This annual guide to summer fun around the DC area has always been one of my favorite posts to put together for a couple of reasons: It reflects that awesome shift from structured days to carefree time. Plus, it’s a reminder of how much fun summer is around the area. And even though the guide isn’t quite as robust as previous years — some activities and events are still on hold — the joys of summer are still abundant, from water-inspired fun to movies in the open air to special exhibits to seasonal programs, and so much more.
Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer, so bookmark this post and start making plans. The 2021 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
Big Screen Under the Stars
Mini Trains, Carousels, Mini Golf, & a Ferris Wheel
Water features and fun will be back ON at The Yards!
PLAY IN THE SPRAYS
Most spray parks will be back this summer! 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 29, through September 6, 10am – 8pm. Find locations and see them all on a map on the DPR website.
The 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. (Opening date to come!) 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.
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. It’s run by the National Park Service, but I heard from the Georgetown BID that it’s supposed to open this summer, but still awaiting word on when. The rest of the park’s pretty green space along the Potomac is a nice, relaxing place to hang out, too.
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.
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.
There’s an in-ground fountain on Capitol Hill at the C Street Plaza right across from Eastern Market. On most weekday afternoons, 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 reopen at full capacity on Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 29. Days and hours vary from pool to pool so be sure to check the schedules before you go. They will be open weekend only thorough June 27 10am – 6pm (and on Memorial Day, May 31). Starting Monday, June 28, pools will open six days a week 10am – 6pm. Locations and a map are on the linked DPR website. Admission is free for DC residents.
For outdoor swimming outside of the city, Montgomery County outdoor public pools will release pool hours and schedules for the 2021 season on Saturday, May 29. Check the Department of Recreation for those details.
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.
Day trip to Cape Henlopen State Park… worth every second of the drive there
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 well 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 some quintessential summer fun. Open daily sunrise – sunset, and admission is $8/vehicle.
Also in Calvert County, Flag Ponds Nature Park 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. Admission is $8/car. Be sure to read more about Flag Ponds for tips and get a glimpse here and here
Enjoy views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from the beach at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. At nearly 800 acres, it’s a big beach 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 beach is narrow, and you’re on a river, but you still get sand and water at the Purse area within the Nanjemoy Wildlife Management Area in Charles County, MD. This 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. 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 sure to know other beach rules like no grills or dogs allowed. Open Memorial Day – Labor Day on Friday 4-7pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am – 7pm. Admission is
Cape Henlopen State Park is a little over two hours from DC in Lewes, DE, but still 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.
On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, you can reserve a beach spot at Dirty Dave’s Tiki Bar on Kent Island. 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! Or you can just 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 and within day trip distance.
Make a splash at Soak City in Kings Dominion
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
* Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro, MD
* Great Waves at Cameron Run in Alexandria, VA
* The Water Park at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg, MD
* 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. And during the past Covid year, more drive-ins popped up to allow for social distancing, some of the continuing this season. (*Before you make plans to enjoy any of the series, be sure to check schedules, as some movies may not be appropriate for children.)
The Alexandria Drive-In Movie is a fun way to enjoy some outside entertainment with the fam. Movies are shown on the big outdoor screen on Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm at least through June. Food trucks are there offering savory and sweet concessions with online ordering through Goodfynd! Purchase movie tickets in advance! Admission if $40/acr
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 $10/car, free for walk-ins. Advance purchase is recommended. Runs monthly through October.
Every Tuesday in June at 8:30pm, catch Downtown DC Summer Flicks — Can I Kick It? on the west lawn of the National Building Museum. With “The Future” as its theme, weekly screenings will travel through time and space. And each film will be scored with an original music soundtrack of hip-hop, soul, and more mixed by weekly guest DJs, including Shaolin Jazz’s own DJ 2-Tone Jones.
The Bowie Baysox and Prince George County organizations are presenting Drive-In Movies at Prince George’s Stadium. Starting June 4, the program will run Fridays through the month. Admission is $30/vehicle, and tickets must be purchased in advance.
On Thursdays throughout the summer, Sunset Cinema at The Wharf will feature a variety of classic on the 20′ LED screen on Transit Pier. The series is free, but you must reserve a ticket, which includes seats for up to six people. Each movie starts at 8pm with seating available beginning at 7:30pm. BYO food from restaurants at The Wharf, but drinks (both hard and soft) must be purchased from Cantina Bambina.
National Harbor’s Movies on the Potomac series will run on Thursdays at 7pm in June. 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.
Enjoy Summer in the Parks at the Rock Creek Carter Baron Amphitheater! Join the fun and entertainment on Thursday evenings in June, starting at 5pm, for music from DJ Lance Reynolds, food trucks, and themed activities.
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!
Moonlit Movies: Flashback Fridays, presented by the City of Greenbelt and Old Greenbelt Theatre, feature nostalgic favorites on Braden Field, behind the Youth Center. Reserve a 10-foot circle for up to 5 people for $25. Pre-order concessions from the movie theater, follow the link above. Contactless pick-up at the movie theater will be available before each showing.
The Library of Congress will host its fourth annual “LOC Summer Movies on the Lawn” outdoor film festival. The series of five movies will be presented on Thursday evenings at sundown from July 8 to August 5 on the north lawn of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, across the street from the U.S. Capitol.
Adams Morgan Movie Nights will present free films every Monday evening from July 12 – August 9. Movies, all with a “Made in DC” theme, are shown about 30 minutes after sunset at the Marie Reed Recreation Center’s soccer field at 18th and California Streets, NW. Restaurants in the neighborhood will be offering special takeout meals that attendees can bring to the field.
A past US Air Force Band concert at an iconic DC spot
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.
The Kennedy’s Center’s Millennium Stage is back with free outdoor performances on Thursdays – Saturdays from May 27 through October 2. On The REACH plaza, there will be films, live shows, arts vendors, dance and yoga lessons, plus food and drinks for sale at Victura Park! Register in advance.
Jammin Java’s 20th Anniversary Outdoor Concert Series includes a variety of free all ages shows. Check the website to see what’s coming up and reserve your complimentary tix.
The U.S. Air Force Band’s Summer Concert Series is returning. Enjoy outdoor concerts on Fridays at the Air Force Memorial at 7:30pm, and Saturdays at National Harbor at 7pm.
Every third Wednesday of the month from June to August at 7pm, catch the U.S. Marine Band playing in Yards Park while you picnic and take in the views of the Anacostia River. Admission is free.
Tysons Corner Center‘s Summer Concert Series doesn’t actually begin until September, but they will have live performers on the Plaza all summer before that on Thursdays and Fridays 4-7pm and Saturdays and Sundays. As you grab a bite to eat and hang out, enjoy shows from the blues to ballet, funk to folk, pop to poetry 2-7. More family-friendly entertainment will also be there on Saturdays 4-7pm — think caricature and balloon artists, face painters, walking performers.
Glen Echo Park’s 2021 Summer Concerts Series will take place every Thursday at 7:30pm from July 1 – September 9. Concerts will be held in the historic Bumper Car Pavilion and are free and open to the public, featuring a variety of local bands and musical genres, from country to reggae, swing to Latin jazz, African to Cajun and blues.
Friday Night Concerts at Yards Park will be back for its 11th season from July 9 – August 13! The six-week series will feature performances by popular local artists and cold beverages on the boardwalk from 7-9pm each week.
Olney Theatre Center will present “Olney Outdoors” on its Root Family Stage from July 2 – August 25, featuring free Shakespeare, an in-person edition of its popular online series “Just Arts: A Celebration of Arts and Activism,” jazz concerts, theatre for young audiences and more.
Enjoy music in Northern Virginia parks! The Fairfax County Park Authority presents their Summer Entertainment Series, a summer-long calendar of family-friendly shows, concerts, and movies held in local parks. Bring a picnic dinner, blankets, and lawn chairs to enjoy the best local and regional entertainers. More details to come!
The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA, presents its annual Summer Concert Series, featuring three military bands performing American hits and patriotic classics, each in their own style. The free performances will be held at 7pm on July 8 and 22, and August 26, outdoors on the grand entry plaza, weather permitting.
Huzzah for Ren Fest, which begins in late summer
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 (some of them going virtual in 2021). There are also a few smaller happenings to plan for in advance.
The Yards is hosting its first-ever Garden Party. The event June 4-6 will features socially-distanced floral themed pods designed to accommodate 6-8 guests, each with Instagram-worthy areas with drinks, snacks , and garden-inspired decor in an exclusive section of the Sun Deck. Reservations include garden baskets priced at $50-150 for different drink and snack offerings from local restaurants. Family-friendly reservations are available Saturday and Sunday mornings; it’s 21+ afternoons and evenings. Reserve via Tock or at theyardsdc.com.
Celebrate Capital Pride during Pride Month June. While the annual, much loved parade and other events aren’t happening in quite the same way, there still are things to do to celebrate and support the LGBTQ community. From June 1-12, Paint the Town Colorful invites residents and businesses to decorate the public facing space (building fronts, yards, patios, balconies), to express Pride. On June 12, the Pridemobile Parade will travel around DC, its colorful caravan of cars led by the Pridemobile trolly spreading joy, resilience, and Pride throughout the city.
The National Park Service DC announced that Independence Day will be celebrated with fireworks on the National Mall. Like previous years, they’ll start shortly after 9pm, though this time they’ll be set off by the Lincoln Memorial. It remains to be seen what kind of access the public will have to see them, but many folks views them from across the river and rooftops around the city.
It’s not quite as big as previous years, but the National Building Museum’s Summer Block Party is back for the season! This year’s exhibition is very family-friendly, featuring a handful of smaller projects and programs both in the museum and on the West Lawn that are better for the early post-pandemic era of smaller gatherings and social distancing aptly titled Inside Out, the Block Party includes Maze of Knowledge, a wooden maze filled with books; a hand-built cathedral truss; interactive art; outdoor films; and more! And for memories’ sake, have a look at some of the past Summer Block Parties: The Big Maze, The Beach, Icebergs, Hive, Fun House, Lawn. (Whew! I’ve been at this a long time.)
The annual Capitol Hill July 4th Parade will be back, when the neighborhood turns out to view and participate in a fun procession down Barracks Row that showcases many community organizations, schools, and city groups.
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! As of now, the faire is ON, and the merriment is scheduled to begin August 28 and will continue every weekend through October 24. Go! I promise, it is the absolute best.
Virtual this year:
The Washington Folk Festival that usually takes place at Glen Echo Park the first weekend after Memorial Day is not happening IRL this year. Instead, there will be a free livestream concert and dance from Glen Echo’s Spanish Ballroom on June 6 at 7:30pm.
In late June and early July, the National Mall usually becomes stomping grounds of people from around the globe to celebrate living cultural heritage and community traditions at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. However, this year’s event on June 26-27 will be all digital.
Independence Day in DC is always a pretty big deal, the city being the nation’s capital and all, so the annual July 4th celebrations are significant. This year, though, the National Independence Day Parade will be live streamed, and the Capitol Fourth concert at the U.S. Capitol will not be open to the public.
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, however, it’s going virtual. View scenes from a previous bloom here.
A fairy house find in the woods at Annmarie Sculpture Garden
Extraordinary installations, lovely annual exhibits, kids’ programs during the school break, and admission deals are some of the special experiences at our museums and galleries to take take advantage of over the summer.
See Georgetown in a whole new, cool light — literally! Georgetown Glow, an exhibition of modern light art installations, runs through June 27. You can take the fam to dinner, then go for a stroll to check them all out. Artworks will be viewable by day, but obviously much brighter at night. It’s free to tour, and you just go and see them at your leisure. Special talks and walks are available, too. Get a glimpse of a past Glow here.
Forces of Nature at the Renwick Gallery is a great exhibit to check out with kids. Striking and intricate works take up entire galleries and make you want to examine them from all angles. Even little ones will dig seeing the big pieces that sparkle, look like giant flowers, resemble a rain storm, and sometimes make you feel like you’re within the art. On view until August 15. Renwick hours are Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm, and free, timed-entry passes are required for admission.
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.
A cascade of 2,000 origami doves makes up Les Colombes (The Doves) at the National Cathedral. The beautiful art installation symbolizing hope looks like it’s suspended in midair in the magnificent space. Tickets for some June dates are available. Plan to spend time in the lovey Bishop’s Garden outside while you’re there.
ARTECHOUSE, the destination in southwest known for fusing art and technology, is dazzling with Renewal 2021. Inspired by DC’s annual cherry blossom bloom, it aims is to promote hope amid the global pandemic and concerns of climate change. Experience it through Sept 6. Admission is $16-20/adult, $8-10/12 & under.
So, it’s not necessarily a special exhibit, but the rest of the Smithsonian Museums will be reopening over the summer. June 18: National Museum of Natural History; July 16: National Museum of African Art & National Museum of Asian Art Freer Gallery; July 30: National Air and Space Museum & Smithsonian Institution Building (Castle); August 6: Anacostia Community Museum; August 20: Hirshhorn Museum; August 27: National Postal Museum. Free timed-entry passes will be required for admission — be sure to snag yours, as they go fast!
Entertainment especially for kids at Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods
SPECIAL ENTERTAIMENT & PROGRAMS
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.
Wolf Trap is bringing back Children’s Performances with slight changes this year. Instead of the theatre-in-the-woods setting, the family-friendly shows will take place at the Filene Center to offer guests more space, with tickets sold in socially-distanced “pods” of 2 to 8 tickets. Enjoy lively adventures in music, dance, storytelling, and more. 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). Tickets are available now!
Starting June 7, enjoy Arts in the Parks, a free children’s entertainment series from Fairfax County Park Authority on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10am beginning. Catch shows at Burke Lake Park, Frying Pan Farm Park, EC Lawrence Amphitheater, Mason District, and Waterfield Park.
The Regal Summer Movie Express presents flicks for kids on many Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 10am from May 25 – September 8. Admission is just $1. Be sure to check the website for the film schedule and theater locations, as it doesn’t run at all theaters every week.
The Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse is back and offering fun $1 films for kids every Wednesday from June 16 – August 4. Check the schedule to see what’s playing at a theater near you!
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Ashburn welcomes families to Kids Camp, a movie series that is inexpensive ($1-3) and benefits local charities, to boot.
UniverSoul Circus, the world-class, live entertainment attraction is coming back to National Harbor July 1 – August 8. 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.
Olney Theatre Center will present “Olney Outdoors” on its Root Family Stage from July 2 – August 25, featuring free Shakespeare, an in-person edition of its popular online series “Just Arts: A Celebration of Arts and Activism,” jazz concerts, theatre for young audiences and more.
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. The Adventures of Pericles will run July 1 – August 2. Tickets are $19, 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, be back 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!
Go for a spin on the carousel at Watkins Regional Park
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 31 (Memorial Day), July 4 (July Fourth Holiday; 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 weekend 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. Hours are 3-7 on Friday, 10am – 7pm on Saturday & Sunday. 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 100th season at Glen Echo Park and recently reopened! Plan to go for a spin through June 13 on Saturday & Sunday, 10am- 6pm. Then from June – August 29, it will be open Wednesday – Friday, 10am – 4pm and Saturday-Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm.
The Clemyjontri carousel in McLean, VA, will be offering rides daily starting May 29 on weekdays 9:30am – 1:00pm and weekends 9:30am – 6:30pm. Cost is $3/weekdays, $4/weekends & holidays. Read more about Clemyjontri here.
There are a couple of ways to go for a spin at National Harbor. 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 for each 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 $2-3, train rides are $3-4, mini golf is $7-8.
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.
Kick up the summer fun at a Washington Spirit match!
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. Catching a Nats game is one of our family’s preferred ways to enjoy a nice summer (or spring) day (or evening), anyway. And Nationals Park will open at full capacity again starting June 10! Before you go, check out 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 (there’s also a free version), which includes Nats swag, plus all kinds of other cool offers. Even a few months into the season, it’s worth it!
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!
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 31 – August 8.
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 Carlini Field (CUA). It’s fast paced, fun to watch, and there’s plenty of space to spread out in the bleachers. Even better, there’s a welcoming family vibe, and kids 12 and under get in free!
The Fish Market at The Wharf has all you need for a DIY crab feast
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.
A paddling excursion on the Potomac
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.
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 (if it’s open again). 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 June 17 (but you can roll around there before that). Even better, both admission and skate rentals are FREE! 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!