Outdoor Activities


Wow- so much going on this weekend!  Better yet, it is going to feel like fall and be sunny all weekend.  Get out and enjoy it!  KidFriendly DC has a fantastic post about more Halloween related events coming up, so be sure to check it out as well.

Saturday, October 22nd

River Farm Fall Fest

9am – 12pm @ River Farm, Alexandria

Bring a picnic and the family to River Farm to enjoy story time in the garden, arts and crafts projects, a scavenger hunt, and more.  This event is free of charge, though donations are appreciated. Rain or shine (activities will be held indoors in the event of rain). For more details, call (703) 768-5700 ext. 126.

Annandale Fall Festival 

10am @  Safeway parking lot on Little River Turnpike, Annandale

Eighty merchants with jewelry, artwork, giftware, crafts, children’s toys & books, clothing, wood carvings and other gifts for your holiday shopping will fill the community market.  There will also be rock, jazz & country Bands along with International costumed dancers and swing dancersfor entertainment as well as tons of food.  The Kid’s Zone will challenge with a climbing wall, bungee jump, bungee basketball, face painting, Lil Pirate inflatable & toddler games, costumed characters, and The Secret Garden which will feature puppet shows at 1 & 3pm and The Traveling Storyteller at 12pm and 2pm along with interactive games for toddlers to teens.  The Annual Parade 10am – 12pm will finish at the festival grounds.

AppleFest

11am – 1pm @ Whole Foods Old Town, Alexandria

Transforming into a delicious orchard, Virginia Whole Foods Market’s AppleFest will be complete with inspiring cooking demonstrations, entertaining crafts, prizes, tastings and more! While exploring taste palates of sweet treats and savory apple infused dishes, customers will be exposed to and learn about the best apples that the harvest has to offer.   Featured activities will include mouth-watering samples and cooking demonstrations, carmel-apple making stations, hard apple cider on tap, apple sampling in every department, and apple scavenger hunts

Mousequerade Ball for Kids  

1pm – 2pm @ Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, Alexandria

Families with children ages 4 – 7 can enjoy a reading of Alexander the Old Town Mouse by author Cheryl Barnes and have their books signed. Children will then create a mask and enjoy a ball of their own — in the very same room the story takes place! Costumes are encouraged but not required.  This hour-long program will be held at 1:00pm and 3:00pm. $10 per child (ages 2 and older); adults free with purchase of child ticket.

Wild Side Wagon Ride  

4pm @ Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria

Take a 90-minute tractor ride with a park naturalist to parts of the wetland that are difficult to reach on foot. Look for and learn about songbirds, wildflowers, butterflies and waterfowl, then stop for a snack at the observation platform. Meet at South King’s Highway park entrance.

Campfire: Popcorn

6pm – 7:15pm @ Long Branch Amphitheater, Arlington

The whole family is invited to join us at the Long Branch Amphitheater for lots of old-fashioned fun. This engaging program will be filled with entertaining activities, which may include stories, special animal guests, games, songs and of course, treats like s’mores.  Cost is $5 fee per person with a $20 max fee per family.

Fearless Fest

7pm @ Hidden Oaks Nature Center, Annandale

This fun event provides a lighthearted alternative to scary Halloween celebrations. The not-so-scary event is guaranteed to educate and entertain participants.  A naturalist will lead guests on a one-hour night hike into the woods to meet and interact with costumed creatures who explain away their scary reputations. The 52-acre forest surrounding the nature center is an ideal setting to hear ironic explanations from a black widow spider, a skunk, an owl, poison ivy, a dead tree, and other animals.  Indoor activities include craft projects and hands-on exploration. Guests will investigate real animal skulls in the graveyard, meet live reptiles and insects such as snakes, toads, and millipedes, and dissect owl pellets to learn about their diet and habitat.  The cost is $7 per Fairfax County resident and $9 for out-of-county guests. Families should bring a flashlight. This event is great for scout groups looking for a fun evening activity. Costumes are encouraged and are completely appropriate for the event’s festive, party-like atmosphere.

Sunday, October 23rd

Scarecrow Making Workshop

1pm & 2pm @ Frying Pan Farm Park, Herndon

Adults and children enjoy making scarecrows. Bring an outfit and a pair of pantyhose for each scarecrow.  They supply special touches for faces. Held outdoors, dress for the weather. Register to make a scarecrow. Canceled if rain.

Meet me on a Sunday at Potomac Overlook  

1:30pm – 3:30pm @ Potomac Overlook Regional Park, Arlington

Almost everyone needs more time in the great outdoors – time to take a walk, enjoy each others’ company, or to just sit and do nothing! So, come make a “natural connection” at Potomac Overlook Regional Park. Every Sunday afternoon, between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., the park provides refreshments, games and hands-on nature exhibits, and a fun place to meet and enjoy the outdoors. There’s always something for families, groups, scouts, friends, couples, seniors . . . anyone!


Saturday, October 22nd & Sunday, October 23rd

Fall Harvest Family Days  

9am – 5pm @ Mount Vernon 

Mount Vernon welcomes the autumn season with Fall Harvest Family Days! The entire family enjoys autumn activities including wagon rides, wheat treading in the 16-sided barn, 18th-century dancing demonstrations, a straw bale maze, farrier (blacksmithing) demonstrations, apple-roasting, corn husk dolls demonstrations and early-American games and music. Potomac River sightseeing cruises are half-price during this weekend event. Fall Harvest Family Days are included in regular Estate admission on October 22&23: adults, $15.00; children ages 6-11, $7.00; and children 5 and under are admitted free.

Ghost Train Halloween Event  

10am – 5pm @ Burke Lake Park, Fairfax Station

Board the haunted train at Burke Lake Park for a special ride through the forest. Tickets are $4.50. The Ghost Train runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last ticket sold 4:15 p.m.) Tickets for the carousel are $1.75. Costumes are encouraged! For more information, call 703-323-6600.

 

Two years after it was closed due to needed repairs and lack of funds, Lubber Run Amphitheater is open and ready for the 2011 summer performances beginning July 29th. These performances include jazz and rock singers, an 11-piece band, a Russian folk ensemble, acoustic bluegrass, talent shows, feature movies and more.  Best of all, most shows are suitable for the entire family!  Bring a picnic and enjoy a night out under the stars.

There are benches for approximately 750 in front of the stage, and behind the benches are grassy areas perfect for picnickers.   No reservations or tickets are required for the performances.  While these events are free and open to the public, they do rely on the generous donations placed in the Lubber Run “Wishing Well” as you enter the Amphitheater.

The amphitheater is located at Lubber Run Park in the Arlington Forrest residential area in N. Arlington.

SCHEDULE:

Fridays and Saturdays @ 8pm:  July 29th 1 September 3rd

Friday, July 29: Mary Ann Redmond
Winner of a staggering 14 WAMMIE Awards for best female jazz, rock-pop, roots rock/traditional R & B, the vocalist has toured with Mary Chapin Carpenter, and opened for The Pointer Sisters and The Neville Brothers. http://www.marb.com/

Saturday, July 30: Justin Trawick
Indie-folk rocker Justin Trawick’s music fluently balances between sometimes rowdy, other times consoling, forms of folk, bluegrass and hip hop, bestowing listeners an organic form of poetry. http://www.justintrawick.com/

Friday, August 5: Origem
Performing a variety of Brazilian music styles such as samba, bossa nova, forro, afoxe and maracatu, Origigem’s musical versatility has been showcased everywhere from the Kennedy Center, to the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. http://www.myspace.com/origemband

Saturday, August 6: Teen Talent and Movie Night: FAST AND FURIOUS (2001)
Opening the evening will be a showcase of teen talent competition winners, followed by the feature movie.

Friday, August 12: Margot MacDonald
A textbook case of “classically trained soprano and pianist captivated by Led Zeppelin”, MacDonald started her singing career with the Washington National Opera at age 10, and by 15 she was releasing a second album and packing regional venues. She has appeared at 9:30 Club, Kennedy Center, Wolftrap, Birchmere, and the Bitter End in NYC. http://www.margotmacdonald.com/

Saturday, August 13: Russkie Musikanti
The Russkie Musikanti ensemble of the Washington Balalaika Society focuses on outreach programs, bringing its uniquemusic to venues throughout the community http://www.facebook.com/pages/Russkie-Musikanti/50950946354

Friday, August 19: Texas Chainsaw Horns
Built around the tight, five piece horn section led by trumpeter/arranger Tony Murtha, the 11-piece band draws on a wide variety of influences anywhere from Ray Charles and James Brown to ZZ Top and The Tower of Power. http://www.texaschainsawhorns.com/

Saturday, August 20: Andrew Acosta & the New Old-Time String Band
A night of acoustic Americana — an old-time hootnanny featuring The New Old Time String Band, which is made up of some of the area’s best bluegrass and folk musicians including Arlington’s own John Kaparakis and Speedy Tolliver. http://www.andrewacosta.com/band.html

Friday, August 26: Eric Scott
DC area pop/neo-soul singer Eric Scott has performed throughout Europe, Canada, the Caribbean and the U.S, sharing the stage with James Brown, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Little Feet, The Neville Brothers, Jimmy Buffet and Keb’ Mo’. http://www.ericscottmusic.com/

Saturday, August 27: Cartoon Johnny
Drawing on influences from classic soul to modern alternative, these two-time National Harmony Sweepstakes finalists won the Mid-Atlantic Regional title in 2005, and in New York (2005), they’re oft mistaken for instrumentalists. http://www.cartoonjohnny.com/fr_home.cfm

Friday, September 2: The Grandsons
A fan aptly described The Grandson’s exuberant sound as “American music in a blender with the lid off”, the eclectic band has won a WAMMIE for Artist of the Year, and their latest CD, Live at the Barns roots rock album of the year. http://grandsons.com/index.shtml

Saturday, September 3: Teen Talent and Movie Night: INCEPTION (2010 Oscar nominee)
Opening the evening will be a showcase of teen talent competition winners, followed by the feature movie.

For more information call 703-228-1850 or visit http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/parksrecreation/scripts/parks/LubberRunAmphitheaterPrograms.aspx

 

The 8th Annual Alexandria Comcast Outdoor Film Festival is this weekend, Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16 at Waterfront Park.  Avatar will be shown on Friday, and Mamma Mia will be shown on Saturday.

This is a free event, and the movies begin at dusk (park gates open at 7pm).  You can bring blankets or lawn chairs, and outside food (and coolers) are welcome.  There will also be popcorn, homemade lemonade, and other yummy food for sale.  Sounds like a great time!!

http://alexandriava.gov/recreation/info/default.aspx?id=49270

 

 

Tuesday, July 5th    Family Gaming

4pm @ Westover Library, Arlington

Stop in the Westover Meeting Room to play board games, card games and Wii with your family. All ages welcome. No registration required.

http://library.arlingtonva.us/Departments/Libraries/LibrariesMain.aspx

 

Wednesday, July 6th    Wednesday Lunchtime Concert Series

11:45am – 1:30pm @ CentralSpace, Arlington

Every Wednesday until August 31st, local musicians will perform a variety of music genres including jazz, blues, funk, pop, folk and more.  This Wednesday is the Levi Stephens Duo.

http://www.rosslynva.org/play/calendar/event/wednesday-lunchtime-concert-series5

 

Wednesday, July 6th    The Princess and the Frog

4pm @ Westover Library, Arlington

Get Caught Reading 2011 presents the family friendly tale of Tiana, who in a Jazz Age-era New Orleans setting, kisses a frog prince who would rather be human again. A Disney film, rated G, 97 minutes.  No tickets or reservations required.

http://library.arlingtonva.us/Departments/Libraries/LibrariesMain.aspx

 

Thursday, July 7th    Drop-In Stories in the Park

10:30am @ Walter Reed Community Center (under the shade trees), Arlington

Join the special drop-in storytimes on Thursdays from July 7 to August 11 outside under the shade trees at the Walter Reed Community Center.  Bring a blanket and picnic (if you like). Call 703-228-5710 for more information.

http://library.arlingtonva.us/Departments/Libraries/LibrariesMain.aspx

 

Friday, July 8th    Animals Underground

10am & 2pm @ Hidden Oaks Nature Center, Annandale

Dig down deep and investigate who lives in the dark, damp world under the forest floor as we learn about moles, earthworms, termites and the many other creatures of the soil.  For more information call the park at 703-941-1065.

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/hiddenoaks/public.htm

 

Friday, July 8th    Turtle-Time Campfire

7pm – 8:15pm @ Gulf Branch Nature Center, Arlington

The whole family is invited to Gulf Branch fire ring for lots of old-fashioned fun. This program will be filled with entertaining activities, to include stories, special animal guests, games, songs and of course, treats like s’mores.  There is a $5 fee per person due at registration- $20 max per family. Register at https://registration.arlingtonva.us.  Program #: 642851-H  For more info, call 703-228-3403.

http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/ParksRecreation/scripts/nature/TheSnag.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

Plenty of activities going on in the area to get you out of the house with your families.  So grab your red, white, and blue, and get into something fun.  Hope you all have a great holiday weekend!

Saturday, July 2nd

Archery!
10am – 11:30am @ Gulf Branch Nature Center, Arlington

Bows and arrows and fun!  Stop by, rent a bow for 30 minutes, and enjoy some archery practice in the shady woods.  Nature center staff will supervise for safety, and provide a little guidance if needed. For more information call 703-228-3403.  For children ages 6 and up- kids under 10 must be accompanied by an adult. There is a $5 fee per 30 min bow rental.  Register at https://registration.arlingtonva.us.  Program #: 642821-G

 

Hunting Herons Hike
4pm – 6pm @ Chain Bridge, Arlington
Search for all three species of these amazing birds, and other denizens of the Potomac Floodplain, as the heat of the day passes. Bring water and a snack, and dress to get muddy for off-trail exploring. Participants will receive directions to the meeting spot near Chain Bridge.  For more information call 703-228-3403.  For ages 8 and up.  Cost is $3 due upon registration.  Register at https://registration.arlingtonva.us. Program #: 642851-B

 

Bald Eagles Campfire
7:30pm – 8:45pm @ Gulf Branch Nature Center, Arlington

The whole family is invited to the Gulf Branch fire ring for lots of old-fashioned fun.  There will be many entertaining activities, to include stories, special animal guests, games, songs and of course, treats like s’mores. Cost is $5 fee per person- $20 max for the whole family.  Register at https://registration.arlingtonva.us.  Program #: 642851-G

 

Sunday, July 3rd

Sue Pyatt Book Signing 

10am – 2pm @ Kinder Haus Toys, Arlington

Sue Pyatt will autograph and personalize her books, “Call Me Madame President” and “President Amanda’s Whistle-stop Trip” just for kids.

 

Meet Me on a Sunday at Potomac Overlook

1:30pm – 3:30pm @ Potomac Overlook Regional Park, Arlington

“Meet me on a Sunday” activities will include refreshments, games and hands-on nature exhibits, and a fun place to meet and enjoy the outdoors.

 

Snake & Turtle Feeding: Behind the Scenes

2pm @ Hidden Oaks Nature Center, Annandale

Assist the naturalist feeding and caring for the nature center’s live amphibian and reptile exhibits animals. Meet turtles that are not on public view. Children must be accompanied by a registered, paying adult.

 

Monday, July 4th

Lots going on on the 4th in our area.  Check out this post for details.

 

 


Saturday, July 2nd – July 4th

Smithsonian Folklife Festival
11am to 5:30pm @ National Mall, Washington, DC

The Folklife Festival is an international festival of living cultural heritage.  This year, the focus is on Colombian culture, the accomplishments of the Peace Corps, and the history of Rhythm and Blues.  Each day includes music and dance performances on the mall, as well as evening concerts.  Weavers, potters, wood carvers and others will demonstrate their crafts. Others will show the importance of gold mining and coffee in Colombia. Regional foods will be cooked using an oven built on the mall. Dishes for sale include plantains, beef empanadas, chorizo with corn cakes and rice pudding.  The Folklife Festival offers a variety of activities for kids, including crafts and food demonstrations, as well as music and dance performances.  Check out Kid Friendly DC’s post for more info and tips.

 

Charlotte’s Web

7/2- 2pm & 4:30pm, 7/3- 11am & 2pm, 7/4, 11am @ Adventure Theater, Glen Echo, MD

E.B. White’s popular tale of love and devotion, takes theatergoers to Zuckerman’s Farm, where the delightful runt pig Wilbur appears headed for the dinner table — as main course, not as guest. Yet he is saved by the remarkably crafty spider, Charlotte, and the whole town begins talking about it. Some pig!  For ages 3 and up, and run time is 1 hour 15 minutes.

 

Wind in the Willows

1:30pm & 4:00pm @ Imagination Stage, Bethesda, MD

Mr. Toad, Mole, Ratty and Mr. Badger go on a wild musical ride based on the book by Kenneth Grahame.  Appropriate for ages 4 and older.

 


Although there are no fireworks blasting off from Arlington, there are many great spots where you can view the National Mall fireworks.

Air Force Memorial is located on Columbia Pike by the Navy Annex.  There is a free Air Force Band concert beginning at 8pm.  The closest metro stations are Pentagon and Pentagon City.  It’s not too bad of a walk.  You can also park at Navy Annex parking lots or park at Pentagon Mall and walk over.

Gateway Park is a 3-acre park in Rosslyn just across the Key Bridge from Georgetown.  Bonus of restrooms at the park!

Gravelly Point is a great spot because it is directly across the river from the National Mall show, and reflection of the fireworks in the Potomac is amazing.  It is a fairly spacious grassy area along the Mount Vernon Trail.  No glass bottles or alcohol are allowed anywhere along the Parkway.  If you decide to drive, reaching the parking lot can be difficult. Head south on GW Parkway until you reach Reagan National Airport.  At the airport, circle back to head north onto the Parkway towards the 14th Street Bridge.  About a quarter of mile before the bridge, turn right into the parking area.  Parking in the lot is difficult as there are minimal spots, and bicycling and metro are great alternative options.  Crystal City metro is around a 20 minute walk along the Mt. Vernon Trail.  You can also take the Reagan National airport metro station, but you do have to walk through the airport and parking lots.

The Iwo Jima Memorial is also near the Rosslyn Metro station.  Iwo Jima is only around 5 blocks from the station.  As with all of these spots, you have to get there early to get a good spot!   Some people get there as early as 4pm.  Bring a blanket and picnic to pass the time.

Key BridgeAlthough there is no seating on the bridge, you can stand on the sidewalks.  There are pedestrian walkways on either side of the bridge to watch the show.

Lady Bird Johnson Park is a little tougher to get to than some of the other spots, but it is less crowded and has really great views.   Take the Arlington Cemetery metro station, and walk the bike path down toward the Columbia Island Marina.  Restrooms are open.  If you want to drive, head south on GW Parkway and turn right into Marina after signs for Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove and Columbia Island Marina (before the Humpback Bridge).

Mount Vernon Trail  Yes, Gravely Point is a great spot, but there are many other places along the Mount Vernon Trail to watch the fireworks.  Simply walk along the trail and stake out a spot free of trees.

Another option is the Falls Church fireworks!  The show is at George Mason High School, with live music starting at 7pm, and fireworks will follow at 9:20pm.

Parades

Arlington

Many neighborhoods in Arlington hold community parades on Independence Day.

  • Albemarle Street @ 9am- starts at 32nd and Albemarle Streets.
  • Barcroft Neighborhood @ 10am- starts at the Barcroft Community Center at 8th Street S. and S. Buchanan Street.
  • Bellevue Forest @ 9am- starts at Roberts Lane and Oxford Street.
  • Douglas Park @ 10:30am- starts at S. Monroe Street and 14th Street S.
  • Dover Crystal and Riverwood @ 10am- starts at 25th and Pollard Streets.
  • Fairlington Village @ 10am- S. 31st Street and S. Abingdon Streets.
  • Lyon Village @ 11am- starts at Key Boulevard and Highland Street.

The National Independence Day Parade in DC starts at 11:45 and runs down Constitution Avenue from 7th Street to 17th Street.  The Parade consists of bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, giant balloons, equestrian & drill teams, VIP’s, national dignitaries, and celebrity participants. During the afternoon, live entertainment will be on the Mall, and at the

The Capitol Hill Parade will begin at 8th and I streets S.E.  There will be classic cars, Boy & Girl Scouts, marching bands, the Fairy Princess Patrol, and dancers! Following the parade is a community fair at Eastern Market Metro Plaza with food, entertainment, and kid’s games.  The route: 8th and I SE north to D St SE, left on D, right on 7th St SE, the Metro plaza is on the right.  Parade starts at 10am and lasts for about an hour, ending at the Eastern Market Metro Plaza.

Other 4th of July Activities

National Archives Building annual reading of the Declaration of Independence at 10am.  On the Constitution Avenue steps, between 7th and 9th Streets, veteran news broadcaster John Palmer will be emcee, with a keynote address by the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  The main attraction is the annual dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence.  From 11am – 2pm there will be family activities inside the National Archives Building.  You can also meet historical figures in the rotunda, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abigail Adams, and members of the American Historical Theatre.  You can also sign a full-size facsimile of the Declaration of Independence, and listen to stories of our patriotic past in the Boeing Learning Center at 11:30am, 12:30pm, and 1:30pm.

White House Visitor Center– from 10am to 3pm you will have the chance to be a “Signer of the Declaration of Independence for a Day,” with the help of NPS rangers and volunteers from President’s Park.  The day’s events include games, crafts, and other activities designed for both children and adults.  White House Visitor Center is located on Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, N.W., on the north side of the Commerce Department Building.


Nature Centers, nature trails, and gardens are a fantastic way to beat the heat of the summer.  Check out these local options….

In Arlington

Bon Air Park Memorial Rose Garden– Arlington

One of Arlington’s best kept secrets, the Bon Air Memorial Rose garden is one of the largest rose gardens on the East Coast. During World War II, the Arlington Rose Foundation wanted to create a living memorial dedicated to those who served their country.  Today the garden occupies about one acre, with several other gardens surrounding the area. Over 135 different rose varieties and 2,500 plants can be found within the boundaries Bon Air Park.  Bon Air Memorial Park also features an azalea garden, a shade garden, a sun garden, and an ornamental garden.  They also have a fun playground, and plenty of room for young legs to run!  The park is located at the corner of North Lexington and Wilson Boulevard, at 850 North Lexington Street in Arlington (between Upton Hill and George Mason).

http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/parksrecreation/scripts/parks/BonAirPark.aspx

Fort C.F. Smith Park

This site was was a fort during the civil war, and there are a 1/2 mile of trails on this 19-acre site.  Most of the trails are gravel and run through the woods, while the rest of the trail runs through gardens and by the Hendry House..  You can check out wildlife, and allow your kids to run wild though the open space.  During the spring and summer months, the meadows are filled with wildflowers and butterflies and birds.

http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/parksrecreation/fortcfsmith/parksrecreationfortcfsmithftcfsmith.aspx

Gulf Branch Nature Center– Arlington

The N. Arlington Nature Center is located in an old converted house.  Inside is a bee hive, snakes, turtles, an owl, puzzles and books, animal masks, coloring corners and activity stations, gardens, a viewing pond, a hollowed-out log/canoe, and pods and cones for touching, smelling and exploring.  Outside the nature center is 40 acres of nature, with a stream, a pond, wooded trails, and access to the Potomac River.

http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/parksrecreation/scripts/nature/parksrecreationscriptsnaturegulfbranch.aspx


Long Branch Nature Center– Arlington

This S. Arlington Nature Center has various exhibits with an indoor pond filled with fish and turtles.  There are also aquariums with fish, frogs, and snakes.  Your kids will love the Children’s Discovery Room with books, puppets, and toys.  Outside there are 18 acres with a meadow, two ponds, interpretive gardens, and a forest!.  They also take in and rehabilitate injured reptiles.  The park is located on the Long Branch Stream, which flows into Four Mile Run.

http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/parksrecreation/scripts/nature/parksrecreationscriptsnaturelongbranch.aspx

Check out this entry for more info on Gulf Branch and Long Branch. 

Our Kids wrote a fantastic review of both centers.  

Potomac Overlook Nature Center- Arlington

In N. Arlington, Potomac Overlook has over 70 acres of woodland, trails, gardens, a small picnic area, and a Nature Center.  The Nature Center features live snakes, turtles and fish.  Next to the Nature Center is an exhibit featuring rehabilitated birds of prey, including 3 owls and a hawk!  In the picnic area next to the nature center is a table for the kids, as well as chairs and picnic tables for adults. There is also a butterfly garden and lots of room to run.  It is all shaded, so even on hot days, you will stay cool.  There is also a playground right next to the parking lot.  Follow Marcey Rd to the end, and you will see the parking lot.  Follow the paved trail and walk down to nature center. It is very stroller accessible and a bit of a walk for young legs, so a stroller may be a good idea for youngsters.

http://www.nvrpa.org/park/potomac_overlook

Powhatan Springs Children’s Rain Garden– Arlington

Powhatan Springs Children’s Rain Garden is unique play area that encourages kids to get wet!  It is a man-made wetland area that is designed to collect and cleanse rainwater, and it creates many hands-on activities for kids.  Kids can entertain themselves by making water flow from a bright red pump, splashing in the droplets that collect on concrete basins, and hopping from rock to rock. They can also create boats or other structures to send floating down the flume, and can build castles in the sand. In addition to the rain garden there is also a wooded play area.  Bring water, sand toys, or balls- and a picnic!

http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/ParksRecreation/scripts/planning/powhatan/ParksRecreationScriptsPowhatanRainGarden.aspx

Theodore Roosevelt Island- Arlington

Head to Teddy Roosevelt Island for a hike and picnic. On this wooded island sanctuary, 2.5 miles of trails lead to the great statue of Roosevelt, There are trails that are flat and wide, so toddlers can walk or go in strollers, and kids of all ages will enjoy exploring. There are kid sized climbing rocks, as well as a sandy beach with rocks and shells. Kids will be able to see and hear the jets from Reagan overhead, in addition to many plants and animals: frogs, fish, turtles, ducks, geese, and deer. Bring bread to feed the ducks, and then picnic by the monument.  You can get there in a car only from the northbound lane of GW Parkway. Once you are parked, cross a foot bridge to the island.

http://www.nps.gov/this/index.htm


In Alexandria

Green Spring Gardens– Alexandria

This is a 27-acre public park with over 20 thematic gardens (including a Children’s Garden, a Family Garden, Butterfly Crossing for kids), a greenhouse filled with tropicals, and a horticultural reference library (with a children’s library and children’s corner).  You can also walk through the a wooded stream valley to an area with 2 small ponds   The visitor center has backpacks you can take on your walk that are filled with guide books, magnifying glass, journal and crayons, etc.

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/PARKS/gsgp/

Huntley Meadows Park- Alexandria

Huntley Meadows Park is an actual wetland that was carved out by an ancient Potomac stream.  A graveled path from the visitor’s center leads to a series of boardwalks over the wetlands.   You will walk through the forest, into meadows, and through freshwater wetlands.    It is really a beautiful place.  I have heard that going in the morning is the best time, as the animals are much more active.  We went  late morning, as were still able to see tons of turtles, frogs, ducks (with babies), and plenty of birds.  You can also try to spot geese, herons, dragonflies, snakes, butterflies, and beavers from the boardwalk.  The trails are very stroller friendly and wheelchair accessible. The Visitor Center also has great kids events and programs for all ages.  You can bring your own picnic lunch and use the picnic table at the visitor center or the various benches.  There is an entrance to Huntley Meadows off S. Kings Highway, but you can get to the visitors center only from the Lockheed Blvd entrance.  The visitor center is closed Tuesdays.

Check out this great post by Darcy of No Monsters in My Bed.  

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/huntley/

Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center- Alexandria

They have live animals like turtles, toads, snakes, and salamanders, as well as an aquarium with native fish species.  There is a mounted black bear, red fox, turkey and bobcat for you to check out.

http://alexandriava.gov/recreation/info/default.aspx?id=12362

River Farm Garden Park– Alexandria

River Farm belonged to George Washington, and is now the home to the American Horticultural Society.  It is a fantastic place to take kids!  It is one of our favorite places to go to play and enjoy being outside.  As a bonus cooler there because of the breeze off the Potomac.  There are 25 acres of lawns and gardens at River Farm, and it is open to the public from 9am- – 5pm Monday – Friday, and on Saturdays 9am – 1pm from April to September.  The entire grounds are fun to wander around with kids, but they will especially love the 13 small themed children’s gardens: The Fairy Tale Garden, Hummingbird Garden, Rest Stop, Beau Beau’s Garden, Alphabet Garden, Wobby The Worm, Scratch and Sniff Garden, Boat Garden, Hide-n-Seek Garden, Little House on the Prairie, Rock-n-Roll Garden, The Maze Garden, and Bat Cave.

Check out this post for more info.

http://www.ahs.org/river_farm/index.htm

Winkler Botanical Preserve– Alexandria

The Winkler Botanic Preserve is a private nature sanctuary in Alexandria on 44 acres.  It is a fun place to bring kids and take a short hike.  Trails.com has a great write up about this hidden gem.  The trailhead is at the edge of a meadow, surrounded by woods and a mountain climber’s training tower. The hikes route features include a small lake with several streams, waterfall, covered bridge mountain lodge, and even a Hobbit house.  The trail surface is mostly wood-chip mulch, some gravel, and grass.  It is located at 5400 Roanoke Avenue, Alexandria.  It only has 6 parking spots.  The park is open from 8:30am – 5pm.  Call 703-578-7888 for more information.  It can be difficult to find this preserve.  The sign is behind the branches on the left side of the entrance.  Drive past the entrance and park in the small lot to the left and follow the gravel laden path.

http://www.friendsofwinkler.org/FactSheet.aspx

Outlying Virginia Areas

Frying Pan Farm Park– Herndon, VA

This is a fun place to visit to check out a real working farm.  There are cows, goats, chickens, bunnies, sheep, and pigs.  You are not able to feed these animals, but you can pet them through the fences.  Once you have had your fill of animal watching, you can head to the playground to run off some steam.  There is also a country store where you can purchase gifts, ice cream, and drinks.  New this year is an Allan Herschell carousel that was built during the depression era. Tickets are only $0.75.  We visit the farm at least once a year.  If you haven’t been before, definitely plan a trip.  Your kids (and you) will love it.

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/fpp/


Hidden Oaks Nature Center- Annandale

The playroom of this nature center is quite large and perfect for kids. There are lots of interactive stations for the kids, like drawers in walls, indoor climbing structures,various animal exhibits, tents, and toys.  There is also a tower/play structure for them to climb on, places for dress up, and many books and stuffed animals in the book area.  There is even an indoor turtle pond!  It is a pretty contained area, so it also a great place to meet friends and hang out.  We love this nature center!

It is also home to Nature Playce, an 1/3-acre, free-play outdoor area outdoor play area designed to safely introduce youngsters to the wonders of nature.  In Nature Playce, there is a small pond/mini-waterfall, In addition, there is a wooden sandbox and plastic wading pool with plastic dinosaurs to play.

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/hiddenoaks/

Reston Zoo- Vienna, VA

Reston Zoo is a thirty-acre, family-friendly zoo right in the heart of Vienna.  There are Zoofari wagon rides that take you to see antelope, camels, zebras, antelope, bison, crazy ostriches, watusis, and many more.  There are exhibits of monkeys, kangaroos, alligator, tortoises, servals, a wide variety of birds and many more interesting animals!  There is also a Petting Barn, where you can pet and feed sheep, lambs, goats, llamas, rabbits, and pot-belly pigs.  Animal feed cups and baby bottles are available for purchase in the gift shop.  Don’t miss the Zoofari ride when you go- it is always the highlight of our trip.

http://www.restonzoo.com/


Washington DC

Rock Creek Nature Center– Washington, DC

The nature center has stuffed versions of all the birds and animals native to Rock Creek park – a bald eagle, woodpecker, even a coyote.  There are tanks filled with fish and frogs native to the park, and a bee station located on the back wall of the exhibit room.  You can watch the bees at work in the hive, visible through glass panes.  The hive is connected to the outdoors by a plastic tube.  There is a small Discovery play room to draw or do puppet shows, as well as books, puzzles, and dress-up clothes.  Kids will love the ‘Please Touch’ Center with animal furs, bones and antlers to explore.  Kids can also play with stone stamps that make footprints from different animals in the sand.  They host nature walks and ranger programs, too.

There is also a planetarium that seats 75 people.  It holds regular shows on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. for children five and older (5-7 year olds must be accompanied by an adult) and at 4 p.m. for children seven and older.

http://www.nps.gov/rocr/planyourvisit/naturecenter.htm

US Botanic Garden– Washington, DC

Located just across the street from the Museum of the American Indian at the foot of the Capitol, is the three-acre National Garden.  There are so many beautiful gardens (like the Jungle and Garden Court) within the building, but the favorite of most kids is the special hands-on garden just for children.  Kids can dig, water, plant, and touch and smell the plants. There are two wells filled with water, and many watering cans. One of the wells has a fish fountain, and the kids can use the pump to push water to the fish’s mouth. There is a little house to explore, and pathways through a bamboo forest.  There is also a big shady spot for parents where you can watch the kids play. Might want to bring a change of clothes for the kids- K is almost always happily soaked when we go.

http://www.usbg.gov/


US National Arboretum, Washington, DC

This is frequently called on of DC’s best kept secrets.  Start out by feeding the koi (buy food for 25 cents).  There are wide open spaces to run and play, and the bonsai garden is amazing.  Bring a picnic and blanket, and eat on the east terrace at the National Grove of State Trees.  You can also take a tram ride- it is a 35-minute taped tour that highlights the Arboretum.  The grounds are open every day of the year from 8am – 5pm, and admission is free.   I can’t believe that we haven’t been here yet.  I hear such great things about it- it is definitely on my list!  Check out these posts from No Monsters in My Bed. It is one of their favorite places to visit, and Darcy has many tips.
The National Arboretum (Koi Pond, Azalea Gardens, & Bonsai) and 

The National Arboretum’s Fern Valley, Capitol Columns, & Youth Garden (Washington D.C.)

http://www.usna.usda.gov/



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