February is Black History Month, and if you’re looking for ways to celebrate it with kids, you have plenty of options, both virtually and in person around the DC area. Museum programs, guided and self-guided tours, visits to significant sites, story time sessions, online concerts, and more will be enlightening and entertaining for all ages. And while some of these are happening on specific dates this month, many of them are ongoing for year-round enjoyment and education. For even more good reads and related content, check out the Black Lives Matter page.
African American History and Culture
Where: NMAAHC | Online
When: Through February
The National Museum of African American History & Culture may just be the best place to learn about Black history and culture in America. And while the actual place is closed right now, there still are lots of digital resources available through the website that let you explore it all, including online exhibits, programming for children and adults, and a whole section on talking about race.
The Underground Railroad Experience Trail
Where: Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park | Sandy Spring, MD
Take a hike that provides insight into the experience of enslaved peoples’ escape to freedom. This walk through woods and along edges of fields (with a map and explanation of the hike) is interesting and enlightening as well as an active, socially distanced way to spend time outdoors.
Visit BLM Plaza
Where: 16th Street NW | Downtown DC
The two blocks along 16th Street NW, between K Street and Lafayette Park just across from the White House, was emboldened with the giant yellow BLACK LIVES MATTER statement this past summer as the BLM movement began to swell after the murder of George Floyd. The now pedestrian area became a meeting place and focal point of protests and other events — and a site of historic significance in DC. The protest signs that covered the fence around the park have been removed, but the location still provides good context for a conversation with kids about BLM.
Where: Several locations in DC
Tour some memorials around the city that highlight notable African Americans and related historic events. Head to the MLK Memorial at the Tidal Basin, where you can view the grand sculpture of Dr. King and read some of his most inspiring quote engraved in surrounding walls. From there, head to the Lincoln Memorial, where even more MLK words, “I Have a Dream” are etched into the steps where he gave his famous speech. In the Shaw neighborhood, the African American Civil War Memorial honors the service and sacrifice of soldiers and sailors who served in the U.S. Army and Navy. On Capitol Hill, the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park isa tribute to the civil rights leader.
Discover Women’s Landmarks
Where: Various locations around the DMV
The Wander Women Project, a has gathered all the places honoring pioneer black women in the DMV area (and slightly further). Since many indoor museums are closed due to Covid-19, mostly outdoor sites and online resources are listed, making outings to visit to them perfect for social distancing.
Black History in MoCo Parks
Where: Parks around Montgomery County, MD
Several sites within the Montgomery Parks system have connections to Black history. See Civil War ruins, visit a place named for the man who inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin, explore the site of a 19th century African American roadside community, and more. Get more details here.
Black History with PG Parks
Where: Parks around PG County, MD
When: Through February
Celebrate and honor African American heritage with the PG County park system during Black History Month in February. From performances to history lessons to tours, there are a lot of exciting events and activities planned throughout Prince George’s County, both virtual and in person.
The Slave Memorial & Exhibits
Where: Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
Admission: $20/adult, $12/ages 6-11, free/5 & under
Make a point to see these on a visit to George Washington’s estate in Northern Virginia. 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.
Where: National Portrait Gallery | Online
When: February 3, 10, 17, and 24
The National Portrait Gallery’s program for children ages 3+ shines a light on Black historymakers and their portraits this month. Kids will learn more about art, hear the stories behind the portraits, and even hear some new vocabulary.
Royal Fun with Culture Queen
When: February 6, 2-2:30pm & February 21, 1:30-2pm
Culture Queen, the children’s author, entertainer, and educator known for presenting empowering entertainment — music, movement, and storytelling — for kids, has a couple of online events this month. Join for Black History Live on February 6 and for a Virtual Dance Party on February 21.
Where: DC Public Library | Online
When: Throughout February
The DC Public Library proudly celebrates Black History Month during February with all kinds of online programs — story times, book discussions, crafts, and more. Visit the website to see when they are taking place.
Let It Shine
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When: February 6 & 13
At the wonderful children’s museum in Baltimore, celebrate Black History Month by reading festive stories inside The Oasis at the Reading Corner. Of course, plan to enjoy the multiple levels of fun and educational exhibits while you’re there.
Black History Month at the Tiny Desk
Where: NPR Music | Online
When: Through February
NPR Music’s awesome Tiny Desk Concert series is celebrating Black History Month by featuring 13 Tiny Desk (home) concerts by Black artists across genres and highlighting performances by Black artists from the archives with weekly curated playlists. The celebration will spotlight different genres and generations each week.
*Do you know of a Black History Month event or activity that you don’t see listed here? Feel free to share in the comments!
I first mentioned Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park on the blog back in mid-June after the kids and I had just visited the locale in Montgomery County. I’d heard about the park and the Underground Railroad Experience Trail at least a couple of years before that, and it had been on my long list of places to check out. But as the Black Lives Matter movement really began to swell, it moved up. An outing there seemed like a timely experience and educational opportunity for all of us, as well as a good place to go for a socially distanced outing.
The Federal-era manor
The newer Woodlawn Museum
Located in Sandy Spring, MD (just down the road from the popular Adventure Park), Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park offers a glimpse into the area’s past. It contains a Manor House built in the 1800’s and a newer museum “where echoes of the past tell the story of a bustling farm, its community, and those who made a bold bid for freedom on the Underground Railroad.” (That last part is in quotes because it’s straight from the website, as we couldn’t visit the museum ourselves; along with the Manor House, it was — and still is — closed due to Covid.)
But the Underground Railroad Experience Trail alone warrants a visit. At the time we visited, the Montgomery Park’s website had said the trail was part of a network of routes that enslaved people used to escape to freedom. However, it now has been modified to say that “there is no documented evidence that Woodlawn Manor’s property, owners or buildings were involved in the 19th century Underground Railroad.” Regardless, you still can get an idea of what an escape to freedom entailed.
The walk through dense woods and along edges of fields is an interesting, enlightening, and active way to spend time outdoors. It’s about two miles each way — there and back; the trail doesn’t loop — and generally flat and easy for little legs to tramp. During non-covid times, guided tours are available that explain the experience and highlight the conditions enslaved people encountered on the Underground Railroad.
Currently, all hikes are self-guided, but a KFDC reader suggested the great idea to print out the map and an explanation of the trail to bring along for context. With information about timing of escapes, areas along the route best for hiding, obstacles they may have faced, and other noteworthy aspects of the trail, it helps provide insight on the Underground Railroad experience. And it’s an outing everyone should move up on their list.
Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park is located at 16501 Norwood Road in Sandy Spring, MD. The park and trail are open dawn to dusk. Admission is free. Guided tours will be available after park programming begins again.
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.
Where: Around the DMV
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.
A socially distanced visit to The REACH at the Kennedy Center
[Note: This post was originally published in December 2020, but has been updated to reflect what’s going on for this winter.]
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!
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 in the lot across from Peirce Mill or at the Nature Center, then hop on a marked path from there that follows the Western Ridge Trail. Admission to Rock Creek Park is free.
Potomac Overlook Park
It’s located in Arlington along the GW Parkway, but hiking the two miles of trails that meander through it feels like you’re much farther away from the bustle inside the Beltway. The short distance and pretty scenery makes it a nice place for a family walk in the woods, and a few other features make it especially great with little ones. There are rescued birds — owls and hawks — to visit outdoors, and there are opportunities to learn about Native Americans who once lived on the land and trees through QR codes on a self-guided hike. The Nature Center is wonderful, too, if you’re okay with going indoors. Open 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Saturday, and 1-5pm Sunday. Admission is free. Read more about the park in this KFDC post.
There are trails, wildlife sightings, and plenty of nature to explore on the 1,400+ acres of woods and wetlands throughout this park in Alexandria. Hike along the paved, dirt, and boardwalk trails, and you’re practically guaranteed to spot wildlife, most likely great blue herons and other birds during winter. The entire hike is just over a mile, and there are lookouts and benches where you can stop for breaks along the way to make it a couple of hours’ outing. Get directions to Huntley Meadows here.
Prince William Forest Park
This lovely oasis about a 45-minute drive from DC encompasses over 15,000 acres of gorgeous nature. There are 37 miles of hiking trails, many of them distances that are perfect to tackle with kids. Walk along the Quantico Creek to see beaver dams and tiny fish. Take the North Valley Trail to see small waterfalls, follow the High Meadows Trail to a little cemetery dating back to the 19th century. Whatever path you choose, you’ll be immersed in lovely woods. Admission is $20/car.
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, — 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.
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.
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
Enjoy the outdoor area at the art museum 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 in summer 2019, 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 (which is currently painted with a art installation by Mo Willems) are also open, and you can take a very short walk through The Reach indoors. [Note that Victura Park, the outdoor wine and beer garden and café, is has closed for the season.] Admission to everything is free.
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.
The small art museum in DC’s Foxhall-Palisades neighborhood is perfect for an art fix with kids that’s gratifying without being overwhelming. It includes a five-acre outdoor area showcasing all kinds of large-scale installations that are beautiful, interesting, even quirky and fun. There is a fountain/pool with seating and sculptures around it, a small patch of woods with art and a trail that loops around, and a grassy expanse with works that you’ll all enjoy. There’s even a piece “climbing” on the side of building, another snaking up a tree, and one that plays solar powered music. The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday with timed-entry sessions that need to be reserved in advance. Admission is free with a suggested donation of $10.
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 are 9am – 5pm Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm on Saturday, and 12-5pm on Sunday. Admission is free for members, with a suggested donation of $5 for non-members. See 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.
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 Youth Garden and natural play area is great to explore with kids. The herb garden just across from the Visitor Center is fun to sniff around, too! 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, here, and here.
Dumbarton Oaks Garden
One of my favorite KFDC Tips to impart because it’s another one of my favorite places in DC: During this time of year (from November through mid-March), there is no fee to roam the beautiful, enchanting garden at Dumbarton Oaks. Stroll among the various plats, find lovely tucked away places to sit, and enjoy a delightful, relaxing wander around the grounds. Hours are limited — it’s only open 2-5pm Tuesday – Sunday — but you can make a longer day of it with play time at Montrose Park next door, a hike through Dumbarton Oaks Park, some shopping along M Street, and/or a bite to eat at one of of the many options in Georgetown. This KFDC post about Dumbarton also has some nearby food recs and this one from earlier KFDC days has more info and scenes.
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. Right now, the grounds are open to wander and enjoy daily from sunrise to 4pm (they close early for the Garden of Lights holiday display, which opens at 5:3opm and runs through January 2) and the Visitor Center 9am – 4pm.
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. 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.
Ice skating under the sky is a quintessential winter activity, and there are several places in the area to enjoy it. Take in art as you skate at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden; glide over the Potomac on The Wharf’s awesome rink; circle around Washington Harbour as you enjoy river views; meander along the Figure 8 path at Canal Park; or do some shopping then skate at Pentagon Row, Rockville Town Square, or Reston Town Center. This post has details on alfresco (and indoor) ice skating options in the area.
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 during this Covid time.) Keep in mind that if you have to drive to a sledding spot, parking likely will be limited, and residents of those neighborhoods may not be happy about having their spots snatched up.
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!
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 our favorite 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.
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 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.
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.
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
Enjoy the festive trees 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. [Note: All of these have ended for Winter 2023.]
The Yards’ free annual holiday light display features 22-foot illuminated tree sculptures at the park’s sun deck that also emit festive holiday cheer . Plan for dinner at one of the many nearby restaurants then stay to play and enjoy the lights (or vice versa) along with views of the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. 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. Other restaurants with outdoor seating: Agua 301, Blue Jacket, Osteria Morini, Nandos, Albi, and All Purpose Pizzeria, Salt Line, Dacha Beer Garden are a short walk away by Nationals Park.
Explore a 90,000 square foot Christmas Light Maze and help Santa find his reindeer before Christmas Eve. Held at Nationals Park, Enchant Christmas also features an ice skating trail, live entertainment, food and drink, a Play Place just for little ones, a Christmas market, and Santa and Mrs. Claus. Read a KFDC review (from the last season it was here) of this newer-to-DC holiday attraction. Look for a discount on tickets!
Garden of Lights
One of our faves, the Garden of Lights is Brookside Garden’s annual holiday display. Step into a magical winter wonderland illuminated with more than one million dazzling colorful lights shaped into hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals and other natural elements. Stroll from garden to garden enjoying twinkling tree forms, sparkling fountains, and whimsical winter scenes. Afterwards, warm up at the Visitor Center — sip hot cocoa and listen to one of the nightly musical performances. KFDC Tip: Go on a weekday if you can swing it to avoid crowds. View scenes from one of our past visits there.
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. And if you to make it extra special, they are also offering horse carriage for an added cost.
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.
Winter Walk of Lights
Bring your family and friends to be dazzled by the magical Winter Walk of Lights at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. Every year from mid-November until just after New Year’s Day, the garden is transformed into a half-mile, walk of lights. Revisit perennial favorites such as the animated Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights, and the Holiday Nature Walk – and look for new displays each year. Put on your walking shoes and bring the family to experience a Northern Virginia festive tradition. Round out your visit by roasting marshmallows and sipping on hot beverages by the fire. (Available for purchase at S’more Snacks Shop).
Bull Run Festival of Lights
Opening earlier than usual this year, there’s a little more time to experience the Festival’s 2.5 miles illuminated by holiday light displays. As you drive the festival route, turn off your headlights and just follow the magical glow. And back this year is the holiday village and carnival with even more fun to accompany the lights show.
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.