Tag Archives: Fun with Kids in DC

5 Places for Shark Tooth Hunting Adventures Near the DC Area

 

Recently, another publication contacted me about using some of my photos for a piece they were doing about places in the area to go shark tooth hunting. I’m always happy to share, but it also got me thinking: If the publication didn’t have their own images, did that mean the writer hadn’t actually been to all of these places? Isn’t it better to get recommendations for an activity like this based on real experience rather than just research? (And am I being totally catty right now? 😼)

In that vein, I decided to put together this round-up of places within day-trip distance of DC to search for shark teeth and other remnants of millions-of-years-old marine life. Just about all of them have been either written up or at least mentioned on KFDC already, and it makes sense to have them all in one place. And I can assure you that we have, indeed, experienced every single one, most of them many times. Happy hunting!

Shark teeth for the picking at Purse State Park

Purse State Park

[2020 Update: Purse State Park is now known as the Purse area within the Nanjemoy Wildlife Management Area in Charles County, MD.  I recommend reading my note about it in the original post (link above) before planning to go there.]

Purse State Park is by far our favorite place to gather shark teeth — and I say gather instead of search for, because chances are very good that you will collect lots of teeth and other prehistoric remains at this Charles County locale. The beach area at Purse is very narrow, but it stretches far along the Potomac River, and it is loaded with Paleocene Era gems, i.e. fossils from sharks, fish, shells, even crocodiles, that are up to 60 million years old.

It’s important to check the tide table (search Potomac River/Liverpool Point, MD) when you plan a visit to Purse, since the already thin strip of sand dwindles even more at high tide. If it’s warm, we often swim a bit, too, as the water is shallow and usually very mellow. There are no concessions or facilities, so bring a picnic and be prepared to pee in the woods or water.

To get there, follow GPS directions to Purse State Park in Nanjemoy, MD. It will take you to a wooded area with a very small parking area across from a trail head. Follow that trail about a half-mile to the beach, where your “treasure” hunting adventure will begin. Hours are sunrise to sunset, and admission is free. See more scenes from Purse State Park here.

 

Enjoy the calm waters as you search for shark teeth at Flag Ponds

Flag Ponds Nature Park

About an hour’s drive from DC in Calvert County, Flag Ponds Nature Park is just up the road from the well known Calvert Cliffs that are the source for many of the fossils found in that area. And in my opinion, it’s the best place to go for a day’s beach outing that involves shark tooth hunting. Not only can you search for teeth and other remains from the Miocene Era — that’s up to 30 million years old — there is a vast sandy expanse where kids can play, and the Chesapeake where they can swim (check for jellyfish first, though).

Fossil finds, in our experience, aren’t as plentiful as they are at Purse State Park, but if you keep an eye out as you walk the shoreline or even sit in one spot and sift through shells and pebbles, you’re bound to come across some small teeth. And who knows… you might get really lucky and score a prized megalodon tooth — the largest shark ever existed during that time and its mega-sized teeth have been discovered there.

You pay to get in at an entrance gate, then park in a lot near the Visitor Center. From there, it’s about a quarter-mile walk on a paved road, then a dirt road to the beach. It’s best to set up close to the shoreline, as it can get buggy and hotter inland near ponds that form with the changing dunes and tides. There are restrooms and a rinsing shower at the entrance to the beach. And there are drink vending machines at the parking lot, but no other concessions, so be sure to bring snacks and water.

Flag Ponds Nature Park is located at 1525 Flag Ponds Parkway in Lusby, MD. From Labor Day to Memorial Day, hours are 9am – 4pm Friday and Monday, 9am -5pm Saturday and Sunday. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, hours are 9am – 6pm weekdays, 9am – 8pm weekends. Admission is $8/car. See more about Flag Ponds here.

 

Beach fun + shark tooth hunting at Calvert Cliffs

Calvert Cliffs State Park

This is the park that most people have heard about, its cliffs somewhat famous for the prehistoric treasures they hold. They were formed over 20 million years ago beneath what was then an ocean that submerged the region during the Miocene Era. As the waters receded and exposed the terrain below, the preserved remains of prehistoric sea life have also been revealed, and, hence wash up on Chesapeake shores now. However, while I like the park itself, in my experience it has not been a boon for shark tooth hunting; I have found only small amounts of fossils on my visits. (Perhaps this is why I have yet to do a write-up about it on the blog. Update: There is now a write-up via the link above!)

The park is worth a visit, though. The beach area nestled between cliffs is very pretty, the water is swimmable, and searching for fossils makes for a nice activity while you’re enjoying a beach day.  It’s about a two-mile hike through woods and marsh areas to the beach and cliffs, which adds some extra recreation and neat nature sights to an outing there, but also extra effort, which is something to keep in mind with little ones and/or strollers in tow.

Calvert Cliffs State Park is open daily, sunrise to sunset. Admission is $5-7 per vehicle (more for non-residents). There are restrooms near the parking lot and portable toilets along the trail close to the beach. There are no concessions, so BYO food and drinks.

 

Younger days at Brownie’s Beach

Bayfront Park aka Brownie’s Beach

Note: Currently closed due to Covid.

Brownie’s Beach was the first place we enjoyed shark tooth hunting, though I use the term “hunting” loosely because it was almost effortless to find fossils there. The park in the town of Chesapeake Beach was our go-to, easy-from-DC beach destination when the kids were much younger. It’s a nice little spot with a small stretch of sand, gentle shallow water, and cliffs edging the shoreline. It’s also a beach known for shark teeth finds, and they were always aplenty at Brownie’s. We would scoop up a handful of small shells and rocks near the water, wash away the sand, pick through, and small fossils were practically guaranteed in the mix.

I talk about Brownie’s (officially called Bay Front Park) in the past tense, because we haven’t been in several years, since they increased the summer admission fee to $18/adult, $10/age 3-11 for out-of-county residents. But the steep price likely means less people, so if you’re willing to pay, you probably get more shark tooth hunting space to yourself. You could also go during cooler months and avoid the cost.

Bayfront Park is open 6am – 9pm. As noted above, entrance fees from Memorial Day to Labor Day are $18/adult, $10/child and can only be paid by credit card — Visa, Mastercard, or Discover. While there are eateries in the town of Chesapeake Beach, there are no facilities or concessions at the park, so plan accordingly.

 

A pretty but chilly day at Matoaka Beach

Matoaka Beach

I can’t even remember where I learned about this beach a few years ago; the link above is a random one I just found. But after I read about it back then as a place to search for fossils, we checked it out with friends on a chilly February day (because who says all fossil hunting adventures have to be warm ones?). It was a pretty spot in St. Leonard, less than 10 miles from Calvert Cliffs State Park. We found a few shark teeth there, but it didn’t make a strong enough impression at the time to be post-worthy. We also paid $20 for parking to a man who seemed to be running things, even though I had read it was $5.

All that said, I’ve been thinking about giving it another go; we may have just been cold and not up for a long outing there. Again, there are no facilities or concessions, something to plan for. Find directions to Matoaka here. Once you park, it’s a very short walk to the beach.

 

The right footwear makes a big difference

Shark Tooth & Fossil Hunting Tips:

* Wear proper shoes! Water shoes in warm months and rubber boots in cold ones, so you can walk along the shell and rock laden shore without discomfort or freezing your tootsies off.

* Bring along a small shovel if you like to dig for your fossils or a sand dipper to help scoop them from the water.

* Hat and sunscreen always recommended, even on cold days… if it’s sunny, faces can still burn being outside for a long time.

* Bring water and snacks. Fossil hunting works up appetites!

* Take a good look at directions, maybe even write them down, in case GPS fails in remote areas (this has happened to us, but luckily I knew the way).

* Bring a container with a small hole cut in the lid to easily store your fossil finds.

* If you’re not sure whether or not something is a fossil, bring it home anyway and do some research to identify it when you get home.

* The Fossil Forum and Fossil Guy are great resources for more about your fossil finds.

* The Calvert Marine Museum is also a wonderful place to learn more about the Chesapeake Bay, including prehistoric marine life there.

 

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Filed under All ages, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: November 16-20

The enchanting Fairy Lolly at Annmarie Sculpture Gardens

The enchanting Fairy Lolly at Annmarie Sculpture Gardens



Monday – Take a drive out to Solomons, MD, to Annmarie Sculpture Gardens for artistic delights and autumn splendor. 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. Even better, the grounds are gorgeous there now. Trust me, it’s worth the hour-plus drive. Hours are 9am – 5pm in the gardens, 10am – 5pm at the arts center. Admission is $5/adult, $3/ages 6-17, free for 5 and under.

Tuesday – Check out your local library. Drop in for story time, sing-a-longs, art & crafts, and other activities, or just go to browse for books. See this post from the early KFDC days for a little background and quick links to libraries around the area.

Wednesday – See a show especially for little ones at The Puppet Co. The lights stay on, and doors remain open during Tiny Tots performances for the youngest audiences. Old McDonald’s Farm is this week’s production. Showtime is 10am. Tickets are $5 for everyone, including babies.

Thursday – Bring girls ages 4-14 on a fundraising play date. Cookies and Confidence with Rosie will help support Rosie Riveters, a non-profit that aims to provide a fun space for girls ages 4-14 to imagine, create, and play while developing their skills in STEM.

 

From 9:30-11:30am at Tea with Mrs. B, guests will use math skills to identify shapes and use them to build turkey puzzles, while gobbling down scrumptious cookies. A $5 donation per participating child is suggested. And you can find STEM fun for both girls and boys at the Children’s Science Center Lab at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax. Hours are 10am – 6pm. Admission is $12.

Friday – Go ice skating under the sky! All of our local outdoor rinks are open and welcoming folks to glide. Several offer push aids to help newbie skaters, and most are located in places with even more to do beyond the rink. This post has all the details on all of them.


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Filed under All ages, Art, Charity, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays

Where to Play on the Weekdays: November 9-13

Roam the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks for free through mid-March!

Roam the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks for free through mid-March!



Monday – Roam the enchanting gardens at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. The grounds don’t open to the public until 2pm, but you can play at nearby Montrose Park or grab a bite to eat on M Street beforehand. I promise, it’s worth waiting for the afternoon visit. And admission is free to both — there’s never an entry fee at Montrose, and Dumbarton waives it from November 1 – mid-March.

Tuesday – Locate secret doors, see outrageously fabulous themed rooms, and browse a trove of secondhand treasures on a tour of The Mansion on O Street. The Dupont Circle landmark is a mansion, museum, restaurant, vintage store, and hotel all in one. And visitors are welcome to explore it all. Open daily 11am – 4pm. Self-guided tours start at $15. Purchase tickets in advance online.

Wednesday – Go from Point A to Point B with Arts on the Horizon at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. This world premiere, nonverbal production that explores different modes of transportation in new and exciting ways is inspired by the America on the Move exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Recommended for ages 2-5, showtimes are 10am and 11:30am, and tickets are $9.

Thursday – Jump the morning away at Flight Trampoline Park in Springfield, Va. This bouncy nirvana hosts Kid Flight sessions for children 46″ tall & under from 10am – 12pm Monday through Friday for $10/hour (includes accompanying adult).

Friday – Celebrate the reopening of the Renwick Gallery! Enjoy live music, book signings, and building tours throughout the day. Explore the opening exhibition WONDER, complete a scavenger hunt that explores the installations, and take home a souvenir print of the Renwick. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.


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Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Indoor Play, Museums, Outdoor, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays

Go Free Beyond the Smithsonian During Museum Day Live!

Visit the Newseum for FREE during Museum Day Live!

Visit the Newseum for FREE during Museum Day Live!



Free access to amazing museums is a wonderful and convenient perk of living in the DC area. But if you find yourself always opting for the Smithsonian venues over places that charge admission, you’re missing out on many collections of art, culture, science, and nature that are fascinating, beautiful, even fun!

But thanks to Smithsonian Magazine, you can check out some of those museums without spending a dime. This Saturday, September 26, is their annual Museum Day Live!, when many museums that usually charge an entrance fee will waive it for guests. All you have to do is register to get your ticket and you can visit a participating museum of your choice for free. Tickets are good for two people, and you must print it and bring with you or show it on your mobile device to receive gratis admission.

These are some of the participating area museums (that usually require a fee) that families will enjoy:

DC:
Dumbarton Oaks Gardens (KFDC review)
Kreeger Museum
National Building Museum (KFDC review)
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Newseum (KFDC review)
Tudor Place & Historic Garden

Maryland:
Annapolis Maritime Museum
Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Art Center (KFDC review)
B&O Railroad Museum
Baltimore Museum of Art
Baltimore Museum of Industry (KFDC review)
Chesapeake Children’s Museum
College Park Aviation Museum
Port Discovery Children’s Museum

Virginia:
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum
Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Discount, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Indoor Play, Maryland, Museums, Outdoor, Virginia, Weekend

Beach Fun & Fossil Hunting at Flag Ponds Nature Park

flagponds_hangingout

 

We had an incredibly busy spring. Between multiple sports, ballet, the school play, and other random commitments, it seemed like someone always needed to be somewhere — practices, games, lessons, rehearsals — and our “chill” time was rather limited.

So, I’ve decided to make up for it these first two weeks of summer break. Instead of the kids starting camp right away as they usually do when the school year ends, we’re slowing things down and, save for a couple of drop-in camp days, relishing some carefree, undemanding time together. This includes lazy, loungy mornings, heading out whenever we’re ready with no worry of being tardy. Bathing suits and towels are part of our everyday wardrobe and gear. And we’re planning fun adventures that take advantage of the season and are best enjoyed in immersive, unhurried fashion.

flagponds_view

We kicked off our stretch of leisure in the most apropos way possible: By hitting the beach, of course. And we did so with a bit of serendipity. The original plan was to visit our go-to, easy-from-DC beach destination, Bayfront Park aka Brownie’s Beach. (And here I have to confess that I’ve never posted about it because the friend that introduced me to it years ago asked me not to share with the masses, but it’s apparently become better known, and for good reason.) It’s a fantastic little spot in Chesapeake Beach, MD, with a small but nice stretch of sand, gentle shallow water, and the Calvert Cliffs edging the shoreline. But the best part is the fossil hunting. It’s one of the beaches known for shark teeth finds, and they are aplenty at Brownie’s — scoop up a handful of small shells and rocks near the water, wash away the sand, pick through, and you’re practically guaranteed to find a few small fossils in the mix.

Younger days at Brownie's Beach

Younger days at Brownie’s Beach

Anyway, when I mentioned to a friend that we were going to Brownie’s, she informed me they now charge a pretty steep admission fee for non-residents of Calvert County ($16/adult, $9/child). However, as luck would have it, my friend Rebecca at Not-So-SAHM had just posted about a visit to Flag Ponds Nature Park, also out that way. It sounded nice — the $6 per carload admission fee a big plus — so we coordinated with friends, packed up beach gear and a picnic, and headed southeast. (UPDATE: Admission is now $8/car.)

flagponds_entrance

Flag Ponds is just an hour’s drive from the city, a straight shot out Pennsylvania Avenue. Really, you drive out PA Ave., which becomes Rt. 4 (but has a several other names along the way), and stay on that until you make a left onto Flag Ponds Parkway. A park ranger at a small trailer collected the entrance fee and directed us to a parking lot up the road. Next to the lot is a Visitor Center, and while we didn’t go in, I read that it’s interesting with displays of sea, plant, and wildlife that you might find in the area.

flagponds_road

Skink sighting!

Skink sighting!

The beach is about a half-mile walk down a dirt road from the lot, so we had bit of a load to carry with a cooler and our gear. There are tables near the parking lot where you can eat, but we were set on a beach picnic. (I recommend bringing a rolling cooler and stacking the rest of your stuff on it.) The road winds through a lovely wooded area, and you can hear bird calls and maybe catch a neat wildlife sighting, like the skink we spied. Near the end of the road, a narrow boardwalk leads to the sand, and there are restrooms and a rinsing shower right before you cross to the open beach area.

flagponds_boardwalk

flagponds_beach

The beach at Flag Ponds is fairly expansive (much bigger than Brownie’s), which has its pros and cons — more to explore, but more space for wandering children. It’s quite picturesque with a wide expanse of sand, sea grass blowing along the dunes, and pond-like inlets formed by sand washing in. We initially set up near one of the ponds, but quickly realized the water was kind of mucky and full of dead crabs, so we relocated to the outer edge of the beach close to the Bay. It’s very shallow, so the kids could easily swim and play, and with lots of shells and pebbles along the shoreline, it’s good for fossil hunting.

flagponds_waterplay

flagponds_sasha

Even though it was a hot day, there was a nice breeze blowing, and swimming kept us cool. The kids had a blast playing in the water and sand and taking nature walks to collect dead crabs and an eel(!).

flagponds_crabs

Owen joined me for some fossil hunting, though I probably enjoy finding shark teeth more than my kids and spent a lot of time sitting right at the shoreline grabbing handfuls of shells and sifting through them for fossil treasures — it’s quite therapeutic! However, I only found two shark teeth, much less than I would usually find at Brownie’s, something to keep in mind if that’s your main mission.

flagponds_fossilfinding

flagponds_sharktooth

After a good few hours of sun and surf, we decided to call it a day. On the way back to the car, we encountered a park ranger, who gave us the lowdown on the trails within the park. Apparently, there are a a few gentle mile-longish hikes that lead to ponds and wind through the woods.

With a great beach day in the books, we headed back to the city, thoroughly satisfied with a terrific start to our leisurely fortnight. And it gets even better, so be sure to check back here soon…

Flag Ponds Nature Park is located at 1525 Flag Ponds Parkway in Lusby, MD. From Labor Day to Memorial Day, hours are 9am – 4pm Friday and Monday, 9am -5pm Saturday and Sunday. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, hours are 9am – 6pm weekdays, 9am – 8pm weekends. Admission is $8/car.

 

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Filed under All ages, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend