One of the things that makes D.C. such a great city to live in is that smack dab in the middle of it is one of our country’s oldest national parks. Rock Creek Park is a 1,750-acre expanse of wildlife and greenery that bisects the city and features a huge array of amenities, including a golf course, horseback riding, a nature center and planetarium, an outdoor concert venue, and playgrounds. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by city crowds and white noise, duck down into the park for a quiet nature walk, an adrenalin-pumping bike ride, a colorful bird watching tour, or a magical night of stargazing. It’s just what the doctor ordered.

Be One With Nature
Stop by the Nature Center for brochures, maps and information about hiking trails. There’s also a bookstore and a smattering of exhibits on area plants and animals. Kids will love the Children’s Discovery Room filled with environmental education books and games, along with a bilingual exhibit in Spanish and English called “Discover Rock Creek.” Spend time with live turtles, fish, snakes, an active beehive, a bird observation deck, and a “water-wise” garden. You can take the little ones on a half-mile self-guided interpretive trail that begins behind the Nature Center. Insider’s Tip: Pick up a free Discovery Hunt Kit from the Nature Center. Designed by first graders from Mundo Verde Public Charter School, it’s a self-guided discovery hunt for kids over 5.

Rock Creek Park Nature Center
5200 Glover Rd., NW
Open: Mon.-Sun., 9 am-5 pm

Catch a Show
Carter Barron Amphiteatre is a 4,000-seat outdoor performance venue nestled in the trees of Rock Creek is the prefect place to catch a free summer concert. People rave about the theatre’s sound quality and cozy atmosphere. Scope a kid-friendly performance here: Carter Barron Schedule.

Carter Barron Amphiteatre
4850 Colorado Ave., NW

Giddy Up
Find peace in the company of horses and those who love them deep in the woods of D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. The horse center offers boarding, camps, lessons, trail rides and pony rides for equestrians of all skill levels.

Rock Creek Park Horse Center
5100 Glover Rd., NW

Star Gaze
Take advantage of curriculum-based planetarium shows for a variety of ages, presented each week by park rangers. The Planetarium uses a projector with high-tech Spitz software to project an image of the night sky onto a large, dome-shaped ceiling that takes you on a journey through our solar system, galaxy and beyond. Planetarium shows are free. Pick up your tickets at the Nature Center’s front desk up to 30 minutes before each show. And don’t miss the very cool evening stargazing sessions that take place once a month (April through November) when National Capital Astronomers set up telescopes at Military Field off Military Road. You won’t believe the celestial bodies you can see in the night sky when you remove the city’s star-obscuring light pollution!

Rock Creek Park Planetarium
5200 Glover Rd.
Open:  Mon.-Sun., 9 am-5 pm

Become a Junior Ranger
Let the kiddos learn about the park and become official Junior Rangers. Visit the Nature Center, Peirce Mill, and Old Stone House to pick up a Rock Creek Park Junior Ranger booklet, or download one here. Booklets are designed for ages six to 12 and feature activities in identifying types of trees, plants, flowers and animals, and in describing the various duties of Park Rangers. Junior Rangers take a pledge to help protect the park, community and earth by becoming an active and responsible steward of the environment. Those who complete the booklet and take the pledge get a Junior Ranger Badge. Just like that!

What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in Rock Creek Park? Give us the scoop in the comments section below. 

–Jamy Bond

Photos courtesy of Rock Creek Park via Facebook

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