Tag Archives: Winkler Botanical Preserve

Where to Play on the Weekdays: April 22-26

Feeding the peacocks during a birthday party at Old Maryland Farm

Feeding the peacocks during a birthday party at Old Maryland Farm

Monday – Enjoy a special Earth Day session of Story Time for Families at the National Museum of the American Indian. Join staff at 11:15am in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center on the 3rd floor to hear the story When the Shadbush Blooms, about the Lenni Lenape, a Native community from the Chesapeake region. These interactive Hok-noth-da (“Did you hear?” in the Shawnee language) readings usually take place Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, but they’ve added another one this week. Plan to spend time before or after exploring the many hands-on exhibits in the center geared toward children. Admission is free.

Tuesday – Visit ponies, donkeys, peacocks, chickens, bunnies, and llamas at Old Maryland Farm in Watkins Regional Park. When you’re done, head over to the nearby playground to let the kids climb and swing. Admission is free to both. The farm is open 9am – 4pm Tuesday – Friday (9am – 4:30pm on Saturdays, 11:30am – 4:30pm on Sundays and holidays). And if you live in DC, don’t forget to vote in the special election!

Wednesday – It’s Kids Day at Lebanese Taverna in Arlington. Enjoy free children’s entertainment every Wednesday from 10-11am. And stay after for a tasty bite to eat!

Thursday – See some of the most wonderful, whimsical art around at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. The colorful, quirky works — some of them interactive — can be appreciated by art buffs of all ages. Hours are 10am – 6pm. Admission is $15.95/adults, $13.95/seniors, $9.95/students & children 7 and up, free for ages 6 and under

Friday – Get a dose of nature in an unexpected place at Winkler Botanical Preserve. Located just off 395 and Seminary Road in Alexandria, the park is a nice outdoor surprise in an area full of office complexes and strip malls. Hours are 8:30am – 4pm, and admission is free.


Filed under All ages, Animals, Art, DC, Eats, Educational, Farm, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Spring, Virginia, Weekdays

Winkler Botanical Preserve: A Natural Oasis in an Unexpected Place

A serene scene at Winkler

A serene scene at Winkler

There’s something about discovering tucked away expanses of nature in this bustling metropolitan area that is particularly gratifying. I’m not talking about the big, obvious places like Rock Creek Park, Great Falls, or the National Arboretum (all among my favorite locales, just not exactly tucked away). I mean the spots nestled in unexpected places, that you find out about through word of mouth or, perhaps, a great local blog.

That’s how we learned about Winkler Botanical Preserve, anyway. When DCPS was off from school earlier this week (students had two days off, in case you’re wondering how we fit in both this and the “Real Pirates” exhibit), Owen and I planned to go hiking with friends to get outdoors and enjoy the nice day. We wanted to try something new, so I checked out one of my favorite blogs, Not-So-SAHM, and read the raves for Winkler.


As I looked at it on a map, I tried to figure out exactly where it was located. It’s not far from my kids’ pediatrician in Alexandria or Baily’s Crossroads, and I just couldn’t picture a botanical preserve anywhere in that area of office complexes, strip malls, and apartment buildings. But we followed the directions there, and sure enough, hidden amid a couple of apartment complexes, Seminary Road, and 395 is a 44-acre stretch of natural loveliness. Well, actually, it’s not all natural… in the middle of the lofty trees and meandering trails is a large pond and waterfall that are obviously man made. But it’s all pretty terrific, especially because it feels like a hidden oasis smack in the middle of suburbia.


Not too far past the entrance is a wooden building called Catherine’s Lodge, which I remembered reading about on Not-So SAHM. It was not open for them, nor was it for us, and we weren’t sure of its purpose. I’ve since looked it up, and it seems that it’s an education center, as the Preserve has a partnership with the Alexandria City Public Schools, providing elementary and middle school students with a year-long series of hands-on and curriculum-based programs. That explains why school groups were the only other people we saw during our visit there.



After peering into the windows of the lodge, we wandered along the trails, the kids chased a couple of geese, and we all got a closer look at the waterfall, though there’s a sign warning visitors not to climb on it. There are a few streams to cross, and the kids took some time to gather pebbles from them. In one area there are two climbing towers that I assume are only used for the school groups — both had “no climbing” signs on them.


We spent about an hour and half hiking around — by that point, we’d covered just about all of it. (Plus, we were hungry and decided to grab lunch.) It was a pleasant, easy outing and nice to discover a slice of nature in a surprising place. And while I’m not sure I’d make a plan just to go there, I’ll definitely keep it in mind for the next time we’re in the area for the kids’ pediatrician appointments or a trip to REI.


Winkler Botanical Preserve is located at 5400 Roanoke Ave in Alexandria. Hours are 8:30am – 4pm, and admission is free. When you go, be sure to drive through the small apartment complex parking lot through the open gate to the Preserve. There are a few parking spots just beyond.


Filed under All ages, DC, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend