50 Days of Summer Fun
By: Amy Carney Bevins
1. Have a Firefly Collecting Contest
Gather together a bunch of bug loving kids for an evening firefly hunt. Collect several jars of the glowing creatures. Then set them on the table and enjoy a cool snack by “firefly light.”
2. Hunt for Prehistoric Shark Teeth
While you might not find a huge megalodon tooth, you can still wow your friends with 20 million year old shark teeth. Several spots in Maryland have an abundance of ancient shark teeth along their shores, including Calvert Cliffs and Purse State Parks.
3. Introduce your Kids to Kick the Can
Remember the long summer evenings playing outside until darkness fell? Give your kids the gift of summer memories by teaching them some your childhood games. Check out www.gameskidsplay.net for a list of directions to many childhood favorites.
4. Visit Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum
See a Concorde jet up close. Marvel at the size of the Space Shuttle. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA houses the thousands of aviation and space artifacts that cannot be exhibited at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the National Mall.
5. Listen to a Concert on the Capitol Steps
During the summer months free concerts are presented on the U.S. Capitol Grounds. At 8:00 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, a series of military band concerts is offered on the west front, a continuation of a tradition that is over 130 years old.
6. Make Homemade Lemonade
Nothing says summer like an icy glass of fresh lemonade. Use fresh lemons, water and sugar to make a pitcher of lemonade and enjoy it in the afternoon shade.
7. Visit the National Aquarium in Washington DC
Tucked in the lower level of the Commerce Building, just one block from the Washington Monument, DC’s National Aquarium is home to over 200 species including alligators, piranha, shark, eel and Japanese carp.
8. Go for a Hike on Roosevelt Island
Located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway, this 91-acre wilderness preserve has 2 1/2 miles of foot trails to explore.
9. Cool Off at an Indoor Ice Rink
Mittens and earmuffs in the summer? What better way to beat the summer heat than cooling off at an indoor ice rink.
10. Set Foot on the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is more than 2,175-mile long footpath stretching through 14 eastern states from Maine to Georgia. Whether you are looking for a short hike or a long trek, the famous Appalachian Trail is just a short distance away.
11. Go Berry Picking
Summer’s bounty abounds on local farms. Take the kids for a memorable day at a pick your own farm and let them enjoy truly fresh fruits and vegetables. Check out www.pickyourown.org to find a farm nearby.
12. Learn About Another Culture
Check out books from the library, taste the cuisine, listen to the music. Summer is a great time to think globally.
13. Do Something Fishy
Visit the Maine Avenue Fish Market at 1100 Maine Ave SW, DC. Wander the market to see the freshest catch of the day. Watch your kid’s eyes light as they spy octopus tentacles and waving crab claws. Savor steamed crab, clam fritters, and shucked oysters.
14. Spend a Night Under the Stars.
Whether you pitch a tent in your own backyard or head for a wilderness campground, spend a night sleeping under the stars this summer.
15. Watch the Water Fall
At Great Falls Park, one of the most spectacular natural landmarks in the Washington DC metropolitan area, watch the Potomac River cascade down the steepest fall line rapids of any eastern river. This National Park is accessible from Maryland and Virginia and has hiking, biking, picnicking, rock climbing and more.
16. Drive-In Movie
Drive-In Movies started in 1933 and were a huge part of mid-century American culture. Take a trip back in time or start a new tradition by taking your family to a drive-in movie. Find to a list of operating drive-ins visit www.driveintheater.com.
17. Money, Money, Money
Kids love money. Visit the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to see money being printed, stacked, cut and examined for defects.
18. Learn to Identify Stars
Long summer nights are perfect for stargazing. To learn more about the stars, find out when local astronomy clubs are holding public viewings at http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/.
19. Visit the National Arboretum
This 446-acre living museum, home to thousands of species of native and exotic plants and trees, is a wonderland of blooms, leaves and beauty. Situated just 2 miles from the Capitol, the National Arboretum houses the columns originally created in 1828 for the National Capital.
20. Have a Pajama Day
Summer is all about relaxing. Plan at least one day to loll in your jammies and truly relax.
21. Playground Hunt
See how many new playgrounds you can visit this summer. Whether they are neighborhood parks, cool mall play places or giant climbing structures, see if you can find at least one new place to play each week. Pack a picnic or a snack, grab some friends and head out on a playground hunt.
22. Nature in a Nutshell
Visit a Nature Center. Learn about the natural world through exhibits, hands-on activities, walking trails, story times and programs. Many nature centers are located in regional parks around the Maryland, DC and Virginia area. To find one near you, visit nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/BackyardBiology/NatureCenters/default.cfm.
23. Act Like a Kid at the County Fair
Ride the rides, eat cotton candy until your mouth turns pink, holler for your favorite cowboy and win a goldfish! What more could you want from a summer evening? Most counties have fairs in the summer and fall months, so stop by. Maybe you’ll even win the watermelon seed spitting contest!
24. Watch for Wildlife
At Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA, spy beavers, frogs, dragon flies and herons while exploring the _ mile wetland boardwalk trail and climbing the observation tower.
25. Climb a Tree
You’ll get a whole new perspective on life amid the swaying branches. So get your feet off the ground and up in a tree.
26. Learn Something New
Whether it is walking on stilts, whistling, learning to sew or perfecting a magic trick, summer is great time to try a new hobby or learn a new skill.
27. The Old Swimming Hole
Take a dip the old fashioned way – in a swimming hole. Rest your feet on a mossy rock, listen to cascading waterfalls, or swing like Tarzan on a rope swing. To find a swimming hole near you, visit www.swimmingholes.org.
28. Visit the World’s Largest Library
The Library of Congress is home to over 30 million of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts. From the smallest book, measuring no more than 1/25″ x 1/25″, to the largest book, at 5-by-7 feet, the Library of Congress is well worth touring and exploring.
29. Hunt for Flora and Fauna
Turn a walk in the woods or around the neighborhood into a plant and wildlife scavenger hunt. Find different species of trees, flowers, bugs and animals. Can you find animal tracks or homes? Pine and Oak trees? For easy tree identification visit www.arborday.org/trees/whattree/
30. Travel Back in Time
At a Renaissance Fair, you’ll be transported back to the Middle Ages. Cheer for your favorite knight to win the joust, gnaw a turkey leg, listen to a bard’s tales and try games of strength and skill. In Virginia, www.varf.org/ and in Maryland, www.rennfest.com/
31. Become a Junior Ranger
With 19 locations in the metro area from C&O Canal, Great Falls and the Manassas Battlefield to the Korean War Memorial and Ford’s Theater (and dozens more across the US), Junior Ranger programs teach kids ages 6-14 about National Parks through activities, games and more. Visit www.nps.gov/learn/juniorranger.htm.
32. Get Lucky!
What better way to while away the summer hours than searching for a four-leaf clover. Find one, and you’ll have good luck!
33. Watch the Women Play
This summer, Washington Freedom, DC’s women’s professional soccer team, takes the field at RFK and the Maryland SoccerPlex for the inaugural season of the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league.
34. Take a Sound Adventure
What can you hear when the sun goes down? Take a night hike and listen for frogs, cicadas, crickets and more.
35. Visit the College Park Aviation Museum
Voted a 2008 Nickelodeon Parents’ Pick, this museum features authentic and reproduction aircraft, hands-on activities, events, classes and more.
36. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens
From the lure of the giant Victoria waterlillies to the chorus of frog songs and wafting scents of summer blooms, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a wildlife explore.
37. Monuments by Moonlight
DC lights up at night. Get a new view of the monuments when you see them lit by the moon’s glow. Take your own tour or contact one of the many companies offering moonlight tours.
38. Free Movies
Several movie theater chains offer free weekday kids movies during the summer. Cool off and enjoy the show!
39. Make a Daisy Chain
Simple summer fun, the old fashioned way. Make a crown, necklace or bracelet of daisies or clover for a relaxing afternoon activity.
40. Bring the Pages of National Geographic to Life
At the National Geographic Museum, permanent and changing exhibits and special programs give you a glimpse of the expeditions, adventures and scientific research at the core of National Geographic.
41. Get Wet
Plan a sprinkler party, a water balloon war, a super soaker soiree or a baby pool bonanza. Getting wet is one of the best parts of summer. So be sure to indulge!
42. Take Them Out to the Ballpark
Minor League baseball is a more affordable treat for the entire family. You get the full ballpark feel (the crack of the bat, the hot dogs and popcorn, the 7th inning stretch) at a fraction of the cost. And who knows, maybe you’ll see the next “Hank Aaron” in waiting. Also check out the Women’s Fast Pitch Softball games and root for our home team, the Washington Glory.
43. Ride a Carousel
Make it a quest to ride as many carousels as possible this summer. From the carousel on the National Mall to the Glen Echo Carousel to ones in your local mall, carousels are a magical part of childhood.
44. Visit the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum
Take a day trip out to Winchester, VA to explore this interactive, hands-on museum. From the climbing wall and giant kaleidoscope to the paleo lab and ranger station, you’ll find activities for kids of all ages.
45. Farmer for a Day
During a visit to Oxen Hill Farm, you’ll step back in time to the 1800’s and learn about life on a working farm. Meet the cows, take a wagon ride, learn about the Underground Railroad and explore the past.
46. Tempt your Tastebuds
A family trip to a local Farmer’s Market is a great way to expand your child’s palate and stock up on summer’s bounty. Savor fresh produce, breads, meats, jams and more.
47. Discover the Natural World
The Smithsonian Naturalist Center, tucked in Leesburg, VA, is a science-lovers gem. While the lobby has a few activities for younger children, kids 10 and up are invited to explore the 36,000 object hands-on collection of natural history objects, 6,500 books, and scientific equipment.
48. Throw a Frisbee on the Mall
Celebrate summer with an afternoon of Frisbee on the National Mall.
49. See a Show
Steel drums and jazz, opera and dance. The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage has free performances every day at 6 pm. For a schedule, visit www.kennedy-center.org/programs/millennium/schedule.html.
50. Let Them be Bored
It’s ok to let your kids be bored once in awhile. Set out craft supplies, books, and puzzles and let them discover how to entertain themselves. They might just surprise you with their creativity.
Amy Carney Bevins is a freelance writer, assistant editor for Washington FAMILY Magazine, an educator and founder/owner of Chantilly Chefs cooking classes for children and adults. She has been featured on WUSA9, NBC, MonkeySee.com, AOL Video and RobustCooking.com. Visit her website www.amycarneybevins.com to read more of her articles, view her cooking and toy videos and learn more about her cooking classes.
Photo of Udvar Hazy by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, copyright Smithsonian Institution; Peacock on second page of article copyright Roy Schneider.