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Photograph by Flickr user Patrick Nouhailler.

The Atlantic beaches may be home to “the nation’s summer capital,” but more visitors come from places other than Washington. Here’s a breakdown of the home bases of recent buyers in and around Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, according to data provided by local real-estate agent Leslie Kopp.

Nearly half of beach-goers call DC their home, while there are more vacationers from Philadelphia, Wilmington, and South Jersey, than from Baltimore. Nine percent of out-of-towners come from the Eastern Shore and a mere four percent hail from New York City.

This article appears in our July 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 07:00 AM/ET, 07/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()

From their founding as Victorian-era church camps, our area’s seaside getaways have stripped Washington down to its essential parts, with Capitol Hill and Foggy Bottom types clubbing up in their bungalows for beery barbecues and political gossip while midlevel staffers—the elect have long retreated up the coast to Cape Cod and the Vineyard—pursued small-d democratic pleasures along the boardwalks.

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Posted at 07:00 AM/ET, 06/30/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photograph by Found Image Press/Corbis.

From their founding as Victorian-era church camps, our area’s seaside getaways have stripped Washington down to its essential parts, with Capitol Hill and Foggy Bottom types clubbing up in their bungalows for beery barbecues and political gossip while midlevel staffers—the elect have long retreated up the coast to Cape Cod and the Vineyard—pursued small-d democratic pleasures along the boardwalks.

In other ways, beach culture forged ahead of our workaday world: Weekend traffic was born more than a decade before Beltway traffic, when the first span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was completed in 1952. The freedom afforded by distance and make-do housing arrangements gave gay Washington cover, and life in that community bloomed—if not sooner, then more ardently than it did back home in the capital.

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Posted at 08:35 AM/ET, 06/26/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Three vacation-home locales for the not-so-super-rich. By Michelle Thomas
Beach-blanket bargain: Chesapeake Beach has marinas, a boardwalk, a water park, and—compared with other seaside towns—affordable property. Photograph by Angel Beil.

If you have a spare million or two to spend on a second home, you have your pick of destinations. But what if your budget is a bit more modest? Here are three up-and-coming vacation spots where you can buy a weekend retreat for less than $500,000.

Chesapeake Beach, Maryland

Travel time from DC: About 45 minutes.

Good for: Young families.

What your money buys: A one-bedroom waterfront condo for $309,995; a recently updated two-bedroom cottage along the water for $449,900; a townhouse with views and a private community beach for $369,900.

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Posted at 08:00 AM/ET, 06/11/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Hillwood Estate not only sells picnic fare—it loans out blankets. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

You Want to Picnic Like an Heiress . . .

Hillwood Estate

Shortly after Marjorie Merriweather Post, the cereal heiress, bought her Northwest DC mansion, she decided that someday the property would be open to the public. And open it is: Hillwood, with 25 acres of spectacular gardens and woodlands, not only welcomes picnickers, but the visitor center will lend you a blanket and a picnic map. You can bring in outside food (though not alcohol); beer, wine, and other beverages and food are for sale at the Hillwood Café.

Insider tidbit: The suggested admission fee also gets you into the mansion—gleaming with Fabergé eggs and thousands of other treasures Post collected—where, starting June 6, the exhibit “Ingenue to Icon” is displaying many of her gowns and other couture.

4155 Linnean Ave., NW; 202-686-5807. Suggested donation: $15; seniors, $12; college students, $10; ages 6 through 18, $5; under age 6, free.

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Posted at 01:12 PM/ET, 05/21/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Spend a weekend eating and drinking your way through the South. By Todd Kliman, Anna Spiegel, Todd Price, Mackensy Lunsford
True grits: Husk restaurant in Charleston has some of the South's most innovative food. Photograph by Squire Fox.

Taste of History in Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina, is turning out some of the country’s best new chefs—Aaron Silverman of Rose’s Luxury, on Capitol Hill, among them. For all the town’s historic allure, with its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriage tours, and stately homes, there’s innovation in the air—and on the plate. The dining scene is one of the most exciting in the region, with 11 James Beard Award semifinalists this year.

Creativity here doesn’t mean eschewing the past. Chefs such as Sean Brock of the much-lauded McCrady’s (2 Unity Alley; 843-577-0025) and Husk (76 Queen St.; 843-577-2500) helped put South Carolina’s oldest city on the modern food map through his exploration of low-country traditions—a blend of European, Native American, and Afro-Caribbean influences—and dedication to regional ingredients. Menus across town read like guidebooks to a Southern larder, rich with Carolina gold rice, Edisto Island grits, and sesame-like benne seeds, not to mention heirloom pork and pristine seafood from the waters surrounding the port city.

McCrady's dish by Andrew Cebulka.

This effort both to preserve and to evolve Charleston’s culinary heritage isn’t exactly new. Chef Mike Lata’s can’t-miss FIG (232 Meeting St.; 843-805-5900) is still packed 12 years after opening, thanks to innovation done well—buttermilk-marinated razor clams, lamb neck over blackened pea ragoût. The next generation of chefs is pushing the boundaries even further. Husband-and-wife team Joshua Walker, a fifth-generation Charlestonian, and Duolan Li serve Asian soul food at Xiao Bao Biscuit (224 Rutledge Avenue), housed in an old gas station.

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Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 04/09/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Thanks to new upscale bars and restaurants, AdMo’s frat-party reputation is waning. Here's how we'd make a day out of this eccentric DC neighborhood. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph of Madam’s Organ by Wiskerke/Alamy.

To many locals, Adams Morgan is where college kids go to get hammered at dumpy, swill-serving bars and soak up their inebriation with a greasy jumbo slice. The reputation isn’t entirely undeserved—most Fridays and Saturdays, the sidewalks are filled with young revelers, some less upright and coherent than others.

But the arrival of new restaurants and worthwhile taverns—along with renewed interest in the shops that dot 18th Street—has given the “devil’s playground” a fresh coat of respectability. Not that it’s lost its sense of fun—the mural advertising the mainstay blues bar Madam’s Organ (2461 18th St., NW; 202-667-5370) looms as buxomly as ever.

At the same time, the neighborhood is slowly losing its character as the hub of the District’s Latino community, with rising real-estate prices and high-end condos pushing working-class residents north and shuttering hole-in-the-wall taco and pupusa joints. Former dives are being rechristened with craft cocktails, and a recent decision by DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board to lift a moratorium on liquor licenses means more drinking and dining options could arrive quickly.

Yet even so, the area isn’t as chichi as the rebuilt 14th Street, Northwest. The biggest change in Adams Morgan is that you can actually make a day of visiting while the sun’s still up or stay out late without channeling your frat-party days.

Start in the afternoon at the bottom of the hill where 18th Street connects with Florida Avenue and seek out coffee and something sweet at either Pleasant Pops (1781 Florida Ave., NW; 202-558-5224), featuring house-made popsicles in flavors like peach hibiscus and Mexican sweet cream, or the CakeRoom (2006 18th St., NW; 202-450-4462), full of indulgent baked goods.

Smash has many punk and hardcore fans. Photograph courtesy of Daisy Lacy.

Once you’re sated with sugar and caffeine, hike up 18th Street and drop into one of AdMo’s reliable record shops. Crooked Beat (2116 18th St., NW; 202-483-2328) stayed ahead of cratering music sales by going vinyl-only in 2010. The encyclopedic selection spans every genre from classic-rock rarities to new major- and minor-label releases to exotic world music, with plenty of LPs from local labels such as Dischord. A few blocks up, you’ll find Smash (2314 18th St., NW; 202-387-6274) and its library of punk and hardcore treasures.

If you’re thirsty for something visual, seek out the latest exhibit at Hierarchy (1847 Columbia Rd., NW; no phone), a former basement bar turned sleek gallery filled with contemporary installations. Or get tickets for a show at DC Arts Center (2438 18th St., NW; 202-462-7833), a black-box theater that hosts some of the city’s most daring stage productions as well as a gallery showcasing local artists.

Whiskey fans drink in the atmosphere at Bourbon, and those looking for comfort food head to the Black Squirrel for the five-cheese mac and cheese. Photograph of Bourbon by Brett Ziegler; mac and cheese by Heather Victoria.

When it’s drinking time, pick your poison and head to one of several spirit-specific bars: Scotch aficionados flock to Jack Rose Dining Saloon (2007 18th St., NW; 202-588-7388) and its floor-to-ceiling shelves of rare bottles. Bourbon (2321 18th St., NW; 202-332-0800) presents its biblical selection of American whiskeys in a heavy, copper-bound menu. Libertine (2435 18th St., NW; 202-450-3106) caters to more bohemian tastes with its perfumy lineup of absinthes and draft cocktails. The Black Squirrel (2427 18th St., NW; 202-232-1011) pairs lardy bar snacks like macaroni and cheese (made with five kinds of cheese) and poutine with a deeply sourced and frequently changing roster of bottled and draft beers.

You can pop into Pop’s SeaBar for shore-inspired fare such as peel-and-eat shrimp, and then head over to Mintwood Place, one of DC’s best restaurants, for apple pie and ice cream. Photographs by Scott Suchman.

Nineteen years after opening, Cashion’s Eat Place (1819 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-797-1819) still impresses. Cashion’s seasonal American menu makes for lively dinners and lusty weekend brunches. (We wish it would revive the late-night cheesesteak, though.) A few doors down, Mintwood Place (1813 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-234-6732) is always packed for its Francophile twists on comfort fare. Or if you’re going more casual, wade into Pop’s SeaBar (1817 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-534-3933) a Jersey Shore-inspired seafood shack—thankfully, without the tanning oil and hair spray (but you can take home your beer Koozie for a buck—or get one free by exchanging it for a Koozie you bring in).

Some of Adams Morgan’s good restaurants aren’t always easy to spot. You’d probably walk right by the subterranean Sakuramen (2441 18th St., NW; 202-656-5285) if not for the line that snakes down the sidewalk every night, full of people anticipating steaming bowls of ramen soup garnished with pork belly chashu, rib-eye bulgogi, and fresh vegetables. Across the street and tucked into the doorway of the DC Arts Center, the 14-seat counter at Donburi (2438 18th St., NW; 202-629-1047) serves terrific Japanese rice bowls topped with raw fish, braised meats, and pickled vegetables.

The menu at Roofers Union features such things as crispy pig-ear salad and house-made sausages. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Where regrettable dives once reigned, established chefs are moving in. Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Cleveland Park’s Ripple turned the former Reef into Roofers Union (2446 18th St., NW; 202-232-7663), where you can nibble on house-made veal-heart sausages or pig-ear salad while sipping a cask-fermented ale.

Not too long ago, Adams Morgan’s nighttime economy depended almost entirely on Jell-O shots and other rotgut. While the party crowd still rules weekend nights, the neighborhood is no longer a forbidden zone for anyone over age 23.

And, hey, if you do want a jumbo slice, the best one’s at Duccini’s (1778 U St., NW; 202-483-0007).

This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 12:14 PM/ET, 01/22/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
’Tis the season to whale-watch, eat oysters, and take a full-moon tour of a wolf sanctuary. At these 14 nearby destinations, you can do all that and much more. By Judy Colbert, Andrea Poe, Joe Sugarman
Massanutten Resort offers skiing, tubing, skating, and snowboarding—plus an indoor water park. Photograph courtesy of Massanutten Resort.

1. Running With Santa

During the holidays, the boardwalk in Virginia Beach glows with coastal-inspired light displays—pirate ships, dancing seahorses, open-jawed sharks. A fun way to see it is to run the Surf-n-Santa 5 Miler at twilight on December 20. While there, make a weekend of it. You can join naturalists from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center on a whale-watching trip—winter is when migrating humpbacks trace the coastline. This also happens to be the time of year that horseback riding is permitted on the beach; you can saddle up with Virginia Beach Horseback. Cold weather means oyster season, too, so consider a tour and tasting at Pleasure House Oysters. You can book an oceanfront room at the new Hilton Garden Inn on the boardwalk; it offers a stylish indoor pool and local beer on tap at the buzzy bar. Rooms from $129.

2. A Very Cool Place

Downtown Pittsburgh is transformed into a winter wonderland each year with the outdoor ice rink at PPG Place and a German-style Christkindlmarkt, where international vendors sell handicrafts from wooden chalets. The Duquesne Incline, an uphill cable car that overlooks the city, is lit with hundreds of red lights. And this is a great city for quirky, with events such as the Dirty Dozen (an icy uphill bike race) and, in the hipster neighborhood of Lawrenceville, the Joy of Cookies tour. You can also admire Gilded Age holiday finery at Clayton, the former mansion of industrialist and art collector Henry Clay Frick. Stay at the sleek new Fairmont hotel, which has a resident dog named Edie (as in Sedgwick—this is Warhol’s hometown, after all). Rooms from $259.

3. Take the Plunge

They call the snowtubing park at Virginia’s Wintergreen Resort simply the Plunge—and plunge you will, at speeds up to 30 mph down a hillside with a vertical drop equivalent to that of a ten-story building. With ten lanes running the length of three football fields, it’s the largest snowtubing park in the state. (Ninety-minute sessions are $26 on weekends, $18 weekdays.) For little tubers under 42 inches tall—the height required to take the plunge—there’s Ridgely’s Fun Park with its mini-tubing carousel, bear-paw snowshoes, and a much smaller plunge. $18 for one adult and child, $10 extra per child and $5 extra per adult. Wintergreen has a variety of overnight options, from hotel-like guest rooms ($155 and up) to apartment condominiums ($175 and up) to house rentals ($289 and up).

4. Winter in Williamsburg

The Grand Illumination kicks off the holidays at Colonial Williamsburg. Fireworks blaze over the historic village on December 7, and period homes throw open their doors to showcase holiday decorations through January 4. Meanwhile, the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg, an airy retreat with aromatherapy steam baths, features treatments that take aim at moisture-deprived winter skin. Stay in one of the new cottages fronting the James River, each tricked out with fireplaces and stylish kitchens, at Kingsmill Resort, which runs a free shuttle to the Revolutionary City. Rooms from $149, three-bedroom cottages from $699.

Christmas at Longwood Gardens means elaborate displays and a half million outdoor lights. Photograph courtesy of Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau.

5. Mansions and Microbrews

In the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania and Delaware, beautiful holiday decorations deck the halls at the DuPont family mansions—Winterthur, Nemours, and Hagley, the original homestead—while acres of winter plantings, fountains, and candlelit treehouses tempt at Longwood Gardens. The swank life doesn’t have to end when the mansion tour does: You can dine in front of the fireplaces at the historic Dilworthtown Inn and stay in an 18th-century man-or house at Sweetwater Farm, an estate on 50 acres that’s owned by the late Princess Grace’s nephew. Rooms and cottages from $150. On February 28, Winterfest takes over the town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania—“the mushroom capital of the world”—with local bites, beers from 40 craft brewers, and live music.

6. Bounty of the Bay

Winter means one thing to many on the Eastern Shore of Maryland: oysters. Harrison House Charter Fishing, owned by the same Tilghman Island family for generations, takes visitors on oyster-dredging outings on a skipjack. Or just eat the bivalves: Back at Harrison’s Chesapeake House, the Friday-night buffet includes oysters Rockefeller, fried oysters, and oysters on the half shell. Stay overnight at the nearby Tilghman Island Inn. The rooms have broad water views, and the restaurant, reimagined under new ownership, serves fresh local seafood like—naturally—oysters. Rooms from $175.

7. Snow Fun

The prime location of Massanutten Resort in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley means it’s tailor-made for winter pleasures such as skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and ice skating. When you’re ready for warmer fun, you’ll find an elaborate indoor water park, a family-friendly spa experience, crafting classes with grown-up offerings like digital photography, and a new healthy-living program in which guests can take healing-herb workshops and tai chi classes. A crisp winter night demands a window seat at Fareways, the resort’s laid-back restaurant, where you can order a flight of Virginia wine and watch the lights from the ski run twinkle in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Rooms from $150.

8. Wine and Dine

Throughout the year, the Peacock Restaurant & Lounge at the Inn at 202 Dover in Easton, Maryland—which Food & Wine named one of the best bed-and-breakfasts in America—celebrates the grape. On February 27, the restaurant hosts an Italian-wine dinner featuring small wineries, such as the Rocca di Fabbri Estate in Umbria run by sisters Roberta and Simona Vitali. The chef, who has cooked at the prestigious James Beard House in New York, will pair the wines with a five-course Italian-accented dinner. You can hunker down at the inn with your honey for the weekend in one of the plush suites, the smallest of which is 600 square feet. The wine dinner costs $100 a person, but if you also book an overnight room—rates start at $475—the dinner drops to $75 a person. Book two nights and the second night is half price.

9. Winter Wildlife

Late February through early March is the peak time of year to witness the annual snow-goose migration, where as many as 80,000 birds create a blanket of white in the sky over northern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Also in February, check out local food, microbrews, and music at the Fire & Ice Festival in Lititz, dubbed the coolest small town in America by Budget Travel magazine. Stay at the Speedwell Forge B&B, an 18th-century stone mansion that’s home to the Wolf Sanctuary of PA, where you can take a full-moon tour and get up close to the 46 rescued wolves in residence. Rooms from $135, cottages from $250.

10. Your Best Foot Forward

The folks at Savage River Lodge in Frostburg, Maryland, say that if you can walk, you can snowshoe, which means you won’t need snowshoeing lessons if you’ve never tried the sport. The lodge offers rentals of snowshoes ($25 a day) and cross-country skis ($35 a day) for exploring the property’s 14 miles of wooded trails. The best part: After your walk in the woods, you can relax with a gourmet meal and a massage by the fire in your own private cabin. Standard queen cabins start at $225.

Chef Tucker Yoder leads hands-on cooking demonstrations at the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville. Photograph courtesy of The Clifton Inn.

11. Cooking in the Country

Hole up in an antiques-decorated room in the mansion or gather a group in the Carriage House at the Clifton Inn, a Relais & Châteaux property outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Chef Tucker Yoder, a farm-to-table devotee, cooks fabulous meals, often with ingredients from the inn’s garden. Learn how to make holiday hors d’oeuvres and cocktails this month during “12 Days of Clifton,” a hands-on cooking-demonstration series at the marble-topped counter in Yoder’s intimate kitchen. Classes run from December 13 through 24 and cost $20 to $35 a person. After the new year, classes, demos, and tastings feature winter’s bounty. Rooms from $199, cottages from $279.

12. Going Cross-Country

About three hours west of DC, White Grass in Davis, West Virginia,is a touch of Scandinavia on the East Coast. It boasts some of the area’s oldest and most extensive Nordic cross-country ski trails, with more than 30 miles of manicured, wooded routes, plus full ski rentals and lessons for newbies ($15 per hourlong lesson). Its laid-back White Grass Cafe serves up tasty organic cuisine and live music on weekends. After a day on the trails, bunk among the funky furnishings at the nearby Cooper House Bed & Cocktail. You’ll have to scout your own breakfast in town, but innkeeper Joy Malinowski provides the hors d’oeuvres—and makes a mean martini. Rooms from $90.

13. Flex Time

No snow? No worries. Head to Liberty Mountain’s Snowflex Centre in Lynchburg, Virginia, the country’s first artificial-snow park. Snowflex is a synthetic material that simulates the feel of the real thing—without the chill—so skiers, snowboarders, and tubers can hit the slopes year-round. The park includes beginner, intermediate, and advanced slopes plus an 11-foot-tall quarter pipe, a wall ride, and a 90-foot-long landing ramp for snowboarders and skiers. An alpine-like day lodge lets you warm up inside—or cool off as the case may be. For overnight accommodations, head to the boutique Craddock Terry Hotel, in a renovated shoe factory in Lynchburg’s historic district. Rooms from $149.

14. Hanging With the Peeps

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is home to the Just Born factory, which produces some 5 million Peeps every day. So it’s no surprise the marshmallow confections are the theme of an annual Peepsfest, December 30 and 31. Live music, an African penguin, a dogsled team, arts and crafts, and a Peeps scavenger hunt are some of the activities, most of which are free. The highlight, though, is the New Year’s Eve drop of a 4½-foot-tall, 85-pound, brightly lit fiberglass-resin Peeps at 5:15 pm (early enough for children to enjoy), followed by fireworks. Known as the Christmas City, Bethlehem also offers horse-drawn carriage rides and other city tours. The Historic Hotel Bethlehem puts you within an easy walk to restaurants, boutiques, and the Moravian Book Shop, the oldest continuously running bookstore in the world (established 1745).


This article appears in the December 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:00 AM/ET, 12/03/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Enjoy a hike full of fall color, good antiques shopping, and a nip of whiskey. By Renee Sklarew
Off scenic Skyline Drive, the trail to Mary's Rock Summit leads to a spectacular 360-degree view. Photograph courtesy of Shenandoah National Park.

Every October, Washingtonians point their cars toward Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and for good reason: With the brilliant fall foliage, it’s a great time to take a hike.

We suggest going into the park at the Thornton Gap entrance. The drive from Washington then takes you along scenic Route 211, past vineyards, farmland, and wildflower meadows. Before entering, you can buy fresh-picked apples to take on your hike from Thornton River Orchard.

After entering at Thornton Gap, at mile marker 31.5, drive south on Skyline Drive. You’ll enjoy sweeping views of the Piedmont Plateau in the east and the Shenandoah Valley in the west, easily seen from numerous overlooks.

If you’re up for a hike, park at the Meadow Spring parking area just after mile marker 33 and then find the Meadow Spring Trailhead on the other side of the road. The first half mile of the 2.8-mile hike is steep, before you turn right onto the Appalachian Trail. On the trail, the surrounding forest changes to a riot of fall colors: Hickory leaves turn gold, red-maple trees become garnet, sumac bushes transform to shocking purple and red—all against the backdrop of speckled rocks with patches of lichen and moss.

The hike’s payoff, Mary’s Rock Summit, is one of the few peaks in the park with a 360-degree view. Hikers report seeing birds of prey and bears in this area. To return, retrace your steps for a hike that takes a total of two to three hours, depending on your pace.

After a hike, stop in the town of Sperryville to refuel with a burger on Thorton River Grille's roof. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Afterward, you might visit the quaint town of Sperryville, directly outside the park on Route 211. This pastoral village in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is known for its bountiful farms and first-rate antiques shops.

Thornton River Grille, on the main thoroughfare, is one post-hike dining option. The rustic bistro, featuring fresh-cut steaks and burgers, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturdays, brunch and dinner on Sundays. In good weather, you can dine on the rooftop deck (open weekends only).

About a half mile away is Sperryville’s River District Arts, a former apple-packing plant that is now a multi-use facility housing art studios and a restaurant. You can refuel with a signature sangría and tapas at El Quijote, a new Spanish restaurant, and then wander through the galleries to see artists working in ceramics, textiles, paint, and photography.

Browse the galleries of River District Arts. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Directly behind River District Arts is Copper Fox Distillery. Inside the yellow warehouse awaits an entertaining tour demonstrating how spirits are made. In the past, the family-owned facility brewed apple cider, but it now produces small batches of malt whiskey, rye, and gin. You can sample a few or bring a bottle home.

Before heading back, walk next door to Copper Fox Antiques, a 30,000-square-foot warehouse originally used to store apples. Today it’s full of European, Asian, and American furniture, salvaged items, and collectibles.


Renee Sklarew (reneesklarew@gmail.com) is a travel writer in Washington. This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

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Posted at 12:15 PM/ET, 10/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Summer in the city sizzles. At these water and splash parks—our picks for the area’s best—you can cool off by splashing in wave pools, twisting down slides, getting soaked by bucket dumps, and running through sprays. By Candyce H. Stapen
Yards Park. Photograph by Jacquelyn Martin.

Best Water Park Close to Home

At SplashDown Waterpark in Manassas, kids can zip down the four-story-high water slides, float on the “lazy river,” step across the pool on logs and lily pads, or play volleyball at the sand beach. With 13 acres of water features, SplashDown is one of Northern Virginia’s largest water parks. On Thursdays from 9 to 10:30 am, kids ages five and under and their adults get into the park early.
$14.95 for guests 48 inches tall or more; $11.25 under 48 inches. Free for ages two and younger. 703-792-8200.


Best Water Park Worth a Drive

WaterWorks at Virginia’s Kings Dominion, about 85 miles from DC, offers 20 acres of ways to get wet. Tots can cool off at Lil’ Barefoot Beach’s pool, while families float on the gentle current of a quarter-mile river. For more splash, jump through the surf at the two wave pools or try Tornado, a funnel ride that drops you and then rocks you from side to side.
$54 adults; $41 for those under 48 inches tall or 62 years or older. Free for ages two and younger. Admission includes access to all rides, wet and dry. 804-876-5000.


Best Splash Park for Getting Soaked

While there are a few fountains to run through at the Yards Park in DC, kids generate their own splash in an 11-inch-deep, 66,000-gallon pool with views of the Anacostia River. A waterfall at one end is a popular place to stand. Allow time to stroll on the boardwalk, relax in wooden chaises in the shady garden, picnic on the lawn, or dine at one of the park’s restaurants. At Ice Cream Jubilee, grab a cool and tasty cone. Part of the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, the Yards is a short walk to Nationals Park.
Free. 202-465-7080.

Best Splash Park for Young Kids

At SplashPark & MiniGolf in Boyds, 280 water jets dance in three concentric circles, enticing tots and bigger kids alike. You can also get doused by a waterfall as well as “rain” from two giant mushrooms. Dry off by playing 18 holes of mini-golf at the adjacent course. South Germantown Recreational Park—where the splash park is located—also has a playground, tennis courts, a driving range, and an indoor swim center.
Splash park: $4 ages two and up. Mini-golf: $3. Combo ticket: $6.50. 301-670-4680.


Best Water Park for Teens and Adults

Photograph courtesy of Six Flags America.

As Maryland’s largest water park, Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro gushes with adrenaline-pumping possibilities. Tune up by swimming in the nearly million-gallon wave pool. Next, swirl up the slope and then down at more than 20 miles an hour on Halfpipe. Follow with fun on Shark Attack or with a six-story plunge on Bonzai Pipelines.
With online discounts, admission starts at $39.99 and includes access to all rides. 301-249-1500.


Local Water Park With the Best Wave Pool

One highlight that packs in the crowds at Great Waves Water Park in Alexandria’s Cameron Run Regional Park is jumping through the “surf.” At the Reef—another must-do—get screamingly wet by zipping down twisting water slides. You can up the excitement by selecting an enclosed—i.e., dark—tube versus an open one. For young kids, the Lagoon play pool features mini-slides, Splash Zone offers sprays, and Paradise Play tempts with crawl-through fish, climbing equipment, and a sandbox. The park’s 20 acres include 18 holes of miniature golf, too.
$14.50 for Alexandria residents 48 inches tall or more; $14.75 for nonresidents; $11.50 or $11.75 for those 48 inches or under; under two years old, free. 703-960-0767.


Water Parks With the Best Bucket Dumps

At Ocean Dunes Water Park in Arlington, stand under the big blue bucket, one of the region’s largest water dumps, and wait for it to tip, drenching you with 500 gallons. Tamer sprays and fountains, as well as a wading pool, cool off little ones. Swimmers can stroke through laps at one of the park’s other pools. Part of Upton Hill Regional Park, Ocean Dunes also features miniature golf and batting cages.
$8 for children 42 inches tall or more; $6.75 for those 42 inches or shorter; under two years old, free. 703-534-3437.

At Volcano Island Waterpark’s play pool, kids slip down short tubes or wade through the one-to-three-foot-deep water to face the park’s jewel: a 500-gallon dumping bucket. Bigger kids enter the main pool by twisting down a 230-foot open slide or curling down a 170-foot dark slide. Tots can build castles in the sandy area and then rinse off by running through the splash pad’s sprinklers and sprays. An 18-hole miniature golf course is adjacent to Volcano Island, part of Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling.
$8 for children 48 inches tall or more; $6.75 under 48 inches. Free for ages two and younger. 703-430-7683.


Best Splash Parks for Shopping Breaks

An oasis of greenery, Georgetown Waterfront Park, at the foot of busy M Street, Northwest, gives shoppers with tag-along children space to relax on the grass and admire the Potomac River views. Kids cool off by running through the sole water feature, a row of synchronized sprays that form an arcing tunnel of water. Take hesitant little kids by the hand and walk through the highest point of the arc so that only the tot’s feet get wet or go for it, and dance through the jets.
Free. 

At Silver Plaza Fountain in Silver Spring, kids hop through the water jets that ring the circular blue, green, and yellow mosaic that defines the splash area, dodging or dashing into the geysers that bubble up every few minutes. The splash fountain is not large; it lies within a brick courtyard with tree-shaded ledges and outdoor cafes that make it easy for parents to watch their children. To further insulate tots from traffic, a pedestrian mall of shops and eateries borders the area, and on Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and all day Saturday and Sunday, Ellsworth Drive from Fenton Street to Georgia Avenue closes to vehicles.
Free. 301-203-4184.


Best Local Indoor Water Park

As an indoor water park, Cub Run RECenter Aquatics in Chantilly is a boon to both sun-sensitive water lovers who wilt at outdoor facilities and to those seeking year-round fun. Older kids can drop into the leisure pool via two tall, twisting slides and also spin in a swirling vortex. Younger children glide down smaller slides and splash through water curtains, spurting pipes, and sprays. The facility also has a 25-yard-by-25-meter pool offering swim classes for tots to adults, as well as a fitness area with cardio equipment, weights, and exercise classes.
$8 for adult county residents, $10.50 nonresidents; $6.50 residents ages 5 through 18, $10.50 nonresidents; free ages 4 and younger with a paying adult; $16 resident family rate for up to five people (one or two adults and up to four children); $30 nonresident family rate. 703-817-9407.


Best Water Park for an Overnight Getaway

Virginia’s largest water park, Water Country USA in Williamsburg, also known as Water Country Busch Gardens, features a mix of wild, mild, and family-friendly rides. For thrills, try Colossal Curl, a funnel ride that twirls you before flushing you down 46 feet, enough to propel you over wave-like hills. On Vanish Point, you pick how to experience the near-vertical drop: Either stand-up to feel the floor disappear beneath you or lie down and let go. At the wave pool, Surfer’s Bay, float over ripples near “shore” or fight through bigger breakers in the deep end. Tots can splash through sprays and fountains at Critter Coral.
$38.99 for those 48 inches tall or more (or $32.99 for a seven-day advance ticket); $26.99 for those 48 inches and shorter and for ages 65 and up. Combination tickets provide access to Water Country and nearby Busch Gardens. Open daily through September 1. 757-229-9300.


Best Year-Round Water Park for a Getaway

It’s always 84 degrees at Great Wolf Lodge America, a 79,000-square-foot, indoor water park in Williamsburg. Highlights include a wading pool, mini-slides, a wave pool, plus a Flowrider that creates surf for kneeboarding. At Fort Mackenzie, the four-story centerpiece treehouse, kids climb cargo nets, cross rope bridges, slip down slides, and get doused by the 1,000-gallon water bucket. Soak in the sun and the water at Racoon Lagoon, the outdoor pool area, where sprays and geysers as well as an 18-hole miniature golf course add fun. A family resort, Great Wolf Lodge features a kids’ spa, an arcade with more than 100 games, on-site dining, and regular and themed suites.
Room rates in July and August start at $200. Admission to the water park is free but for overnight guests only. 757-229-9700.


More Water Fun

At Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole in Reston—a park with a loose western theme—families can float on inner tubes along Rattlesnake River, a “lazy river” dotted with small bucket dumps and sprays that encircles the one acre-plus park. Kids wriggle down “Big Pete” and “Little Pete,” two sets of slides that land them in a pool whose deep end bottoms out at about four feet. Youngsters climb through a covered wagon to glide down a slide and tots romp through Tenderfoot Pond, a splash area with pint-sized slides and geysers. The Water Mine is located in Lake Fairfax Park, home to a 20-acre lake, marina, carousel, and skatepark.
$14.50 for those 48 inches tall or more on weekends and holidays, $13.50 Monday through Friday; $11.25 under 48 inches. Free for ages two and younger. 703-471-5414.

At Lane Manor Splash Park in Hyattsville, kids can enter the 25-meter outdoor pool by slithering down two enclosed slides, and then “walk on water” by stepping on lily pads or pulling themselves across the surface by hanging onto a rope net. Little ones can splash in a wading pool. Lane Manor Splash Park is part of the Lane Manor Community Recreation Center in the Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park.
$5 adult residents, $6 nonresidents; $4 residents ages 3 through 17, $5 nonresidents; free for ages 2 and younger. 301-422-7284 (summer); 301-853-9115.

Posted at 09:00 AM/ET, 07/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()