Kids pose with Potomac Nationals' mascot Uncle Slam at a Minor League baseball game.
Wolf Trap's Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods
1551 Trap Rd., Vienna; 703-255-1900
Walk into the woods and over a footbridge and you’ll find rows of benches and a stage at Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods. Tuesday through Saturday at 10 and 11:15 am, children ages three and up can take in music, dance, puppetry, theater, and storytelling outdoors. An $8 day pass includes tickets to both 45-minute shows. Among the performers: Milkshake, a rock trio; African storyteller Baba Jamal Koram; and musician Steve Roslonek of PBS Kids. Wolf Trap has five acres for picnicking, too.
Go Swimming at Big Hunting Creek Lake
14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd., Thurmont; 301-271-7574
Lots of people visit Cunningham Falls State Park, in Frederick County’s Catoctin Mountains, to see the 78-foot cascading waterfall, but the hot spot for kids is Big Hunting Creek Lake, where the water is warm enough for swimming and the sand is great for building castles. It’s like being at the beach without the big waves. Lifeguards are on duty all summer, and there’s plenty of shade.
Visit the Zoo
At the Reston Zoo (1228 Hunter Mill Rd., Vienna; 703-757-6222), kids can feed goats and llamas from their hands. A $3 cup of animal feed and a $1.50 lamb bottle keep little ones busy in the petting barn for hours. Outside, the 30-acre wild-animal park features monkeys, kangaroos, alligators, ostriches, emus, and more. The $9-to-$12 admission includes a Zoofari wagon ride, which takes you closer to the bison, camels, and antelopes; pony rides are $4.
The Leesburg Animal Park (19270 James Monroe Hwy., Leesburg; 703-433-0002) is another fun place to mingle with exotic animals—lemurs, zebras, white-handed gibbon apes—and has a playground and a moon bounce.
Ride the Choo-Choo
The mini-train at Cabin John Regional Park (7400 Tuckerman La., Rockville; 301-765-8670) goes on a two-mile ride through the woods on a replica of an 1863 C.P. Huntington steam locomotive. Railroad crossing signs dot the track; a conductor yells, “All aboard!” Kids will want to go more than once—it’s $1.75 a ride—and you probably will, too. An identical train runs through Wheaton Regional Park (2002 Shorefield Rd., Wheaton; 301-942-6703), where it goes over a bridge and through a tunnel. There’s also a carousel. Train or carousel tickets are $1.75.
Go to the Waterpark
At the Polynesian-themed Volcano Island Waterpark (47001 Fairway Dr., Sterling; 703-450-4655), kids can coast down 140-foot water slides and get soaked by a bucket that pours out 500 gallons of water every three minutes. Younger kids can pick up a shovel and dig in the sand.
Another cool place to get wet: the South Germantown Recreational Park Splash Playground (18056 Central Park Cir., Boyds; 301-670-4680), where kids play under a giant waterfall and run through a water maze. Water shoots from rain trees and falls from buckets. A $7.50 Splash & Golf Combo ticket includes a round of mini-golf.
See a Minor League Baseball Game
Prince George’s Stadium (4101 Crain Hwy., Bowie; 301-805-6000), home of the Bowie Baysox, a Class AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, holds 10,000 fans but rarely fills up, which means kids get to see the players up close. A small play area down the first-base line has a moon bounce, carousel, and face painter. Fans stick around for fireworks on Saturday nights and bring their dogs on Mutt Mondays.
The Frederick Keys (Harry Grove Stadium, 21 Stadium Dr., Frederick), another Orioles affiliate, and the Potomac Nationals (Pfitzner Stadium, 7 County Complex Ct., Woodbridge; 703-590-2311) also host kid-friendly events. The Nationals, an affiliate of Washington’s major-league team, will give away mini-bats on Friday, June 17, before facing off against the Salem Red Sox.
Perils of the Lost Jungle Mini-Golf Course
11801 Leesburg Pike, Herndon; 703-430-8337
Newsweek once named Perils of the Lost Jungle one of the nation’s top five miniature-golf courses. An animatronic Tarzan swings overhead. An alligator rises from a pond and sprays you with water. Mechanical monkeys harass you while you putt. The Amazon-themed adventure course ($8.75 for children, $9.75 for adults) is best for kids ages four and older—the skeletons and hissing animals might be too much for younger ones. There’s usually a short wait at night, but it’s scarier—and more fun—to play in the dark.
Kid-friendly Museum Visits
The best time to take your kids to the Smithsonian? Around 5, when the museums aren’t as crowded and it’s easier to find parking. The National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, and National Museum of American History have extended hours in spring and summer, staying open until 7:30.
This article appears in the June 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.
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