Places to Go - 64 Things to Do (and Places to Go) as a Family This Summer

(P at Theodore Roosevelt Island, 2008)

18 categories, 64 ideas. My goal is to check off at least one activity in each category. Who wants to join me?

1. The National Zoo - A new carousel is scheduled to arrive at the National Zoo this summer. Yay!! Click here for info on the carousel's layout and animals.
2. More - Go Out and Play! has a great list of area carousels, click here to check it out.

3. River Farm (Alexandria, VA) - Previously posted here. A beautiful meadow and a great children's garden make this a wonderful place for an afternoon outside. Unfortunately, it's only open to the public on weekdays and Saturday mornings. Click here for more info. FREE!
4. Meadowlark Gardens (Vienna, VA) - Previously posted here. A beautiful gazebo overlooks the lake and a wonderful children's garden includes a life-size tea set and sandbox. Stroller-friendly trails and sculptures surround the property. Walk through a forest. Check out the geese. Feed the fish. Smell the flowers. Gorgeous. Though be warned - the property resides on a large hill with the visitors center at top, so the walk back to the car can be a haul for small children. For more information, click here.
5. United States Botanic Garden (Washington DC) - Previously posted here. - A fish fountain with a pump, various shovels and watering cans, a miniature house. So much fun. FREE!
6. Brookside Gardens (Wheaton, MD) - This place is huge, I don't think we've ever managed to see the whole thing in one day. Lots of gazebos and ponds and room to run. And a wonderful children's garden with a treehouse. In the summer the garden usually hosts an indoor butterfly exhibit (additional cost) which is quite spectacular (P is scared of butterflies, so we can never stay long). For more information, click here.

7. Oxon Hill Farm (Oxon Hill, MD) - Previously posted here. A great working farm, full of various farm animals. Lots of places to run. A barn full of old farm equipment that kids can sit and play on. The farm hosts several daily activities, but they're often canceled, so call ahead. The property is a very short drive from National Harbor, which has many good lunch places. FREE!
8. Great Country Farms (Bluemont, VA) - Previously posted here. Of everywhere on this list I think Great Country Farms is my favorite place. The farm always has something available for you-pick (from potatoes to strawberries to blackberries, check the website for information) and the grounds are full of wonderful kid-friendly activities - a HUGE bouncing pillow (sort of like a moon-bounce but better), slides, a petting zoo, rope swings, tire mountains, a corn crib, mini-tractors, sandboxes, a giant outdoor chess set, etc. So much fun. So much!!
9. Frying Pan Farm & Park (Herndon, VA) - Previously posted here. This working farm recreates a local farm from the 1920s to the 1950s. Lots of animals - pigs, horses, cows, goats, peacocks, chickens, etc - make it a great place for kids. Plus, the mini-tractors (great for photo opps) and the two playgrounds make for a wonderful day or afternoon. A trail around the park includes a short walk in the woods. Wagon rides and a country-store are on site (be careful in the store, as your kids are sure to want the toys they sell). FREE!
10. Claude Moore Colonial Farm (McLean, VA) - Travel back in time to 1771 and see the world a different way. I especially recommend going on the weekend of a Market Fair (previously posted here) where you'll encounter puppet shows, three-legged races, wonderful bbque, tight-rope walkers, cheap beer, and crafts galore. So much fun.
11. The National Colonial Farm (Accokeek, MD) - We've never been here, but I really want to go. The farm is a living history museum that depicts life for an ordinary tobacco planting family in the 1770s. On weekends visitors may come across people spinning, dyeing, woodworking and playing colonial games. For more information, click here.
12. More - Check out this fabulous KidFriendly DC post on pick-your-own strawberry farms in the region. Many of these farms offer other pick-your-own opportunities throughout the summer, check the websites for more information.

13. Great Falls (Potomac, MD) - Previously posted here. A walking path next to the C&O canal leads to a boardwalk over smaller falls until you arrive at the Great Falls viewing platform. The walk is stroller friendly (though some of the trail is dirt, so be careful after rain). In the summer, for an extra fee the National Park service offers mule-drawn boat rides down the canal (be warned, the boat moves VERY slowly). A visitors center and concession stand are on site.
14. Great Falls (McLean, VA) - You can also see the falls from VA. Lots of easily-accessible viewing areas, concession stands, picnic tables, room to run, and a kid-friendly visitors' center. For more information, click here.
15. Scotts Run Nature Preserve (McLean, VA) - A 2.2 mile kid-friendly hike takes you to the falls. We haven't gone with the kids yet, but I really want to check it out. Click here to read the Meanest Mama's review. FREE!

16. The National Monuments at Night (Washington DC) - Have you seen the monuments at night? They're breathtaking. Really. Keep the kids up late and wander around for awhile. Marvel at Lincoln in his fully lit glory. FREE!
17. The National Zoo (Washington DC) - The grounds of the National Zoo are open until 8 pm during the summer. What kid doesn't want to see a zebra before bedtime? FREE!
18. Campfires at Long Branch and Gulf Branch Nature Centers (Arlington, VA) - Who doesn't love a campfire with marshmallows? Check out the snag to see the dates of the next few.
19. May 25-27 Sunset Celebration at Mt Vernon (Alexandria, VA) - previously reviewed here - cheesecake, wine, amazing views, and tons of candles. A great way to see the estate. Click here for tickets and information.

20. Yards Park (Washington DC) - On Friday nights the Yards Park in DC (right by Nationals' Stadium) hosts free outdoor concerts - complete with beer garden and food trucks. The park has a spraypark for kids and beautiful views of the Potomac, click here to read Not-So-SAHM's review. And click here for the park's website. FREE!
21. Pentagon Row - Last summer we loved attending Pentagon Row's free summer concert series on Thursday nights. This summer the tribute bands look awesome (who doesn't love some Bon Jovi?). Click here for the schedule. FREE!
22. More - This website has a huge list of free summer concerts in DC, MD, and VA.

23. The Tidal Basin (Washington DC) - Click here to read Not-So-SAHM's review of the tidal basin paddle boats. The boats cost $12/hr for a 2-person boat and $19/hr for a 4-person boat. Until Labor Day, boats run 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. (last boat out at 5 p.m.)
24. Inner Harbor (Baltimore, MD) - We still haven't rented one, but every time we visit National Harbor my kids beg to ride a dragon paddleboat. The boats cost $8 to $11 per half-hour for regular paddleboats, $15 per half-hour for Chessies (dragon boats). They're available Sunday to Thursday 11am to 9pm. Click here for more information.

25. Cunningham Falls State Park (Thurmont, MD) - Previously posted here and here. Roast some marshmallows, sleep under the stars, and in the morning swim in the lake or hike to the waterfall. A wonderful night out.
26. Assateague Island National Lakeshore (Berlin, MD) - Spend the night on the beach and wake up to wild horses in the morning (be careful, they know how to open coolers - we learned this the hard way - so make sure to lock all of your food in the car). A gorgeous place to spend a night. Book early, sites fill up fast (especially on weekends). For more information click here.
27. Prince William Forest Park, Oakridge Campground (Triangle, VA) - We haven't been yet, but I've been told that Loop C has best sites. Make sure to reserve ahead of time. Click here for more information.
28. Sky Meadows State Park (White Post, VA) - We've never been, but my neighbors have GREAT things to say about this place (they took two kids - a 1 year old and a 3 year old). According to the website "Camping at Sky Meadows is available at the park's backcountry campground. The camping area is a 1-mile hike from the parking area. The area offers 15 individual campsites and 3 group sites. All sites feature level tent pads, fire rings, picnic tables, and lantern posts. There are also vault toilets and access to non-potable water. Reservations for campsites are required. Walk-in reservations for individual campsites are possible for one night only, subject to availability." Click here for more information.
29. Big Meadows Campground, Shenandoah National Park - "Big Meadows (mile 51.2), though secluded, is near many of the major facilities and popular hiking trails in the park. Three waterfalls are within walking distance; the Meadow, with its abundant plant growth and wildlife, lies within walking distance. $20 per night when on the reservation system and $17 per night during late spring and early fall. Generator-free and group sites are available." Click here for more information.

30. The Water Taxi from Alexandria to National Harbor - Previously posted here. The boat leaves approximately every 1.5 hours from the Alexandria docks and the ride to National Harbor takes about thirty minutes. At National Harbor my kids love to eat ice cream from Ben & Jerry's and play on the Awakening statue. A great way to spend an afternoon. The water taxi company also offers pirate cruises on weekends, click here for information.
31. Mt Vernon (Alexandria, VA) - Potomac Riverboat Company offers 45 minute sightseeing cruises from the Mt. Vernon docks for an additional cost over admission. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children 6-12. Spend a day touring the estate and then enjoy some leisure time on the water. Click here for the schedule and additional information.
32. Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake (Annapolis, MD) - Previously posted here. Even my pirate-weary girls loved this boat ride - search for "hidden treasure", use your water cannon to knock "Pirate Pete" out of his boat, listen to various stories of pirate lore. Call ahead for reservations at least a month in advance, it's a busy boat.
33. The Baltimore Water Taxi (Baltimore, MD) - This boat cruises throughout Baltimore's Inner Harbor, with stops at the Science Museum, aquarium, Fells Point, Fort McHenry, and other destinations. Tickets are $12 per adult and $6 for children 3-10. Every Wednesday children ages 10 & under ride free (limit 2 children per paying adult), excluding holidays and special events (June 13th and July 4th). Click here for more information.

34. Living Classrooms Science + You Exhibit (Washington DC) - Living Classrooms has a hand-on interactive laboratory that provides children ages 3-8 "the opportunity to become scientists for a day". Located in the Yards Park (by Nationals Stadium) the exhibit is open from 12:30 to 4 pm Tuesday-Friday and 10 to 4 pm on the weekends. Click here to read KidFriendly DC's review (it sounds awesome). FREE!
35. Math Alive! at the Smithsonian's Ripley Center (Washington DC) - KidFriendly DC has great things to say about this interactive math exhibit for kids. Click here to read the review. And click here to go to the Smithsonian's website. The exhibit runs through June 3. FREE!
36. National Children's Museum Launch Zone (National Harbor, MD) - The Launch Zone hosts various kids' activities throughout the summer for FREE (fishes of the potomac, imagination playground, sunwise, etc. ). Not-So-SAHM reviewed their "toddler Tuesday" exhibit on dinosaurs and had good things to say. Click here to read her review. And click here to see the schedule of future exhibits. FREE!
37. The Children's Museum at Glen Echo Park (Glen Echo, MD) - From 10 am to 3pm on weekends, living classrooms opens its doors and invites participants to take short hikes to the creek, make arts-and-crafts projects to take home, and view LIVE animal encounters! Admission is $5 a per person. Click here for more info.
38. Dinosaur Park (Laurel, MD) - We've never been here, but I hope to go soon (it looks amazing). According to the website "[d]inosaur Park presents visitors a unique opportunity to experience the prehistoric past. The park features a small garden/entry area with interpretive signage about the Muirkirk Deposit, a unique geological formation with 110 million year old fossils, some of which are the remains of dinosaurs. The park also includes an intact portion of the Muirkirk Deposit surrounded by a fence. Access to the Muirkirk deposit is only allowed on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 12 noon to 4 pm, during this time kids can HELP ASSIST PALEONTOLOGISTS SEARCHING FOR FOSSILS (how cool is that?). School programs and group tours are offered weekdays by appointment. Click here for more info. FREE!
39. Stories in Art at the National Gallery (Washington DC) - previously posted here - For children 4-7, the summer series explores French art through a painting, story, and art project. Classes are on Sundays and Mondays. Click here for the schedule. FREE!

40. Walkersville Southern Railroad (Walkersville, MD) - (previously posted here) - This regional train operates on Saturdays through the summer, with departures at 11 am and 2 pm. On sunny days, you can choose to ride in the train's open air excursion car. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children over 3 (younger children are free). The train DOES NOT have bathrooms. Click here for more info.
41. B&O Railroad Museum (Baltimore, MD) - Train rides are offered Wednesday - Sunday through the summer for an additional cost over the admission price. Click here for information.
42. More - Go Out and Play! has a great list of kids' trains, click here to check it out. We're big fans of spending the day at the fantastic (shaded) playgrounds of Cabin John Regional Park (Rockville, MD) and cruising through the countryside on their train (click here for our post on Cabin John).

43. Rustico Restaurant (Arlington, VA) - (previously posted here) - The kids love running through the fountain/spraypark between Rustico and Buzz Bakery and I love drinking a glass of wine on the patio while they play. A win win. FREE!
44. Lee District's Harbor Spray Park - Alexandria just opened the Disneyworld of sprayparks - seriously, this is HUGE with a dragon fountain, water maze, water dumping crab basket, and custom crab boat, all of which are accessible for children of all abilities (i.e. handicap accessible). We haven't been yet, but Keeping Up with Cardin has some great pics. Admission is free but water shoes are required. The park is open from 11-7 on all days but Wednesday (Wednesday is 11-5). Click here for more info. FREE!
45. Georgetown Waterfront Park (Washington DC) - Is it a fountain? Is it a splashpark? I'm not sure, but it looks AWESOME!! Click here to check out Not-So-SAHM's pics and review. FREE!
46. More - check out this KidFriendly DC post from last year for a list of area splashparks (we really like Hayes in Arlington). FREE!

47. The Meanest Mama's Playground Reviews - The Meanest Mama regularly reviews Metro DC and Arlington parks and playgrounds. Click here to check out her reviews. FREE!
48. The Playground Review - Also check out this blog for more playground reviews. FREE!
49. Cabin John Regional Park (Rockville, MD) - Previously posted here. If you haven't been yet, summer is a great time to check out this "superpark" - full of tons of play sculptures, SHADE, and a miniature train. Bring a picnic and make a day out of it. FREE!

50. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens (Washington DC) - In the morning thousands (if not millions) of water flowers fill the grounds. Plus the property includes a boardwalk through wetlands and a decently-fun visitor's center. Though not in DC's best neighborhood, the gardens themselves are safe, just make sure to bring a GPS for the drive, not a fun place to be lost (trust me on this one). For more information, click here. FREE!
51. The National Zoo (Washington DC) - The grounds of the zoo open at 6 am and in the morning the animals are often out and alert (before the heat of the day kicks in). Click here for more info. FREE!
52. Theodore Roosevelt Island (Washington DC) - This is one of our favorite morning hangouts in the summer - check out the ducks, watch for deer (we saw one once, long ago), run by the fountains. Bring a picnic and have breakfast on the boardwalk. FREE!

53. Maryland Water Parks - Click here for a list of water parks in MD.
54. Virginia Water Parks - Click here for a list of water parks in VA.

55. The Washington Nationals (Washington DC) - Summer isn't complete without a trip to the ballpark. Click here for the Nationals' schedule.
56. DC United (Washington DC) - Most of the games are at night, but if you don't mind keeping the kids up late, it's a great way to spend enjoy a summer evening. Click here for the schedule.
57. The Washington Mystics (Washington DC) - These games are fun for the whole family. My kids love going. Click here for the schedule.

58. The National Zoo (Washington DC) - I love walking through the National Zoo's small but still magical butterfly garden (located at the end of the invertebrate exhibit), especially because it's free and not too overwhelming. Click here for more info. FREE!
59. The Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History (Washington DC) - We've never visited, but I've heard good things. Tuesdays are free (but timed-entry tickets are required), every other day of the week the exhibit costs $6 for adults and $5 for children (2-12). Click here for information on the hours and to buy tickets.
60. Brookside Gardens (Wheaton, MD) - The "Wings of Fancy" butterfly exhibit is truly mesmerizing (we try to visit once a year). It runs from May 5 through September 16, 2012 and is open daily from 10:00 am to 4 pm. Cost is $6 for adults and $4 for children 3-12. Click here for more information.

61. Summer Movie Express through Regal Cinemas (various locations) - "Moviegoers of all ages can climb aboard the Summer Movie Express to enjoy a great selection of films. During this 9-week festival, participating Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Edwards Theatres will offer selected G or PG rated movies for only a dollar on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 10:00. A portion of proceeds from the Summer Movie Express will be donated to the Will Rogers Institute." Click here for the schedule and a list of participating theaters.
62. Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (Arlington, VA) - Every Monday at 4:30 the drafthouse shows a family movie for only $1 per person. Food and beverages (including alcohol) are available for purchase. A great way to beat the heat on hot summer afternoons. Plus our favorite bakery (Senor Pan) is right around the corner from the drafthouse. Click here for the schedule.
63. National Harbor (National Harbor, MD) - "During the summer months National Harbor, Maryland, the waterfront development on the Potomac River, presents free classic movies on the Plaza’s big screen. Seating is not provided, so attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. Coolers and outside food and beverages are not allowed. Fridays are DATE NIGHT Movies. Sundays are FAMILY Movies. Films begin at dusk, usually around 8:30 p.m." Click here for the schedule. FREE!
64. More - Click here for a list of other locations offering free outdoor movies at night.

So what did I forget? Comment or email me and I'll add it to the list!


  1. You've done it again - this is awesome! I'm going to try to check off one from every category too (though lets be honest, the camping thing probably won't happen :) ). Great list!!!

  2. Awesome Darcy! Thanks so much for compiling this list! One addition to the sports section is the Washington Kastles team tennis in SW DC, just down from all the seafood shops. It's a small open air tennis stadium where all the seats are awesome, and the Williams sisters are on the team!

  3. Wow, this is fantastic! Just posted a "summer in DC" list, but not nearly as many ideas as this. Hope to check off a bunch of these this summer!

  4. this is fantastic! thanks so much. Another idea for catching a game are the minor league teams- potomac nationals, bowie baysox, etc. may be easier to handle for the kids than the pros.

  5. Great list! I still have to wait a little while longer until my boys are old enough for some of these activities but definitely bookmarking it for the future! Thanks!



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