Tag Archives: DC Hiking with Kids

Where to Play on the Weekdays: May 23-27

Hike and take in the beautiful scenery at Great Falls

Hike and take in the beautiful scenery at Great Falls





Monday – See the special installations and an evening show at the Kennedy Center, where IRELAND 100 celebrates Irish culture and arts through June 5. View exhibits in the Hall of Nations and Hall of States starting at 10am, or for Millennium Stage at 6pm as The Gothard Sisters infuse Irish rhythms into their dance, music, and storytelling performance.

Tuesday – Hit the trail at Great Falls. Whether you opt for the Maryland or Virginia side, you can’t go wrong. Enjoy spectacular views of the falls and rapids from several overlooks, hike easy trails along the river or through the woods, and stop in the Visitor Center — there’s one on each side — to learn more about the area’s history and wildlife. The park is open 7am until dark, the Visitors Centers 10am – 4pm. Admission is $10/car, $5/person walking in.

Wednesday – Take advantage of free family activities at National Harbor. From 10-10:30am enjoy Family Fitness classes brought to you by certified instructors from No Excuses Workout. At 10:30am, there will be cartoons on the jumbo screen and a rotation of weekly activities provided by the Prince George’s County Fire & Police Departments and story time by the Urban Pirates. Enjoy this on the plaza every Wednesday through September 28th. Also, rounds two and three of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee will be taking place nearby at the Gaylord National Resort, and the public is invited to spectate!

Thursday – Let the kids splash in the sprays and wading pool at Yards Park! The lovely recreational space in the Navy Yard is a perfect place to spend the day as the temps rise. Hang out in the grassy areas, stroll the boardwalk, take in the views, and have a picnic by the water. Or grab some lunch at one of the many new nearby eateries. Admission to the park is free.

Friday – Go to the Glen Echo Aquarium to discover the Chesapeake Bay through hands-on exhibits and adventure areas designed with kids in mind. Touch aquatic animals, play on a pirate ship, and explore through all kinds of fun activities. Hours are 11am – 4pm. Admission is $6.


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Walk Along the River: Hiking from Riverbend to Great Falls Park

The last day of my kids’ Spring Break was a gorgeous one, so a friend and I decided to make the most of it and take our broods on a hike along the Potomac. My first idea was to head to Great Falls. It’s a perennial favorite for walks in the woods, plus the long, cold winter had kept us from visiting for awhile. But the combo of great weather and day off from school made us rethink it a bit as we anticipated a crowd, so we came up with another yet similar plan: We’d go to Riverbend Park, just a few minutes’ drive down Georgetown Pike from Great Falls, then hike the two miles to the larger park, where the spectacular vistas of the water rushing through the Mather Gorge would be our reward and turn around point.

I’ve written about both places before in an old post about local hikes with kids and the best outdoor places in the area, not to mention I’ve recommended them countless times as weekday and weekend pursuits. However, I’ve never put the two together in one outing, either on the blog or in my own experience visiting them; usually it’s one or the other. And it’s actually my friend, Jody, who gets credit for that idea, which turned out to be a perfect venture for our crew.

We had packed some lunch, so we started off with a bite by the river. There are picnic tables pretty close to the Visitor Center and parking lot, but you can also spread out a blanket on the grass in the same area or a field not too far away. After lunch, the kids played by the water a bit and chased a few geese before we set out on our hike.

You can get on the trail literally right from the parking lot, and it’s easy even for little ones to follow. Along with it being pretty wide in most places and fairly tame terrain, there are trail markers on trees that the kids enjoyed finding.

It was a beautiful time to be there, and not just because of the sunshine and mild temps. Big clusters of Virginia bluebells were in bloom alongside the path much of the way to our destination. And we saw several butterflies flitting about the flowers. And, of course, the views of the river and woods and cliff sides across the water are great from just about any vantage point.

We stopped a couple of times on the way for a snack and water break and to examine interesting plants and logs, so the whole two-mile walk to Great Falls took about 35-40 minutes. Once there, we immediately made our way to one of the main overlooks, where we all took in the magnificent views of the falls.

We hiked a bit more, before stopping at a picnic table in a large field to relax and let the kids run around and play. Beyond that, though, the trail runs along the river and snakes through the woods. And depending on how far you go and where you might veer off to explore, there are wooden footbridges to cross, big rocks to scramble over, more fantastic views to take in, kayakers and climbers to watch, and peaceful places to just sit and chill out (we’ve been enough times to have done all of the above, even partake in some climbing). We kept it simple this time, and hiked back to Riverbend when the kids finished playing.

Although we didn’t do it on this trip there, I highly recommend stopping in the park Visitor Centers at Great Falls and Riverbend. Both contain interesting exhibits about the nature, wildlife, and history of the area. You can also find out about any special programs, such as wagon rides and nature tours, that might be happening that day — some require a small fee, but they are open to the public.

Riverbend Park is located at 8700 Potomac Hills Street in Great Falls, Va. You have to wind your way through several roads after turning off of Georgetown Pike to reach it. Hours are 7am – dusk, the Visitor Center is open 9am – 5pm. Admission is free.

Great Falls Park is located at 9200 Old Dominion Drive in McLean, Va. (There is also a Maryland side of the park in Potomac.) Hours are 7am – dark, the Visitors Center is open 10am – 4pm. Admission is $10/car, free for walkers and bikers.

 

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