The season may not be official on the calendar yet, but summer fun has begun around the DC area! Spray parks are open, outdoor movies are being screened, temps are warm enough for beach days, carousels are spinning, local sports are in full swing, exhibits are opening, crab feasts are being served, and more seasonal experiences are underway. Even better, there’s still much more to come! This annual guide, that I’ve been putting together in this version for 10 years, has all the info and inspiration you need to make the most of the season…starting now! Happy Summer!
Play in the Sprays
Outdoor Pool Season
Big Screen Under the Stars
Festivals & Special Events
Special Entertainment & Programs
Mini Trains, Carousels, Mini Golf, & a Ferris Wheel
* * *
PLAY IN THE SPRAYS
Kids can run through fountains and splash around at many of them around the area. Several are within the DC, MD, & VA Departments of Parks and Recreation, but some of the best are built right into the urban landscape, making the concrete jungle a cool place to hang out during the hottest months. Dates are TBD at some, but look for updates soon!
OPEN! Canal Park in the Navy Yard is great for kids of varying ages with both a gentle, shallow fountain that is ideal for really little ones to enjoy, plus a bigger fountain with lots of sprays for more enthusiastic play where the ice rink is in the winter.
OPEN! The Wharf in Southwest DC has a nice in-ground fountain that opens before other nearby fountains and stay open longer. Kids can run through water shooting up from jets, play in mist spraying up in the center, and ride on waterproof rocking horses within all of it, all with the beautiful waterfront area as a backdrop.
OPEN! DC DPR Spray Parks opened 16 locations early on May 15 — they will be open daily from 12-4pm. All of the spray park will be open full hours starting Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 27, through September 4, 10am – 8pm. Be sure to view the list, as open days vary by location. See all of the locations throughout the city on this map on the DPR website.
Yards Park in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood is a favorite for water play in the city, with two levels featuring Dancing Fountains up top and the Canal Basin and Waterfall below, plus a great scenic location on the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard. Grassy areas for hanging out and lots of nearby eateries make it a perfect place to spend a summer day. Read more about the water features at The Yards here. Anticipated to open for the season May 20!
Georgetown Waterfront Park, right next to the Washington Harbour, has a fountain with arcing sprays that makes for a fun, refreshing way to cool off on a hot, summer day. The rest of the park’s pretty green space along the Potomac is a nice, relaxing place to hang out, too.
Lyon Village Park, Hayes Park, Virginia Highlands Park, Drew Park, and Mosaic Park, some of the area’s most popular spray parks, can be found in Arlington along with Penrose Square, which has an in-ground interactive fountain. Open Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend. Hours vary by park, so be sure to view the websites.
Our Special Harbor at Lee District Recreation Area in Alexandria gets raves for its Chesapeake-Bay themed sprayground complete with a spraying osprey nest, Chessie the sea serpent, misting sunflowers, and a lighthouse. Open weekends Memorial Day – June 16, then daily June 17 – August 18, then only weekends again through September 4.
Potomac Yard Park, among the many city of Alexandria parks, has an interactive in-ground fountain that kids can play in — along with a couple of playgrounds and many other recreational features. Even better, you can plan to do some shopping at the nearby Target and other big stores while you’re out that way. Opens Memorial Day Weekend, 10am – 9pm daily through Labor Day, then 10am – 8pm through mid-October.
There’s an in-ground fountain on Capitol Hill at the C Street Plaza right across from Eastern Market. On most weekday afternoons during summer, there’s a small crowd of little ones playing in the gentle sprays.
OUTDOOR POOL SEASON
Nothing says summer like swimming under the sun. There are plenty of public pools in the area where you can jump in for free or a small admission fee, plus a few other options for a nice pool day.
DC outdoor public pools will open on Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 27. They’ll operate on a weekend-only schedule (Saturday & Sunday) through June 25. Starting Monday, June 26, all outdoor pools will operate on individual summer schedules, six days a week. Days and hours vary from pool to pool so be sure to check schedules before you go.
For outdoor swimming outside of the city, Montgomery County outdoor public pools will open May 27 through Labor Day — the Department of Recreation website has locations and hours.
In Northern Virginia, there are several waterparks (see below) in Arlington with outdoor pools and much more for guests to enjoy, and the city of Alexandria has three outdoor public pools: Memorial Pool at Charles Houston Rec Center open June 17 – August 20 and Old Town Pool and Warwick Pool are open May 27 – September 4. Hours vary by days, so be sure to view details for all of them.
Swimply, a service that started a few years ago, lets you search for private pools to rent. You can find pools at residences all over and pay to use them by the hour.
It’s a bit of a splurge, but if you want to enjoy a day at a nice hotel pool, the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Woodley Park offers Day Passes for $75/adult and kids with them are free. Purchase here.
Summer and beach trips go hand-in-hand, so why not hit one with the kids? There are a bunch of places where you can get a good dose of sand and surf that are within day trip distance from DC.
Calvert Cliffs State Park in Calvert County is known as a fossil hunting locale — as its cliffs erode, prehistoric remains of marine life are revealed — but it’s even better for beach fun, swimming, and hiking. To access the beach, you have to hike a couple of miles through woods (and there are even more trails if you’re up for it), but the walk is worth it for a dose of quintessential summer fun. Open daily sunrise – sunset, and admission is $8/vehicle.
Flag Ponds Nature Park, also in Calvert County, has a large sandy beach for playing and nice mellow waters for swimming. It’s also a great spot for fossil hunting — look for shark teeth and other prehistoric remnants along the shores while you’re there, too. Hours are 9am – 6pm on weekdays and 9am – 8pm weekends from Memorial to Labor Day (days/hours are reduced the rest of the year). Admission is $8/car. Be sure to read more about Flag Ponds for tips and get a glimpse here and here
Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis offers striking views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge along with loads of beach fun. At nearly 800 acres, it’s a big park with lots of recreational opportunities — swimming, picnicking, fishing, crabbing, hiking, and more. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are lifeguards on duty. And snack food and beach and picnic supplies are available. Hours are 6am – sunset. From May 1 through September, admission is $5/Maryland resident, $5/person weekends, and $4/person weekdays.
The Purse Area within the Nanjemoy Wildlife Management Area in Charles County, MD, is best if your main purpose is fossil hunting — it’s a great place to go for it — and you want to get in some “beach” time, too. The beach is narrow, and you’re on a river, but you still get to enjoy sand and water. Wear swimsuits, bring a picnic, and be sure to check the tide table so you can make the most of your time there. Open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.
Mayo Beach Park in Anne Arundel County, MD, is open for swimming in summer to enjoy some sand and surf. Passes to access the beach park must be reserved in advance. Be aware of other beach rules like no grills or dogs allowed. Open Memorial Day – Labor Day on Friday 4-7pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am – 7pm.
Greenbrier State Park, just over an hour’s drive from DC in Boonsboro, MD, has a beach area on a man-made freshwater lake, where visitors can swim, paddle, boat, and fish. Swimming is only allowed from May through September in designated areas when swim ropes are in place, with lifeguards there Memorial Day to Labor Day, 11am – 6pm.
Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania, MD, is popular for weekend-long trips, but also good as a day trip destination, being less than two hours’ drive from DC. It’s especially great with little ones, since it’s very organized with a designated beach/swim area, lifeguards, a bathhouse for changing and restrooms, and a snack bar — all from Memorial Day to Labor Day (for the most part… the snack bar and bathhouse times will change starting August 11 due to renovations). Hours are 10am – 7pm weekends and holidays, 10am – 6pm weekdays May 27 – August 9. Admission is $7/weekdays per vehicle, $10/weekends.
Cape Henlopen State Park is a little over two hours from DC in Lewes, DE, but definitely doable as a day trip if you leave early, especially on a weekday when there is less traffic. We’ve done this and have had a fantastic day at the beach — packed up the car with a cooler and beach gear, got on the road early, and we were on the beach by 10:30am. Enjoyed dinner outdoors and ice cream in town before heading back, arrived home at 9:15pm. Totally worth the time in the car. Open daily, 8am – sunset, and admission is $8-10/vehicle. Get a glimpse here.
They may not all be beaches, but this round-up of swim spots has a bunch more recommendations for places to take a dip around DC within day trip distance.
Giant water slides, wave pools, waterfalls, sprays and splash pads…this is the stuff kids’ summer dreams are made of. There are some great water parks around the area offering many of these attractions, just about all of them opening Memorial Day weekend for limited hours, until they open daily a few weeks later. Here’s a quick list — visit the websites for more details.
* Ocean Dunes Waterpark at Upton Hill in Arlington, VA
* Great Waves at Cameron Run in Alexandria, VA
* Six Flags America in Bowie, MD
* The Water Park at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg, MD
* The Water Mine in Reston, VA
* Atlantis Water Park at Bull Run in Centreville, VA
* Pirate’s Cove Waterpark in Lorton, VA
* Volcano Island Waterpark in Sterling, VA
* Splash Down Water Park in Manassas, VA
* Chesapeake Beach Water Park in Chesapeake Beach, MD
* Soak City Water Park at Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA
* Water Country USA at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA
BIG SCREEN UNDER THE STARS
Outdoor movies have become a DC summer tradition in the last few years with films al fresco in several neighborhoods. Even better, many of them are FREE! (*Before you make plans to enjoy any of the series, be sure to check schedules, as some movies may not be appropriate for children.)
Catch a flick on the big screen from the comfort of your car at the Union Market Drive-In Series, occurring bi-monthly on Fridays through July 21, with mostly family-friendly films. Get there as early as 6pm and have a bite to eat in the Market or bring food back to your car. Film start times vary, so be sure to check on that. Admission is $20/car, free for walk-ins. Advance purchase is recommended.
National Harbor’s Movies on the Potomac series is back through the September 28. Every Sunday (family night) at 6pm and Thursday (date night) at 7pm, guests can see a free film on the big outdoor Plaza Screen right on the waterfront. .Pack your chairs, grab food to go from one of the many eateries, and meet at the Plaza’s big screen for a FREE evening of fun and entertainment.
CiNOMAtic, the NoMa BID’s outdoor movie series at Alethia Tanner Park is will screen “Villains We Love” films Wednesdays at sunset through June 7.
Adams Morgan Movie Nights is back with free movies on Tuesday evenings from May 23 – June 27 with all comedies to ensure some summer laughs. Even more, each Movie Night will kick off with a stand-up feature from a local comedian before the movie begins! The program runs 8-11pm at Marie Reed Recreation Center’s soccer field (18th & California St, NW). Restaurants in the neighborhood will be offering special takeout meals that attendees can bring to the field.
Family Movies Nights take place on The Plaza at Tysons Corner Center each month: May 26: Moana, June 30: E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, July 28: Boss Baby: The Family Business, August 18: Matilda. They are free, and programming runs from 7-10pm.
Audi Field will transform into an outdoor cinema as Movies on the Pitch shows four films on the stadium’s jumbotron screen — May 18, June 22, July 6, August 24, and September 7 — all of them family-friendly.
At the Navy Memorial Plaza (7th & Pennsylvania Ave NW) catch Movies on the Memorial on Thursday evenings through October 12. The series of Navy-themed films started in April and pays tribute to our rich maritime heritage.
Golden Triangle BID will host GLDN+ CINEMA on Thursdays in Farragut Square (17th & K, NW). The family-friendly films begin at sunset. Dates TBA.
Join the Rosslyn BID this summer for the Rosslyn Cinema Series to enjoy your favorite movies on the lawn in Gateway Park on Fridays in June!
Cinematery, this year themed “Tim Burton’s Summer of Sureal” will take place monthly at Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill, on June 2, July 7, August 4, and September 1.
The Library of Congress will host its sixth annual Summer Movies on the Lawn on Thursday evenings from July 7 – August 3. Films will begin at sundown on the southeast lawn of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. Music will be presented prior to each film, with live performances on July 6, July 20 and Aug. 3.
Films at the Stone hosts monthly screenings on Fridays, June 16, July 21, & August 25 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Georgetown Sunset Cinema presets movies on Tuesdays in the lovely Georgetown Waterfront Park, with the panoramic backdrop of the sunset, Potomac River, Kennedy Center, and Key Bridge. Free and open to all. 2023 dates TBA.
Free music in the fresh air has become a staple of the season, and there are opportunities to enjoy just about every genre regularly at outdoor venues all around the DC-Metro.
The Bethesda Summer Concert Series’ Friday Night Streetery Concerts will run Fridays, 6-8pm, from May 19 – September 15. Enjoy music, food, and fun at the corner of Norfolk & St. Elmo Avenues.
Jazz in the Garden, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s free concert series, is back. Experience live music amid art at every Friday from 6–8:30pm starting May 29, and there will be weekly shows through August 4. Spread out a blanket, pack a picnic dinner or purchase food and drinks there, and enjoy the sounds of a variety of jazz artists. Note: Adult drinks are available from the pavilion; BYO alcohol is not permitted. NOTE: New this year is a lottery system! Each concert has its own lottery, which opens the week prior on Monday at 10am and closes that Friday at noon. Results will be emailed to all entrants the week of the concert on Monday at 110am. Registration is required for all ages 2+.
The U.S. Air Force Band’s Summer Concert Series brings outdoor concerts to National Harbor on Saturdays at 7pm and occasionally at other sites around the area starting June 3.
Rock the Dock at The Wharf on Transit Pier every Wednesday evening at 7pm from May 31 – August 30. R&B, Americana, Motown, Jazz, Reggae, Go-go, Country, and your favorite pop covers will be among the sounds you can hear, all for free. There’s much more to enjoy on the Southwest Waterfront — read about it here.
The U.S. Navy Band is bringing back Concerts at the Capitol, performances on the west steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, on most Mondays, June 12 – August 28 at 8pm. All performances are free and open to the public.
Glen Echo Park’s 2023 Summer Concerts Series presents free live music in the historic Bumper Car Pavilion on Thursdays at 7:30pm from June 15 – August 24. featuring a variety of local bands and musical genres, from country to reggae, swing to Latin jazz, African to Cajun and blues.
Friday Night Concerts at Yards Park will be back for the 13th season from June 16 – August 24! The series will feature performances by popular local artists with cold beverages and food available for purchase, lots of grassy space for hanging out, and the water features for kids to play in nearby to make it a bigger family evening out.
Rockville Town Square is bringing back its Summer on the Square concert series.Enjoy live music on Friday,s 6:30-8pm, fro June 16 – August 25.
Tysons Corner Center presents a Summer Concert Series as part of their Summer on the Plaza activities. Bring your dancing shoes and enjoy live music from 7-9pm on June 17, July 15, and August 19.
Enjoy music Live from the Lawn at Strathmore on Wednesday evenings from July 5 – August 16. (They also have Cool Concerts for Kids on select Thursdays!)
Starting June 2 through August 26, enjoy music in Northern Virginia parks! The Fairfax County Park Authority presents their Summer Entertainment Series, a summer-long calendar of family-friendly shows, and concerts in local parks. Bring a picnic dinner, blankets, and lawn chairs to enjoy the best local and regional entertainers. There are many shows throughout the summer, so view the schedule here.
The Kennedy’s Center’s Millennium Stage continues to present free live performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 6pm, occasionally outside on The REACH plaza. While you’re there, plan for time to hang out at Victura Park and food and drinks, too.
NaLa Fridays at the Park will bring live music and food trucks to Long Bridge Park at National Landing (formerly Crystal City, VA) on Fridays during the summer. The concert schedule is TBA.
FESTIVALS & SPECIAL EVENTS
Several stand-out events are anticipated around the area this time of year, celebrating everything from music to art & culture to neighborhoods to food. There are also a few smaller happenings to plan for in advance.
The 41st Annual Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park June 3-4 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 free festival that is renowned in the folk community and the public is welcome to enjoy it.
The Mac Daddy of Truck Touch events around the area, the DC Department of Public Works’ Annual Truck Touch will take place on June 3, 8am – 1pm at RFK Stadium, Lot 8. Tickets are free, but reserve a spot!
Sound Scene, an interactive sound and multi-sensory arts festival, will be back at the Hirshhorn June 3-4. The free, all-ages celebration of sonic and sensory arts will feature artists from DC and around the world. With a theme of “After The End?” visitors can explore various concepts and issues through interactive art installations, live performances, and small group workshops.
Celebrate Capital Pride during the month of June, especially June 10-11 at the annual parade and festival that culminates a week of gay pride events around the city. The Saturday parade is always a spectacular extravaganza of ornate floats, street performers, music and dancing, glitter and beads, and plenty of reveling. Sunday’s family-friendly festival, on Pennsylvania Avenue from 3rd to 7th Streets NW, features several stages of live entertainment, hundreds of exhibitors, and activities for all ages. It’s all a fun and fabulous opportunity to show support for the LGBTAQ community and join the celebration.
Awesome Con, the Mid-Atlantic’s premier pop culture convention, takes place June 16-18 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, celebrating all aspects of geekdom and pop culture with a wide assortment of engaging events, comic books, collectibles, toys, games, original art, cosplay and more.
Attend one of the biggest summer barbeques around June 24-25 as the National Capital Barbeque Battle returns to pit some of the nation’s best barbequers against each other as they compete for big prizes. The reward for attendees: Samples from all the entrants (plus, more food), live music, cooking demos, kids’ fun, and more.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival will take place this year June 29 – July 4 and July 6-9. Every summer (well, except during Covid), the National Mall becomes stomping grounds of folks from around the globe to celebrate living cultural heritage and community traditions at the annual event. Celebrating the Ozarks and Living Religions in the US this year, get ready for all kinds exhibits, demonstrations, live performances, talks, food, markets, and much more!
Independence Day in DC is a pretty big deal, the city being the nation’s capital and all, so the annual July 4th celebrations are significant. It starts with the National Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue, then the A Capitol Fourth concert at the U.S. Capitol, and fireworks launched from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial.
The lotus and water lilies in full bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are such a ravishing sight it calls for a celebration. Along with the spectacular display of flowers, the annual Lotus & Water Lily Festival offers more ways to appreciate the flowers and park. This year the festival will take place over a couple of weekends, from July 15-22. View scenes from a previous bloom here.
The Hip Hop Block Party at the National Museum of African American History & Culture was so successful in its inaugural event last year, it’s returning this summer on August 12. Details have yet to be announced, but tickets went fast last year, so be ready to snag them!
It might run into fall, but it starts August 26, so the Maryland Renaissance Festival counts among the summer fun. Plus, if you’ve been reading KFDC while then you know it’s one of my very, very favorite annual events. (More confirmation on that here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) I take a lot of pride in the number of people I have turned into Ren Fest believers. So, go! I promise, it is the absolute best. (PS: I shared these tips last year, and they’ll be very helpful again.)
Extraordinary installations, lovely annual exhibits, and kids’ programs during the school break are some of the special experiences at our museums and galleries to take take advantage of over the summer.
One with Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection is still on view through July 16. While it’s not exclusively a summer exhibit, it’s a good one to catch during the season as kids are out of school, so there are more opportunities to take them. Two infinity rooms, the yellow and black polka dot Pumpkin, and more artwork and elements about Kusama’s life are interesting, beautiful, and kinda trippy to experience.
In the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington, DC, is an annual exhibit. Through the summer, the public is welcome to write wishes on small cards and tie them to the tree’s branches. They’re collected regularly, then sent to Ono’s “Imagine Peace Tower” in Reykjavik, Iceland. Get a glimpse of past one here.
National Building Museum’s Summer Block Party started with indoor mini-golf, after that it was a giant maze, then came the super awesome Beach, followed by Icebergs, then Hive buzzed in, a couple of years ago we played in the Fun House, in 2019 we hung out on the LAWN, and last year The Playhouse celebrated Shakespeare. This summer LOOK HERE will “transform the Museum’s Great Hall with an elegant and provocative new installation.” More details to come, but it will be open July 1 through Labor Day.
Throughout July, the beloved BubbleWorks will return to CityCenterDC. The immersive installation in The Plaza surrounds guests in a fantasy world of bubbles and lively music at the top of every hour Sunday – Thursday, 1-7pm and Friday – Saturday 1-8pm.
Annmarie Sculpture Garden is enchanting any time of year, but it’s especially so in the summer when the fairy and gnome houses are on display. The adorable collection of little whimsical abodes for spritely creatures are just fantastic to view and find throughout the grounds. Created by all ages, individuals and groups, each one has a different theme, but together they are a brilliant showcase of imagination and craftiness. Read more about it and view scenes from a past exhibit here and here.
ARTECHOUSE, the destination in southwest known for fusing art and technology, has extended the current, beautiful Pixelbloom: Timeless Butterflies exhibit through July 9. Get a glimpse of it! Admission is $20-25/adult, $17/age 4-15, $72/family 4-pack, free/under 4.
During the warm months, little ones can flex their green thumbs in the outdoor Children’s Garden at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Renovated a few years ago, the adorable outdoor area features dirt to dig in, plants to tend to, and a cute play structure to romp in. The rest of the USBG is great to explore, too!
SPECIAL ENTERTAINMENT & PROGRAMS
From super cheap movies in local theaters to stay cool on hot days to live theatre at fun places, there are some great ways to keep kiddos entertained all season long.
The Regal Summer Movie Express presents flicks for kids on many Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 10am from late May 24 through early September 7. Admission is just $2! Be sure to check the website for the film schedule and theater locations, as it doesn’t run at all theaters every week — this year’s program details should be available soon!
After being on hiatus for the past year, the beloved Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo Park will be back in action, presenting the show The Fisherman and His Wife from June 8 – July 20!
CityCenterDC and The Washington Ballet will present live performances in The Plaza at CityCenter. See them for free June 8-10, 6:30pm-7:30pm.
The National Postal Museum is presenting a special Guest Artist Series on select dates from June 28 – August 30. Join the museum and artist John Parra, both virtually and in person, as they examine a collection of themes illustrated in his original stamp designs and illustrations through hands-on activities for all ages.
Millennium Stage Films is presenting several family movies — Hugo on June 9, The Iron Giant on June 30, Fantastic Mr. Fox on July 21 — all of them are FREE and will be screened at 8pm outside on the wall of The REACH.
Discovery Theater in the Ripley Center on the National Mall just reopened its doors (and stage) this spring after curtains closed for Covid — and they have programming for kids through July. View the full schedule!
From June 20 through August 5, Wolf Trap presents the fantastic Children’s Theater-in-the-Woods, over 70 family-friendly performances at 10am Tuesdays through Saturdays. Amidst 117 rolling wooded acres and nestled in a shady grove, the stage is set for lively adventures in music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater. All of the productions are recommended for children between Kindergarten and 6th grade, though I think kids even younger can enjoy them, too (mine did!). Read a KFDC review of the series from a past summer (it’s an old one, but still relevant!)
Starting mid-June, Arts in the Parks, Fairfax County Park Authority will present a free children’s entertainment series on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10am. Locations vary — catch shows at Burke Lake Park, Frying Pan Farm Park, EC Lawrence Amphitheater, Mason District, and Waterfield Park.
The Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse is back and offering fun $1 films for kids every Wednesday from June 19 – August 10. Check the schedule to see what’s playing at a theater near you!
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, with locations in NoMa, Loudoun and Woodbridge, welcomes families to Kids Camp, a movie series that is inexpensive ($5) and benefits local charities, to boot.
The Broadway musical production of The Lion King is coming to the Kennedy center June 22- 29.
The Bethesda Summer Concert Series is presenting Concerts for Kids for the first time. Enjoy the free shows on Friday morning from June 30 – July 21 at the corner of Norfolk & St. Elmo Avenues in Bethesda.
UniverSoul Circus, the world-class, live entertainment attraction is coming back to National Harbor June 30 – late July. The production celebrates the unique and familiar aspects of global cultures and ethnicities, blending circus arts, theater, and music — a fresh, cool, and hip approach to live family entertainment! Tickets start at $27.50.
Olney Outdoors is back! Olney Theatre presents over 25 summer programs to be held on the newly renovated Root Family Stage at Omi’s Pavilion, this summer from July 7 – September 3.
Strathmore is hosting Cool Concerts for Kids on Thursdays July 13, July 20, July 27, and August 3 at 7pm.
See a Shakespeare play in the park! The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company presents its annual Shakespeare in the Ruins at the picturesque Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, MD. Macbeth will run June 16 – July 23. Tickets are $65/adult, $33/age 19-25, and one kid is free with every adult. Bring along a picnic to enjoy as you watch the play — there are no food vendors, but you can BYO fare, beer, and wine.
Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual Free For All will, hopefully, return this summer. The Washington tradition offers free performances of a Shakespearean classic to the public, with tickets available through an online lottery or a limited number given out day-of. Look for more info about it soon!
MINI TRAINS, MINI GOLF, CAROUSELS, & A FERRIS WHEEL!
These extra delights bring even more fun to several parks around the area that are already great outdoor places to hang with the kids.
Watkins Regional Park opened its Antique Carousel and Mini Golf (the Miniature Train is not open as it’s undergoing a restoration) on a limited schedule in early May, but come Memorial Day weekend, they can be enjoyed for extended hours almost every day of the week. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10am – 7pm; Sundays 12–5 pm, closed Mondays except May 29 (Memorial Day), July 4 (closes at 4pm) & September 4(Labor Day). This along with all of the other fun features — Nature Center, Old Maryland Farm, and Wizard of Oz Playground!
Cabin John Regional Park opened its Miniature Train on weekends only in early May, and will run on weekends through September 10am – 6pm. Rides are $3.50. Plan to spend time at the wonderful Cabin John playground, too — read more about it here.
The Miniature Train and Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel at Wheaton Regional Park started taking guests for spins in early April on weekends and will be open through the summer. After Memorial Day, it’s open Thursday – Sunday, but hours vary, so be sure to check the website.. Rides are $3.50. Plan to stay and play at the super fun Wheaton playground — read more about it here.
At Glen Echo Park, the beautiful historic Dentzel Carousel is celebrating its 102nd season! Plan to go for a spin before or after a show at Adventure Theatre or The Puppet Co. From late April through August 27, it’s open Wednesday – Friday 10am – 2pm, and Saturday and Sunday 11am – 5pm. Tickets are $2/ride, $5/all-day pass.
The Clemyjontri carousel in McLean, VA, will be offering rides daily starting May 29 on weekdays 9:30am – 1pm and weekends 9:30am – 6:30pm. (Until then only on weekends) Cost is $3.50/weekdays, $4.50/weekends & holidays. Read more about Clemyjontri here.
National Harbor offers a couple of ways to go for a spin. Kind of like a London Eye of the U.S., The Capital Wheel is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of DC. The 42-gondola ride (all closed and climate-controlled with room for 8) soars 180 feet above the Potomac River waterfront, offering vistas of the White House and Capitol, the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, and more amazing sites. Ticket prices are $17/age 13+, $13.50/12 & under. For an on-ground whirl, The Carousel features a herd of whimsical creatures and the sparkling Potomac as a backdrop. It’s $7/ rider, and they can ride an unlimited number of times. Read about both rides and more National Harbor fun here.
Burke Lake Park’s Mini Train, Carousel, and Mini Golf are open daily from Memorial Day – Labor Day. The train 11am – 5:45pm, the carousel 11am -5:30pm, and mini golf 11am – 8pm (last play 7pm). The park is free to access for Fairfax county residents. For non-county residents, the park is free on weekdays and has a $10 entrance fee on weekends/holidays for a car or large capacity van. Carousel rides are $3.50-4.50, train rides are $4.50-5.50, mini golf is $7-9. See more about the park here.
Play Mini Golf in the District at East Potomac Park. (Fun fact: It’s on the National Register of Historic Places listed as the oldest continually operating miniature golf course in the country!) Open Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 8pm. Admission is $6/kids and seniors, $7/adults. Read more about hanging out at East Potomac Park’s Hains Point. (FYI: You can also play Foot Golf there!)
Tee up at several NoVa Parks that have mini golf courses. Cameron Run, Upton Hill, Pohick Bay, and Algonkian Regional Parks all welcome guests to putt around. Cost is $5/age 12 & under, $7/13+. Check websites for hours at each park.
Lee District Family Rec Area in Alexandria offers ides on its Chesapeake Bay-themed carousel. Open daily May 29 – August 19 (and weekends until May 28 and August 20 – October 29) — hours are 11am – 6pm Monday/Tuesday/Thursday, 11am – 5pm Wednesday, and 9am – 6pm Saturday/Sunday. Cost is $3.50 per ride on Fridays, $4.40 per ride weekends & holidays.
Some of the season’s best action takes place in ballparks, stadiums, and arenas thanks to our local sports teams. Here’s where you can join the fan clubs.
A day at Nationals Park is all it takes to understand why baseball is America’s favorite pastime. Our family always enjoys catching a Nats game on a nice summer (or spring) day (or evening), anyway. The excitement extends well beyond the diamond with games and activities in the park, a playground for kids, the Racing Presidents, fun in the stands, and more. Before you go, check out these tips on doing a Nats game without breaking the bank. And I highly recommend the Jr. Nationals Kids Club for children 12 and under. Just $20 gets them membership, which includes Nats swag, plus a coupon book with all kinds of offers and discounts.
Whether or not you’ve got a little soccer fan in your fam, DC United matches are fun experiences for all ages, and Audi Field is a great venue for watching them. Plus, since games only last 90 minutes, they’re not too long if young spectators get antsy.
Women’s pro soccer team, Washington Spirit, are playing their matches at Audi Field this season — and they are always very exciting to watch!
Can’t stand the heat? Head to the Entertainment & Sports Arena in southeast DC to see the Washington Mystics (w)hoop it up on the basketball court. Tickets start at $14.
Every summer, the Citi Open Tennis Tournament serves up exciting competition along with other fun activities for fans of all ages. See some of the sport’s top players in action and enjoy the thrills on and off the court at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center July 29 – August 6.
Swing up to Charm City to see the Baltimore Orioles play. Camden Yards is a beautiful ballpark, and you can head to the Inner Harbor before or after to make a day of it up north.
If the Nats or O’s aren’t in town, or you want to see baseball on a smaller but still fun scale, you’ve got several great options around the area. Take ’em out to the minors to see the Bowie Baysox, Potomac Nationals, or Aberdeen Ironbirds play. Summer collegiate team Bethesda Big Train is also very popular for non-majors baseball action.
The Breeze, DC’s Ultimate Frisbee pro team, plays at Catholic University’s Carlini Field. It’s fast-paced, fun to watch, and there’s a welcoming family vibe — plus, kids 8 and under get in free!
Some particularly cool activities and offerings are only possible this time of year. Sure, you can say that’s most of this guide, but these experiences that fall into the “other” category shouldn’t be missed.
On Thursday evenings and some Saturdays during late spring and summer, the Anacostia Watershed Society hosts their free Discovery Series, which include boat tours, paddle tours, and wetland walks at a few local parks. Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Anacostia Park, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and 11th Street Bridge Park are locations for these jaunts.
Public boat rides along the C&O in Georgetown recently returned. They are available throughout the day, Wednesday – Sunday at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm through October, offering one-hour guided historical tours along the first mile of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Cost is $15/adult, $10/senior, $8/child.
For other adventures on the water, a bunch of places around the area rent kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and stand up paddleboards. Fletcher’s Boathouse is a popular place to go and has a great riverside area to hang out and picnic when you’re off the water. You can also row from Ballpark Boathouse near Yards Park. Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis has paddling options along with lots of other outdoor recreation. This post has a whole round-up of even more places to go with the flow on local waterways.
Pick your own produce at local farms. While it starts in the spring with strawberries, it carries on through summer with even more delicious fruits — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, plus veggies and more produce you can gather yourself. Find out where you can PYO around the DC area.
Summer in the Parks will offer weekly events every Thursday evening 6-8pm at Carter Barron in June and at Fort Slocum in August in partnership with Rock Creek Park/National Park Service. The FREE, family-friendly events will have music from DJ Lance Reynolds and fun-for-all-ages games and activities.
Join Anacostia Riverkeeper and Earth Conservation Corps on Friday evenings from June 23 – August 25 for Friday Night Fishing, their catch and release fishing program at the dock at Diamond Teague Park (located next to Yards Park). Rods, reels, bait, and instruction are free. No sign up is required. Dates still to come — will keep you posted!
Aaaaaar, mateys! As the weather warms up and cruising conditions become more comfortable, pirate voyages are offered on local waters. In DC, take a Family Treasure Hunt Cruise on the Boomerang Pirate Ship. Head out to Annapolis for Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake. Or go for a jaunt with Urban Pirates in Baltimore.
Some of the most spectacular flower blooms occur during the summer. View a whole park bursting with pink, white, and peach-hued lotus flowers and water lilies. Fields upon fields of sunflowers are sure to brighten any day. Stop and smell the roses at a favorite National Mall spot. Get details on all of them in this post about our bloom town.
Get rolling in Southeast! The Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion, the only skating pavilion within a national park will officially welcome skaters daily from 9am – 5pm starting Memorial Day through Labor Day. Even better, both admission and skate rentals are FREE! (You can still BYO skates and roll around the rest of the year.) And along with skating, Anacostia Park offers all kinds of recreation, including large fields for sports and running around, tennis, fishing, basketball, biking, running, and three playgrounds. Read more about the park in this KFDC post.
Crab feasting is easily one of the best activities during summer in Maryland and neighboring areas (this is where I get non-DC-centric because I have to give credit where it’s due). Here are some suggestions for places to get ’em, though the “best” is always a subject for debate.
* Cantler’s is an Annapolis institution for many.
* Mike’s Crab House in Riva has a great tiki area if there’s a table wait.
* The Point in Arnold, MD, has become one of our favorite crabby spots.
* Enjoy great crabs and an awesome beach area at Kentmorr.
* The Jetty on Kent Narrows has crabs, scenic views, and a fun beachy vibe.
* Enjoy a feast in the District at Ivy City Smokehouse.
* Stay close to the city at Quarterdeck in Arlington.
* Eat crabs in the ‘burbs at Bethesda Crab House.
* Make it a day trip to Waterman’s in Rock Hall, MD.
* Pick up your own at The Fish Market at The Wharf. Buy them already steamed or get them while they’re still alive to cook at home.
There are some items that help enhance your summer experiences, whether you’re going to the pool, headed to the beach, or just enjoying a day outdoors in the sunshine. These KFDC posts have great recommendations for gearing up for summer fun.
* Must-Haves for Keeping Kids Cool at the Pool
* 10 Outdoor “Lawn” Games for Extra Summer Fun
* Top Picks for the Best Beach Day
* Summertime Must-Haves for Little Ones
Have I left out anything really good? If you think so, let me know in the comments below!