Work up an appetite for the big feast with some ice skating
How about a side of recreation to go with your Thanksgiving meal? If you’re going to be in town for the holiday and are looking for pre- or post-feast activities, here are some ways to complement the main event of the day. Happy Thanksgiving!
1) Get gliding and enjoy some active fun. You can ice skate under the sky at one of several outdoor rinks in the area that are open on the holiday. Our faves are all DC rinks — National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Washington Harbour, and The Wharf — because you just can’t beat the city locations on the National Mall, next to the Potomac, and right over the river. Find info on those and more here. And be sure to check ice rink websites for Thanksgiving Day hours!
2) Visit a Smithsonian museum or the National Zoo. They are all open on Thanksgiving from 10am – 5:30pm, except for the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery which are open 11:30am – 7pm and the National Zoo 8am – 4pm. The National Gallery of Art (which is not part of the Smithsonian, just a neighbor on the Mall) is open, too, from 10am – 5pm.
3) See the Outdoor Holiday Display at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Get a glimpse here of the always delightful model train exhibit, all constructed from plant materials. It’s back this year, but outside in the National Garden. Open 10am – 5pm. Admission is free.
Is it just me, or has this fall been especially beautiful? The scenery seems ablaze with golden yellow, fiery orange, and deep red as the foliage puts on its seasonal performance. Perhaps the general gloom of this past year makes the bright spots that much more vivid, or maybe Mother Nature just knows how much we need it right now.
The fam framed by fall foliage
It’s this autumn luster that brought us to Brookside Gardens this past weekend — well, coupled with a little photography agenda. We wanted to get out and enjoy the day before the rain came, someplace relaxing that would showcase the season. So, I checked the round-up of the best outdoor places for ideas (yep, I use my own blog!), and in one glance I knew where we were going: Brookside Gardens, the beautiful public display garden within Wheaton Regional Park in the Montgomery Parks system.
Owen, circa 2010
Owen, circa 2015
The lead image in that post, the one of oh-so-sweet, four-year-old Owen chilling in the tree, was taken at Brookside almost exactly 10 years ago. We recreated the photo when we happened to be back there five years later, so when I saw it again and did the math, I realized it was time for the next installment.
Paved paths traverse the gardens…
…as do leave strewn dirt trails
As those photos indicate, we’ve been enjoying Brookside Gardens for a long time. Along with an occasional fall visit, we usually go for the wonderful annual Wings of Fancy butterfly exhibit and Garden of Lights holiday display, however, both were among the many beloved area events cancelled this year. But this autumn outing was lovely and serene and perfect for right now. Plus, we got that shot.
Owen at 14
Of course, we had to capture our best girl, too
Brookside Gardens is located at 1800 Glenallan Avenue in Wheaton, MD. Right now, the grounds are open to wander and enjoy daily from sunrise to sunset, and the Visitor Center 10am – 2pm. The sweet Children’s Garden is not accessible during Covid. Along with the links above, read more about Brookside in this KFDC post.
And get more of a glimpse of the gorgeous fall in the pics below…
And it was all yellow
View from a gazebo
A serene pond scene
This pergola turns into a fab pink walkway during Garden of Lights
[Note: This post was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, who visited Port Discovery with her family, including her 3-year-old daughter and baby son. In all the years our family visited the children’s museum in Baltimore, I never did a proper write-up, and my kids have aged out of a lot of it. But as Port Discovery recently underwent a major renovation, the timing is great for one now.]
As we await the *almost open* children’s museum here in Washington, DC, a half-day trip up to Baltimore’s Port Discovery will certainly tide you over. The Inner Harbor, and its historic seaport, provides the perfect metaphorical backdrop for this children’s museum that has, without exaggeration, something for every child, with every interest, to embark on.
Open since 1998, the museum completed a $10.5 million renovation in 2019, notably with the floor-to-ceiling “SkyClimber” and twisting slide, as well as a life-size ship facade where kids can play captain and load “cargo” on the third-story overlook. The museum has the latest and greatest in hands-on, creative play — though, like all children’s museums, things become “well-loved” so some of the 10+ exhibit spaces aren’t as brand-sparkling new as others.
If you have a preschooler in tow, your first stop will likely be at the “Store & Fill’er Up Station” which is one of the most authentic fake food shopping set-ups I’ve experienced. It’s a convenience store modeled after sponsor Royal Farms, allowing kids to fill up a grocery tote, get a pretend fountain soda, put gas in the car, and “drive.” A few levels up, “Tiny’s Diner” offers even more for the play food lovers with a large space conducive to collaborative play and parent engagement.
Perhaps the most unique exhibit space is “Wonders of Water” where my daughter’s love of squeegeeing grew exponentially with the addition of spray bottles and free-range windows. Also found here are STEM-infused water tables, a giant bubble hoop, and a musical water play (and spray) area. The most thoughtful touches are the amenities: raincoats, crocs, and a drying station for all sizes.
For those with younger toddler-age children, you won’t want to miss “Tot Trails” which is limited to children three and under. This exhibit space is set up with simple yet stimulating activities for all levels—sitters, crawlers, climbers, and walkers. Like most of the museum, STEM and arts are intertwined in a rudimentary, unintimidating way. For example, here you’ll find a classic wind tube with leaves for little ones to insert and catch with a butterfly net.
Lastly, “The Oasis” provided a much-needed wind down from the stimulation. It’s a children’s library-esque space stocked with books, cozy nooks, and exploratory play stations. By chance, we walked in just as story time was about to start—on this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend day, themes of community and connection were shared throughout the three books read. This was the perfect ending to our visit, leading to an instantaneous car nap for both of my children.
From the archives: Little Sasha serves up big sandwiches at Tiny’s Diner
Port Discovery is located at 35 Market Place on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. General admission to the museum is $17.95 for visitors ages 1+. If you think your family will go at least couple of times in a year, consider a membership starting at $140.
KFDC Tips: * There are lockers to store your items (for free) in “The Pier” eating area — use them! The museum is three levels of non-stop movement, particularly for a first-time visitor trying to see and do everything. * The Pier is also where you can take a snack or lunch break. Bring your own food or carry out from one of the neighboring establishments. * There are many, many exhibits — more than mentioned here, including a bunch for grade school ages — so be ready for a long day (or plan on more visits!) * Port Discovery hosts lots of special events and themed weekends — check the calendar for any you might want to experience. * You could make it a longer trip to Baltimore, overnight or even weekend, and also visit the Maryland Science Center, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Industry, or tour the historic ships docked at the Inner Harbor.
The Air & Space Museum and all of the Smithsonian Museums remain open on Thanksgiving!
How about a side of recreation to go with your Thanksgiving turkey? If you’re going to be in town for the holiday and looking for pre- or post-feast activities, here are some ways to complement the main event of the day. Happy Thanksgiving!
* Visit a Smithsonian museum or the National Zoo. They are all open on Thanksgiving from 10am – 5:30pm, except for the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery which are open 11:30am – 7pm. The National Gallery of Art (which is not part of the Smithsonian, just a neighbor on the Mall) is open, too, from 10am – 5pm.
* Get gliding and enjoy some active fun. You can skate under the sky at one of several ice rinks in the area that are open on the holiday. Find info for them here.
* Enjoy a holiday hike. For those who like to get out, it looks like it should be a pleasant Turkey Day this year. Rock Creek, Great Falls, Roosevelt Island, Huntley Meadows, Prince William Forest, Riverbend, and Turkey Run are all great parks for family tramping. This post has details on all of them along with even more recs for local walks in the woods.
*Go bowling. Pinstripes in Georgetown hosts Kids Bowling from 10am – 12pm, when ages 12 and under bowl for just $6 (and parents bowl free!). There is a locaton in Rockville, too. You can also hit the lanes at Lucky Strike in Penn Quarter, Bowlmor in Bethesda or Rockville, or Bowl America in several NoVa locations.
* Get into the holiday spirit at Christmas on the Potomac, the Gaylord National Resort’s spectacular seasonal attraction.
* Dance off the turkey dinner at the Kennedy Center. The evening’s free Millennium Stage performance features their annual Thanksgiving Day Swing with music by Josh Christina, an infectious blend of piano driven, high octane boogie-woogie and pop ’n’ roll. This all takes place from 5:30-8pm, and admission is free.
* Take an evening drive or stroll through a holiday light display — several in the area have started dazzling visitors with twinkling wonderlands.
The pick-your-own produce season starts with strawberries in the spring, then continues with more delicious fruits and veggies in the summer and fall. Heading out to the farm to do some picking is among my favorite seasonal activities with the kids. It’s a nice break from the urban bustle and a great chance to show them that food doesn’t magically appear on a plate or shelf at Trader Joe’s. Even better, the enjoyment continues with a basketful of fresh produce at home. The time is ripe for planning your own PYOP outing. Here are some great places around the area to reap some of the best treats of spring, summer, and fall. Happy Picking!
Shlagel Farms| Waldorf, MD
Less than 20 miles from DC, Shlagel Farms is one of the more popular pick-your-own strawberry places in the area, their season always beginning before other area farms, and because that’s the only PYO they offer. The fields should yield berries until early June. While there, you can also purchase bedded plants grown in their greenhouse, romp on the playground, and treat the kids (and yourself) to ice cream. You can also pick up something up to cook for dinner — Shlagel also offers farm raised beef, pork, and chicken! Shlagel’s is open for PYO from 8am – 6pm seven days a week. Follow them on Facebook to stay updated on their pickings.
Great Country Farms| Bluemont, VA
At the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley, Great Country offers much more than just pick-your-own opportunities. The farm is well known for its big seasonal festivals and fun farm-themed attractions. A hayride takes you out to the picking fields, and kids might spy an emu or goat on the way. Visitors also have access to the barnyard, mazes, a cow train, and jumping pillow. Their u-pick strawberry fields will open in mid-late May, and you can get updates on them via Facebook and Twitter. Asparagus is available at the same time, and more berries, plums, tomatoes, okra, green beans, and hot peppers will follow in late spring and summer. The weekends of May 22-23 and May 29-31 are the annual Strawberry Jubilee with live music, pie eating contests, tart tosses, tasty food, and more. Apple season begins in late summer and goes into fall, and with it comes the Apple Gala and Cider Fest. Admission to Great Country is $10/child $12/adult on weekdays, and goes up on festival weekends. Open daily 9am- 6pm.
Wegmeyer Farms | Loudon County, VA
With three locations in Northern Virginia, Wegmeyer offers varying strawberry picking experiences as the settings differ at each. PYO at a historic homestead in Hamilton, then set up lunch at a picnic table (BYO) and let the kids play on a John Deere tractor slide and playground. At Oatlands, the patch and era-themed attire at the historic mansion will whisk you back to the 1800’s, and while visiting the patch is free, you can purchase tour passes for the garden and/or mansion. And at Gilbert’s Corner, enjoy strawberry picking in its most natural state; the no-fuss location is perfect for a simple outing. The PYO season will begin at all three locations in May. Check the website for updates, hours, and directions. Picking reservations are available through the website the night before.
Swann Farms| Lower Marlboro, MD
This is one we’ve heard about recently (in 2021), and it sounds like a good “pick” for a PYO outing. They have acres of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries available May through August, in that order. The sweet red fruits should be ready any day now. Pricing is $5/quart $20/gallon bucket. Note that they do not allow outside containers to be brought onto the farm, unless it’s the gallon bucket previously purchased there. Stay updated on their status by following their Facebook page.
Mackintosh Fruit Farm | Berryville, VA
If it’s located in Berryville, that’s got to be a good sign, right? The family-owned farm in the Shenandoah Valley will open to the public in late May (check the website or call for an update) with access to their strawberry fields, then blueberries, peaches, brambles, apples, and paw paw. Plan on lunch while you’re there — along with fruits and veggies, the farm also offers a variety of menu items prepared fresh every day from their own produce. Walk it all off afterward along a trail that winds through the fields and woods of the farm and let the kids play it off on the playground. Hours are 8am – 6pm, Wednesday through Sunday, plus Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.
Larriland Farm|Woodbine, MD
About an hour’s drive from DC in Howard County, Larriland Farms always gets great reviews for both its produce and beauty. The pick-your-own season is expected to start with strawberries in late May/early June this year, and they’ll have the full spectrum of berries following soon after, just about every variety of peaches, and loads of veggies available from June – October, too. Apple picking usually begins late August with Honey Crisps. (See the list and view schedules on the website.) Larriland employs Integrated Pest Management, meaning pesticides are a last resort, to keep pests below an acceptable level with minimum harmful impact on the environment. Summer hours are Tuesdays 9am – 8pm, Wednesday to Friday 9am – 6pm, Saturday & Sunday 9am – 5pm.
Butler’s Orchard| Germantown, MD
The farm might be best known for it’s Halloween and Easter extravaganzas, but they have a bounty of great crops, too. Strawberry fields will be open to visitors everyday, expecting to start in late May. Following soon after are more berries and sugar snap and English peas. Potatoes, apples, and pumpkins come later. The Farm Park with the giant slides, a nature trail, and our farm animals can be enjoyed along with the PYO ops. Hours are Tuesday – Sunday, 9:30am – 6pm. Admission is $3. Stay updated on their status by following on Facebook and Twitter.
Hollin Farms | Delaplane, VA
Across the river in Fauquier County, VA, Hollin Farms’ strawberry picking season will begin in late May and last several weeks. Hours are 9am – 4pm Wednesday through Sunday, and they recommend calling ahead to confirm that picking fields are open. But, wait, the PYO doesn’t stop with strawberries! Other spring crops that you’re welcome to gather include lettuce, peas, arugula, bok choy, radishes, Swiss chard. Come summer, peaches, plums, blackberries, red raspberries, sour cherries, and summer veggies are available. Apples are ready late summer, and fall brings the Pumpkin Patch, autumn vegetables, potatoes, and dig-your-own peanuts. And a special P.S. to meat lovers: they pride themselves on their grass-fed beef.
Green Truck Farm/Hartland Farm| Markham, VA
Green Truck and Hartland Farms are located out I-66 less than an hour from DC (Green Truck is situated at the entrance to Hartland). Their strawberries will be ready for picking in May. The rest of their PYO offerings run the berry gamut along with tomatoes, winter squash, and pumpkins. And at Hartland, you can get berries, then peaches, apples, and pumpkins later in the year.
Homestead Farm| Poolesville, MD
Homestead no longer grows strawberries, so their PYO season begins a little later than other area farms. The first crop will be tart cherries in June, and other berries will be ripe and ready soon after. Peaches, apples, and pumpkins come later. Along with PYO, there are animals to visit (goats, pigs, and chickens), and watching the goats clamber along the goat-walk is always a trip for kids. Homestead also scores high on scenery — the lovely pastoral setting in Montgomery County makes you feel like you’re way more than 20 miles from the city. When open, the farm operates seven days a week, and PYO hours are 9am – 5pm. You can sign up to receive weekly updates by email to stay up to date on their crops.
Waters Orchard| Gaithersburg, MD
This Gaithersburg, MD, locale is a great place for apple picking come late summer and fall. The varieties are plentiful, and the scenery is lovely. After parking, it’s a 5-10 minute walk to the orchard. Last time we visited, there was a little tent set up where staff offered apple tastings and info about the apples and orchard. Hours are Fridays 12-5pm, and Saturdays & Sundays, 9am – 5pm. Pick-your-own pricing is by the peck — $15/half peck, $22/peck, $38/bushel and that includes entry fee for two. It’s $5/guest after that.
The apple of his eye at Waters Orchard 🍎
Do you have a favorite PYO farm that you don’t see here? Feel free to share in the comments, if so!