(Pictured above: azaleas and koi at the National Arb)

Since my winter post on inside spaces with kids was such a hit, I figured I'd make a new list for the warmer months. Cause we're ready to go outside, aren't you? As always, since we live in Arlington this part of the list is more inclusive, whereas MD is the least inclusive. I obviously couldn't include everything so I tried to limit this post to the best of the best and I've excluded pools and waterparks, as they're a whole post in themselves. Please let me know what I've left out. And, as always, for the latest scoop on weekend events, festivals, and more places to go make sure to check out Kidfriendly DC and Go Out and Play!


1. Long Branch Nature Center - I've posted on Long Branch previously (click here). The nature center itself is wonderful (for warm or cool days) with a toddler-friendly kid-room and lots of toys, but on a nice day we love walking on the trail outside the center as it meanders past a stream and ends in small playground off four mile run, the perfect place for a picnic lunch. FREE!

2. Hayes Park - Arlington has tons of wonderful parks and three sprayparks (click here for a full list), but Hayes is our favorite. The spraypark is shaded, making it a perfect place on hot sunny days. Plus the park contains tons of great playground equipment and a nice sandbox (only partially shaded). The park's large size makes it a fun destination even when crowded. [Update 6/11- I recently visited Hayes on a weekday morning and it was crowded, crazy crowded. This summer Arlington often only has one spraypark open at a time (so make sure to check the schedule), which leads to overcrowding. Be weary.]FREE!

3. Potomac Overlook Park - A playground next to the parking lot, a great nature center, tons of trails (some of which actually lead to the Potomac), a large meadow with a stage (perfect for frisbee and/or "performances" of one sort or another), beautiful sculptures throughout the property. A lovely place, though only borderline stroller-friendly (most of the trails are narrow and hilly on dirt paths). For more information, click here. FREE!

4. Gulf Branch Nature Center - I've posted about Gulf Branch previously (click here for the post). A great nature center (with a fun canoe that my children can play in for hours) surrounded by trails and a small pond. On weekends they often host campfires, sign-up is required so check the website for more information. FREE!

5. Gravelly Point Park - Previously posted here. A great place to bring a frisbee or a ball and watch the planes fly into Regan airport (the runway is only 400 feet from the park). There's also a paved walking path along the river (suitable for fishing). Check out the Yelp reviews here. FREE!


6. Mt Vernon - Previously posted here. George Washington's estate is a surprisingly kid-friendly destination. Lots of room for kids to run (the grounds are HUGE) plus farm animals to observe and windows to peak in. Skip the tour and play duck-duck-goose on the lawn instead, surrounded by beautiful vistas of the Potomac. A child-friendly cafeteria is on site.

7. 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.

8. The Old-Town Waterfront - Previously posted here. Walk around, check out the boats, feed the ducks, climb on the "giant" anchor, lust after the art in the Torpedo Factory. Run through the field or bring a frisbee. If you're feeling ambitious, combine your trip with a ride on the water taxi to National Harbor. FREE!

9. River Farm - 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!

10. Green Spring Gardens - Flowers everywhere. A gazebo and pond. A library (with a children's section). Plus the garden hosts several children's programs and camps, so check the website. For more information, click here. FREE!

11. Huntley Meadows - Previously posted here (for fall) and here (for spring). A stroller-friendly walk in the woods that ends at a boardwalk through wetlands. Look for birds, frogs, turtles, muskrats, ducks, geese, heron and more. One of our favorite places in the area. Great for kids, adults, birders, photographers, and all lovers of nature. FREE!

12. Winkler Botanical Preserve - We've never been here, but Go Out and Play! gave it an incredible review, so hopefully we'll get there soon. According to Go Out and Play! the preserve has a trail that includes a "small lake with several streams, waterfall, covered bridge mountain lodge, and even a Hobbit house." Click here to read the rest of the review and get the info. FREE!

13. 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!

14. Jones Point Park - Previously posted here. Two small playgrounds, basketball hoops, and trails on the Potomac to fishing piers and an old lighthouse. A wonderful place to take a walk and play for awhile. FREE!


15. The National Arboretum - Previously posted here. The arb is truly Washington's hidden treasure, bigger than NYC's Central Park you can spend a whole day here and not see everything. We're still exploring all the nooks and crannies. Grab a map and look around, you'll have a blast. I especially recommend a trip to the Capitol Columns and the nature play space (part of the Washington Youth Garden, previously posted here). FREE!

16. The US Botanical Gardens - Previously posted here. We love it here, especially in the summer when the children's garden opens, which includes: a "fish" fountain with a pump, lots of watering cans, a child-sized house, and a canopied forest-walk. The fountains alone can entertain my children for hours. Outside are beautiful rose gardens and plenty of room to run. Make a day of it by eating lunch at the American Indian Museum across the street and playing in their new ImagiNATIONS playspace. FREE!

17. The National Zoo - Previously posted here and here. Kids love zoos and adults love free zoos - you can't go wrong, especially when the lion cubs and baby gorilla are out (so cute)! Make sure to watch the orangutans overhead on the O-line. FREE! (though parking is not free)

18. Yards Park - We haven't visited yet, but KidFriendly DC gave this park a glowing review (click here to read it). Apparently the park is both beautiful to look at and kid-friendly as it has water sprays for kids to play in, which sounds perfect for beating the summer heat. FREE!

19. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens - Previously posted here. If you go in the morning this place is stunning, thousands (if not millions) of water flowers everywhere. 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!

20. Theodore Roosevelt Island - Previously posted here. When you crave some nature in the city this park is truly a blessing. Dance by the statue, run on the boardwalk, collect rocks on the trails, feed the ducks. And don't forget to look up at the incredible tree canopy surrounding you. FREE!

21. The Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin - Previously posted here. We like to play on the lawns of the Memorial after dinner, beautiful city views make this the perfect location for duck-duck-goose and watching the sun set over the city. FREE!

22. The National Mall Carousel - Previously posted here. My kids love the carousel. I love the sculpture gardens (both the Hirshhorn's and the National Gallery's). The park service has a (mediocre) cafe next to the carousel which serves hot dogs and fries and that sort of stuff. Lots of room to run and museums to see.

23. The National Mall (Constitution Gardens & the Lincoln Memorial) - A nice place to take a stroll and feed the ducks. The kids enjoy walking across the bridge to Independence Island (though watch out for goose droppings) and I like the sculpture garden and Einstein statue across the street. Anywhere you look, the views are spectacular. Plus, the abundance of trees means plenty of great picnic spots, even on hot days. For more information, click here. FREE!

24. Georgetown to Alexandria Boat Rides through Potomac Riverboat Company - See the monuments by water. So relaxing. My kids love these boat rides - airplanes, trains, other boats and lots of trees and monuments. Potomac River Company sells popcorn on the boat, an extra bonus. The ticket price is somewhat steep ($26 for adults, $14 for kids)- so save for a splurge day. On weekends, the boats depart every two hours. Click here for more information.

25. Turtle Park - We've never been here but a reader asked me to add it to the list, so it must be a pretty fun place. The park has a sprayground and LARGE play area with five different play structures. Click here for more info. FREE!!

26. Dumbarton Oaks - Previously posted here. The gardens are absolutely gorgeous - with tons of nooks and crannies to play around. Plus lots of big trees. My kids couldn't stop exploring. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for kids 2-12. The gardens are open daily from 2-6 (except Monday). Click here for more info.


27. 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.

28. Clemyjontri Park (McLean, VA) - This "superpark" was created so that children with disabilities could play alongside other children. The huge park includes a carousel and bathrooms and TONS of playground equipment (mazes, airplanes, cars, a "race track", the list goes on and on). On the downside, parking can be hit or miss as the park is almost always crowded and most of the equipment is in full sun, so go early in the day. For more information, click here. FREE!

29. Great Falls Park (McLean, VA) - I previously posted about the MD side of the falls (click here), but the VA side is also quite beautiful. Lots of easily-accessible viewing areas, concession stands, picnic tables, room to run, and a kid-friendly visitors' center. For more information, click here.

30. Riverbend Park (Great Falls, VA) - Previously posted here. This free park, which borders the Potomac, is a great spot for fishing, picnics, and playing by the water. Lots of wonderful trails, but they're somewhat sandy, so not the best with strollers. FREE!

31. Hidden Pond Park & Nature Center (Springfield, VA) - Previously posted here. Take a walk around the pond. Borrow nets and fish for awhile. Play in the playground. Stop in the nature center. The perfect place for both older kids and toddlers, very stroller-friendly. FREE!

32. Burke Lake Park (Fairfax Staion, VA) - This place has it all - a carousel, a "miniature" train (suitable for adult riders), a playground, frisbee golf, miniature golf, a HUGE lake where you can fish or boat, and an ice cream parlor. For more info, click here.

33. 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.

34. 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!

35. Reston Zoo (Reston, VA) - A 30 acre-wide family-friendly zoo that is home to a variety of exotic animals. Feed the animals in the petting barn. Take a ride on the zoofari wagon. Watch all the animals play. I find this whole zoo sort of an odd mish-mash of animals and stuff (I especially hate the mall-type rides that are scattered throughout the property, bring quarters), but plenty of people love it. Admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children over 2 (children under 2 are free). Pony rides, animal feed, and lamb bottles cost extra. For more information click here.

36. Manassas National Battlefield Park (Manassas, VA) - Beautiful trails, plus a history lesson or two. A great place to take the kids to run and run and run (and explore), though wear long pants as ticks are abundant. We managed to take a stroller on the trails, but the ride was bumpy. On weekends the park often stages battle reenactments and demonstrations. For more information, click here. FREE!

37. Wolf Trap Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods (Vienna, VA) - Family shows at 10 am and 11:15 Tuesday through Saturday in a beautiful forest setting. Tickets are only $8 for both shows. Click here for more information.

38. Mason Neck State Park(Lorton, VA) - Beautiful lake views. A playground. Several trails (short and long), including a short trial to a small "beach" (just don't go in the water). For more information, click here.

39. 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!!

40. Barrel Oak Winery (Delaplane, VA) - We've never been here, but Wine Enthusiast Magazine just named this the top family-friendly winery in the world (yay!!) beating out wineries in CA and France. According to the article, "Little ones are greeted with juice boxes, and fun photographs of dogs adorn the tasting room walls. Parents can sip the 2010 Bowhaus White, a gold medal winner of the 2010 Indy International Wine Competition, on one of their picnic tables as kids roam the hilly landscape." Sounds too good to be true. Click here to read the Washington Post article. And click here to go to the winery's website.


41. 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. FREE!

42. Fort Washington National Park (Fort Washington, MD) - This is one of the area's best hidden treasures. From the grounds one can take in long sweeping views of the Potomac, plus it's nice for kids to learn a history lesson or two. A playground is on property. Everything is more or less stroller friendly but plan on lots of walking. Also a wonderful place to fly a kite on a windy day. For more information, click here. The park charges a $5 fee. Makes a nice combined trip with National Harbor for lunch.

43. Clark Eliok's Farm (Ellicott City, MD) -Previously posted here. Clark Eliok's exists as a wonderland for children, part Disney-world, part miniature-golf-type tackiness, it's truly a sight to behold.

44. 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!

45. Patuxent Research Area (Laurel, MD) - Previously posted here. Gorgeous trails, fields of waterflowers, lovely lakes, and a HUGE nature center. FREE!

46. Cabin John Regional Park (Rockville, MD) - Previously posted here. If you ask me Cabin John Park has the best playground in the metropolitan area. Tons of unique equipment, clustered into separate little "stations" (for lack of a better word) - with slides of ALL different sizes. Plus, the whole thing is shaded, making it a perfect destination even on hot, sunny days. An onsite miniature train (adults can ride too) for an extra fee completes the trip. And don't forget to throw your trash in the talking pig trash can. Click here for additional information. FREE!

47. The Maryland Side of 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.

48. Watkins Regional Park (Upper Marlboro, MD) - We've never visited, but this place sounds awesome - trains, carousels, a small farm, pony rides, a nature center, and a large playground. Click here for more information (info via KidFriendly DC).

49. Glen Echo Carousel & Discovery Creek Children's Museum (Glen Echo, MD)- The carousel at Glen Echo is truly a sight to behold, so so beautiful. The Puppet Co Theatre and Adventure Theater reside in the park and both are great places to see shows with your children. The park also has a small playground (SMALL!) and concessions on weekends. Further, on weekends, Discovery Creek Living Classrooms hosts drop-in programs on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-3. Admission is $5 for nonmembers.

50. 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.

51. 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. FREE!

52. Germantown Splash Playground and Miniature Golf (Boyds, MD) - We've never been here but a reader asked me to include it on the list, so it must be pretty fun. The splashpark sounds amazing, according to the website it includes "a one-of-a-kind 280-jet water maze, waterfall with a cave, water bucket drops, and spraying animals." Click here for more information.

53. Locust Grove Nature Center (Bethesda, MD) - We've never been here but Not-So-SAHM has a great review of it (click here to read) - apparently there's a lovely walk and a great stream for kids to explore. For more information, click here. FREE!

54. 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!

55. Bladensburg Waterfront Park (Bladensburg, MD) - Has anyone been here yet? We've never gone, but the description looks promising - "The park features a public boat ramp, fishing pier, picnic pavilion, playground, a B & O Railroad caboose, community boathouse (storage facility) and signage interpreting the rich history of the area. Canoe, kayak, and rowboat rentals are available on weekends from late May to the end of October. FREE PONTOON BOAT TOURS allow visitors to explore this surprisingly scenic river with the guidance of a naturalist. Canoeing and kayaking lessons are offered, as well as many other interesting nature and history programs." According to one yelp reviewer the park sounds like a good place to spend an afternoon. Also, this blog recommends coupling a trip to the park with a visit to Franklins' brewery (great pulled pork, a general store with toys, and a great beer selection). Click here for more information. FREE!

56. Cantler's Riverside Inn (Annapolis, MD) - We've never been here, but Not-SO-SAHM rates it as her number 1 place to take kids. According to her review, "OK, so the first up on our list is technically a restaurant. But it really is one of favorite outdoor destinations (located in Annapolis, MD, it's the least "local" spot on our list) -- sitting outside is a must. We've been coming here since we were babies and love to check out the boats docking, live crabs, and we've learned to wield a mean crab mallet. Butter, Old Bay, and a bucket of brew dogs. Something for everyone to love." Click here for more info.


So what did I miss? Please let me know and I'll add it to the list!!

(The picture above was taken during a Georgetown boat ride.)


  1. This is A-MA-ZING! Wow, nice work. I am going to link to this for sure!

  2. I just sent the link to this post to Pat (http://zencrafting.blogspot.com/) who lives in the area.
    I'm really quite jealous of all the options that you have. Although I guess we can just load up our canoes and kayaks and head to the creek for a nature excursion. Sometimes the grass is greener, and sometimes you just need to look at your own place with new eyes.

  3. What a great extensive list! Wish I lived in the area.
    Love your photos. Do you use Photoshop actions for effects?

  4. Thanks everyone! I sometimes use photoshop actions, but more often I do all editing in lightroom, where I frequently use presets (which are a lot faster than actions).



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