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 (almost) Summer!
Play in the Sprays
Outdoor Pool Season
Big Screen Under the Stars
Mini Trains, Carousels, Mini Golf, & a Ferris Wheel
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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. Dates are still TBA, so check back for specifics soon! View scenes from a previous bloom here.
It might run into fall, but it starts in August, 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 here, here, here, here, here, here, 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.
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!
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 July 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!
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 Run, Upton Hill, Pohick 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.
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!
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.
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!