Category Archives: Nature

Scenes from a Visit to the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring

 

If you’ve been reading KFDC awhile, then you probably already know that we love the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring.  The aerial forest experience that has adventure-goers navigating ropes courses and ziplines in the trees is such a fun and thrilling challenge — and easily one of our favorite adventures in the DC area.

The Adventure Park opened in 2011 and has since become the largest manmade outdoor climbing park in the worldWe first experienced it not long after its launch, when Owen was just six years old, and we’ve visited at least once a year since then with the exception of the last Covid year, often as a special end of summer break outing, and with both kids since Sasha has been old enough to join.  A visit there is a bit of a splurge, so it’s not something we do frequently.

That first visit, Owen could only go on a couple of easier courses for 5-6 year olds, and he had to be accompanied by an adult (me).  As he got older he could tackle more — and on his own.  On a recent visit, he and his friends were making their way from tree to tree high, high up in the air, maneuvering across wooden planks, grabbing for dangling ropes, and whizzing down zip lines.

Sasha and I stayed on the intermediate trails, which are very fun and challenging, just not quite as intense or as high as the advanced black and double black routes.  It’s pretty awesome to see both of my kids conquer the courses and to think about how much they’ve grown — physically, mentally, and emotionally — since their first experiences on the beginner purples.  It’s like our visits to the Adventure Park are kind of a benchmark for their development.

So, as mentioned, it’s usually a tradition for us to go at the end of summer, but after this weird bummer of a Covid school year, I decided an early summer trip there was well deserved.  (And still planning to bring them before they head back to the classroom in August, too. )

In case it isn’t evident, I highly recommend experiencing the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring, especially for active kids who love the outdoors and a good challenge!  Kids as young as 5 can go, but ages 5-6 can only do the easiest purple courses and must always be with an adult.  Ages 7-11 can climb all of the intermediate courses with an adult,  ages 12-13 can do the advanced black courses with an adult, and ages 14 and up can do everything solo.

Current pricing for a three-hour climb (prices are Mon-Thurs | Fri-Sun):
Adult (age 12+): $60 | 64
Junior (age 7-11): $50 | 54
Child (age 5-6): $16 | 20

Other special climbs:
Last Call that begins later in the day: $45/adult, $16/child
Glow in the Park evening climbs on certain dates: $56
Keep it Lit adults only on certain date: $49

Good things to know if you plan to go:
* You must reserve in advance. Admission is timed-entry and spots can fill up, especially on weekends.
* Wear comfortable clothes that you can move around in easily. I like to wear something with a pocket that zips or stays closed to hold my keys and phone.
* The park no longer provides gloves, but you can BYO or buy them there for $3, which I recommend.
* Closed-toed shoes are required.
* There is a short orientation on climbing (pay attention!) and a chance to practice using the gear before you get on the courses.
* Plan to leave belongings in your car or store in a small locker for $3. (I bring my phone and keys, but keep them in a secure pocket.)
* Concessions are available from the Munch Mobile food truck (and the fare is good) or you can BYO. There are picnic tables on the grounds outside of the climbing area for eating.
* Portable restrooms are outside the climbing area, and I recommend stopping at them before starting your climb — no one wants to be stuck in the trees with an urgent need to go.
* If you’re feeling really ambitious and want to do a double outing, the park is located right by the Underground Railroad Experience Trail

The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring is located at 16701 Norwood Road in Sandy Spring, MD. It’s open every day through summer with varying hours, and mostly weekends in the fall and spring.

And since I brought my phone on my climb to snap pics, here are more scenes from our recent visit…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2021, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Spring, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

Take Your T(w)eens — or Enjoy a KidFree Visit — to Glenstone

 

You have to be on the ball to score tickets to Glenstone, the modern art museum sprawling gloriously over 300 acres in Potomac, MD.  Even pre-Covid, passes were hard to get.  They are released on the first of every month for timed-entry admission for the following two months.  So, tickets that are released tomorrow, April 1, will be for  visits in May and June.   This takes some patience and planning, but I promise it’s worth it.

Glenstone is more than just a museum; it’s a whole experience. One that transports you to what feels like a destination far, far away from the city.  Both indoor galleries (that should start to reopen April 8) and expansive grounds showcase a remarkable collection and traveling exhibits that are interesting, evocative, and beautiful.  Design and architectural features are practically works of art themselves, and you will likely find yourself studying lines of the buildings and the pool of aquatic plants in the courtyard as much as the paintings and sculptures.

 

Exploring all of it on foot in the galleries and along paved paths spanning through open grassy areas, trails winding through woods, and boardwalks that zigzag over thick brush (or straw during cold months) add some recreation to the outing.  It’s like an art-filled hike or an active art adventure.  There’s also a cafe to make it a lunch date or to enjoy a snack in a very scenic setting.

Pick up a paper map on your way in or scan a QR code for one.  You definitely want to know where you’re going as some of the outdoor installations are a bit hidden, and you don’t want to miss them.  Inside, the galleries are numbered, so make sure you count them all off, too.  There’s at least one that is easy to miss, and we had to search a bit to find it (though that also added some extra fun).

With its 12-and-older age policy for visitors, Glenstone is automatically a spot for the T(w)een Scene.  And while this may be a bummer to parents with younger kids,  I get why they do it.  It’s not just that the art might be considered sophisticated for little ones.  (In the “eye of the beholder” vein, I think all art could be enjoyed and  appreciated on some level by every age.)  Part of the Glenstone experience is the peaceful, “contemplative environment,” as they call it.  I could see it being tough to keep kiddos from wanting to bolt through wide open spaces outside and use inside voices in the echoing galleries.  I’ve been a few times sans kids, with friends, and on my own — a different season each visit — and I highly recommend it for a grown-up outing, whether a day date, a visit with friends, or solo.

That said, both of my kids are finally old enough to go, and I’m looking forward to bringing them.  I had tickets for all us to visit when they had a day off from school recently, but a crazy downpour that day thwarted those plans.  Thus, I’ll be online tomorrow trying to score those elusive tickets again.

 

Glenstone is located at 12100 Glen Road in Potomac, MD.  It’s currently open Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm.  You must have a ticket to visit.  As mentioned, free tickets are released the first day of every month at 10am for the following two months. Photography is not permitted indoors, hence all the outdoor images here.

 

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Filed under Art, Exhibit, Free, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend

Hiking, Beaching, & a Little Fossil Hunting at Calvert Cliffs State Park

 

One might hear Calvert Cliffs State Park and immediately think awesome shark tooth hunting.  After all, the features for which the locale is named are well known as the source of millions-of-years-old fossils along Chesapeake shores.  However, in our experience, fossil finds are not what make the park an excellent day trip destination; whenever we have visited, we’ve found just a few small shark teeth at most. [Note: The pics here are from a visit this past summer… ’cause I have to keep the theme going of posting months after our visits. 😉]

What is more appealing about Calvert Cliffs State Park are its other main recreational activities: Hiking, beaching, and swimming.  There are 13 miles of trails total within the park, including one that is the direct route to the beach. It’s pretty evident where to catch the Red Trail from the parking lot, then it’s a two-mile ramble to reach the sand and surf, but a fairly easy and very scenic one.

The route is flat and mellow for the most part, so little ones can tackle it, and stretches through woods and along edges of marshes. Part of the trail is a wide dirt path shaded by tall leafy trees and part is a boardwalk that extends along wetlands.  You can walk and take in expansive views of the marsh areas filled with lily pads and aquatic plants.  In a few places, the boardwalk extends out into them for a closer look, and there are a couple of benches on the way to sit and enjoy the scenes.

When you come to the one fork in the trail, there’s a sign that points the way to the beach.  Follow that and you’ll eventually hit the stretch of sand where you can find a place to park your stuff and hang out awhile.  It’s not a huge area as barriers are in place to keep people from accessing the actual cliff areas.  Expect to share the space with a good amount of other people on nice days, especially weekends, though not too many that it’s crowded.  The park limits capacity, even more during Covid, so it’s not overwhelming.

Swimming is permitted, and the water is shallow and calm, but look out for jellyfish.  If you’re into fossil hunting, definitely do some searching for relics — like I said, I have found some small pieces there — but don’t be disappointed if you don’t find much.  And what you don’t find fossil-wise, you’ll make up for with a nice little hike and beach fun.

Calvert Cliffs State Park is located at 10540 H. G. Trueman Road in Lusby, MD, about a one-hour drive from DC.  Entry to the park is $8/vehicle, and it’s open sunrise to sunset.  Bring along a picnic as there are no concessions in the park, just keep in mind that whatever you pack you’ll be carrying two miles.  And make a stop at the bathroom near the parking lot as there isn’t one at the beach area.

As mentioned, the park limits capacity, so have a Plan B in mind in case you get there and it’s full.  Annmarie Sculpture Garden is just a few minutes down the road and just a bit further is the Calvert Marine Museum.

 

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Filed under All ages, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend

Scenes from the Start of Spring at the National Arboretum

 

This spring had to be the most anticipated one ever.  I mean, we always look forward to emerging from the cold and darkness of winter, to color returning to the landscape as trees begin to flower, to longer days, to renewal.  But this year it’s about so much more.

With this spring comes hope and optimism in a way that we couldn’t have fathomed in previous years. After a year of fear, uncertainty, disruption, and heartbreak that Covid heaved upon us, we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s still a ways to go, but that glimmer is getting brighter all the time.

This first day of spring did not disappoint.  The sun was shining, the weather pleasant, and it was a Saturday, so we could be out and about to enjoy it all.  We did that at one of our very favorite places in DC:  The National Arboretum.  We hadn’t been in awhile, because we thought there was a no dogs rule — we like being able to bring Teddy on our outings, especially if we’re hiking around outdoors — but we just learned that our pup can go to the Arb as long as he’s leashed.

So, that’s where we headed to ring in the new season.  If you’ve been reading KFDC awhile, you probably know how much I love the Arboretum — it tops the round-up of best outdoor spots.  (You can see more about it here, here, here, and here.) It’s a wonderful place to go any time of year, but this visit was especially auspicious as some of the cherry trees were blooming…on the first day of spring!

There is a self-guided cherry blossom tour to follow through the US National Arboretum app, or you can do what we did and see them as you wander around randomly and just refer to the app for the few that are blooming right now.

 

Be sure to explore the rest of the Arboretum to see even more bloom beginnings — rhododendrons, dogwoods, daffodils — and the many collections of plants and trees.  The Capitol Columns in the Ellipse Meadow are quite striking and have to be one of the most photographed spots in DC.

 

Get out and celebrate spring and all the hope that comes with it this year. The U.S. National Arboretum is located in Northeast DC, off of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue, the entrance at 24th & R Streets (from Bladensburg). Hours are 8am – 5pm. Admission is free.

PS: We are happy to report that Teddy loves the Arboretum just as much as we do.  And now that we know he can go, he’ll be a regular visitor, too!

 

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Spring, Weekdays, Weekend