A few summers ago, when we were visiting friends in Portland, Oregon, I remember marveling at all of the interactive public fountains in the city. Right downtown, amid the buildings and retail shops and busy streets were places that welcomed folks to play in surging sprays, ebbing and flowing pools, and cascades of water. And many of them boasted architectural elements that were just as impressive as the water features were fun.
A much younger Owen waits for water to fill up in Portland’s Jamison Square fountain
At the time, we didn’t have anything like that here in DC. Sure there were a few spray parks in the suburbs, but nothing in the District that was integrated into the urban environment around it, providing a recreational oasis in the middle of the bustling city. I had major fountain envy.
That eventually dissipated with the opening of Yards Park in 2010 and Georgetown Waterfront Park last year. Both have their own awesome interactive fountains that have become popular spots for water play in DC.
And now we can add another fantastic one to the list: Canal Park, which is open for its first summer. The recreational space in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood (just a block or so away from Yards Park, actually) has two fountains for the public to enjoy. A 135-foot long, 20-foot wide fountain with a gentle, shallow cascade flowing down its scrim surface is a perfect place for really little ones to play. Then there’s the fountain with jets embedded into the concrete over about a 40-foot diameter area that splash water several feet in the air. We’d waded in the tame one before, but the kids finally enjoyed a little more exciting play this past weekend and had an absolute blast racing through the sprays.
Soaking up the fun
The best part about Canal Park, however, is that the options for recreation don’t stop with the water features. The park’s developers thought the design through well, because space is not wasted with the changing seasons. Where there’s the big spray fountain during the warm months, is the ice skating rink in late fall and winter. The fountain water jets are within the rink’s meandering paths.
You can see the water jets in the concrete beyond the rink
There are also green, grassy spaces where children are invited to play and big, twisting metal sculptures adorning them. And the Il Parco restaurant on premises next to the fountain/ice rink has a nice menu, plus indoor and outdoor seating. (Good Guys and Subway are also right across the street, and food trucks park nearby during lunchtime if you want to grab something fast and inexpensive.) [2021 Update: The restaurant is Wiseguys Pizza, which is still a great option and still with outdoor and indoor seating.]
The Park Tavern sports a green roof that reminds me of the High Line in NYC (and the book The Curious Garden)
And if all that’s not enough, you can just sit, chill out, and watch the urban bustle around you.
Canal Park is located at 202 M Street SE. It’s easily accessible via Metro; the Navy Yard station on the Orange/Blue line is just a couple of blocks away. There is also street parking nearby, but keep in mind that spots fill up quickly on game days at Nats Park. Admission to the park and fountains is free; ice skating is $8/adults, $7/children, $3/rentals.
Cooling off in the Columbia Heights fountain last summer
If last weekend didn’t feel like the (unofficial) start of summer, this weekend should do the trick. But don’t let the heat stop you from enjoying the special events happening, many of them outdoors. They celebrate everything from music and art to food and wine to local ‘hoods and fun, funky bike culture. There are also museum programs and loads of summer activities to help you keep your cool (water play!) and embrace the season. Happy Weekend!
Walk the Museum Walk
Where: Dupont-Kalorama neighborhood
When: Saturday 10am – 4pm, Sunday 1-5pm
Get off the Mall and explore the many museums in the Dupont-Kalorama neighborhood during its annual Museum Walk Weekend. See the exhibits and enjoy special programs for free at nine diverse museums, including the Textile Museum, Phillips Collection, Dumbarton House, and Woodrow Wilson House. If you don’t want to use the shoe leather express, there will be a free shuttle running between sites. And note that not all museums will be open both days – see the schedule here.
Where: Auburn & Norfolk Avenues
When: Saturday, 11am – 4pm
Join the Bethesda Urban Partnership to celebrate children, art, and all things fun at the 18th annual Imagination Bethesda. Where Woodmont Avenue meets Elm Street, activity tents will line the streets, face painters will bring butterflies and pirates to life, and a stage of live entertainment will have the whole street dancing. Activity details, the entertainment line-up, and a video about the event are available on the Imagination Bethesda website.
Washington Folk Festival
Where: Glen Echo Park
When: Saturday & Sunday, 12-7pm
Get folksy at Glen Echo Park this weekend, as the Washington Folk Festival showcases the diversity of traditional music in Washington. All of the artists hail from the DC area, but cultures from around the nation, as well as the world, will be represented through music, dance, crafts, and stories. The public is invited to enjoy the festival that is renown in the folk community. Find more festival details here.
Where: Throughout the area
When: All Weekend
Admission: Varies by activity
Outdoor concerts, water fun, movies under the stars, and more ongoing seasonal fun has begun in DC. From Jazz in the Garden on Friday evenings to Sunday night family movies at the National Harbor to open swim at local pools, this post has the scoop on where and when you can experience the joys of summer.
Explore the Universe Family Day
Where: National Air & Space Museum
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Discover the wonders of space with a day full of activities at the Air & Space Museum. Guests can see shows in the Albert Einstein Planetarium, hear stories about space, discuss telescopes with a Galileo re-enactor, and chat with expert and amateur astronomers. Other hands-on activities around the museum include astronomical art projects and a chance to build tools to help explore the universe. Go here for the complete schedule of activities.
Tour de Fat
Where: Yards Park
When: Saturday, 11am – 7pm
This big, whimsical bike festival starts with a parade to Yards Park, where attendees can expect a festival jam-packed with entertainment, local vendors, and New Belgium beer (sponsor of the event). Costumes are heartily encouraged. Check-in for the parade is at 10am, and it starts rolling at 11am. The party at Yards Park runs from 12 -5pm. Tour de Fat is said to be family-friendly and welcomes kids. Games, live entertainment, and a dance contest will be part of the fun.
Where: RFK Stadium
When: Saturday, 11:30am & 3pm (Training Sessions) & Sunday, 2:30pm
Admission: Tickets prices vary
The U.S. Mens National team is playing Germany for an international friendly on Sunday at 2:30pm. And not only can you watch the match then, both teams are hosting free public training sessions on Saturday, with Germany at 11:30am and the U.S. at 3pm.
Vintage Virginia Wine & Food Festival
Where: Bull Run Park
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission: $30/adults, $7/kids
It sounds like a grown-ups-only event, but the Festival offers plenty of family fun, too. Chef demos, food truck fare, live music, and a whole Family Tent with activities especially for kids are among the festivities. Oh, and there will be plenty of opportunity for wine tasting, too.
Beltway BBQ Showdown
Where: Tucker Road Athletic Complex
When: Friday 6-10pm & Saturday, 12-6pm
Cooks from up and down the East Coast will compete in this annual contest. Along with the BBQ fare, there will be lots of fun for the family, including a children’s play area, food vendors, BBQ goods, a great car show, exhibits, and food demos. Tucker Road Athletic Complex is located at 1770 Tucker Road in Fort Washington, Md.
Fiber Arts Festival
Where: Glover Park-Burleith Farmers’ Market
When: Saturday, 9am – 1pm
The Glover Park-Burleith Farmers’ Market will be hosting the Fiber Arts Festival. This is one of the most popular events of the season and features beautifully hand-crafted yarn and knitted goods. Bring the kids to see live animals (baby goats, chickens, and rabbits). Check out the new tapestry-weaving demonstration. Face painting, hula hooping, live music, and a local food truck are some of the other highlights at the family-friendly market located at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and 34th Street, NW in the parking lot of Hardy Middle School. A complete listing of the event and vendor offerings can be found here.
35th Annual Celebration of Textiles
Where: Textile Museum
When: Saturday, 10am – 4pm & Sunday, 1-5pm
This free, annual two-day festival celebrates all things textile. Enjoy the festival’s offerings in the beautiful S Street gardens. Live sheep shearing (weather permitting), demonstrations by textile guilds from across the region, hands-on art activities for visitors of all ages, and performances of traditional Southeast Asian music and dance are some of the activities available to guests.
Where: Turtle Park
So, they might have missed May by a day, but the fun at Friendship ‘Turtle’ Park’s annual spring carnival will still be just as hearty. Pony rides, games, face painting, food, and live entertainment are always among kids’ favorite festivities. For more info, see the Turtle Park website.
Taste of Georgetown
Where: Wisconsin & M Streets NW
When: Saturday, 11am – 4pm
Sample the fare of one of DC’s most popular dining neighborhoods this weekend. Over 25 restaurants will be offering food to taste, featuring nearly fifty delectable dishes, craft beer pairings, live music and an Iron Chef-style competition. Admission is free, and tickets are $5 for one tasting, $20 for five tastings.
Jazz ‘n Family Fun Days
Where: The Phillips Collection
When: Saturday & Sunday
Leading up to the DC Jazz Festival starting next week and part of The Phillips Collection’s Museum Walk events, there will be special performances and activities for guests, especially young ones. There will be live jazz throughout the museum, including musicians improvising to paintings in the galleries. Kids can create jazz-inspired art to take home, visit the instrument petting zoo, and enjoy the permanent collection, too.
Where: Throughout the area
When: All weekend
Admission: Varies by farm
Strawberry fields may not be forever on DC-area farms, but they’re still yielding fruit for now. Go harvest your own — this list includes farms with pick-your-own opportunities. And many of the locales offer farm fun beyond that.
Frederick Festival of the Arts
Where: Downtown Frederick
When: Saturday & Sunday
The 20th annual Frederick Festival of the Arts is a juried, two-day fine arts festival held the first weekend every June along Carroll Creek Linear Park in downtown Frederick. The event will feature over 110 artists from across the country, two stages of live entertainment, artist demos, children’s activities, food, and much more. Get details on the festival website.
Where: Historic Savage, Md
This 26th annual community festival features a parade at 9am, followed by live music from local bands, pony rides, petting zoo, jugglers, magic shows, local history reenactments and tours, and other entertainment throughout the day until 6 pm. It will also be bigger than ever with over 50 vendors, including jewelry, stained glass, painted gourds, food, and more. The event will be held in Historic Savage, MD on Baldwin Common (9035 Baltimore Street, Savage, MD 20763).