I love summer, even with the heat and humidity. In part, I personally just hate cold weather, but what I really love about summer is all the great activities. Here in the DC metro area, it seems like there are festivals just about every weekend! While there are fun (and often free!) things to do year round in DC, summer provides a great opportunity to enjoy outside activities.

Here’s what’s on our summer list (in order of price):

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Butterflies abound this time of year!

Hiking – To be honest, I see hiking as a better fall activity when the weather has cooled down a bit. Still, if we get out of the house early enough, we can still enjoy some hikes. We’ve recently been enjoying the hikes around Great Falls National Park, where the kids have seen tons of butterflies, snakes, salamanders, ducks and other wildlife — and, of course, waterfalls. We were really impressed when we set out on a four-mile hike (roundtrip) and the kids made it 3.5 miles before complaining that they were tired.

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It was SO hot on our last hike to Great Falls.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival – Every year, we’ve missed this festival, usually because it is just. so. hot. But I really want to go and each year a different culture is highlighted. I’ve seen the festival in passing (as my taxi drove me from point A to point B for a meeting) and it looks like it takes over the entire National Mall. This year, the focus is on Armenia and Catalonia.


Gravelly Point – We still haven’t made it out to Gravelly Point, a spot where you can picnic and run around while watching planes take off at the airport. Because I don’t think there’s much shade, though, we’ll have to do it on a day that isn’t sweltering.

Fossil hunting at the beach – Last summer, on what was one of the hottest days of the year, we headed to a small beach to hunt for fossils. To be honest, I think I was the only one who was really into the fossil hunting, but the kids loved the beach. Panda, who was 1.5 years old at the time, really enjoyed picking up rocks and shells and collecting them in his bucket. Lion also liked picking up interesting rocks and splashing in the water and was mildly interested in the shark teeth we found. Purse State Park is well shaded and the water is cool, making it a perfect hot weather activity.


Lots of tiny treasures!

Outdoor movie night – At the very end of summer each year, there’s a weekend of outdoor movies at the Strathmore mansion, walking distance from where we live. The event is totally free, but donations are collected to benefit the National Institutes of Health Children’s Charities. Each night, a different movie is shown on a huge screen on the lawn. While some are geared for a slightly older crowd (think: Star Wars or something from the Marvel Universe), there are always at least one or two animated features. For kids, this year they’ll be showing Pixar’s Coco and Disney’s Lion King.

Miniature Train at Cabin John Park and Wheaton Regional Park – We hit up these parks all the time and during the late spring through fall, miniature trains run at both of these parks. The trains are a huge hit, in addition to huge parks with a variety of climbing structures for the kids. While we go to Cabin John most often due to its proximity to our home, Wheaton Regional Park is worth a trip since it also boasts a carousel. Tickets for the train and carousel are $2.50/person; children under 2 ride free.

Strawberry picking – We’ve done apple picking, but have never gone strawberry picking. Fellow parents in the area rave about the strawberry picking out here, some have even said that they purchased the season passes because they go so often. One of the farms a bit north of us, Butler’s Orchard, not only has a pick-your-own farm, but a great playground for the kids after the picking is done. Entry is $3/person, and the strawberries at Butler’s Orchard are $2.79/pound.

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Not joking: Panda thought it was better to drink water from the spray fountains than from his water bottle.

Splash park – We went to a splash park last summer and the kids had a blast! I was really surprised, to be honest, because Lion hates getting his face wet. He was a bit timid at first, but by the end of the day was running through the waterfalls and splashing through the fountains with reckless abandon. Tickets at the one we went to were $5.50/person; children under 2 are free.

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Lion quickly got over his disdain for water while at the splash park.

Children’s Theatre in the Woods at Wolftrap – During the summer, Wolftrap National Park for the Performing Arts hosts a series of shows for kids. We’ve taken the kids to other shows, but I love the idea of watching one inside a park. Prices vary by show, but are around $10-$12/person; children under 2 are free.

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We recommend front row seats in the nosebleed section. Plenty of room for the kids to stand, good view for them, but cheaper than other tickets.

Baseball games – We’ve taken the kids to Washington Nationals games in the past, and it’s always a lot of fun and relatively inexpensive outing. We plan to go again this year, but are also interested in checking out Oh, and this year Washington, DC is holding the MLB All Stars game, so there’s some extra fanfare going on. We haven’t been yet, but I’m also interested in checking out the games of a summer collegiate team that plays just a couple miles from us (and, of course, is much more reasonably priced than MLB teams). Ticket prices vary by game and seating section, but I’ve found tickets as cheap as $15/person (including taxes and fees) for the Nats, and the Big Train (summer collegiate) site lists prices at $9 for adults, $5 for kids ages 5-12; free for under 5.

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A rare family photo!

Renaissance Festival – Okay, so this is really more of a fall event, but it begins in August and runs for a couple of months. This was probably our favorite DC-related event from all of last year and we are so excited to go back. The Renaissance Festival features great food, a variety of live entertainment, jousting, a playground, music and more. It’s definitely a pricey event taking into account the food and drinks, but it was a highlight for us last year! Tickets are $19/person for the first two weeks ($8 for kids 7-15); $26/person after that ($11 for kids 7-15); children under 7 are free.

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Lion wore his Batman mask and cape the entire day at the festival.