Tag Archives: Family Activities in DC

Where to Go and What to Do Around DC During Winter Break 2021

Bike around the National Mall and memorials over the break

 

If you’re going to be in town over the Winter Break from school, you’ll likely be looking for activities to keep the whole gang happy (and that includes us parents)! Hence, I’m bringing back this guide once again, but with updated info and some new inspiration that reflects what’s going on now.

Many of these ideas are already on the blog, but sometimes a little guidance for what’s best at certain times helps. Among the recommendations are holiday activities that keep the spirit going a little longer, exhibits and shows that are hot tickets right now, outings that take advantage of the season, adventures to keep your gang active no matter what the weather, and places and experiences that kids who are in school all day can’t get to easily.

Of course, the rest of the blog is packed with suggestions if you want even more options. So, whether you’re enjoying a staycation or visiting from out of town, you should have no problem keeping the kids (and yourself!) entertained during the time off — or on, depending how you look at it. 😉  Happy Winter Break!

 

Holiday-Inspired Happenings

Special Exhibits & Museums

Must-See DC

#OptOutside

Show Time

Indoor Action

See Some Sports

Day Trips

Extra Tips

 

 

Holiday-Inspired Happenings

Model trains are back at the Botanic Garden — outside!

Outdoor Train Display
Where: US Botanic Garden | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Through January 2
Admission: Free
The USBG’s wonderful annual model train exhibit is back after a hiatus last year, though outdoors in the gated National Garden.  Made up of farming scenes, it’s delightful as ever and once again all constructed from plant materials. Along with the model trains,  there are more festive adornments throughout the Garden, plus Patrick Doherty’s amazing stickwork sculpture that was installed in late 2019.

Search for Santa’s Helpers
Where: Potomac Overlook Park | Arlington, VA
When: December 18-22, 11am – 3pm
Admission: $5/child

Go on a scavenger hunt around Potomac Overlook Park to find Santa’s helpers so they can get back to the North Pole in time for the holidays.  No reservations are needed, but check in at the Nature Center  to begin.  The park in Arlington is a great place to hike around, even better when there’s an extra holiday adventure!  Get some background on Potomac Overlook in this KFDC post from awhile back — but pretty much still applicable now.

Enchant Christmas
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Through January 2
Admission: $20-34/adult, $17-27/age 14-17, $15-25/age 4-13

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 of this DC holiday attraction from its 2019 run. Look for a discount here.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: Through December
Admission: $28/adult, $15/age 6-11, free/5 & under 

Christmas past meets Christmas present at George Washington’s estate.  During the day, tour the Mansion, watch historic chocolate-making demonstrations, and meet Aladdin the Camel. On select dates, there are some special evening holiday activities, too. Mount Vernon is open every day of the year, including Christmas Day and New Year’s. Look for a discount – $21/adult, $11.25/child.

Holiday Festival of Trains
Where: B&O Railroad Museum | Baltimore, MD
When: Through December 31
Admission: $18/adult, $17/senior, $12/age 2-12, free/B&O members


At a venue dedicated to locomotives, you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. The whole Museum has been transformed into a wonderland of festive fun including Reindeer Railway train rides, photos ops with Santa and winter friends, Santa’s Village, live entertainment, and more!  And just opened is  a new Model Train Gallery featuring a specially crafted HO Scale model layout of Baltimore in 1997.

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: Through January 1
Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra

National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. While there’s no ICE! exhibit this year, there’s still plenty to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Much of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly lightings, indoor snowfalls, and more fun,, much of it free. (Read about a KFDC experience there during a Christmas season past.). For extra costs, there are ice slides and ice skating and holiday activities for kids.  There are also nightly tree lightings and lights show in the National Harbor outdoor plaza.

* Find even more holiday happenings in the KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC!

 

 

Special Exhibits & Museums

 

Interact with language at Planet Word

Word Up
Where: Planet Word | Downtown DC
When: Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The museum all about language is full of fun and interesting exhibits, most of them interactive. There are elements that all ages will love, though tweens and older will get the most out of it, having more grammar lessons under their belts and generally better comprehension. Our whole family loves it! Admission is free, but you need to book tickets in advance. Right now, there are some available for dates over the break. And a limited number of day-of, walk-up passes are available on the half-hour.

FUTURES
Where: Arts & Industries Building | National Mall, DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

The Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building recently reopened — with a new, fascinating exhibition, to boot!  FUTURES spans 32,000 square feet inside, and it’s full of large-scale installations, displays, and interactives that are exciting, powerful, and thought-provoking as they offer a glimpse of future possibilities — and prompt us to wonder how we can contribute. It’s an exhibition for everyone and all ages, and one to put on your must-visit list! Get a glimpse of it here.

Laurie Anderson: The Weather
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

This exhibition at the Hirshhorn is fantastic!  Beautiful abstract paintings, captivating stories, interesting photography, original instruments, spoken word video sculptures, and an entire black and white gallery hand painted by Anderson with sketches, quotes, poems, and passages are among the collection of multimedia works. I’d recommend the exhibit for tween ages and up, though younger children could definitely tag along — there are visual elements that would appeal to them, too. (Plus, art can always be presented to them as something that was in someone’s imagination that they have made real… that is what I did, anyway, when my kids were younger and we encountered art that was over their heads.)

Alif Ba Exhibition
Where: National Children’s Museum | Downtown DC
When: December 18 – February 22
Admission: $15.95

A new visiting exhibit that explores the Arabic alphabet is coming to the National Children’s Musem. Named for the Arabic term for the “ABCs,” the Alif Ba Exhibition brings the Arabic alphabet and language to life with 28 hands-on letter displays in the Museum’s Creative Corner. The interactive experience invites Dreamers to touch and explore the letters, and listen to the sounds they make and the words they begin. Dreamers can also spend time practicing tracing and writing the Arabic alphabet. Of course, you can explore the rest of the Museum’s exhibits, too — read more about them here.

Life of a Neuron
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: Through January 2
Admission: $16-20/adult, $13-15/senior, $8-10/child

Art meets science in this new exhibit at ARTECHOUSE, taking us on an artistic journey inside the brain. Trippy, captivating scenes swirl around the walls and floors, and side galleries have some interactive elements. Read more about it in this recent review.

Mission: Fun
Where: International Spy Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $26.95/age 13+, $16.95/7-12, free/6 & under

If you haven’t been to the Spy Museum at the L’Enfant Plaza location, this is a great time to check it out! Go undercover to explore the intriguing world of espionage. Discover tricks of the trade, view gadgets used to keep secrets and disguises to hide identities, and learn about some of the most famous spies and their missions.

African American History & Culture
Where: National Museum of African American History & Culture
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes

This phenomenal museum is a must-visit on the National Mall.  Timed entry passes are still required, and while they aren’t available to reserve in advance, you can try for same-day passes.  They are released daily starting at 8:15am and can be reserved here. Before you go to the museum, be sure to read the KFDC guide for visiting with kids.

* Of course, there are the rest of the Smithsonians — see hours and open days for them here — and more local museums to check out.

 

Must-See DC

A view of the Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress

A Local & National Treasure
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Explore the largest library in the world and one of DC’s most iconic attractions. The Library of Congress is a trove of knowledge, art, history, and culture — and the public is welcome to enjoy it all, and for free!  Walk-ins are sometimes welcome, but it’s best to reserve free tickets in advance.

A Monumental Experience
Where: Washington Monument | National Mall, DC
When: Daily, 9am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The Washington Monument is super fun to tour — you can go up inside to check out interesting exhibits and take in DC views. Advance reservation tickets for the next day are available online for a nominal processing fee. Same-day, free tickets are also be available on a first-come, first-served basis daily starting at 8:30am at the Washington Monument Lodge, located on 15th Street NW, between Madison Drive NW and Jefferson Drive SW.  Get a peek of the experience from the inside here.

Abe’s Last Days
Where: Ford’s Theatre | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 9am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free – $3

Ford’s isn’t just a place to catch live entertainment. The site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination highlights its historic significance through exhibits about the president, the circumstances surrounding his assassination, and that fateful night at the theatre. The National Historic Site features a museum, theatre walk-throughs and a presentation, and guests are welcome to explore it all. Best for about ages 8 and up. Reserve tickets online in advance for $3 or get them at the Box Office for free.

Tour the Memorials
Where: National Mall & Tidal Basin, DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Be a tourist in your hometown (unless you’re visiting, then just be a tourist). Take the opportunity to visit the many memorials on the Mall and around the Tidal Basin. Not only are the structures themselves 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!

 

 

#OptOutside

Hike right in the city at Rock Creek Park

Ready, Set…Hike!
Where: Around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by locale

If you agree with the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” like I do, there are no excuses for not getting outdoors during winter. And a great, easy way to do so is on a hike. Hit the trail in places with scenic views, tramp and explore history at interesting locales, and enjoy a day of active fun. This post has a a bunch of recommendations for good walks in the woods and other places with kids.

Ice It
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by rink

Enjoy a quintessential winter activity: Ice skating under the sky! Take in art as you skate at the 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.

Fossil Hunting
Where: Calvert & Charles Conties
When: Varies by place
Admission: Varies by place
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 to check out.

Two-Wheel Time
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

Given all the unseasonably warm days we’ve had recently, there’s bound to be one great for a bike ride. (Though cold weather can be fun, too — just bundle up!) Cruise along paths lined with scenic surroundings, ride to destinations that offer even more fun, and get some exercise.  This post has a bunch of pedal-worthy recs, with something for riders of all levels, and this particular route is ideal for the whole crew.

Let There Be Lights
Where: Around the DC area
When: Evenings through
Admission: Varies by locale

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are a staple of the season. Visit one of many parks or corridors in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. Some you can walk through for an up-close experience, others you tour by car. Either way, expect to be dazzled.

* Find even more places for outdoor adventures.

 

 

Show Time

Enjoy a Disney classic at Olney Theatre

 

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Where: Olney Theater | Olney, MD
When: Through January 2
Tickets: $42-79

Be their guest this holiday season as the classic animated story comes to life on the Olney Theatre Mainstage. It’s a tale as old as time, but it gets a new look from Tony-nominated director Marcia Milgrom Dodge.  Olney’s biggest show of the year brings the whole family together for a magical and memorable musical about the redemptive power of love. Join Belle, Lumiere, Cogsworth, and the rest of the gang in the Beast’s cursed castle for an escape to a world where beauty is more than skin deep and happily ever after is just a rose petal away. Rated G.

Cinderella
Where: Synetic Theatre | Crystal City, VA
When: Through December 26
Tickets: $15-30

Cinderella is joining the Synetic family series repertoire and stepping into her own shoes! Led by an all-female team of Syneticons, this innovative take on the classic fairytale is a perfect fit for audiences of all ages.

Corduroy
Where: Imagination Stage | Bethesda, MD
When: Through January 24
Tickets: $28

We all need a friend, and Lisa is instantly drawn to the perfectly imperfect teddy bear on display at the department store. If only she can convince her stressed-out mother to buy Corduroy for her! Meanwhile, Corduroy is determined to find his missing button and become worthy of going to a real home. After the store has closed, he goes on a hilariously destructive search–with the Night Watchman in comical pursuit. Full of mischief and clowning, this story of unconditional love captures both the humanity and the merriment of the holiday season. Recommended for ages 3-9.

Once Upon a One More Time
Where: Sidney Harman Hall | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Through January 9
Admission: $82-145 | Find Discount

This fantastic show presented by Shakespeare Theatre Company undoes classic fairytales as it empowers the princesses in them — all to the tune of Britney Spears’ music! It’s a fun and funny, pop-fueled show with entertaining song and dance numbers, stellar performances, and a great message, to boot. And seeing it on the heels of Britney being freed from her conservatorship adds a little extra something. Its run has just been extended to January 9, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells out! I’d recommend the show for tween ages and up.

* See what else is on stages now (or coming soon), and find holiday-themed entertainment here.

 

Indoor Action

Climb the day away at The St. James

Super, Awesome, and Amazing Fun
Where: The St. James | Springfield, VA
When: Thurs-Fri, 3-8pm | Sat-Sun, 9am – 8pm
Admission: Starting at $15/hour 

The Super, Awesome, and Amazing (that’s what it’s called) 30,000 square foot activity center in the St. Jame sports complex is filled with all kinds of climbing structures, trampolines, and obstacle courses. Kids can don harnesses and clip onto wires to climb, rappel, and navigate walkways 20 feet above the ground. They can bounce, flip, and execute acrobatic moves. They can swing from bars and on large platforms and crawl through tunnels. Essentially, every element in the space is conducive to active fun, and there is something for kids from toddler to tween ages to enjoy. Admission is $15 Monday – Thursday before 3pm. After 3pm and on Friday & Saturday, they are $23/hour.

Reach New Heights
Where: ClimbZone | Laurel, MD
When: Daily, 10am – 8pm
Admission: $25/child, $12/toddler (find discount)

The enormous facility is filled literally floor to ceiling with colorful themed climbing walls and moon bounces. Climbers can ascend Mt. Rushmore, reach the Jolly Roger on a pirate ship, conquer a game of Tetris, shimmy up a giant guitar, scale Jack’s bean stalk, negotiate a rope wall, and experience peak fun on a variety of other climbing areas.

Play in the Zone
Where: ZavaZone | Rockville, MD & Sterling, VA
When: Daily, 10am – 6pm
Admission: Starts at $23.50

Guests have their pick of fun at this indoor adventure park for ages 5-105. There are ninja courses, ropes courses, trampolines, climbing challenges, zip lines, and more under one soaring roof. Usually just open in the afternoons during the week, morning time slots will also be available during Winter Break week.

Spring Time
Where: Flight Trampoline Park | Springfield, VA
When: Daily
Admission: Starts at $14

Kids of all ages can jump, play, even flip for joy at Flight Trampoline Park. The huge space resembles a skate park, with an industrial look of exposed pipes and cinder block walls sprayed with graffiti. But where you’d find ramps, rails, and concrete to facilitate skills and tricks, there are trampolines instead. Be sure to check the schedule for any special jumping times, and buy tickets/sign waivers in advance online to avoid a line there.

Tee Up
Where: Top Golf | National Harbor & Gaithersburg, MD
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Starts at $27/bay
Practice your swing, enjoy a bite, and have some indoor/outdoor fun.  At Top Golf, you drive balls from climate controlled (ie, heated) sheltered bays, so you can still enjoy fresh air and be comfy.   Plus, there ’s a full service restaurant and bar (for parents, obvi) to make a full experience of it.

 

 

See Some Sports

Cheer on our local teams!

Wizards
Where: Capital One Arena | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 26 & 30, January 1
Admission: Ticket prices vary

The Wizards have a few home games over the break, so catch some exciting action on the court. They host the  Philadelphia 76ers on December 26, Cleveland Cavaliers on December 30,  and Chicago Bulls on January 1.

All Caps
Where: Capital One Arena | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 19, 27, & 29
Admission: Ticket prices vary (look for a deal)

Hockey fans can see the Caps play a few games. The Los Angeles Kings will be here on December 19, the Ottawa Senators on December 27, and the Nashville Predators on December 29.

Hoops, NCAA-Style
Where: Universities around the DC Area
When: Throughout the break
Admission: Ticket prices vary

With so many universities in the area, there’s always some good college hoops action going on. Here’s where you can check out schedules and look for tickets:
University of Maryland (Go, Terps!)
George Washington University
Georgetown University
American University
Howard University
George Mason University
Catholic University

 

 

Day Trips

Spend a day on slopes within easy driving distance

 

Hit the Slopes
Where: Around the region
When: Through winter
Admission: Varies

A fun, active way to take advantage of winter: Skiing!  There are a bunch of resorts within a few hours’ drive that are great for young, newbie skiers (and veteran swooshers, too).  Some resorts to check out that are within day trip driving distance: Liberty, Whitetail, Roundtop, and Bryce.

Charm City, Hon!
Where: Baltimore, MD
When: Daily
Admission: Varies by locale

Zip up I-95 for some fun in our sister city, where there are lots of great places to spend a day off. Play the day away at Port Discovery. Explore the exhibits and loads of hands-on activities at the Maryland Science Center. See some of the quirkiest, coolest art around at the American Visionary Art Museum. Get an eyeful of the underwater world at the National Aquarium. Tour the historic ships moored at the Inner Harbor. Or learn about Baltimore’s early business days at the Museum of Industry. The KFDC Guide to Exploring Baltimore with Kids has info for all of these adventures, plus dining recs and more to explore!

Go Underground
Where: Luray Caverns | Luray, VA
When: Daily, 9am – 7pm
Admission: $32/adult, $16/ages 6-12, free/5 & under 

Behold the spectacular underground world of stalagmites, stalactites, and other amazing limestone formations in the massive cave system at Luray. Afterward, make your way through the Garden Maze or check out vintage rides in the Carriage and Caravan Museum. Admission does not include attractions beyond the cavern. KFDC Tip: Be sure to make a pit stop before going into the caverns, because it can be a long walk out to a restroom, and once you’re out, you may not be able to go back in.

Go East
Where: Annapolis and Eastern Shore, MD
When: hours vary by place
Admission: Varies by Place

Who says it has be warm to head out toward the Eastern Shore and enjoy adventures by the water? Drive over the Bay Bridge for a great hike at Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area on this side of the bridge at Quiet Waters. And while it’s not the best season for crabs, you can still enjoy yummy meals at places that are known for them. Try Kentmorr or The Jetty after Wye, Cantler’s or Mike’s closer in. Of course, you can also enjoy a day walking around the charming downtown area in Annapolis.

Art & Maritime Explorations
Where: Calvert County, MD
When: Daily, except Christmas
Admission: Varies by locale

Make a day of it in Calvert County, where you can visit a couple of places for fun, fascinating, hands-on adventures. Annmarie Sculpture Garden is full of artistic delights. Tour beautiful works, both indoors and out, play in the Fairy Lolly, and create some of your own art with inspiration from all you see there. Hours are 9am – 5pm in the gardens, and admission is a $5 suggested donation. Also out that way is the Calvert Marine Museum, where you can see interesting exhibits, including display cases full of fossils and artifacts, plus live fish and other creatures. There’s also a play area and a real lighthouse to tour. Hours are 10am – 5pm, and admission is $9/adult, $4/ages 5-12, free/4 & under.

 

 

Extra Tips
* Created especially for last year’s Covid Winter, this post has even more ideas for things to do, all of them outdoors.
* It didn’t fit into the above categories, but this is a great time to sign up for volunteering opportunities with kids.
* If you’re looking specifically for activities for foul weather days, see this list of indoor spots.
* And for where to enjoy time outside, check out The Best Places to Spend a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids
* Sometimes you just need a place to hang out for awhile, so why not make it a stunning one?
* Look for deals and discounts on CertifiKid and Goldstar.

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Filed under 2021, 2022, All ages, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Winter

Passport to Fun: Kids Euro Fest Returns to DC!

 

Calling all curious kids and tiny travelers! Next month is your chance to experience European culture without a plane ticket.  Kids Euro Fest, the wonderful annual event that presents art and cultural programs for children, is returning to the DC area!

Kids Euro Fest has become a tradition in the nation’s capital.  For the last 14 years, it has been one of the largest performing arts festivals for children in America. Artists and performers from across the 27 European Union countries have participated, including puppeteers, dancers, musicians, and children’s book authors. 

For the first time this year, Kids Euro Fest will feature two in-person Family Days located at two different embassies in Washington!  The first will take place October 9 at the Embassy of France, and the second on October 16 at the Embassy of Sweden. From 12-4pm on both days, families are invited to enjoy an afternoon full of European performances, activities, crafts, games, and food.

The best part? Everything is FREE!

All kinds of fantastic cultural activities await:  Kids can learn from a Latvian children’s book illustrator, catch an Irish dance performance, and make Portuguese art. A German theatre will transport young minds into a fairy tale, and France will get kids thinking about climate change. Throughout the day, kids can get creative at the craft table, take part in traditional European outdoor games, and indulge in food from the embassy’s own chef.

Health and safety precautions will be in place at both Family Days, including masks for kids ages 2-12. Activities will take place both indoors and outdoors with social distancing and limited attendance; therefore, families should be sure to register ahead of time on the KEF website.

For those outside of the DC area, Kids Euro Fest will also launch virtual activities on October 9. These include online performances, storytelling, films, and workshops.

To learn more about Kids Euro Fest events and register to attend the Family Days, visit Kidseurofest.org.

 

* * * * *

This post is sponsored by the European Union Delegation to the United States, however, I only promote events, programs, and places that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers. To learn about other Delegation events in the area, visit www.events.euintheus.org.

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Filed under 2021, All ages, DC, Fall, Festival, Weekend

Five Hidden Histories and Stories on and Around the National Mall

[Note: This is a guest post contributed by JoAnn Hill, a DC area educator and author of the book “Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.” ]

 

A carousel’s connection to the Civil Rights Movement, an accidental shooting by the US army, an anti-dancing law that rivals the injustices of Footloose, world-renowned graffiti, and a science-touting statue that just might make you smarter… these lesser-known, feel-good, and bizarre stories are just waiting to be explored on and around the infamous National Mall.

Below are five fascinating stories to uncover at familiar sites on your explorations around the National Mall.  Check out local DC author JoAnn Hill’s book Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure to learn more about the hidden histories below as well as to discover dozens of additional gems and off-the-beaten path locales in and around the Washington, DC area.

Carousel on the National Mall

“Round and Round: A Carousel Takes a Turn into the Civil Rights Movement”

For decades, the National Mall’s iconic carousel has been a prominent fixture on the city’s most popular strip of grassy land. The carousel, however, is much more than an exuberant ride; it also serves as a hopeful window into the Civil Rights Movement.

On August 28, 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech before a crowd of some 250,000 people during the March on Washington. On that same day, about 45 miles away outside of Baltimore, Gwynn Oak Amusement Park discontinued segregation. An 11-month-old baby named Sharon Langley was the first African American child to go on a ride there and rode the classic carousel, which was originally located in the park, along with two white children. The three children riding the carousel together exemplified King’s message of integration and racial harmony.

In 1981, the famous carousel made its way to its new home on the National Mall when a Smithsonian concessionaire purchased it, unaware of its historical significance. Seven years later, Donna and Stan Hunter purchased the special carousel and have owned and operated it ever since.

Read All About It: Learn more about how the beloved carousel reflects Civil Rights history on pages 74-75 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Thing to Know: Unfortunately, the Carousel is currently closed due to Covid.

Where: The Carousel is located on the National Mall: Jefferson Drive SW.

 

* * * * *

Lincoln Memorial

“Oops! We Didn’t Mean to Shoot, Mr. President!”

The Lincoln Memorial is a national treasure, commemorating one of America’s most revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln. What many may be surprised to learn is that nearly 80 years ago, it was also the site of an accidental shooting by the US Army.

In 1942, as part of World War II defenses, an anti-aircraft gun was installed atop the US Department of Interior. The gun was positioned near a local bridge to protect the city against an air attack. On September 3, at 10am, a US Army soldier accidentally released a round of ammunition at the Lincoln Memorial. The accidental firing left its mark on the east side of the memorial. Bullets struck the structure’s frieze and damaged three of the 36 states’ names: Connecticut, Maryland, and Texas.

It is certainly safe to say that the Lincoln Memorial may just be the one US structure attacked by its own country.

Read All About It: Learn more about the US Army accidental shooting on the Lincoln Memorial on pages 186-187 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore:  A baseball-size indentation was imprinted into the marble of the memorial’s outer wall. The gouge has been fixed before, but the patchwork has fallen out. There are no plans to refill or fix the hole.

Where: The Lincoln Memorial is located at 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle NW.

 

* * * * *

Jefferson Memorial

“Leave Those Dancing Shoes at Home”

There may be a time and place to dance like no one’s watching, but dance enthusiasts should beware of adding the Jefferson Memorial to their lists of dance venues.

On May 17, 2011, a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, declared expressive dancing as prohibited inside the Jefferson Memorial. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit stated that expressive dancing “falls into the spectrum” of prohibited activities, including picketing, demonstrations, and speechmaking, at the memorial. The rules are intended to ban conduct that has the propensity to attract spectators while detracting from the dignified and ceremonious setting of the national memorial.

The court’s ruling was in response to the 2008 arrest of several individuals silently dancing to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s 265th birthday. The dancers’ expressive performance was deemed as unlawful. The court viewed the performance as a distraction to fellow visitors, as well as an attraction to onlookers.

While some of the laws passed in our nation’s capital have caused many to scratch their heads, this one may just be among the strangest and surprising of them all.

Read All About It: Learn more about this bizarre law at the Jefferson Memorial on pages 2-3 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore:  The Jefferson Memorial is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Where: The Jefferson Memorial is located at 16 E. Basin Drive SW.

 

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World War II Memorial

“Bald-Headed and a Little Bit of Comfort”

Wandering around the World War II Memorial evokes numerous emotions: feelings of sorrow, honor, remembrance, and respect, just to name a few. Individuals walking near the Pennsylvania pillar, however, may find themselves feeling additional emotions of surprise and bewilderment.

During World War II, various drawings of a large-nosed, bald man peering over a fence next to the words, “Kilroy was here” popped up all over the globe wherever battles were being fought. The mysterious sketches were proof that an American comrade had previously been there, providing comfort and reassurance to many anxious soldiers. The identity of the artist behind the graffiti was unknown, resulting in many to be confused by these peculiar drawings.

While the popularity surrounding ‘Kilroy was here” eventually dwindled, the widely recognized graffiti symbol can still be seen around the world, causing some to fondly remember its historical meaning and others to scratch their own heads in bemusement.

Read All About It: Learn more about the worldwide “Kilroy Was Here” WWII drawings on pages 80-81 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: The “Kilroy Was Here” graffiti sketch is located behind the golden gate next to the Pennsylvania pillar.

Where: The World War II Memorial is located at 1750 Independence Avenue SW.

 

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Albert Einstein Bronze Statue

“Save a Seat for Science”

Many of the capital city’s monuments ask visitors to quietly reflect when visiting, creating tranquil and sometimes even somber memorial site settings. One lesser-known monument, however, has chosen to take a quite different approach; visitors coming to pay tribute to one of the world’s most famous scientists are encouraged not only to sit on his statue, but also to climb upon it.

Standing twelve feet tall and weighing approximately four tons, a bronze statue honoring physicist Albert Einstein is situated near the southwest corner of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) grounds. In 1979, the NAS unveiled the sizable statue to commemorate the centennial of Einstein’s birthday. The famous physicist appears relaxed, leisurely sitting on a three-step bench made of white granite.

The statue’s base is characterized by a star map—a 28-foot expanse of emerald pearl granite that’s embellished with more than 2,700 metal studs representing the sun, moon, stars, planets, and other astronomical objects precisely placed by astronomers from the US Naval Observatory as they were on the centennial date.

Read All About It: Learn more about this this bronze tribute to science on pages 184-185 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore:  Legend has it that if you rub Einstein’s nose, some of his genius will rub off on you!

Where: The Albert Einstein Statue is located at 2101 Constitution Avenue NW.

 

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JoAnn Hill has lived in Washington, DC, with her husband Thalamus and dog Jackson for over 19 years. An avid traveler and foodie, JoAnn writes about their DC living and dining experiences, as well as their global travel adventures, on her blog dcglobejotters.org. Her writing has been published in BELLA Magazine, Escape Artist, and Triptipedia. JoAnn served as a DC Public Schools teacher for 17 years before co-founding Capitol Teachers, a tutoring company servicing the greater DC area. This is her first book.

 

 

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Filed under DC, Educational, Monuments & Memorials

Spring Things to Get Excited About Around the DC Area (Beyond the Cherry Blosssoms)

 

Spring used to be a time when there were so many awesome events and activities around the area, it was sometimes hard to choose which to do.  While Covid has changed that this year, there still are plenty of exciting happenings — museum re-openings, sports seasons beginning, special exhibitions, flower blooms (beyond the cherry blossoms, which have passed the peak), berry picking, and more. Here are some things to get excited about this season, some mentioned already, some of them new, but now all in one place to help your planning. Happy Spring!

 

Interact with language at Planet Word

Planet Word
Where: | Downtown DC
When: Started April 1, Thursday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The museum dedicated to language opened briefly last fall before closing due to rising Covid rates, and they started welcoming visitors again on April 1. Three levels full of interactive and immersive exhibits engage, educate, entertain, and delight. Older kids, tweens and up (and that includes the kid in us adults), will get the most out of it, but elementary ages definitely could enjoy it, too. Free, timed-entry passes are available and must be reserved in advance through the website.

 

New signage at the ballpark

Baseball is Back
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Started April 6
Admission: Varies

The Nats season got off to an interesting start with the first series against the Mets  postponed for Covid-related reasons. Such is the times.  But it has now officially begun (with a walk-off from Soto!), and a limited number of fans, all Nats Plus ticket holders, will be welcome back to the ballpark for games. Most of us, though, will be watching the televised version, but we can do that out of the house at restaurants and bars around DC that have outdoor seating. Eater DC has a list of places for it, several of them family-friendly. Of course, rooting for our home team from home is fun, too.  Host a backyard viewing party — this post may be about a winter set up, but a bunch of the tips are spring-worthy, too.  Update!  The Nats are now offering single game tickets to the general public, including for every game throughout the upcoming homestand April 15-18 vs Arizona and April 19-21 vs. St. Louis. Tickets start at just $14 and will be sold in socially distanced pods of 1 to 6 tickets.

 

Enjoy the season in the trees

Adventure in the Trees
Where: Adventure Park at Sandy Spring
When: Ongoing, opened in March
Admission: Starts at $45/adult, $16/child

The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring has reopened for the season, offering its thrilling aerial forest experience again. Navigating ropes courses up in the trees is a super fun and challenging way to spend a day.  There are 15 trails of varying levels of difficulty, all of them with ziplines, and almost 200 challenge bridges — something for everyone! Extra safety measures are in place for Covid, including required advance reservations, so be sure to book ahead.  Read about one of our past experiences at the Adventure Park.  (There have been many more since then!)

 

Take a soundwalk around the Wolf Trap grounds

SOUNDWALK
Where: Wolf Trap | Vienna, VA
When: April 6 – September 6
Admission: Free

This free, public “sound-art” at Wolf Trap sounds like a unique way to enjoy springtime (and summer) outdoors. The GPS-enabled work created by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid, uses music to illuminate the natural environment. SOUNDWALK has been tailor-made for Wolf Trap and created to encourage calm, reflection, and introspection. It can be experienced while following social distancing guidelines. (PS: Did you know the performing arts venue is also a National Park?)

 

Marvel at the Great Hall again

National Building Museum Reopens
Where: 401 F Street NW | Judiciary Square, DC
When: Starting April 9, Friday – Sunday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: $10/adult, $7/child (free for members)

After a veerrry long wait, the National Building Museum is reopening! (Remember, it was closed for renovations pre-Covid?) The museum’s exhibits and shop will be open weekends, and of course you can roam the magnificent Great Hall, one of the most stunning spaces in DC, again. Popular, ongoing exhibitions House & Home and Animals, Collected are back, plus a couple of  important and timely exhibitions, Gun Violence Memorial Project and Justice is Beauty: The Work of MASS Design Group will be on view.

 

A beautiful installation at a past Georgetown Glow

Glow With It
Where: Georgetown, DC
When: Starting April 9, on view daily
Admission: Free

See Georgetown in a whole new, cool light — literally! Georgetown Glow, the annual exhibition that usually takes place during the holiday season, was rescheduled for this spring. See the neighborhood sparkle with modern light art installations throughout the bustling community. Works will be on display in both public and privately-owned spaces. You can take the fam to dinner, then go for a stroll to check them all out. Artworks will be viewable by day, but obviously much brighter at night! Special talks and walks will be available, too. Get a glimpse of a past Glow here.

 

Bluebells at Riverbend, the best local place to enjoy the periwinkle blooms

Bloom Town
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Varies by locale
Admission: Varies by locale

The cherry blossoms aren’t the only flowers in town! There are more big blooms to enjoy around the DC area, and they’re literally coming up soon. Bluebells, azaleas, tulips, and roses are what you can stop, smell, see, and relish in the loveliness of during spring. This post has details and when and where to catch them at their best.

 

A fairy house find in the Annmarie woods

Fairies in the Garden
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Lusby, MD
When: April 9 – September 6
Admission: $5 suggested donation

The annual magicalicious exhibit of fairy and gnome houses begins in spring. As if the sculpture garden in Calvert County wasn’t already wonderful, this annual display adds extra delight to a visit there with its display of handmade fairy and gnome homes scattered throughout the grounds. (The annual festival to celebrate them is still happening, but now you must reserve tickets in advance online.)  This is a place kids of all ages — and even the kid in us adults — will love. There are even more creative works and activities in the Arts Building if you’re comfortable going inside. Read more about Annmarie Sculpture Garden in this KFDC post and this one.

 

The Pop-Up Wine Garden at The REACH is returning

Victura Park Opens
Where: The REACH | Kennedy Center, DC
When: Starting April 9, Friday – Sunday
Admission: Free

The family-friendly outdoor pop-up and wine garden at The REACH, the Kennedy Center expansion, is reopening. Food and drinks are available to enjoy in an area set up with picnic tables. We visited several times in the fall, and it’s always a fun, lively vibe.  Be sure to explore the beautiful grounds, stop in The REACH Buildings (if open), stroll the Kennedy Center terrace, and take in sweeping views of the Potomac. Hours are Fridays 4-9pm, and Saturday and Sundays 12-9pm.  Get a glimpse of it in my highlights on IG, and getting there by bike is a perfect way to go to avoid parking.  But if you drive, you can park in the KC garage (though pricey) or try to find street parking nearby.

 

All aboard for a mini train ride!

Go for a Train or Carousel Spin
Where: Cabin John & Wheaton Regional Parks, MD
When: Starting April 9
Admission: $2.50

All aboard! Montgomery Park’s Cabin John Train and Wheaton Train and Carousel are opening for the season. Go for a spin around the parks on replicas of the 1863 C.P. Huntington, a 4-2-4T steam locomotive. Or enjoy a whirl on the beautiful Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel featuring 33 jumping horses, three zebras, and two chariots! Read more about Cabin John Regional Park in Bethesda here and Wheaton Regional Park here.

 

A paddle excursion on the Potomac

Go with the Flow
Where: Waterways around the DC area
When: Varies by place
Admission: Varies by place

With warmer weather comes opportunities to enjoy time on the water, and you can rent kayaks, canoes, and other vessels to paddle at a bunch of places around the area. Boating in DC now runs many of the boathouses in the District and nearby. The Wharf location is open, and Key Bridge, Fletcher’s, and Thompson are opening very soon, National Harbor later. A few places within the NoVA Parks system are also offering boat rentals now. And if you don’t want to do the work of paddling (though I highly recommend it!), enjoy a Water Taxi ride — there are several  options for places to catch it! See this post for a round-up of places to go with the flow, and read more about a couple of our paddling adventures around the area here and here.

 

The Tudor Place gardens and historic house are reopening

Tudor Place Reopens
Where: Georgetown, DC
When: Starting April 10, Saturday & Sunday, 12-4pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes

The Historic House & Garden in the heart of Georgetown will once again welcome guests on weekends. A model of Federal-period architecture in the nation’s capital, Tudor Place shares the stories of multiple generations of Martha Washington’s descendants and the enslaved workers and servants who lived and worked here. With over 18,000 objects, including the largest Washington Collection outside of Mount Vernon, Tudor Place sits on over five acres. Admission is free with a ticket, and note that one ticket offers three options: 1) Self-guided tour of the Historic House 2) Garden visit or 3) both.

 

Take an artsy, socially distanced stroll around Adams Morgan

AdMo Art Walk
Where: Around Adams Morgan, DC
When: April 12 – May 14
Admission: Free

You’ll be able to think of Adams Morgan as your own personal art gallery, thanks to this free, new way to experience art brought to you by the Adams Morgan Partnership BID, the DC Arts Center, local artists, and neighborhood businesses! Walk the streets of Adams Morgan and admire an impressive selection of artworks displayed in various storefronts in a self-guided tour starting April 12. While many events are currently paused, this allows everyone to explore on their own and experience the diverse and cultural arts scene throughout Adams Morgan.

 

DC United will welcome fans back to Audi Field!

Vamos United
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Starting April 16
Admission: Varies

The MLS season kicks off mid-April, and DC United will play its first match on April 17. Fans still won’t Fan will be welcome be back at Audi Field with new social distancing measures in place for Covid. And like baseball, you can also plan to watch games at different places around the area. Many of the restaurants and bars that show the Nats will also have screens dedicated to soccer.  And if you aren’t up for watching elsewhere, gear up to sport your United spirit at home!

 

Strawberry picking is a seasonal fave

Take Your Pick
Where: Farms around the DC Area
When: Varies by locale
Admission: Varies by locale

The pick-your-own season begins in late April/early May when strawberries are ripe and ready for harvest.  Several area farms welcome guests to come pick them, and some offer even more fun. This round-up of PYO places around the area has more details.  And it’s always a good idea to check websites or call ahead to confirm availability the day you plan to go. Sunscreen and hat also recommended.

 

Hang out and enjoy spring at The Yards

Opt Outside
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by locale

This one is very general and also pretty obvious, but take advantage of the outdoors! Spring is sublime in DC, plus many outside pursuits are great for social distancing. Get back to those places you missed all winter and, of course, discover some new ones. This huge round-up of places to hang outdoors will help with that.

 

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Maryland, Special Event, Spring, Virginia

A Very DC Hike at Theodore Roosevelt Island

Every now and then I have a realization that over all the years I’ve been publishing KFDC, I haven’t done a write-up about a place that we’ve been frequenting forever and is definitely deserving of its own post. This time it’s Theodore Roosevelt Island, a national park located on an actual 90-acre island in the Potomac River.

A recent visit with Sash

And one years ago with the fam

Roosevelt Island has been among our regular rotation of go-to spots for hiking and getting a nice, easy dose of nature in DC (despite accessing it from across the river, the island is part of the District) since before Levi and I even had kids. But with Owen and Sasha, especially when they were little, we’ve appreciated it even more. The park is ideal for family hikes with short, mellow trails; lots of great nature, wildlife sitings, even airplanes flying overhead; and a little history lesson, to boot, with a lovely memorial in the middle of it all dedicated to the president for which it’s named.

Teddy and little Owen on the Plaza

Younger Sash strikes a pose there

And fives years later

This is why I call it a very “DC” hike. The park’s Memorial Plaza is like a little annex to all of the other memorials on the National Mall.  However, instead of the expanse of green grass or Tidal Basin to make it stand out grandly, woods and wetlands fittingly surround the stately granite and bronze tribute to Teddy Roosevelt, an early steward for conservation and the environment.

Trying to do some turtle spotting

From the parking lot, there is a long bridge to cross to get to the main part of park. We always stop on it to take in views of Georgetown in the distance and look for turtles in the water below. Once on the other side, three trails offer different hiking experiences. The short .3-mile Woods Trail leads through and right around the memorial on gravel and paved grounds. The .75-mile Upland Trail loops through the woods along the whole length of the island. And the 1.5-mile Swamp Trail includes both a dirt path that winds through woods and a boardwalk running over a swampy area lined by cattail, trees, and wild grass.

Kickin’ it on the Swamp Trail

When the kids were small, we’d pick one, but now we often do a combination of all three trails, starting at the plaza, then walking through the woods and on the boardwalk, before hopping on another path leading to the water and taking us around the island. Whatever you choose, you’re in for a nice hike.

Little Sash on the Upland Trail

On a recent visit with Sasha, we covered the whole island, enjoying its winter beauty. We loved seeing the leafless trees, the mess of branches and wild intertwining limbs. (Side note: Did anyone read The Overstory? While I found it kind of long and tedious, I appreciated the concept of communication among trees and always think about it when I’m among them.) But Roosevelt Island is great the rest of the year, too, with budding trees and views of the cherry blossoms in spring, lush green and lots of shade in summer, and colorful foliage during autumn.

Bare branches during winter

There are no tables for picnicking, but the Memorial Plaza has seating, and there are a few benches along the Swamp Trail where you could stop and snack. Another nice spot is a cluster of large rocks at the west end of the island. And there are restrooms down the Woods Trail shortly before it meets the Swamp Trail.

Hanging out in the shade during summer

The one negative of the park may be the parking situation. The lot is small, and fills up quickly, especially on a nice weekend day. There have been several times we’ve planned to go and have encountered a line of cars to get in. In those cases, we’ve headed to Turkey Run Park further down the GW Parkway in McLean or Potomac Overlook Park in Arlington. You can avoid parking altogether by riding bikes there instead — it’s right off the Mount Vernon Trail, and there are bike racks right at the entrance (biking is not permitted in the park). You can also Metro to Rosslyn then walk 10-15 minutes from there.

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Where: Potomac River | Washington, DC
Access: From the GW Parkway just before Spout Run
When: Daily year-round, 6am – 10pm
Admission: Free

Want even more suggestions for great local hikes with kids? This post has a bunch of them! And here are a few more pics from some visits over the years…

Welcome to the island…

 

Happy about her first visit to TRI

 

Leading the way on the trail

 

A little pop of color

 

View from a small beach

 

Teddy

 

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Filed under 2020, All ages, DC, Educational, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend