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Fun Ways to Celebrate Father’s Day Around DC

All adoring eyes on dad this weekend

 

It’s a special day for the dads this coming weekend, and there are a bunch of great ways for the whole fam to celebrate if you’re still looking for ideas. This round-up has a variety of suggestions, with something to suit every honoree. Happy Father’s Day!

Take Dad Out to the Ballgame
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront & Shaw, DC
When: June 16-19
Admission: Ticket prices vary

For Dads who are Nats fans, take them to the ballpark for a game against the Phillies. They are hosting them Thursday through Sunday, so if the actual Father’s Day doesn’t work, you’ve got your pick of other days — and there are special promos and activities on some of them, including Ryan Zimmerman’s retirement ceremony on Saturday.

Walk in the Woods
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by locale

Celebrate the day and dad on the trail.  Tramp in places with scenic views, walk and explore history at interesting locales, try to spot wild creatures, and enjoy a day of active fun. Bring along a picnic for lunch al fresco, too. This go-to KFDC post has a bunch of recommendations for good places to hit the trail with kids.

Hike+
Where: Around the DC area
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by place

Just mentioned above, but these specific recommendations for hikes are great if you want to extend the day to include food and drinks to celebrate, too.  A few awesome combos for that: Sky Meadows State Park and Barrel Oak WinerySugarloaf Mountain and The Comus Inn or Sugarloaf Mountain VineyardGreat Falls (MD side) and The Old Angler’s InnPatapsco Valley State Park and the Guinness Brewery.

Free Beer!
Where: All Purpose Pizza | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: June 19
Admission: Cost of your meal

According to All-Purpose Pizza, “all he wants is a hot slice (or 5) and a cold beer, trust us … we know.” Both their Riverfront and Shaw restaurants will have their respective brunch menus on offer; even better, they are gifting dads with a pint of their DC Brau collab, Full Count Lager — on the house!  And their brunch is delicious — trust me.  Make a reservation here

Columbia Pike Blues Fest & Juneteenth Walk
Where: Arlington, VA
When: June 18-19
Admission: Free (some activities are extra)

If your honoree likes the blues, take him to the annual Columbia Pike Blues Festival. Starting on Saturday at 1pm and going through Sunday, the event will feature performances by many local blues bands and artists along with more family-friendly activities. Interact with the Arlington Art Truck, and enjoy food, beverages, arts, and a KidsZone. On Sunday, join a Historic Juneteenth Walk through the neighborhood in collaboration with the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington and Walk Arlington from 9-10am, visit the Columbia Pike Farmers Market for the live performance of Rick Franklin, followed by a special “Blues Brunch Menu” at Café Sazó. Close the weekend with a free screening of the musical-comedy The Blues Brothers at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse at 3pm.

Father’s Day Fish-a- Rama
Where: Great Country Farms | Bluemont, VA
When: June 19
Admission: $15/child, $17/adult

Treat Dad to a fun-filled weekend with BBQ and catch-and-release fishing. Guests can compete in the Fish-a-Rama contest, fishing for catfish, bass, and blue gill in the stocked ponds, and prizes are on the line for the largest fish hooked from 9am – 2pm. Bring your own pole and gear to fish (no drag hooks). GCF has worms for purchase in the country store. The amusement continues on the five-acre farm-style playground featuring the Giant Jumping Pillow, Triple Threat slide, corn bin, animal barnyard, and loads more fun for all.

Food & Drink Filled Festivities
Where: Around the DC Area
When: June 19
Admission: Cost of your meal

You really can’t go wrong with plans focused around food and drink, and there are a bunch of restaurants and other places around DC that are offering something special for the big day, from Juneteenth-inspired menus to five-course feasts to whiskey evenings to meals that you can pick up and enjoy at home.  This Washingtonian article has a great round-up of them.  And if you just want to go out for a good, fun meal with the fam, here are a few of my recs:  Ivy City Smokehouse, The Salt Line, Lupo Marino, Cactus Cantina, and Farmers Fishers Bakers, and Tabard Inn. Be sure to make reservations.

Fun in the Trees
Where: Adventure Park at Sandy Spring
When: Ongoing
Admission: Starts at $42

For adventurous dads who love the outdoors, particularly being in the trees, an afternoon in the aerial adventure forest of the Adventure Park at Sandy Springs is the perfect way to spend the day — it is hands down the best aerial ropes course in the area.  There are still some tickets available for Sunday, but if you can’t score them for that day, think Father’s Day gift and reserve for another day! (FYI: This is one of our favorite adventures in the area — read more about it here.)

Juneteenth Freedom Celebration
Where: National Harbor, | Oxon Hill, MD
When: June 19, 2-4pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate dad and Juneteenth at National Harbor, where there will be performances on the Plaza stage from the Prince George’s County Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate, local dancers, live music, artists, and more. The property is partnering with the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council for a day of education, reflection and celebration. Food truck Mardi Gras Tyme will add to the festivities and offer a variety of southern cuisine samples, plus there are dozens of nearby restaurants. And there are even more fun activities to enjoy at National Harbor — read more about all of them here.

Thee Phantom and the Illharmonic Orchestra
Where: Wolf Trap | Vienna, VA
When: June 19
Admission: $27

This show family-friendly show celebrating Juneteenth is a great evening activity on dad’s big day. Hip-hop and classical music collide when Thee Phantom and The Illharmonic Orchestra come to Wolf Trap for a special performance. The all-star lineup features some of the most outstanding Black orchestral musicians from across the country performing works by Beethoven, Donny Hathaway, Jay-Z, Rossini, Wu-Tang Clan, Mozart, Mary J Blige, and William Grant Still.

Take Dad Out to the Minors
Where: Prince George’s Stadium | Bowie, MD
When: Throughout Father’s Day weekend
Admission: Starts at $16

The Nats aren’t the only team in town for some Father’s Day baseball. The Bowie Baysox, one of the local minor league teams, are hosting the Binghamton Rumble Ponies all weekend, and there’s extra fun and special promos to enjoy — post-game fireworks, a Roberto Clemente Latin celebration on Saturday, and giveaways among them.

Go With the Flow
Where: Around the DC area
Admission: Varies by locale

Spend quality time with the man of the hour on the water, where you can paddle and explore. A bunch of places around the area rent kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and pontoons. Fletcher’s Boathouse is a popular place to go.   The Wharf is a great starting place for a paddling excursion.  Quiet Waters Park showcases beautiful nature in Annapolis that you can view from the South River. Bladensburg Waterfront Park also has vessels for rent for a great all-day deal.  And if you want to go a little bigger, consider a Solomons Island pontoon boat rental (the post is about a Mother’s Day excursion, but can obvi be for Father’s Day, too).  For even more recommendations, see this round-up of places for recreation on the water.

Disc Golfin’
Where: Parks Around the DC Area
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by locale (usually FREE)

Celebrate the day by hitting the links, the chain links, that is! Disc golf is a great way to savor a day outdoors with the family.  This post has info about our favorite in College Park, and there are also great courses at Patapsco Valey State Park in MD,  Pohick Bay Regional Park in Lorton, VA,  Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, MD, and Burke Lake Park in Burke, VA. Not only is it fun and challenging, the courses are set up in pretty parks with opportunities for more recreation at all of them. Bring along a picnic for lunch in the fresh air, too.

A Grand Feast
Where: Crab houses around the area
When: Ongoing
Admission: Cost of your meal

Steamed crabs, cold beer, scenic views… that’s a recipe for a great Father’s Day for at least one dad I know. The 2022 Summer Guide has several suggestions on where to feast on Maryland’s best dish. I recommend making reservations if possible — this is always a popular way to celebrate.

 

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The 2022 KFDC Guide to Summer Around the DC Area

 

It’s time to bring back the annual guide to summer around the DC area!  I’ve mentioned before that this has always been one of my favorite posts to put together for a couple of reasons:  It reflects that wonderful shift from structured days to carefree time.  And it’s a reminder of all the summer fun to be had around the area, some of it back this year for the first time since the pandemic (and a few things still TBA so be sure to check back for updates).  Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer, so bookmark this post and start making plans. The 2022 KFDC Guide to the Best of Summer Around the DC Area has details and inspiration to help you get going.  Happy Summer!

 

* * * * *

Play in the Sprays
Outdoor Pool Season
Beaches
Waterparks
Big Screen Under the Stars
Summer Concerts
Festivals
Seasonal Exhibits
Special Entertainment
Mini Trains, Carousels, Mini Golf, & a Ferris Wheel
Summer Sports
Crab Feasts
Seasonal Experiences

 

Cool off in the sprays at Canal Park

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!

DC DPR Spray Parks will be open for the season daily starting Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 28, through September 5, 10am – 8pm. Find locations — there are a bunch of them around the city — and see them all on a 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. [Note: The water features are currently closed due to mechanical issues.]

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.

The Wharf in Southwest DC re-opened its in-ground fountain for the first time since the pandemic.  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.

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, and Drew 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.

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 12, then daily June 13 – August 21, then only weekends again through September 5.

Potomac Yard Park, among the many city of Alexandria parks, has an interactive in-ground fountain that kids can play in — along th a couple of playgrounds and many other recreational features.  Even better, you can plan to do some shopping at he nearby Target while you’re out that way.

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.

 

That first jump into summer fun

OUTDOOR POOL SEASON
Nothing says summer like swimming under the sun, and there are plenty of public pools in the area where you can jump in for free or a small admission fee.

DC outdoor public pools will open on Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 28. They’ll operate on a weekend-only schedule (Saturday & Sunday) through  June 26. Starting Monday, June 27, 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 28 through Labor Day — the Department of Recreation website has locations and hours.

In Northern Virginia, Arlington’s Upton Hill has a whole water park for guests to enjoy, and Alexandria has several places where the public is welcome to swim — check the City of Alexandria website for hours, as they vary by pool. But note that all outdoor public pools will open June 26.

 Swimply, an online service that started last year, lets you search for private pools to rent. You can find pools at residences all over and pay to use them by the hour.

 

Sand, swimming, and fossil hunting at the Purse Area in Charles County, MD

BEACHES
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 nice 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, $7/non-resident on weekend, and $4/ Maryland resident, $6/non-resident on 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 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.

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.

Dirty Dave’s Tiki Bar on Kent Island has a great beach area., where you can reserve spots on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays..  Don’t let the name fool ya, it’s family-friendly and very fun.  The beach is right behind Kentmorr, the excellent crab house, so if you plan well, you can make a day of it there with some beach time and a crab feast!  You can hang and enjoy fare from Dave’s. Be sure to read details — pricing, hours, rules, etc. — on the website.

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.

 

Make splash at Soak City in Kings Dominion

Make a splash at Soak City in Kings Dominion

WATERPARKS
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
* Soak City Water Park at Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA
* Water Country USA at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA

 

Sit back, relax, and enjoy a film outdoors at the Union Market Drive-in

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 monthly on Fridays throughout the summer, with several family-friendly films in the mix. This year, they are are skipping the dramas in favor of action, comedy and cult classics. Get there as early as 6pm and have a bite to eat in the Market or bring food back to your car. The film starts at 8:30pm. Admission is $20/car, free for walk-ins. Advance purchase is recommended. Runs through October.

National Harbor’s Movies on the Potomac series is back through the September 30. 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.

Adams Morgan Movie Nights  is back with free mnovies on Tuesday evenings from May 24 – June 21 with “The Road Less Traveled”  theme, showing movies that find the heroes on a quest. 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 monthly from May 27 – September 30.  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 —  June 2, June 30, July 28, and August 25 — all of them family-friendly.

At the Navy Memorial Plaza (7th & Pennsylvania Ave NW) catch Movies on the Memorial on Thursday evenings June 2 – September 1.  The series of Navy-themed films pay tribute to our rich maritime heritage.

Golden Triangle BID will host GLDN+ CINEMA on Thursdays in Farragut Square (17th & K, NW),  June 2-23.  The family-friendly films begin at sunset.

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 will take place monthly at Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill, on June 3, July 1, August 5, and September 2.

The Library of Congress will host its fifth annual Summer Movies on the Lawn on Thursday evenings in July and August 4. Films will begin at sundown on the southeast lawn of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building.

Films at the Stone hosts monthly screenings (June 16, July 21, & August 250 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Georgetown Sunset Cinema is back with movies on Tuesdays from August 2 – September 6 starting at 8:30-8:45 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.

 

Friday Night Concerts return to the Yards Park boardwalk this summer

SUMMER CONCERTS
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.

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 20, and there will be weekly shows through July22. 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.

At the Bear Square Summer Concert Series at The Station at Riverdale, dance the night away and welcome the warmer season every Friday from 5-7pm from May 27 – June 24.

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.

The U.S. Navy Band returns for its summer Concert on the Avenue Series at the Navy Memorial on Tuesdays, May 31 – August 16 at 7:30pm. All performances are free and open to the public.

Wednesday at The Wharf will feature free weekly concerts on Transit Pier every Wednesday evening at 7pm. R&B, Americana, Motown, Jazz, Reggae, Go-go, Country, and your favorite pop covers will be among the sounds you can hear June 1 – August 31.

Friday Night Concerts at Yards Park will be back  for its 12th season from June 10 – July 29! 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.

NaLa Fridays at the Park will bring live music and food trucks to Long Bridge Park at National Landing (formerly Crystal City, VA). Catch a concert every Friday from June 10 – October 5, 5-8pm.

On weekends, head to Tysons Corner Center for Live at the Plaza, where you can enjoy music Fridays & Saturdays, 6-8pm,  and Sundays, 5-7pm, featuring acoustic music spanning a variety of genres or a DJ playing popular hits.

Enjoy music Live from the Lawn at Strathmore on Wednesday evenings from July 13 – August 24.  (They also have Cool Concerts for Kids on select Thursdays!)

Glen Echo Park’s 2022 Summer Concerts Series presents free live music in the historic Bumper Car Pavilion, featuring a variety of local bands and musical genres, from country to reggae, swing to Latin jazz, African to Cajun and blues. Dates/times TBA!

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.

 

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival will be back in person on the National Mall!

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.

Awesome Con, the Mid-Atlantic’s premier pop culture convention, takes place June 3-5 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.

The 40th Annual Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park June 4-5 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.

Celebrate Capital Pride during the month of June, especially June 11-12 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.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival will be back in person this year (hurrah!) June 22-27 and June 30 – July 4.  Every summer (well, except for the past two), 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 United Arab Emirates and Earth Optimism this year, get ready for all kinds exhibits, demonstrations, live performances, talks, food, markets, and much more!

Attend one of the biggest summer barbeques around June 25-26 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.

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 pretty big. It starts with the National Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue — back for the first time in two years! Then, this year more festivities will take place at the Salute to America event by the Lincoln Memorial, the A Capitol Fourth concert at the U.S. Capitol, and fireworks at West Potomac Park.

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  features traditional Asian and African dancing and drumming, gardening workshops, park tours, arts & crafts, and other family-friendly pursuits. This year the festival will take place over several weekends in July to better manage a return to in-person (follow previous link for activities on each date). View scenes from a previous bloom here.

It might run into fall, but it starts August 27, 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 herehere, herehereherehere, 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.

 

Make a wish at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden

SEASONAL EXHIBITS
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.

While it’s not exclusively a summer exhibit, One with Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection is 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, has returned once again. 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, and in 2019 we hung out on the LAWN.  This year, Shakespeare joins the mix at The Playhouse. Presented in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library, it will feature an Elizabethan-inspired festival stage in the cool comfort of the museum’s Great Hall. From July 1 – September 5, guests will be able to enjoy Shakespearean activities like stage combat demos and hands-on fun during the day, and in the evenings, there will be performances of the enchanting A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (PS: If you think Shakespeare and kids don’t mix, think again! Read about some of our experiences with it here and here.)

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, invites you to “walk alongside African kings and queens as you explore timeless questions of identity, power, and belonging” at Aṣẹ: Afro Frequencies. Experience it June 11 – September 6. Admission is $16-20/adult, $8-10/12 & under.

Immersive cinematic exhibition at the National Geographic Museum’s Beyond King Tut, which takes visitors on a journey to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. The exhibition celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. It runs June 17, 2022 – February 6, 2023. Tickets are $20/adult, $12/age 2-12, $16/student, military, senior, & educator.

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 long 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!

 

A setting as great as the entertainment at Children's Theatre in the Woods

Entertainment especially for kids at Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods

Special Entertainment
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 May 24 – 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.

From late June through early August, 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 June 18, Arts in the Parks, a free children’s entertainment series from Fairfax County Park Authority on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10am.  Catch shows at Burke Lake Park, Frying Pan Farm Park, EC Lawrence Amphitheater, Mason District, and Waterfield Park.

Tysons Corner Center will get little ones grooving on The Plaza  at the Kids Summer Concert Series on the second Wednesday of the month. These take place mid-mornings on June 8, July 13, Aug 10, and Sept 14.

The Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse is back and offering fun $1 films for kids every Wednesday from June 15 – August 3. Check the schedule to see what’s playing at a theater near you!

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (now in NoMa as well as Loudoun and Woodbridge!) welcomes families to Kids Camp, a movie series that is inexpensive ($5) and benefits local charities, to boot.

Shakespeare Theater Company is bringing back the brilliant Potted Potter – The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff , that condenses all seven Harry Potter books into one hilarious and clever show. It runs June 29 – July 17 at Sidney Harman Hall.  Tickets are $49.75-99.75.  Read a KFDC review of the show!

UniverSoul Circus, the world-class, live entertainment attraction is coming back to National Harbor June 30 – July 24.  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.

Strathmore is hosting Cool Concerts for Kids on Thursdays July 14, July 28 August 11 at 7pm.

See a Shakespeare play in the park! The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is bringing back its annual Shakespeare in the Ruins at the picturesque Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, MD. Much Ado About Nothing will run June 17 – July 24.  Tickets are $54/adult, $27/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!

 

Give the National Harbor carousel an unlimited whirl!

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 Miniature Train 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 30 (Memorial Day), July 4 (closes at 4pm) & September  (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 back in April, and will run on weekends through September 10am – 6pm. Rides are $2.50. 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 $2.50.  Plan to stay and play at the super fun Wheaton playground — read more about it here.

The beautiful historic Dentzel Carousel is celebrating its 101st season at Glen Echo Park. Plan to go for a spin before or after a show at Adventure Theatre or The Puppet Co. From May through August, 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 31 on weekdays 9:30am – 1pm and weekends 9:30am – 6:30pm. Cost is $3/weekdays, $4/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 start at $15. 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 11:20am – 5:40pm, the carousel 11:25am -5:25pm, 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 $3-4, train rides are $4-5, mini golf is $7-9.

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.

Tee up at several NoVa Parks that have mini golf courses. Cameron RunUpton HillPohick Bay, and Algonkian Regional Parks all welcome guests to putt around.  Cost is $5/age 12 & under, $6/13+. Check websites for hours a each park.

Ride the Chesapeake Bay-themed carousel at Lee District Family Rec Area in Alexandria. Open daily through August 29 — hours are 11am – 6pm Monday/Tuesday/Thursday, 11am – 5pm Wednesday, and 9am – 6pm Saturday/Sunday.  Cost is $3 per ride on Fridays, $4 per ride weekends & holidays.

 

Show your Spirit for women’s soccer!

SUMMER SPORTS
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, will have several 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 30 – August 7.

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!

 

 

Maryland’s finest

CRAB FEASTS
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.
* Enjoy great crabs and an awesome beach area at Kentmorr.
* The Jetty on Kent Narrows has crabs, scenic views, and a fun beachy vibe.
* In Baltimore, Bo Brooks on the Canton Waterfront is popular.
* 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.

 

Take to the high Chesapeake seas for a pirate adventure!

SEASONAL EXPERIENCES
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.

Join Anacostia Riverkeeper and Earth Conservation Corps on Friday evenings From July 9 – August 27 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.

 

Have I left out anything really good? If you think so, let me know in the comments below!

 

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Filed under 2022, DC, Maryland, Seasonal, Summer, Virginia

Where to Go & What to Do During Spring Break 2022

 

Spring Break has begun in the DC area, so you may be in need of some extra reminders of all the great activities there are to do around the area to keep your kids entertained over the next few weeks — depending on when they’re off from school. And if some of this sounds familiar, that’s because a version of this post has been published in many previous years, but it’s been updated to reflect what’s going on now.

Many of the ideas here are already on the blog, but sometimes a little guidance for what’s best at certain times helps. Among these recommendations are special and seasonal activities,  exhibits and shows that are currently running, and outings that take advantage of the (usually) great spring weather.

And, of course, the rest of the blog is full of 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!) happy during the week off — or on, depending how you look at it. Happy Spring Break!

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Filed under 2022, DC, Maryland, Seasonal, Spring, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Celebrate Black History Month Around the DC Area (2022)

A recent family visit to the National Museum of African American History & Culture

 

February is Black History Month, and there are so many great events and activities throughout the DC area to celebrate it. Museum programs (including an entire museum), special events, tours and exhibits, and more will be enlightening and fun for all ages. Here’s where many are happening over the next few weeks.

African American History & Culture
Where: NMAAHC | National Mall, DC
When: Ongoing | Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free

The National Museum of African American History & Culture may just be the best place to learn about Black history and culture in America, covering everything from early slave trading to modern day achievements by Black people.  If you’ve never been, this month is a great, meaningful time to go.  And if you have been, there is so much to be gleaned, teach to kids, contemplate, and celebrate, you can never visit too much — we’ve been many times over the years, most recently on MLK Day.  It’s a huge museum with a lot of exhibits to navigate, some of them very heavy and somber, so be sure to read the KFDC Guide to visiting the museum with kids before you go. Free, timed-entry passes are required, and they are available online here.  You can reserve in advance or try for same-day tickets — a limited number are released day-of beginning at 8:15am.

Museum & Memorial Tour
Where: African American Civil War Museum | Shaw, DC
When: Ongoing | Monday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Take a tour of another museum dedicated to the contributions of more than 200,000 members of the United States Colored Troops. The African American Civil War Museum tells the stories of the historic roles these brave men played in ending slavery and keeping America united under one flag. A collection of artifacts and documents, plus primary sources and technology create a meaningful learning experience for visitors about the period from the American Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond. Be sure to stop by the nearby African American Civil War Memorial, too.

Hike the Underground Railroad Experience Trail
Where: Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park | Sandy Spring, MD
When: Daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: Free

A great outing with kids during Black History Month (or anytime), this hike offers insight into the experience of enslaved peoples’ escape to freedom. The walk through woods and along edges of fields (with a map and explanation of the hike) is interesting and enlightening as well as an active, Covid-safe way to spend time outdoors.  On February 19, Woodlawn Manor will be hosting a special Black History Month Family Day, when you ca stop in the Visitors Center to pick up take-home activities for kids as well as a trail map (though you can also print that out at home if you go a different day).

Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Ongoing | Wednesday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes

This exhibit about Rosa Parks goes well beyond her famous stance of not giving up her seat on the bus. Learn about Parks’ early life and family as well as her activism and achievements through a variety of displays, including photographs, old documents, newspaper clippings, and rarely seen materials. Find it in the gallery just beyond the Thomas Jefferson Library on the second floor.

Library Programs
Where: Public Libraries throughout DC
When: Throughout February
Admission: Free

The DC Public Library proudly celebrates Black History Month during February with all kinds of offerings for kids of all ages. Pick up craft and STEM kits, coloring pages, and maps to help you explore Black history in DC.  Join virtual story times. Catch a flick in the Black Love Film Series (recommend for adults, but teens could likely join, too). Visit the website to see what activities are being offered at each library.

Visit BLM Plaza
Where: 16th Street NW | Downtown DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

The two blocks along 16th Street NW, between K Street and Lafayette Park just across from the White House, was emboldened with the giant yellow BLACK LIVES MATTER statement in the summer of 2020 as the BLM movement began to swell after the murder of George Floyd. It’s since been repainted and become permanent.  The pedestrian area is now a site of historic significance in DC, a meeting place and focal point of protests and other events, and a location providing good context for a conversation with kids about BLM.

Tour Memorials
Where: Several locations in DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Tour some memorials around the city that highlight notable African Americans and related historic events. Head to the MLK Memorial at the Tidal Basin, where you can view the grand sculpture of Dr. King and read some of his most inspiring quotes engraved in surrounding walls. From there, head to the Lincoln Memorial, where even more MLK words, “I Have a Dream” are etched into the steps where he gave his famous speech. In the Shaw neighborhood, the African American Civil War Memorial honors the service and sacrifice of soldiers and sailors who served in the U.S. Army and Navy.  On Capitol Hill, the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park isa tribute to the civil rights leader.

Visit the Grounds of Frederick Douglass’ Estate 
Where: Frederick Douglass Historic Site | Anascostia, DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: $1

Visit the Frederick Douglass Historic Site in Anacostia.  While the Visitor Center and Cedar Hill remain closed, the grounds are open on Fridays and Saturdays for the public to explore.  Since no tours are currently being offered, get background on Douglass’ life and the estate before you visit to discuss with kids while you’re there.

Discover Women’s Landmarks
Where: Various locations around the DC area
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

The Wander Women Project, which maps the HerStories of worldwide wonder women, has a round-up of places honoring pioneer black women in the DC area area (and slightly further). This includes museums, memorials, call boxes, and online exhibits — both indoor and outdoor sites, so there are plenty to visit without Covid worries.

Black History in Alexandria
Where: Throughout Alexandria, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by activity

There are a few major projects and programs that highlight Black history experiences throughout Alexandria. Walk along the Duke Street Black History Trail. Or hop in the car for a Black History Driving Tour.  Manumission Tour Company also offers an Underground Railroad-themed tour.

Black History with PG Parks
Where: Sites around PG County, MD & Online
When: Through February
Admission: Varies by location

Celebrate and honor African American heritage with the PG County park system during Black History Month in February. From performances to history lessons to tours, there are a lot of exciting events and activities planned both in person at locations throughout Prince George’s County and online.

Celebrate with Dance
Where: Maryland Youth Ballet In Person & Online
When: Throughout February
Admission: Varies by event

To celebrate Black History Month, Maryland Youth Ballet is presenting virtual and in-person masterclasses, plus performances and talks led by black dance artists. It will bring together numerous dancers, choreographers, and teaching artists from throughout the metropolitan DC region as well as nationally to celebrate and recognize the culture and contributions of Black people in dance. Events will take place at various locations around the DC area and online — see the website for specifics.

African Americans at Walney Walking Tour
Where: Ellanor C. Lawrence Park | Chantilly, VA
When: February 5, 11am – 12pm
Admission: $8

The Fairfax County Park Authority regularly offers programs for families, and during February, there are a few that focus on Black History. During this one, hear the names and stories of many African American families who lived and worked at Walney. Learn about slave tenancy and hear stories of resistance and survival.

Black History in the Kid’s Room
Where: Maryland Science Center | Baltimore, MD
When: Throughout February
Admission: $19.95/age 3-12, $25.95/adult

All through February, the Maryland Science Center is celebrating Black History Month with activities to celebrate the achievements of black scientists in their Kid’s Room. This area of the children’s museum is dedicated to young children and learning through play. Check the Kid’s Room schedule on the door during your visit to see what activities are planned for the day. Read more about the Maryland Science Center in this recent post by KFDC writer Emily Moise and this one from when my kids were little.

The Slave Memorial
Where: Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: $20/adult, $12/ages 6-11, free/5 & under

Make a point to see this on a visit to George Washington’s estate. The memorial is located approximately 50 yards southwest of George and Martha Washington’s tomb, on a bluff above the Potomac River. A gray, truncated, granite column which represents “life unfinished” is the center of three concentric brick circles. The three steps leading up to the column are inscribed, respectively, “Faith,” “Hope” and “Love” — the virtues that sustained those living in bondage.

Show What You Know: African American Inventors
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When:  February 5
Admission: $19.95

Head to the children’s museum in Baltimore for all kinds of kid play, including this fun game being offered during February: Test your knowledge in this museum floor game show. Match and learn about famous inventions from African American men and women throughout history. Play with others for the chance to win multiple prizes! Read more about Port Discovery in this recent post.

Young Portrait Explorers
Where: National Portrait Gallery Online
When: February 9, 16, & 23, 11-11:30am
Admission: Free

Join the National Portrait Gallery virtually for this program geared toward toddler and preschoolers up to age 5.  Learn about African Americans who have made significant contributions to society as you take a close look at their portraits — Michelle Obama on February 9, Barack Obama on February 16, and George Washington Carver on February 23,  Movement and art-making are part of the sessions, too! Register in advance for each session.

Black History Month Sneaker Exhibition
Where: Sole Wash | Capitol Hill, DC
When: February 19-20, 5-8pm
Admission: $35

Sole Wash “Sneaker Laundry” is hosting its Annual Sneaker Exhibit highligting the rise of sneakers within black films, sports, hip-hop music, fashion, and more. Make an evening of it if you go — the sneaker cleaning and restoration business is located on Barracks Row near a bevy of family-friendly restaurants.

 

*Do you know of a Black History Month event or activity that you don’t see listed here?  Feel free to share in the comments!

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

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