Places to Go - Clemyjontri Park (McLean, VA)


Almost every parent of a toddler throughout the DC metro-area has heard of or visited Clemyjontri Park, as it's sort of a 2 year old's version of paradise (minus the fact that the playground contains almost no shade or trees - making it scalding hot in the summer and extra cold in the winter). And I must admit the park is impressive in its HUGE colorfulness and variety, full of fake "roads" (made of that bouncy playground material, so nobody gets hurt), airplanes, motorcycles, cars, a firetruck, a bus, tons of swings, a plastic instrument section, a MAZE, and a carousel in the summer. It seems limitless, which is both Clemyjontri's blessing and its curse.

When the girls were little, we constantly received invitations for playdates and get togethers here. But as a mother of two small children, I found the whole place a logistic nightmare - F wanted me to push her on the swings, but where was P? Oh, crying because she fell off the firetruck, half a football field away from me. As I rushed to retrieve her, moms of only children glowered at me, their eyes clearly saying "how could you be so negligent? Where were you?" I felt like crying. No matter how hard I tried, the girls (aged only 13 months apart) always went in different directions, especially at Clemyjontri which offers so so many directions to choose from. And then there's the maze, a wonderful idea in some regards - but if you turn your head as one of your three children wanders in unexpectedly, a gripping fear engulfs every organ as you run through the giant playground screaming at everyone you see "have you seen my son?"

I started calling it the "only child" playground, because everyone there always seems to have an adult child ratio of at least 1:1 (more often 3:1 (apparently grandparents love to come too)). And I avoided it like the plague. Well, until now.

Last week, T and I went with some friends. And we stayed forever. I stood by as T and his best friend, J, put out imaginary fires, raced motorcycles, started a band, sailed on a "boat", and flew airplanes. He ran from place to place, overwhelmed and intrigued. A joy to watch. Which made me realize how in some ways I'm doing this whole thing backwards - most families start out with two adults and one little bundle of joy - bonding like crazy. Then (for some) more kids slowly add to the pack. But F was only 3 months old when I became pregnant with P. By the time F started walking, I could no longer see my feet. And I remember it being hard, in lots of ways. But I had no comparison metric, I didn't know anything else (other than the glowering moms mentioned above, who seemed so constantly disappointed by me). And we had fun together (sometimes frazzled fun, but still fun).

But, now, with my third child, I'm finally able to take him to the playground without any siblings. And as much as I loved the community and joy and love that comes with two, I must say hanging out with one is pretty fun as well. Especially at places like Clemyjontri Park.

If you're interested, Clemyjontri is open every day from 7 am to dusk. The playground has a larg(ish) parking lot, which often fills on weekends (overflow parking is located across the street and around the corner, somewhat of a hike). The playground's unique design (ramps, wheelchair accessibility, wide openings) assures that children of all abilities can play next to each other. In the spring, a paid carousel operates on weekends. And in summer, the carousel operates daily. Bathrooms are on site. Click here for more information.


Years ago, all of the kids received dog hats as birthday party favors and for some reason they always wear them when I bring the camera, which drives me a little crazy.


Nothing like a porch swing to get the party going.


The bottom photo is of the dreaded/loved maze. So much fun, well, until it's not.


  1. I included Clemyjontri on my site too! adaywithdaddy

    Great post!

  2. I love the mission of Clemyjontri Park and the carousel rules! But in the winter and summer, visiting it feels like visiting an inhospitable planet. I hope they put up some shelters in the future!

  3. Hope you go back and can find the Porpoise jumping in the pond and the seagull fly over.... GEF designed it to teach powers of observation---have fun looking.

    G.E. Fielder, lead playground designer for CLEMYJONTRI



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