Let’s face it — we are SPOILED in the Mid-Atlantic. There are books and books about excursions in our area, but I wanted a place to start noting fun things either our family has done or wants to do — feel free to let me know about some of your favorites! Consider this a page always in progress…
Camping is so much more fun now than it was when I was a kid. Tents are lighter, sleeping on air mattress is no longer for wimps, and they now have battery-operated tent fans! If you haven’t tried it with your kids yet, you should! Here are a few places you can go:
- Burke Lake Park
- Lake Fairfax Park
- New Germany State Park (MD) Picture this: several families with small children, most of them new to tent camping, doing so on a rainy weekend, including one night of thunder and lightning. And yet we had a fabulous time. That’s how wonderful this state park is!
- More camping ideas from Our-Kids
- More VA camping ideas – About.com
- More MD camping ideas – About.com
- And another one - National Park Service
- Checklists from one of my favorite camping web sites
Crayola Crayon Factory in Easton, PA. Kids love to understand how things are made. Give them a better understanding of how a familiar everyday object is made and participate in more Crayola fun. This is on my to-do list for this summer.
Children’s Museum of Richmond at 2626 West Broad Street Richmond, VA 23220 804-474-CMoR (2667) A great hands-on museum for kids. In addition to the exhibits (playing with shadows, water, etc.) there is a fantastic art room where kids can paint, rubber stamp and do all kinds of wonderful art projects.
Day Out with Thomas a special event for Thomas fans (various dates, various locations). Join Thomas the Tank Engine™, a full-sized operating steam locomotive, as he greets friends of all ages. Ride a train pulled by Thomas and meet Sir Topham Hatt™. You’ll find lots of other exciting activities, and a complete selection of Thomas merchandise in our gift shop. Your travels may allow you to meet Thomas in different locales, but for many of my readers, a popular one is The Strasburg Rail Road, located on Route 741, 1-1/2 miles east of the center square in historic Strasburg, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. – Approx. 3 hours from DC. Tickets ranger from $14 – $24 depending on whether you ride Thomas or Thomas and a regular train as well.
Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA. A perfect park for younger kids and especially for families who haven’t been to a big theme park yet. We especially enjoyed getting into the pin-trading tradition. Note that there are often travel packages for going to both Dutch Wonderland and Hershey Park.
Great Falls Park (VA) is a national park and offers a host of indoor and outdoor activities such as a children’s room, hiking, biking, horseback riding and so much more. There are a variety of passes, for admission but most choose the $5 per car option. See web site for more details, including directions.
Hershey Park theme park in Hershey, PA. I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Hershey Resorts during winter, but have not been to the park itself and hope to this summer. I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about the park, and I can tell you that if you have the chance to stay on-property you will be treated like a rock star. The Spa is amazing. There are campsites as well.
Knoebels in Elysburg, PA. I have never been here, but my friend Jill has raved about this place so much, I included it. It is a “free admission” amusement park, which means you buy tickets for the rides, the way parks used to be. Camping and swimming is also available. If you go, I’d love to hear about your experience!
Maryland Science Center has three floors of exhibits and demonstrations and a planetarium! Located at 601 Light Street in Baltimore, MD.
Mount Vernon Trail along the George Washington Parkway in Alexandria, VA. Activities you can do include:
- Picnicing at Belle Haven (mile 7)
- Birdwatching in Dyke Marsh (mile 7)
- Watch airplanes take off from Reagan National airport from Gravelly Point (mile 15)
- Discover more things to do here.
Museums – we certainly have a bounty of them in DC as well as the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum in Dulles. Smithsonian museums are free, most are accessible by Metrorail.
National Aquarium in Baltimore – 501 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Note that strollers are note allowed in the aquarium. Additionally there is Port Discovery and the Maryland Science Center.
Nature Centers: Free admission, and lots of green spaces for getting energy out! Most have limited concessions, but I advise bringing water bottles at the very least. Many have activity bags you can check out — ask ! Check web sites for details on hours.
- Ellanor C. Lawrence Park / Walney Visitor Center 5040 Walney Road, Chantilly, VA Walney Visitor Center was originally a farmhouse built about 1780 and now features exhibits that detail the property’s long history of interaction between the land and its people. Ellanor C. Lawrence Park has a natural area, picnic tables, ball fields and extensive hiking trails. During the summer, the park also hosts the Arts in the Parks program.
- Huntley Meadows – 3701 Lockheed Blvd., Alexandria, VA Huntley Meadows Park contains 1,425 acres of diverse habitats including wetlands, meadows and mature forest. Its animal residents include fox, deer, beaver, otter and over 200 species of birds. There is a two-thirds mile boardwalk through the wetlands that leads to an observation tower. The visitor center includes an auditorium and exhibit hall, admission is free. A naturalist is always available when the center is open to answer questions
- Hidden Pond - 8511 Greeley Blvd, Springfield, VA Hidden Pond has indoor exhibits, a nature trail, a pond, tot lot and picnic shelter. A naturalist is always available during operating hours to answer questions. Abundant wildlife and extensive woodlands, along the Pohick Creek, are also features of this park.
- Hidden Oaks – 7701 Royce Street, Annandale, VA Inside the nature center visitors will find natural and cultural history exhibits, a library, and an auditorium. A naturalist is always available during operating hours to answer questions. The surrounding park features a nature trail, a playground, picnic shelter, ball fields, and the Fred M. Packard Center.
National Harbor: Free admission; and it is beautiful to walk around.
National Zoo – 3001 Connecticut Ave, NW in DC. Easily done in a day, you can drive or take the Metro to the Woodley Park-Zoo station. Food is available, but expensive, so you may want to pack your own lunch. The small mammal house was a big hit with our children. Check the web site for activities and special notices specific to the day you are going.
Parktakes offers too many day trips and tours to list them all, but you can get a free subscription to the Parktakes catalog by calling 703-222-4644. You can see a lot of them at
Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake 311 Third Street, Annapolis, MD. It looks like it would be a lot of fun for the kids. See Special Events for special savings days such as $5 ticket day, free tickets for fathers and grandfathers on Father’s day and so on. Visit their website for details on ticket pricing and availability — reservations recommended.
Playseum is at 7000 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD and now has a second location at 545 8th Street South East DC . We’ve only been once and they’ve made changes since then with a greater emphasis of being a play-based used bookstore. Photos here.
Port Discovery at 35 Market Place, Baltimore, MD is a guaranteed day of fun. Some exhibits change frequently and others remain the same, but our kids always have a great time! There are activities for the climbers, the readers, the full-on sensory (check out the Wonders of Water room!) Art, science, sports and fun all under one roof! Take advantage of their $2 Target Family Fun Nights for a bargain.
Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA.We have not yet visited Sesame Place in the summer, but you can see my review of their winter event, “A Very Furry Christmas.” We hope to make it up there this summer – overall we were impressed with the park’s size and courteous attitude and have heard many positive things from other families who have been there.
Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum (Children’s Museum) Winchester, VA A small but terrific children’s museum closer than Richmond and worth the drive. Not as big as the Richmond one, but still fun, especially for smaller children.
Gosh, did I not give you enough? Well then check out this site for some customizable Fairfax-based day trips with a variety of themes!