You’ve been there. The kids have endured the hours-long car ride with relative ease. They’ve sat through a play or walked through a museum without a tantrum. They’ve maybe even endured a meal without throwing food or crawling around under the tables. And then something snaps. Their inconsolable shrieks are eliciting sympathetic stares from other parents, glaring accusations from non-parents. It’s known as a frolic attack in our world, and it hits all kids at some point. Sometimes kids just need to get their frolic on.
Washington, DC has no shortage of green space, especially near the most popular tourist destinations along the National Mall. But if you’d like to get off the main drag for your frolic, try one of these:
Near Nationals Park and just south of Capitol Hill, on the site of the old Navy Yard Annex, a lovely new park has sprung up, winning lots of design awards as well as much love from the toddlers who love to splash around in the fountains. A stunning bridge sets off a lovely river vista, and a large lawn begs for picnickers and tag-players. Visit on the first Sunday of the month in summer and you’ll find Marcatus, an arts/crafts/food/music festival.
The Riverwalk Trail, currently in development, will stretch 16 miles along the banks of the Anacostia River when it is complete in 2014. Today a long section is open from the Yards Park to RFK stadium. Pick up some bikes from one of the two Capital Bikeshare stations in the neighborhood and explore.
Adjacent to the park is the DC headquarters of the Trapeze School New York, where in a 2-hour class, you can learn to fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Classes are appropriate for ages 6 and up. Metro: Navy Yard
National Building Museum
A few blocks north of the Mall, the National Building Museum offers a great indoor atrium space for someone who might just need to run back and forth for a bit. Though unlike the Smithsonian museums, admission to the exhibits is not free, the Great Hall does not require a ticket. Nor does the gift shop, which is one of the best museum gift shops in DC. There is also a cafe in the Great Hall run by Firehook Bakery and Coffee House, offering a variety of gourmet sandwiches, soups, salads, baked goods, and beverages. You may find yourself purchasing a ticket to get into the very popular Lego Architecture: Towering Ambition exhibit, featuring large-scale artistic models of some of the world’s most famous structures including the Empire State Building, St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. As an added bonus, there’s also a place to create your own lego towers and place them on a city map, so that a new city is built each day.
Metro: Judiciary Square
Calleva at National Harbor
If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, and a car at your disposal, you might consider a trip to Calleva at National Harbor, just outside the city limits in Maryland. Kids will be enthralled by the giant ship at the center of this pay-for-playground, but be warned, you’ll shell out a lot of dubloons for this pirate party. A ropes course, zip line, climbing wall and giant swing will run you up to $200 for a family of four. But it does look fun. And someone’s got to pay for their insurance.
Glen Echo Park
Traveling the other direction up the Potomac you’ll find Glen Echo Park, a turn-of-the-century amusement park turned arts center. It has a quaint charm, nowhere more evident than its Dentzel Carousel, a 1921 wonder of wooden horses and other animals restored in 2003. The park is also home to one of the best playground in the DC area, as well as an outdoor education center open on weekends only.