Tag Archives: Northern Virginia Outdoor Activities

Outdoor & Indoor Play at Potomac Overlook Regional Park

All geared up with walking sticks for the 300-meter “trek” to the park’s Nature Center


It’s a small blogging world around here.  And I experienced it firsthand on a visit to Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington a couple of weeks ago.  I got the idea to go there from No Monsters in My Bed when a friend and I were looking for a new place to take our little ones to play outside on a nice day.  Then, upon our arrival at the playground right next to the small parking area, I saw some familiar faces, adorable little ones that I recognized from Not-So-SAHM. It turned out their mom, Rebecca, and I both ended up at the park on the recommendation of Darcy (who writes No Monsters).  What can I say… great minds think alike. 😉

Not only was it neat to run into one of my blogging compadres, it was also helpful — she had been there a while and gave me the lowdown on what to see and do at the park (read her review here), which included trail hikes and the Nature Center.  Since the kids were already immersed in playground action, we hung out there before venturing further.

The playground is pretty simple — a small area containing a log tree house with a small climbing wall, a steep and fast slide, and a double slide; picnic tables; and a couple of random exercise apparatus — but it kept the kids entertained for quite awhile.



We finally convinced the kids to move on by asking them if they wanted to see some animals; we knew from talking to Rebecca that there were live (and alive-looking) creatures on exhibit at the Nature Center, just a 300-meter walk down the road from the playground.

Once inside, the kids immediately stopped to ogle an exhibit (not live) near the entrance. From there, we headed downstairs to see the turtles and snakes in terrariums before entering the Kids Cave, a small room full of hands-on nature-related activities.

Checking out an exhibit at the Potomac Overlook Park Nature Center

Checking out an exhibit at the Potomac Overlook Park Nature Center

Hello, Mr. Snake

Hello, Mr. Snake

Kids in the Cave

Kids in the Cave

When we left the Nature Center, we saw a sign for the live bird exhibit, so we walked up a short path to see a couple of owls and a hawk.  A park ranger explained they had been rescued, but their injuries prevented them from being released back into the wild, so they’re now permanent residents of the park.


Wishing for pizza lunch!

Wishing for pizza lunch!

By that time, we were all hungry and decided to head to nearby Italian Store (one of our all-time family faves!) and save a hike for another visit.

There definitely will be one, as Potomac Overlook  is one to put on the go-to list for an easy and free outing, both outdoors and in.

Potomac Overlook Regional Park is located at 2845 N. Marcey Road in Arlington (directions here). Hours are 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Saturday, and 1–5pm Sunday, closed on Monday.



Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Free, Indoor Play, Outdoor, Park, Play, Spring, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Take Me to the River Farm

Enjoying the last of spring break at River Farm


For the last day of spring break, I decided to do something new with the kids: A visit to the American Horticultural Society’s River Farm.  It wasn’t a new venture for lack of trying; we attempted the outing on a Sunday a couple of months ago, only to learn upon arrival that it’s not open on weekends October through March. So, with both kids home at the same time for the last day in awhile, we headed out to Alexandria to explore the grounds, gardens, and estate house of the AHS headquarters.

River Farm is located just off the GW Parkway on the way to Mount Vernon, right along the Potomac River.  It’s quite easy to find as long as you keep an eye out for the turn off the Parkway (we missed it our first time out there).  East Boulevard Drive leads right to the front gates, and from there you drive up a short road, loop around the orchard, then park in a small lot.

Right next to the lot is a teaching and demonstration garden, which also contains a donation box — admission to River Farm is free, but donations are welcome to help with operations and upkeep.  After sliding our contribution through the slot, we followed a path that led to the lovely grounds behind the house and sweeping views of the Potomac.

Plenty of room to roam

I don’t know if it’s a consequence of being city kids or what, but when my children see open green space, they run.  And that’s just what they did here. Sometimes it’s a problem, but in this case, it was perfectly fine.  The lawn behind the house leads downhill to a low stone wall called the Ha-Ha Wall (I almost expected Nelson Muntz to pop his head up at any moment), and beyond that is a meadowy area traversed by grassy paths. Even though Owen and Sasha ran in separate directions, I could still see them both and knew they were safe as long as they didn’t run further down the hill to the river.

Getting the scoop on the gardens

When we all caught up with each other, we walked along the trails and read about the vegetation and plantings on signs posted around the area.  Most of the flora seemed pretty dry right now — perhaps all those 70-degree March days took a toll — but it was still quite pretty and gloriously tranquil. After strolling through, we walked down to the river to take in the views for a bit.

Relaxing by the river

We finally made our way back up the hill to the kids’ favorite part — the Children’s Gardens. On the north side of the house, is a lovely area (not that the whole place isn’t lovely) with all kinds of mini gardens designed to stimulate children’s interest in plants and nature.  There’s a little fort that kids can crawl under or over; the Boat Garden with a real row boat to climb aboard; a Little House on the Prairie Garden with – yup! – a little house to play in; and many more charming areas for kids to enjoy.  And right next to it all are more gardens with beautiful flowers, plants, brick paths, and nice seating areas that would make a great picnic spot.

Row, row, row your garden boat…

Space to relax and play

Owen and Sasha played there awhile, joining a group of children who were frolicking (never has this word seemed more apropos, thanks to the delightful setting) throughout the garden together.

The kids probably could have played in the garden for hours, but they needed a potty break, so we went into the house, where guests are welcome to use the bathrooms.  The downstairs  is also open to tour — you can view art in the lobby and a larger dining room and walk through the kitchen and office.

On the way out the kids stopped to sit in rocking chairs in the back porch and had there been more available (a couple were already occupied), it would have been wonderful to sit there all afternoon, just rocking and taking in the view. Instead, we called it a day and made our way back home.

River Farm is located at 7931 East Boulevard Drive in Alexandria. It’s open from 9am – 5pm Monday through Friday all year, and 9am – 1pm on Saturday from April through September. Admission is free, but donations are always appreciated.



Filed under All ages, DC, Farm, Free, Outdoor, Play, Virginia, Weekdays