Lately, it’s been a little harder for us to plan weekend outings as a family. Saturdays and Sundays are often busy with sports, and as the kids have gotten older, they (well, mostly Owen) want to hang out with their friends more than they want to with Levi and me (why? we’re so cool!).
So, it was really nice recently when we had a long stretch of time between a morning soccer practice and an evening soccer game, and no one had anything else going on. Well, I had one small errand to run in Alexandria, so we decided to plan around that. We wanted to take advantage of the beautiful fall day and opted for a hike at Huntley Meadows Park, easily one of the best places, in my opinion, to enjoy the outdoors in that area.
Huntley Meadows Park makes for a great outing any time of year, but it’s especially lovely now as the leaves start to turn, and the weather is pleasant for walking the boardwalk that spans the beautiful wetlands.
I first learned about the park from my friend Darcy nearly a decade ago, and we have been many times since. And even in the kids’ tween and teen years, they (we) still really enjoy a visit there — hiking the trail, looking for frogs and other creatures, and taking in the beautiful scenery. Better now, though, is that we don’t have to worry about them falling in the marsh! 😉
Huntley Meadows Park is located at 3701 Lockheed Blvd in Alexandria. It’s open daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free. You can read more about it in this post. And here are more scenes from our recent visit.
I’m a big proponent for getting outdoors no matter the time of year, and when it’s a sunny, 60+ degree day during the winter, well, that’s a no-brainer. The recent spate of warmish weather around Christmas was a perfect case-in-point, and we headed to Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria to enjoy it one afternoon.
Huntley Meadows is not a new KFDC destination or recommendation; in fact, it’s included in the big outdoors list. It’s another one of those parks that exist in an unexpected place. It seems that one minute you’re driving through a typical suburban area, the next you’re in the middle of a natural haven.
There are trails, wildlife sightings, and plenty of nature to explore on the 1,425 acres of woods and wetlands throughout this park in Alexandria. Dirt trails wind through the clusters of tall trees, while a boardwalk takes you over the marshy areas, with cattail and cord grass sprouting up around it. During the warmer months, you’re practically guaranteed to spot turtles of all sizes, frogs, great blue herons, cardinals, and a variety of other birds. Keep following the boardwalk, and you’ll eventually come to a lookout, where you can take in the vistas.
The entire hike is just over a mile, and there are lookouts and benches where you can stop for breaks and snacks along the way to make it a few hours’ outing. Be sure to stop in the Visitors Center for interactive exhibits and photos of the area.
Huntley Meadows Park is located at 3701 Lockheed Blvd in Alexandria. It’s open daily from dawn to dusk, and the Visitors Center is open every day but Tuesday 11am – 4pm from December 1 – February 28, and 9am – 5pm weekdays the rest of the year (weekend hours vary so be sure to check the schedule). Admission is free.
Tuesday – Head to the National Children’s Museum Launch Zone for Toddler Tuesday. This week, toddlers ages 2-4 can drop in from 10:30am – 2:30pm to discover which animals hibernate and which animals can stand the cold. Activities may include stories, games, art, and movement for children and adults to experience together. Admission is free. The Launch Zone is located at the National Harbor.
Wednesday – Explore seasonal nature topics through stories, crafts, and activities at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria. There are still spots available in the Nature Detective program for 3-5-year-olds. The class starts at 1:30pm. (A few spots are also open in the Thursday sessions.)
Thursday – See Mouse on the Move at Imagination Stage in Bethesda. The show about two adventurous mice ready to explore the world beyond their little mouse hole is recommended for ages 1-5. Showtimes are 10:30am and 11:45am, tickets are $10.
Scoping the wetlands for wildlife at Huntely Meadows Park
For some of us, this is the last week of summer break before school starts up again. Where did the time go? It’s been a great summer for us, pieced together by camps, our own fun outings, vacation, and a few neat ventures, which I plan to share soon. In the meantime, enjoy these final days of summer with the kids.
Here are ideas for where to do that this week, August 15-19:
Monday – Kiddie rides, carnival games, pig races, farm animals, fried dough… If you didn’t make it to one of the county fairs this weekend, you can still get in on the fun at the Montgomery County Fair, which runs through Saturday. More info is available here, and you can also read a KFDC review of last year’s fair.
Tuesday – It’s Art à la Cart at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Kids ages 7 – 12 are encouraged to exercise their creativity with brushes and palettes, bison horns, bottle caps, quilt squares, and more tools available in interactive carts among the galleries from 1-4pm. Admission is free.
Wednesday – Visit the animals at the National Zoo and be sure to check the daily calendar to see when you can catch feedings, elephant training demos, kids’ farm talks, and more. Later on, take the little ones to a special Baby Loves Disco happy hour at the Rock & Roll Hotel. The dancing fun starts at 5pm; admission is $20/person or $60/four people.
Thursday – Go for a summer wagon ride at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria. Naturalists lead passengers on 90-minute excursions at 9:30am and 5pm–register to ride online ($6/county residents, $8/non-resident). If those times don’t work, explore the woods and wetlands on your own (for free). Turtle, bird, frog, and butterfly sightings are practically guaranteed.
Friday – It’s a Family Fair in Georgetown at Tudor Place and Dumbarton House, where guests can enjoy the end of summer with crafts, games, and sweet treats. Register in advance online; admission is $8/member children, $10/non-member children, $5/accompanying adult.
Baseball, theatre, and museum programs are heavy hitters in the special events arena this weekend. Indoor play, folklife, and berry picking make a showing too. Here’s the scoop on all of them, plus links to even more ideas for ongoing family recreation. Happy Weekend!
Nationals Game Days – The Nats are busy guys this weekend! Not only will they be greeting guests at the museum, they’re also hosting the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Tickets are still available for both games.
Portrait Story Days – The baseball theme continues at the National Portrait Gallery as they host their ongoing program for kids. Drop in to listen to a story about a person who has influenced American history and culture and to create a special piece of art. On Saturday and Sunday from 2-5pm, learn about baseball legend Jackie Robinson.
Stories in Art – One of my favorite museum programs for children begins on Sunday. The National Gallery of Art’s summer drop-in program welcomes kids ages 4-7 to explore Dutch art through storytelling, gallery tours, and hands-on projects. Sessions are hourly starting at 11:30am. Sign-up begins at 11am in the West Building Rotunda, and space is limited. For more details on the program and tips on signing up, see this post from earlier in the week.
Come Play on Capitol Hill – The Playseum is coming to DC! Yes, Barracks Row on Capitol Hill is getting another new business that families will love. Doors open on Saturday for a sneak peak (the Grand Opening is July 14), and all are welcome to check out the new space from 9am – 5pm. Admission will be free all day, though there will be small fees for other optional activities and crafts. The new location is at 545 8th Street SE. While you’re on the corridor, stop by thew new Hello Cupcake or 32 Below for a sweet treat.
Hiking at Huntley Meadows – Our family visited Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria for the first time last weekend and had a fantastic time exploring the woods and wetlands. Wildlife sightings were abundant as we hiked along the paved, dirt, and boardwalk trails. Spotting turtles of all sizes became a game for the kids, and we also saw frogs, great blue herons, cardinals, and a variety of other birds. The entire hike is just over a mile, but we stopped at lookouts and benches to snack along the way to make it a few hours’ outing. A longer review of the park will come soon, but the gist is that I highly recommend it. Don’t forget sunscreen, hats, and water, as there’s no shade through the wetlands section of the park. Get directions to the Huntley Meadows here.
Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods – If you can’t make it to Wolf Trap’s wonderful summer theatre series during the week, you can catch it Saturdays at 10am. This week Hobey Ford’s Golden Rod Puppets and Robbie Schaefer will take the outdoor stage. Tickets are $8/ages 3 and up (free for 2 an under) and include both shows. Read a review of the series posted earlier this week.
Celebrate Folklife – The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is continuing its celebration on the National Mall through July 11. Enjoy exhibits, activities, demos, and workshops that focus on the nature of Colombia, 50 years of the Peace Corps, and Rhythm & Blues music in the United States. Festival hours are 11am – 5:30pm with special performances taking place later most evenings.
Theatre Fun for the Littlest Ones – Imagination Stage hosts Sunday Fun-Days for kids ages 1-5 at 10:30am. The lessons in multi-sensory play are centered around children’s books, this week is “What Makes a Rainbow.” Sessions are $10, register in advance online. The Puppet Co. will also have performances for the youngest audiences (ages 0-4) at their Tiny Tots series this weekend. Penguins Playground is will be performed on Saturday, and Old MacDonald Farm on Sunday. Showtime for both is 10am. Tickets are $5 and available for purchase online or at the box office.
Take Your Pick – Head to a local farm to harvest some summer produce. Berries and peaches are the main crops ready for picking, but other fruits and veggies are available at a few spots. This post lists local farms that welcome visitors to pick their own, and it doesn’t hurt to check websites or call ahead to make sure you’re favorites are ripe.