Lately, it’s been a little harder for us to plan weekend outings as a family. Saturdays and Sundays are often busy with sports, and as the kids have gotten older, they (well, mostly Owen) want to hang out with their friends more than they want to with Levi and me (why? we’re so cool!).
So, it was really nice recently when we had a long stretch of time between a morning soccer practice and an evening soccer game, and no one had anything else going on. Well, I had one small errand to run in Alexandria, so we decided to plan around that. We wanted to take advantage of the beautiful fall day and opted for a hike at Huntley Meadows Park, easily one of the best places, in my opinion, to enjoy the outdoors in that area.
Huntley Meadows Park makes for a great outing any time of year, but it’s especially lovely now as the leaves start to turn, and the weather is pleasant for walking the boardwalk that spans the beautiful wetlands.
I first learned about the park from my friend Darcy nearly a decade ago, and we have been many times since. And even in the kids’ tween and teen years, they (we) still really enjoy a visit there — hiking the trail, looking for frogs and other creatures, and taking in the beautiful scenery. Better now, though, is that we don’t have to worry about them falling in the marsh! 😉
Huntley Meadows Park is located at 3701 Lockheed Blvd in Alexandria. It’s open daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free. You can read more about it in this post. And here are more scenes from our recent visit.
Monday – Have a wild time at the National Zoo! Check the Daily Programs schedule before you go to help plan your outing — you can view an elephant training demo, see the furry residents of the Kids’ Farm, watch feedings, and more — or pick your animal visits as you go. This time of year, grounds are open 8am – 7pm, exhibit building hours are 9am – 6pm, and the Visitor Center runs 9am – 6pm. Admission is free, though parking in the Zoo lot for non-members is $22 (free for members). You can also try parking on Connecticut Avenue or a side street, or take Metro to Woodley Park or Cleveland Park stations then walk a few blocks.
Tuesday – Let little ones bounce, climb, swing, tumble, and slide at the PG Sports & Learning Complex Gymnastics Center in Landover, MD. The hour-long weekly open play session begins at 11:30am, and admission is $7/child. (This also takes place on Wednesdays at 11:30am, Fridays at 4:30pm, and Saturdays at 1:30pm.) Read more about open play at PG here.
Wednesday – Enjoy a musical morning with Boogie Babes as they bring kiddie entertainment to Eastern Market at 10:30am. Kidsinger Jim will get little ones dancing along fun tunes. Admission is $6/child, and siblings 6 months and under are free. Plan on lunch after the show — there are lots of options at the market or nearby for a tasty bite. (FYI: Boogie Babes shows now take place every Wednesday & Thursday at 10:30am at Eastern Market, and all shows benefit the DC Diaper Bank.)
Thursday – Summer isn’t quite officially over according to the calendar — or the weather — so savor the last of it at Yards Park. Play in the sprays and wading pool, hang out in the grassy areas, stroll the boardwalk, take in the views, and have a picnic by the water or go for lunch at one of the many nearby eateries.
Friday – Explore the woods and wetlands of Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria. Look for little creatures as you hike — turtles, frogs, fish, and birds are practically guaranteed wildlife sightings — and take in sweeping vistas of the marshland. Be sure to stop in the Visitors Center, where there are several interactive exhibits about the surrounding environment. Open daily from dawn to dusk. Admission is free. Sunscreen and hat recommended.
Enjoy a story time session and a new art exhibit at the Hirshhorn
Monday – Experience Wings of Fancy at Brookside Gardens while you still can! The wonderful exhibit featuring live caterpillars and butterflies from all over the world closes after September 17. Hours are 10am – 4pm. Admission is $8/ages 13 and up, $5/3-12, free ages 0-2. Stay to explore the rest of Brookside’s beautiful grounds and be sure make time to play in the Children’s Garden. The gardens are open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.
Tuesday – Take your babe to a Zumbini class! Created by Zumba and BabyFirst, the program for kids ages 0-4 and their caregivers, combines music, dance, and educational tools for 45 minutes of can’t-stop, won’t-stop bonding, learning, and fun. Classes are offered at several locations around the area on various days — go here to find one near you.
Wednesday – Head to the Hirshhorn for STORYTIME+ and to view a wonderful new exhibit. The session for little ones starts at 10am and will include a book reading, some drumming, and a small art project. Stay after to visit The Utopian Project, a collection of fantastic, whimsical models of sculptural works by Russian artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. With lots of delightful details, plus a few interactives, it’s an exhibit that all ages can appreciate. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.
Thursday – Explore the local environment from the comfort of the indoors at Buddie Ford Nature Center. The facility in Alexandria houses fascinating exhibits (including live creatures!), hands-on activities, and a staff of friendly and knowledgeable naturalists that all ages will appreciate. If weather allows, continue the fun outdoors with a short hike at the adjacent Dora Kelley Nature Park. Buddie Ford hours are 10am – 5pm (Wednesday – Saturday, 1-5pm Sunday). Admission is free.
Friday – Watch the airplanes, kick a soccer ball, have a picnic, or just hang out at Gravelly Point. The park located right off the GW Parkway next to Ronald Reagan Airport is a great place to enjoy a nice day, offering views of the river and airplanes taking off or landing right overhead. (Warning: Some kids find that part exciting, others might be frightened by the loud noise and sight of an airplane coming right at them.) Admission is free.
Tudor Place gardens in winter… they’re even lovelier this time of year
Tuesday – Go to Tudor Place for Tudor Tots. The weekly program at the historic estate in Georgetown invites little ones to learn about the world around them through songs, stories, crafts, and movement, all tailored to growing children with a different theme each session. The fun takes place 10-10:45am, and admission is $5/child (accompanying adults free). Stay to explore the lovely gardens while you’re there, and if you’re up for more play, head to nearby Montrose Park.
Wednesday – Discover the history of flight at the College Park Aviation Museum. It’s a great place for young visitors, with eye-popping displays and hands-on fun. They can view early airplanes up close, dress up like aviators, create flight-inspired art, and much more. Keep an eye on the runway right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows — you might see planes take off and land at the College Park Airport, the oldest continuously operating airport in the world! Open daily 10am – 5pm. Admission is $4/adults, $2/children, free for ages 1 and under.
Thursday – Explore the grounds and play in the gardens, particularly the Children’s Garden, at River Farm. The American Horticulture Society’s headquarters overlooking the Potomac River in Alexandria are as lovely as they are fun, and the weather should be perfect for an outing there. Hours are 9am – 5pm. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Friday – Join the Lumbee Nation of North Carolina as they host their first cultural festival at the National Museum of the American Indian. Festivals at the NMAI are always lively with activities for all ages. This one includes storytelling, music, social dances, pine-needle basketry, patchwork quilting, and more. Be sure to stop in the imagiNATIONS family activity center for some play time, too! The Festival begins at 10:30am, and admission is free.
Enjoy some beach time – and great fossil hunting! – at Purse State Park
Monday – Get to a special summer exhibit or museum program while you can! Several around the area will come to an end after Labor Day. Enjoy free admission for kids to the Newseum thanks to the Summer Fun Deal (and get a deal on adult admission here). See Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington, DC at the Hirshhorn. Look for fairy houses and enjoy more artistic delights at Annmarie Sculpture Garden. Visit HIVE at the National Building Museum. Find info on even more soon-to-be over activities in the 2017 Summer Guide.
Tuesday – Enjoy mountains of indoor adventures at Badlands Play Space. From active fun to creative explorations to learning experiences to relaxation options, the recently opened facility in Rockville has it all! Hours are 9am – 6pm (Tuesday – Sunday). Admission is $22.50/child and $12.50/toddler.
Wednesday – Take a hike at Riverbend Park. The Great Falls locale may not be as popular as its national park neighbor, but it’s just as fantastic a place to enjoy some time in nature, especially with kids. Trails are mellow for little hikers, the views are lovely, there are plenty of nice picnic spots, and admission is free. And if you want to see the magnificent falls up river, they’re an easy two-mile walk in the woods away. Riverbend Park hours are 7am to dusk.
Friday – Spend what’s one of the last days of summer break for many local kids at the beach! Several places within day trip-distance from DC are great for sand and surf. Enjoy picturesque views of the Bay Bridge along with beach fun at Sandy Point State Park. Head out to Calvert County for a day at Flag Ponds Nature Park, including some fossil hunting. Head a little further out to North Beach or Brownies Beach (Bayfront Park). You can also play paleontologist and look for prehistoric fragments along the Potomac at Purse State Park in Charles County, MD.