Surrounded by retail stores and restaurants, you can make a day of it there with some shopping and eating, too. Plan to go on a Tuesday with little ones when you can also enjoy Stories from Strawberry Park.
OUTDOOR POOL SEASON
Rosedale pool in NE DC has slides and even a kiddie pool
Nothing says summer like swimming under the sun, and there are plenty of public pools in the area where you can jump in for free or a small admission fee.
DC outdoor public pools will open on Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 26. Days and hours vary from pool to pool so be sure to check the schedules before you go. A couple of years ago, they began opening earlier on weekdays, at 11am, and that’s continuing! (And some open even earlier than that for lap swim.)
For outdoor swimming outside of the city, Montgomery County outdoor public pools will open on May 26 through Labor Day — the Department of Recreation website has locations and hours.
In Northern Virginia, Arlington’s Upton Hill has a whole water park for guests to enjoy, and Alexandria has several places where the public is welcome to swim. Be sure to check the City of Alexandria website for hours, as they vary by pool.
Make splash at Soak City in Kings Dominion
Giant water slides, wave pools, waterfalls, sprays and splash pads…this is the stuff kids’ summer dreams are made of. There are actually several water parks around the area offering many of these attractions, just about all of them opening Memorial Day weekend for limited hours, until they open daily in a few weeks. Here’s a quick list — visit the websites for more details.
Ocean Dunes Water Park at Upton Hill in Arlington
Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro, MD
Great Waves at Cameron Run in Alexandria
The Water Park at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg
Atlantis Water Park at Bull Run in Centreville
Splash Down Water Park in Manassas
Chesapeake Beach Water Park
Soak City Water Park at Kings Dominion
Water Country USA at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA
Friday night concerts at Yards Park are a great way to kick off a summer weekend
Free music in the fresh air has become a staple of the season, and there are opportunities to enjoy just about every genre regularly at outdoor venues all around the DC-Metro.
The Capitol Riverfront Friday Night Concert Series at Yards Park begins May 25 and will run through August 24, presenting a different band each week on the boardwalk stage overlooking the Anacostia River. Along with the free music, food and beverages are available for purchase. (Unfortunately, the NO BYOB polic still holds). I recommend getting there early, so the kids can play in the fountains before the concert starts at 6:30pm. And on a hot summer day, it’s nice to continue the water fun even while the tunes are playing — you can still hear them from across the park!
Experience live music amid art at Jazz in the Garden, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s free concert series, every Friday from 5–8:30pm. The first performance of the season is May 18, rain or shine, and there will be weekly shows through August 24. Spread out a blanket, pack a picnic dinner or purchase food and drinks there, and enjoy the sounds of a variety of jazz artists. Note: Adult drinks are available from the pavilion; BYO alcohol is not permitted.
The U.S. Air Force Band’s Summer Concert Series begins June 1 and runs through Aug 28: Fridays at the Air Force Memorial at 7:30pm, Saturdays on the National Plaza (National Harbor) at 7pm, and Tuesdays at the U.S. Capitol (West Side Steps) at 8pm. Outdoor concerts are subject to weather cancellation.
In Silver Spring, the TGIF Downtown Street Party brings free music once a month on Friday evenings to the Fountain Plaza 6:30-8:30pm. Enjoy everything from pop to jazz to R&B to classic rock from May 11 through September 14.
All summer long, families can enjoy a variety of free fun at Rockville Town Square. Concerts for all ages on Friday evenings started in April and will run through September 14 — enjoy live music, good food, and beverages from 6-9pm.
Rock at the Row returns to Pentagon Row Thursdays July 12 – August 23. From 7-9pm, all are invited to the lounge on the new plaza for food samples and craft beer in the VIP section or to gather at one of the outdoor cafés while enjoying live music, giveaways, and merchant specials.
The U.S. Botanic Garden is bringing back the American Roots Music Concert Series every other Thursday 5-7pm. Celebrate American roots with Americana and folk, country, blues, jazz, and even zydeco outside on the Conservatory Terrace from June 14 – August 23
You can kick-start your weekends at Tysons Corner Center’s Fresh Artists Concert Series. Grab a blanket and enjoy performances ranging from ballet to blues, folk to funk, poetry to pop. Schedule still TBD, so check back.
Get a nice dose of nature as you listen to live tunes at Potomac Overlook Park in Arlington on Second Saturdays of the month from mid-May 13 – early September. The free, family-friendly performances take place on a stage in the woods surrounded by trails to explore. (FYI: The Nature Center — with snakes, turtles, owls, hawks — is great, too.
Enjoy music in Northern Virginia parks! The Fairfax County Park Authority presents their Summer Entertainment Series, a summer-long calendar of shows, concerts and movies appropriate families held in local parks. Bring a picnic dinner, blankets, and lawn chairs to enjoy the best local and regional entertainers.
Strathmore, the North Bethesda performing arts center, hosts Live from the Lawn, free outdoor concerts, every Wednesday from July 11 – August 29.
There’s a whole festival to celebrate the lotus and water lilies at Kenilworth!
Several stand-out events are anticipated around the area this time of year, celebrating everything from music to art & culture to neighborhoods to food.
Get folksy at Glen Echo Park June 2-3, when the 38th Annual Washington Folk Festival showcases the diversity of traditional music in Washington. All of the artists hail from the DC area, but cultures from around the nation, as well as the world, will be represented through music, dance, crafts, and stories. The public is invited to enjoy the free festival that is renown in the folk community.
It sounds like a grown-ups-only event, but the Vintage Virginia Wine & Food Festival offers plenty of family fun, too. Taking place June 2-3 at Bull Run Park in Centreville, VA, festivities include wine tasting (of course), chef demos, food truck fare, live music, and a whole family-friendly area with activities especially for kids.
Imagination Bethesda, an annual festival occurring in the heart of its namesake city, is all about children. On June 2 from 10am – 3pm, Woodmont & Elm downtown will be lined with activity tents offering tons of fun for kids — arts & crafts, face painting, games, etc. There will also be live entertainment, food from local restaurants, and more. Admission is free.
The DC Jazz Festival presents a variety of performers at venues all around the city from June 8-17, but the most family-friendly of them actually precedes the main event. Jazz n’ Family Fun Days will take place June 2-3 with free shows for all ages at The Phillips Collection.
The Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival make sits first appearance in the guide this year, as it’s taking place a few week later than past years. The celebration of local music, food, and culture as well as the revitalization of the Anacostia River features a whole day and evening of performances by local bluegrass and folk acts on multiple stages. Fuel up with DC’s favorite food trucks (and beer). Kids are very welcome, and there are usually activities for kids presented by Living Classrooms and other organizations.
Attend one of the biggest summer barbeques around June 23-24 as the National Capital Barbeque Battle returns to pit some of the nation’s best barbequers against each other as they compete for big prizes. The reward for attendees: Samples from all the entrants (plus, more food), live music, cooking demos, kids’ fun, and more.
Every summer, the National Mall becomes stomping grounds of folks from around the globe to celebrate living cultural heritage and community traditions at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This year’s event will run from June 27 – July 1 and July 4-8, celebrating Armenia and Catalonia, and ending with a Sisterfire Concert
For the first time since the in over 50 years, DC is hosting the MLB All-Star Game, and there will be a week of festivities leading up to the main event, including a FanFest at the Washington Convention Center, Play Ball Park . an interactive area of fun at Yards Park, and tons more fun from July 13-17.
The lotus and water lilies in full bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are such a ravishing sight it calls for a celebration. Along with the spectacular display of flowers, the annual Lotus & Water Lily Festival on July 21 will feature traditional Asian and African dancing and drumming, gardening workshops, park tours, arts & crafts, face painting, and other family-friendly pursuits. View scenes from last year’s bloom here.
Take a little time trip back to the 18th century at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm Summer Market Fair the weekend of July 21-22. There are all kinds of hands-on activities to do, interesting demos to view, foods to savor, and vendors to browse at the seasonal event. Read more about the living history farm here.
It might run into fall, but it starts in August, so I’m counting the Maryland Renaissance Festival
among the summer fun. Plus, it’s one of my very, very favorite
annual events (more confirmation on that here
). The merriment begins August 25 and will continue every weekend through October 21. (Go! I promise, it’s the best.)
Beach it a Flag Ponds Nature Park
Summer and beach trips go hand-in-hand, so why not hit one with the kids? You don’t have to drive all the way to the ocean for it; there are several places where you can get a nice dose of sand and surf that are within day trip-distance from DC.
Head out to Calvert County for a day at Flag Ponds Nature Park. Not only is there plenty of sand for playing and nice mellow waters for swimming, it’s also a great spot for fossil hunting — look for shark teeth and other prehistoric remnants along the shores while you’re there, too! Hours are 9am – 6pm Memorial to Labor Day. Admission is $8/car.
Bayfront Park aka Brownie’s Beach is a nice little spot in Chesapeake Beach, MD. With a small but nice stretch of sand, gentle shallow water, shark teeth to fin, and cliffs edging the shoreline, it’s a great place to spend a day — especially with little ones since they can’t roam too far. The only downside is the admission fee: $18/adult, $10/child for non-residents of the county.
Enjoy views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from the beach at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis. At nearly 800 acres, it’s a big beach park with lots of recreational opportunities — swimming, picnicking, fishing, crabbing, hiking, and more. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are lifeguards on duty. And snack food and beach and picnic supplies are available. Hours are 6am – sunset. From May 1 through September, admission is $5/Maryland resident, $7/non-resident on weekend, and $4/ Maryland resident, $6/non-resident on weekdays.
The beach is narrow, and you’re on a river, but you still get sand and water at Purse State Park in Charles County, MD. This is best if your main purpose is fossil hunting — it’s a great place to go for it — and you want to get in some “beach” time, too. Wear swimsuits, bring a picnic, and be sure to check the tide table so you can make the most of your time there. Open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.
BIG SCREEN UNDER THE STARS
Sit back, relax, and enjoy a film outdoors at the Union Market Drive-in
Outdoor movies have become a DC summer tradition in the last few years with films al fresco in several neighborhoods. Even better, all of them are FREE! (*Before you make plans to enjoy any of the series, be sure to check schedules, as some movies may not be appropriate for children.)
Catch a flick on the big screen from the comfort of your car at the Union Market Drive-In Series, occurring monthly on Fridays throughout the summer, with several family-friendly films in the mix. Get there as early as 6pm and have a bite to eat in the Market or bring food back to your car. The film starts at 8:30pm. Admission is $10/car, free for walk-ins. Advance purchase is recommended.
National Harbor’s Movies on the Potomac already started their Sunday night film series for families, and it will run through September 30. Movies are shown on the plaza screen starting at 6pm.
Movie lovers of all ages can head to the Four Mile Run Movie Series in Alexandria on the last Friday of the month from May 25 – August 31, when the park is transformed into an outdoor cinema. This free event will also include two hours of activities and entertainment leading up to show time. Films start at dusk, fun begins at 6:30pm
The Golden Triangle (BID) is raising the curtain on its Golden Cinema Film Series to be hosted this summer in Farragut Park. Outdoor movies will be shown at sunset every Friday beginning June 1 – August 3, and there are many family-friendly films among the line-up.
This year’s Wonder Women-themed NoMa Summer Screen features a variety of movies with strong female leads. The 12-week outdoor film series starts on June 6 and runs weekly on Wednesdays through August 29. The movies begin at sunset, but you can get there early to picnic — BYO or grab a bite from a food truck
See your favorite stars beneath the stars at the Capitol Riverfront’s Canal Park Outdoor Movie Series. Catch films every Thursday evening at sundown from June 7 through August 23.
Every Friday starting June 29, Rosslyn Cinema presents a night of fun and films in Gateway Park. Bring a blanket or low chairs and a group of friends and enjoy a night under the stars with your favorite movies. Movies start at dusk, but the fun starts at 5 p.m. with games and their Pub in the Park. Kids and pups welcome!
Events DC’s Summer Movie Series kicks off July 11-12, when you can catch free films every Wednesday and Thursday at Oxon Run Park and the Festival Grounds at RFK Stadium.
Bethesda Outdoor Movies will bring five days of flicks al fresco to downtown at the corner of Norfolk and Auburn Avenues from July 24-28. Be sure to check the titles to see what’s appropriate for your kid.
MUSEUM PROGRAMS & SEASONAL EXHIBITS
A fairy house almost as tall as Owen at Annmarie Sculpture Garden
Extraordinary installations, lovely annual exhibits, kids’ programs during the school break, and admission deals are some of the special experiences at our museums and galleries to take take advantage of over the summer.
First there was indoor mini-golf, after that it was a giant maze, then came the super awesome Beach, followed by Icebergs, and last year it was Hive. This summer, the National Building Museum will welcome visitors to FUN HOUSE, “a freestanding structure that recalls and re-imagines the idea of the traditional home” with interactive elements and a “peculiar, yet accessible way of reinterpreting the built environment”. Admission is $5/youth member, $10/adult member and $13/youth non-member, $16/adult non-member. Open July 4 through September 3.
Annmarie Sculpture Garden is enchanting any time of year, but it’s especially so in the summer when the fairy and gnome houses are on display. The adorable collection of little whimsical abodes for spritely creatures have all been selected from many submissions in an annual fairy house building contest. And they are just fantastic. Created by all ages, individuals and groups, each one has a different theme, but together they are a brilliant showcase of imagination and craftiness. View scenes from last year’s exhibit here.
You can walk amid a garden of butterflies at Brookside Garden’s amazing Wings of Fancy exhibit. The seasonal display featuring live butterflies and caterpillars from all over the world opened in April and will welcome visitors through September 16, 10am – 4pm. Admission is $8/ages 13 and up, $5/3-12, free ages 0-2 (admission to the rest of Brookside is free). Read about a KFDC experience there and view some of our pics from last year’s exhibit.
No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man at the Renwick isn’t a special summer exhibit, but it will make for a great outing with kids while they’re on break from school. It brings a piece — or, make that pieces, and big ones! — of the annual Black Rock Desert event to DC in the form of large-scale installations, several of them taking up whole galleries in the museum. The works range from sculptures to immersive installations to jewelry to costumes, and much of it appeals to all ages. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and admission is free.
Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington, DC, is returning to the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden for its third year. It opens on Solstice Saturday, June 23, and will be there through the summer. The public is welcome to write wishes on small cards and tie them to the tree’s branches. They’re collected throughout the summer, then sent to Ono’s “Imagine Peace Tower” in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Every year, the Newseum offers the Summer Fun Deal. From July 1 – September 3, there is no admission fee for kids ages 18 and under. The promotion waives the $12.95 regular entrance charge for youth with one paid adult admission, senior admission, or Newseum membership (a benefit to ages 7 and up, as kids 6 and under are always free). Up to six kids can enter free with the offer. Read a KFDC take on the Newseum and look for a deal on adult admission here.
ARTECHOUSE, the destination fusing art and technology that debuted last summer with XYZT: Abstract Landscapes, will dazzle us once again with Fractal Worlds. The exhibit will be “a visual journey through mind-bending sci-fi worlds and infinite 3D geometric patterns. Incorporating both projection and virtual reality elements, the exhibition transports viewers to another dimension.” All ages are welcome! Runs July 7 – September 30, and admission is $15/adult, $8/12 & under.
The National Gallery of Art’s wonderful drop-in program for children returns! Art Investigators, geared toward ages 4-7, introduces kids to art and encourages them to make observations and use their imaginations as they discover different works. It’ll run Friday – Monday from July 7-31. Read a KFDC review of the program from a few years back when it had a different name (we’ve been since, and it was just as good!).
During the warm months, little ones can flex their green thumbs in the outdoor Children’s Garden at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Renovated last year, the adorable outdoor area features dirt to dig in, plants to tend to, and a cute play structure to romp in. The rest of the USBG’s outdoor gardens are great to explore, too!
The National Archives is hosting some free programs for kids and families in June and July, including it’s regular monthly drop-in storytime, Family Learning Labs, and a few special events on weekends. Some require advance registrations and have age recommendations, so check them out and sign up soon!
For the T(w)een Scene and older, Carne Y Arena is a very powerful virtual reality experience that immerses viewers in the Sonoran desert as a group of migrants attempts to cross the border from Mexico to the US. Be sure to read the review to determine if your tween or teen should go! It’s running through August in Northeast DC, and tickets are being released every two weeks and going very quickly — reserve yours here.
MOVIES, STORY TIMES, & MORE FOR KIDS
The National Gallery of Art’s Drop-In program returns this summer
Family movies at local theaters are a great way to stay cool and keep kids entertained when the weather heats up. And several seasonal programs keep little ones engaged with storytimes and more interactive fun. Even better, they’re all free or super cheap!
The Regal Summer Movie Express presents flicks for kids on many Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 10am starting June 26. Admission is just $1. Be sure to check the website for the film schedule and theater locations, as it doesn’t run at all theaters every week.
The Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse will also offer fun films for kids throughout the summer for just $1. Dates and films vary by theater, so check the schedule to see what’s playing at a theater near you
On Wednesdays From May 17 – September 27, Kids Corner on The Plaza at CityCenter welcomes little ones for outdoor story time, singing, and fun with DC Public Library.
Kids in Canal is coming back with its weekly series of kid-friendly entertainment every Wednesday 10:30-11:30am beginning June 6. Bring little ones to the middle block of Canal Park to enjoy magic shows, kids tunes, science demonstrations, and puppet shows. Top off the day with a refreshing splash in the dancing water fountains!
The National Gallery of Art’s wonderful drop-in program for children returns once again! Formerly Stories in Art, Art Investigators, geared toward ages 4-7, introduces kids to art and encourages them to make observations and use their imaginations as they discover different works. It’ll run Friday – Monday from July 13 – August 5. Read a KFDC review of the program from a few years back (we’ve been since, and it was just as good!).
The Mosaic District‘s Stories from Strawberry Park series takes it outdoors during the warm months (in the Angelika Film Center on rainy days and the rest of the year). Join them there on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 10:30am from May through September for live interactive performances by unique storytellers.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Ashburn welcomes families to Kids Camp, a movie series that is inexpensive ($1-3) and benefits local charities, to boot.
Old Greenbelt Theatre, a nonprofit cinema located in Greenbelt, MD, presents their School’s Out Summer Family Series every Thursday at 1pm from June 21 through August 30. The movie line-up is all kid-friendly and admission to all of them is FREE!
Give the National Harbor carousel a whirl
MINI TRAINS, MINI GOLF, CAROUSELS, & A FERRIS WHEEL!
Watkins Regional Park opens its attractions on a limited schedule in early May, but come Memorial Day weekend, they can be enjoyed for extended hours almost every day of the week. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10am – 7pm; Sundays 12–5 pm, closed Mondays except May 26 (Memorial Day), July 4 (July Fourth Holiday; closes at 4pm) & September 3 (Labor Day). Read about the rest of the fun you can enjoy at Watkins!
Cabin John Regional Park opened its Miniature Train on weekends only back in April, but as of June 1, it’ll be operating daily 10am – 7pm through September 3. After that, hours will be limited, so check the schedule. Read about the wonderful Cabin John playground here
The Miniature Train and Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel at Wheaton Regional Park started taking guests for spins in early April on weekends and will be open daily May 19 through September 3 (limited times after that). Hours are 10am – 6pm Monday to Friday, and 10am – 7pm Saturday & Sunday. Read about the super fun Wheaton playground here.
The beautiful historic Dentzel Carousel is open for its 98th season at Glen Echo Park. Plan to go for a spin before or after a show at Adventure Theatre or The Puppet Co. From May through August, it’s open Wednesday – Friday 10am – 2pm, and Saturday and Sunday 11am – 5pm.
These extra delights bring even more fun to several parks around the area that are already great outdoor places to hang with the kids.
The Clemyjontri carousel has been running on weekends since April, but will be offering rides daily starting May 26 on weekdays 9:30am – 1:00pm and weekends 9:30am – 6:30pm. Read more about Clemyjontri here.
There are a couple of ways to go for a spin at National Harbor. Kind of like a London Eye of the U.S., The Capital Wheel is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of DC. The 42-gondola ride (all closed and climate-controlled with room for 8) soars 180 feet above the Potomac River waterfront, offering vistas of the White House and Capitol, the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, and more amazing sites. Ticket prices start at $15. For an on-ground whirl, the Carousel features a herd of whimsical creatures and the sparkling Potomac as a backdrop. It’s $7 for each rider, and they can ride an unlimited number of times. Read about both rides and more National Harbor fun here.
The RIO Express Train and Carousel at RIO Washingtonian are open 3pm – dusk on weekdays, 11am – dusk on weekends through June 10. After that, they’ll open daily 11am – 9pm. A day pass is $6.
Burke Lake Park’s Mini Train and Carousel are open April to October, daily from Memorial Day – Labor Day 11:30am – 5:30pm. The park is free to access for Fairfax county residents. For non-county residents, the park is free on weekdays and has a $10 entrance fee on weekends/holidays for a car or large capacity van. Carousel rides are $2-3, and train rides are $3-4.
A setting as great as the entertainment at Children’s Theatre in the Woods
All the world’s a summer stage at these venues that present special entertainment series for children and families throughout the season.
From late June through early August, Wolf Trap presents the fantastic Children’s Theater-in-the-Woods, over 70 family-friendly performances at 10am Tuesdays through Saturdays. Amidst 117 rolling wooded acres and nestled in a shady grove, the stage is set for lively adventures in music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater. All of the productions are recommended for children between Kindergarten and 6th grade, though I think kids even younger can enjoy them, too (mine did!). Read a KFDC review of the series from a few summers ago.
Backyard Theater for Children, Strathmore’s summer theater series brings live music and fun to kids – all outdoors under a big tent. Weekly performances take place every Thursday at 9:30am and 11:30 from July 5-26. Admission is $8/advance, $10/day of, free/2 & under.
See a Shakespeare play in the park! The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company presents Shakespeare in the Ruins at the Picturesque Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City this summer. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s play featuring fairies, magic, and romantic mix-ups, runs from June 22 – July 29. Not only can you picnic as you watch the play, kids are free (two for every adult). Advance reservations are recommended as tickets are limited.
Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual Free For All will present Romeo and Juliet from August 21 – September 1 this summer. The Washington tradition offers free performances of a Shakespearean classic to the public. Get tickets through an online lottery or waiting in line day-of with a limited number available.
Root for the home team at a Nats game
Some of the season’s best action takes place in ballparks, stadiums, and arenas thanks to our local sports teams. Here’s where you can join the fan clubs.
A day at Nationals Park is all it takes to understand why baseball is America’s favorite pastime. Catching a Nats game is one of our family’s preferred ways to enjoy a nice summer (or spring) day (or evening), anyway. The excitement extends well beyond the diamond with games and activities in the park, a playground for kids, the Racing Presidents, fun in the stands, and more. Before you go, check out these tips on doing a Nats game without breaking the bank. And I highly recommend the Jr. Nationals Kids Club for children 12 and under. Just $20 gets them membership, which includes Nats swag, plus a coupon book with offers for free meals, BOGO tickets, a ballpark tour, and all kinds of discounts. Even a few months into the season, it’s still worth it!
Tennis, anyone? The Washington Kastles, the DC franchise of World TeamTennis, will bring some on-court thrills to the Smith Center, where Kastles Stadium is located, July 15 – August 2. For some background, see this post and this one from a few years back.
Every summer, the Citi Open Tennis Tournament serves up exciting competition along with other fun activities for fans of all ages. See some of the sport’s top players in action and enjoy the thrills on and off the court at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center July 28 – August 5.
Whether or not you’ve got a little soccer fan in your fam, DC United matches are fun experiences for all ages. And since games only last 90 minutes, it’s not too long for antsy young spectators. Be sure to check for any pre- or post-game activities for kids.
Can’t stand the heat? Head to the Verizon Center to see the Washington Mystics (w)hoop it up on the basketball court. Tickets start at $13.
Swing up to Charm City to see the Baltimore Orioles play. Camden Yards is a beautiful ballpark, and you can head to the Inner Harbor before or after to make a day of it up north.
If the Nats or O’s aren’t in town, or you want to see baseball on a smaller but still fun scale, you’ve got several great options around the area. Take ’em out to the minors at a Bowie Baysox, Potomac Nationals, or Aberdeen Ironbirds game. Summer collegiate team Bethesda Big Train is also very popular for non-majors baseball action.
Women’s pro soccer team, Washington Spirit, plays in Germantown. Per a KFDC reader, “you get affordable tickets and concessions, picnic seating behind the goal, a really intimate, family-friendly environment, and top-level soccer.”
One of the best treats of the season
Cantler’s is an Annapolis institution.
Mike’s Crab House in Annapolis also gets raves.
Enjoy great crabs and an awesome beach area at Kentmorr.
The Jetty on Kent Narrows has crabs, scenic views, and a fun beachy vibe.
In Baltimore, Bo Brooks on the Canton Waterfront is popular.
Enjoy a feast in the District at Ivy City Smokehouse.
Stay close to the city at Quarterdeck in Arlington.
Eat crabs in the ‘burbs at Bethesda Crab House.
Make it a day trip to Waterman’s in Rock Hall, MD.
Pick up your own at the Maine Avenue Fish Market. Buy them already steamed or get them while they’re still alive to cook at home.
Easily one of the best activities during summer in Maryland and neighboring areas (this is where I get non-DC-centric because I have to give credit where it’s due). Here are some suggestions for places to get ’em, though the “best” is always a subject for debate.
Reaping the fruits at Homestead Farm
Some particularly cool activities and offerings are only possible this time of year. Sure, you can say that’s most of this guide, but these experiences that fall into the “other” category shouldn’t be missed.
On Thursday evenings and some Saturdays during late spring and summer, the Anacostia Watershed Society hosts their free Discovery Series, which include boat tours, paddle tours, and wetland walks a few local parks. Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Anacostia Park, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Diamond Teague Park, and Kingman Island are locations for these jaunts.
For other adventures on the water, a bunch of places around the area rent kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and stand up paddleboards. Fletcher’s Boathouse is a popular place to go and has a great riverside area to hang out and picnic when you’re off the water. You can also row from Ballpark Boathouse near Yards Park. Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis has paddling options along with lots of other outdoor recreation. This post has a whole round-up of even more places to go with the flow on local waterways.
Pick your own produce at local farms. While it starts in the spring with strawberries, it carries on through summer with even more delicious fruits — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, plus veggies and more produce you can gather yourself. Find out where you can PYO around the DC area.
Friday Night Fishing begins June 15 and runs through August 17. Join Anacostia Riverkeeper on most Fridays from 6-8:30pm for catch and release fishing at the dock at Diamond Teague Park (located next to Yards Park). Rods, reels, bait, and instruction are free. No sign up is required.
Aaaaaar, mateys! As the weather warms up and cruising conditions become more comfortable, pirate voyages are offered on local waters. In DC, take a Family Treasure Hunt Cruise on the Boomerang Pirate Ship. Head out to Annapolis for Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake. Go for a jaunt with Urban Pirates in Baltimore or stay closer to home where they’re invading National Harbor.
Some of the most spectacular flower blooms occur during the summer. Enjoy a gorgeous display of azaleas. View a whole park bursting with pink, white, and peach-hued lotus fowers and water lilies. Fields upon fields of sunflowers are sure to brighten any day. Stop and smell the roses at a favorite National Mall spot. Get details on all of them in this post about our bloom town.
Get rolling in Southeast! The Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion, the only skating pavilion within in a national park, opens May 26 will welcome skaters daily from 9am – 5pm. Even better, both admission and skate rentals are FREE! And along with skating, Anacostia Park offers a multitude of water and land based recreation, including Ranger led programs, birding, tennis, fishing, biking, and three playgrounds. Read more about the park in this KFDC post.
Have I left out anything really good? If you think so, let me know in the comments below!
Summer in the City: Keeping it cool at Yards Park