Category Archives: Ongoing

Hike — & Après Hike — at Sugarloaf Mountain & The Comus Inn

Hanging out on the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain

 

Two kinds of outings many of us are seeking these days are activities outdoors with space to social distance and dining outside that’s family-friendly and heated.  And when you easily can combine both into one adventure, well, that’s like hitting the Covid day trip jackpot.

Enjoying the scenic surrounds of The Comus Inn

We experienced such luck a little while back the day after Thanksgiving.  I got the best tip from a friend about The Comus Inn, a newly renovated restaurant (and more) just down the street from Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson, MD.  Her family had recently gone for a hike then stopped for a bite after, and she raved about the fantastic time they had there.

A view from the Sugarloaf summit

Hiking at Sugarloaf Mountain wasn’t new to us, but we usually paired it with a visit to the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, also a short drive down the road from the park.  We’re always up for something new, though, especially when it comes as a very enthusiastic recommendation.

Space to social distance

The start of the White trail

Sugarloaf Mountain, in Montgomery County about 10 miles south of Frederick, is a great place to go for a family hike.  If you’re with older kids or avid hikers, you can start at the base and opt for an seven-mile loop up and down the mountain.  With younger children, or if you just want a shorter, easier jaunt, you can drive farther up to the East View parking area, where several trails to hop on are nearby.  A couple of good ones are the white trail, which winds around and ascends gradually to the summit, and the orange trail that is a steeper, more direct climb up.  Drive a little further to the West View parking areas for more, similar options.  However you go, you’re guaranteed great views on the way and at the top.  

Group hike on the Orange

Scrambling up to the top

On this trip, we met up with friends and opted for the orange trail. While all of us parents followed the route, the kids went off-trail and scrambled up a hill and over rocks, but we all met at the summit.  It’s a large area, so you can enjoy the scenery and climb outer rocks.  There are no big drop offs, but it’s always a good idea to make sure kids aren’t doing anything precarious, of course.   You can also bring along a picnic and, if it’s not crowded, enjoy it on some of the large rocks along with sweeping views.  There are also picnic tables near the parking areas.  However, I highly recommend saving snack time for après hike…

 

A perfect setting for a post-hike meal

The Comus Inn is part of what made this whole adventure special.  The  family-friendly community recreation and entertainment destination (as they describe it) could be an outing in itself.  There is a lovely outdoor dining area with long wooden tables and smaller round ones, string lighting for added charm and ambiance, and more seating around a fountain and in the nearby expanse of grass. Tall heaters are placed throughout for warmth.  The menu has everything from snacks and starters to entrees with something for every palate, plus beer and wine and coffeehouse selections. The bonus: Fun games available to play — shuffleboard, corn hole, and ping pong.  And all of it is surrounded by gorgeous scenery.

Someone’s ready to eat

Ping pong to work up an appetite

Our large group walked right in and got seated, but I’m guessing that won’t be so easy as word gets out about The Comus Inn.  Unfortunately, they do not take reservations, but if there aren’t any tables readily available, it’s a pretty awesome place to have to wait.

Even more games to play… shuffleboard and corn hole

 

The Comus Inn is located at 23900 Old Hundred Road in Dickerson, MD. Hours are 7-11am and 4-8pm Thursday & Friday, and 7am – 8pm Saturday & Sunday.

Sugarloaf Mountain is located at 7901 Comus Road in Dickerson, MD, just over an hour drive from DC. Park ours are 8am – sunset.  Admission is a suggested donation of $5/vehicle.

 

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Filed under All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Free, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend

The Weekend Round-Up:
December 18-20

City lights ✨

 

Happy Weekend!

Winter Inspo
Where: Around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by locale

Even though we have a few days until it’s officially winter, this round-up of ideas for activities during the covid cold months are accessible now. From hikes to art experiences to seasonal sports to garden explorations to all-season fun to holiday happenings, there are all kinds of things to do that keep social distancing and safety in mind. All you really need are good layers and maybe a little extra outdoor gear.

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Holidays, Maryland, Ongoing, Outdoor, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Special Event, Virginia, Weekend, Winter

Chill Time: Activities Around DC During the Covid Winter

A socially distanced visit to The REACH at the Kennedy Center

 

Winter is looming, and it’s going to be a lot different than any we’ve previously experienced.  Most of our usual go-to places for fun and entertainment (and warmth) inside aren’t accessible right now.  So, we adapt.  Instead of heading to museums and theatres and indoor play spaces this season, plan on adventures outdoors instead.  (Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!)  So, layer up, bundle up, invest in gear that makes the cold outdoors more comfy, and try some of these activities that aren’t just alternatives to the winter outings you aren’t enjoying, but that are awesome adventures in themselves.  Happy Winter!

 

TAKE A HIKE

GET AN ART FIX

EXPLORE A GARDEN

TRY SEASONAL SPORTS 

ENJOY ALL-YEAR ACTIVITIES

SEE THE LIGHTS

 

* * * * * 

 

TAKE A HIKE

A scenic break by the river at Turkey Run Park

Taking a walk in the woods probably seems like an obvious suggestion, but a reminder of some great places to go never hurts. Here are a few that are especially good to visit now, either because they don’t draw huge crowds or are big enough to offer plenty of space if they do.

Turkey Run Park
This seems to be one of the best overlooked parks in the area, as it’s never crowded when we go. Nearly 700 acres of woods contain trails that ramble along the Potomac, streams that flow down from the woods to the river, great views from the shoreline, and a variety of wildlife. Hikes are fairly easy, and you can opt for trails anywhere from about one to four miles long. There are clusters of big rocks on the riverbanks, where it’s nice to stop and take in the views. Scramble over fallen trees, cross a few small footbridges, and run through clearings. A few picnic areas with tables are perfect for lunch al fresco, and the open spaces are great areas to toss a Frisbee or kick a ball around. Access the park via the GW Parkway, right before the Beltway. Hours are 6am -10pm, and there is no admission fee.

Rock Creek Park
Our local national park is a great place to enjoy outdoor recreation right here in the city.  Layer up and hit one of the many trails. We usually park at the Nature Center lot or by Peirce Mill, then hop on a marked path from there.  Some areas might be closed right now, but there are maps on trees indicating where to go. Admission to Rock Creek Park is free.  [Note: Links above offer more info about the Nature Center and Peirce Mill, but both places are closed right now.]

Sky Meadows State Park
The park in Delaplane, VA, is vast, perfect for good social distancing, plus you can enjoy nice walks through woods and along pastures with beautiful scenic views. You can even hike the AT — a three-mile stretch of it runs through the park. There are bunch more trails to follow, plenty of them easy and short for young trampers, including a Sensory Trail especially for kids and a Children’s Discovery Area. The Visitor Center is open if you need facilities and a little warming up, but only Thursday – Monday, with weekday hours from 11am – 4:30pm, and weekends 10am – 4:30pm. The park is open 8am – dusk, and parking is $7/weekdays, $10/weekends.

Patapsco Valley State Park
With over 16,000 acres sprawling through Howard and Baltimore counties, there are hiking options galore at Patapsco. The trails vary, which keeps it interesting — there are easy, flat routes along the river and rooty paths that wind through the woods, some leading to waterfalls or crossing over footbridges. We usually head in at the Avalon or Hilton entrances and hit the trails from there.  Both offer the best access to trails that lead to the lovely Cascade Falls, plus other nice routes.  There is a playground next to the Hilton parking area for some extra fun for kids.  I recommend checking the Patapsco website or Trails.com to find the right hike for your family and detailed info.

Sugarloaf Mountain
Located in Dickerson, MD, just south Frederick, Sugarloaf is a great place to go for a family hike.  You can start at the base and opt for a 7-mile loop or drive farther up the mountain for a shorter hike — there are a bunch of trails to hop on close to the parking area.  A couple of good ones are the white trail, which winds around and ascends gradually to the summit, and the orange trail that is a steeper, more direct climb up.  However you go, you’re guaranteed great views on the way and at the top.  Afterward, plan a stop at the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard or The Comus Inn, both just down the road. The latter is a family-friendly restaurant with a great outdoor dining area, plus shuffleboard, corn hole, and ping pong — all of it surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Get a glimpse of our recent outing to Sugarloaf and Comus in my IG highlights.

Find even more great hikes around the area!


 

GET AN ART FIX

Some of the DC Statehood murals near The Atlas on H Street

You don’t always have to go into a museum to enjoy great works of art. They are outdoors in gardens, along our landscapes, and even the city streets. For many, seeing the creative output of others is such a fantastic boost — here are some varied ways to find that around the area.

DC Murals Tour
You can find art by local artists all over the city on sides of buildings, temporarily boarded-up storefronts, even right on the street. MuralsDC, an initiative from the DC Department of Public Works, is an excellent resource for locating, learning about, and touring local murals. You can refer to the digital map and find tours of collections, including the 51 Murals for DC Statehood and U Street Corridor Walking Tour.

Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
While all of the Smithsonian museums are currently closed, you can still enjoy the outdoor areas, including the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden on the National Mall. Take a stroll through the works, and check out this FAQ for more about visiting. You can pop in for free daily from 10am – 4:30pm. And to make the most of your time, visit the lovely garden between the Hirshhorn and Arts & Industries Building and the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the castle.

The REACH at the Kennedy Center
The beautiful grounds of The REACH, the Kennedy Center extension that opened just over a year ago, are open to visitors. Not only are there works of art located around the area, the artfully designed buildings are so impressive and amazing to view. You can stroll around, check out the sculptures and structures — and take in vistas of the Potomac. The Kennedy Center terrace and plaza are also open, and you can take a very short walk through The Reach indoors. Even more, Victura Park, an outdoor pop-up wine garden & café, is there on weekends, with a Winter Holiday Market, too. The REACH grounds are always open; indoors are Friday 4-8pm, Saturday 12-6pm, & Sunday 12-6pm; Victura Park hours are Friday 4-8pm, Saturday 12-8pm, ad Sunday 12-7pm. Admission to everything is free.   See my IG posts, here and here, for some REACH scenes.

Tour the Memorials
Surely, DC’s grand iconic structures can be considered artistic works. So, be a tourist in your hometown (unless you’re visiting, then just be a tourist), and take the opportunity to visit the many memorials on the Mall and around the Tidal Basin. Along with being marvel-worthy, there’s a lot to be gleaned from them, too. Learn about some of our country’s presidents and leaders — George, Abe, Tom, FDR, & MLK — from displays, park rangers, and in the Visitors Centers. And walk or bike among them all to add some exercise (and extra fun) to the venture.

Annmarie Sculpture Garden
The grounds of the arts center in Calvert County are filled with all kinds of creative works, from large abstract sculptures to “tree pops” and birdhouses to a few fairy houses left over from the annual summer exhibit. Some of the bigger works are part of the permanent collection, and many more are on loan from the Hirshhorn, National Gallery of Art, and other private collections. A stroll among all of it along a looping path is lovely, relaxing, and kind of magical. And the Fairy Lolly is the most delightful play area! The indoor galleries with even more art are also open and good for warming up (plus, restrooms). Hours right now are Sunday – Friday 12-3pm, and Saturday, 10am-3pm. Admission is free during Covid, but a donation of $5 is suggested. Read more about Annmarie here.


 

EXPLORE A GARDEN

Winter wetlands at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Exploring a garden might seem the same as a hike — after all, both involve mostly walking — but they’re quite different to me.  Gardens are deliberately designed with plantings that are thought out, and they usually offer more than walks, like pretty seating areas, special demo sections, and sometimes play areas and other structures.  Here are some places you can find all of those.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
With its lily pad-filled ponds, gorgeous lotus and water lilies (in summer), and acres of wetlands, Kenilworth  is unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in the area. Even without the colorful flower bloom or fall hues, the park is still a gorgeous oasis in the city during winter.  You can hike around and explore the different areas — wander the paths around the ponds or follow the boardwalk to the wetlands area.  A couple of lookouts showcase the natural scenery, and you may even spy a great blue heron in the distance.  A great way to get there is by bike along the Anacostia River Tail if that’s convenient for you; otherwise, parking is easy with a lot right there if you drive.

National Arboretum
Of course I have to include one of my very favorite outdoor places here. The Arboretum’s nearly 450 acres contain an amazing variety of plant, tree, and flower collections that are just as interesting to explore as they are beautiful. Trails and paths wind through them, and you’ll also find hidden seating areas to take a break and enjoy the scenery. The Old Capitol Columns standing smack in the middle of the Ellipse Meadow make for a striking scene, but tend to draw more people. I recommend heading to less visited areas like the dogwoods and conifers — it’s like strolling around a secret, magic garden. The herb garden is fun to sniff around, too! Unfortunately, the Youth Garden, natural play area, and Bonsai Museum are closed right now, but what’s open is plenty to enjoy. And if you bring along a picnic, the Grove of State Trees is a designated eating spot with tables. See more about the Arb here and here,

Brookside Gardens
The beautiful public display garden within Wheaton Regional Park in the Montgomery Parks system is lovely and relaxing to visit all year round.  You can stroll along paths through wooded areas, seek out gazebos and other nice spots to sit, and run through open grassy areas.  The turtle pond is especially pretty, with stone and wooden footbridges leading to different parts and a large gazebo, from which you can look for turtles swimming below or just sit in and enjoy the surroundings.  (There is also a sweet Children’s Garden with play structures, though it’s closed right now.)  Right now, the grounds are open to wander and enjoy daily from sunrise to sunset, and the Visitor Center 10am – 2pm.

Green Spring Gardens
Tucked away in Alexandria, Green Spring is a great place to hang out. It’s divided into sections of more than 20 thematic demonstration gardens, plus there’s a wooded stream valley with ponds. Stop in the Horticultural Center and ask for scavenger hunt instructions — this adds an element of adventure to your explorations. The grounds are open dawn to dusk, and the Horticultural Center 9:30am – 4pm. Admission is free.

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
The grounds at Meadowlark are gorgeous and vast and so nice to roam around. You can follow trails to the lake and check for geese and turtles, visit the Korean Bell Garden featuring pavilions, whimsical totems, and a lovely fountain, and visit a restored 18th Century log cabin. For warming up and restrooms, the Visitor Center is open with limited capacity. Hours are 10am – 4:30pm in November/December and 10am – 5pm January/February. Admission is $6/adults, $3/ages 7-17 and seniors, free for ages 6 and under.

Find a few more DC gardens to explore!


SEASONAL SPORTS

Hit the slopes for some seasonal fun

Take advantage of the season with a quintessential winter activity!  Hit the slopes, glide on ice, whiz down a hill, and enjoy thrills and delights only the cold and snow can bring.

Skiing
Not only is skiing a fun, active way to take advantage of winter, area ski resorts are open with Covid safety measures in place, notably advanced reservations required since admission is limited.  There are a bunch of resorts within a few hours’ drive that are great for young, newbie skiers (and veteran swooshers, too).  Some resorts to check out: LibertyWhitetail, Roundtop, Massanutten, Wintergreen, Seven SpringsHidden ValleyBryceSnowshoe, Timberline, and Wisp.

Snow Tubing
If you’re not into skiing, there’s another, easier, more comfy way to enjoy whizzing down a snow covered hill at a local resort — on an inner tube! It’s not nearly as pricey as skiing, and equipment (ie, inner tubes) are included.  All of the places listed above offer snow tubing, and here are direct links for all of them: Liberty, WhitetailSeven SpringsHidden ValleyBryceSnowshoe, and Wisp.

Ice Skating
While some places are not opening for the season, several area ice rinks have returned this year.  Pentagon RowSilver Spring at Veterans Plaza, Rockville Town Square, and Reston Town Center are once again welcoming skaters to glide the day — and night — away. The Color Burst Ice Rink at the Merriweather District in Columbia, MD, just started its inaugural skating season. The Winter Village at Cameron Run in Arlington also includes ice skating.  All rinks have Covid precautions in place for safe, socially distanced skating.

Sledding
This one obviously requires some help from Mother Nature, since we can’t make our snow like the ski resorts. Most of us have our local sledding spots, but if you’re looking for more places around the area, this Curbed post has suggestions. You just might see your local spot among them like ours — Capitol Hill is a blast for sledding (though it remains to be seen if it will be open to sledders to this Covid year.)


 

ALL-YEAR ACTIVITIES

Tee up for disc golf

Some pursuits can be enjoyed year-round with the right gear and clothing. Just add some extra layers, warm socks, and maybe bring along a thermos of hot chocolate or tea, and you’re ready for action. Here are some activities to enjoy during the cold (and warm) months!

Disc Golf
If you haven’t played or even heard of disc golf, or Frisbee golf as it’s sometimes called, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a combo of Frisbee and golf. Not only is it fun and challenging, many of the courses are set up in scenic places. This post has info about one in College Park, and there are also great courses at Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, MD, Patapsco Valley State Park in Marriottsville, MD, and Burke Lake Park in Burke, VA.

Golf
You can tee up all year at many local golf courses. Owen and his friends have been spending some time on the greens, and certainly it makes for a great family activity, too.  There are three courses in DC — East Potomac Park, Langston (near Anacostia Park), and Rock Creek — where the public is welcome to play. Family tees are available for younger beginner players. You can also just hit balls at the driving range, and if you don’t have clubs, East Potomac Park offers complimentary sanitized loaner clubs. For public golf courses beyond the District, go here.  And if you want to drive some balls in a private bay while hanging out and enjoying a bite to eat, check out Top Golf — there are area locations open at National Harbor and in Germantown and Loudoun.

Shark Tooth Hunting
Just because it takes place along beach areas, that doesn’t mean it’s a warm-weather-only activity. As long as you’re dressed for it (waterproof boots are a must!), searching for millions-of-years-old fossils can be just as fun and compelling in winter as it is in summer. There are several places to go in the region, all about an hour drive from DC. This post has a round-up of spots, and note that there are restrictions for at least one.

Geocaching
This is a really fun way to explore some of your favorite outdoor places and discover new ones. It’s like a scavenger hunt, and perfect for adding a little adventure to your outings. Even better, you can pick and choose where and when you want to do it. In fact, most of the hiking spots mentioned above (and in the larger round-up of hikes) likely have geocaches to find. This KFDC post has info on how to get started.

Biking
Don’t let the cold stop you from taking to two wheels! Biking is a great way to be active outdoors while social distancing. Just layer up for warmth and continue to enjoy cruising around the DC area. There are plenty of routes to ride, and there is something for every age and rider level. This post has a round-up of pedal-worthy places.

 

SEE THE LIGHTS

See Stars at Light Yards

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are are a staple of the season and some continue to shine into January. Visit one of several parks or gardens in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. While some you tour by car, others you can walk through for a truly enchanting experience.

Light Yards
The Yards’ annual holiday installation returns with “Stars,” larger-than-life illuminated star sculptures constructed from metallic mesh that twinkle with dancing lights and festive music.  There aren’t many of them, and it’s not interactive like most previous installations, but along with the sparkling Sundeck, it’s a nice, easy way to experience some socially-distanced holiday cheer and a bright start to 2021 — it will be lit nightly 6-10pm through January 10.  If it’s not too cold, you can pick up take-out from one of the many eateries at The Yards and enjoy dinner al fresco amid the lights or pair your visit with outdoor dining at one of the nearby restaurants.  A couple of take-out recs:  Takorean and Sweetgreen. Restaurants with heated outdoor seating: Agua 301Blue JacketOsteria MoriniNandos, and All Purpose Pizzeria and Salt Line are a short walk away by Nationals Park.

DC Holiday Lights
During December, Main Streets throughout the District are joining together to bring DC residents a spectacular holiday experience: DC Holiday Lights! Residents are invited to take a stroll down each of the participating corridors to experience a dazzling array of lights and decor, enjoy holiday promotions, and shop local. Visit the website to see where corridors are located and what to expect at each of them. You can also take a guided tour of the lights with Free Tours By Foot!

Festival of Lights
This spectacular holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for over 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car — bring a thermos of hot chocolate, put on some holiday music, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the adorably festive illuminated scenes. Purchase tickets in advance online and pay only $8.

Garden of Lights
The grounds of Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Lusby, MD, are transformed into an outdoor twinkling wonderland that transports to an enchanted world where you’ll discover glowing “light sculptures” and wondrous light installations. See wild animals, wintery wonderlands, musical holiday scenes, deep sea treasures, magical creatures, glowing trees, and more. New this year: An outdoor Holiday Market with shopping, music, fun holiday photo opps, and food and drink.

Find more holiday light displays and other holiday happenings around the area!

 

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Filed under 2020, 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Patapsco Valley State Park

 

I have a long list of posts waiting to be written about some excellent adventures around the area. (So many great places, so little time…)  Patapsco Valley State Park has topped it for awhile, a local spot well overdue for a write-up here on the blog. I guess since it was included among the original recommendations for good Walks in the Woods with kids over 10 years ago, I just never made a full post a priority.  But these Covid times when everyone is looking for more outdoor activities, plus a couple of fantastic visits during the socially distanced months, have inspired me to get Patapsco crossed off that list.

Patapsco Valley State Park is located about 40 minutes from DC in Maryland, its 16,000+ acres sprawling through both Howard and Baltimore counties. It’s so big there are eight recreational areas, all of them offering different opportunities for outdoor recreation during all seasons.

The forested area is full of trails, many for hiking only, but some of them allow mountain biking and horseback riding, too.  Of course, the river for which the park is named has to be mentioned.  Over 32 miles of the Patapsco flow through the park, and visitors are welcome to swim in some areas during the warm months and paddle in others.

The trails vary, which keeps the hiking interesting. There are easy, flat routes along the river and rooty paths that wind through the woods, some leading to waterfalls or crossing over footbridges. We usually head in at the Avalon or Hilton entrances and hit the trails from there.  Both also offer the best access to swimming areas, and the Cascade Falls loop trails that leads to the pretty waterfall.  I recommend checking  the Patapsco website or Trails.com to find the right hike for your family and detailed info.

Where you go in the park may depend on what you want to do, as the various areas have different offerings.  There are the nice swim spots mentioned above.  Hilton and Pickall have playgrounds.  There’s paddling, tubing, and fishing in the Avalon/Glen Artney/Orange Grove areas. Disc golf and basketball are in the McKeldin area. And just about all of them have picnic spots and pavilions, so you can easily make a Patapsco day of it. You can find more specifics on the website.

The park is also well known among mountain bikers as a great place to ride.  Levi has been riding the trails for years, and Owen is getting in on the action now, too.  Both recommend it for older kids/riders with some experience; it’s not a place for newbie mountain bikers.  They start at the Patapsco Trail Head at Landing Road, parking nearby along the road, but there are plenty of other areas to ride — you can find some recommendations here.

Like most outdoor places, Patapsco became a much more popular weekend destination during Covid, with some of the areas reaching maximum capacity by 10am!  Both times we went, we tried the Avalon entrance first, then rerouted to Hilton when we learned our first try was full.  I recommend checking Maryland State Parks on Twitter — they usually post when parks/areas are full, so you can plan accordingly.

 

Winter may be around the corner, but don’t let the cold stop you from enjoying the outdoors at Patapsco (or anywhere, for that matter).  As they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!  Also, I read that Patapsco is a local destination for cross country skiing — a hobby we’re hoping to pick up this Covid winter.

Patapsco Valley State Park
Where: Howard & Baltimore Counties, Maryland
When: Open daily year-round, 9am – sunset
Admission:  April- October: Weekdays: $2/vehicle MD residents, $4/vehicle non-residents
Weekends/holidays: $3/person residents, $5/person non-residents
November – March: $2/vehicle residents, $4/vehicle non-residents

 

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend